“Huff...And, here we are! It sure has grown since the last time I've seen it.”
She hovers just outside the village gate. Sanae follows slowly behind her, gasping for breath.
“Some exercise is refreshing for your body, right?”
“Yes... Boss... Huff...”
“Come on Sanae, you can do better! You should have better stamina than me, I'm several thousand years older than you. I'm not even as fast as Aya nowadays.”
“Aya is way out of my league boss...”
“Nothing that you can't achieve with training! But then again, you have your shrine maiden duties... well, enough about that, where will we be going?”
“Nobu wants to take us to the farm near here, is that okay boss?”
“That's okay. Let's land near here. Time to work out my feet.”
“When was the last time you came here boss?” Sanae echoes your written question.
“I don't know the exact time, but it was way before you guys entered Gensokyo. About ten years ago, I guess?”
“Could you tell us what has changed since your last visit?”
“Hm... Other than the village's size, the layout...” She looks at her surroundings, and sees a girl with an umbrella fly down, and immediately approached by young kids. “Ah, and it seems youkai can move more freely here. Back then, the village's wall was heavily guarded at all sides, and no normal youkai could enter without special treatment first. It was hard to even arrange trade...”
“The tengu [i]traded[/i] with the humans?”
“Well, like it or not, we have to accept the fact that we can't grow [i]everything[/i] on the mountain, even with kappa's advanced devices. Even after some of us settled on the lower part of the mountain to be a farmer, they can't fulfill the quota needed to feed all the citizens. The humans also need some of the harvest that they can't grow on lower lands like tea, so we both benefit from this. Of course the trade is heavily watched by a tengu patrol team to make sure only the goods will enter the mountain.”
Lord Tenma observes a rice field on the right side.
“I heard you bless harvests of people who worship your shrine. May I ask how?”
“Uh, I don't know the details, it's Lady Suwako's task, but probably either she sends Lord Mishaguji to bless the land where the worshipers farm, or make the crops themselves grow well regardless of the land, or... I don't know. I'm only given the task of promoting the shrine to the people.”
“I see. So, what you did yesterday, promoting Nobu's skills to the villagers, is one of your shrine's plan too?”
“Not really... Nobu wanted to help a child fix his toy first, then the villagers took interest in the items that he fixed, and you know the rest. The news are in the paper, right?”
“Of course, ” Lord Tenma looks to you. “But still, I find it weird that Kanako allows you to do that not under her shrine's name. Did something happen between you and her?”
“No boss,” Sanae answers before you could write anything. “There are times when we directly promote our shrine, and then there are times when we are subtle about it. If one of our followers is doing good to the populace, we'll benefit from it too, even if he doesn't do it in our name. There are a lot of examples out there in the outside world, like sponsors doing events to help people out, for one!”
Well...Not exactly your answer, but whatever, her explanation is good enough. You nod to the tengu lord to confirm Sanae's answer.
“Interesting strategy. You did this to compete with the Buddhism and the recently rising Taoism among the humans?”
“That's a good side effect. We only want to help those who keep us existing.”
“Then how about the tengus? Will you help our community too?”
“Uhm, ah...” She thinks for a while. “Maybe not right now boss, I mean, the humans need our help more. Tengus can ask for Kappa if you need devices, while the humans have no one else to ask but us... Sorry...”
“Huff... I understand,” The lord looks disappointed. “Although it'll be nice if you-”
“Boss!?” Aya suddenly descends out of nowhere. “Boss, what are-”
“Sttt... Aya, I'm taking a day off. You don't see your boss here. Now, do you mind letting us go?”
“No offense boss, but Sanae keeps calling you 'boss'. No one uses that word other than us. Don't you think that makes your disguise a little... 'off'?”
“No one will care unless you bring it up Aya,” she takes a deep breath. “Hey, guess what? I'll treat you to some food if you could show me a good place for us to eat. Unless you want to find more news for your paper-”
“Really!? Thank you boss, you're so kind~”
She flies away fast, but lord Tenma only stand still, and she sighs.
“What's wrong boss, can't keep up with me?”
“Aya, use your legs. Try to blend in with the villagers, just like the old times~”
She lands on the ground and her wings suddenly vanish, replaced by a black crow that sits on her right shoulder. After that she does some stretches, then runs along the dirt road.
“Come on guys, this way!”
“Let's move, or we'll losing her.” Lord Tenma smiles and starts running. Do all tengus really like speed that much that they can't walk? Whatever, better start running now...
“Thank you so much daddy!”
“If you start slacking off-”
“I won't, I won't!”
“Thank you for your consideration Mister Himura,” the schoolteacher bows to the old farmer.
“Hmph, I only do this because my daughter wants it, and my son's will. I can't see how the lessons will be useful in her life-”
“Mister Nobu! Miss Sanae!” She waves to a running man and woman, but it seems they can't hear her call. She starts to run to follow them, but her clothes are held by her old man.
“Hey, don't go chasing some stranger!”
You and the others are in a soba food stall. An old woman serves each of you a plate of cold soba along with the sauce.
“Anyway boss,” Aya starts a conversation. “It's not your idea to go out to the village along with your guests without any of the wolfies guarding you?”
“It's Nobu's idea to go to the human village, and I did not bring any guards because I don't want unnecessary attention in the village.”
Yum, the aroma and the taste is better than instant noodles. Okay, comparing it to instant noodles seems unfair, and it's not like instant noodles are not delicious; they are majestic in their own right. And this soba is served cold, whilst instant noodles are mostly hot as far as you know, so they are two different things that shouldn't be compared in the first-
“Hey! Stunned by it's deliciousness?” Aya suddenly smack your back, making you choke on the noodles. Cough...
“Nobu, are you okay?” Sanae looks worried and passes you a glass of water, which you quickly take and drink. Ah, much better. Not as painful as a fishbone, but still an unpleasant experience.
“Do you already have enough material for your paper?”
“Well,” Aya opens her notebook and skims through it when asked by her boss. “Weather report, improved public opinion about outsiders... I think I could fit you in if you want boss-”
“[i]You didn't see your boss here this day.[/i]”
“Okay, okay...” She takes a quick slurp on her noddles. “How about that purple-skirted amateur? Did she report the meeting well?”
“I don't know, you have to read her paper tomorrow if you're curious,” Lord Tenma elbows Aya's ribs. “Who knows, maybe one day she'll surpass your paper~”
“Only in her dream boss, only in her dreams...”
“Boss, may I ask you something?”
“Sure Sanae, ask away!”
“Is it possible... If one day humans could pass and prosper freely in the Youkai Mountain...”
“Of course, absolutely possible!” She pats Sanae on the back. “It's all depends the people's choices though. Things like that won't just happen without some effort.”
No doubt it'll be a gigantic effort, seeing how selfish those ministers are... But who knows, maybe the citizens are more open minded than their ministers? Nah, better focus eating the food in front of you...