- (1.05MB, 1280x898, af5cd0d4eab7aeef6fd771780b7fdf17.png)
I quit drawing six months ago, you tit.
Other than that, people missing me? What a turn. Anyhow, it looks like miss fortune decided to screw me over once again, which means I'll have a little bit more free and a lot less money in this coming month, which in turn means I'll be able to continue this story. Yay. Somehow I'm not elated.
Anyway, since the thread is nearing its limit, what should we call this thing? Legacy of Keine sounds a tad too rip-offish, I reckon.
[X] “Calm down. If you need to take your time, then take it. I'll listen.”
Exploding? Now that's one thing we wouldn't like, no matter how spectacular it might be. That crestfallen face of hers is even more undesirable, however. Damned be he who sacrifices a girl's smile in search for knowledge.
“Reimu,” you say. “Calm down. Breathe deeply. I'm not in a rush, so if you really need to take your time – then take it. I'll listen, so take however long you want.”
Reimu shakes her head just a little bit too vigorously.
“No, no, no,” she spews out like a machine gun. “You're not here to listen to me rambling. There's something important, right? You wouldn't have come if there wasn't, and if you came, that means—”
“—really, I don't want to be wasting your time. I've got my own duties, so I understand—”
“—plus, I really shouldn't be talking about this, it doesn't—it shouldn't concern you, it's—”
“Oh, for the love of—!” you rise and slam a fist on the tabletop. Reimu stares at you startled, protests dying away in her half-open mouth. Satisfied, you settle back down. “I've really picked the wrong week to quit yelling, it seems! Now it's your fault, too!”
“I'm, er... sorry?...”
“Oh, spare me the false apologies, will you! Now, what I propose is that I drink my tea while you collect your thoughts. Or do I have to hold your hand so you don't feel too scared and run away?”
“No, that won't be...”
“As I suspected. Now, take your time.”
Reimu averts her eyes, concealing them behind the veil of her black hair, but just before she does, you catch a tiny glimpse of a sheepish, little smile on her lips, quickly hidden along with the rest of her face. Would you look at that. What a dishonest girl this red-white shrine maiden is.
Funny how the strategy Mokou usually utilises on you has worked so flawlessly well against somebody of her own gender... a genuine double-edged sword, if you've ever seen one, and a brilliantly useful one at that. What a discovery you have made. Excellent.
To top it off, this tea is truly top-notch.
“You know...” Reimu speaks up. “... I'm not good at talking, I'm really not. I rarely get guests, and if I do, it's usually...”
“About business,” you fill in. “Isn't it sort of to be expected? You are, after all—“
“Their protector?” Reimu asks bitterly. “Maybe, but I... I never wished for it. I never had a choice, nobody asked me if I want to do it... I know it's necessary, I do, but still... sometimes I just want to forget about it. I... why am I talking about this?... I read a lot of books, you know.”
“You do? Now that's surprising.”
“Just because I don't spend all days with my nose between the pages doesn't mean I can't read.” Reimu makes a sour face. “My parents left those books behind, but they never let me read while they were still... you know, around. Either way, I read those books, and I can't help, but feel... jealous. They're all about people so unlike myself – so normal. Living ordinary lives, having fun, arguing sometimes... I'm jealous of that. It's so simple, but it sounds so fun.”
“I, on the other hand, what do I do? I put my neck on the line, risk my god-damn life every god-damn day for a bunch of self-righteous shit-for-brains bastards with no sense of respect, and I'm sick and tired of it!” Reimu rises a fist as if to strike it down on the table, but changes her mind at the last second. “... but then I realise it's all I have, you know? It's all I know. I'm not smart, I'm not beautiful, I'm not even liked by the people I'm supposed to protect! 'She's a freak! Hakurei is a devil, I tell you!'. If it wasn't for Keine, they'd have long—”
“Keine?” you ask.
“Yes,” Reimu nods. “Keine is... the closest I've ever had to a mother, I guess. Ever since mine passed away, she's been taking care of me. Keine taught me how to read. Taught me how to write, how to cook, how to live, as a woman, not just a shrine maiden. She gives me groceries, too, you know... as a payment; although the villagers don't approve of it... Apparently they believe I can live off the rocks up here, or something, I don't know, and now... looks like they're trying to rid of me for good.”
“What do you mean?”
“Monster 'extermination' is all I'm good for in their eyes, you know. Now, they... you are trying to do that without my help, with all those guns, and traps, and... I should be happy, you know? I can finally lay down and relax, right? But if I lose this job... I'll betray my obligations. Keine won't be able to support me any more. Not without making it hard on herself. I don't want that...”
“Blast...” you groan. “Don't you have any friends? Some that could help?”
“I do...” Reimu bites her lip. “... well, I used to. Not any more, though. Marisa used to visit every now and again, but ever since that incident a year ago, she hasn't been around – she's become completely infatuated with magic. It's impossible to tear her away from Alice now, you know. Sanae has her own troubles in her village. Remilia... Remilia is too busy with the Flandre situation, and then the...” she pauses. “... the monsters, the ones smart enough not to attack me on sight, I don't... I don't get along with, you know? It's kind of in my job description... I—I do have a certain agreement with them, but that's about it. I don't know if they would even consider helping...”
You fall back and close your eyes. Who would have thought this girl would have so many problems on her shoulders? Now you see the core of it – no wonder she's such a yarn-ball of strained nerves with so many issues driving sleep off her eyes every night...
“What a cock-up...” you sigh. “There really isn't much you can do...”
“I sort of deduced that on my own, thank you.”
“Save for one thing,” you correct. “Have you thought about marriage?”
“Ma... marriage?” Reimu gives you a jumpy look. “I—I never really—I mean, I haven't—... Where did that come from?...”
“Well, that's what girls your age tend to do when cornered by circumstances,” you explain. “I've even heard rumours Akyu was in fact about to marry a guy not long ago, and she's only 16 or so, and has the tongue of an old lady to boot. If she could find a husband, then surely you'd have an even easier time. We're not all as dumb and prejudiced as you might think. There has to be at least one bloke in the village that would suit you. Is there? I'm sure there is.”
Reimu gives a nervous smile and fingers her cup timidly.
“I don't know...”
“Come on!” you encourage. “Spill it!”
“There, er... may... maybe there is one, but I really don't—...”
“Excellent!” you clap your hands. “One is enough. Have you tried talking to him?”
“Er, no, not... only a few times, and it never went too smoothly...”
“Bugger. Well, maybe not all is lost. What is he like?”
“He's, er...” Reimu gives you a flustered glance, scratching her cheek. “... he's pretty young, but a little older than me, and, um... not one of the people that work in the workshops or in the fields, and... I don't know him too well... I'm not sure if—” she shakes her head. “I—I'm pretty sure he doesn't even like me...”
“Nonsense, I wager he's just being a big dolt about it.”
“Um, yeah, he...” another glance. “.. he may be a little thick...”
“Never fear!” you stand up. “If you put some effort into it, he'll be yours in no time, that much I can guarantee—”
Regardless of how certain you were of it, however, a sudden howl from outside the shrine shatters all of your confidence in an instant. Not a human howl – a primal wail of a beast calling for the rest of the horde – a blood-chilling cry of a savage predator that has spotted a prey that has nowhere to run. What in the hell—?!
“God damn it, not now!...” Reimu springs to her legs and darts for the blouse that's been hanging on the wall just beside the table. “Not now, not now, not now!...”
Having pulled it on quicker than you could look, Reimu seizes a hold on your hand.
“Reimu, what is—?!”
“Hold your breath!”
Before you can finish, a noise of breaking tiles and rafters reaches your ears, but even as you try to find the source, a cloud of heavy, black smoke explodes at Reimu's feet and shrouds your vision.
Sooner than you can react, the shrine maiden shoots through the front door—literally through it—with you in tow, and stops at the very end of the yard, at the top of the stone stairs.
Coughing, you drop to your knees and attempt to comprehend the situation. There's smoke slowly seeping out of the shrine's doors, windows, and the hole in the roof that definitely wasn't there when you looked at it before. What in the blazes—?
Once again, an enraged scream shears the air, this time from within the shrine, and numerous answers come echoing from the woods around. Countless shrieks of rage, more distant, yet no doubt soon to be much, much closer, rushing even now to aid the caller.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it!...” Reimu curses repeatedly. “Why now?! Why fucking now, of all times?! Just when I—... This is exactly what I told you about!” she turns to face you. “I knew this would happen! They've found out, and now they're—!”
“—Hold up for a second! Who 'they'?!”
“The monsters!” she yells. “The monsters, you halfwit, who else?! God damn it, this isn't the time!... You! You have to get out of here! Now!”
Her eyes are dead-serious, but you can feel her clutching tightly at your palm.
“Don't 'but' me!” she chides. “Get the hell out of here! Do you want to get hurt so much?!”
“But I can help—”
“No, you can't, for fuck's sake! Listen to me for once! I'll be fine, I've done this before!” Squeeze. “This is not your fight! Don't go on trying to impress me, you idiot! Think of yourself!”
[ ] “Maybe I should... but I don't want to. I've got your back, whether you like it or not.”
[ ] “I'm not trying to impress you. I'm doing this because I think it's right.”
[ ] “You're right... but I'll be back. Soon. We've still got those marriage plans to talk about.”
[ ] “Very well, if that's the way you want it. Good luck. Stay safe.”