Reimu was never supposed to be friends with me.
She was a shrine maiden, after all. The humans in the Village trusted her to keep them safe. It would be a conflict of interest for Reimu to ever be friends with someone like me.
But there we were, getting ready to drink together for the third time this week in her shrine. Fall was just beginning, leaving a damp chill on the shrine grounds, so I was mostly beneath the kotatsu, trying to keep warm.
“The Village had onikoroshi today,” Reimu said before sitting across from me, pouring me a cup.
I sat up on my elbows. “The real shit?”
Reimu furrowed her brows. “No, they tricked me and gave me water. Of course it’s real.”
I rolled my eyes. “I mean, is it real onikoroshi?”
Onikoroshi literally meant oni-killer , and it had been a long time since I had tasted it.
Since...the Massacre happened.
Reimu took a sip. “This sweet shit really kills oni?”
I gave my cup a swirl and a sniff. “It did. Almost. One oni in particular. In small doses, it’s fine, just makes my kind hallucinate a little and feel a bit more...ourselves, so to speak. But in larger doses…” I looked outside. “You know what happened on Ooeyama, right?”
Reimu frowned, setting down her cup. “Did I do something...really insensitive?”
I shrugged. “It’s whatever, really. You didn’t know.”
“You were the oni that was drugged with onikoroshi.”
I grimaced, then downed the cup, slamming it back down on the table. My vision already swam, my limbs tingled, and I felt my fangs and tusks grow a bit in my mouth. “I was the reason they made it in the first place.”
“So why are you drinking it, then?”
I shrugged. “Counterphobia? Or maybe I just really like trippin’.”
Reimu shook her head. “I’ll never understand your people. But really, I’m sorry.”
“You don’t gotta be. It’s just as delicious as I remember. Although, I think you’re wrong. It’s not sweet at all.”
Reimu poured me another cup, which I inhaled. It burned as it travelled down my throat, and I shivered slightly.
“Perhaps oni and humans taste something different?”
“Probably. It’s a poison that only affects oni, after all. That’s why Abe no Seimei and Minamoto no Raikou used it on me. I was too strong to take head-on, I guess.”
“But they didn’t succeed. You’re still here.”
I adjusted the bow around my neck, showing Reimu my scar. She recoiled, gripping her sake cup until her knuckles went white. “Raikou got some good swings in, I’d say. But I don’t really remember.”
“Not just the scar, Suika. Look at your hand.”
I looked down, noticing the familiar red coming to the surface of my skin, switching from its usual pallor. “Oh, yeah. Onikoroshi always reveals the oni beneath.”
I tucked the bow back to where it belonged and flopped back on the tatami mat, letting the blankets of the kotatsu devour me with their warmth as the transformation took hold. My teeth were breaking free from my mouth now, spilling over my lips, protruding in ways that was embarrassing with the Massacre, but somehow okay around Reimu. I felt myself shake a bit in ways that indicated me becoming a monster again, not the cute oni girl people seemed to know.
“Are you okay, Suika?”
“I’m fine,” I said, but my voice came out in layers, like there were three of me speaking at once.
“You don’t sound fine. Let me just...get your gourd, okay? We can flush this out of your system.”
“Really, Reimu, it’s okay. It’s good for me to feel this again.” I gave her a little smile, even though she couldn’t see my face.
Reimu scooted over to me. “You’re crying, Suika.”
Is that what was warm and wet on my face? I thought it was just sake. “Oh, so what? The strong can cry sometimes.”
“It’s okay to be bothered or traumatized by something,” Reimu said. Since when was Reimu so gentle?
“I am,” I replied, “but like most things, I’m fighting it. Someday, I can avenge my people that didn’t make it at the end of the massacre. I can find where the spirits of Abe no Seimei and Minamoto no Raikou and all their allies rest, and I can settle our score. But first, I drink. I drink to remember, and I drink to forget.”
Reimu poured herself another cup and scooted beside me, patting my head. “Then let me drink the memories and the lack thereof with you, my oni friend.”