I'm surrounded by softness, and a pleasant scent tickles my nostrils. I feel calm, at peace... and honestly, a bit hungry. Still, at least my arm doesn't seem to be in pain, which is a step in the right direction-
My eyes shoot open to see a pair of familiar green stars looking back down at me in concern. "Alfred, are you awake? Are you all right?" Parsee.
I smile up at her gently. "If you're the first thing I see? I'm better than all right." This causes her to blush heavily before a relieved smile settles over her face. Gently, she reaches out and brushes the hair out of my face before stroking my cheek.
"You had me worried for a bit there," she whispers, "But if you're okay... then I guess I can forgive you."
I smile up at her. There's a lot I want to say, and to ask. However, whatever I had planned to get out is suddenly interrupted.
"This is so sweet! Hugs for everyone!" a girlish voice calls out. The next moment, Parsee is tackled onto the bed beside me, and my vision is suddenly obscured by a mop of greenish hair as someone wraps an arm around my neck.
"Ahhhh, this is so nice! Pretty girl on one side, handsome guy on the other!" My mysterious assailant sighs happily.
"Godsdammit, Komeiji, let go already!" Parsee sputters, struggling to get free.
"There's no needs to shy~!" the unknown hugger coos, "Hugs are nice for everybody. Besides, you can split into two people. So get on it already for maximum hugginess!"
"No! Screw you! Now let go of us, for crying out loud!" Parsee is thrashing around wildly, but whoever this is has one hell of a grip.
"You're so cute when you're being shy. Anyway, that's enough for now!" Suddenly, we are released from the overly affectionate embrace and the crazed hugger bounds to the floor beside the bed I am lying in. She appears... young but not girlish, with green hair (probably not dyed), green eyes, and has a rather classy hat. She gives me an elegant curtsy. "Koishi Komeiji, at your service!" she says to me. Then she starts spinning around in circles.
I stare at her for a long moment. Then I look to Parsee. "What."
She sighs wearily. "I'd say just ignore her and she'll get bored and go away, but she never does. Ever."
Koishi plops down on the bed, looking a bit dizzy. "Yeah, I can find something interesting in any situation. For about ten seconds, then I move on." She looks over at me. "Long story short, I'm a mind-reader who shut off her mind-reading ability. This has had dramatic effects upon my psyche. Basically, whatever pops into my mind, I do. At least until I get something else in my mind." She reaches over and squeezes Parsee's ass, causing the hashihime to glare death at her. "Anyway, I'm here to welcome you to the underground! Mainly because my sister is still chatting things over with Yukari. Anyway, I'll be up there." This said, she leaps off the bed and starts to hover upside-down in mid-air, carefully keeping her skirt from falling down.
"I am so very confused," I remark.
"She does that to people," Parsee admits.
"Not just about her." I look over at my blonde companion. "I seem to be alive. What happened?"
Parsee hesitates, then sighs. "Can you sit up?" I nod, and push against the bed to raise myself into a sitting position. The room I'm in has stone walls, but looks fairly comfortable. A bright glow comes from outside the lone window. It looks very classical, like I'm in a castle that had new furniture moved in at some point. I raise my hands to rub at my face and-
I stare at my right hand in disbelief. I'm pretty sure Parsee hacked that damn thing off. So, why is it still there? "Parsee, dear?" I say carefully, "First of all, just to head off any worries on your part, thank you very much for cutting my arm off. I'm fairly certain that it saved my life. Secondly, how is it back, exactly?"
Parsee takes a deep breath. "Okay. First of all, Yukari gapped you directly to Eientei, which has a genius doctor who is literally from the moon. Long story, don't ask. Anyway, she had no problems causing your arms to regrow. You were fine within the hour." Huh. Come to think of it, there was a faint scar on the back of my hand that now seems to be absent. So the whole thing was regrown? "However, that was just the start."
I look up sharply. "There's more?" I ask.
"Yeah..." Parsee shifts uncomfortably where she sits next to me. "I don't really know what that thing was, but according to Yukari, it's pretty much the embodiment of corruption. It was pumping some sort of nasty toxin into your body. Losing the arm was the right move; that poison would have killed you. Yagokoro was able to neutralize the rest. However, there was still a spiritual taint that lingered, getting deep into your soul. We were worried that you wouldn't make it, but you pulled through anyway. You've been out for five days, by the way."
"That explains the hunger," I muse. "All right. So I have some sort of spiritual taint in me. What does that mean, long term?"
"Well, thanks to some help from Yukari, it didn't poison your soul or anything. It just sort of... merged with you. This changed you, fundamentally." Parsee hesitates, trying to find the words, and Koishi walks up with a cheerful expression on her face. She hands me a mirror, and I look into my own face. Red eyes stare back at me.
I have red eyes now. Huh. That's odd.
"So yeah, basically you're a kind of youkai now. Congratulations!" The whimsical girl nods, apparently pleased with the situation. "That means an instant power-boost, and now you live down here, in party central! Want a cookie?" Koishi offers me a chocolate-chip cookie, and I take it, munching on it absently.
"...That basically sums it up," Parsee says quietly. "Exposure to that... thing, was enough to convert you into a kind of youkai. When you first arrived in Gensokyo, the scent of wrongness about you was enough to bring quite a few elder youkai knocking on Eientei's door. They said that you were now unnatural, and had to be disposed of at once." Her fists clench and a shadow passes over Parsee's lovely features.
"So what happened?" I ask. "Obviously, they didn't get their way."
Parsee gets a look of awe on her face. "Yukari happened. She just walked up to them and opened a whole bunch of gaps. Then she told them that they could either forget their concerns and walk away, or she would personally transport them to the most horrible interspacial dimension or whatever she could find, and leave them there to suffer for eternity. Then Yakokoro walked up with a spiky looking whatchamacallit, and asked who was looking for a deep rectal exam." She laughs at the memory. "Yeah, you saved Yukari's life after all, and I guess Yagokoro doesn't like people threatening her patients."
I laugh. "Kind of nice having such personages in my corner."
Koishi laughs herself. "That sounds so cool~! So, who wants a rectal exam? I have magic fingers~!" She waggles her index fingers around suggestively.
I take a long moment to just stare at her, then turn my attention back to Parsee. "All right. I get you so far, but what does this mean for me? Do I get to go home and let everyone know that I'm okay?"
Parsee sighs and looks very sad. Gently, she takes me into her arms. "...Sorry, " she says quietly, "But the outside world is no longer your home. Not as you are now. Yukari had a long, long talk with your superiors, and I guess that they concur. With your abilities, you are no longer human. Furthermore, your nature is just so... aberrant to other youkai, that they probably won't welcome you on the surface. That's why we brought you down here. You're an outcast now, just like us."
As Parsee hugs me tightly, my mind reels at these revelations. So... I can never go home? Never see anyone again? The feeling of loss begins to settle down within my gut...
...when Koishi speaks up in her cheerful voice. "So, look at it like this! Extended life, magical powers, living in the party capital of the world, and you get to hook up with a beautiful girl who loves you very much! And who can split into two! Consider the possibilities, you lucky dog! I'm so jealous~!"
Parsee shivers as Koishi speaks, and I consider the possibilities.
"No, I don't think I will," I say simply, contemplating all of he wonderful things one can do with two Parsees. I wonder what my endurance is like?
"Besides, you really don't have much to worry about." Koishi is now doing an odd form of jig. "You saved Yukari's life, which means that if anyone tries to actually force you to stay down here, they'll have to deal with her. Translation: that ain't gonna happen. Secondly, I overheard Yukari say that if you wanna visit anyone on the outside, she can set things up with you. Once you have control over your powers, all it takes is a set of colored contact lenses, and you're all set!"
I stare at the sort-of mind reader. "So... it's more like I moved somewhere else, and can now take vacations back home to visit people?"
"Pretty much!" Koishi chirps. "Saving a buncha people's souls like that is really good karma, you know? Speaking of which, how about a threesome? Or she can split, and we can have a foursome! Failing that, how about I give you the grand tour and we can have tea together?"
I stare at the baffling young lady for a long moment before staring at my bridge princess. "What say you, Miss Parsee?" I ask politely, "Would you do me the honor of showing me around my new home?" I smile. "If I'm going to be living here, I might as well learn the terrain, hmm?
Parsee looks at me, a warm smile forming on her face. "Sure. I don't mind."
I nod and lean forward, claiming the beautiful woman's lips in a kiss. She starts in surprise, then leans into the kiss, sighing happily. Koishi lets loose a wolf-whistle, but I honestly don't care all that much.
Miss Satori sighs wearily as she lowers her face to rest in her hands. "Please tell me you're joking."
I keep a professional stance, expression, and frame of mind. "Regrettably, it is all true. Miss Hinanawi and Miss Reiuji were particularly energetic while playing yesterday, and then the Oni decided that it all looked like a great deal of fun, and so their high-speed game of Tag turned into something of a city-wide event. Then alcohol got involved. According to Miss Parsee, it was, in her words, 'The biggest goddamned clusterfuck that I have ever seen down here, and that's saying something.'"
"A fine impression of her voice, Alfred," Satori notes dryly.
Well, I have been around her long enough to get her voice down perfectly, if I do say so myself.
"Indeed you have," Satori chuckles weakly, reading my thoughts. "So, what are were the damage assessments?" I think up a figure, and Satori slumps even further in her chair. "Honestly, those two... this is starting to get a little out of hand."
"You could always try a bit of discipline," I note, "That seems to work quite well with Miss Reiuji."
"Her, yes. But whenever Tenshi comes on by, the two of them inevitably get worked up, and then this chaos ensues."
Not that the Oni seem to mind, of course.
"No, but someone has to be the responsible adult around here," Satori sighs wearily. "And that someone always turns out to be me." She thinks for a moment. "I suppose that I could try to discipline Tenshi myself, but that's easier said than done."
Mainly, one never knows if Tenshi is going to put up a fuss or apparently enjoy the discipline. That girl's mind must be baffling to Miss Satori. Besides, the last time Miss Satori scolded her, she started crying of all things.
"Yes, and then she started hanging around me like I'm her surrogate mother," Satori shakes her head again. "Be glad that you can't read minds, Alfred. Tenshi's is one that would drive you up the wall."
"Psychological difficulties?" I ask.
"No, just what naturally happens when a young girl grows up with vast power and absolutely no restrictions. Honestly, her parents should be ashamed of themselves." The satori rolls her eyes in annoyance.
"Then shall I procure a paper and pen so that you can express your aggravation?" I offer.
"No, no, I've made sure to give Iku my full opinion on the matter, and she agrees fully. Poor woman. It's like we have joint custody over an unruly child, and I only get her on the weekends." Satori shakes her head ruefully.
"In a matter of speaking? You rather do." I pick up Miss Satori's emptied glass. "Will there be anything else today, Miss Satori?"
"Hm? No, thank you, Alfred. Your service is, as always, greatly appreciated. I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"On time, as always," I say with a bow, and then turn on my heel to leave the sitting room. Of course, with my new abilities I could simply disapparate out of there, but one needs to be polite, after all.
For that matter, once I leave the room I decide to walk to the kitchen. My shift is over, after all, and I find that a nice stroll is an excellent way to clear the head after a long day.
It's been some time since I came to live in the Former Hell, and I feel that I've settled in quite nicely. Satori Komeiji was quite eager to have a butler on-staff to help her with maintaining the Palace, and my new abilities came in quite handy. As the chief of staff of the Palace of the Earth Spirits, all of the servant spirits, fairy and otherwise, come under my direct authority, and I've done my best to turn them into a stable, hard-working force. It feels a bit unusual for me to be to be the chief servant, but I believe that I have taken to the role quite effectively. Besides, I get the feeling that Miss Satori enjoys a bit of snark in her life. It distracts her from having to deal with a city full of Oni and other assorted troublemakers.
I deposit the dishes in the dishwasher in the kitchen, planning to leave them until tomorrow. After all, when the day's work is done, the day's work is done! Leaving the kitchen, I just barely keep from running directly into Orin, who lurches down the hall with a sleepy expression on her face.
"Long day, Miss Kaenbyou?" I ask.
She murmurs sleepily. "Been running back and forth all day. I'm going to my room, an' I'm gonna sleep. Period." The kasha turns her head to look back at me. "You seen Okuu anywhere?"
"Miss Reiuji is currently sitting in the corner of the sitting room, being made to consider her actions by Miss Satori," I inform her.
Rin sighs. "Fair enough, I'll visit her later. Anyway, see ya later Alfie."
"Rest well, Miss Kaenbyou," I say to the withdrawing Kasha. She waves sleepily, having likely not heard me all that well. Shaking my head in amusement, I fold space and transport myself to the gates of the Palace.
I came to understand my new state of being quite quickly. Really, it's not that different from being a human, other than increased physical strength and the ability to fly. However, there was one clever little addition. Being in direct close contact with a creature that crawls in the spaces between dimensions had some very interesting side-effects. Specifically, an extremely heightened spatial sense, and the ability to instantly materialize anywhere within the range of said spatial sense. Basically, I can teleport, thus fulfilling the butler's dream of being able to be anywhere in the home at the drop of a hat.
It was also delightfully amusing to startle my lady love in such a way.
Of course, I could simply teleport over to her bridge in a heartbeat, but I might as well take a moment to stroll through the underground city and see the sights. Besides, Parsee has recently picked up on the shift in air currents that occurs whenever I teleport, and it's a lot harder to surprise her that way. And the pouty look on her face whenever I do manage to do so is simply not something that I can go long periods of time without.
So this is what is means to be in love? It's rather nice, honestly.
The city is a bustle of activity, as always. As I walk through, a few of the residents cheerfully call out my name, and I make sure to wave back. One thing about the Oni, they are a very welcoming people when you give them the chance. I've taken the initiative and dragged Parsee out to a bar with Yuugi on more than one occasion. I think it's starting to soften her up a little, but she still mutters about how jealous she is of this or that. Well, some things are simply in her nature, after all. I've learned to appreciate them.
I notice Yuugi in one of the clothing stores, shopping for a new kimono. Must be looking to impress her beau up on the surface. I should really introduce myself to him at some point; he sounds like a fascinating gentleman. Besides, with my abilities, warping to the surface is pretty much child's play. And the surface has the best selection of teas.
Hmm, speaking of trips to the surface, it looks like Big Papa has made another trip topside. No doubt to preach on the many virtues of looooooove, as he calls it. A fine chap, I must say; he's offered to wed Parsee and I at any time we so choose. Poor Parsee was terribly embarrassed at the idea, but in a cute way. However, while the notion is extremely tempting to me, I've decided not to press things too quickly. Parsee's previous marriage didn't go so well, after all. There are some things we need to work through first before taking that step. Which doesn't stop us from sharing a house, mind you.
Parsee in the morning is a truly lovely sight.
Anyway, I make sure to purchase some of those spicy strips of meat that Parsee likes so much before continuing on the way to her bridge. There's a small gap between the edge of the city and her bridge, and I see her at the far side, sitting on the railing and staring off into space. No, wait, her eyes are closed. Excellent! Perhaps I'll be able to sneak up on her again! I really shouldn't enjoy it so much, but the two of us have developed a relationship that works quite well. I like to startle her, she likes to startle me in... other ways.
A little closer now, I set foot on the bridge and...
This is such a rare treat. It took me forever to get Parsee to actually try singing, but the results were wonderful. Just listening to her melodic voice alone is a treat; when it's devoid of sarcasm and devoted to making a lovely song, it becomes a little slice of Heaven in the Former Hell.
I just wish that she wasn't so shy about showing off her abilities.
Parsee perches on the railing, singing quietly to herself, and I just stand there, listening quietly with a gentle smile on my face. After a minute or so, her nose twitches as she no doubt smells the treat I've acquired for her, and her eyes open. Blushing ensues.
"Al- Alfred?!" Parsee sputters, "But, I'm sure that I didn't hear you teleport!"
"A good butler cannot be so predicable," I chide her. "Besides, I walked. And a good thing, too, otherwise I might not have been treated to that lovely sound!"
Parsee glowers at me for a long moment before reaching forward and roughly seizing the front of my jacket, pulling me in for a rough, passionate kiss.
Now this is Parsee as she should be. Sweet and sour, all wrapped into a delightful whole.
She breaks the kiss and stares at me with smouldering eyes. "You got me those meat strips," she notes. I nod contentedly, head still spinning a little bit from that kiss. Parsee smiles at me. "Hop on up, then. I'm hungry."
Obediently, I hop up onto the railing beside Parsee and begin fishing out bits of meat, which Parsee bites into with a happy sigh. "How was your day?" I ask.
Parsee groans. "Bird-brain and the celestial brat were by, asking the same old inane questions as they always do. 'What's it like having a guy?' 'What do you do together?' 'Are you gonna get married?'"
"What did you tell them?" I ask, sliding an arm around her waist.
"I told them that we like to fuck and gave them some specifics," Parsee grins at me. "Including that special little thing that you do. Should've seen their faces, ha!" Parsee disintegrates into laughter, and I look down at her disapprovingly.
"You're using our exploits as a means of corrupting others?" I ask.
Parsee smiles up at me sweetly. "You're worth bragging about," she tells me.
Well, she seems to have won that round.
"Besides, those two were annoying the shit out of me. You don't mind me bragging about you a little bit if its gets me peace of mind, now do you?" Parsee rests her head on my shoulder and nuzzles me a bit.
"Not if you excuse me doing this," I murmur, and nibble slightly on the tip of her pointed ear. Parsee squeaks and squirms a little bit, but doesn't pull away.
"Jerk," my love mutters to me.
"Want me to stop?" I ask, letting my breath flow over her ear.
"...No," Parsee admits. So I don't stop. I just hold the beautiful woman close to me, nibbling on her sensitive ear as she blushingly nibbles on her favorite food.
All too soon, she finishes eating, and I release her ear. The two of us hold hands and stare out at the city. "It's beautiful here," I murmur.
"Yeah..." she agrees.
"We should meet up with a few of the others and go dancing sometime," I muse, "Or maybe take a nice trip to the surface and go swimming in a pond. Yuugi's told me of a few nice places up there."
"That sounds good, I can show off a few swimsuits," Parsee says as she grins up at me.
"I'll make sure to paint you in them if you pose for me," I suggest. "The lava flows make for fantastic scenery to paint, but they just don't go so well with scantily-clad women." I ponder. "Maybe if you wore some bikini armor and carried a sword..."
Parsee chuckles. "You really love to paint, huh?"
"I do. And I love painting you. You know why." Of course she does. Parsee knows in no uncertain terms just how much love her. And she managed to make her feelings clear to me, as well. With a great deal of stuttering and sputtering. It was the sweetest moment of my life.
"Well, okay," Parsee says with a shrug. "If you're that hell-bent on checking me out, who am I to stop you." She gives me a wicked smile. "I'll just be sure to choose my reward, hmm?" I can't help but smile back. Parsee has quite an imagination, and the rewards she demands for posing for me are rather... stimulating.
The gentle cuddling afterwards is always the best part, though.
After a moment, Parsee squeezes my hand and hops down form the bridge. "Come on, badass. I wanna go home and make out with my man. And that's you, so you'd better get warmed up."
"Parsee, darling, the very thought of getting intimate with the woman I love is enough to warm me up," I laugh, hopping down next to her. "You're beautiful, you know," I add quietly, stroking her hair.
Parsee blushes fiercely, but forces herself to keep looking me in the eyes. "Yeah. You too. I mean, the love part, you know that. And you're more handsome than beautiful, but I guess you know that too, huh?"
My response is only to kiss her gently. She sighs happily, letting her guard down just enough for me to sweep her into my arms. "Al-Alfred?!" she squawks.
"Just indulge me this once, all right? Let a man carry his beloved in his arms." I smile down at her.
Parsee looks back at me hesitantly before relaxing. Wrapping her arms around my neck, she rests her head against my collarbone. "Fine. But carry me through the city instead of teleporting. I want people to be jealous of ME, for a change." I smile broadly, and comply.
As it turns out, we get some very jealous looks, and Parsee soaks it all up happily.
Former Hell be damned, this is exactly where I want to be. This is my Heaven.
Beautiful day today. There isn't a single cloud in the sapphire sky, and the sun sends its warmth down to the ground, enveloping us all in a gentle hug of sunshine. The breeze is lovely today, making for a wonderful counterpoint. The leaves in the trees sing as they are blown about, and the fragrance from my gardens completes the experience. This is one of those days that everyone knows deep within themselves is absolutely perfect.
But as I lean against the gate to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, the story within the Kakashi Spirit News sends icy chills running down my spine.
Rinnosuke. I never would have guessed that he was capable of such a thing. I mean, I've shopped at Kourindou, I've spoken with the man, and he always seemed so pleasant! Admittedly, at times I thought that there was a dark chill behind his pleasant manner, but given who he had to deal with on a regular basis, I just took this as being par for the course. I never would have imagined that this could happen!
Of course, we'd known that something had happened as soon as Yuukari returned early from her excursion, but neither she nor any of the associated parties had been willing to speak of it. Reisen had been sworn to absolute secrecy by Eirin, and Hatate had refused to breathe so much as a word of explanation to the tengu elders. According to Momiji, Yukari had a brief word with them, and they had laid off big time.
For weeks, we were left in the dark. And finally, late yesterday afternoon, Hatate had finally published a special edition of her newspaper, detailing the events at Pleasant Meadows. The mansion was utterly silent as everyone took in the story, and came to realize just what kind of a beast had lurked within Rinnosuke's heart.
I held Sakuya and Yuuka very close to me last night. Just thinking about what had happened made me want to be close to them. They were more than willing to oblige.
Still, it explains the behavior of those that had visited Pleasant Meadows since their return. All of them had clearly been deeply affected, and dealt with it in their own way. According to Koakuma, Yumeko had taken a leave of absence after her ordeal to recuperate mentally. Since returning, she had developed an interest in honing her physical capabilities and increasing the security of Makai's palace.
Reimu had told me that Suika had seemingly grown as a person from her encounter, and was now actively visiting the human village, getting to know the people there and encouraging them to visit the Oni from time to time. Likewise, she had spent a great deal of time in the underground city, speaking to the Oni there and relating the experience to them. According to Reimu, the Oni were starting to realize just why things had always gone sour between them and humanity. Suika was trying very hard to put all of that behind them, and Byakuren was supporting her to the best of her ability.
Lyrica had gone back to being a member of the band, and was now a much more noticeable presence on stage. No longer content to hang back, Lyrica put everything she had into each show, and had acquired a great many fans. This apparently caused a bit of jealousy in her sisters, who then tried harder themselves, and the Prismrivers had fallen into that state of conflict where they seemed to thrive the most. I'd gone to one of their concerts with my girls, and it was fantastic.
Kasen had gone back to the mountain to meditate heavily on what had happened. Reimu had paid her a visit, and Kasen had apparently described the experience as 'enlightening in many ways.' The hermit was doing fine, though, and was focusing on honing her mental fortitude. Given this article, I can see why.
Iku had walked away fine from the experience, but had taken a brief leave of absence from her duties for a time. Tenshi had apparently sensed that her caretaker was not doing so well, and had actually been on her best behavior while Iku recovered. Of course, once the oarfish was back on the job, things had immediately gone back to normal. Such is life.
Hatate had been very tight-lipped about the whole experience, much to the frustration of her superiors. On the other hand, with Yukari backing her up, no-one was willing to make too many waves about it. Personally, I suspect that Lord Tenma had been let in on things and had ordered the other tengu to lay off, but that was just speculation on my part.
Hina was an odd case. Word had it that Lord Tenma had made a personal visit to the Goddess of Misfortune, and some sort of discussion ha taken place between them. Regardless, there was a a new path leading to Hina's shrine on the mountain, and tengu no longer bothered anyone making a trip there. When I asked Momiji about it, she had simply shrugged and said that orders from on high were to support the curse Goddess to the best of their ability. I wonder what she made of things, now that this story was out.
Parsee and the Yama had apparently gone back to their jobs. I didn't really know much about how they were dealing with things, unfortunately. And then there was this Alfred guy. For all intents and purposes, he seemed to have dropped off the face of the Earth. Reisen seemed to know something, but she refused to speak a word of it, and I didn't pressure her. When asked, the other guests seemed to be having a hard time remembering what had happened when that... whatever... crawled out of the gap. Something to do with its alien nature, perhaps?
God. What a story. I'll stick to the madness surrounding the Mansion any day of the week, thank you very much.
"Hell of a story, isn't it?" I'm so engrossed in the newspaper that I'm a little startled when Yukari speaks up in front of me, looked at me with a faint smile.
"Yukari..." I breathe. In a flash, I step forward and envelop the woman in a hug, which she returns fully. "I had no idea... I can't believe that you had to go through that..."
Yukari shakes her head. "There was a reason I didn't want to talk about it. Even had to come down hard on the tengu so that they wouldn't put too much pressure on Hatate. Poor girl wanted to go to presses as soon as possible, but she understood when I asked her to hold off. There were still some things that I needed to settle, you see."
"Things?" I ask, looked at her quizzically.
Yukari steps back and looks awkward. "Well... Rinnosuke was playing fast and loose with the fundamental laws of reality, and I was trying to fight him the whole way, and well... things got a little weird, you see. I've been keeping an eye on things, and now... well, it's time to settle one of the last loose threads. I'm just not sure how people are going to react, so... well..." Yukari coughs awkwardly. "Can I borrow you? As moral support, I mean?"
I nod slowly. "Sure. I'm willing to lend a hand." I wave down a couple fairies to take my position for a little bit.
Yukari sighs with relief. "Thanks. You're one of the few people that I'd trust to stand by my side during this, and Shinki's just been giving me this look since she found out."
"Found out what?" I ask.
Yukari winces. "You'll see. I just know I'm gonna catch hell over this. Anyway," waving a hand, she causes a gap to appear in mid-air, "Don't worry about traveling through these, okay? They're honestly quite safe; it was just Rinnosuke messing around with things that caused so much trouble."
I shrug. "Sure thing." Yukari leads me through the gap, and after a brief moment of disorientation we step out onto the banks of a massive river. "...The Sanzu?"
"Yes. They should be here shortly." Yukari sighs, fiddling with her umbrella in agitation.
"So, how have you been?" I ask.
"Honestly? I've been fine," Yukari replies, turning to face me. "It was a bit difficult to deal with at first, but I'm over it. Shinki knows just how to treat wounds of the heart." Yukari's face gets a bit distant, and she seems to drool a little bit at a pleasant memory, before she shakes herself back to reality.
"...What about Rinnosuke? What happened to him?" I feel my fists clench up just speaking about him. Honestly, what a monster...!
Yukari's face darkens. "Rinnosuke has been transferred to a maximum-security prison in Makai, where he will likely spend the rest of his natural life. It's no less than he deserves. I gave his shop over to Marisa; apparently Pameel's going to start running it as a side-business."
Huh. Not a bad idea. "What about the mansion itself? How did you explain all of that?"
Yukari looks thoughtful. "The chiefs of staff, Eric and Sylvia, were beside themselves when they saw the damage. It was obviously of no natural cause. So, I took them aside and had a very long talk with them. Regarding aspects of the world that exist, and should be better left uncovered. The two of them were very reasonable; I wonder if those two haven't had any contact with the supernatural. Anyway, I assured them that Alfred was going to be just fine, and immediately started dragging kappa through to repair the damage. The house is fine, now." She sighs. "Although, I do hope that poor Nitori finds her way out of the bottom of that bottle at some point. Poor girl's yet another victim of Rinnosuke in all of this."
"What's the official explanation for the incident, then?" I ask.
"Officially, a gang of thieves attacked the mansion during the height of the storm, and Alfred heroically fought them off. In gratitude, I brought him over to Japan to spend some time on a private resort of mine. It's the kind of answer which is true enough, raises some eyebrows, and overall makes people stop asking questions. With Eric and Sylvia backing me up, everyone seems to be satisfied. For now, Alfred has 'found an art school which he absolutely loves, and will come back to visit when he gets the chance.'" Yukari shrugs. "That's the story, anyway."
At that moment, a boat appears on the waters of the Sanzu, with three figures in it. "Here they are," Yukari says with satisfaction. She turns to wait for the occupants, and I take a good look myself, curious.
I recognize Komachi as she docks the boat and promptly walks over to a tree, plops down, and falls fast asleep. The Yama, Eiki Shiki, glares at her briefly before shaking her head and walking toward us, hand-in-hand with a man with wavy brown hair wearing some official-looking garb. There's an easy chemistry between the two; lovers, perhaps?
"Yukari," Eiki says warmly as she walks up to us, "It's good to see you again."
"And the both of you as well," Yukari says with a smile. "Hello again, Alfred. How have you been?"
The man, Alfred, bows slightly. "Honestly? I've been fantastic, Yukari, thank you for asking." He gives me a curious look.
"Ah yes, let me perform introductions," Yukari says quickly. "Meiling Hong, this is Alfred Albert Westcastle."
I smile and shake his hand. "It's a pleasure. I've heard a lot about your actions, Mister Westcastle."
"Call me Alfred. And they certainly gained me a lovely reward." He squeezes Eiki's hand, who looks up at him lovingly. It's the same sort of look Sakuya and Yuuka give me; do we look that cute?
"Yes..." Yukari says hesitantly. "Well.. thank you both for coming! There is something rather important that I need to talk to the two of you about, and it simply cannot wait any longer! So, if you'll come with me..." Yukari gestures, and another gap opens up in the air.
Alfred looks at it warily. "Where are we going, exactly?" he asks.
"The underground. You'll see. And don't worry, the gap's safe, I promise." Alfred hesitates one more moment at Yukari's words, shares a glance with Eiki, then shrugs and lead the Yama through the gap. Taking a deep breath, Yukari follows them, and I go through last.
We emerge onto the outskirts of the underground city, just off of Miss Mizuhashi's bridge. And speaking of which, the bridge princess herself is sitting on the railings, humming happily. Wow, she's really cheered up since the last time I saw her; it's been way too long since I last paid a visit! Seeing us, Parsee hops down and folds her arms.
"Welcome to the underground city," the guardian intones, "Here we..." she sees Alfred and trails off, her eyes growing very wide with shock and... confusion?
Alfred bows, smiling. "Hello, Parsee. It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Um..." Parsee, speechless, just stares at Alfred as though trying to work out a particularly difficult math problem. Slowly, she turns to stare at Yukari, who looks like she'd really rather be anywhere else than here."
"Wait for it," the gap youkai mutters to me. I look over at her in confusion, when my senses suddenly detect another individual approaching... magically? There is a swirl of air being displaced, and-
"Hello, my dear," a familiar figure in a butler's uniform says, wrapping his arms around Parsee's waist. The next moment, his red eyes notice us, and he jumps back in embarrassment. "Oh, excuse me! I didn't realize that you were busy...!" Then he notices Alfred and trails off. Which is not surprising, given that he may as well be looking in a mirror if it weren't for the clothing and eyes.
Alfred stares in shock at his doppelganger, as does Eiki. Parsee and her boyfriend stare at Alfred. Both look and feel almost exactly the same, save that Eiki's man feels like a spirit, while the one with Parsee is clearly a youkai.
"Meiling?" Yukari says awkwardly, "This is Parsee's boyfriend: Alfred Albert Westcastle."
There is a moment of silence.
And slowly, inexorably, everyone turns to stare at Yukari.
"This is totally not my fault!" the gap youkai shouts, "Blame Rinnosuke!"
"Yukari..." Eiki says slowly.
"Not. My. Fault!" Yukari wails. "I mean, Rinnosuke, was screwing around with the fundamental nature of reality, I was trying to resist him, and then that creature came along and screwed things up even more, of course timelines were going to get all messed up!"
"My memories," Parsee groans, "Sometimes I feel like I have two sets of them."
"Well.... that's because, aside from Alfred... the Alfreds... we all do! It's just that you two have been able to lock on to one set of them due to being with one Alfred, while the rest of us have sort of had to muddle through..."
"Oh God," Spirit Alfred groans, facepalming.
"Quite," sighs Youkai Alfred.
"It's not my fault!" Yukari pleads. "I mean, okay, technically my powers are the cause, but there's just so much quantum uncertainty in a situation like that! We had two frickin' timelines occurring simultaneously! Do you have any idea how difficult that is to clean up?"
"Quantum... duplication..." Eiki groans. "Oh for the love of all that is holy, Yukari!"
"It's not my fault!" Yukari wails again. "Meiling, tell them! Meiling?!"
"Sorry," I say, walking away. "Advanced quantum mechanics are where I draw the line. You're on you own here."
"Awwwww!" Yukari whines.
Four voices speak up then, two female, two male, and the male voices are for all intents and purposes from the same man. "GODDAMMIT YUKARI!!!"
"IT'S NOT MY FAAAUUUULLLLTTT!!!" Yukari wails.
I just shake my head. Nope. This is to much for me. I'm going to go have a drink, go home, make love to my girls until they pass out, and then put all of this behind me.
And the worst part is that this is still pretty much a typical day in my life.
I'm gonna be taking a break for now. I have one hell of a schedule this fall, so I certainly won't be able to write anywhere near as often as I have in the past. That said, I MIGHT write something, but if I do, it'll be something on the lines of one update a week. We'll see.
And yeah, I kinda like the version of Gensokyo I made, so I'll keep writing in that. Saves me having to re-introduce everything, right?
God that was hilarious. And a nice way to keep everyone happy and still stay in the realms of possibility. Anyways on the the questions.
What was the motivation behind this to create a "Guess Who" type of story? And when you made the Parsee route did you original plan on just picking one of the endings to be the true end? Or was this ending your first decision?
>>54764 A continuation of my last post that I JUST noticed. On each of there routes when it had something like "Eiki/Parsee had a confessed expression" during some of the parts. That was there minds trying to adjust to the different timelines,right? Or something?
Every character would have developed in a different way, and would have contributed in their own fashion in the fight against The Beast, Since you bring up Hina, she would have dramatically changed the name of the game, since she would have finally admitted what she knew about Rinnosuke's plan, causing him to be more aggressive earlier on.
Fighting against The Beast, Hina would have used her powers to neutralize much of its strength. Alfred would still have been contaminated, but he would have wound up with Hina, who would neutralize the corruption in check and ask for his help in building up her faith supply. Generally speaking, Hina would have worked desperately to redeem herself for her error.
I just wanted to try and do something different. I already knew that I could do something light and fluffy (see: Being Meiling), so I wanted to try something a bit more serious, a bit more like a classical CYOA. Really, this whole story was a big expreriment on my capabilities.
AS for the routes, I wasn't originally planning that True End. But I'll be honest: that waifu-war took me TOTALLY off-guard. I mean, I thought there might be some argument, but nothing like that! Eiki won, but it was a close thing, and it could have come down to Parsee just as easily. The obvious choice presented itself: do both routes, which would both come true!
You got it. I put it to a vote, but I was sort of counting on Anon wanting me to do both routes. Parsee's confusion was because she was suddenly remembering both timelines while being rooted in one. The same thing happened in Parsee's route to Eiki. Had Anon not voted to do the Parsee route... I would have just admitted that it was an idea that didn't pan out.
But you guys did want the Parsee route, so everything worked out fine!
This one might be a little off the wall, but, is Alfred biologically compatible with Parsee/Eiki? Meaning, can he have children with them? I would assume that as a spirit, no. But as "Youkai", maybe. It all depends on your views of youkai genetics and reproduction.
Also, do you have any plans on having interactions with the butler and bartender? I can see them as being good friends.
Honestly? DDC has nothing to do with my story, and I'm not yet familiar enough with it or its characters to include them in my writing. Yet.
Yeah, I deliberately hustled the group along without letting them realize that there was a base there. By the time they passed it, Rinnosuke was already warping the hallways so they couldn't head back. A bit of railroading, I admit, but one I deemed necessary. On the other hand, had you guys realized that something was up and tried to get back there, it would have made Rinnosuke panic a little bit.
Alfred has a sort of spatial sense, where he just knows where things are in a certain radius around him. The further away things are, the less detail he gets. He can generally sense where the surface is do to its size, and can locate his way to Parsee and the underground city quite easily due to familiarity. If he can locate a location or person clearly, he can basically teleport there.
This is a bit similar to Spirit Alfred's distance-changing ability, which is completely deliberate.
Alfred and Eiki cannot have children, as they are both spiritual beings tied to death. Alfred and Parsee CAN have children, but they take a couple simple precautions to avoid this, as neither are ready for children just yet.
Alfred and Albrecht? Maybe I should write a short on that. I'll think about it.
Ha, saw it coming as soon as you said there would be one epilogue. How the hell do you keep writing these perfect have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too endings without them feeling cheap or cliched? Are you some kind of writing youkai?
>>54763 >Each character had their own path laid out. Specifically, I laid out how the relationship would develop between Alfred and each girl, all using the mansion as a sort of backdrop.
Since these will never be written, can we get a short summary of each? If we'd gone for Hina, would someone else have been the patsy?
Honestly, I'm going to leave that up to your imagination. What I consider to be a pleasant voice might not be the same as yours, and I couldn't put it to words anyway. This is one instance where your imagination is god.
Eh, I just thought of a fun way to resolve the situation and it worked, that's all. Anyway, the summaries:
Yumeko: Pretty much becomes Alfred's right-hand woman. The two develop a dynamic that he sort of compares to Eric and Sylvia. Battle against The Beast goes similar as with Parsee, except that Yumeko does much better, being more powerful. Alfred still gets contaminated, but winds up serving alongside Yumeko in Makai, where Shinki is full of relationship advice for Yumeko, much to the maid's dismay. Especially given the emphasis Shinki puts on sex.
Suika: Gets her confidence back and adapts to her lack of strength. Actually has a lot of wisdom despite her demeanor, and this starts to show. Basically becomes a combination of wisdom and joviality, and absolutely wrecks The Beast when the fight occurs. Alfred is unaffected, but Suika decides that she doesn't want to leave him. So, after a lot of awkward failed starts, she decides 'fuck it,' slings him over her shoulder, and lugs him home for snu-snu. Alfred doesn't really mind. Suika is experienced, and kinda pent-up, you see.
Lyrica: becomes more of a detective, putting her analytical mind to use. I f Lyrica had won, she'd have figured out a lot of Rinnosuke's plot on her own. The battle with The Beast would have involved her confusing it with illusions while Alfred hacked away at the tentacles. In the aftermath, she would have invited Alfred back to Gensokyo to help manage the band. Implied foursomes ensue, And then Mystia and Kyouko come to visit.
Kasen: Didn't get a lot of screen time, but she would have opened up a lot more and started sharing some of her ideas. Would've been a good combination of smarts and combat power. Alfred still would've been contaminated by The Beast as they fought it, but Kasen would have invited him home to her place so he could meditate and learn to control the infection within him. At least, that'd be her rationale.
Iku: Didn't get a lot of development, but would have turned out to be a really classy lady who just needed a nice guy to help her unwind. Dealing with Tenshi is pretty stressful, after all. She would've been surprisingly effective against The Beast, throwing lightning bolt after lightning bolt at it, and forcing it back into the gap. Her ending would've involved Alfred staying on the outside, but with Iku coming to visit him frequently, and acting as his muse.
Hatate: Got no development, but would have started off feeling like dirt for overreacting, The experience would have caused her to grow up big time, and become a determined investigator. Hatate, if kept around and encouraged, would have found a bunch of clues that others missed. You probably would have found the secret doors a lot earlier, for instance. Also, her method of dealing with the beast would have involved flying around it really fast and distracting it so that Alfred could deliver the finishing blow. Her ending would involve her stressing out over asking Alfred to come home with her, until she finally took some advice from Suika and decided to kidnap him. After getting his express permission first, mind you. "CanI pleasekidnapyouandtakeyouhomesowecanmakesweetloveOHGODISAIDIT"
Hina: The tricky one, and would have changed the game quite a bit. Wracked by guilt, Hina would have blurted out Rinnosuke's plan, or at least what she knew of it, and provoked an intense response from him. She would have been working overtime in order to redeem herself in the eyes of the others. When fighting The Beast, Hina would have used her powers to weaken it, but Alfred would have still been contaminated. Her ending would have had Hina bring Alfred to Gensokyo so that she could remove most of the taint from him, and then she would have asked him to stay and help her gather faith.
Whew, that's a lot of writing.
The Aya story is the one I'll do next. After a take a breather. And again, I can't see myself updating it daily. Not even close.
Just thought of someone that wasn't covered in the epilogue/True End description: Tokiko.
How has the little Ibis youkai reacted to the revelation, since it seems that he's been using her/playing her for a while? Also Marisa, since while it's mentioned that his shop has been given to her, we haven't been told her thoughts on his true character, and she's known him for a long while since he used to work for her father.
I came too late to the story to propose this, but around the time Iku or Hina got snatched, I was wondering about the possibility them tying themselves to each other (think a long rope/sheet around the waists of everyone keeping them linked and relatively close) so that they couldn't be separated. How well would that have worked?
One last question from this anon. And it's about your music choices.
Some were down right fantastic (Eiki's curb stomp of the beast, and Parsee's bridge scene with root_A/ evenescence to name my favorites.)
How did you decide to pick many of the song's that went with the updates?
Right, I forgot to mention that. Marisa was appalled, of course, and wondered how in hell she managed to miss something like that. She actually went to visit Rinnosuke in Makai, and walked away from the meeting pale and silent. She cuddled with Pameel an awful lot after that meeting. Marisa refuses to talk about the meeting, and no one wants to press her.
Tokiko was utterly devastated at learning how thoroughly she was used by Rinnosuke, and withdrew into herself for a while. Hatate took it upon herself to bring Tokiko back out of her shell, and spent a lot of time talking to the poor girl. Tokiko's doing better these days, especially after Big Papa heard of her predicament, and acted as her personal chaperone on a tour of the underground city. If there's one thing Oni know how to do, it's cheer someone up. Tokiko's doing fine these days, and has chalked the whole thing up to experience.
Yeah, that would have seriously screwed Rinnosuke up. Honestly, the whole plan to barricade everyone in one of the lounges was something I hadn't actually considered, so I rewarded you by having Rinnosuke lose a lot of credibility there. A plan that involved tying everyone together would have meant that Rinnosuke would have to act more quickly than he liked, likely by cutting the power and then cutting the rope and spiriting someone away in the darkness.
He still would've gone after Iku, but with his accomplice gone, he would have had to use another plan. Possibly involving luring everyone out while Hina stalled everyone, and then swiping whoever he could.
Sorry, but I'm pretty much done writing Rinnosuke. I neither like nor dislike Rinnosuke; I'm completely neutral on him. Basically, when I was working out the plot for this story, I asked myself 'Who would people least suspect to be the villain?' and Rinnosuke was the first person to come to mind. The rest was basically an experiment on my part: could I make Rinnosuke into a convincing villain?
Still, someone should probably write Rinnosuke-centric story. MANnosuke's Miraculous Meat Adventure? Someone should get on that.
>>54802 Eh.. It had it's ups and downs, but overall I'd say it was pretty good.
It's rather hard to get proper characterization into such a short piece of text, after all.
He would probably have been better if he'd been given more time, but the story wouldn't really allow it.
Well, honestly, the two realized that they wouldn't actually have to interact all that much. With Spirit Alfred in the Celestial Courts and Youkai Alfred in the underground,, the two could pretty much live their lives independent of one another. They correspond from time to time, and have collaborated on a few paintings, but for the most part, they're just two guys, living their lives with the woman they love.
Parsee and Eiki, meanwhile, felt the need to impress upon their man that they had made the right choice, respectively. For Eiki, this meant creative dance, and no clothing. For Parsee, this meant a delightful Alfred sandwich. And that's all for starters.
>>54808 Wasn't implying Eiki wasn't enough, just that Komachi'd be the very full bodied chocolate to go with Eiki's vanilla. That upon hearing about the possible Prismriver foursome, I figured I'd ask this.
Though I feel going after Lyrica for a chance with her sisters would have been insulting to her.
It sounds like you put a lot of time and effort into plotting out each of the girl's routes. But suppose, hypothetically speaking, anon had decided to go for a Yukari route and voted to stick to her like glue from the very beginning. What would you have done then?
Well, Yukari would have just politely blown them off. Honestly, it just wasn't likely to happen. Alfred went into this intending to be professional; the relationships just sorta... happened. But yeah, Yukari was a no-go in this. So no Yukari/Shinki threesome. Sorry.
>>54817 Bingo. Upon Wade (the MC) getting to know Yukari some, anon got on the Yukari express. She basically won with just that. A key is that she was 'human' as opposed to someone rather aloof and detached.
What would have happened to everyone if we had died during the Rinnosuke fight? Would Erik and Sylvia been able to stop him, or would Rinnosuke have succeeded in mind wiping everyone? Would Reimu have been able to set things right?
Speaking of the mind wipe machine, some of these ladies were hooked up to it for a good 12 hours at least. Did they suffer any negative side effects? Did they have to get Nitori to install a reverse switch to un-mindwipe them?
It occurs to me that since Alfred was dead/banished to the underground in a coma, the ladies (except Eiki and Parsee of course) never got a chance to properly thank him for saving them. Hatate especially since the last time she got a chance to interact with him she bashed him over the head with a chair and was kidnapped before she could apologize. Did the ladies ever get a chance to properly thank Alfred, and if so how did they thank (both of) him?
Yeah, there was a very nice, dignified, albeit somewhat confusing drinking party wherein the people who were at Pleasant Meadows (minus Rinnosuke, for obvious reasons) got together and talked about the whole experience. Both Alfreds got thanked with a combination of thank-yous, hugs, gifts, and that was really enough for them. Though everyone kept getting the two mixed up, understandably.
It made for one hell of an interview in the Kakashi Spirit News, mind you.
Congratulations on finishing two stories, Keymaster. You've come a long way since last October.
This story required a good deal more suspension of disbelief than I prefer, and it seems pretty jarring for it to happen in the same continuity as Being Meiling, but I have to admit that I've never felt so anxious about a CYOA before. I'm very impressed.
Good luck with your classes. Hope to see you again soon.
He just felt... off to them in a way that they couldn't quite explain. Hence, to the underground her went. Yukari was fine with this solution, since she knew by this point of the relationship between him and Alfred.
Honestly, you guys did pretty well. There was a lot of surprisingly good critical thought, and I felt I had to reward you for that. Like I said, the thought of just fortifying yourself in a room honestly never occurred to me... though in retrospect it seems so obvious.
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Please forgive the bump, but if anybody's interested, I'm kinda sorta doing something. Pic related.