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[X] “Hold up. I know it doesn't sound too impressive coming from me, but we can't just go on starting fires because we feel like it. Let's edge around to the North side and try to sneak in. I want to see Keine first. If she is even still in there.”
[X] Maybe Reimu could find out what's happening to cause this uproar. You don't want to start pointing fingers before you're truly sure who the culprit is.
“Hold up!” you hiss. “Hold up and let me heap my shite together first, for fuck's sake!”
“Tiger, if you're going to keep on whinging—”
“One minute, Mokou! One blasted minute, please, for the love of—!”
Mokou gives a black look, but then nods reluctantly. “… all right, but you'd best be quick about it. I'm not going to stand here idly while those blighters are—”
“Excellent,” you cut her off, “that'll quite do. Now button up and let me do my part.”
It had bloody better be good, too.
Commonalty rabble tends to barely see twenty inches in front of them—much like spiders do—although unlike spiders, they do not have vibration-sensitive hairs all over their bodies that could do as a type of a sonar and detect the one-and-a-half-hundred-pounds bloke hovering a league behind their backs with two nicely shaped bags of explosives hanging by his sides. Or maybe, rather, the hairs they have aren't much more than a natural magnet for sweat, blood and dirt, and all varieties of noisome smells – the sort of thing they seem to attract the most. Either way, it is quite clear that their attention is indivisibly devoted to the poor teacher's fenced-in retreat – and for the moment, only it alone.
Now, one more thing the great unwashed has in common with the eight-legged fiends, is that they will most likely spare themselves the hassle of attacking something that isn't actively trying to get on their wicks.
Essentially, don't take a poke and you won't get poked at.
If you do, well… as a certain Doctor put it – basically, run.
“… okay,” you sign the end of your cerebrating, “I've got it sussed, I reckon.”
“Have you cooled off yet?” Mokou asks. “I don't know if you've noticed, but you were mumbling all sorts of things to yourself for a while back there.”
“I think I've noticed you noticing.”
“Oh, that's just lovely,” she glares. “Now, let us hear this brilliant plan of yours.”
“Very well,” you say. “I know it doesn't sound all too impressive coming from me, considering what I've been doing the whole day today, but we can't just barge in and start hurling fire everywhere just because we feel like it.”
“I do my best, thank you.”
Reimu grits her teeth. “Could you get a move on, already?”
“I was getting on a move, all right. Mokou, I'll have you edge us around to the North and see if the skylight is by chance still open, and if we could maybe incur inside undiscovered. I want to see Keine first, if she is even still in there, and I'll consider dipping into deeper muck only after I've made sure she is safe. I hope that we don't, but if we do run into any inconveniences, you and I—”
“—will have to singe some hapless arse.” Mokou bares her teeth acridly. “Okay, I'm easy with that, but what about Miss Little Tits over there?”
Reimu lashes out. “Say WHAT?! Keine is in serious danger, and all you've got your mind on are my freaking tits?! Go and get fucked about my tits!”
“I will, believe me – as soon as this is over.”
“How can you screw around so lightly when Keine is—?!”
“Reimu, never mind her,” you try to intercede, “she's just being affectionate in her own way. Not a reason to get aggrieved, believe me.”
“I am being affectionate?”
“Shut up, sweetheart.”
Reimu clicks her tongue and turns her incensed stare at you. “I'll sort this out later, I guess… Now, you were going to tell me my orders?”
“Indeed,” you follow with a nod. “I don't want to start pointing fingers yet, since I am not quite sure who the culprit is—though I would bloody well love to believe otherwise—so I would have you touch down somewhere out of sight and try to nose around – determine who or what in the blazes started this entire conflagration… and quietly – we could do without additional complications, yes?”
“Excuse me?” the shrine maiden's eyes go wide. “I am to—I mean, you want me to go down into this… this hacked-off rabble and ask why they're—… No, I don't know about this…”
“It can't be that bad,” you encourage. “It's been hours since Keine made the call, which I don't reckon she'd have done if things hadn't come to a head – and as you can see, the School is still standing and in good shape. We did take our sweet time getting here, so it may well be long past the worst of it. Keine needs us, Reimu,” you lower your voice, “—she needs me, and I need you to do gen up for me. I have to find out what the heck is going on.”
Reimu bites her lip, her expression getting softer by the moment. “… I don't know…”
“… but those people, they know me, they know I'm with Keine, they'll—…”
“If they so much as try to touch you, I will become the minister of chlorine to their stinking gene pool.”
“I'll kick the ever-loving shite out of them, Reimu.”
“Oh. I, um… that's very—”
“I would never willingly let you get hurt – I swear. I need you.”
“… you do?” the flames in her eyes lighten up. “… really?”
“Yes, really,” you tell her. “Not only me – Keine needs you as well.”
“… oh…” her enthusiasm wanes somewhat. “… I—… I see…”
“If you can't investigate for my sake, would you do it for Keine?”
“No, no,” she shakes her head, “I mean—!… yes, I'll—… um…”
“If they don't talk, it's fine. Keine wouldn't approve if I forced you to—”
“I KNOW!” the shrine maiden lets out suddenly. “I—I mean—…!” she covers her mouth, realising her tone. “… I know, okay?” she gives up. “Keine needs me, yes? I get it. I'll see what I can gather. I'm kind of good at this type of business, you know? I'll get it done, trust me.”
“I do, Reimu,” you affirm. “Honestly, thank you. I'm in your debt.”
“No, I'm in yours.”
Having said that, the girl descends to the ground, and sighing softly to herself, lets go of your hand. Mokou lands as well, taking up the strategic position by your right, taking a hold of the arm the shrine maiden has just renounced.
Reimu ignores the obvious snub, waves a weak goodbye, then takes off again, soon to disappear among the thicket of trunks.
Mokou elbows you tartly in the side. “Nicely done, Romeo.”
“I thought it was rather cruel.”
“So did I, you nonce,” she says. “If I was her, I'd have slugged your stupid gob.”
“I'll make it up to her, somehow.”
“Not before you make it up to me, Tiger. Now, stop trying to ogle her bum and let's be on our way.”
“Solid call,” you agree. “I wonder where I'd be without you.”
“In her shirt, groping her tiny tits, no doubt.”
“I imagine that could have been enjoyable.”
“Get your priorities straight, Tiger.”
“I have them straight, sweetheart.”
“Of course,” she exhales. “I know you do – I'm just teasing. I can feel your hands shaking, you know.”
“No, you can't.”
“Yes, in fact, I can. I'm trying to help you relax.”
“How do you think standing around holding hands is going to help?”
“Not too spectacularly, I suppose.”
“Could we move along, then?” you suggest. “If we don't, my blood vessels might explode and kill off the chances of our making-up taking place any time soon.”
“I reckon you've a decent point.”
“I tend to do, sometimes.”
“Okay, Tiger,” she gives a fleetly smile and laps her arms around your shoulders. “Get ready.”
“I'm not ready.”
“Quit grizzling. On the count of three. One… two… off we go.”
Mokou launches into the tree-tops, picking a trail along the Western ridge of the Village. Heckling and flaunting of the mob grows more discernible as the two of you tear your way toward the School, toward Keine, closer and closer to her rescue – and at the same time, farther and farther from the blissful ignorance of the recess away from civilisation. Sundown, belated as it were, begins to show distinct signs of happening, flinging rays of burning orange through the brown-green covert of branches and leaves.
Nightfall is imminent, and yet, it feels as if you've only recently crawled out of bed.
Just as the two of you shoot out of the woods on the far side of the school-grounds, it occurs to you that at certain times, it doesn't matter how strongly convinced you are everything has been set right—everything exactly right—because, at the end of the day, some tragedy is going to rear its ugly head either way, regardless of your efforts to keep it from arising. Could something have been done to prevent the situation in the first place? If you hadn't made the decision to leave the clinic—or had left it earlier in the day—would any of this have come about all the same? If certain personae hadn't resolved to being a pain in the neck, could you have spent the afternoon whispering sweet nothings into their ears, loafing about undisturbed?
How is it everything is set in motion precisely at the moment you arrive to be witness to it?
'History is reality, seen from a single point of view.'
History is way too elegantly orchestrated these days.
Mokou touches down on the slanted roof of the School by the—thank heavens—unlatched skylight, and having sent a probing glance through the dirty glass, yanks it open and pushes you inside, coming next herself, closing it behind her.
Conspicuously enough, the room doesn't look much tidier than the last time you had the opportunity to rub your face—and potentially more—in the teacher's flowery-scented linens. Notes, pages, empty inkwells and pens are still strewn about on the floor, some of them resting on piles of cast-off robes and underclothes, disregarding the fact anybody could wander in and see just what sort of lingerie the most coveted woman in the Village prefers.
On the other hand, maybe regular people don't just casually straggle in here like this one particular dunce.
Mokou collapses on the bed, choking on her shallow breath. “I need—… I need a break,” she pants, “I'm—… knackered from all this—… bollocks, all this blasted flying. Go ahead—… ahead and check downstairs – Keine might be—… oh, you know what I—… what I mean.”
“No, you can't kiss her, Tiger,” she forces a smile, “though I don't—… I don't reckon I really have a—… a say, right?”
“… just don't forget to open the window for Reimu.”
“… yeah—… okay.”
Sometimes there's no need for clever quotes or quips to shrug off a gibe – the sense of urgency rather often makes more than a decent substitute. So, instead of wasting time on witticism, you shed your heavy luggage and dash through the exit down to the storeroom.
In but a couple of leaps, you reach the bottom, and stop with one hand on the knob.
Inhale, you tell yourself. Exhale.
Everything—or the foundations of it—is decided here. If the teacher is found—and is found alone—behind these doors, your life in the following few days may become a nightmare to live. So many issues are floating about in your thoughts that must remain in the shadows, and you know precisely how it works when one is specifically required not to mention certain intricacies or affairs. Suppose you're carefully warned not to speak of noses in the presence of John Smith's gigantic snout. Obviously, you would keep repeating to yourself, over and over, as not to forget: 'Don't mention the nose. Don't mention the nose. Don't mention the bloody nose.' Eventually, the words innately cease making sense, and if you meet John Smith, you will probably say, quite unconsciously, 'Hullo, Mr. Nose!' – then promptly throw yourself off the nearest bridge.
It's just how it is – only utmost concentration might be able to avert the otherwise inevitable crisis.
In other words, time is high to put your nose out of the air and keep it to the grindstone.
“Keine!” you call as you hammer down the door.
Stagely, yes, but a little bit of drama never hurt anybody.
“S—Shooter?!” the teacher spins on her heels to meet your radical entry. “Why—?”
Outstandingly, the usual frilly, blue dress isn't draping her curves and features, having instead ceded the task to a rather inept sleeveless shirt and a pair of black, skin-tight drawers. Quite the blend, but you don't care to save the image in your internal memory banks. In lieu of that, you close the distance in quick bounds, and steal her lips before they steal away on their own.
Mokou may have been right. Some of Kaguya's mannerisms could indeed have rubbed off on you.
Complaints? None here, sir, none at all. It's the most excellent excuse you've ever had.
Keine blushes acutely when you pull back. “W—why did you—?… Did—… did something happen?”
“Oh, nothing,” you tell her. “I just decided to finally come out of the closet.”
“E—excuse me? How…” she peeks over your shoulder, “… how long have you been in there?”
“Oh,” the teacher makes a little gasp. “It was just a figure of speech. Ha… haha…”
“Never mind,” you grab her by the nude shoulders. “Keine, tell me, and tell me the truth – what in the blazes is going on here? How come there's a pissed-off mob howling at your doorstep?”
Her expression changes from surprised to miserable. “… I don't know,” she confesses. “I woke up in the morning, and they were… they were already at it. I'd closed the gate the previous night, so they didn't get in, but… I can't tell. I honestly can't tell.”
Keine shakes her head. “I haven't seen him since you and… since you left for the… for the Clinic. I took the weekend off – I haven't gone out much, I couldn't have—… I can't tell where he is.”
“Gobshite codger,” you spit through your teeth. “Never mind me, bollocks. I'll handle the old goat later. Keine,” you strengthen your grip, “we've got to evac you the hell out of here. I can't stand the thought of leaving you with the hash going on outside. Sorry, but you're coming with me.”
“Now—?” the teacher blinks, startled. “—but I can't—not now—! I've got to—!”
“Oh, don't be such a lard, Tiger.”
Mokou careens in on the talk, showing off her most acidic smile. Keine gapes at her in stupefied shock.
“Mo—Mokou?… you, too?”
“Quit stuttering, Keine. It doesn't flatter you.”
“I'm just—just surprised!” the teacher defends. “I didn't expect—”
“Or did you?” Mokou lurches up to you two, still scowling. “I don't reckon you'd go so red just because he has shown up. Even I don't do that. Say, did he kiss you yet, by any chance?”
“Oh, don't be coy. It's just a kiss, isn't it? Careful, though – it's the first step on a very sloppy road.”
“Mokou,” you chip in, “please, don't be a skank about this.”
“See,” the tetchy girl flicks a thumb your way, “he's narked, because if you hadn't made your stupid call, he could have stayed in bed all day, snuggling some delicious, hot mocha.”
“Hot—… hot Mok—?”
“It's a kind of coffee,” you intervene quickly. “Mokou, please. Stop that. We're all in this together.”
“I'm not in anything, Tiger. I'm only lending a hand because I sort of like you. If you're pondering going back to Kaguya's place, you can forget it – I won't make the bloody trip again today.”
“Nobody told you to bugger off ahead and get all tired.”
“I wanted to think, Tiger – and you make way too much noise to be a good thinking partner.”
“Um…” Keine heckles in timidly. “I'm… sorry, but what are you two…?”
“Oh, sod off with the moaning, would you!” Mokou teems with ill temper. “I've already had enough of that to last me another eternity!”
“Hey, fuck off of her!”
Reimu joins in, the air around her flickering with the heat of her rage. Seeing her protégé at last, Keine decides to tear out your embrace, and rushes over to the simmering shrine maiden, taking her in her arms, regardless of the danger of suffering third-degree burns and ruining her beautiful face forever.
“Reimu!” she yelps. “I've waited for you!”
“Keine,” the shrine maiden hugs back. “Good evening. Sorry for the hold-up.”
Mokou stifles a laugh. “Oh, please, you're making me sick!” It's sort of harsh of her, but nonetheless, she has a point – this isn't the best time for a full-on, lips-together-now celebration of their reunion. “Spare us the scene, I beg you! I'm about to puke, here!”
Reimu gives her a murderous look. “I told you to shut your whore mouth.”
“It wouldn't be a whore mouth any more, then.”
“Just get the fuck off of us, would you?”
“Reimu,” chides the teacher, “language.”
“Sorry, Keine,” Reimu inclines her head, “but I've just got freaking stones thrown at me, so I'm kind of pissed.”
Keine gasps. “Stones—?! Reimu, are you—are you hurt? Is everything all right?”
“I've had worse, Keine. Calm down, please. I'm okay. Shooter,” she shifts her stare to you, “I couldn't get a thing out of them, sorry.”
“So, they weren't exactly in a talking mood, I assume?”
“Gross understatement. I got stones flying at me the moment they saw me.”
“… bloody excellent,” you mutter. “How about Brennan – did you see him anywhere?”
“… no,” Reimu says after a momentary stall. “No, I didn't. I couldn't get too close—you know, due to the fucking stones—so I didn't see many familiar faces, but… he may be out there, I don't know. Either way, Keine,” she switches back to the teacher. “I've got to get you out of here. I'm taking you to my place. I'm not giving those… primitives any chance to savage you on my watch.”
Keine dithers. “I—… but I can't—”
Mokou takes this as her cue. “Surely you can't be serious! I knew you were daft, but for the love of—where do you think they're going to look first when they find she isn't holed up in here?!”
“I hadn't planned on taking advice from a homeless trollop.”
“Reimu,” the teacher begs, “please…”
“I don't give a shit about your opinion on my groin,” Mokou says, “but I'm not bloody homeless, you stupid coot. I've got a house, sodding hell.”
Everybody, including you, looks at once to Mokou.
“… you do?”
“Well,” she shrugs, “it's sort of dingy, okay, but it's a house all the same. It's not a wad from here, but it's sort of out of sight.”
“I don't know if I care for that idea,” Reimu frowns. “I'd rather sleep in a bed than a hole in the ground.”
Coming from the least likely direction, a loud protest interrupts the unimaginably important exchange of information between the two girls. Keine recoils away from the shrine maiden, backing off under one of the walls, one clenched fist pressed to her chest at the heart-level, another glued to her side, both shivering visibly. It may be just you, but her eyes—her beautiful, aqua-blue eyes—seem even sadder and more glittery than they normally do.
“I can't leave!” she yells. “Not now! I can't leave all of this behind—all of my work, all of—… I can't just leave!…”
Mokou groans. “… are you out of your mind, Keine? Go take a gander outside, and tell me if honestly want to stay.” Quite unexpectedly, as if to confirm her fears, a few pebbles bounce harmlessly off the window-glass, causing the poor teacher to shudder violently. Mokou smiles. “I reckon I ought to go out there and give him a proper thanks,” she says. “Or would you rather I left the honours to you, you silly cow?”
Reimu barges in. “I hate to say, but she's right. We've got to get out of here, Keine.”
Keine, however, takes up cudgels against the plan. “Not tonight!” she pleads. “I can't leave so suddenly! If they settle down, maybe I could go out and talk to them! I can still set this straight! I just need to wait until they've calmed down!…”
Mokou crosses arms on her chest and sighs. “… shag me sideways, she really is out of her bloody mind. Tiger, why don't you tell her? I mean, you love each other so much, yes? If she's going to listen to anybody, it's you.”
“Shooter!” the teacher doesn't let you round off. “Please, understand! I can't—…” she gives you a look so determined and despondent your chest wrings with a sudden surge of pain. “—I can't leave yet!” she continues. “I've still got so many duties—!… I still need to talk to a—… I can't just leave!… I can't just—eek!”
More rocks come and tink off the shuttered front windows. It would seem the appearance of the shrine maiden has only put a larger damper on the already tense relationship between the mob and their disconcerted guardian. How many more are you going to piss off before the day ends? It would be so nice, you muse, if you could simply sit down over a nice cup of tea and discourse politely like civilised gentlemen, instead of laying into each other like common countryside berks. How blooming easy and convenient would that be?
Ostensibly, too easy and convenient for their twisted liking.
Silly Englishman. Nothing comes easy.
[ ] “I understand. I reckon we could use the shelves and desks to barricade the doors and windows. If we hole up hard enough, we should be able to get some undisturbed sleep at night. Once we're done, Keine, you and I are going to talk – honestly, this time.”
[ ] “Mokou is right. It's not entirely safe here – and I'm not willing to take the risk. Mokou, your place sounds all right, so please, take the lead. Keine, you keep close to me and forget about your duties for the time being. It's going to make things somewhat easier on us both.”
[ ] “Keine, they're right. Reimu, lead on. I trust your place is safe enough, and if we feel the need to come back here, it's a short flight anyhow. I'm sorry, Mokou, but you'll have to show me your house some other time.”
[ ] “No, I've my own plan, actually. Reimu, you're going to take Keine to the Clinic on your own. Mokou and I will stay behind, set up some diversion, bug out, hunker down somewhere else, and then join you tomorrow. Have the Princess warn Eirin first, though – we wouldn't like to give her any unpleasant surprises.”