Rei sensed him before he saw him, the brush of power against his senses. It made him stop by the door, one of his hands on the doorknob, the other halfway to the light switch. Outside, the moon was full, illuminating the lean figure that was curled up by his windowsill. Moonlight glinted off of a fall of long silver hair, shadows pooling and playing in the folds of ornate robes. The figure's lip curled in a sneer, exposing white fangs.
"It took you long enough to come home."
Rei hesitated for a moment before stepping into the room, closing the door behind him. He faced the figure, meeting his eyes.
"How did you get into my room, Tomoe?"
"Someone like you really shouldn't live alone," he said. "And in a place like this, without a barrier. All manner of things could come for you, Rei."
"I appreciate your concern," Rei said, speaking the words slowly and calmly. "Now, tell me why you're here."
"So impatient," Tomoe said. "That's a good look on you. It's almost as if you aren't the one that owes me a favor."
Favor. An image flashed through his mind--shards of ice, shattering. The feeling of overwhelming cold. The stab of pain somewhere close to his heart. Rei breathed in, and tried not to let his reaction show on his face. "The last time I checked, I owe Nurarihyon a favor, not you."
Tomoe's grin widened. "I'm Nurarihyon-sama's messenger, of course," he said. "He sent me here to collect."
A flash of fear ran through Rei before he could stop it, some of the color draining from his face. His shoulders tensed, his hands curling into fists. Possibilities flashed through his mind, all of the things that Nurarihyon could take from him. All of the atrocities the Hyakki Yagyou could force him to do.
The gleam in Tomoe's eyes was almost predatory. He leaned forward, so close that Rei could smell the lingering hint of smoke on his breath. "Scared, Rei?" he asked. When Rei refused to answer, refused to even move, he backed off with a laugh. "Don't worry. This favor won't harm any of your precious humans. In fact, there won't even be any exorcists involved at all. You might even enjoy yourself."
Rei drew in a breath, trying to regain some of his composure. "What, exactly, is this favor?"
"Nurarihyon-sama has an acquaintance, the proprietor of an establishment called the Kuroyuri Onsen Ryokan. It's a hot spring resort, in the other world. He wants you to go and talk to him."
"That's it?" Rei asked. "I just have to talk to him?"
"That's all," Tomoe said. The way he was smirking suggested it couldn't possibly be as simple as that. "In exchange, we'll take care of transportation, and we'll let you and any friends you might bring stay for two nights, for free. And of course, your debt with us will be wiped away."
"That seems too good to be true," Rei said.
"Well," said Tomoe. "Nurarihyon-sama did say you were to 'follow your conscience'. But I'm sure you'll have no problem with that."
A few days later...
True to their word, the Hyakki Yagyou had sent a carriage, a flying wagon with wheels of blue fire that had taken Rei and his friends from Senki Academy one Friday at twilight and spirited them away past the boundaries between their reality and the spirit world. Unlike the last time Rei had crossed this particular boundary, they didn't appear in the Kyoto youkai ward. Instead, they flew over the landscape, settling down on the path that led up to the Kuroyuri Inn.
The scenery was breathtaking. Rei stepped outside onto a scene that could have come straight out of a woodblock painting, a sprawling, traditional-style inn drenched in all the colors of twilight, nestled in the shadow of snow-capped mountains. A river ran past it, tumbling off the edge of an impossibly high cliff, with nothing but mist and clouds at the bottom. It felt odd stepping out of the carriage with his friends, dragging his very ordinary roller bag down the path that led up to the gate. He let the others follow him as he approached the doors.
He'd invited anyone who would come along, explaining the situation to them. He didn't want to put any of his friends in danger, but like the Kyoto incident, he wasn't taking any chances.
As soon as he passed through the sliding doors that led into the main entrance, he was greeted by a group of women dressed in identical yukata, with the characters for Kuroyuri embroidered on them. Like all of the guests that Rei could see from where he was standing, they were youkai. Like some of those same guests, they were also otherworldly beautiful, with the occasional monstrous trait, such as ears, or a tail, horns or unnatural eyes, that didn't otherwise detract from their appearance. He suspected they were also powerful, and that put him on his guard. But they did bow to the assembled group.
"Welcome to the Kuroyuri Inn," one of them, a dark-haired woman with snake-like golden eyes, said. "It's a pleasure to serve you. Please, follow me, and I will show you to your rooms. One for the ladies, and one for the gentlemen, correct?"
"Yes, that's correct," said Rei, still a little overwhelmed by it all.
She smiled, showing too white teeth. "Perfect. It's so rare that we have human guests. To have two parties at once, it's quite the treat."
Rei paused. "Wait..." he said. "Two parties?"
"U-Um...Yoiko-san, are you sure this is okay?" Yukina asked, timidly looking out from the window of their shared room at the grounds of the inn.
She still had no idea how she had ended up here, only that Yoiko had insisted that Yukina come along with her, to redeem one of the perks she had earned from her...part-time job? Or something like that? She wasn't too clear on the details, but this place seemed entirely too high-class for someone like her. And also entirely too magical. Yukina could not have failed to notice that everyone here other than her and Yoiko was distinctly inhuman.
What kind of part-time job did Yoiko have anyway?
"Somewhere like this...aren't we a little out of place?"
- [+] Spoiler
- Phew! Thanks for getting through all of that. I ended up writing a lot more than I thought I would. First of all, although the opening scene was very plot-heavy, as promised, this is going to be a mostly social thread for everyone to relax at a hot spring inn. There will be plot, but it will happen in another thread, which will be posted as soon as I fill out the upgrade plot application form get Rei to talk to the proprietor, who will explain things to him. You don't need to join the plot if you're tired of plot--I'll make up an appropriate excuse for your absence.
I do realize that in a big thread like this, things will probably move a little slowly. That said, it isn't my goal to slow down this thread or interrupt shenanigans for plot stuff. Our characters will be here for two nights, with the major plot developments happening in the afternoon of the second day. That gives you a full night and a morning to get social things done on your own time.
If you feel like this thread is too crowded/moving too slowly/going in a different direction from what you want to do, or if you want to RP with a specific character in this thread without getting anyone involved, feel free to start side threads of your own. Have deep conversations on the grounds in the middle of night! Start a ping pong tournament! Play mahjong with sketchy oni in the lounge! The world is your oyster, and you have my full blessing to invent any NPCs you like. You've all watched anime, you know how the hot spring inns usually go. The only difference is that this one is staffed with youkai and has a hint of magic about it.
This thread will continue on one track of hot springs-related fun, but there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't go off and make others. I might do one or two myself, depending on how things play out.
And as always, thanks for RPing with me! :)