A/N: Well, I'm finally back. I know I more or less vanished without explanation, and I won't got too much into detail, but being sick is a pain in the ass, especially when it's chronic. Couple that with writer's block and general laziness (I'd be lying if I said some of this was just being lazy or distracted by other things in life) and you have some of the most stagnant creative waters you've seen.
But yeah, every follow, favorite, and review in this three year period was like a knife being twisted in my gut. Going through and reading all of those reviews and seeing every new follow and favorite even after two years of inactivity humbles me immensely, and I can't thank you all enough, because as far as returning to writing in full force goes, you all contributed. I don't know how long this will last, but I'll do my best not to disappoint.
But review responses. Time to start on the first batch.
Deep Sea Diver Man: As far as the Touhou side of chronology goes, current events reach as far as the 42nd chapter of Wild and Horned Hermit, "Take Back the Four Seasons". I would rewrite all the chapters to adjust the weather and seasons so I could bring it to just before Visionary Fairies in Shrine's "Dying Midsummer" chapter, but that's a lot of work that isn't particularly necessary. Rather, it would actually be a pain to do because I'd have to rewrite my plans to match the state of the fairies and nature in Gensoukyou.
Tl;dr It's set after Hidden Star in Four Seasons but there's still a year to go before Violet Detector happens, so Clownpiece is at the shrine.
Masterx01: I'll be honest, I don't quite remember my exact thoughts when I wrote that, but I know that I was dead set on the "I.T." showing up so I think that narrowed my mindset when it came to writing that scene. I've reread my story many times since I went inactive and I totally agree that it feels forced. I'm proud of what I wrote but I'll admit I set up rails for myself without intending to. I might go back and tweak it to make it seem more natural and make more sense, but that's something for farther down the line.
ahmadhaikal28: Interactions between Sumi and Touma are gonna be fun, when I get to writing them. Sumireko isn't in Academy City (for a reason in-line with her character), but she is classified as a powerful Gemstone esper for purposes on the ToAru side of things, when I get to that. Sanae doesn't have a magic name though, but you speaking that into existence makes me want to give her one, along with Gensoukyou's other magicians in Marisa, Alice, Patchouli, Byakuren, and Narumi.
TheLastSterling: Touma and other (mis)fortune-centric characters will be meeting in due time, especially with Hina, and Tewi. Shion and Tenshi get some time with him too, as far as (mis)fortune-based interactions go, but the only fortune-centric character I can't decide if I want to include is Toyohime.
MrQuestionMark: Yeah, the kiss actually happened lol. He doesn't have much time to be dazed about it but it's gonna be fun to write him getting flustered thinking about it in the future. Speaking on Sakuya and the whole situation with her non-consensual amputation, after rereading it the situation seems forced and could have been handled better but thank you for your compliments. Abstract concepts like fortune and misfortune are much more in the forefront in Gensoukyou than in the Outside World, so I feel that the setting gives many more chances for me to bring that to focus. I'd call you a sadist for enjoying his screaming but I think that's just the pot calling the kettle black at this point.
Speaking on the I.T. and again, Sakuya's interaction with it, the I.T. in this case was maybe brought out for the sake of fazing the usual unflappable maid, even though the I.T.'s appearance then is something that ties into later events. Among the human characters in Touhou, Sakuya is the most removed from humanity, both her own and other people's, so I guess I kind of wanted to take her back to her roots, in a way.
The Dragons probably won't be making an appearance simply because I don't know what would prompt their appearance over the Invisible Thing, but the I.T. will show up some more.
Yukari, though, is as shifty as ever, and one can only imagine what her goal is and what her actual limitations are regarding to the Imagine Breaker. I'd answer your questions about her but she'll explain to Kamijou in due time.
Finally, the Between the Lines chapters. The intention with these is a mix of showing the reactions of people invested in the existence of Kamijou Touma, as well as setting the stage for later events. Not everyone is relevant to this particular story, but I think you'll be able to tell who's making moves and who's just along for the ride in due time.
Savaris: Heh, I'm glad you liked Flan. She was fun to write, but I'm afraid I didn't capture one of her biggest canon characteristics in her general snarkiness toward Remilia. There will probably be chances in the future for me to show this, but for now I can only lament.
Also, I totally get your attitude towards Remilia, but I will defend her in that while she did know what was going to happen, she had no clue how things would arrive at that scene. Between you and me, though (and everyone else reading, of course), I feel like I didn't capture Remilia well, at least in her concern for the rest of Gensoukyou. Knowing her and her position, as much as she would like a chance at further recognition and status for her household, I feel like it was a bit random for me to have her care about Touma's Invisible Thing being released elsewhere in the land, as if there aren't many powerful individuals besides herself that could find a way to deal with it. I can chalk it up to lack of sound judgment in a hectic situation, but she was the person least exposed to the chaos going on in the mansion.
Archie Rapha: In time, other Index characters will be involved, but just who it is I'll leave to your imagination. Happy theorizing?
mexicanimator: I'll admit, all of the reviews praising the work and asking if the story was still alive touched me and made me want to return all the more, but your review in particular got under my skin. Not in a bad way, mind you; it was actually the push I needed to get fired up about writing again in earnest. Thank you for that.
And for everyone I didn't personally respond to (It's only because there wasn't a question to be answered, honest, not that I was picking favorites), I thank you with all of my heart. Truly.
Without further ado, let us begin!
The Bamboo Forest Incident I
Part I: Search for the Prized Possession—Demonic_Search_Party
"You know, if Yukari-san was going to bring me back to Kourindou healed, the least she could have done was heal my back, too—OW!"
"I agree. Though, if you keep squirming this is only going to hurt more, Kamijou-kun."
The human boy Kamijou Touma grits his teeth and groans as Morichika "Kourin" Rinnosuke applies an ointment to his raw back.
Kamijou woke up this morning, the day after the incident, in excruciating pain, but only in one spot—his back.
The source of his pain stems from his fiasco at the Scarlet Devil Mansion the day before, when he skidded across stones of the courtyard after the red-haired youkai gatekeeper Hong Meiling threw him for one of the day's multitude of involuntary flights at the hands of the superpowered individuals that are the residents of Gensoukyou.
According to common sense and speculations by Rinnosuke, Yakumo Yukari dropped him off in his temporary room in Kourindou, and from what the half-youkai could tell from the fleeting glance he got from her speedy visit, Kamijou looked fine, clothes and all.
The notable thing here to Rinnosuke is that she flew off after dropping him off, even though she normally gaps herself to and from places whenever possible. By extension, he assumes she flew to Kourindou as well, which is incredibly strange.
The notable thing to Kamijou, however, is the gap youkai's generosity to restore not only the cuts and bruises he received during the incident, but his clothing as well. In fact, he feels more refreshed today than he has in a while.
Though he would have appreciated it if she healed his back as well. His severed right hand isn't necessary for her to repair since it reconnects itself in due time (which it undoubtedly did), but his back definitely needs attention. Desperately. According to Rinnosuke, aside from the raw skin the majority of his back is, there are also patches where you can see his muscles.
It makes sense that it would hurt like all hell.
"To finally have that hell that was my sprained wrist healed only to be replaced with a screwed up back...such misfortune," Kamijou complains as he winces more at the treatment Rinnosuke is giving his back, applying disinfectant and other unknown remedies to his afflicted region.
"And...done." There's one last spike in pain that causes Kamijou to flinch, and then he hears the closing of what sounds like a jar.
Kamijou sighs and carefully slides a shirt—a new, plain one—down his torso and stands up from the chair he was seated in. He's not wearing his shirt or school uniform today because knowing him, he's going to get into another incident every other day and mess up his clothes. Rinnosuke was considerate enough to buy him some clothes from a vendor specializing in Outside World fashion the day before while he was at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and bought him a plain orange T-shirt, black pants, and a grey jacket for the cold. "Thank you, Morichika-san."
"Don't mention it." He starts to gather up his the supplies and begins to put them away, but a word on one of the jars catches his eye.
"Hey, what's 'Eientei'?"
He looks at him out of the corner of his eye at the question. "Why, it's Gensoukyou's hospital."
"Is that so?"
Kamijou won't say this out loud, but the fact that Gensoukyou has a hospital relieves him to no end. He can't simply rely on Patchouli or other magicians to heal him (can other magicians even heal him like Patchouli can? He's not sure if there are any other magicians advanced enough to heal like she does, and he doesn't think Marisa specializes in that type of magic), so having this surefire alternative is reassuring.
"Where's it at?"
Rinnosuke puts up the jar that triggered the question and turns to him. "The same place you ended up wandering to the other day. The Bamboo Forest of the Lost."
The place he got so tragically lost in a couple days ago.
Gah, I probably looked like an idiot back then running in circles like that.
He laments this fact as that was the second time he had made a fool of himself. The first time at the shrine was mortifying, and that incident was just as embarrassing, even if there was only one person there to witness then.
Well, there's a chance that she found me after I was about to break down, instead of watching me stumble around in circles….wait, Mokou-san! She seems to know the forest well, so she could guide me there.
Not to mention he would say that the discrepancy between her delicate features and figure and her rough demeanor is surprisingly attractive. Is this, perhaps, the fabled 'gap moe' Aogami is always going on about?
"'Ah', indeed." He puts up the rest of the materials and turns toward Kamijou as he exits the bathroom, which surprisingly has electricity in stark comparison to the rest of Gensoukyou that he's seen. He should probably ask what's supplying it since he hasn't noticed any power lines or generators around the shop. "Did you ask about Eientei because I was treating you?"
Kamijou shakes his head, though it does make sense for that connection to be made, plus it is kind of related. "I just saw it on one of the ointments, so kind of….though since I have such a great relationship with trouble I feel like I'll need to pay it a visit soon."
"Huh? Did I say something wrong?" Kamijou hears the short distressed sound coming from Rinnosuke and wonders what happened.
"Well, maybe you did. Saying something like that is bound to jinx it, don't you think?" The half-youkai suggests matter-of-factly as he puts on his boots and slides outside to his store, the human boy following along behind him. "But anyway, what do you plan on doing today?"
"Hm…" He wants to go exploring some more since his last attempt to do so was cut short by a certain collection of shady people in a blood-red mansion, but at the same time he hasn't really done anything for the half-youkai yet to repay him for letting him stay with him. "I'd like to stay back and help around the shop today."
He unlocks the door the the shop and strolls in, Kamijou again following behind him. "You're not going to explore today, too?"
Kamijou shakes his head as Rinnosuke makes it behind the counter. "No, I'd rather not. The last two times I tried got me into a pretty tight spot," he says as he thinks of him having the misfortune to run into Rumia during his first attempt and being brought to the SDM the day before. "Maybe if I stay in today I'll stay out of trouble."
The half-youkai grunts and sits in his chair at the counter. "Well, I have no complaints." He picks up a clipboard and pen and lays it on the counter, then takes a couple sheets of paper out a drawer and puts them on the clipboard. "Well, since I have you here, why don't you take inventory?"
He hands Kamijou the clipboard, and the spiky-haired teenager takes a look at the papers. They aren't blank—they're lists, and he sees a couple things he recognizes on them.
Gameboys? Pagers? iPods? What is this, an antique shop? Oh, wait.
He realizes he seems to have forgotten the part where Kourindou basically is an antique shop, if you think of it in a certain way.
"Okay. It's about time I started paying you back anyway." He strides behind the counter and goes to the various items the half-youkai has collected, and begins checking each item and marking them off on the list.
It's a while before he actually finishes. There are a lot more goods than he thought this small shop could hold.
"Morichika-san, I'm done," Kamijou says as he pulls away from an NEC PC-98 computer and holds out the clipboard to his landlord.
The half-youkai doesn't answer, as he seems to be preoccupied with a book.
Kamijou waits a couple of moments to see if he would respond, and then he resolves to just wave his hand in front of his face to catch his attention.
He jumps and looks up at the boy from his seat, obviously startled. "O-oh! What is it, Kamijou-kun?" He then registers the object in his hand. "Right, you've finished inventory, huh?"
"Yeah. What do you need me to do next?" Kamijou looks at the clock and realizes around two hours had passed since he had started. It's 11 o'clock on the dot.
"Hm…" He puts his finger on his chin as he seems to think about what task to give him. After a couple seconds, the young-looking silver-haired half-youkai opens his mouth to speak again. "How about—"
Both of Gensoukyou's rare semi-relevant male figures contort in confusion at the sudden wail from outside the modest curio shop. However, while Kamijou's confusion is of pure curiosity and concern, Rinnosuke's was more of a disbelieving confusion, as if something about what he heard did not compute with him.
Yikes, that's loud...what could be troubling a girl with such a young voice?
"That voice...but that emotion in it, that can't be who I think it is…"
Kamijou, while having heard Rinnosuke say something so troubling, opts to ignore it in favor of going to check on whoever is in distress outside the shop.
"I'll be right back, Morichika-san." Without waiting for a response, Kamijou walks to the door and opens it—with his newly-healed hand, no less, and comes about an unexpected sight.
Lying in the center of a small crater is a small girl, looking no older than 10, with long brownish-orange hair tied at the end with white cloth at two points: a small lock splayed on the ground beside her and another for the bulk of her hair, which is being laid on with the tied part stick out beside her. Her eyes are brown and rimmed red, fresh trails of tears running down her face, and she wears a tattered pink blouse with a long purple and pink skirt, and black shoes.
However, two things especially stand out about her to Kamijou, and he can't help but stare because of them.
The first thing, or rather things, are the chains decorating her. Shackled to her left hand is a yellow sphere, to her right a red pyramid, and to the black belt around her waist a blue cube.
The second thing, or again, things, are the two straight brown horns on her head, one of which is stuck in the ground and has some kind of string wrapped around it while the opposite is free from the ground and bearing a blue ribbon, one of five ribbons on her body. The others are the red one on her blouse, a larger red one tied to the back of her head in her hair, and two small purple ones on her shoes.
He honestly can't help but eyeball the girl, for this is a strange and grand sight indeed, what with the combination of the overall being of the small girl, the crater she's lying in, the tears streaming down her face, and the fact that one of her horns is stuck in the ground, making it so she's laying on her side with her head stuck in the ground facing Kourindou.
As the girl acknowledges his presence, she sniffles and locks her glistening, red-rimmed brown eyes on him and then suddenly sits up straight, yanking her head out of the ground with no problems and bringing a chunk of rock with her.
His jaw drops, the fact that Gensoukyou is a world of mostly youkai having left him for a moment. When that bit of knowledge returns to him, though, he composes himself and sighs, then approaches the obviously-not-human girl while hoping that this wouldn't turn into something crazy.
"Um...are you okay? I heard you yell from in—"
"MY GOURD! SOMEONE STOLE MY GOURD!"
The girl lets out a loud, pain-filled wail that seems disproportionate to her small body. It's loud enough that Kamijou flinches and covers his ears to try and ease the strain a little bit.
"T-try to calm down some, okay? Tell me what happened." He kneels down beside her and asks her this question.
She sniffles again and speaks, this time thankfully with a more controlled volume. "S-so I came down from heaven early this morning and I went to Reimu's shrine and she was leaving at the time so I dueled her and then I lost and then I got bored and then I got tired and took a nap and I felt something in my sleep but I ignored it because I was really tired and I woke up and my gourd was gone!"
She says this all in one breath and frankly overwhelms him with the information and something else. Something unexpected, but something he should have noticed when she said that her gourd was gone.
Honestly, the alcohol smell took his own breath away.
He turns and fake-coughs in order to create a situation where he can get clean air back into his lungs. He doesn't have a problem with alcohol, not at all, considering how Hamazura convinced him to drink on his first day back to Academy City after World War III, when Birdway was giving Accelerator and Hamazura (and Kuroyoru, to a certain extent) the run-down on magic. But sometimes there is such thing as too much alcohol, like now.
His ingrained values as a human born in the 21st century has an issue with someone so young consuming alcohol, but at the same time the horns are a telltale sign that she's not human, so he tucks that away and instead opts to gather information. He can't help if he doesn't know anything, after all.
"Well, tell me about your gourd. Maybe I can help you find it."
Her eyes light up and her tears stop, though her nose continues to run and sniffles to contain it again. "It's purple! And it has talismans on it and it has infinite sake in it! Basically it's the best!"
She nods happily and pushes herself up off of the ground, and smacks the chunk of rock that was stuck to horn, it coming off as easily as if it were a piece of paper.
"Well, I guess I'll help you look for it." Kamijou offers his help, forgetting his earlier statement of 'Maybe if I stay in today I'll stay out of trouble.' After all, as per his nature, if you are someone in need he won't hesitate to assist them.
He stands up, following the girl's motion not even thirty seconds ago, but before he's up for even a full second, wraps him into some kind of frenzied hug and lifts him off his feet as if he were a ragdoll.
He's automatically having trouble understanding what's happening here, even more so because this girl's strength is insane, but again, her horns drawing into his line of sight reminds him that this is Gensoukyou and she's not a human.
...Regardless of all that though, her tight grip around his torso is not only making him feel like his ribs are about ready to break, but it's aggravating his just-recently-treated back on levels he can't fully describe, so he begins tapping her on her head, trying to coax her into releasing him.
"O-oi...I can't breathe…!"
She looks up in response to the sentence he struggled to get out and the rapid but feeble tapping on the crown of her head. When she sees Kamijou's face contorted in discomfort and slight panic, she lets out a dumb noise and the pressure around his torso releases, and the next thing he knows he plants his butt in the ground from where she was holding him.
She rubs the back of her head and wears this half-apologetic expression on her face, flashing a toothy grin. "Uh, sorry about that."
Kamijou gasps for air and tries a little too hard, causing him to be thrown into a sudden coughing fit. A few seconds of this and he finally rights himself, though, and stands up aside the loosely-standing little girl.
"Just...give me a second. I have to let someone know I'm—"
A sigh interrupts him, and the two of them look over to see the silver-haired shop owner standing with a hand on his hip and a book in his opposite hand, looking with mild displeasure at the duo and the small crater in front of his shop.
There's a collective silence as he stares at the scene, and then he sighs again and looks to Kamijou. "Don't worry—I'm not going to stop you from going. Just be careful, at least so Yakumo-san doesn't have to get involved again; you're already on her radar for some reason, from what I can see. You, however," he turns this time to the youkai girl, "need to deal with this mess. What do you think customers would think if they came to the shop and saw this?"
She waves it off lazily. "It's fine, isn't it? Not like ya get any customers other than that incident-resolving duo."
He raises an eyebrow. "They're not my only customers, you know. Take Izayoi-san, Konpaku-san, Usami-san, Yatadera-san, Ibara-san , and even Yakumo-san, for example!" He turns his head to the side, seeming to think of something. "Well, okay, Usami-san and Yakumo-san are more business partners than anything, and Ibara-san only really uses this place to meet with Usami-san, not to mention Yatedera-san only comes in nowadays to bother Usami-san…but still!" At some point, his face became downtrodden, but he perks back up toward the end to make his defending himself still look convincing.
The oni girl wears an expression of light mirth as she waves him off, turning her body to face Kamijou as she speaks back to Rinnosuke."Yes, yes, whatever. If you're bothered by it that much I'll take care of it when I get back. But for now, me and Mr. Spiky Hair over here are gonna go search for my gourd!"
Kamijou feels an ungodly grip on his right wrist (words cannot describe how relieved he is that his wrist is healed, whether it be through its propensity to reattach itself to him whenever severed or Yukari healing him) as the pint-sized powerhouse yanks him on her merry-yet-determined way.
Rinnosuke's cry is ignored by both the girl and Kamijou as they go on the move at a relatively high speed. Thankfully, though, the speed that she's moving at is just slow enough that he can keep up for a little while, so after he settles into the girl's stride, he takes a moment to look at exactly where she's taking him to.
This is the way to the Bamboo Forest of the Lost…
"Huff...hey uh…" He trails off because he realizes that, despite having been involved in a whole 'conversation', she never got her name.
If the girl would have looked back at his face, she would have noticed the confusion written all over it as he hears the word she blurted at him. "...Watermelon?" 
"No! Same pronunciation, different kanji! My name's Suika! Ibuki Suika!"
"Well...huff...Suika-san! Are the culprits in that bamboo forest?"
"Yeah! That were-hakutaku teacher from the Village told me that she saw those dirty thieves flying off with it in this direction!"
Were-hakutaku? What is that….
Actually, no, what is this feeling I'm getting from her?
Despite the youth and general lightweight tone her voice has, he hears a fire in her words that intimidates him, even if her words weren't threatening in the slightest. He gets the glaring feeling that this person is someone he doesn't want to get involved with.
Tearing his thoughts from those feelings is the equally-glaring sight of the girl's feet leaving the ground as he feels his arm move up with her now-raised grip.
Instantly he realizes what's about to happen.
"OI! Stop, stop! Suika-san, stop!"
He calls out with all his being and the girl responds partially, ceasing her ascent and slowing her advance but remaining airborne.
"Hah? What's the problem?"
"Do we…haa…really have to fly there?"
He asks this as he catches his breath from the prolonged running and subsequent outburst of self-preservation, still not used to being dragged into the sky whether it be with Marisa, Flandre, or otherwise.
"Ah…" Suika touches down and stops moving forward entirely, loosening her grip on his hand as she looks at him with the same disappointment a parent would give their child if they dropped out of college after being praised as a stellar student all their life. "So ya really can't fly?"
Relishing the small reprieve she's given him, he puts his hands on his knees and tries to catch his breath a little before answering her. "No...I can't." He raises his head to look at her straight on now, as him bending over put his head at her head's level at her full height. "I can't, never could, and never will be able to."
Suika takes a deep breath and sighs, blowing her booze breath unfortunately in the direction of Kamijou's face, with it carrying an abnormal heat that probably singed his eyebrows as he yelps and straightens his posture. "Well ain't that disappointing," she says as her expression morphs to a sour one, but it disappears as quickly as it comes. "Though, while it would make things easier, it ain't that much of an issue," she continues as she now invades Kamijou's personal space, floating up so that they are both on level in the opposite way, scampering her way behind him.
The boy immediately realizes what's up as she begins to worm her arms under his armpits, and sighs at the unfairness of it all. "So it comes down to this again, huh?"
"Hm? I dunno what ya mean by 'again', but isn't it obvious that I'd carry ya?" She seems to have found a comfortable position to lift him as she begins to take flight with him as luggage slowly. "Ya wouldn't be able to keep up with me if we ran the whole way, either, so this makes the most sense, right?"
Well, I guess so.
Suika increases both her speed and her altitude as the ground suddenly forsakes Kamijou, rapidly receding as the oni-human duo takes to the skies, getting a much clearer view on their surroundings as they take off in the direction of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost.
Though they're not going especially fast, speaking audibly gets harder the faster you're going (though only if you're not in a vehicle) so Kamijou elects not to start up conversation and just take in the sights high above the ground of Gensoukyou once again.
Looking at it from above, though, the Bamboo Forest really is huge. Way bigger than the artificial forests in Academy City, at least.
Though he guesses there isn't actually a lot of space for nature in a place like Academy City, even if it does make an effort to have areas for relaxation and recreation.
The Bamboo Forest gets even closer, the mysterious grove now coming into clearer focus in Kamijou's average eyes. Not that it actually helps him much, as the bamboo is dense, but it's a start.
I guess I might as well start looking…
He scans his eyes across the large bamboo thicket, searching for...well, people, he thinks? Even if Gensoukyou is more or less a land of youkai, from what he's heard and observed, he hasn't really seen anything take a distinctly inhuman shape, so it makes it hard not only to determine who is 'safe' to be around, but also who the culprits are.
Wait, before that…
"Suika-san! What do the people that stole your gourd look like," Kamijou yells so he can be of use. If he doesn't know who he's looking for, how can he search properly? Other than searching for a gourd itself, but how is he supposed to see that as far up as he is?
The oni's voice comes from above, as expected. "It's these five little buggers! Three youkai and two fairies, all around my size! Look for a cape that looks like wings, actual wings of ice, a blob of darkness, a concentrated mass of pink, or a green hair done up in a sidetail!"
The defining features, huh?
With these incredibly expressive barely-descriptions in mind, Kamijou scours the bamboo thicket, searching for the thieves in question with his incredibly average human eyesight.
Now that he and Suika are almost on top of the fringe of the thicket, though, he can at least see clearly enough to see those features his oni partner described. Scanning across the ground, he doesn't see any of the things he should be looking for, seeing mostly stalks of bamboo and the odd rabbit or so scampering about the fringe, but eventually he does begin to notice something worth noting.
"Hey, Suika-san! There's a…" He hesitates, his train of thought being jolted by the peculiar appearance of what he's seeing, from an Outsider's perspective.
Though maybe it isn't so surprising, given how overused a trope it is.
"…girl with rabbit ears….down on the left!"
"Oh, a rabbit? Well that makes things a hell of a lot easier!"
Suika descends to the ground toward the rabbit girl, the girl herself shying back with a wary look in her brown eyes behind her similarly-brown hair, before her eyes widen in recognition of most likely Suika and she relaxes herself, her light brown sundress and dark brown shawl cloak following suit.
The rabbit girl opens her mouth to speak, her animal ears twitching in response to her perking up (nipping any thoughts Kamijou had that they were just bunny ear accessories, as weird as that would probably be in this world), before she can get a word in Suika expels words from her own mouth.
"Little rabbit! Help me out, why dontcha!" Suika very brashly requests as she approaches her, drawing a raised eyebrow from Kamijou considering the lack of a height difference between the two girls. "I need help finding something!"
A look of irritation crosses her face, presumably at being cut off before she could even begin, but she sighs in resignation and responds, "I know. Tewi-san sent me out here after some others spotted some small fry with your gourd." She says this dryly and with no feeling to it, although her eyes betray amusement at the situation. "Looking at you I'd say you didn't just give it them, either."
"Well duh!" Suika waves her arms around, making those shapes flail along with her movements. Kamijou's far enough to be safe from being hit by what might as well be a flail, but he still steps a couple feet further away for peace of mind. "Where'd they go! Out with it!" she demands to be told as she steps even further into the rabbit girl's space.
"Sheesh, that breath…" She reels back at the stench being thrust into her face as she plugs her nose and points in a direction to the left, close to Kamijou. "They ran southwest. Somewhere down the path they split up into two groups, though, so have fun rounding them all up."
Kamijou doesn't need to see Suika's face to know she's getting fired up at the prospect of tracking down the poor fools that took something from her, though when she looked back at him it was needlessly confirmed. "You hear that, Spiky Hair? We've got a lead!"
Spiky ha—ah, she means me.
For a second he was thrown off by not being called his name, but quickly recovers. "Yeah, that's great! Now we can go get that gourd of yours back." He turns to the rabbit girl. "Usagi-san , what directions did they split in?"
With a glare filled with ire for some reason, she shrugs her shoulders and begins to turn away. "Dunno. You'll probably meet another rabbit waiting where they split, so ask them. Bye, good luck, have fun, don't break the forest too much." She begins to walk away after saying her piece, but Kamijou for some reason is left feeling bitter about that exchange. It's not something that'll ruin his day, not by a longshot, but it bothers him so much that words leave his mouth.
"Hey, what'd I do to you?"
"I hate that damn name. Do you know how many injured villagers and youkai meet me and call out 'Usagi-chan! Usagi-chan!' when I'm leading them to Eientei? I have a name, for Daidoku-sama's  sake!"
"Oh," he says stupidly, then scratches the back of his head. "Well, so I don't make the same mistake, what's your name?" At the very least, he can tell this is serious to her and has been plaguing her for a while, so he has no problem conceding here.
"No, don't ask now, Spiky Hair. The damage is done." She turns back to face him fully, and then crosses her arms and looks at him crossly, a vein bulging on her temple.
Needless to say, now he has a problem conceding. "Oh, come on! I gave in and apologized, but now you're gonna go and be a hypocrite? Give my goodwill back to me!" He returns her glare to her, incredulous that she'd just go back and act the hypocrite. "Not to mention, 'Spiky Hair'? Did you even try?"
She looks at him like she's shocked he even dared to say that. "Like you can talk! You called me by my species!. At least I had the mind to use a feature of yours, even if that's the only thing that stands out on you!"
He feels a twang in his chest like someone just shot him, staggering back and clutching his chest at the unexpected attack on his appearance. He knows he's not particularly a looker, and his styled hair is something he prides himself on, but for someone to say that's his only striking feature hurts.
"Besides, the oni called you that and you were fine with it!"
Snapping out of his brief self-pity, he starts, "Well, that because…uh…."
Suika picks up where he trails off, him having been confused himself on why he just let her call him that. "That's only because he still hasn't told me his name, though!"
There's a collective silence as everyone throws their eyes at the other two, temporarily stunned by this news.
"Oh. Teehee?" He fakes the usual knocking-fist-on-head gesture as an attempt to defuse this, but all he gets is a small guffaw from Suika and a look of absolute disdain from the rabbit girl.
"What possessed you to do that? That was creepy beyond what I can express." She looks at Kamijou as if he were a piece of garbage for using that stock reaction (something he regrettably feels himself getting used to), and even he can't help but feel ashamed that he did that.
"I sincerely apologize." He ends up going along with the flow and bows slightly to emphasize, and then turns to Suika. "To you too, Suika-san, for going this long without at least introducing myself."
She shrugs. "It happens. Things have been pretty hectic for ya since I crash-landed in front of Kourindou, I'd imagine." She cracks a hearty smile, though, and says, "Instead of apologizing, though, isn't there something else ya can do?"
He nods, and faces her squarely. "My name is Kamijou Touma. Nice to formally meet you Suika-san."
She nods and cracks a huge smile again. "Nice to meet ya too, Kamijou!"
He turns to the youkai rabbit, who was watching the surprisingly sincere scene with bemused awe at the simple feelings in it. "And your name?"
She looks shocked that she was asked, but quickly recovers, sighing and saying, "Sumire. No family name. Nice to meet you, I guess, but this is probably the last time we'll meet so…live long and prosper or something, see you never."
Pointedly ignoring the last part, he smiles slightly and says, "Nice to meet you, too, Sumire-san, and thank you for the information," to which she nods back and walks away from them and disappears into the bamboo without another word.
As soon as she leaves sight, though, Suika locks her arms under his own from behind again, listing him into the air before he's even aware of what's going on.
"Whah—geez, warn me first, why don't you!"
"Curb your complaining, Kamijou! We've got a gourd to retrieve, so let's go go gooo!"
And then Suika rockets off in the direction they were informed to take, Kamijou helpless but to dangle and watch the bamboo rush past him.
: Kasen's name to those who don't know she's an oni or a sage is Ibara Kasen, not Ibaraki Kasen like we know. Sometimes it's stylized in English as Ibarakasen (maybe because that's her manga's Japanese name?), but I probably won't use that much at all.
: "Suika" means watermelon in different kanji (西瓜), though it's apparently just written in kana and not in kanji. Suika's name in kanji is (萃香).
: "Usagi" means rabbit in Japanese.
: Lord Daidoku (aka Ookuninushi) is the god the youkai rabbits of the Bamboo Forest of the Lost pound mochi for. Well, I say for, but it's not like he's eating them. It's made in his name.
A/N: That wraps that up. Suika is strange to write, since I wasn't sure how rough to make her speech considering that her dialogue is more or less proper in Japanese. That said, she's still pretty casual, so I made the compromise to have "you" be "ya". I hope I wrote her decently.
Also, Sumire was definitely not intended to be named when I wrote this. But I guess the same thing happened with Abby Stoic, Caitlyn Calm, and Emily Euphoria back in the mess at the SDM. They weren't supposed to be relevant but they became recurring partial OCs. I'm not sure if Sumire's going to be recurring but she has a name which basically means she'll be showing up more than once, I guess. For the record, she's not based on preexisting canon characters with no detail to them; she's pretty much original.
Well, at any rate, leave a review and I'll see you all next chapter.