File 157412630772.jpg - (137.97KB, 392x469, or else.jpg) [iqdb]
He held up his glass at eye level. The clear liquid sloshed but did not spill as he then brought it quickly to his lips. He drank as Mokou did—quickly and quietly. Whatever questions either may have had for the other went unasked as they settled on an almost-mechanical routine. That was just as well since the mental haze grew stronger in his mind and he found himself incapable of reasoning about much of anything.
In contrast to his fluttery state of mind and clumsy movements, Mokou seemed to become more precise in her actions. Every time that she poured, she made sure every single drop landed in the glass. Her stare was hard and unrelenting, kept firm on his face at nearly all times. Though she did little to hold her involuntary tics in check—her legs alternated between swinging from the chair and tapping her foot softly on the floor—there was unchanging intent in her continuous libations.
Shinji had to confess to feeling intimidated. Her intensity was overwhelming and he could not think of much he could say that would not sound stupid. Even flashing her a smile seemed like a big ask, one with unknown consequences. He stroked his chin hairs silently, too self-conscious to even “hmm” or “eh” while he thought. He could not say that he was a prideful man but there was something just so pathetic about his situation.
The pressure had built up to an incredible degree. Between the physical intoxication and the mental corralling he was just about ready to flop onto the table, apoplectic. What he actually thought or even what he felt didn’t really matter. Not any longer. In this most wretched of states, where he could do nothing but stare at her uncaring eyes, he voiced some nonsense, asking, “Are we to finish the rest of the bottle?”
Mokou poured another drink. Not much was left, less than a fourth. “Of course!” was the obvious answer but it remained unspoken. Instead, the girl shook the bottle and looked at him with a frown. Without finishing the drink in her cup, she drank directly from the bottle, gulping as one might when drinking the antidote to a terrible poison. She handed over the bottle to him, shoving it in front of his face silently.
The investment he had put into drinking was considerable. A lack of inhibitions had been subverted into something dark and uneasy as he did not know what could happen next. He felt weak and vulnerable as a result. Oddly, this sensation wasn’t the only one at the fore: his confidence abounded. This was unfounded, perhaps, but it was just about the only positive emotion that he could still reach out at. Just because he could not see all ends or, indeed, assess much of the present, that did not diminish his resolve. In other words, it was stubbornness that kept him going. This stubbornness was both manifest in his sunk costs and the belief that all would be well.
He gripped the bottle tightly, as if trying to make sure that it would not slip his hands as he did what needed to be done. Without much restraint he put the bottle to his lips. It was wet with more than just sake but he did not mind the indirect exchange at all. He drank as wildly as Mokou had and soon finished off most of what remained.
Mokou laughed. He passed the bottle back to her and laughed as well. She drank most of what remained before passing it off one last time back to him. He did the honors of extinguishing the rest of the fiery fluid. When all was said and done not a single drop remained. They tittered at some unspoken joke that they both understood at an instinctual level.
As they quieted down, she seized the initiative. Her words enounced deliberately, an attempt to keep the mental slosh at bay, “How did you die?”
“Yes, I’m dead,” he said out loud, confirming that basic fact mostly to himself. He shook his head, telling her the truth, “I don’t… right well remember how.”
“How, I mean, how do you not? Dying just—just the once is a big deal.”
“I just don’t know,” he insisted. It frustrated him, sure. But it was what it was, he reasoned. He still felt alive. The conclusion he hastily reached was that that was the reason he couldn’t remember. He was the same as ever.
His reply frustrated Mokou. She drummed hard on the table, trying to think of how someone couldn’t remember their own death. “I mean,” she offered a theory excitedly, “maybe you hit your head really hard.”
“Probably would have a scar from that, right?” he ran his fingers through his short hair, finding that everything felt normal.
“Maybe we should shave you completely, get rid of that beard as well,” she suggested.
“I said that I like my beard, so nope,” he offered a stalwart defense of facial hair, “Eirin said it made me look handsome.”
“Why don’t you just marry her then, sheesh,” Mokou waved a hand dismissively at him. “I have every right to my own opinions, you, you know that, right?”
“I do, but it’s the same for me. How would you like it if I started talking about your hair and all that other stuff?”
“There’s nothing wrong with my hair,” she said and held up long clumps of her hair up to his face. “See, see?!” was the unspoken question. “You don’t know much about anything,” she frowned, going quickly to dour then back to irreverent with a laugh, “who could trust anything about a guy who can’t even remember how he died?”
He pouted, feeling her attack unfair. “Normal people don’t worry about how they die. You’re just weird. I mean, who drinks a whole bottle of sake with someone they just met?”
“Hey, you did that too,” she shrugged it off. “You did that and did a lot more.”
“Maybe I died drinking, I don’t know. It feels like I could die again,” he said whatever.
Mokou rocked back and forth in her chair, building up to a burst of energy. She stood—altogether too quickly and almost lost her footing—and managed to drag herself back to her stove and kitchen area. He both hoped and feared that she would produce another bottle of stupidly delicious alcohol.
Instead, she came back with something far more sinister in her hands: a knife.
“Don’t try to kill me, that’s not nice,” he said, joking.
“I was thinking about it. If you’re dead already then… well then it’s probably alright, right?” she said with a stupid smile, as if that made all the sense in the world. “I remember dying all the time. So how the hell can you not?”
“Oh, so you’re dead too?” he asked. It hadn’t been obvious to him that she was some sort of ghost or zombie. Maybe the ribbons that looked like seals should have been a giveaway, he reckoned. What an odd thing he had been caught up in.
Mokou smiled at him, stopping about an arm’s length away from him. “No, don’t be stupid. Me—I’m alive. So alive that I can never die,” she said. “I’ll prove it to you if you want!”
She held the blade up against her bosom. Shinji wasn’t an expert at anatomy but despite her very awkward starts and stops it looked like she knew how to best slip a knife past the ribcage. “No, let’s not kill ourselves,” he shook his head, “can’t we, uh, agree that we’re just who we are and the rest doesn’t matter?”
“That’s stupid, you’re stupid,” Mokou shook her head and waved her knife-wielding arm up in exasperation. It sliced through the air but not much else. At once maudlin, she said with her eyes turning red, “People who haven’t died can’t understand what it’s like. That I want to know what you felt and what happened after—it’s not my fault, alright!”
“Don’t be like that, shh, shh,” he tried to keep her from crying. He reached out at her and found that she allowed herself to be pulled closer. In fact, she was unable to keep herself on her feet for much longer. Mokou collapsed onto him, straddling him and rocking the chair back and forth. He felt the hardness of the flat side of the knife between him and her.
“Crap, I shouldn’t have made fun of your beard,” she whispered something really unimportant.
“That’s okay,” he said, at a loss for any other real words. “We drank a lot. And pretty quickly too. And your hair is nice.”
“I know, right?” she said proudly. “It takes a lot of work to keep it like that. Cutting it is a pain.”
It may have hurt to have her full weight on his lap. He couldn’t tell, feeling numbed by both the effects of the drink and the smell of stew mixed with sake that came from Mokou. He probably smelled the same. Maybe a little sweaty on account of having been out and about all day. He wasn’t able to think of anything much more interesting than things of that vein.
“I should get off you, this is pretty awkward,” she laughed like it was no big deal. It wasn’t flirtatious or even remotely sexual as far as they were concerned. Just two people sharing a chair because of the way the universe worked.
Mokou tried to push off but found that if she tried to dismount by putting down one leg first, she would lose balance on the other side. That elicited a quick shuffle and scramble as she held onto his clothes and the back of the chair for fear of slipping. Needless to say that a person of sound mind would have just… stood but circumstances conspired against them. The chair rocked back and forth.
Just when it seemed that she had gotten the hand of it—Shinji was helping stabilize her by stiffening his shoulders—disaster struck. The chair rocked a little too back and then a little too forth. At some point contact with the ground was lost. The laws of physics took care of the rest: all went to the ground with a loud crash. The chair took the worse of it, one of its legs snapping clean off.
Shinji groaned and found that the back of the chair had slipped from under him and was helpfully at his side. His legs were pinned and there was still a heavy weight on top of him. Predictably, Mokou had fallen right on him. She was on all fours with her knees thankfully only next to his legs but with both palms rooted in his chest. Her hair was splayed out all over him like a silver veil.
“This really hurts,” she complained, grimacing. The reason for her pain was immediately obvious—as she fell the knife had slipped and had cut up part of her forearm. “Stupid bloody thing,” she said of the knife, picking it up and removing her hands from his chest.
They both stared at the blade, somehow enthralled by how blood rolled down its edge.
Before any suggestion of treatment could be uttered, their private moment came to an abrupt end. The door had come open and it revealed a very serious-faced Youmu brandishing her dual swords. She scanned the room quickly and her gaze fell upon Shinji first, then Mokou, finally the bloody knife in her hand.
“Stop that at once!” Youmu thundered, seeming several times larger than she was.
“You stop!” Shinji fired back, managing to have enough presence of mind to nip the obvious misunderstanding in the bud. “We’re not fighting! We’re friendy, good friends, right?”
“The best of friends!” Mokou agreed, rolling off of him and coming to a rest on the floor, rear-end first. It was the least threatening pose that Shinji could imagine someone ever adopting: a girl with a bleeding arm, close to slipping into a supine state with her hair now a mess.
Mokou’s eyes met Shinji’s. They giggled at one another, sharing a joke no one else on the planet would understand.
Youmu certainly didn’t get it. She continued to grip her swords but she was, in a word, perplexed. There was no danger, obviously. But just what on earth had happened? Why had they taken so long? She had hear raised voices. Reisen had told her to keep her distance but she could not help but feed her sense of curiosity. She hadn’t been eavesdropping—she had just been close to the door for a while. Seeing if there were signs of anything wrong. It was part of her duty to her master. And, well, she thought with some frustration: Why the crashing noises? She certainly hadn’t acted out of turn.
“Oh, e-everyone is here,” Shinji said with another laugh as he spotted Reisen peering into the house from the doorway.
“You’re drunk,” Youmu said with a very disapproving frown.
“Yeah, well, why aren’t you?” Mokou answered for him. He felt that she raised a valid point. Youmu could do with some loosening up.
“...” it seemed like Youmu didn’t have a good answer. A clear case of check and then mate.
“We should totally get going,” Mokou continued, rubbing her still bleeding arm with her other hand. That did little but smear blood on her pale skin.
“We’re going somewhere?” Shinji asked, feeling that he had forgotten something earlier in conversation, maybe. He struggled to not just lie defeated on the floor. His head swam and so he had to concentrate a lot just to prop himself up on his elbows and sit up. He winked at Mokou and then flashed what he thought was the most reassuring sign that he was fine: a smile infused with his pure, raw and unwavering internal confidence.
“Yeah, no time like now to put that medicine to use. We should go to the village before it gets dark,” she said, “I didn’t want to go alone but if you’re there then it’s fine. Alive or dead, it doesn’t really matter anymore. We can be either together.”
“It doesn’t look like you can go anywhere,” Youmu said, exasperated. Reisen nodded in agreement but stayed quiet.
“That sounds like a challenge. I like challenges,” Mokou said and then looked at Shinji, “don’t you?”
 Challenges made life worth living.
 Hugs were really nice as well.
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2019/11/19(Tue)14:40