From their place on the blankets that were scattered on the grass beneath the cherry blossoms, Meira & Kotohime could see the spectators of the viewing slowly fade out to the remaining cluster of youkai & humans who had an obscure version of 'after party'. It seemed like when it came to drinking away the night, both groups had a bond that was unbreakable.
Especially when the oni were around.
As Reimu was putting it to them in not so coherent words, "A land th-hic that drinkshs togethur, staysh toge-uhh I'm gonna pass out".
Alice grabbed the brunette and placed her against her side, "I'm sorry about this. I would say she doesn't normally get like this during these events but that would be a lie".
Meira chuckled at the snoozing shrine maiden, "I am inclined to believe that that is the norm for those that bode the Hakurei name & defend Gensokyo. Reimu's predecessor certainly made it clear and believe me, she knew how to out drink us all. Comes with the territory of putting your life on the line everyday".
Kotohime squeezed the other woman's hand in hers in comfort at the remembrance of their old friend who perished in combat.
The days before Reimu implemented the spellcard system with Yukari were nothing short of bloodshed & unnecessary loss of life on both sides.
"Ya see, Meira gets it" Reimu slurred appreciatively and tried to put her thumb up towards the woman but failed miserably which initiated a bout of laughter to simmer the sombre mood.
"Yeah, from Kotohime!" Marisa interjected whilst whizzing past on her broom.
"Honestly.." Alice sighed and rolled her eyes when Reimu snickered at her friend's timing
The Princess chose the wrong moment to sip her sake as she felt the liquid burn up her throat while she coughed lightly. Meira was unfazed as she rubbed the redhead's back to ease it down and made no attempt to refute the statement.
Marisa certainly was not wrong.
"I really need to have a word with her about flying whilst under the influence" Kotohime said once she managed to speak again.
She still appeared flushed around the cheeks but something told Meira that it had more to do with the drinking rather than Marisa's comment. The woman could handle her intake though she was definitely making the most of the festivities with their friends.
Reimu's encouragement certainly helped.
"Relaax! Ya off duty tonight. Drink, laugh & drink shome more".
"Reimu, you've drank enough for all of us" Alice teased and earned a pout.
"Not my fault that, th-hic, that you're all lightweights!".
"It is remarkable how high your alcohol tolerance level is" Kotohime had to state as she slurred off. Unlike the brunette, she could still form a sentence at least.
Reimu grinned with pride & sidled down further into the crook of the blonde's shoulder, "Phft, yearsh o practice!".
"You'll have Suika to thank for that" Alice said and signalled with a nod of her head to said tiny, drunk oni trying to get Sanae drunk not far from them.
It was quite a spectacle for the samurai & the princess to witness. The changes to Gensokyo were something neither of them couldn't fathom though they were pleased that such events could occur again.
Humans & youkai interacting without the unease that always used to waft around like black air in a not so distant past.
Again, that was thanks to the drunken shrine maiden who appeared seemingly content & where the credit for the peace belonged; along with Yukari.
"Maybe we'll garner the same tolerance soon enough" Meira quipped as she and the redhead prepared to leave, "Though we must end our evening here".
"Ya leaving?" Reimu managed to speak.
"Sadly so, tomorrow is going to be a busy day so an early night was planned" Kotohime smiled, "Thank you for your company".
"Are you sure you'll be able get home okay with her, Alice?".
"I'll manage, Meira. I am already far too used to this routine".
Alice chuckled as Reimu drunkenly waved the duo off before pouring herself another cup of sake. Less pouring & more spilling before Alice took the reigns.
"Have a pleasant night" Meira said before clasping Kotohime's hand and walking past the groups of people.
They said there fair share of good night's as the trail thinned out to where the entrance of the flower viewing was, both occupied in light chatter about the day's events.
It was enjoyable to mingle with the residents of Gensokyo since there had been many new faces that Meira in particular hadn't met after her departure. Kotohime herself was still familiarising with the influx of denizens, part out of her duty as the law enforcement & general curiosity.
"Alice seems wonderful, doesn't she?".
Meira hummed in agreement as her lover teetered next to her and she wondered with amusement if it wasn't just Reimu who had consumed more than usual.
"She certainly appears grounded enough to keep Reimu steady. In her line of work, finding a companion Reimu can connect with on various levels is essential" Meira replied in her usual demeanour before glancing at the shorter woman with a tell-tale smirk on her lips, "Must be a trait of Princesses".
"Oh of course!" she exclaimed whilst recalling who Alice was linked to, "I'm sure being the daughter of the Goddess of Makai has its perks though Alice distances herself from that".
"From what Reimu mentioned, Shinki was 'friendly' enough during that incident when she met Alice & her mother so who's to say. The same applies to you if I recall in terms of not wanting to have that lifestyle right?".
"It is a title & sometimes that is all it will ever be" Kotohime replied in a tone that seemed far away, "I can't vouch for Alice when I say this but a life where shouldering responsibilities of that nature is not for everyone. We found contentment simply living as a normal part of Gensokyo's society" she finished and glanced up at Meira, "I know I found so much more than I would've done in that environment".
Meira blushed at the look the redhead was directing her way; those red eyes laced with a hazy undertone thanks to both the alcohol & the sentimental words.
She couldn't resist bending her head down to kiss her lightly before keeping an eye on the path, "Then I can share Reimu's thoughts on being on the receiving end of your affection like she is with Alice. I am certainly honoured of having this place next to you".
Kotohime giggled and brushed against the other woman's side further, "You're such a samurai".
"And you, are slightly inebriated" Meira smiled back and held her closer lest she tripped.
"Only slightly.." Kotohime was about to continue her protest when a group in front of them caught their eyes.
"Hey it's Keine and Eirin and..woah what do you think is going on here, Meira?" she drawled off as she recognised the other women they were chatting to.
Kotohime's expletive was warranted when it dawned on Meira who the doctor & historian's company were.
The Moriya shrine's goddess, Kanako, was there along with Yuyuko who Meira recalled saw over the Netherworld. "Another Princess" she couldn't help but to note with humour. Next to her was the priestess of the Myouren Temple, Byakuren & the youkai sage, Yukari.
The whole line up was another reflection as to Gensokyo's evolving nature. To have individuals that had the spectrum of abilities like they did, conversing like it was the norm was quite a sight. Meira knew each woman had their functioning role in the running of Gensokyo & if the rumours surrounding Eirin were true, that influence led to the likes of the moon too.
Humans were merely bugs in comparison to the individuals both in front of them & those back at the party and the samurai felt herself become quite wary of her surroundings.
Kotohime on the other hand was not deterred at all when Keine spotted them and waved them over.
"Good evening" she happily greeted them all as the pleasantries were exchanged between them.
"Kotohime, Meira, I'm glad you both made it for the viewing" Keine said, "Did you enjoy it?".
"Certainly, the cherry blossoms were truly at their peaks and beautiful".
Yuyuko smiled at the samurai, "You must join us for a viewing in the Netherworld next time. I think you would like the sights that fall during our season of the viewing".
"Correct me if I am mistaken, Miss-".
Yuyuko put her hand up at the formalities and chuckled, "Just Yuyuko, please. I don't believe we need to be so formal".
Kanako grinned whilst taking in the two women, her arm wrapped around Yuyuko's waist, "I hear formalities are engrained into the minds of those that wield swords".
"You aren't completely wrong" Eirin added, "Yorihime is rigid about such procedure".
"As is Youmu" Yuyuko mused, "But you were saying?".
Meira resumed her train of thought after noting Yorihime's name as she had already met Yuyuko's guard, Youmu. She wouldn't pass up the chance to meet another swordswoman.
"In regards to visiting the Netherworld, wouldn't we have to be deceased? It is the land where the dead reside is it not".
"Uh, no offence" Kotohime quickly added with a laugh along with Yuyuko.
"None taken as Meira is correct. However..".
"You will find that a certain someone opened the gap between Gensokyo & the Netherworld to allow travelling without needing to pass on".
The priestesses' soft voice did nothing to hide the teasing nature as all eyes landed on Yukari who feigned innocence.
"Me? Do such a thing? Darling, you insult me".
Byakuren pressed her thumb against Yukari's knuckles lovingly whilst rolling her eyes as Keine picked up the conversation.
"As Byakuren said, since the gap was never closed, access has been easier. Yuyuko is right about the different aura of the Netherworld's flower viewing festival & you both should join us next time".
Kotohime was already eager for that event given the giddy smile she had on. Meira really was wondering if Reimu's influence had had more of a hold on her lover than usual.
"It would be our pleasure, thank you for the invitation, Yuyuko".
The Princess smiled and proceeded to enquire more about how their night went. As Keine & Kotohime had their chat about the school and Human Village, the samurai was weary of the other company surrounding them despite feeling a bit more at ease in their presence.
Kanako proved to be a woman of words, recounting small anecdotes about her experiences in the Outside World. She could see why Yuyuko had faired well with being involved with her as a balance to her extroverted personality, perhaps not as arrogant as the goddess however. Byakuren had similar tendencies to Yuyuko what with her gentle nature and it explained why the Buddhist temple was doing so well despite Gensokyo leaning towards the Shinto side given Kanako & Reimu's shrines.
Meira knew Keine and Eirin well enough now as they were more around the Human Village considering Keine lived and taught there. The historian being half youkai was also something they were aware of though Eirin was still somewhat of an enigma for the samurai. Being the local doctor, the silver haired woman exuded a sort of aura that one simply couldn't ignore and from what Kotohime had mentioned since Keine discussed their relationship often, the woman held a lot of significance.
All of these thoughts whirled in Meira's mind though it wasn't in a negative way per se, the samurai simply felt overwhelmed by who each of the women were & their impact on Gensokyo.
The Gensokyo she was used to had changed drastically and while Kotohime had adapted to it as she didn't leave, it was like coming back to a new world for Meira. She'd adjusted to it well enough but there would always be that thought of how the vibe of the land had been altered with all these individuals.
The one that pricked at Meira's nerves was Yukari & when their eyes met, the youkai sage appeared ready to start with her little games.
Reimu had certainly filled them in with exactly how Yukari worked.
"I wonder, has your reaction to defeat matured as much as you have?".
"Yukari" Byakuren sighed with a warning tone.
Yukari smirked, "Well from what I gathered about your fight with Reimu those many years ago, you didn't take well to being defeated by a mere teenager did you?".
To Meira's credit and the relief of her lover, she didn't react in a way that the youkai wanted, "What can I say, Reimu's skills were already there prior to your involvement in training with her. Though I use the term 'training' lightly, you're more of a thorn to her side" she smiled.
"Oh, the samurai does have a little bite".
"When it comes to having to deal with you, it's necessary" Eirin hit back with an amused scoff.
Meira definitely appreciated the doctor's aid.
"A defeat is a defeat at the end of the day & Reimu earned it. Besides, when a 14 year old bests you in combat, what else can you do but to rethink where you went wrong" Meira said and had obviously managed to keep her cool with the youkai.
At least with Byakuren by her side, Yukari appeared a lot more docile but her renowned smirk that signified she knew every thought crawling around your brain still remained. The priestess gave the samurai a knowing & apologetic look at her lover's need to behave like that and was relieved Meira took the higher ground.
"It is true that the battles prior to when Reimu met you all were a lot more lethal" Keine stated, "It isn't a fair assessment to even compare it to the rules we have now".
Kotohime could definitely recall her own encounter with Reimu and how many days she had been unable to move as a result of their fight. She hung on closer to the samurai who noticed her behaviour and checked to see if she was okay. The after effects of the alcohol were taken its toll as she let out a small yawn behind the sleeve of her kimono which Meira smiled at.
Yukari spoke again, "Well, evidently quite a lot has changed".
"Other than you, Yukari, you don't" Yuyuko laughed, "I should know considering how long I've known you so don't mind her" she said whilst looking at Meira, "It is her own way of being social".
"Now now Yuyuko, telling my methods will only make this more difficult" she hit back at her friend with a grin.
Byakuren pressed her palm against the youkai's cheek, "I think you are difficult enough".
"And Byakuren has to deal with you more so" Kanako added.
Yukari feigned hurt when her lover laughed along instead of coming to her defence.
"I guess that is me told" Yukari sighed and winked at Meira, "Lessons learned mean defeats are never wasted, wouldn't you say?".
Yukari had to admit that Meira's likeliness to Yorihime was an added bonus as to why she wanted to mess around with her but the woman had handled it well enough. She figured the sleepy redhead next to her had a lot to do with that.
"That is something I can agree with you on" she replied with a curt nod.
Keine raised an eyebrow, "I don't think I have seen Kotohime this out of it before. How much did she exactly drink?".
"More than what myself & Alice saw once we went to get some food and left her alone with Reimu".
Yukari seemed far too pleased with that, "I taught Reimu well".
Suddenly, Reimu's alcohol consumption & involvement to Yukari made an awful lot of sense, "That explains so much".
"I like her" Kanako laughed out.
The youkai sage had to take that hit with a friendly chuckle, "Touché".
"I think we'll have to be on our way now" Meira smiled at Kotohime's unbalanced steps against her, "It was a pleasure to chat with you all, please, enjoy your night".
"Likewise, Meira. We'll see you both tomorrow" Keine said as an afterthought followed, "Perhaps not both if Koto is going to be as hung-over as that" she laughed.
"I heard that" the redhead murmured and waved at the other women, "G'night!".
Since the festival was near to their home, Meira didn't have to walk long to reach their place. She could have easily flown it there but Kotohime insisted walking would wake her up a bit. She was still somewhat on her toes but the redhead seemed to be fairing well from her drunken slumber.
"Come on, let's get in" Meira said gently and edged them to the door when Kotohime stopped, "Koto?".
"Can we stay out here for a bit. It feels nice".
The spring air was refreshing though the samurai was concerned about her lover getting ill, something Kotohime knew she was probably thinking.
"Are you sure?".
The Princess nodded and pointed to their roof, "Up there. The sky looks pretty".
"Not as pretty as you" Meira smiled and gave in to her lover's whim, gripping her waist and floating up to the air.
"Sweet" Kotohime giggled whilst carefully holding onto the samurai while she sat them down securely.
"Are you sure you are okay?".
"You worry too much, Meira" the redhead chided, "Are you?".
"Of course, I'm not the one who is probably seeing more than one moon right now" the samurai grinned lightly at the pout given her way, "So cute".
Kotohime bit back a laugh, "I'll have you know that I'm seeing three but that isn't what I mean. I thought you were going to shove Yukari back into one of her gaps" she added, a bit more serious than she had been all night, "I know she was joking and all but..".
"Koto, it was fine, really" Meira reassured and took one of her hands in hers, "She was not exactly wrong about what happened, however, that feels like a life time away. Things are different now. I didn't exactly make Reimu's life easier so it was well deserved" she finished warmly.
She played with the redhead's hand, warming it up and soaking in the comfort that even a simple action like this brought for her.
"She wasn't expecting you to not get angry" Kotohime snickered as she reflected on the youkai's brief look of surprise, "I guess a samurai doesn't always need a sword to cut people down".
"That's..a rather philosophical way of stating it".
Kotohime slid her fingers in the space between Meira's, "Hey, don't laugh. I wonder where I picked that up from".
Her red eyes glanced up to Meira's to see her fixated on her actions, a content smile on her face whilst the breeze whipped the purple fringe around. Within her mind, Kotohime was concerned about how her lover would've reacted to Yukari's goading as she knew it had taken Meira a while to get used to the changes. So to see her simply bat away the blonde's provocation made Kotohime swell with pride.
The world around them was continuously in an orbit of change that nobody, be they youkai or human could intervene with. It was a matter of adapting or being left behind & for Meira, she had gradually convinced herself that the relationship between humans and youkai was not what it used to be.
That youkai were not carbon copies of the terrifying & malevolent beings they were made out to be in stories.
Reimu & Alice's relationship saw to that.
If the defender of Gensokyo was involved with a youkai herself, that was enough proof that the animosity which once suffocated any chance of a truce between them no longer existed, at least not as dire as it used to be.
The samurai smiled at the thought of the brunette who was enamoured with her with they first met & now to the woman she had become.
"Meira, what is it?".
She shifted her eyes to Kotohime and brought their joined hands up to near her chest.
[Art by: CuteLittleAngel]
"I was thinking about the festival. More specifically, everyone we had met".
"It feels surreal".
Kotohime tended to know what was running through her mind and it further sent a jolt of warmth through Meira's body, to know that after her return to Gensokyo, the one woman who saw past her reserved demeanour was still there. She didn't always have the words to explain her emotions so the redhead's observant nature was an added bonus.
She nodded and elaborated; Kotohime's inebriated gaze not masking the attention she was giving her lover.
"Remember as children how we were taught to fear & reject anything that wasn't the same as us?".
"That youkai are bad and humans are good and all that spiel?" Kotohime answered, "Hm, I wish I could forget" a frown then appearing on her face, "They were wrong".
"They were wrong, Koto" Meira emphasised, "For so long I believed that to be the case. You grew more aware of it quicker than I did".
"That was only because of my job as an officer, bad humans existed just as much and I had to see to it" she replied to ease whatever guilt Meira was most likely feeling, "That isn't to say I learned of it any faster. The ways of the law and the ways of a samurai are two very different concepts".
Slightly drunk and philosophical Kotohime was proving to be too endearing for Meira who laughed softly. The redhead's smug face when she knew she had won that retort only furthered the weakening feeling running through her.
"You concede your points too adequately".
"The truth is the truth" Kotohime replied and scooted forward, "How we were brought up will be different to how the future generations of Gensokyo will be, you know? Less hatred & more understanding".
Meira had to appreciate her lover's optimism, "Do you think it will be enough?".
"Of course. Keine and I have talked about this since she's half youkai but even she knows that it went too far. After the Hakurei barrier went up, youkai didn't increase, the hatred did and look how things are now. I don't think fear aids anything".
Kotohime had ended up balancing precariously on her knees so the samurai pulled her against her chest & let her rest there in fear she would topple over.
Once the Princess got into a speech, she really got into it. That also included any hobbies such as collecting things much to Meira's amusement of the trinkets she'd found around their home.
But Kotohime's theory was right and it was what her own mind had deduced during the course of the evening.
"Meira, you don't think that it could be possible to have a balance without fear?".
It was barely above a whisper though Meira heard it and wrapped her arms around the redhead's waist.
"I do. Maybe I wouldn't have believed that a few years ago but it helps to actually learn about what it is we are taught to fear. It is so easy to accept what we are told and abide by it simply because someone of authority, or an elder preaches it to you but we can't afford to do that. It's..".
She could hear sleep lace Kotohime's voice and even then the woman's feelings of disdain was evident.
If there was somebody who understood the pressures of having to yield to higher ups, it was Kotohime. Her status as a royal worsened that dislike.
"Indeed" she replied and glanced out over the lights of the surrounding area, "But it doesn't have to stay that way, look at the way things are now" she smiled and returned her eyes to her lover's sleeping face.
The noise of jovial laughter and cheery companionship rang through Gensokyo's airspace, signifying the women's thoughts about tearing down the pillars of distrust & misplaced anger that the land was once drowned it.
All the sounds around them, the cacophony of each decibel joining together was something that wouldn't have existed as harmoniously as it was doing now.
But it can and did happen.
Sure there would always be disputes between the two groups though there would be no need for it to become as volatile as it had done so in the past.
And it all shifted because one person saw that it wasn't helping either side.
In reality, to initiate such a change starts with one person; speaking out & educating those who have been misled to placing blame on others when things go wrong just because they are different, an easy target.
Dismantling the blocks of animosity & fear is no easy feat but it isn't impossible.