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[c] Deal with the immediate threat first.
[c] Then settle down, and let the alcoholic effect dissipate.
[c] After that, donate. One does not simply visit Hakurei Shrine and not fill the donation box.
[c] Ask Kaguya where she wants to go next.
- [c] If she asks the same question in return, suggest meeting Alice.
You groan. If it isn’t for that damned camera clicking, you could have had a peaceful rest at Hakurei Shrine. It doesn’t matter, as you’re going to handle this problem the way you know best. Getting off your back, you confront the intruder – a twin-tailed girl with chequered skirt and wings on her back. “Your name, rank, division and reason for coming here.”
The girl tilts her head, seemingly confused. “Uhh… sir, I was told to fetch Miss Aya. It was supposed to be Miss Momiji’s job, but she’s assigned to the Moriya Shrine.”
“So you’re an acquaintance of Aya Shameimaru?” you ask.
“That is correct, sir. My name is Hatate Himekaidou.” You’re not sure if you can buy her explanation as you notice the camera-thing she’s holding. “Oh, umm… I’m sorry, it’s just my impulse as a reporter,” she apologizes.
Oh, damn, not another one? One interview is enough, and now you have to go through another? “Look, I appreciate your concern, and I respect your rights to gather information, but taking pictures of someone without the person’s consent is an offence on its own.” You lift a finger, just as this newcomer is about to open her mouth. “I could force you to drink vodka, have your valuable items confiscated and send you to a boot camp.”
“But I didn’t even do anything,” she protests. “Forget that, what’s up with those, umm, punishments?”
“Yuri just has… bad blood with war correspondents, so to speak,” Kaguya says. “But don’t worry about that, I’m sure he will tolerate you. Oh, I know! You haven’t met him, have you? Let’s use this opportunity for a proper introduction, shall we?” She nudges on your rib, telling you to introduce to her.
“Fine, since you asked for it,” you grumble. “Captain Yuri Ivanov, former member of Third Guards Rifle Division, Soviet Red Army. I’ll be frank here; I’m intending to punish you for publishing any article related to me just because you happen to be a reporter. Since this is our first meeting, however, I will ask you to not pictures of mine within fifty-metre radius for fifty hours. Is that fair enough?”
“Hey, that’s not fair!” The three of you turn to the voice and see Aya standing near the sliding door. “I had to drink all those vodkas and obey the fifty-hour ban or be sent to the gulag and have my belongings taken away, and you asked her not to take pictures of you instead? I take offence to that, captain!!”
“Aya.” You grab her arms and pin her on one of the pillars. “You do not taunt a Russian soldier when he’s drunk. You do not want to know how capable a drunk Russian soldier really is,” you speak while staring deep into her eyes. “If you still insist, however, how about you let me drill that ass right here, right now?” You let go off her, correct yourself, and head back to Kaguya and Hatate. “As you can see, had she acted like a professional and paid respect to my privacy, this kind of issue would not happen.”
“Oh,” Hatate replies. “So all I just have to do is to stay away from you for about fifty metres for fifty hours, right?” You fall back onto the balcony. The pain in your head is unbearable, almost as if it’s going to split your cranium from within. “Are you alright? You don’t look very fine to me.”
“Da, I am fine and all merry,” you dismiss. “If you don’t have anything else to do, I suggest that you leave me. I… I think I need a few minutes. Spare me some privacy, alright?”
After lying down for a few minutes, you’re free from the alcoholic effect.
“Alright, I think I can function again,” you announce and stand up. Paying no attention to Aya (who is, amusingly, prostrating in front of Hatate and crying in despair) you walk to the donation box. Remembering that you need to donate to the shrine, you search your pockets for anything you can donate. You’ve found them: old Soviet currencies from the Second World War. You don’t have a need for them anymore, so you put them into the box and offer a prayer to whatever deity of the shrine is.
“I only accept modern-day cash,” Reimu retorts as you meet up with her.
“At least I donated, that’s the most important thing,” you tell her.
“Yeah, and you call threatening to strip Aya off her dignity important. Give the girl a break; she just wants to do her job,” Reimu replies.
“I find it funny to hear that from you,” you say.
Reimu shrugs. “Whatever, captain. So, you’re going anywhere after this? I suppose you’re visiting Remi or Sanae since you know what.”
“I don’t know. I better ask Kaguya first,” you say.
“Eh? Me?” You and Reimu nod. “Well, I… I don’t know. I’ll go wherever Yuri is going.”
“So much for planning on your date, eh Captain?” Reimu asks.
“You don’t say,” you grumble. “Wait. Is Alice still here?”
“Right here,” Alice replies as she and Marisa appear beside you. “I got this feeling that you’re here not to just donate to Reimu.”
“You’re not, Yuri?” Kaguya asks.
“Huh? I think I forgot to tell you about it,” you reply. “But I guess it’s no use hiding it from you or everybody else.”
“Go on, tell. I have the whole day to listen,” Kaguya tells you.
You clear your throat. Then you turn your attention to Alice. “Alice.” You hesitate for a while, but you press on. “Do you remember Stalingrad?” Her eyes widen; if it’s because you’re talking to her in Russian or you’re mentioning the place, you don’t know. “Alice, please. Answer my question. Do you remember Stalingrad?”
“I… I don’t even…”
“Goddamn it, Alice! 1942! Stalingrad! The Great Patriotic War!” you scream. “Alfred! Ivanov! Illiyich! The tunnel escape! The jetty! Do you remember all of them?”
She’s staring at you, shock and disbelief coursing over her. Then, after a long time, of silence, she covers her mouth, as tears start forming in her eyes. “No… it can’t be…” Her voice is shaking as she asks you in your language. “Are you… really…”
You just nod. “Da, the one and only. Surprised to see me after sixty years, I bet?”
For once, she doesn’t hurl at you, or even yell at you, as you would expect. Instead, she just stands there, struggling to keep the tears from flowing down her face. “I never thought you’d be the Mister Ivanov of Stalingrad,” she mutters. Kaguya pushes her forward and into your arms; in an instant she cries, but you know those tears are the tears of happiness, shed by someone who has been reunited with someone very important to her after years of separation. “I thought you wouldn’t make it out…” she mutters.
“If I can survive Stalingrad, I will survive everywhere else,” you speak while soothingly rub her back. “Stop crying, Alice. I don’t think someone will take it very lightly when you’re using my shoulder.”
“You’re not Alfred.”
“I’m sorry for that.”
“Hey, hey! Why the hell are you talking in a language I can’t understand? Speak Japanese, damn it! This is Gensokyo!” Marisa interjects.
She pulls herself away from you. “Tell me, Mister Ivanov… Alfred… he was dead, wasn’t he?” You nod. “I got this feeling you didn’t tell me the whole story.” She stares at you, and for the first time in your life you can see the spark of hope in her eyes. “Tell me, and please be honest to me, Mister Ivanov. How did he die?”
You take a deep breath. “I guess it’s no use keeping it secret from anyone.” You sit down, taking Alice with you. You take a few more minutes before you begin. “We were headed for the Volga when we were reunited with Alfred’s men. They were Prussians, and just like Alfred, were forced to join the Nazi against their will. They agreed to take us to the river, but before we could even move out we were pinned down by enemy sniper.”
“The Russians?” Alice asks.
“No, Alice, although the Red Army would be more than happy to see them dead, Prussians or not,” you answer. “Anyway, I had tried everything I could do to break the stalemate, but it wasn’t working well for us. One lone sniper was able to deny movement to a whole army division, just think of how effective it is.” You take a deep breath. “I was thinking of making myself a decoy to lure the enemy out, but Alfred beat me to it first. It was a success, and I-”
“Alfred took the shot…” Alice mutters. “And you didn’t even do anything to stop him…” She grabs your collar, yanking you so hard you think she might break your neck. “That means you killed Alfred!! Murderer!! Give him back to me!! Give back my friend!!”
“…Alice, you need to understand this: it was not supposed to be that way. I was supposed to be the one who landed that shot on him, and that’s because it was my duty to defend the Motherland from the fascist invaders.” You put your hands over hers, asking her to calm down. “He wasn’t the only one: I had been personally picked by Comrade Stalin himself to carry out the assassination mission. Illiyich and I were supposed to just set up a post, wait for him to show up, and make the shot. That was it.”
“But Alfred!! He… he…”
“Do you think I’m not the only one who wants to avenge his death? Do you?!” you suddenly yell at her face. She jerks away, but your firm grasp on her hands is preventing her from stepping back. “How can I ever forget his smile when he was dying in my arms that day? Do you think I, who was up to that point never had any problem in killing Germans, was able to sleep peacefully in the night and not having flashback of his death?”
“Alice, every time I close my eyes, I can see the faces of my victims. The colour of their eyes, the wrinkles on their forehead, the unaware look they had just before they met their demise. Just thinking of it makes me grateful I didn’t have to know my victims in person, because it would affect my decision in whether I should pull the trigger or not.” You let go off her hand. “Listen, Alice, I won’t blame you if you’re going to hate me for taking Alfred away from you. It’s alright if you want to hate me forever, I deserve it.”
You stand up and walk away from the shrine. “Well, I have granted your request, and I don’t see myself telling you anything anymore. Let’s go, Kaguya. We’re heading to the Youkai Mountain.” Your steps come to a halt. Standing in front of you is Marisa, and she is angry as you can imagine. You pay her no attention and walk past her, and that’s when you hear Marisa shouting your name. You turn around, only to find yourself eating her fist in your face. You stumble on your feet but not falling into the snow, although you’re taken off guard by her move.
“Bastard!! You’re going to just walk away and not having any sympathy for Alice?!” she shouts. She punches you for the second time before she grabs your collar and drags you towards Alice. “Apologize to her!!”
Slowly you approach Alice. She’s on all fours, crying out all of her heart’s content. Seeing her like this is making a dent on your heart, and it immediately reminds you to when she cried in your arms near the Volga. “Alice, I…”
“Go away!” You take her hand, only to be pushed back. “I said go away!!”
You sigh. You grab her hand, pull her off the snow and bring her to you face-to-face. “You want to avenge Alfred’s death, don’t you?” You take out the handgun, place it in her hand and have her guide it at your chest. “Pull the trigger. Put a bullet right inside my heart. It will end right here, right now. If I have to pay with my own life, so be it.”
You wait for her. Everybody waits for her. Then, after what has to be the longest minute in your entire life, the handgun falls off her trembling hand and into the snow. Tears profusely flow, as she buries her face into her palms. “…I can’t do it…” she mutters. “…I just can’t…”
“Then I’m sorry for not bringing Alfred home,” you apologize. You pull Alice into your arms, and in an instant she breaks into the most soul-crushingly depressing cry ever. You can actually feel your own heart shattering into pieces, broken beyond repair, slowly getting blown away by the cold winter wind and disappearing into nothingness…
“This should be alright, shouldn’t it?” you ask, even as you softly pat Alice’s head as she’s sleeping upon your lap. “She cried all her heart out, and then fell asleep on me. I should’ve reminded her I’m not to be used as a pillow.”
“I blame you for making her cry,” Reimu states.
“You are not helping, thank you very much,” you retort.
“Well, I did do my part in not letting Marisa flip at you,” the shrine maiden replies. “I mean, look. You were looking for Alice, and then all in a sudden you told her some kind of story even I didn’t get. And after that this suddenly happened.” She folds her arms. “Seriously, soldier, you should quit drinking already.”
“You aren’t going to replace whoever Alice’s friend is, are you?” Kaguya asks.
You shake your head. “I will never be able to replace him. He understood Alice, and only he alone can understand her.” Alice stirs, but is otherwise not awakened by the sudden movement. “I’m sure he’s happy to see her from up there, though, because I believe he wants her to live happily even without him.”
Taking a deep breath, you throw your sight into the now clear blue sky. You have settled your debt with Alice, although you don’t know what will happen after this. You snicker; well, does it matter right now?’
“All’s good, isn’t it?” you mutter under your breath. You empty the vodka bottle in one gulp and bring the empty vessel upward. “Cheers, comrade Alfred.”
Where to go after this?
[ ] Go back to Eientei.
[ ] To the
bat cave Youkai Mountain.
[ ] Let’s visit the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
[ ] Pay visit at Human’s Village.
I had to tell myself not to cry when I was writing this update, especially the part when Yuri had to comfort Alice. I’m sorry, Alice… ;_;