(Lian Li POV)
Unfortunately we didn't catch any fish in the end. Not due to a lack of trying but we had just been so distracted by Master's beaming smile that we couldn't go on to compete anymore.
I'm sure the pictures Manami will make later will be the best ones we've ever created.
I wouldn't be surprised if this batch became even more popular than the bath ones.
Master had also released the ones he caught back into the pool, giving his thanks to the stall tender for the time before leaving.
I volunteered to gather the catchers to return to the stall tender while they waited just ahead of the stall.
"Good work," I nodded as I passed him the catchers.
"All for Master," he prayed, his tone of voice holding more reverence than ever before.
"Anything to report?"
"None at the moment, but all of us are in position."
"Very well, report to us immediately if anything amiss comes up."
"Yes, High Priestess."
"All for Master," I prayed.
"All for Master," He echoed.
I rejoined the group and we followed Master to view the other stalls.
The Courtyard was more crowded now as more people joined in on the festivities, tasting the stall food or participating in the game stalls.
Quite a number of them stopped when they saw Master, exchanging New Year greetings with him.
Cai Hong was still holding on to Master's left hand while his right hand remained empty.
Needless to say, the four of us wanted to hold that hand too but we weren't thick-skinned enough to ask if we could hold it.
Cai Hong tilted her head back, spotting us staring at Master's free hand wistfully.
She smirked at us before looking up towards Master, her face one of pure excitement, "Papa! There's a lot of people!"
"Mmhmm It's a big festival after all," Master laughed, nodding to a few Sect members who waved at him.
"Muuu Will big sisters get lost?" Cai Hong asked innocently.
Master turned back, watching us squeeze our way through the crowd while making sure our eyes were directed elsewhere.
He stretched his free hand towards us, "Come closer now, wouldn't want any of us to get lost in this crowd."
I felt my heart skip as I grasped his hand, Master's warmth coursing through me from the touch.
Manami immediately went for his arm, wrapping her own arm around his.
Cai Hong then clambered up Master's side, settling herself on top of his shoulders and leaving his other hand free for Eris and the arm for Diao Chan to hold on to.
"Ok This wasn't what I had in mind but I guess it works," Master commented awkwardly.
"Papa! I'm tall!" Cai Hong exclaimed.
"Yes, yes. Now sit properly or you might fall."
I entwined my fingers with Master's, enjoying the feeling of Master's touch.
We waded our way through the crowd, gathering stares from all around us.
The number of people stopping Master to give New Year greetings significantly lessened.
"Master Stage" Eris asked, pointing a finger towards the large stage near the centre of the Courtyard.
"Ah, there should be a performance going on now, do you girls want to watch?"
We nodded in unison.
Master altered his path to head towards the stage where a large crowd had already gathered to watch.
We found a spot nearby that granted us full view of the stage, just as two fox youkai entered the stage with two stringed instruments.
"Ah, the shamisen. A classic," Diao Chan commented fondly.
They sat down at the corner of the stage, taking their time to tune their instruments while another fox youkai stepped onto the stage, this one with maroon hair and six tails.
"Ara? That rabid dog is the last one I expected to perform a kabuki" Manami commented.
I raised my eyebrow at her but Manami just shook her head in response.
The musicians stummed their lute and the girl began to dance and sing in very deliberate slow motions.
Almost everyone became captivated by her voice and movements, watching her closely as if in a trance. Even I could not help but give my full attention to her performance as she swayed to the slow, haunting tune.
She sang of a poor village girl who loved another within her village, yet despite all her love and efforts, the other had shunned her love.
But even faced with the rejection, she continued to shower them with love and care, heedless of how the others had told her it was a fruitless venture.
She sang of how her loved one had caught the eye of a tyrant one day, the tyrant spriting them away to his palace and separating the two of them. The audience cursed at the tyrant, even I felt anger at how the two had been separated apart so unjustly.
The village girl cried her heart out, but yet she was powerless to stop it from happening.
But she had not given up on rescuing her loved one.
The song reached its climax when civil war broke out within the country, the village girl inciting a rebellion to overthrow the tyrant.
The crowd leaned in as the battle reached its apex, the rebels storming the tyrant's castle and the village girl breaking down the doors to the tyrant's room herself.
There was an epic duel to the death, the village girl having grown into a skilled warrior over the course of the war.
The girl had slipped during the fight, the crowd gasping in response, all of us were at the edge of our seats. But in a stroke of luck, the girl had thrown her sword, impaling the tyrant in the chest and slaying him.
All of us believed it was a happy ending, but alas, the girl had found her love dead in a pool of blood. The tyrant had slaughtered them as an attempt to spite the village girl's rebellion.
We cried alongside the girl, lamenting over the unfairness of the world and the loss of her love.
The song then concluded with the village girl burying her love back at her village, having been crowned the new queen of the land.
She ruled justly, swearing to be the best ruler in honor of her love's name.
The song ended on its last note, the fox singing her last tune as the village girl turned queen joins her beloved in the afterlife after dying of old age. All of us remained silent even as the song faded away into silence, contemplating on what we just witnessed.
That was when Master made a smacking sound with his lips, awakening me from my stupor with the sound of ringing bells in my ears.
"Hmmm Truly without a doubt, this kind of magic would allow fox youkai to slingshot themselves to stardom easily," Master muttered.
"Ufufufu~ As expected of Master to see through her immediately," Manami giggled, snuggling her face into Master's shoulder.
"Ma Magic, Master?" I asked.
"Umu She's quite a mischievous one. She used Air and Astral quarks to send out minor suggestions to her audience's psyche, making them more receptive to her performance and painting the scene directly into their minds."
I shivered, unsure of what this entails since I fell for such an insidious Technique so easily.
As though sensing my unease, Master tightened his grip on my hand, "Don't worry so much, I have yet to teach any of you how to defend against such skills so there's nothing to fret about your lack of experience. I suppose I'll move such a lesson up in the schedule now that an example has presented itself."
Ahh~~ As usual, Master is always looking out for us~~ What have we done to deserve him?
Life returned to the rest of the audience as the spell faded, the performers having long exited the stage.
"Still Did you know that such a thing would happen, Manami?" Eris asked.
Our fox sister tilted her head, "Mmm I did not know that she would be performing. Usually only foxes with more than four tails are capable of such a complicated technique. But we all learn the simple ones that just makes us seem more appealing when performing from a young age."
I caught on to her words, "You are familiar with that six tailed one?"
"Unfortunately," She nodded. "She's just my stalker, really."
"Ehehehe~~ Sister really knows how to make me blush~~" A voice echoed from behind us.
"Go away, Shizuri," Manami told the voice off coldly, not even turning to see who said the words.
"Aww~~ Don't be so mean, Manami," The maroon coloured fox appeared from beside me. "Why don't you introduce me to your friends?"
Manami sighed, gesturing to each of us in turn to introduce, "Master, this is Shizuri, my stalker. Shizuri, this is my Master and destined mate. The others are my fellow sisters, Lian Li, Cai Hong, Eris and Diao Chan."
"Hehehe~ Well met, sisters and Hmmm Manami's mate? I am Shizuri, her long time frie--"
"Stalker," Manami interrupted.
"Hehehe~ Manami is really cute when she is shy~~"
"Fufufu~~ I do not remember being very friendly with you, Shizuri."
"Ohohoho~ Manami really is shy! You can call me Shizu if you want, you know? Mimi?"
I noticed a tick mark forming on Manami's forehead, "Ara? I most definitely did not allow you to call me that."
"Ehehehe~ Mimi is so cute~~"
Shizuri tried to poke Manami's cheek but the latter just recoiled from her, avoiding the appendage like it was toxic.
"Alright, that's enough," Master stepped in. "I'm sure you're tired from your performance alrea--"
"Huh? Am I talking to you?" Shizuri's face changed suddenly, her previous joyous expression replaced with one of pure hate. "I was talking to Manami, who do you think you are to sto--"
Manami waved her arm in a circle, lighting up the ground beneath Shizuri before the maroon fox got teleported away.
"Huh That was Interesting," Master commented, looking at the place Shizuri had been.
"Forgive me, Master. I've shown you something unbecoming of myself" Manami bowed.
Master reached out and patted her head, "It's alright Manami. Would you like me to call you Mimi from now on?"
I could see the steam coming out from Manami's ears.
"Umm Please Hngh Please do it when we're alone" Manami pleaded.
"Speaking of which I think it should be our turn now" Diao Chan commented.
Master raised an eyebrow at her words, "What do you mean?"
"Cai Hong and big sisters prepared a 'swuprwise' for Papa!" Cai Hong exclaimed proudly.
As if on cue, the emcee who also happens to be a fox youkai stepped onto the stage, "And now, may we welcome the lovely girls of Master Lin's on stage to present to us their captivating performance!"
I kissed Master's cheek, "Watch us, Master."
All of us proceeded towards the stage, ready to entertain our Master and bring him even more glory.