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[x] …Yeah, let’s do that.
“…That sounds good,” you say with a smile, giving a firm nod.
Gently, you rise from your futon as Sanae claps her hands together lightly, putting on a delighted smile. Pushing herself off the floor, she stands up, and you follow her lead as she walks to the door leading outside, sliding it open. Maneuvering in the darkness, she makes her way through the hallway leading to the living room, and you follow after her steps.
“Mn, I think we have some cup ramen left lying around the house somewhere. We need to finish those off before the expiration date passes, so let’s go with those for now, okay?” she says, turning back to glance at you.
“Yes, that’ll be fine,” you say, nodding again.
You’re not very hungry and you don’t care about what you eat, anyway.
She walks briskly past the living room and heads into the kitchen, where she gropes about the wall for several seconds to find the switch for the light. The sudden brightness of the room blinds the two of you for a few seconds. Still adjusting her eyesight, Sanae shields her eyes with her arm as she makes her way to the cupboard, opening it and peering inside.
“Great, only two cups left!” she says happily, reaching inside and producing two plastic bowls. “Just enough.”
Nudging the cupboard shut with her elbow with those plastic bowls in her hands, she turns to you, presenting one of the bowls. Though you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do with it, you take it from her anyway, glancing what seems to be a sealed paper lid on the top of the bowl. Something something ramen. This is ramen? But there’s no broth at all…
“You’ve never had one of these, have you?” Sanae asks, noting the puzzled look on your face.
“N-no, not at all,” you reply.
“Hehe, well, you’d better enjoy it this time around, because this is probably the first and last time you’ll get to taste it,” she says, giggling slightly. “Anyway, just keep a hold of it. I’ll go put some water on.”
You blankly nod as she sets her bowl down on the kitchen counter, reaching over to a kettle. Filling it with water, she places the kettle on a hole in another countertop covered by a grate. She turns a knob in the counter, and fire erupts from the hole, beginning to heat the kettle. You watch the strange sight with wide, curious eyes.
“Right, go on and wait at the dinner table. I’ll be there once the water starts boiling.”
Snapping yourself out of it, you meekly nod, stepping out of the kitchen with the plastic bowl in hand. Setting down the bowl on top of the square dining table, you reach out, grabbing hold of two cushions and placing them at opposing sides of the table. Seating yourself on top of one, you patiently wait for Sanae to come.
“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Sanae says as she hurries on over to the table with the kettle, steam billowing out of the spout, emitting a high pitched whistle. “Here, open up the lid a little so I can pour the water in.”
You do as she says, tearing open the paper lid and holding it back as she bends forward slightly, pouring the boiling water into the bowl.
“Ah, forgot the chopsticks!” she says, hurrying back into the kitchen, taking the kettle with her.
After a moment, she returns from the kitchen with her own bowl of ramen in hand, with a pair of chopsticks resting on top of the lid and a second set held in the other hand. She places her bowl down on the table, and hands you the chopsticks, which you receive graciously.
“Let it sit for about two minutes, and it’ll be ready,” she says.
Standing up, she walks over to one side of the room, flicking a switch. The light at the ceiling of the living room shines, illuminating the living room. With a satisfied nod, she seats herself at the table again.
“Thank goodness for electricity,” she says, grinning brightly as she stares up at the ceiling lights. “I said this before, but we really came unprepared. But, thanks to the kappa, everything’s almost as comfortable as it was back in the outside world.”
“The tengu also use electricity,” you say.
“Mm, I thought so. But, well, outside of here, its use isn’t very widespread, is it?” she notes, glancing back down. “…And Lady Kanako says the current method the kappa use to generate electricity is too wasteful and inefficient.”
“Really?” you ask, cocking your head.
“Yeah, it’s just not up to par with the energy sources from the outside world,” she says, with a somewhat fervent look in her eyes. “Harnessing electricity for power is one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments!”
“You sound very enthusiastic about that,” you say, chuckling.
“Of course! I may be a living god, but I’ve also got my pride as a human, after all,” she says, thumping her chest. “…Anyway, I just thought it might be great to spread something as convenient as electricity to everyone in Gensokyo.”
“Maybe,” you shrug.
“Ah, it’s done!” she blurts out suddenly, snatching up her chopsticks and peeling back the lid of her ramen bowl completely. Glancing up to you, she says, “Go ahead and open up the lid. Stir it around a little before you eat, okay?”
You nod, and peel back the lid the same way she did. The trapped steam inside immediately comes rushing out of the bowl, and a delicious smell wafts to you from within. Grabbing hold of your chopsticks, you plunge the tips of it into the bowl, stirring the noodles inside and letting it soak up the broth. Finally, you slurp up some of the noodles, having a taste.
“How is it?” Sanae asks.
“…It’s good. It’s really good,” you say, glancing up.
“It’s just cheap stuff, though,” she says, giggling. “…But, even cheap stuff is pretty nice once in a while.”
You nod, returning your attention to the ramen.
Just as you finish the bowl, you see Sanae letting out a yawn, though she quickly catches herself and suppresses, small teardrops leaking from her watery eyes. She quickly wipes them away with the sleeves of her pajamas, taking the opportunity to rub her eyes a little and massage the bridge of her nose, blinking rapidly several times in succession at the end of the whole process.
“If you’re tired, you can go ahead and sleep,” you say. “You don’t have to feel like you have to keep me company.”
“Huh? Oh, no no no no no,” she says quickly, lifting both of her hands and waving them furiously in refusal. “I’ll be fine! I’m not tired at—at…”
She’s interrupted by another yawn, covering her mouth with her hand.
“…mmn, at all, so don’t worry…”
Even though she says that, she’s clearly feeling a little tired. Still, even if you insist it doesn’t seem like she’ll listen to you tonight.
“…Thank you,” you suddenly say.
“Huh? For what? The ramen? That was really no big deal.”
“No, I mean…” You take a deep breath before continuing. “Thank you for taking me in.”
“Oh, that again,” she says with a laugh. “Don’t worry about it. It’s really no big deal at all.”
“You’re very kind,” you say, smiling. “Even though it must be uncomfortable for you.”
She has a confused look on her face now. “…Huh?”
“I mean, I heard girls are usually embarrassed to be sharing a roof with a man and all, but you’re not showing it at all for my sake, aren’t you?”
Gradually, her face begins to grow red.
“U-um… y-yeah. I-I mean! O-of course it doesn’t matter at all. N-not to say that I’m not thinking about it at all, I really am, but still—ow!”
She lets out a gasp of pain, apparently having bitten her tongue in the middle of what she was saying. You inquire if she’s alright, and she painfully responds that she is, before an awkward silence overtakes the both of you.
“I said that I was thinking about what happened today, right?” she says with a somewhat dreamy tone to her voice, her eyes staring off into space. “You know, what you and Miss Momizi said about being treated like you’re different.”
“I feel like I can understand that, too,” she says, frowning. “It really is an unpleasant feeling, isn’t it?”
“…In the outside world, people called me a ‘miracle worker.’ They were all amazed by what I could do, so much that I really felt like I was a god compared to them all. Of course, I was happy about that, but at the same time, I thought it was… kind of lonely, to be separated from them like that. Everyone would just, sort of give me this look whenever I entered the room.”
“I used to wonder what it’d be like to be, you know, one of them. I didn’t really have any trouble making friends or anything, but I still wondered how differently things would be if people didn’t look up to me like that.”
“…But even before that, I think I knew that feeling,” she says, her expression becoming more distant now than before.
She nods, and swallows before continuing, lowering her voice slightly. “… Just after my mother passed away, I noticed that all the kids at school were looking at me differently. I was pretty miserable, so it took me a while, but I realized that, probably, they were treating me like that because of what happened to me then.”
You remain silent, looking away as you continue to listen to her.
“We lived in a pretty small town,” she says, taking a deep breath. “…So news spread pretty fast. Probably, everyone in the class knew that I was alone at the shrine. The teacher probably told them all to be nice to me. To treat me special, because I was going through a hard time.”
You reach down, grabbing hold of your knee and clutching it tightly.
“…But I just remember being angry at everyone for dumping their pity on me,” she continues sadly. “…I’m pretty horrible, aren’t I? Everyone was trying to be nice, but I just pushed them all away. I hated the attention I was getting. I was almost glad when no one wanted to even talk to me anymore. I would go to school alone, walk home alone, and stay at home alone. I thought that would be how it would be for the rest of my life. I remember thinking that would be just fine, but then…”
You find yourself glancing up at her again, staring at her face. She stops, lowering her eyes for a moment before lifting her face again with a weak smile.
“…Sorry, I’m just rambling about the past now,” she says, shaking her head. “…You must be going through a hard time too, and this probably isn’t helping at all. It’s just… I don’t know, I just wanted to get everything off my chest. I’ve never even talked to Lady Kanako or Lady Suwako about this, so I guess I wasn’t really showing self-restraint…”
You open your mouth.
[ ] “…Please, go on.”
[ ] “…”