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The conversation pauses for a brief moment as Marisa very visibly ponders the question before looking back over her shoulder at the gilded gate. The guard from before doesn't seem to be around. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) she slowly walks closer, her head tilting back as she goes to admire the artwork.
"Yeah. Yeah, we did." Letting out a small sigh, she falls into a sit against the wall and pats the ground, signaling me to do the same. "Come on. I don't know how long we're gonna be."
Hours pass in silence, as swiftly as the clouds drift and the sun sets on us. Today has been both physically and emotionally exhausting for her; I have no right to deprive her the pleasure of sitting back and watching the distant twinkle of stars. If she would have me join her, then I can certainly spare the time. I could get used to this, though...Generally it's straight to bed at sunset, no time to relax. There's work to be done in the morning, no matter how much I get done today. Maybe some day people will just stop. Hatred and malice will finally topple, their foundations having been chipped away, and love will spread across the world as it breeds more love. Marisa would certainly like that.
"What're you laughing at?" With a hint of a laugh, herself, she finally speaks to me.
"Your magic, I suppose. Hoping that it'll get a bit stronger."
"Of course it will. I'm not just going to stop studying because of this. One day, I'm gonna carve out a star in the sky for myself."
"I'm not sure that's possible. Aren't stars supposed to be other people's suns?" Without looking away from the horizon, she extends a gently glowing finger in front of me. Its light swiftly gathers at the tip, flowing like water from her hand. As it does, the fading afterimage continues blinding me, making the light seem all the more dazzling. The hand itself is barely even visible by the time her spell leaves its perch, floating and spinning in midair before finally shaping into a small, stylized star.
"There's no such thing as fantasy in Gensokyo, remember?"
An earth-shaking creak breaks her concentration, shattering the little star and spreading its pieces to the wind. The gate finally opens beside us, revealing the guard from before. She seems no worse for the wear, aside from a change of clothes into a thick green sweater. Even her arm is back. Upon giving a quick look around and spotting us, though, her face breaks into a smile and she jogs over to meet us.
"Hey, you two. Didn't think you'd still be around. How'd it go?"
"I should ask you the same! I could have sworn I took an arm off you."
"Chi, man. Chi. It's good stuff." As though we were supposed to understand with simply that, she pats her not-at-all-missing arm proudly and joins us on the ground.
"Well hell. You're gonna have to teach me about it some time." ...So I'm the only one in the dark. "Really though. Sorry about all that. If there's anything I can do to make it up, I'm kind of making rounds with the amends here."
"Nah. I was just giving you a tough time because it's your first visit. I'm Meiling, by the way. Pleasure to meet you."
"You tricky bitch!" The two share a hearty laugh, arms around each others' shoulders, as I'm left staring in bemusement. Around the time they settle down is when words finally find me.
"Might I ask how you two got so friendly so fast?" The guard is the first to reply.
"Power! It's the truest form of expression, and damn has this girl got it. I'd rather be her friend than her enemy any day."
"Yeah, she's got that right. Did you see her open that fuckin' thing? I mean, is there a trick to that, or?"
"No way. It's all me. They put this thing up so humans who think they're the next big thing don't come and get themselves killed hunting a real life vampire. So anyways, you still haven't told me! What went down, anyways?"
"Well, my girl Hina here came by this morning telling me I was cursed. I kind of stole a book from the library." As the words leave her mouth, Meiling immediately cringes as though she took an invisible blow.
"Yeah, you don't wanna do that. Patchy's kind of serious about her books."
"Yeah. So we went and talked with the bat bitch, made a deal, gave back the book, and now everything's peachy."
"You talk with Patchy at all?" Conversation between the two of them darts back and forth with such rapidity that the chance to contribute barely registers in time.
"Ah...Yes, I did. She's a lovely woman, really, and quite knowledgeable."
"She sure is, huh." What's that snicker for?
"Yeah, real lovely. You know those two hit it off so well that they decided to make me think I was gonna die as a prank?"
"About that. It was extremely distasteful, and I sincerely apologize. I should never have gone along with her idea, but I was just so caught up in the flow of things...Please, forgive me." A moment's silence seems like an eternity between the stone glare that she shoots me and the swift and pleasant conversation that had been taking place a moment before.
"I dunno, Hina. That was pretty fucked up." I knew it. I don't deserve forgiveness for such a horrible deed.
"But!" Her face quickly spreads with a grin as she slaps my back. "It was also pretty funny, in retrospect. Besides, it was Patchy getting back at me, right? I can't get mad at you for wanting to help people other than me, too."
"Ah, you two. First time we talk and you're already gettin' all mushy? I think it's time you get to bed. I'll still be here in the morning. Shoo, shoo." She's astoundingly good at getting her arms around you before you realize it. She's also very persuasive – almost as persuasive as the lake rushing at my face.
And so, we fly.
"So...What are your plans for those mushrooms you were growing, now that your leg is healed?" Her house is lovely at night. Small glowing particles float in the air, a rainbow of spores from the variety of mushrooms that naturally grow around it catching and reflecting the moonlight. The house itself is covered in a light dusting of them, likely from the years of crops that she's kept growing at all times, causing it to look like the shimmering scales of a fish in this more subtle light.
"Well, I can't just let 'em go to waste. Haven't really got any plans, but I'm still gonna tend to 'em till they're ready. Hell, I might even keep 'em growing till I come up with a good cause."
"Don't go changing the world, now." Another light smirk before she turns to open her door and end what may have been the longest day in her life. As she steps in, though, her head turns back one last time.
"I can't keep that promise alone. You're gonna have to come by and make sure now and then." With a smile and a knowing wink, she closes the door behind her without waiting for an answer that never comes.
I think I'll take tomorrow off.
Chapter? Day? Mission? It's done, in any case.
It is astounding how difficult it was to find an appropriate picture. It is also astounding just how much of the inappropriate was porn. Anyways, congratulations or something! Next comes note taking, planning, and writing up an intro for the next bit. Thanks for reading, come back later, etc. etc.