Learning about the basics was more difficult than I imagined. There were a lot of terms and concepts that she explained to me that went above my head. It was a lot to absorb. I felt a bit disheartened- if the basics were so complicated anything else would be simply impossible to learn. Alice supported her explanations with diagrams and texts, all of which were confusing. She picked up on my state and reminded me to just listen, even if I didn't actually understand most of it.
“...and the intense separation of energies is only surpassed by an additional commitment of energies.” She concluded with a sigh. “I think we'll leave it at that for now. Tell me, did you learn anything?”
“Well, I'm more familiar with the terms in the books now. But I didn't know that spirituality was so deeply involved in this. And the levels of energy and power, it's like a rainbow but with more intensity.”
“You'll come to understand it all given enough time. All that's important is an open mind and eagerness to learn.”
“How do you see magic, teacher?” I asked, curiosity getting the best of me.
“It's a tool to accomplish my goals, that's what it is.” She replied directly and with no hesitation.
“How do others see it?”
“It depends. Some see it as an absolute way of life, a justification that they're meaningful. That can be self-destructive though.” She mused. “Not that it's my place to judge. As long as one is content, any path is fine.”
“Ah, so what about the other magicians in Gensokyo?”
“What about them? Are you asking who they are? There's no one you need to know about at this stage, you should focus on your own studies before you go out seeking others.”
“I'm not planning to leave you or anything, I think you're an amazing magician and teacher.”
“That may be, but lets have this conversation when you can actually do something by yourself, alright?”
She put away her reference materials. I helped put away the sheets and parchment that I had used. She was watching me from the corner of her eye, observing as I put things back into their proper shelves.
“Is anything the matter?” I asked, feeling self-conscious.
“Whatever do you mean?” She focused her gaze elsewhere, pretending to have misplaced a book.
“You were looking at me just now, weren't you?” Having finished what I was doing, I got closer to her. She tried harder to pretend that she was caught up with her sorting.
“I was not.” She added with a note of finality, “We're done for today, so you can go to your engagement or whatever it was.”
“I'm sorry teacher.” I hugged her from behind. “I'm sorry for being useless on my first day like that.”
“Ah! What are you doing...” She squirmed in my hold, struggling weakly.
“I'm sorry, being close to you well, this seemed like the right thing to do. It'd be wrong of me to leave without doing this.”
“There's no need for you to get carried away,” She managed to turn her body so that it faced towards me, she was keeping a straight face with difficulty, “I told you already you did fine. There's no need to do this sort of thing.”
“Do you really mind?” It felt warm and nice. Like the previous time, and the time before. It had been difficult being near Alice and trying not to hug her. It hadn't dawned upon me the first time we met or until today just how nice it is to hug her.
“I... don't really think it's appropriate. We're teacher and student and don't know each other well and...”
“We're friends, right? Friends hug, you know.” Not that I hugged my friends much before. But this was a nice thing and I intended to do it whenever possible.
“Mm well this may be...”
“...Absolutely scandalous, right?” With a huge smile on her lips, Marisa came into the room as if she belonged there. “Shameimaru would be having a field day with this; 'Pervert Magicians go at it at broad daylight' or something.”
“Ah, Marisa.” Alice slipped free while my attention was divided. “It's always lovely to have you barge into my home unannounced and uninvited.”
“If I knew that I was interrupting something, I wouldn't have.”
“Doubtful. Besides, nothing is going on here. Just a hug. Which between friends is normal.”
“Aren't you master and student though? But I guess that doesn't matter.. you're my friend, right? Can I get a hug then?”
“I figured.” She looked at me with a grin, “You'll indulge me though, right Arc old buddy?”
“Um, sure I guess.” I ended up hugging the shorter girl for no real reason. Her hat made it hard, kept getting in the way.
“Well, now that that's all settled,” Alice spoke with over hostility in her voice, “Mind telling why you once again invade my privacy?”
“Tch. Lighten up, you'll never understand my human heart at this rate. I just came by to see Arc here.”
“Whatever for?” Alice eyed her with the usual mix of suspicion and hostility.
“I'm afraid it's P-R-I-V-A-T-E. Could you meet me outside Arc, away from certain busybodies?”
“Now just wait a moment. You barge in here, don't apologize, insult me and think you can get away with it?” Alice was ignored as the other girl grabbed me by the arm and dragged me outside.
“Is it alright to just do that to her?” I asked.
“So what's this about then?”
“I believe congratulations are in order first.” She grinned, “Welcome to the wonderful world of magic!”
“...where did you hear about that?” 'How' was also a good question.
“Heard it through the grapevine.” She winked at me, telling me with that 'That it was not important'.
“Eh... well, thank you then.”
“I am a little bit disappointed that you chose her instead of me. Did she promise to give you a doll or something?”
“No, nothing like that... I umm...”
“Well, whatever. I won't take it personally.”
“So what's all this about? What can't you say in front of Alice?” I said, and as an afterthought added, “Why do I get the feeling that it's nothing good for me?”
“Oh relax. I was just going to make you an offer and share some gossip.”
“I'm not interested in either.”
“Pff. Spoilsport. Us humans have got to stick together, you know?” The twinkle in her eyes made me believe that at least some part of that sentence was true. “Anyways, first with the offer; you can ask me for help anytime. With magic, duh. Although I wouldn't mind having your big strong arms wrapped around me either. Reminds me of papa.”
“Um... okay.” I was anything but strong. But then again, she was probably just joking as usual. It was best to just smile and nod with her.
“Great, huh? I can show you what the power of love can do for you.” She lowered her voice and pulled me down to a ridiculously low stoop. “But here's the juicy piece of gossip.... you ready for it?” Her whispering was annoying.
“As I'll ever be.”
“Well then...It's about our favorite shrine maiden. She was spotted sweeping as usual in the morning, but doing a real poor job at it, do you follow? Like she had her mind on something.”
Her description turned vivid, as she narrated the scene with unnecessary precision.
“She stood with broom in hand, leaves underfoot, the crisp morning sky clear as could be. A scene like so many others, yet different all the same. For it was the shrine maiden herself that was different. Her hands stopped from time to time, disconnected with her intent. She gazed wistfully at the sky, forgetting herself and her task. Naturally the sweeping took much longer than usual. Her face had a new emotion on it, rather a mix of emotions. Hope, anxiety, and so much more. She was never one to wear her heart on her sleeve, but there she had it being displayed for all to see and understand. Don't you understand what occurred with our shrine maiden of paradise? What still occurs, swirling about like leaf in a tempest in her maidenly heart?”
“...” I said nothing, letting Marisa ramble on like a fool.
“The answer is ever so evident to all but herself. For she would deny, worrying that it's not supposed to be, that it's not proper. But her heart can't lie anymore. Our shrine maiden has fallen to a state most unusual for her. She has succumbed to an ailment that none can remedy. I speak of course, of love.”
Marisa smiled at me again.
“So what do you think of that?”
“I... um...” I didn't know if she was serious or not. The implications shook me to my very core.
“Dumbfounded, huh? I was as well. But a reliable eyewitness said that that was what she saw. And come to think about it, hasn't she been acting strange? Love would explain it all.” She nodded to herself. “Our shrine maiden is in love alright.”
“I've got things to do now.” I broke free from her. Not sure what to think. The possibility that she...
“I bet you do, huh? Well, I'll leave you be. I'll probably go argue for a while with Alice before having lunch with her and then argue some more afterward. She loves to grumble, that one.”
“Arc, are you quite done with her?” Alice called to me from the doorway. “I'm assigning you some homework for next time.”
Her homework was additional reading. Read as much as I could, trying to make sense of things as I went along. Next time I saw Alice we would discuss what I read and continue our lessons. I was given a ride by Marisa back home to drop off my homework. Despite their constant fighting the two magicians did favors for each other quite regularly. I was left free to go to the shrine. Not that I was sure that I wanted to go there right away anymore. Marisa's gossip had left an impression on me, as much as I didn't want to admit it. Clearing my head felt like a priority. But so did a lot of other things.
Go to the shrine right away and...
- Consult with Suika about all this first
- See Reimu
 Gather wits at home
- Think and make lunch for two
- Ask Auntie indirectly about this