“You can come out now, Suika and Yuugi.”
I sighed and managed to put myself back together, the sigh becoming the rustling of wind, the gathering of molecules that made me, well, me. “She’s gone?” I asked, my voice still airy.
I heard a rustling under the kotatsu, a yawn, and the cracking of joints as I fully materialized. “Man, don’t ever make me hide like that again,” Yuugi complained as she stretched to her full height, her hands brushing against the the Hakurei house’s ceilings.
Reimu leaned against a wall and sipped her tea. “Trust me, I don’t like this either. But Kosuzu and her friends are all…”
“They’re human,” I said, trying to keep the distaste out of my mouth. For the last several hundred years, I’ve been trying to connect with humans, bring them to my parties, and befriend them, putting our rough history to ease. But no matter what I or Yuugi did, they still threw things at us, banished us, and complained to Reimu about our existence.
Reimu was our friend, and always would be, but as the exterminator of youkai, she couldn’t be, especially openly around other humans.
And it hurt.
Reimu rubbed the exposed part of her arm, hugging her cup of tea close. “I guess it’s worse for you guys. I can lie, but...hiding feels like lying, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” Yuugi and I said in unison.
Reimu sighed and plopped on the ground. “Is there a way I can make it up to you?”
No one said a word.
Yuugi absentmindedly gnawed on a leftover meat-bone from the kotatsu in thought as I chewed on my hangnails. She held it out to me in offering, but I shook my head. I felt nauseous.
Just when I was about to swallow my skin with some sake, the door slid back open. I was about to scatter myself again, but it was only Marisa.
“Hey,” she panted.
“You could knock,” Reimu suggested.
Marisa ignored her. “Hey, what’re the oni doing here?”
“We brought her some booze and food from the Underground!” Yuugi said, cheerful as ever. Then she lowered her gaze. “But...she had some human guests, and…”
“We had to hide,” I finished for her, lowering myself to the ground and hugging my crisscrossed knees. “If people saw that Reimu was friends with us, then they’d no longer trust her to be protecting Gensokyo.”
“‘Fraternizing with the enemy,’ I guess,” Yuugi added.
Reimu snorted. “It’s hardly ‘fraternizing,’ but yeah.”
Marisa quirked an eyebrow. “Or, you could prove to these humans how these two are okay.”
“How?” Reimu asked.
“There’s the Fall Harvest tonight in the Human Village. Why don’t you take them?”
Yuugi and I winced.
“We can’t really…” I began.
“Go in,” Yuugi finished.
“Why the fuck not? You’re oni. Just march on in.”
“That’s exactly the problem, Marisa!” I stood, arms outstretched in anger. “Humans expect us to barge into cities and demand what we want, and then punish us for just wanting to be loved and seen as regular people!”
“It’s why our kind was banished from Gensokyo in the first place.” Yuugi yanked my gourd from my belt and filled her dish. “Put all the oni together in a paradise-prison and they won’t throw a shit, right? Then you squishy humans can feel protected or some shit.” Angrily, she took a swig, eyes unblinking as they met Marisa’s.
“Shit. There’s gotta be a way to bring y’all in.” Marisa sank to the ground, stumped.
“We could try,” Reimu said. “The Human Village is warded, but if we can get past the wards…” Reimu began to pace. “Okay, I have a plan.”
“That was quick,” I snarked.
Reimu waved me off. “I have a few treats I keep for situations like this. The recipe was passed down to me from my family, when I first was put in charge of this shrine. I think my ancestors were in a similar predicament, being friends with your kind.”
Yuugi and I exchanged looks.
“What’s the recipe?”
“They look like wafers, and shouldn’t take too long to make if you help. They’ll protect you from any human spells or wards. Not even mine. So I’m putting a lot of trust in you two to behave yourselves.”
“You have my word,” Yuugi said with an incline of her head.
“Define ‘behave,’” I replied, earning a punch to the shoulder from Yuugi.
“If you two are done…” Reimu’s voice trailed off as she eyed the kitchen. “If we can make these before the harvest starts, then you two can attend without being harmed. And we can show these humans just how good natured you are.” Reimu narrowed her eyes. “Well, how good-natured Yuugi is. I’m not so sure about you.”
I choked on my sake. “Hey!”
Reimu patted my head. “Well, let’s get started, then!”