Our protagonist has restrictions and obligations to contend with for now, but soon enough he’ll have some freedom. Please read warmly.
He awoke from a terrible and strange dream.
Followed by death, running from clouds of blood, and finding fantastic lights to guide him toward a crimson moon.
At the end, he was pretty sure he’d died.
But it was just a dream and now he was awake. He couldn’t shake an uncanny feeling gripping him, however.
That aside, physically, he now felt something similar to a blanket of weakened fire, enough to notice your being warmed but nothing too threatening all the same. It matched well with the scent of tea and dust in the air. Dust was actually thick in the air, apparently; it tickled his ears as it settled on his still body. The one neglected feeling was sound. Even a taste of iron lingered in his mouth, but wherever he currently was was—
“If you’re going to open your eyes,” spoke a vaguely raspy, feminine voice, “then look up.”
He opened his eyes while looking up. “Up” seemed limitless. He was certain he was indoors, but the ceiling of this place gave an impression of the cosmos. Actually, was it the cosmos? Space, inside? There weren’t any stars... perhaps.
“Close your eyes.”
... A faint whining noise could be heard.
“Do you hear that?”
“Yes. Am I naked?”
He felt naked.
“You aren’t naked.” There was a clink of cup to plate. “Do you want to be naked?”
“Why are you asking? You don’t answer questions with questions.”
“Does that count?”
“‘Why are you asking?’”
“If you want to keep your ears—” he heard a page turning “—you’ll use them to listen to me. I would recommend listening to me in general, if you’d like to be worth anything.”
“Now look to the right.”
Fairly certain at this point that he was dreaming, the young man decided to look to the left.
“Was that malfunction or defiance?”
She didn’t seem to want an answer from her tone, so the young man said nothing, closed his eyes once more, and returned his head to a neutral position.
“Remi’s mist shouldn’t have changed a human’s sense of direction like that.”
“Who is Remilia Scarlet? A question that rates lower than this tea.
However, like this awful tea, it hasn’t been long since Remi got here.
One could say it’s expected to not know the Mistress of Scarlet Devil Mansion.
So the question rates higher than this tea.”
He opened his eyes again.
“Remilia Scarlet... is my dear friend and the owner of this, the Scarlet Devil Mansion. The red mist you swallowed was hers. I didn’t tell you to look anywhere else.”
“What reason do you have to keep drinking tea that’s awful?”
“Our cat is trying something different for a special occasion. If she’s listening, I want her to know how poor it is. Although, I’m sure she’d make tea bad on purpose if she knew it would bother me or Remi.”
“But you don’t have to drink it.”
“Itou Gen,” said the girl, “you can learn nothing if you do nothing.”
Across the clothed-table lit with two candles and topped with book-towers sat the woman he was speaking with. In spite of her sharp and biting tone, this woman, visually, gave off an overwhelming feeling of softness. She seemed to be dressed in somewhat fanciful sleepwear, furthermore a strange puffy hat atop her head decorated with a crescent moon, and pink cloth shoes were on her feet and adorned with bows of various colors. In fact, much of her person was adorned with bows, including her obscene length of hair. Like the rest of her, her hair was colored as if with bright pastels. Violet, same as her eyes which now blankly looked at the young man, named Gen, as he looked at her.
“I am Patchouli Knowledge, a magician.”
“And you seem to know that I’m Itou Gen, a college student.”
“I try to know, in general. If I want to learn about it, I’ll make sure that I do.”
“I’m flattered you wanted to learn about me.”
“You’re mistaken. Your wallet was found by our cat when she changed you and she rudely told me your name. Your name is a very useless bit of trivia.”
Gen realized he was not wearing the clothes he had worn yesterday (now, he looked like a medieval, Western farmhand), and that this and last night were probably not dreams. Had his hobby of wandering bitten him badly?
Patchouli Knowledge closed her eyes and plainly announced: “Itou Gen, on a scale of usefulness, knowing your name would be 20 out of 43,252,003,274,489,856,000.”
“You don’t pull punches.”
“That was a sentence. Do you feel lightheaded?”
“I’m going to test you quite a lot before dinnertime. While we probably won’t use the red mist again, it’s good to know exactly what effect it has on humans.”
Patchouli began writing something down in another book. Gen allowed himself to look around the room some more, discovering that this was in fact a library: a really, very, absurdly large one.
“Miss Patchouli... when you say you’re a magician, you don’t mean you perform tricks do you?”
“I know sleight of hand, but can’t really do it.”
“A magician who can’t do sleight of hand...”
“Ahh, what am I doing? I should give up.”
“I’m a magician and was born that way. Interrupt me any more and I’ll turn you into charcoal.”
Gen pursed his lips and wore a strained and quizzical expression.
“May I ask some more serious questions?” he said.
“Fine,” she replied.
The answer was fast; much faster than he was expecting. Something about it, and how she seemed to be taking notes without paying him any mind gave him an important impression: Patchouli Knowledge did not like wasting time.
“Where am I?”
“I’d call it obvious, rather. Can you tell me?”
“If we’re being exact you’re in six places right now. Would you like to know them all?”
Gen was beside himself with this statement. He had lifted his hand and positioned himself in a pose reminiscent of The Thinker. He gazed upon Patchouli with eyes at once full of bewilderment and fascination. He was like this for more than a few moments, before settling on answering—
“Tell me the third place.”
“Beside Misty Lake.”
“Then... the fifth.”
“It’s called Japan, Nippon, or Nihon depending.”
“This is my interpretation.” Here, Patchouli lifted her eyes and gave Gen a smile indicating she was quietly pleased with herself. “Ordinarily, Japan is considered a part of the Asian continent, but anyone could tell you that it’s an island nation. I don’t see why you’d count it, and its land mass is certainly not large enough to be considered its own continent. In short, the sixth place is Earth.”
“I think I get it. Then the second place is the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”
“Correct.” Here, she returned her attention to her notes.
“The first is this library...”
“I haven’t named it anything particularly special.”
“The fourth is the answer I was looking for.”
Gen frowned and lowered his brow.
“Gensokyo,” he repeated.
“Yes,” she answered.
“I don’t imagine that’s written with the ‘Gen’ from my name.”
“I refused to read your name; I don’t know how it’s written.”
“Then it’s ‘Gensokyo’ written with the ‘gen’ for illusions?”
“... Am I dreaming?”
“That’s a question with a lot of weight to it; if things go well for you, save it for another day.”
With this, the magician closed her notebook and stood up. She looked at Gen for a little while, and then seemed to glide to a bookshelf.
“I have something to do,” she said. “Until I return, read this.”
She had taken a large book from its shelf while speaking and came to stand before Gen, placing it on the table in front of him.
A fair question. The book had no title or indeed any manner of identification on its covers or spine.
“I greatly suggest you read it thoroughly. I also suggest you drink your tea before it gets cold. Goodbye.”
He watched her trudge into the darkness between the aisles of the library, and after some time heard a distant, but surely large door opening and closing. He returned his attention to the table, the book, and the tea set out for him he had only noticed due to Patchouli’s advice.
The book first. He opened it to three blank pages and a very ancient scent. On the fourth page he found words – English words; mercifully a honed skill of his. They were: “Firstly to the aspirant with willingness to become a practitioner of the art, sorcery, magic, or how it is called the strange and mystical forces which run a course through the earth and the air and the body and mind: your magic is never enough, and there is always a means to improve it.”
“You will learn magic,” Gen muttered, “you will learn your magic is weak, and you will be better.”
He gripped the handle of his teacup and brought it to his lips while turning the page. He took a sip, and shortly spat it out.
Unknown to many along with being a wanderer Itou Gen was often a dreamer. He had more than passing interest in the occult, and at times had even practiced magic – to no avail, of course. It had never been terribly wild, either: charms, wishes, and bids for control of the classical elements. He never honestly practiced for anything more than curiosity and meditation. However Itou Gen was a dreamer, and so within him there was a spark, and this tome turned out to be for him a healthy grip of kindling.
When Patchouli Knowledge returned, the young man she’d decided to observe was slouched over the book she’d given him and a third of the way through it. Truly his posture was deplorable: he had a hand in his hair, an elbow on a handkerchief, and a whole arm bent and resting on the table. To be certain, the lad was absorbed.
The magician spoke before waiting for him to realize her presence.
“Have you learned anything?”
“—! You’re back!”
“Answer at once.”
Gen, who had nearly fallen out of his chair, turned his entire body to face his observer, readjusting his peasant-clothing in the process. Patchouli’s returning gaze was at once full of disinterest and pity.
“Yeah, I guess I have.”
“Is that all you have to say, not even at once? For various reasons, I’d classify you as slow.”
Patchouli huffed lightly and went back to her seat across from the college student. She looked at her teacup for a moment, and then looked at his. She smirked, then spoke.
“You didn’t enjoy Sakuya’s tea?”
“That the cat’s name?”
“Yes. But that aside, I feel you must have learned more from that book than what would warrant an ‘I guess’.” Patchouli reached across the table and took the grimoire, lightly adding, “It’s a good book after all.”
Gen had taken to slovenly placing both his elbows on the table, leaning forward with his fingers interlocked before his face. He stared at the magician, who fondly paged through her book, and thought Of course I’ve learned more. By his internal clock’s measure, Patchouli had left him in the library for about an hour, and though he found the tome fascinating (it really was[/i] a good book) he hadn’t spent all that time poring over it. Frankly, by all of this he was subtly perturbed, and had many, many questions.
His guess was that he’d come to “The Land of Illusions” (Gensokyo), seemingly by accident, but apparently nothing in it was illusory. Thus he knew: this world was quite dangerous. He hadn’t neglected to notice: he was currently in a mansion that was home to a devil master, the same master who had created the mist that had nearly killed him during his not-dream. Patchouli had also, perhaps subtly, suggested that he was not necessarily long for this world. Although he could speak with her calmly, he understood that his current standing was on about the same level as a lab rat. To be true, he felt it was probably less.
Why Patchouli wanted him to learn magic was a mystery, but having been shaken out of his reading by her return he remembered the sense of danger he had considered for some minutes earlier. Taking a serious tone, he spoke up.
“You know... I remembered earlier, I’d actually collapsed outside your mansion, and just before I did I’d honestly thought ‘I’m going to die’.”
Patchouli stopped paging through her book and looked at Gen dully.
“What are you bringing that up for all of a sudden?” she asked.
“Because I still feel like I’m gonna die.”
“Humans always die. It’s your nature as humans.”
“More specifically, I’m worried something will kill me.”
The lad put one hand down and straightened his back a bit.
“Patchouli Knowledge,” he said, “why do you want me to learn magic?”
“You’ve been thinking a lot, boy-‘Gen’.”
She smiled at him, not altogether pleasantly.
“I don’t imagine you intend to make me your student,” he said.
“I’m a researcher, not an instructor,” she replied.
“Then what opportunity do you see in me?”
“I’m impressed. You’re starting to understand me despite us being acquainted for less than a pair of hours.”
Gen frowned. She continued.
“I mentioned before that it hadn’t been long since my friend arrived in Gensokyo. You’ve probably figured out that I arrived no sooner or later. Despite having researched this land extensively before we moved, there are many things about it that I don’t know.”
Here Patchouli took a sip from her... tea? Apparently she had a new cup, if the steam rising from it was any indication. Gen did as well. The boy was tempted to ask about it, but the magician moved on.
“Did you know? Shortly after we arrived here there was a sea change in Gensokyo. Remi was going a little wild, so the Shrine Maiden declared new laws of the land to stay her, as well as better maintain this realm’s fragile existence. What Remi did last night was provoke the Shrine Maiden to action, creating a situation where she had to enforce her new rules.”
Gen chimed in, saying: “What rules are these?”
“Putting it plainly, they’re rules forbidding death and harm. Conflict in this world is now settled with grace and beauty rather than violence.”
Patchouli set down her cup, and finished saying—
“However, these rules don’t apply to human outsiders.”
Itou Gen’s lips quivered and his mouth turned up at its corners. Slowly, he covered it with his palm, and laid his fingers on his face. Thumb on one cheek, three on the other, and a pointer cross his nose bridge. He looked Patchouli Knowledge in her eyes, and spoke with a desperation to hide the fluttering in his chest.
“... You never answered my first questions.”
Patchouli was smiling as she delivered her response.
“I was getting to that. You see, I’m in luck. Remi and I also came from your world, but in it we were bound by its laws. For a brief, exciting moment, our arrival in Gensokyo meant a chance that I could do as I wished to who I wished without any trouble.” She chuckled, her voice a bit more hoarse than before and thus sounding like a cough. Finally, she said: “Human experimentation.”
“Right. Human experimentation. That’s what I’d figured.” Gen began cyclically, rhythmically, tapping his fingers on the tablecloth. “But Miss Patchouli, I can’t say you strike me as the mad scientist type.”
“I probably won’t do anything classless, but you may not survive.”
“So you want me to learn magic because...?”
“I want to see if an outsider, ordinarily incapable of such feats, can do so here.” Patchouli took one of her books from the table and opened it to a remembered place. “And of course how strong they are.” She stood up. The hairs on the back of Gen’s neck stood up as well.
“I really am lucky,” the magician continued, not bothering to contain her grin, “Remi may have just drained you of your blood had she not decided to visit the shrine today. So soon after things changed drastically in Gensokyo, an opportunity presents itself.”
“... Miss Patchouli,” Gen ventured, “... you weren’t wrong, I learned more from that book than would warrant an ‘I guess’.”
“... The satisfaction from having a correct theory: it’s like a bite of cake.”
“Don’t be too pleased. I’ll disappoint you soon enough.”
Where Patchouli stood now, a candle stood between her and Gen. He stared at her through its gentle flame, and forgot to breathe. Holding his eyes closed for a moment, he gathered composure and spoke again.
“But hey, you might be surprised.”
Out from Gen’s lips crawled an archaic whisper in a lost tongue, and the flame of the candle between him and his captor curled into a spiral. It lurched back, and Patchouli smiled lightly as it flung forward, aimed at her nose.
She stepped aside and dodged it effortlessly, casting a smug and satisfied look at Gen as it flew past her ear. However Gen remained locked with her eyes without changing his expression, whispering again.
At once the dancing flame began to orbit rapidly around the magician, keeping her in place before suddenly pausing at her chest. The woman glared, and the flame erupted like a firecracker with a Pah!
Patchouli flew back quite a ways to avoid the sparks and embers, which tried in vain to follow her and died off in weak, twisted contrails and wisps. Gen stood slowly from the table, one hand on it so as to keep him still.
And Patchouli, again, looked satisfied. She huffed with excitement and a light wheeze decorated her voice when she spoke.
“This is great,” she breathed. “Not only is an outsider capable of the arts, so shortly after the spell card rules were set—” she lifted the book she had picked up out in front of herself, and offered Gen a wicked smile “—I can freely ignore them.”
Patchouli began to speak darkly, her incantations precise as opposed to Gen’s mumbling, and her words most definitely practiced and confident. Above her book’s pages, a plate-sized glyph materialized and glowed, and out of it licked eager fires, winding up her arm and gathering in the air above and behind her. The resulting amalgamation burned, and roared.
“Fire was it?” Patchouli cried in a louder voice. “In the West we have an old and common saying: ‘fight fire with fire’. I will invoke that sentiment now, and you ought to count yourself privileged—” the flames were becoming... ornate? “—you shall bear witness to the strongest unbridled flames Gensokyo will see in so many years, the fires that once started and shaped the world!”
The gathering flames had become something akin to a small sun, surrounded by what looked like a searing nebula that swirled around it menacingly. There was no comparison between the strengths of sorcery. To the simple and curious college boy, Patchouli Knowledge was a truly unimaginable magician.
“I hope you prepared well, Itou Gen! I will hold nothing back!”
Swiping the nearest candle from the table by its wax, Itou Gen fled, flames converging where he had been and crashing together like a violent sea. They turned and turned until they became a tall vortex of fire, swaying like a living being and reaching for the young man as he dashed behind bookshelves.
“I’ve yet to figure out how to make this sorcery into a spell card, but I can tell you all about it! While it mimics the sun this is no more than the classic element of fire! An Eastern variety. I have to admit I find Eastern magic to be rather fascinating!”
Itou Gen now hid behind a shelf different from that which he’d originally fled to, and he wasn’t listening very well to Patchouli’s musings. Gen had felt this was one possible outcome of his being “tested” by Patchouli. The book had equipped him with knowledge of simple offensive magic, after all, and in truth from it he had begun to understand three classic elements. Fire wasn’t the only one available to him at the moment, but after Patchouli’s declarations, he felt it wouldn’t be much in the spirit of things to call on air in this battle of fire. At any rate he was now in a duel, possibly to his death, with an absurdly powerful magician, and while he was terribly compelled to simply stand witness to the girl’s powers he knew that wouldn’t be the best of ideas. Itou Gen had to win, but unfortunately he couldn’t conceive any conditions of victory.
His magic couldn’t kill her and even if it could it wasn’t like murdering a person was something he wanted to do. It was also very unlikely that his magic could even incapacitate her. And just to kick him while he was down: his attacks had a very limited range, and he had gotten the distinct impression that Patchouli could fly.
Swallowing, Gen decided to give away his position in exchange for clarity.
“That’s fascinating, Miss Patchouli, really and honestly, but I have an important question. How does this end? With your discretion, my death, or some sort of victory on my part?”
Immediately after he finished speaking, he could hear flames coming from round a corner. They flooded into the aisle like an unset river, eliciting the thought Is this fire or water? from Gen as he fled once more. Flame reached between his legs, fire shot over his shoulder, and a piece of his sleeve was burned away. This was simply terrifying.
“I will keep this up until you die,” crowed Patchouli, “but I’ll give you one exit: if you can manage five hits on me with your attacks, I will stop. Don’t bother trying to escape, there’s a barrier before the door.”
“Five,” whispered Gen as he dove under a table and fire soared overheard. He wasn’t even sure if he could pull five fires from a single candle! Hiding beneath this table, with candle melting in-hand, Itou Gen thought on his situation and environs, and he thought on them deeply.
Patchouli honestly wasn’t entirely sure where everything was in her library. The mansion’s head maid liked to fiddle with its space and dimensions partially for small joys but mainly to get under the magician’s skin. Most of what that maid did was for such express, malicious purpose. But, she was a good maid.
However, with a hide-happy opponent like Itou Gen, and no firmly established conditions for a duel, Sakuya’s spatial manipulation actually put the master of the library at quite a disadvantage. Her not quite knowing her own area’s layout paired with a general lack of awareness on her part perhaps evened out this match more than one would think from a cursory evaluation.
Itou Gen did not want to die, and since he seemed fairly intelligent she wagered he wouldn’t try anything that would obviously get him killed. He would not face her head on, but instead try to fool her and land a sneaked blow. So, in the first place Patchouli would rise into the air and not move. She would create a fortress of magic where their fight had begun and wait for him to come to her, whereupon she would probably reduce him to ashes.
A few minutes had passed since then, and her first spell was dying down. Thus, she turned a page in her book and readied herself to incant the next one.
Before she could speak, she heard a small, popping explosion from behind an aisle. She prepared to send her fire there when behind her another Pah! resounded. Another, and another came, from all around the library.
“Mu...” she mumbled with a tired face, “kyuu... I already don’t know where you are, Itou Gen. What’s the point in—? Hm?”
A strange burning scent was rising up from somewhere.
It didn’t quite smell like paper set aflame but not all of these books were in the best condition. If he’d put fire to one that carried a mold or mildew...
“... Earlier last night a small and loathsome human threatened to snatch away some of my books. But... theft is recoverable, boy-Gen. If you’re burning one of my books—” Patchouli turned to a different page in her grimoire, “—I’ll burn you away so thoroughly not even the yama could put back together the blackened cinders that were once your soul.”
She bellowed another incantation. This one caused orange and red to ooze out from another risen seal, falling to the floor and beginning to snake and hop across it. The fires grew until they resembled animate ropes, and then ancient vines, and last serpentine, Eastern dragons. Patchouli called them to answer, and set them out to dance and kill whatever still breathed in her library’s halls.
And when the last darted out of sight, she realized there was warmth behind her neck. Curious, she looked behind her and found a small orb of fire that dove into her breasts.
She dropped as the orb burst harmlessly against her chest, singeing her clothing. As she fell she felt warmth at her neck again and swatted at it as if it were a gnat. In response, the orb circled her twice and stopped in front of her before flying at her stomach and torching her clothes there as well.
Patchouli soon reached the ground, landing softly but angrily. She turned about expecting to find Gen there, realizing only then that the lad had set two more magics in wait at the floor, which leapt at her without pause. She awkwardly stumbled ahead and tripped over herself, dodging the small bullets but smacking her nose on the carpet below. While she attempted to recover, the spheres did a roundabout in the air and aimed for her rear, marking two more successful hits.
Patchouli rose on one knee, still gripping her tome and now rather cross. She would have to cast another spell or retrieve her dragons—
Before her, Gen was emerging from beneath the table where they had previously conversed, having taken refuge behind the tablecloth. He cast aside a spent candle and reached for the one which remained atop his hiding place. He ran toward her, and began to incant.
And without a second thought, Patchouli drew from her sleeve a slip of paper. Gen drew near.
And each completed their spell at once.
“‘Agni Shine High Level’!”
The paper was burned and Gen’s candle heeded his call. An avalanche of fire erupted from Patchouli’s slip and began to spin out from her, while the flame of Gen’s candled lunged forward. The heat of Patchouli’s sorcery threatened to incinerate every hair on Gen’s body before swallowing the body itself, but before any of Patchouli’s boulders of flame could strike him, his spell shot out toward her hat, knocked it off, and then flicked the greater magician in her forehead.
just like that,
all fires quieted.
Gen was frozen in his last pose, his candle thrust out in front of him like it was a crucifix and she a vampire. He wasn’t breathing particularly heavily, but his heart was causing chaos in his chest. That could have gone really badly for me, he thought, and yes, it could’ve. The fear of death and his opponent’s self-assurance had opened up a path to survival.
Patchouli looked at her opponent with involuntary tears in her eyes. The final flame had stung, and this ridiculous loss did something to sting her pride as well. Eventually she was the one to break their silence with a fact.
“Had that been a duel under the new system, you would have been disqualified.”
“A-And...” stuttered Gen, “and your spells? There’d be nothing wrong with using them?”
“I could’ve made it work, but underhanded spells that prey on opponent’s blind spots are truly unsportsmanlike.”
Gen put out his candle and let it fall to the floor, crouching to one knee like Patchouli (who kept talking).
“The new rules are about putting everything you have out for your enemy to see and letting them contend with it in its entirety. The basis is respect.”
Gen reached behind the magician and retrieved her hat, dusting it off.
“Well I’m sorry,” he said, offering her the toppled accessory, “when you tell a human you’re going to kill them, this is what happens. By the way, what I burned earlier was the contents of our teacups; please don’t make me into cinders.”
Patchouli took her hat and fixed it atop her head. Patchouli stood, and Gen stood too.
“So what happens now?” he continued. “You let me go? You kill me anyway? Keep testing me?”
“What do you want to happen?”
“What do you want to happen now?” she repeated.
Gen stared at the magician blankly for some seconds before settling on the answer:
“I want to live, obviously.
I just don’t know how much of a choice I have here.”
“Well then, shall we ask your fate?”
Gen looked to his right, Patchouli to her left. Gen looked incredulous, Patchouli fed up. Beside them, a very-composed, apparently happy maid had appeared. Or, she seemed to be a maid. Her skirt was rather short...
“Who?” said Gen.
The maid continued speaking as if Gen had said nothing.
“Come, let’s see the Mistress. I don’t think it would be right to decide what to do with a guest of the house without first consulting its master, even if it’s you Lady Patchouli.”
“Remi’s back? ... Fine, you can tell Remi what you want to happen, Sir Gen.”
Patchouli started walking, the maid following after her. Slow on the uptake, Gen was the last to move. And so they left the great library, and entered Scarlet Devil Mansion proper.
I like the survival tone in this story, with Patch treating Gen as a lab rat, and how you seem to enforce the problems of being an Outsider in Gensokyo. If you're trying to make the reader uncomfortable of the situation, then job well done cause you got me (don't know about the other readers though)!
The mansion of the devil was certainly dark... that was Gen’s overwhelming opinion of the fanciful western home. There was nothing to let light in along the walls and very little else to create the stuff along them either. Frankly, it was an unnerving place, like it wasn’t somewhere where humans should tread.
He wondered if the maid was human; Patchouli, the magician, wasn’t after all. But, he distinctly felt that asking such a question would be dangerous. He would just assume she wasn’t for now, as they climbed stairs up from what seemed to have been a basement and into the mansion’s main area. This was considerably more opulent, but not pleasant. Not for him. There was a flower mural painted on the ceiling, and more candles flickering around them. To counter these mansion normalcies, there were several ways one could go from here, but each way led into a wall of darkness. Perhaps this wasn’t a mansion, and was in fact a prison of some kind. That was how Gen felt.
The three of them continued to climb, but there wasn’t much to see along the way. Every so often, out the corner of his eye Gen swore he saw children darting around corners, and every time he whispered his fear to no reaction from the native pair. Like this – certainly uneventful, horribly tense – they would reach the mansion’s highest points.
Out a ways before them as they summited the final staircase was a pair of gently swaying vermillion curtains. Behind them one could see the burning summer color of a sky approaching night, and there were glimpses of a table where somebody sat under a large parasol.
The maid stepped forward and cheerfully called, “Mistress.”
“Sakuya—” replied a child’s voice “did one of the maids start a fire again? I smell something burning.”
“That would be Lady Patchouli.”
Patchouli’s answer was cool as she approached the balcony, “I started some fire, but I didn’t burn anything.”
“What’s with that? Anyway, Patchy—” for some reason, Gen was now instinctively frowning “—Patchyyy, come here. I want to talk to you about the Shrine Maiden, and it’s been quite a while since you came out of the library again. Let’s talk!”
The Mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion sounded unquestionably charming; there was no other word more appropriate to describe it. Her voice was an attractive blend of youth and power, topped with a smooth and gentle inflection full of absolute love. When she spoke, you could tell she only had care in her heart, and there was a playful quality that beckoned you speak with her. Why Gen frowned was not due to distaste for her speech, but instead distaste for his reaction to it. He was compelled to know her, and he knew immediately that this was unnatural. He didn’t get the sense that there was magic layered atop it or anything, but he understood it to be a phenomenal and inhuman voice. The Mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion would have to be a devil, and that her words and how she spoke them bid attention and desire of those who would hear them brought up a kind of fear at the back of Gen’s mind that he never imagined he could conceive.
The maid of the devil drew back the curtains as Patchouli came to step through them. Gen could see from the side of her face that the magician looked on the Mistress fondly. In response, the Mistress wore a very glad expression, but it was somewhat difficult to see against the sky colored with falling sun. Furthermore it didn’t last long. The Mistress soon made a face at her friend.
“Patchy, did you forget to bathe again?”
“That never happens.”
“You spend so long in the library, don’t you?”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t bathe.”
The devil held her nose.
“Do you know a perfume or soap magic to use with your water? You should use one, right now.”
“Remi, my clothes are only singed.” With this, Patchouli took a seat across from her friend. “Settle down. Besides, one of the vampire’s weaknesses was the sun, wasn’t it? Not fire.”
“Didn’t you just say you didn’t burn anything?”
“I didn’t. He did.”
And they all three directed their attention to the human who had not moved from the top of the staircase.
“Hmm?” the Mistress cooed. “What are you doing over there? Come to me.”
Despite himself, Gen obeyed, beginning his approach. As he did so, the devil spoke again.
“You’re Patchouli’s guest?”
“‘Guest’, that’s... not what I’d call it.”
“That... yeah, I think that’s about right.”
She chuckled, and Gen’s heart beat. As he neared the balcony, he couldn’t suppress a question of his.
“Are you doing something with your voice?” he asked.
“No, I’m not.” Gen stepped outside and his eyes fell on the little woman as she continued. “I can, but I take pride in how charming I am without any help.”
Eyes adjusting to new light, Gen could now see that she didn’t simply sound like a child, she was one. She then introduced herself, allure falling from her every phrase.
“I should welcome you. This is the Scarlet Devil Mansion, and I am both its master and namesake: Remilia Scarlet. It seems you’ve arrived at an excellent time to Gensokyo. I’ve just changed this entire world, and not one day ago had it all under my thumb. A small push and I could’ve laid it utterly flat. What you suffered when you came here was me, and you should know that in this new age of the land of fantasy, none have passed into it as terrible as me. You should know my name and take pride in being one of the first here to remember it. And remember it well: Remilia Scarlet, the Scarlet Devil, and which vampire fate has been brought to heel.”
Skin that almost looked like it carried frost, eyes sharp and knowing, features demonstrating delicacy and sure stature, and small. She was small and unreal, a gorgeous non-human that at a glance might fool you into believing her “normal”, but only one good look could tell you she was altogether impossible. In opposition to her spellweaver friend, Remilia Scarlet was mostly “sharp” in her features. Her clothing (an expensive-looking pale rose dress and mob cap) was pillowy and comfortable in parts, but the slope of her physique, the fangs showing over her lips, the crafted nails, the black wings folded at her back, and the wild yet tamed and cropped hair were all pointed and curved like finely made glass. With red slit eyes shining beneath cold blue bangs, the Scarlet Devil offered Itou Gen a most pleasant look.
“Hi, nice... meeting you.” was the lad’s eloquent response. He coughed after saying it.
Remilia sat straight in her chair and folded her arms. She turned down her lips and brought down her brow. Gen just looked at her, and Patchouli decided to rescue him.
“He just used magic for the first time and used it against me. I think he’s been overwhelmed.”
“If he’s going to be boring,” said Remilia, turning to her friend, “I’m going to just enact my deal. I have the right. He’s not from Gensokyo, yeah?”
“I’d guess he’s from Chiba,” said Patchouli, once more drinking tea.
“Oh? He’s not from Korea?” asked the maid.
Her master was quick to reprimand.
“Sakuya,” she said, aghast, “that’s a terrible thing to say.”
“Because he’s Chinese?”
“I’ll admit his face made me think he was from Ecuador,” Patchouli offered.
The vampire was incredulous.
“That’s not even in Asia...” muttered Remilia.
“Is he from the Philippines, Lady Patchouli?”
“I’ll admit his face made me think he was from Lithuania,” offered Patchouli again.
“That’s completely different!”
Itou Gen gazed upon the vaguely bigoted comedy routine before him with very little thought in his head. His kidnapper was right: he had been overwhelmed. Just how much was there to absorb since he’d gotten here? No. Really. There were many places where questions were raised and needed answers. Just a random thought: who was that red and white clad person that saved him from what had been chasing him the night before, and why hadn’t they picked him up? Another! Wasn’t that thing chasing him a ghost? At so many places he needed to stop and think and was given no time to do so, and now he stood in front of proclaimed killers: inhuman creatures who were open about how dismissive they were of human lives, that were having a black giggle. Gen just really needed a pause.
“Um... Miss... Lady Devil, I think the most pressing issue on my mind is the question of how much freedom I have.”
Remilia broke her concentration from Patchouli, who had been suggesting Gen’s South African heritage, and looked at Gen with concern. He wasn’t sure if the concern was based on “these are the people I spend all day with” or concern for him, but he did appreciate it all the same. Remilia then said:
“You aren’t free.”
To which Gen answered:
Remilia then gave all her attention to Gen, while the other two talked about... British tea conglomerates?
“I’m sorry to say, Gen, that Gensokyo was never a safe place for people like you, and it especially isn’t now. In fact, it almost never will be: your fate is a dull dead end.”
“My fate, huh...”
“You would have two options,” Remilia raised two fingers, “in what will become the ordinary case at least: you could go to the human village and live a life of ignorance, or you could try to reach the Shrine Maiden and go home.”
“Hm...” Gen mumbled, blinked, and replied: “after your threats, I thought you wouldn’t be helpful at all.”
“I said ‘you would have’. Fortune doesn’t favor you, child of man. You are not free. You’ve got no options. You’re here and we decide what to do with you.”
“I—” Gen furrowed his brow as he spoke “—I can’t accept such a fate.”
“Can you think of an option that doesn’t exist?”
And Remilia Scarlet gave him a look that told him he should.
Leaving him to think on this, the devil turned to the magician and said: “Forget about that, I enjoyed myself with the Shrine Maiden.”
Patchouli gave Remilia her (negative) opinion of this Shrine Maiden, saying, “When I met her earlier she was terribly violent. Like a...”
“Boar?” the maid suggested.
“No... It slipped my mind, though, so let’s call her a boar.”
“Well she’s still a child,” said the Child Mistress of Scarlet Devil Mansion, “but she’s very cute, and those rules she came up with were excellent. I have to thank me for getting her to make them.”
And Gen (who had to this point been quite uncomfortable) witnessed something quite comforting. The two in front of him began feeling supremely... happy. It was almost like there was radiance coming from them. Patchouli looked at Remilia similar to how siblings years older looked on those years younger, her lips showing her serenity and peaceful ease with all honesty. And Remilia, Remilia had her eyes closed and chuckled to herself like she was being tickled, basking in the presence of her friend who she so rarely saw aboveground. Oddly enough, the sight washed many of Gen’s troubling thoughts away.
“Did you have fun?” Patchouli asked.
“Tons of fun,” Remilia replied, still giggling.
“You were so eager to start an incident we didn’t get to practice with spell cards very much before you spread the mist.”
“You want to try right now, don’t you? You do right?”
“Yes... I think I should become more familiar with the system, and the moon isrising.”
And simple as that, the two stood up and soared off the balcony into the almost-night sky, Remilia saying she’d talk more about “Reimu” as they fought, and Patchouli saying “Please do”.
So Gen was left with the maid of the Devil to watch as the two friends prepared for a fight.
“I should apologize.”
Gen looked at Sakuya, who had spoken suddenly, like he’d forgotten she was there. He might have.
“I meant to poke fun,” said the maid, “but Lady Patchouli informed me that your history is a bit troubled in Asia. I don’t tend to joke from ignorance.”
“Ah, well...” Gen folded his arms as he answered, “I honestly believe jokes like that only happen because there’s at least some truth to them...” He turned back to the pair, who seemed to be hashing out conditions. Shrugging, he admitted to the young lady: “If anything I appreciate the attempt to lighten the atmosphere.”
“It was mainly an attempt to bother you.”
“I still appreciate it.”
Now the two seemed to be arguing...
“... You’re Sakuya, right?” Gen continued.
“Yes. The Mistress named me Izayoi Sakuya.”
“Named you...” I guess that explains the jokes in spite of the name, but... Gen decided to file this train of thought away in his mental cabinet of questions and retrieved another one in its stead: “Are you human?” he inquired.
“What else would I be?” asked the beaming maid.
Since the battle had yet to start, Gen chose to instead look closely over this maid. She was nearing his height, slender, and... still: unnaturally well-balanced and unmoving. Was she breathing...? She had short white hair and wide, blue-grey eyes. She wasn’t abnormally pale or anything, but... Gen still thought she wasn’t human.
“A magician, like Miss Patchouli,” he finally answered.
“Well I’m not. I’m just a human like you. I’ve been offered the chance to become a magician among other things, but I have had to decline.”
Become, eh, thought Gen as he returned his gaze to the battle now about to begin. So many questions, too many questions.
“So,” called Patchouli in the short distance, “I’ll only be using metal and earth!”
“Handicap yourself however you wish, I won’t be playing!” came Remilia’s answer.
“I only mention this so you know I bested you with just two elements!”
“I’ll beat you with a single spell!”
“Now what’s a handicap?”
“Well you can only use one card at a time...”
They seemed to be radiating again. They called for the start of their duel both at once, and the fireworks began.
Patchouli immediately began with an invocation of earth she’d dubbed “Trilithon Shake”. Remilia allowed it, with no counterattack of her own. Upon casting it, clouds of dust emanated from a card she held in her hand, aimless but pervasive. Remilia moved through them like they weren’t even there, finding a path of avoidance with ease. With the dust came a regular materialization of crags, hurling through the air in seven directions around the magician. The sight reminded Gen, oddly enough, of screensavers and 3D shows. Several times he felt like ducking at the edge of the balcony to hide from the storm of terrain. Still he never looked away. His eyes were stuck on his captor, even as Remilia began firing back large bullets of blood-colored energy that would shatter into sharp pieces as they flew. It seemed to be a non-declared attack, or at least Gen hadn’t noticed a name. Soon, Patchouli’s magic had ended.
“Scarlet Sign: ‘Scarlet Shoot’.”
His gaze returned to Remilia for a display that seemed familiar. Like her undeclared powers earlier she fired immense bullets, but instead of one at a time she was firing a quintet each time. The sky grew the same scarlet he’d seen in his dream, and Patchouli skillfully avoided every wicked piece of red that came her way.
“Danmaku...” thought Gen aloud, to which Sakuya blissfully replied:
“Yes: a curtain of bullets.”
“Metal Sign: ‘Silver Dragon’.”
Patchouli declared another kind of sorcery and this time a web of brightness spread out from her... Or rather, it was something reflective? Presumably metal, and rather than a web the structure was very similar to a snowflake. The giant formation quickly broke, and like snowfall metal chips began blowing toward the vampire. Quickly, regularly, great flakes would shape and splinter, soon filling the sky with a glittering and razor blizzard. Remilia took some effort to dodge this, although Gen could hardly keep up with her speed.
Following this, Remilia used a spell of crimson lattices he recalled having seen over the moon, coupled with cruel loops of violet fog, and Patchouli responded with another call for earth. This time she formed tight concentric discs of dirt around herself, which after holding them close and having them shiver for a moment, she would send out in rotations reminiscent of expanding planetary rings. At this point, Gen realized that every spell required a paper card to use, but often Patchouli would be concentrating on a book as she cast one. He wondered how exactly her magic worked...
Patchouli and Remilia hardly seemed to grow tired, though they did grow more excited. Remilia cast many kinds of magic that Gen was sure he’d used the night before as guiding lights during his waking nightmare. He didn’t give the scores of rose-like bullets much of his focus. Patchouli’s sorcery, on the other hand, was definitely keeping Gen’s attention. Remilia’s attacks tended to follow a similar scheme of elegance, passion, and the color red. Miss Patchouli had great variety and power. Every spell of hers felt absolutely unique, and he was reminded that these were spells crafted under some manner of constraint. After all, he’d born witness to impossible incantations for fire from her not long ago which did not follow the rules. Just how much did she know of the arts?
“Earth and Metal Sign: ‘Emerald Megalith’!”
With her attacks, Patchouli had moved Remilia to a “corner” of the sky, forged from orbiting chunks of mud and steel. Remilia had almost dealt a finish to the magician several times before, but in this open sky her friend seemed to have a commanding sense of space. Her next call, for a combination of elements, summoned something strange to Gen’s eyes: seemingly alien ground. It was green and brilliant, at once rough and smoothed, and formed in gigantic spheres. Patchouli summoned this ground in clusters, almost randomly throughout the air, though every sphere aggressively pushed toward her opponent. Remilia managed to avoid the large debris, only to find that every boulder was breaking at its back, forming innumerable bits and chunks that amassed into dangerous emerald clouds. Backing away, the vampire eventually found herself encircled, and a globe of the mysterious earthen metal slammed into her front, driving her to land from the sky. After this, Patchouli bid her summoned stuff to continue pounding her friend into the gardens below, dust rising up like mist. She only stopped after about half a minute had passed.
Gen leaned over the balcony railing and gazed upon Remilia’s smoldering figure with eyes aglow. Patchouli then said: “I win. Now, I think you need a bath,” and he could easily hear the grin she must’ve been sporting from the sound of her voice.
The mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion looked considerably less fancy when she returned to the balcony. Her maid, Sakuya, almost seemed like she was glittering with joy while looking at her dirty, beaten master in torn clothes. Patchouli looked self-satisfied, and Remilia herself did not look pleased at all.
“I’ll prepare the bath,” said Sakuya, and then she disappeared.
Gen spoke up “... How does she do that?”
“Sakuya can control time and space, I can control fate,” said the vampire.
“Why didn’t you fate yourself to win back there?”
Remilia glared at the young man, who looked as if he had asked that question entirely in earnest (though he hadn’t, and was inwardly amused with himself).
Patchouli decided to clarify.
“People can say anything, but whether or not they’re speaking truthfully is another matter. That’s basic, Itou Gen.”
“So the Mistress is lying?”
“She’s not,” said Patchouli with a shake of her head, “but fate is not absolute; if Remi can manipulate it, that much is obvious.”
“You don’t say...”
Remilia re-entered the conversation with a flat, matter-of-fact tone, arms folded as she spoke.
“It’s ironic,” she said. “Fate is in fact quite whimsical. Some incredible things in this world are fated to happen, but the mundane – such as slipping on a banana peel – can be fated as well. The finer details are fascinating to discuss, all told, but generally you can think of things happening outside of your control as the will of gods.” She huffed, and turned her head to look at the rising moon before continuing. “Or you can think of it as plain rolling luck. Fortune and fate are not dissimilar.”
And soon all three were silently looking at the moon. Gen went over what Remilia had said in detail in his thoughts. She was clearly giving him a choice, talking of fate in one breath as if it was undefeatable, but in another as if it could be defied.
... Or rather, maybe it was his fate to die here, and soon, and the vampire wanted him to give her a reason that that shouldn’t come to pass. She’d be his benefactor to readjust his life’s course. It... seemed like something she’d do.
He looked at Patchouli.
And then, he addressed the devil.
“Remilia Scarlet, I have a request.”
Remilia didn’t turn from the moon as she answered.
“You’re requesting something of me with nothing to offer.”
She laughed and said, “Go on,” as if she was very amused.
“Change my fate. I wish to become an apprentice of the magician Patchouli Knowledge.”
“Okay...” Remilia looked back at him from over her shoulder, smirking delightfully and saying, “This Remilia Scarlet will grant your wish.”
Patchouli was grimacing at her pal. She continued.
“What do you even mean to do? Entwine my fate with his?”
“I don’t want an apprentice.”
“You’ll have one. You’ll want one.”
“Don’t... try looking cool while you’re covered in dirt! I don’t want an apprentice!”
“Remi, are you seriously...”
Remilia turned around fully and presented Gen with a grand, bright grin. She then declared in a glorious tone, her arms spread wide: “It’s a good thing you waited for our duel to be over! Had you made your request sooner and I lost, you would’ve died!”
“Right,” said the magician, biting her thumbnail, “because I’d never accept a lab rat as a student.”
Oh, thought Gen, I am on the same level as a lab rat to her.
“What’s the matter! You already have an assistant.”
“I have a familiar I sometimes summon for cleaning, yes, but a student...”
Patchouli looked at Gen like she was looking on a pile of garbage in somebody’s home. She shut her eyes before glaring at Remilia again, saying, “Why would I want a student!?”
“I’m not a seer, Patchy... Fate will work itself out.”
“I’m going to have Sakuya put garlic in your tea.”
“P-Patchy!” Remilia suddenly flared out her wings as if startled, balling up her fists and crying at the magician.
“Remove my fate from his!”
Remilia looked pleading, and spoke like a distraught daughter to her obstinate mother, “I can’t. I already brought you two together.”
“Pretty much immediately.”
“Well now,” chimed in Gen, “that’s a relief.”
Patchouli now looked as though she was genuinely trying to kill Gen with a gaze. The soon-to-be apprentice offered a pleasant expression in return. She pointed a finger at him, almost touching his nose.
“You—!” she said, “even if you’re my fated student, I’ll never accept you as a person. I will always treat you poorly. You will have no peace.”
Gen’s expression turned serious before he answered her.
“Miss Patchouli... if Mistress Remilia isn’t kidding and we’re fated to interact, I want you to know that my prior statement was mostly in jest. I didn’t make this bid simply for survival, and I think Mistress Remilia knew that,” Patchouli lowered her hand, still fuming, “I honestly want to be your apprentice, even if it’s only for a short time. I’ve been captured by your spells.”
“Captured...” she grumbled.
“I’m not sure about anything yet, but I can tell you’re an incredible person, Miss Patchouli. I feel like under you I’d be able to come to terms with Gensokyo, and figure out what I want to do, and...” Gen paused before looking directly into the magician’s eyes, “that power of yours was so astounding, I can’t help but want it.”
“A selfish apprentice...” she grumbled, yet her expression had softened.
“If this is a land of fantasy, I’d like to be able to bask in it.”
Patchouli closed her eyes for a moment before looking sideways at Remilia and answering Gen.
“There are men and women who have said the same thing and have died...” she turned her eyes on him, “even if you become my apprentice, there’s no guarantee of your survival. Whether you live or die out there is your responsibility.”
“If I had your magic in my grasp, I imagine I’d feel rather unstoppable.”
“You’re a flatterer,” she closed her eyes again, “but don’t expect to just take my magic. You’ll need to have your own signature.”
“... Gen,” spoke Patchouli, grabbing the young man’s attention firmly, “you’re a weak and cowardly man. I don’t want an apprentice, but I especially don’t want you.”
“I guess I’ll have to change into someone more admirable.”
“... You will.”
Patchouli walked past him and back into the mansion, stopping a few steps in and barely turning her head to address him.
“I have a request of my own, Gen, and that is you change how you call me.”
At this point Sakuya reappeared between the two of them, looking incredulous. Patchouli continued, unfazed.
“How do you address a teacher, Gen?”
Gen was resolute in his answer.
“With unending respect, Master Patchouli.”
She showed him a small, half smile and finished their conversation with:
She made for the stairs, Gen following shortly after.
And Remilia was very happy; elation came from her like an aura, and her wings were fluttering unconsciously. She simply could not stop smiling. Sakuya asked her what had happened, and she proudly declared that it wasn’t often she had the chance to twist fate.
The fate that had set Gen on the path of apprenticeship was not fast-acting and not manipulative. While Patchouli had been satisfied with Gen’s plea, and Gen had accepted her as his master, the greater magician had not accepted the boy as her student. Not yet. They were indeed fated to become master and apprentice, but it would be up to Gen how long it would take to get to that position, and there was no guarantee that in the end his new Master wouldn’t utterly despise him.
So far, he was doing well. He sorted books and sometimes read them when Patchouli wasn’t looking. He had a room, too, and was given baths and meals (though these meals were somewhat lacking... he didn’t like wondering why). When he had been there two days, Patchouli asked him:
“Don’t you want to go home?”
To which he answered, “I’m not really sure, and besides... my fate has yet to pass, no?”
Patchouli turned away at this point and left him to his tasks with the words: “Your fate will pass in fifty years.”
He laughed, having started to become used to his Master’s biting comments. But, truly, he didn’t want to entertain the thought of a return when he still felt so insecure.
Today was his third day at the Scarlet Devil Mansion and he was sorting books again. There wasn’t much more he could do without truly being Patchouli’s student. Sorting was only a simple task in theory, though. Many of these books were in languages he didn’t know (or languages he theorized nobody knew) and some had no titles, like the book his Master had given him on his first day. As he slipped a Spanish book of sorcery onto the shelf, he suddenly went stiff. Something smelled different in the library, which was very strange. The library smelled like the oldest books within it. This scent, however, was that of wild grass.
Turning about an aisle, Gen discovered the source.
“... Who are you? A friend of the librarian?” he asked.
The little girl on the floor with a grimoire in her hands answered without looking at him: “I’m a customer.”
Gen stepped toward her while frowning and said, “This is a private library, not a public one.”
“Well, the door was open!”
“The door was... Who are you?”
The child flashed Gen a smile and declared, “I’m Kirisame Marisa, an ordinary magician.”
“You’re a magician? Like Master?”
Marisa looked at him quizzically and asked, “What, do you mean the librarian?”
Gen looked over the child. She was very short, perhaps ten or twelve years old but even then still pitifully short. She dressed like a Western witch: pointed hat, black dress, and white frills. She was also blond like a foreigner, though her eyes were gold rather than the blue he might expect. With that name, though, perhaps she was Japanese... Then again, Sakuya...
“Are you gonna answer me or just look at me?” said the girl. Her tone was surprisingly brutish.
“Yeah, I meant the librarian. Actually, wait, your name’s Marisa?”
“My name’s Hakurei Reimu.”
Gen scoffed at this. “Oi, brat, that’s the name of the Shrine Maiden.”
“I’m a human Shrine Maiden.”
“Can a Shrine Maiden be anything else?”
“I dunno. A youkai Shrine Maiden?”
“Quit it. You said your name was Marisa. A self-proclaimed magician.”
“I’m proclaiming it because I am it. I’m the magician of love and stars!”
“Master Patchouli told me about you. You’ve been showing up when I haven’t been looking—aren’t you the one who’s been stealing books?”
“It’s a library. I’m borrowing them.”
“Like I said, it’s not that kind of library.”
“I’m borrowing them until I’m on my deathbed.”
“You’re really cheeky, huh...”
Gen wasn’t exactly sure what to do here but he felt his already low standing would plummet in Patchouli’s eyes if he let this ragamuffin go free. Really, she may have dressed fancily but this girl looked quite... “uncouth” was perhaps the right word; that aspect alone probably bothered his master. If she was indeed stealing books, then all the more reason to want her caught. Still, he couldn’t help being apprehensive... There was a hint in his mind about Kirisame Marisa from Patchouli’s words that he couldn’t quite grasp, but it was making him hesitate when considering taking her in.
While still thinking, the child rudely asked: “Who the heck are you anyway?”
“Never mind that, I’m calling my Master.”
“Hmm, I dunno, I mind it. You got a name?”
“I do have a name.”
“It’s a useless name, huh.”
Gen shut his eyes as Marisa continued.
“Man, I’ve got you all figured out! You’re Remilia’s next meal!”
Opening his eyes, but not looking at Marisa, he wondered where his master was right now.
“Ya scared?” she asked. “I’m the second best youkai exterminator in Gensokyo. I could take care of that vampire for you!”
Gen’s reply came immediately: “Please don’t bother the Mistress.”
“‘The MISTRESS’!?” shouted Marisa, dropping her book. “Ya got dominated!”
“After I met her, I started devising a magic to counteract her mind stuff. Want me to try it on you?” Marisa was excited.
“You... You’re really all over the place,” muttered Gen, finally looking at her again. She looked like she was ready to pounce on him, and she had a strange blue bottle in her hand (he’d noticed, she’d taken it from her hat).
He stared at her in silence for a few moments. Marisa began to uncork the bottle.
“... Master Patchouli!” shouted Gen.
“No, no—drink this first!” Marisa cried, now standing and pushing the mouth of her mysterious bottle toward Gen’s face.
Gen was holding up his hands as he answered.
“I don’t want to drink that!”
“It’s only a little bit poisonous!”
“Are even the humans in Gensokyo crazy!?”
“What’s crazy is you’re takin’ orders from a vampire. Only Sakuya does that.”
“What’s that about Sakuya?” came a third voice.
They both looked over in the voice’s direction to find a very irritated Patchouli Knowledge.
Marisa simply uttered:
She plugged her bottle, returned it to her hat, and reached down to pick up the book she was reading.
“That’s far enough!” shouted Patchouli, with her hand out in a “stop!” gesture.
“Whaaat...” said Marisa, sounding annoyed.
“Don’t take that tone with me.”
Marisa put her hands behind her head and quipped: “I’m not taking a tone, I’m taking a book.”
“You...” Gen’s master was very displeased. She looked at him and asked, “Gen, why didn’t you duel her?”
“Master...” said Gen, incredulous.
He had realized and remembered somewhere between Patchouli’s arrival and now that Marisa was indeed a magician, and a rather strong one. Child or no, he recalled hearing that she had barreled through the mansion on the night of his arrival and taken down all those in her way up until the Mistress, who stopped her. The one who ultimately defeated the Mistress was that “Hakurei Reimu” Marisa had earlier claimed to be.
But not being able to defeat Lady Remilia wasn’t cause to be relieved; she had defeated Master Patchouli, who had herself defeated Lady Remilia. If anything, this meant that all three were on equal footing. He certainly was not.
“Oh? A duel? You can use magic, guy?” asked Marisa, still very casual.
“If you mean a spell card duel, Master, I don’t actually have any spell cards.”
“You can fight her without the rules,” said Patchouli.
Marisa made an oddly adorable noise of realization before saying, “An outsider, are ya?”
“So seems to be the case. I don’t really like my odds without rules, though.”
“You defeated me, didn’t you?” Patchouli replied, now wearing an un-warm smile.
“A fight without following Reimu’s rules...!” squealed Marisa. She reached into her hat again and retrieved a strange, octagonal device. After admiring it for a second, she thrust it right before Gen’s eyes, causing him to reflexively recoil. “I can show you the true master spark!” she crowed gleefully.
“I know I don’t have any rights, but I’ll have to refuse.” Gen didn’t know what a “master spark” was, but he didn’t feel like learning by being on the receiving end of one. He looked at his master with a miserable expression. She absolutely wanted this. She was trying to egg Marisa on to get her to kick his ass. She knew Marisa wouldn’t kill him, but the tiny magician would hurt him.
Gen put his hand on his forehead and spoke again.
“If Miss Marisa defeated Master here in the library, I don’t stand a chance against her.”
“Too bad, huh,” mumbled Marisa, not actually sounding terribly disappointed.
“Alright, enough joking...” said Patchouli as she walked ahead and toward Marisa. “Get out of my library and don’t take any books.”
“Damned hoarder!” Marisa moaned, not looking Patchouli in the eyes.
“My collection is my collection. Why don’t you ask to read, anyway? You’re simply a thief.”
“That’s rude,” said Marisa, sounding genuinely hurt.
“Listen—” However, Patchouli’s reprimanding was interrupted by the sound of an explosion. The greater magician looked immediately concerned, openly questioning the sound.
Oddly, Gen was mostly unfazed and just asked, “Isn’t it the Mistress fighting Sakuya?”
“Remi and Sakuya are away at the shrine, which means...”
“The mansion’s exploding on its own!” finished Marisa, who now looked very intense.
“No, you dullard,” fired Patchouli with a glum expression. “The little sister’s probably escaped—”
There was another explosion. Patchouli shot Gen a fierce look and spoke in a commanding tone: “Gen,” she said, “follow my directions to the letter. Don’t screw this up. I’m not even threatening you with punishment; just know that I’m counting on you.”
This being the first time he’d seen Patchouli so serious, Gen nodded and assured her that he wouldn’t fail.
“Good,” she replied, “take this talisman and use it to fly to the library’s four corners. Activate the tomes there with the incantation for defense I taught you, and wait.”
Gen received a strange talisman – or rather Patchouli slapped a talisman to his chest – that immediately made him feel light on his feet. Before he could clarify any of this, Patchouli continued speaking.
“Marisa,” she said to Marisa, who was opening a large sack and dumping books into it, “get out of my library.”
With this, Patchouli flew off toward the room’s center, loudly declaring this day to be “the worst ever”.
Gen was thusly left with the thief.
“Hohoh...” the thief laughed, “it’s an incident.”
Grabbing her hat at its brim she looked at Gen with confidence and asked him: “You. Can you fly?”
“Maybe now I can?” As he said this, Gen attempted to float in the air and nearly spun into a face-plant.
“Patchouli must be really freakin’ out if she didn’t even tell you how to fly and left you with somethin’ so important.” Marisa reached into one of the bookshelves while she talked, soon pulling out a bamboo broom. “Grab on,” she said, “I’ll take you to those four corners in a flash!”
“R-Really?” asked Gen. He felt rather pathetic about possibly relying on a little girl in his Master’s time of need.
“Hurry up and grab on! I’ve got a bad feeling about this!”
“Okay—!” Gen listened to Marisa and held the end of the broom near the bristles. The young magician sat on it after this, and suddenly she and Gen were flying through the air at a frightening speed.
Gen couldn’t even yell; it was really too sudden.
Marisa made her way toward one of the library’s corners as Gen held on for dear life, now with both hands, occasionally nearly slamming into a bookshelf or the floor. The standing air of the library screamed past, and dust got into his hair and eyes. Eventually, Marisa reared back into a halt upon which Gen was hurled off of the broom and into a wall beside one of the library’s defense-tomes.
“Get up, man! Didn’t you hear what Patchouli said!? What’re ya doing!?”
Gen was being upside down against a wall and in pain. As quickly as he could, with wobbling limbs, the young man righted himself, opened the nearby tome (resting within an pedestal-pillar) to its center, and muttered the words Patchouli had taught him that would make the book a corner of a barrier. She’d taught him this method the same way one taught fire escape methods: she still didn’t trust the lad.
I'm a moron who screwed up posting twice. Anyway...
Four tomes, four stops, and four very hard walls; Gen may now have been internally bleeding, but he had accomplished Patchouli’s tasks. Marisa stood close by and looked toward the library’s exit as he shook in place on his knees.
“Hey, what’d she mean by ‘little sister’ anyway?” asked Marisa.
“Don’t know,” Gen somehow managed to say.
“Aaagh,” the little magician groaned, “this is really botherin’ me. And the fairies are going nuts! What sorta barrier did Patchouli set up anyway?”
“Looked like... one for... rain...”
“Rain...? Huh... In that case...” The little girl became lost in thought.
Fairies... thought Gen. Yes; the mansion employed alleged fairies as staff, though the winged-humanoids hardly actually did anything. While he had been flying around with Marisa, however, he’d noticed the maids darting around near the ceiling and shooting magic out in random directions. Gen now looked toward the center of the library, where a purple glow had been steadily growing in intensity as he’d activated the tomes. Patchouli had been invoking the spirits of water to start an endless rain surrounding the Scarlet Devil Mansion; his actions had basically ensured nothing could pass without getting soaked. While he, too, began to wonder why, he heard a distant voice complaining about getting wet.
“Ah, that’s Reimu,” said Marisa.
The Shrine Maiden, thought Gen. He’d heard a fair amount about her in these three days, but hadn’t actually met her. The Mistress liked to visit her, but apparently if Remilia Scarlet extended any invitations to Hakurei Reimu the maiden never took them. According to Patchouli, Reimu was a law-enforcer, so that meant something rather bad was happening in the mansion.
“Hey, Remilia’s dinner.”
“Yeah?” Gen had no strength to play the straight man.
“Wanna see me settle this incident before Reimu even gets the chance?”
“What’re you saying?”
“It’s another vampire—” Marisa took from her hat the same octagon she’d aimed at him before, “—that’s the only explanation. If you want, I can show you how to exterminate one.”
“With a hammer and a stake, I know that much.”
“Not that kinda exterminate. C’mon, we’ll walk; I don’t want Reimu or Patchouli to notice us.”
Gen walked like an old man behind Marisa, who crept toward the library’s exit while keeping an eye on the new battle now intensifying at the library’s core.
The Scarlet Devil Mansion was one mansion that had two Scarlets and two Devils. Right now, Gen was watching Marisa fight the Scarlet Devil he hadn’t known about.
“Whoa!” came the shout from Marisa that was, at this point in the duel, becoming a catchphrase.
Gen was hiding behind a little cupboard, wearing a stern expression as he bore witness to the young thief’s several near-death experiences at the hands of Remilia’s younger, flaxen-haired, strangely-winged and very scarlet sister, Flandre.
“Kyahahahaha!! What a hilarious human!”
Master was right to panic; the little sister is terrifying.
Gen blinked and flinched as a candlestick beside him suddenly burst out of existence.
How does she do that?
The little sister’s danmaku alone was like an unruly reflection of the older sister’s, which was enough to make one feel overwhelmed, however she seemed to have some sort of simple command of “destruction” as well, since she would randomly cause things in the vicinity to violently explode.
... He felt staying here was probably very stupid.
“You’re not like your sister, huh!?” yelled Marisa, finding a brief respite between spell cards. “This is some sorta play!”
“I’m really happy you’re still alive but it’s starting to annoy me!” cried Flandre, laughing hatefully.
“I’ll annoy the hell out of you! Magic Sign: ‘Stardust Reverie’!”
“What’s this, what’s this?” whispered Gen.
To this point, Marisa had not actually used any spells, let alone the “master spark” she’d threatened earlier. Having only been exposed to one magician’s magic, he was curious what “love” and “stars” looked like when used as a weapon.
From Marisa’s strange artifact erupted a truly absurd number of rainbow-colored stars, swirling around the girl like a vortex. This magic had a definite pattern, awfully elaborate and beautiful, and at a glance he saw no simple openings. Apparently Flandre did not either.
“What is this!?” yelled the little vampire, clearly very angry with her opponent. It didn’t take long before she was overwhelmed and swarmed with stars.
“Dang, that was really easy,” exclaimed Marisa, honestly surprised.
Flandre fell to the ground, smoking, in front of Gen’s little cupboard. They were in the mansion lobby, and all the fairies had fled when the two’s battle had started.
“How’s that!? I’m better than Reimu!” Marisa boasted.
“I don’t even know Miss Reimu,” Gen replied, still looking at Flandre.
“Well, speak of the devil,” said Marisa with a laugh.
From the direction of the library came another little girl, this one dressed in red and white and looking a bit worse for wear. She gave off some sort of impression of a shrine maiden, at least, but it wasn’t quite right. Her sleeves weren’t attached to her shirt, and rather than a hakama she wore a long dress. She also kept her hair tied with a large bow and two cloth tubes to frame her face. Dark brown hair, earth-colored eyes; this was Hakurei Reimu.
“The devil’s there on the floor, isn’t she?” said Hakurei Reimu, adding: “Wait, are there two devils? Can you call them both that?”
She was asking the person behind her, Gen’s Master.
“Remi is the ‘Scarlet Devil’,” answered Patchouli. “Her little sister, Flandre, is just a vampire.”
The greater magician stepped over to Flandre’s body while Marisa descended and Reimu followed. Gen remained hidden, which his Master noticed.
“She’s not going to bite,” Patchouli told him with a grin.
“I honestly don’t believe that,” Gen answered.
“Thank you for activating the tomes. Judging by the state of destruction in the mansion, the little sister tried to leave but the rain stopped her. It really would’ve been a mess for us had she gotten out...”
“It’d have been a mess for all of Gensokyo! What Is Remilia thinking?” the Shrine Maiden complained, sounding rather aggravated.
“What do you mean by that?” asked Patchouli.
“I mean, keeping her sister in a basement for five hundred years – you’re asking for trouble with a situation like that! Hasn’t she read any books?”
“An ancient evil awakens after five hundred years to threaten the land?” Marisa offered.
“It’s only been four hundred ninety five years, and the little sister isn’t evil,” Patchouli said, kneeling down and brushing the now-unconscious girl’s cheek, “she’s simply troubled.”
“She’s troublesome,” said Reimu.
“I think she wants a playmate,” Marisa added.
“I’ll come here if it keeps her out of my hair. Jeez!”
So that’s the Shrine Maiden everyone’s been talking about... Wait a second!
Gen remembered something. He could ask her to go home, couldn’t he?
... But, looking at Patchouli, he decided not to. He waited as Reimu, Marisa, and his master finished their conversation, his master putting a spell on Flandre and lifting her with magic in order to return her to her room.
Later that day, into the night, Gen had returned to the study and was taking a break from sorting (and now cleanup) to have some tea and do some research. He sat at one of Patchouli’s crescent tables with his leg bent and rested over his knee, and his general posture was as always sloppy.
Patchouli returned to the library as he was turning a page in the book he was reading. She addressed him at a distance, approaching as though she were very tired.
“Thank you again for today, Gen.”
“Don’t mention it, Master. I didn’t do much of anything other than almost get myself killed.”
“That’s right, wouldn’t want you betraying your fate like that would we?”
Patchouli was smiling honestly as she sat across from Gen and bid a book to come to her from a nearby shelf. She opened it and began to read, saying:
“After all, you still aren’t my student.”
“Well, I get to learn while being this... kind-of-assistant of yours.”
“Yes, you read books when you think I’m not looking.”
Patchouli chuckled, and Gen winced.
“You knew about that?” he asked.
“I know everything about my library.”
“Then I wonder how I managed to trick you and win in a duel on my first day here.”
“You really do have a smart mouth, Gen. I’m wondering if I should fix it.”
“Leave it. This sort of conversation between us is pretty nice, no?”
Patchouli didn’t answer him, and instead they read quietly for the next few minutes. Between them there was such a calm that one would never imagine such chaos had transpired mere hours before. A distant clock ticked and tocked, cups lightly touched tiny dishes, and pages softly turned. When the few minutes were up, Patchouli spoke again.
“You’re not an idiot, Gen.”
“So why didn’t you ask Reimu to take you home?”
“Hmm...” was all Gen uttered.
“Surely you remember that one of the Hakurei Shrine Maiden’s duties is returning outsiders to their homes after they’ve been spirited away.”
Gen turned another page in the book he was reading, put his thumb to a page, and closed it before looking across the table at his Master.
“I thought about it.”
“You really aren’t an idiot.”
“Please don’t say it again, now I’m not even sure of myself...” After complaining, Gen sighed and said “ Anyway, I thought about it, but decided I’d be missing a big chance if I just went home.”
“Missing, you say?”
“What I can possibly do here, I can’t do anywhere else.”
Gen paused and removed the talisman Patchouli had attached to him earlier in the day that, to this point, he’d forgotten about. He looked at it, recognizing a few familiar runes, and handed it to his master who wordlessly received it.
“Flight, spells, sorcery, magic, all of it is impossible in the outside world. Today was a bit like a whirlwind, but I understood some things from watching Miss Marisa and Mistress Flandre.”
“You mean their fight?” Patchouli asked.
“No, them. Miss Marisa was a free spirit, but she was definitely human. She was a human free spirit in this Gensokyo, and I realized I was a bit envious.”
Patchouli drank some of her tea and nodded for Gen to go on.
“Mistress Flandre was powerful, yet not free. I realized that Scarlet Devil Mansion residents rather limit themselves, don’t they?”
“How do you mean?”
“Master, you hardly leave the library. When Mistress Remilia leaves, she has a specific destination in mind, and her weaknesses don’t allow her to be very daring in her exploration. As for Sakuya... she’ll only leave if the Mistress asks her to.”
Patchouli was nodding throughout all this. When he finished, she added:
“Our guard is also only ever our guard.”
“Who?” asked Gen with an eyebrow raised.
“Hong Meiling. She was the one who grabbed you the night you came here and collapsed outside the mansion gates.”
“Well then, more evidence...” Gen drank from his own cup after he said this. Thankfully Sakuya hadn’t done anything funny with the tea since he’d gotten here. He continued: “If I do end up a resident of this mansion, I don’t want to be stuck here as well.”
“I respect you, Master, but I’ve always been a man gripped by wanderlust. I’ve been long compelled to walk strange paths and into the unknown. Always, I’ve been bound like this. Now, to be honest, I can’t help but want to explore this land of fantasy.”
“This land of fantasy is detailed entirely within these books,” said Patchouli, gesturing to her pride.
“When I first woke up in the mansion, one of the first things you told me was that you can learn nothing if you do nothing, Master.”
“Not advice that I always follow myself...” mused Patchouli, “but that’s fair.”
“But, yes, to make a long story short: I don’t want to just abandon opportunities like that.”
Patchouli put down her own book and sighed.
“Really, a selfish apprentice.”
“Aren’t I not your apprentice?”
“When did I say that?” Patchouli asked as the corners of her mouth rose. “Only I could be Master to an Apprentice such as this. It’s rather appropriate.”
“Wait... are you joking again?”
“I never make jokes.”
“You... You make many jokes, Master.”
“I’m always serious, and right now I think you should get up and return to helping Sakuya clean up the mansion. Remi’s still mad.”
“Uh, right...” Gen did as he was told, taking a napkin from the table to bookmark where he’d been in the book he was reading. He then told his master, “Well then, excuse me.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow at eight in the morning, Gen. Goodnight for now.”
“Have a good night, Master.”
The apprentice left his master in confused, yet good spirits. As for his master, she returned to her book at once, but was entirely unable to return to a neutral expression.
Recent discovery: it was impossible to tell when morning came in the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Or, rather, in most rooms it was impossible. Gen hadn’t been there long and so of course he was not used to this, but he did have an alarm that made it easy to forget this issue.
So came the morning after the little sister’s rampage, and his alarm sounded.
It was a voice delivering happiness in the greatest way it could, and it came from a little transparent-winged child in maid’s clothing. This was one of the fairies of “morning” who worked in the mansion.
“It! Is! Morning! Sir Gen, wake up! Morning has come!”
Gen was awake, but not opening his eyes. For many reasons, his body was very sore today.
“The sunrise in your room!”
There was a noise like a pillow hitting into a bed and then the room was filled with light. Gen winced, and then squinted to see that the maid causing a ruckus in his bedroom was now lifting her hands in the air and materializing a miniature sun above her head.
“Morning~ is the prettiest time of day~!” she sang. Gen continued to squint as she improvised a song on the spot.
“When morning comes~ the wet grass of the moon~ will dry in the sun~! Warm and happy morning~!”
...He wondered how long she would sing.
“I love~ the sun~! La la laa! I love~ Lady Sakuya~ and Lady Patchouli~!”
“Miss Meiling~ is cool~! Mistress Remilia~ is short~!”
“Alright, I’m awake.”
Immediately, the little maid put out her sun and fluttered to Gen’s bedside as he rose.
“Good morning, Sir Gen,” said the maid. “The clothes Lady Patchouli asked to be made for you are in your closet.”
Gen looked her over with vision somewhat blurred. There were a great variety of maids in Scarlet Devil Mansion. This one was a little like Flandre in coloration; having yellow hair and scarlet eyes. Like all the maids in the mansion, her hair was carefully combed and her overall appearance was very together. According to Master, most fairies were not like this and only even wore clothes in mimicry of humans, so Sakuya had to take care of them every morning. Speaking of Patchouli though...
“Master had clothes made for me?”
“Lady Patchouli loooves you!”
As the little maid said this, she opened her arms wide and looked like she was about to take off and fly around the room in glee. Gen kept her in place with a hand on her shoulder.
“Let’s not go that far,” he uttered. “By the way, Little Maid; does another maid wake up the Mistress like this?”
He was genuinely curious; if a maid caused a sunrise in the Mistress’s room every morning that had to be...unfortunate.
The maid balled up her fist and huffed with pride as she answered.
“Lady Sakuya always wakes up Mistress Remilia every morning ‘cause they’re in love!”
Gen removed his hand from her shoulder and started getting up.
“You sure are smitten with ‘love’. I believe that’s only devotion.”
“They’re in love, idiot!”
Well to be honest, he sensed Miss Sakuya loved her Master, just not necessarily in that way.
Now standing, Gen did some light stretching and addressed the maid again.
“You can go now. Don’t trip and break anything.”
“Boom!” shouted the fairy maid, and she shot a burst of warm magic air into Gen’s face, tossing his hair around and making him look like a vagrant. She then stifled a giggle for a moment before holding her gut and pointing at him while laughing merrily, tears almost coming out of her eyes. Still laughing like this, she flew out of the room, backwards, and tripped as she turned the corner. Her laughter could be heard fading with distance. This happened every morning.
Gen sighed with a smile and looked at the grandfather clock on his wall as he smoothed out his hair. It was still 7AM, and he had an hour until breakfast with Patchouli. He wondered what he’d do after changing and brushing his teeth...
 Perhaps he’d find the mansion’s sole guard.
 Maybe observe the maids of Scarlet Devil Mansion in their morning preparation.
Faraway songs drifted from the mansion, none of tradition. Because of the younger Mistress’s havoc from the day before, the maids were still excitable and in tremendously good spirits. That was good for them, but not Sakuya.
At the gate to Scarlet Devil Mansion, one woman of considerable height listened to these nonsensical songs with a pleased look. The sun’s rays bathed her in caring light and a quiet zephyr gently moved her lengthy orange-red hair and braids. She was happy, now, and it was easy to forget how she’d been scolded the previous night for not catching a thief. So happy was she, she lifted a gloved hand and cast forth a rainbow of qi to enter the sky. Leaning into the warm bricks of the mansion’s walls, she watched as her energy playfully spun and twirled in the air. In the nearby forests, fairies stared transfixed at the ribbon of lights, and the woman gave them a grin and a quick salute. As if taking this as an invitation, they joined the arc in the sky and danced alongside it.
“I wonder if we need any more maids...” spoke the woman, folding her arms.
“Certainly,” came a male voice, “I may not have been here long but I daresay you can never have enough fairy maids.”
The woman looked up to spot a young man in somewhat overlong clothing sitting atop the wall beside the gate. He was wearing a dark yellow and embroidered buttoned vest over a collared shirt on his torso; on his legs he wore trimmed brown trousers, along with rich-looking work shoes decorated with small crescent moons, one each. Over all this he wore something that looked at once like a coat and a robe, but in any case certainly seemed comfortable and fancy (it was cuffed, and those cuffs were tied with blue bows). It was colored like the night sky, and seemed to shift in shade on its own. Around his shoulders was an extensive white scarf that draped down to his legs and was left unwrapped. Short velvet ribbons of many colors were tied onto its outer side, and the entire thing easily moved with the wind. The woman wasn’t sure who this was until she got a look at his face. Those innocent, large eyebrows of his and that healthy mid-length, messy dark hair were immediately recognizable. This was the man she’d brought in several nights ago.
She answered him, shouting “You like little girls, Sir Gen!?”
Unperturbed, he answered, “I merely meant to imply that these maids are quite useless. If every one is a small fraction of Miss Sakuya’s competence then more can only do good.”
“I just think they’re cute,” she said with a smile.
Gen looked at the wild fairies still playing with the girl’s rainbow. They were certainly cute. While watching, he asked the woman a question:
“By the way: you’re Scarlet Devil Mansion’s guard?”
“Yeah!” the guard replied with enthusiasm, “I’m Hong Meiling, the Gatekeeper of the Devil!” After saying this she closed her eyes and then her hand, beating it to her chest with open pride.
Gen looked down at her again and allowed himself a smile as well while he spoke, “Then I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to meet you. It sounds like you already know my name; I wanted to thank you for rescuing me when I got here.” Gen nodded toward her and lastly said, “So, thank you very much.”
“‘Rescuing’?” Meiling asked, cupping her chin and turning her head slightly crooked.
“Master Patchouli told me you picked me up when I was spirited away.”
“Ohhh!” The gatekeeper dropped her fist into her palm. “You know how a cat brings mice to its master’s doorstep? It was like that.”
“...” Gen looked at Meiling in silence, his smile replaced.
“So,” said Meiling, now with her hands on her hips, “when are we eating you?”
“Huh?” Meiling replied with a fluttering voice, honestly perplexed.
Gen kept his eyes closed for a few seconds to collect his thoughts and composure. Then, slowly, carefully, he let himself down from the wall on Meiling’s side. After dusting himself off from the resulting clumsy fall, he addressed her again with a gesture.
“I don’t think I’m on the menu anymore. I’ve become Master Patchouli’s apprentice.”
“What a waste!” Meiling cried, recoiling with her arms held aloft. Her disbelief unabashedly showed on her face.
“Yeah, I seriously hate to disappoint you.”
“Well, you’re scrawny so it wouldn’t have done much, but I was still looking forward to it...” The mansion guard heaved a great sigh and put her hands on her hips again. With a frustrated expression she looked at her feet and spoke to Gen, “Didn’t you know? Because of what Mistress Remilia did we can’t eat village humans anymore, and outsiders are already rare as it is according to Lady Patchouli.”
Gen put his hands in the front of his coat-robe’s pockets and cocked his head as he asked the guard a question.
“So you really do eat people at Scarlet Devil Mansion?”
“We’ll eat humans, yes,” said Meiling with a frown, looking at Gen now. “Or, well, I will and the Mistresses will.”
“Lady Patchouli? No, she just eats too much cake.”
Gen thought his Master wouldn’t want to hear Meiling say that.
“Actually,” Meiling continued, lifting a hand perpendicular to her mouth as if telling a secret, “Mistress Remilia only drinks blood, and I think Mistress Flandre does too. She wouldn’t let you know it, but Mistress Remilia is a very kind Mistress.”
Meiling seemed prideful again. Gen was really coming to realize how loved the Mistress was. In his case, too, he had a lot of fondness and appreciation for her. He supposed she’d fully earned her place as the mansion’s master.
“So, Miss Meiling, I have to ask,” spoke Gen, returning to the subject, “why do you eat humans?”
“They’re delicious,” she said flatly, standing up straight.
“If you’re a magician like Master Patchouli... why do you eat them and she doesn’t?”
“Ehh? I’m no magician!” said the not-magician, shaking her head and frowning.
“What are you?”
“A youkai! We scare humans, attack humans, and eat humans – that’s how it’s supposed to be!”
“Huh... I thought I saw you using magic earlier though.”
“That wasn’t magic, it was qi! A lot of youkai use magic, but I don’t.”
Qi? Isn’t that from manga? thought Gen, who didn’t know very much about martial arts.
“You could probably do with learning how to control your qi, Sir Gen,” continued Meiling, entering a stance. “You said you’re Lady Patchouli’s apprentice, right?”
“Yes, I said that.”
“So you’re not actually a magician yet. I guess you’re not immortal, right? You’re a typical human outsider with a nice title.”
“Uh?” Gen made a confused sound and a matching face. She’d lost him.
“Whoa, you don’t even know that yet!?” said Meiling loudly, now entering some sort of “resting” stance. She talked with Gen in a concerned tone, “You’re an outsider, Sir Gen. Even if we won’t eat you here at the mansion, if you ever go outside someone else will take the chance.”
“Are you serious?” Gen asked.
Meiling nodded with her answer, “Oh yeah. It’s not a big deal walking around if you’re a villager, but since you’re an outsider the new rules don’t apply to you. You need to become inhuman.”
“Wait, what...” Gen said in a weak voice. He put his hand into his hair and stared at Scarlet Devil Mansion. “You mean I have to eat humans?”
“You could, but no. I think you’re better off asking Lady Patchouli about it, but she’s a natural-born Magician so I don’t know if she knows all the details—” Meiling was now stretching, clearing nitrogen from her neck, and cracking her knuckles, “—in any case, you can’t expect to live long when you’re that weak. If we’re really not eating you anymore, you should come to me on breaks; I’ll take care of you and teach you what I know.”
Gen returned his attention to Meiling and answered, “What use would qi training have for a studying magician?”
“Qi comes from your core,” Meiling encircled her stomach with her hands as she said this, looking down at it, “magic comes from your spirit and surroundings, your materials, and a bunch of other stuff, but it’s limited. The strength of your qi is your strength, and it’s naturally boundless.”
“I think that makes no sense,” Gen commented.
“Maybe, but in Gensokyo nonsense makes sense,” spoke Meiling, now smiling at him, “but regardless, even strength and endurance training would do you a lot of good. I think you’re gonna have to run for dear life a lot until you get competent with your magic.”
“Good point,” Gen agreed.
“Man, but it’s really too bad we’re not eating you,” lamented Meiling, still smiling.
“Yeah, it’s really too bad,” said Gen, mock lamenting and mirroring Meiling’s “it’s a pity” smile.
Meiling put one hand on her hip and extended the other toward Gen.
“But, Sir Gen,” she said, “I think you’re pretty strong already. It doesn’t look like you’re scared of me and you’ve managed a few days in Gensokyo already. I’m pretty impressed, and I’m looking forward to your practical strength matching the strength of your will. Shake?”
Gen accepted her handshake.
“Thanks,” he said, firmly shaking her hand once, “though I think I might just be going crazy.”
Meiling roared with laughter at this and, ending their handshake, struck Gen on his shoulder a few times.
“Yeah, you probably are!” she cried.
Meiling looked at the sun, and then at the shadows cast from nearby trees. Then, she looked at Gen and said, “Seems like it’s nearly eight. You have anything to do?”
“Yes. I have to see Master Patchouli.”
“Can you climb the wall again? I don’t want to open the gate.”
“I’m not sure,” Gen admitted, “this scrawny body of mine has taken a lot of punishment in a short amount of time.”
“Alright then, up you go~” sang Meiling, who bent low and went between Gen’s legs, turning about when she got there.
“Hm!?” Gen made another sound, this time of surprise, as Meiling lifted his entire self onto her shoulders with ease. She then began flying, Gen clinging desperately to her neck.
“Tell me when you can fly so we can duel, okay?” the flying gatekeeper said.
And Gen only nodded as he was swiftly escorted toward the mansion’s entrance doors.
These were his Master’s first words upon seeing him in the library. He looked at himself, and wasn’t sure he agreed.
Patchouli lifted a finger and said something in Esperanto. Upon doing so his clothes were ruffled all over, removing dirt and dust and making them smell even better than they already did.
“I had a feeling you’d dirty them so I put an incantation on your clothing to return them to the state from when the incantation was placed. I’ll teach you it. I don’t want you bringing dirt in here.”
She coaxed the little filth from Gen’s clothes toward herself through the air and guided it into a small vial she’d pulled from her sleeve. Stopping the vial, she held it up to candlelight and muttered, “At the gate, were you?” before returning it to her sleeve and looking at her student. Then, she smirked. “Those clothes look good on you,” she complimented, and followed with, “Good morning, Gen.”
“Good morning, Master. Thanks, though I think these are to your tastes?”
Gen lifted up his sleeves by pinching them at the cuffs, examining his new outfit.
Patchouli was sitting at a somewhat sizable round table laid out with food. This was actually the first time he’d been invited to eat with her, and before he had eaten in some sort of pantry under a staircase. He was beginning to notice: his master had many different tables and seemed to change them every day. That, or he was always meeting her at another part of the library. Either case was very likely.
He sat across from her and looked over the offerings. With food on the mind, he asked his master a pressing question.
“Master, you don’t eat people do you?”
“As a magician,” said Patchouli, who was now eating a slice of cake, “I don’t have to eat at all.”
“However, you’re eating.”
“You’re not. Eat.”
Gen obeyed, going after a surprisingly wholesome porridge topped with blueberries.
“I like to eat,” said his master with a sweet smile, “that’s all there is to it.”
Gen tried, very hard, not to think about Miss Meiling’s earlier comments.
“However, no, I don’t eat humans if that’s what you were asking,” she finally answered. “Scarlet Devil Mansion overall has little need for food humans eat. As it stands, there’s only you and Sakuya who have to eat like humans.”
“Well, we’re humans.”
“Yes, and I only require cake and tea.”
It was really difficult to ignore Miss Meiling’s earlier comments.
Gen drank some tea himself and pushed forward.
“So do any magicians eat humans?”
“Do any humans eat rabbits?” Patchouli was quick to answer a question with a question. She followed up with, “Magicians are a class of youkai. We terrify and harass humans as a rule, and if we so desire, we might eat them too. Human flesh is a kind of delicacy for youkai: unneeded, but allegedly quite the bounty. Any youkai that enjoys the taste of human flesh will always want that taste again.”
The apprentice was glad breakfast contained no meat as his master candidly explained what he considered to be cannibalism.
“How about the Mistress?” he asked, happy his appetite remained yet also wondering what compelled him to continue this conversation.
“Remilia is known as the Scarlet Devil because... No, never mind, I don’t think I’ll tell you.” Patchouli had finished her slice of cake and was now sipping tea while simultaneously taking another. She told Gen: “Remi has to drink blood, and so she has a deal with Gensokyo as a whole that provides her with meals; meals from humans such as yourself—” here she indicated to Gen with her cup “—but she does not kill humans, nor does she ‘eat’ them. The little sister also only drinks blood; however our gatekeeper will eat every part of a human from skull to toe.”
Gen put down his cup and seemed to melt in his chair. He truly found this subject disgusting in every sense of the word, and it was almost impossible to remain cheerful given his present circumstance. He was always faced with it, but knew to turn away: away from the dark reality of a world that didn’t mind him dead. Although he had ambition, there was something primordial truly holding him still and it wasn’t something he could completely ignore.
“You’re afraid,” answered his master, “Gen. You’re a human and this is a world of demons.”
Gen looked at his master with a sunken gaze and replied, “Huh?”
“Gensokyo was established as a kind of fantastic nature reserve. You know the concept?” Gen nodded, Patchouli took a lump of sugar in her finger tips from a bowl and raised it over her teacup. “This tea is like the outside world, and this sugar cube is fantasy—” she dropped the cube, dissolving it at once “—fantasy enriches the outside world, but it no longer exists as it once did. Its form is destroyed, but—”
Patchouli carefully drank the sugar-filled tea to the last drop. When finished, she showed the empty glass to her student, revealing residual sugar granules within.
“—not entirely. Bits remain. These are like us of the mansion, tanuki, some ghosts...” saying this, she reached a fingertip into her cup and scooped up the sugar. She brought it to her lips and licked it away, finishing with, “It only takes a touch to wipe it all away, though. A simple denial of existence and the dream is dead. Fantasy and common reality are currently incompatible.”
“So Gensokyo is the ‘land of illusions’ because it keeps illusions alive?”
“No, Gensokyo has always been Gensokyo; what keeps illusions alive is the Hakurei Barrier, but I don’t think we should discuss that today. Essentially...”
Patchouli stopped, placing her cup down and looking at Gen half-expectantly. He finished her thought:
“Youkai were given a place to exist in Gensokyo, so it’s their place. But, since they need humans to exist as well...”
“Humans are here, but this place isn’t for them. They’re the minority, and an outsider like you? You’re the fuel. Since this is the nature of things, you understand it without being told. You are afraid, and that is why: you’re supposed to be.”
Patchouli returned to her cake, her explanation now done.
“I can’t say I like being afraid,” he admitted.
“That’s why you’re my student, right?”
His master was quickly done with her cake, and Gen had somehow managed to eat his entire course. With the fork she’d used to kill the cake, Patchouli pointed at her student and explained something.
“You have to learn quite a lot, but that zeal of yours gives me high expectations of you. This brings me to today’s tasks. You are a truly sad excuse for a magic user right now, Gen, but I’m going to send you out into that world you’re so afraid of.”
“What? For real?” Gen looked quite sullen as he said this.
“I want you to go into the Forest of Magic and gather some ingredients for me. The forest is a good starting point for you – while it has youkai beasts, you’re more likely to find the fairies and overall atmosphere harmful, especially during the day.”
She stood up after saying this and planted her hands on the table. Breathing out through her nose, she gave Gen a gaze full of excitement.
“Now, let me outfit you so you can be on your way.”
“You got it, Master.”
Gen pushed out his chair and stood up, his master coming over to him and fiddling with his clothes as she absently called for papers and books to float to her from around the library.
“This belt of yours can carry a few tomes, mainly small ones but you can carry a large grimoire here...” Patchouli was speaking rather quickly, though it was also quietly. Really, it was more like a rush as she fastened things to his outfit, spoke incantations, and drew runes and glyphs upon him and his new possessions – many little things, she did. “I’ll provide you with two spell cards,” she said with a chuckle, slipping paper into his left sleeve. “I just want to know what happens if you try to use them. Be sure to use them, alright? They work with—” she patted a little notebook now fitted to his belt, causing him to flinch “—this little book of childish spells. When you cast, it should automatically open to the right page. The sign is written in plain English on the cards. Terribly easy. It’s perfect for you, Gen.”
“Mister Wanderlust, I will not be providing you with a flight talisman today for you and your clumsy aerial mistakes; today you’ll be walking.”
“Is the forest not far from here?”
“A...” Patchouli whispered, flicking her wrist for a rolled up paper “...map! A map that shows you how close it is to the mansion.”
With this stuffed into a pocket within his coat, the greater magician looked over her apprentice for one final check. Satisfied, she looked on Gen with eyes full of anticipation.
“If you die today,” she said, “that will be a pretty amusing turn of events too.”
With a non-expression, Gen replied: “I’ll try to have an adventure worthy of hearing you laugh, Master.”
“That would be good. Now then,” she turned from him while speaking, and had another book come to her as she walked toward a comfortable-looking chair, “collect whatever you think looks interesting. Yes, I think that will provide excellent discussion if you survive. I’ll be waiting for you in the library.”
Patchouli stopped before the chair and turned to face her student saying, “Well? Go. There aren’t so many hours and minutes in the day.”
So Gen turned on his heel and gave his master a single wave from behind.
“I’m off!” he said, and he hoped he would soon return.
The Forest of Magic gave him an unfortunate remembered feeling. The night he’d arrived in Gensokyo was the night Mistress Remilia had decided to enact what she dubbed the “Scarlet Mist Incident”: filling the sky with a blood-red mist that almost obfuscated (and easily colored) the moon in the night sky. She said she hoped to stop the day from ever coming so that she could go through the land at her leisure – something he could understand. The mist was more than a sunscreen, however, as it was very oppressive to humans. He had found it difficult to breathe, though thankfully that experience had been much worse than the stagnant air the forest offered.
Before he’d left her sight, Patchouli had stopped him and given him five more things. Four of those things were glass bottles tied to a taught strap that he kept now looped onto his belt, always clinking as he moved. The fifth thing was advice:
“You look like a Gensokyo native now,” she’d said, “so you can probably get away with fooling other natives. Sakuya says rumor of your existence hasn’t gotten around yet, so you should be safer than you otherwise could be. You should thank me.”
He thanked her and was off before she stopped him again and taught him the incantation to keep his clothes clean.
The forest was a bit unnerving and sometimes very dark, but he didn’t get any sense that he was being watched at least. He’d managed to fill one of his bottles with a curiously colored moss without interference, and was now traipsing down a log. The trees around him were so verdant that the wind, which had been noticeable by the lake, hardly swayed their branches. Thus, the strange air of mushrooms and untamed grasses could not escape. He understood his master’s earlier words about this place’s dangerous atmosphere.
He wondered about fairies, though. Master Patchouli had told him the other day that they loved to play pranks, which was what made Mistress Remilia so incredible for actually getting them to work at all. However, she hadn’t said what sort of pranks they played, and the fairies of the mansion weren’t terribly out of line. Master Patchouli had equated them with this forest’s air, though, so Gen kept on his toes. He’d heard some whispers and giggles now and then and was quite sure that must’ve been fairies watching, though he never felt their gaze.
While he was thinking about this, something ahead on his path gave him pause. It was a rather large, dark sphere, bobbing gently through the forest. He observed as it suddenly lurched forth and seemed to slam into a branch which had entered its shade. The sphere then fell, went around in a small circle, and continued on his way.
...Instinctively, Gen decided that avoiding this sphere was the best course of action. He checked his map, marked where he should be, and went in another direction.
“... Where am I?”
Gen seemed now to be irrevocably lost. Where he should’ve been he absolutely wasn’t. He had faith in Master Patchouli’s map, but his course was apparently not following it.
He stood now near a small cave that was in an entirely different area according to the map. He’d gone into it heedlessly and retrieved some sparkling dust, and while he appreciated this opportunity, he didn’t appreciate the possibility that he was perhaps entirely stuck in this toxic wood.
Gen vowed: I need to learn how to fly. Indeed, flight would make this a non-issue.
For now, he decided to forego the map and just walk. He took in the strange sights, plucked some mushrooms into a sack Patchouli had given him, and admired how human hands had most definitely had little to do with the Forest of Magic. It was clearly an ancient place, and though it smelled terrible he couldn’t deny its beauty.
Eventually while walking along he encountered the black sphere again, and he worried it might’ve been on his trail. Taking another path, he soon came to a distinct crossroads.
There were two paths, but what distinguished them was not visual but instead olfactory. One path smelled like dust and magical regents (a scent he was coming to know), the other smelled like carpentry and fresh wood. Behind him was still probably the shadow ball... Rather than taking his chances on an un-trodden path, he decided...
 to take the path with the aroma of magic and dust.
[X] to take the path with the aroma of magic and dust.
I'd rather meet Alice as an equal. Or at least, something closer to an equal than we are now. Also, we should try to befriend one of the people most likely to save Gen's ass ifwhen something goes wrong.
>>65297 [x] to take the oaken and wood-work scented path.
We've been here a while, and we've already met Marisa. I think now is a good time to meet Alice.
This story is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I love how true you stay to the canon, whilst retaining the freedom to change details and characterization. The sense of wonder, horror, and comedy all at once. You, dear author, have done your research. Truly, good job.
Although he now lived in a western mansion with a western master, maid, and mistress; although he lived with western fairies, and their guard likely hailed from Chinese lands; unfortunately for Gen he had not yet registered that Gensokyo’s youkai could be something other than Japanese. Perhaps Patchouli’s explanations led him to believe the Scarlet Devil Mansion was unique, or perhaps the idea had truly never come to mind amidst all the information he had to contend with over these last few days. In any case, he was unaware of “western youkai” and thus with western terror. Thus there was something special he experienced when he reached the end of the trail that smelled of wood.
The eerie cabin in the woods was not a common eastern idea. Certainly an abandoned home or building was grounds for anxiety, but the thought of a worrying old home, perhaps inhabited by a living evil, was not one that could ever come to Gen’s mind. Ordinarily a ghost, ordinarily a grudge, but then neither would be something he’d expect to find in a house like the one now before him.
It looked like something you’d find in a fairytale told to teach a lesson, not that he would recognize that. The home’s walls were apparently once stark white, but now moss crawled onto it from underneath, and threatened to take all color away. To the credit of whoever owned the place, the roof was well-maintained and looked like new. If the walls made you think this place was abandoned, the roof made you reconsider. Overall, Gen didn’t find this home uninviting, save for the pitch-black windows.
As if it was night, no light exuded from within this little cabin. Gen thought this didn’t make any sense; it was broad daylight so at least other windows should be bringing in light. He wondered if the panes were painted black, and so neared the house. The smell of shaved and cut oak grew stronger...
Gen peered into the windows, and his expression slowly twisted into concern until he was compelled to say, “What the hell?”
The home was full of bodies, in parts or whole, naked or clothed, hanging from the rafters or lined along the walls. Many heads were eyeless, many torsos featureless. What forms were dressed were dressed fairly, but this did not help the young apprentice’s impression at all. He realized that light was indeed entering the home, but for some reason it didn’t seem to escape. While trying to form a theory as to why this was, he eventually spotted a jar full of eyes. Seeing this, he backed away from the house.
Firstly, he removed the small tome from his belt that his master had mentioned and tried to gauge his surroundings. He had the feeling that perhaps he should’ve just called out the shadow sphere from earlier, because right now he was almost utterly paralyzed with the fear of things one cannot understand. He could understand fighting shadows, but fighting whoever did what they did in that house was nigh inconceivable.
“What spells did Master give me anyway?” he whispered quickly, paging through the tome. He also tried to take the spell cards Patchouli had slipped into one of his sleeves. The maneuver proved too complicated, as one of the two slipped from his grasp and began to drift to the ground, eliciting an “Ah!” from the young man.
It fell to another’s feet. Gen froze, looking only at their feet and the card that lay atop them. This person leaned down and picked up the paper.
“Western clothes and a western spell,” said the other, who was apparently a woman, “but you’ll have to forgive me: I think you look Japanese. Do you have a hobby of dressing out of fashion along with your hobby of trespassing?”
He lifted his gaze. A blue dress, a pink sash at the waist...
“Actually, could you perhaps be...”
White capelet, mostly homely...
“...the new arrival?”
A beautiful face. Blood hailing from Slavic nations? Golden hair and clear-sky eyes.
“Patchouli’s favored outsider.”
Gen stood before the master of this house, and he had no composure.
“You already have spell cards,” she said, smiling on the paper in her hand. “That’s very impressive – ah! Where are my manners? It’s nice to meet you. My name is Alice Margatroid. Would you like to come inside?”
“And have you tear me apart!? There are limits to my mental endurance!” Gen finally found his voice.
“Excuse me?” asked Alice.
“You know that I’m an outsider? You’ll not find me another easy kill...!”
Alice said nothing, looking at Gen with his spell card over her lips.
“Declare it! Rules or no rules, I’ll find some way to bring you down! I-I’m not gonna die here!”
“You seem to be misunderstanding something,” Alice replied. “Won’t you come inside? I’ll put on tea.”
“I may not have been here very long but I already know how strange you youkai can be. I’m not going to get wrapped up into your pace.”
“What’s your name, student of the library?”
“My...name?” Gen asked, his vigor fading. “It’s Gen,” he answered, “Itou Gen.”
“Mister Gen, I think you and I can have a very good conversation, but it’s quite hot today and I’d rather speak inside. I assure you, I have no intention to eat you or anyone. Please,” and she politely gestured to her door. Her expression then revealed that she’d realized something and she added: “I’ll put on a light. It’s much less scary that way.”
Gen thought about this for as long as he felt he could without losing the woman’s hospitality. If this was a barefaced lie, he would find it very hard to survive within the small confines of the bizarre home. But, something in her words indicated to Gen that Alice had empathy. He’d never mentioned eating. He’d never mentioned the lack of light.
It could be that there were youkai in Gensokyo who could read hearts and minds, but if this was Alice’s ability she was a very good actor as it surely didn’t seem to be. Slowly, Gen lowered his guard.
“Sorry,” he said, “sorry, I’ve just...”
“It was a misunderstanding,” spoke Alice as she came in close. She put a hand on his back, and guided him to her home. “But you had every right to be afraid. Come, I should properly welcome you to Gensokyo.”
Gen now sat in the sufficiently brighter home of Alice Margatroid, who he now knew to be a puppet maker and puppeteer. This made many other things come to logical sense in his mind, but honestly didn’t do much to reassure his spirit. Even well-lit, this home full of dismembered and naked effigies wasn’t ideal for one’s sanity. He was thankful it was all much easier to accept, though: he hadn’t realized how small the dolls’ bodies and parts had been, and he’d completely passed over the visible joints. Still, he thought, she should just keep those eyes in a drawer or cupboard rather than a jar.
“You’re a resident of the mansion, so you’re fine with English tea, no?”
Alice approached him with a question, saucer, and teacup. He told her it was fine, and gingerly held the cup at its handle, yet to drink.
Alice Margatroid’s friendliness was, right now, something he found difficult to receive. At Scarlet Devil Mansion he was able to maintain amicability with man-eaters like the gate guard because he knew that guard would not harm a ward of her master and the librarian. Out here in the wilds of Gensokyo, he had no such assurance, and so was suspicious all the time.
Still, he had decided to relax much more since accepting the doll-maker’s hospitality. He thought he would take this time to at least figure her out, after which he would surely make wide and sweeping judgments of any Gensokyo residents he’d meet in the future.
“So what brought you to my home today, Mister Gen?” asked the puppeteer, sitting across from him at her table. They sat beside a window revealing the pretty forest outside that contrasted harshly with her disturbing home.
“Chance,” Gen was quick to answer.
Alice looked out her window, holding her cup with both hands. Her expression was very gentle as she delivered her explanation: “There are many fairies in The Forest of Magic; they enjoy playing with anyone who enters it by confusing their sense of direction, for example—” she sipped from her teacup and glanced at him “—though it’s often in good fun, their carelessness could kill you.”
“... I think I should ask how,” he said, now slowly wiping the rim of his cup with his thumb.
“It’s quite a wild and natural forest;” Alice explained, moving a finger through the air as she did so, “not all the ground is even. Slip, fall, and your neck is broken.”
Ah, so that’s what Master had meant... Fairies, huh?
“They won’t usually attack you, even if you have no magic. They’re all quite weak and scaredy-cats,” Alice was still waving her finger as she elucidated for Gen, and she next turned her palm up and pointed at him with a lightly amused look. “Like you,” she said, “young magician.”
Gen’s returning smile trembled a little, but he managed to lift his teacup to it and take a drink before replying: “Can you blame me, finding a despicable-looking house like this?”
Alice’s eyebrows rose briefly before she smiled again. “Sakuya did tell me you had a smart mouth,” she said, “I was wondering where it was.”
Sakuya, thought Gen as he licked a bit of tea from his upper lip, of course it was Miss Sakuya... rumor of my existence hasn’t spread because she’s yet to sufficiently spread it. He sighed thinking this and closed his eyes, half smiling. He leaned back into his chair and drank again.
“Have you calmed down?” Alice asked.
“Heavens, no! I’m still thinking of a way to get out of this.”
“Really, why did you come to my house?”
“I wasn’t kidding, it was chance,” said Gen, opening his eyes and gesturing toward Alice with his cup, “I was trying to avoid something that, at the time, I’d found potentially more threatening than you.”
“I’m rather strong, but would you really call me threatening?”
“... No,” he admitted, slowly returning to a more polite posture. “I’m just really lacking in trust right now.”
“So you’re training to become a magician...” Alice said in a whisper, leaning forward and putting her elbows up on the table. “But you’ve really not been here long,” she shrugged and continued, “That makes sense.”
“I’m...correct in assuming you’re not human, right?” he asked. “Why are you being so kind to me? Is it really something nefarious?”
“If it was, would I really tell you?” Alice offered a look of pity to Gen before clarifying, “I’m actually a magician, which indeed makes me a youkai. I don’t do much to terrify humans beyond using my house. After all—” Alice sat up straight and put her hands in her lap “—I used to be human myself.”
“Ah...” Gen replied, then followed with “... Hah?”
“The magician species,” Alice said, “is either natural-born or attained through concoctions and spells. In my case, I stopped my aging and my need for any kind of sustenance in pursuit of magical research.” She lifted one of her hands and wiggled her fingers. Upon doing so, a little doll came up to Gen’s side and bowed to him. Alice then finished speaking with the statement: “And my research is into sorcery and puppeteering.”
“Puppets...” He observed Alice’s clearly finely-crafted doll. “I really wouldn’t have thought of a magician using puppets.”
“It’s really very interesting.”
“A person who creates model robots would say the same of the tedious process,” Gen said dismissively.
“Aren’t you rude.”
“Comparing it to my master’s magic, a magic used in children’s shows doesn’t exactly set my heart on fire.”
“I think before you leave here today I’m going to have to bury you with my dolls.”
Gen honestly smiled at this.
“Bring it on,” he challenged. “Master Patchouli demanded I use those spell cards, at least.”
“Hmm.” Alice was now pondering, gazing at Gen while beckoning the puppet next to him to her side. “You seem really adaptive, Mister Gen,” she commented.
“Truthfully, I’m still very apprehensive right now,” he next finished his tea, and said, “and truthfully, I’m hoping you didn’t put anything in this tea.”
“It would be too late for you if I had,” she told him.
“Miss Alice,” spoke Gen while raising a hand to the air and draping his other arm over his seat, “I do believe it was too late for me the moment I stepped into this forest.”
“Would you mind telling me what philosophy it is you’re following ever since your arrival?”
“Be a coward, be brave,” he said, “until cowardice is no longer of any worth. This is a mad world, and hiding away all the time in it would only make me a waiting meal for hungry monsters. However, I can’t forget: caution will be my only shield for now as I make my foolish way.” He looked Alice in the eyes next and finished with, “’Let me one day march through dream and nightmare lands with hand of fire and heart of flame’. That sort of silly thought now drives me.”
“I see,” replied Alice, looking satisfied, “so this is why you’re Patchouli’s favored.”
“I haven’t known the Devil’s Friend for very long, but from what I can tell although it’s not the same, the way the two of you think is very similar.” Alice smiled at Gen and told him: “When that girl is honest, she shines more than any other. I know this: she’s very excited about you.”
“H-Hmm...” Gen put the hand he’d raised into the air to his face and broke his gaze with Alice. Although he’d not given it to much thought, his connection and bond with Patchouli was presently a complicated one. He wanted to make no assumptions about an apprenticeship so young, but he did feel the two of them recognized there was something to benefit of becoming close. He wanted to make no assumptions...but if Patchouli could pride herself in him, he would probably be unable to do anything else other than smile.
“So,” Alice changed the subject, “you’re in the forest to collect some things?”
“Oh... yes,” he said, looking at the jars attached to his belt.
“How about this...?” Alice began, “I’ve noticed one of your jars is unfilled. Let’s have a spell card duel. If you beat me, I’ll help you find a rare ingredient. If I beat you, I’ll give you something to bother Patchouli instead.”
“Bothering Master...” Gen muttered, “That seems very dangerous.”
“Especially for you, hm? Falling outside the rules. But, I will not kill you, you can rest assured with that,” Alice spoke frankly. “Well? What do you say?”
Gen did not answer immediately. He knew his answer, but didn’t know his odds. Unable to fly, he’d certainly have trouble contending with Alice, and following a proper duel he could not deploy any tricks or gimmicks. Come to think of it, he wondered if Alice might go easy on him, knowing how much of a novice he was. At any rate, it would perhaps be decent practice, with or without flight. And that prospect of victory... it was powerfully motivating.
“Absolutely,” Gen answered, “I’ll absolutely take you on.”
Finally caught up with this, and I've already missed two votes. Wow. And sorry.
First impression: I think you might be the best author I have ever seen. There have been more entertaining authors, more flowery prose and stories that I like more, but the pure polish and precision on display here is blowing my tiny mind. It's like a window into a real place full of real people that I've simply never seen before.
Please excuse me while I melt into a pitiful little puddle of envy.
>>65309 What severe compliments! Thank you very much.
... However, in a display of anticlimax, as soon as they’d gone through Alice’s front door Gen put up his hand and said, “Wait,” followed by a request to actually review his magic arsenal. Now he sat cross-legged on a tree stump in the cabin’s front yard, paging through the various tomes his master had given him.
Alice stood close by, and was taking this opportunity to use puppets to clean the outer walls of her house. According to her, the moss was recent and probably the result of a certain kind of being’s rampant mischiefs. And so, she had the dolls draw up buckets from a nearby stream and splash and scrub the walls. Furthermore, they scattered moisture across the lawn and a small flowerbed for watering. Alice talked to Gen as she worked, chastising him: “Why didn’t you study before you left the mansion? I wouldn’t expect a student of that librarian’s not to dive into a book long before deciding to actually head out and see what it described.”
“It’s precisely because I’m her student that I did no studying,” Gen replied, still focused on reading. He expounded with: “Master Patchouli told me to not waste daylight, so I didn’t.” After saying this, he looked at Alice with a smirk and said, “Really, the idea of me floundering before a mortal threat probably amused her.”
“Honestly,” Alice sighed, “such an unreasonable Gensokyo.”
Gen finished the grimoire he had been examining and began to compare the spell cards he had with the relevant inscriptions from the small book he’d been given.
The first of the two was Air Sign: “Tengu Gusts”: a magic hailing from Europe but with a Japanese name. Of the Eastern magics Patchouli liked to use, there was no category for “air” like that which existed in the fantasy-classic four elements. Of course, this spell had been created by his master (so it was signed), almost as if to tell him that her magic was indeed a preference, and she still knew much more. So here he had some sorcery specialized for the outdoors (noted to not be used inside). Its “bullets” would be improvised when it called upon vicious tiny whirlwinds – particularly useful given his environs. He thought, Thank you, Master Patchouli.
Gen’s second spell card was Water Sign: “Morning Dew, Ephemeral Starscape”. In Patchouli’s book, a note was made: “Note: A romantic spell to only be used in the dim morning hours.” He paused upon reading this, made a face, and thought, Why did she give me a spell I can’t use? “Morning Dew, Ephemeral Starscape” was only possible with rather strict conditions; casting it outside those conditions would do something, but it would be almost nothing. It was simple: danmaku made from morning dew on grass. It would’ve perhaps been useful several hours ago...
Thinking a moment, he put his things away and called to Alice. “Miss Alice,” he announced, “I’d say I’m good and ready.” He placed a hand behind himself and pushed off of the stump.
“Ah, good,” she answered. She hid away her dolls and examined her handiwork with a hand to her chin. She’d done a fairly good job, given the short time she’d had for her tasks. Largely happy with the results, she told Gen, “So, you’ve only got one spell to use against me.”
Gen put his hands into his front pockets and shrugged while he answered, “Right, the spell you picked up earlier was ‘Morning Dew’.”
“Assuming it uses the surrounding elements and not your spirit, you’re out of luck with that one.”
“That’s fine,” he said. “Practicing with even a single card would do me a lot of good.”
“Well then, let’s practice.” Alice lifted her arms and for half a second, Gen saw the gleam of thin strings extending from her in the sunlight. “Because I assume you can’t fly, I won’t fly either.”
“Thank you very much,” said Gen, unlatching the book tied to his spell cards and taking a different book into his palm.
“Now, to not waste any daylight,” Alice cast magic at once and taunted, “This Seven-Colored Puppeteer will show you why dolls’ magic should truly be feared.”
First he’d heard the title, he assumed she’d pull out seven puppets each of a different shade, but in actuality she was so named since she apparently used seven-colored magic – something similar to Miss Meiling’s rainbows.
Alice cast a pinwheel of blue fanning power from herself that at once cycled in on her and headed toward Gen. There was healthy space between each shot, and he easily slipped through the barrage. She then cast another in red. When he avoided that – another in green.
Early after his arrival, before he’d become her apprentice, Patchouli had allowed Gen to ask one, in her words, “stupid question”. He’d decided to ask what format spell card duels typically followed. She’d admitted, “Yes, that’s stupid, since I already told you”, but he informed her that her first description had been a bit... idealistic.
According to Master Patchouli, a spell card duel followed exchanges of special, usually patterned, “bullet” curtains in turns during which there were a few ways to lose. The challenged (not challenger) running out of cards resulted in a loss, being unable to endure under fire resulted in a loss, a “round” was lost based on a predetermined number of hits, and utilizing particularly powerful and reusable spells to erase enemy fire resulted in no loss, but was generally frowned upon. Something else frowned upon was neglecting to “capture” an opponent’s danmaku. This meant, instead of Gen gracefully landing enough strikes on the enemy during a card declaration to force them to remove said card from play, he would “time the spell out” – let it to run on too long and end – or get hit and lose the opportunity. In either case, he’d look the fool. There were some exceptions and other notes, but these were the basics.
Attacks like the one he contended with now could not be “captured” but could be “timed out” or “failed” on his part. Thus, he needed to use some attacks of his own, not through a prepared card, to shut Alice down lest he be dreadfully disgraced.
The spellbook he now held assisted with Sun magic. He hadn’t practiced, but was familiar with the concept from what he’d read. The glyphs in its pages were activated by will, and when calling on them the Sun’s rays would concentrate into a weak, but serviceable offense.
He carefully moved left and right, and awkwardly shot beams toward Alice in a scattershot fashion. This eventually managed to touch her enough times for her to bring out her dolls in earnest.
Standing still, she declared: “Blue Sign: ‘Benevolent French Dolls’.”
Four puppets spun out from behind her and fired rounds at once, although...
“That’s it...?” Gen said, almost disappointed; the puppets only shot out an amount magic to match their number, after all.
However, before he could mock his opponent, the shots suddenly burst into many more shots... and then again.
He now faced a flurry of bright red magic. It wasn’t choking and commanding like Mistress Remilia’s, but there was a lot of it – too much of it, Gen thought. It swarmed out in a way that must have looked quite pretty from above, but to him it looked like he had to now dodge the results of a rude gardener with a leaf blower in autumn.
Making noises, he twisted and turned and was easily hit. Magic struck him at the side of his stomach, and he nearly vomited from the pain. He dropped to a knee and heard a shot speed past his ear. This provided enough fire beneath his bottom to get him moving despite the effects of his mistake.
Now, though he never ceased his counter fire on Alice, he found it very difficult to maneuver at all. The hurt was only of a moment, strangely enough, but when it passed he was still appallingly disoriented. Somehow, he managed to push Alice out of her phase and avoid any more of her attack, but he’d really just moved blindly through it.
During the next round, it was his turn to offer Alice a pattern. He managed to stand up straight and turn to another page in his grimoire, with which he called upon Sun magic of greater complexity.
... Just not very much. He launched crisscrossed light at the puppeteer intermittently, and she seemed almost to be nearly avoiding every incoming laser on purpose. Actually, wasn’t she? How terribly obnoxious.
When the time limit of his magic began to approach, Alice whipped forth one of her dolls, which immediately fired some kind of cannon-ish concentrated ray of heat: like something out of science fiction. Gen did not dodge this, and it seared into his chest, forcing him to conclude this round and making him feel like his hair had just been set on fire.
But, wasting no time he grabbed a card from his sleeve and delivered the normal incantation with flair, “Air Sign: ‘Tengu Gusts’!” The card was then ripped apart in a small but violent wind at his hand, and the little book still on his belt flung open, bearing a glass-like rune. This heralded a dozen winds throughout the area, tearing leaves from the trees and tossing twigs and acorns from the ground. This attack seemed to be random, and it indeed managed to surprise Alice a little, who leapt between the little tornados with her eyes a bit wide. And to speak of surprise, Gen was not expecting the flood of invigoration he felt from burning that card. He was now renewed and full of concentration. Alice’s doll no longer threatened him. This was not something his Master had informed him about.
He stepped lightly and followed the puppet’s screaming energy like one might follow a partner in dance. He also kept an eye on Alice, who, he noticed, was not keeping an eye on him. Rather, her gaze appeared to be distant, and she didn’t seem to be looking at anything in particular. Her aim remained true, though. Gen could not neglect her doll.
Then, when there wasn’t much time left, Alice locked eyes with him intensely. He recognized this behavior, and as he expected, she focused her fire onto him with more gravity. He quickened his pace while moving along with the puppet and giving it all his attention, but then the pursuit stopped. Confused, he looked at Alice again, seeing that she was now making herself parallel to him with the speed of a sudden breeze. She lifted her hand and the doll came again, burning into him relentlessly.
This time, the only thing that truly hurt when Alice struck him and captured his spell card was his dignity. His stamina was now waning, and the zeal he’d felt at the battle’s start was entirely gone. Excitement was now replaced with desperation, similar to that of when he’d faced off against his master.
“That one was somewhat tricky to graze.” Alice was now talking, and with a fresh, happy face at that. Gen had expected neither. “I guess it makes sense, since that was Patchouli’s work.”
He didn’t know what exactly she meant, but his feelings were undoubtedly confused upon digesting her words.
Alice Margatroid prepared another non-specific volley of bullets, and Gen realized he still had two more cards to contend with. If he honestly wanted to win this, he needed some direction.
The way he saw it there were two ways he could focus in an effort to defeat the puppeteer, but in his inexperience he wasn’t sure which way served better odds.
One way would be to put all his concentration into stopping Alice’s turns as quickly as he possibly could. As the sorcery contained within his “auto-fire” Sun booklet needed his will to operate, it also needed his will to aim properly. Up until now he had just been “shooting” – not “aiming”. Maybe he could drag himself through this and take her down.
Another way would be to give dodging the old college try. Master was explicit: spell card play was about beauty and grace. It was about intricate spellwork and skillful avoidance. Gen was a clumsy, untrained, sad excuse for a spellcaster, but in his defense, he had yet to truly, truly attempt to dodge Alice’s puppets and power. Perhaps he could focus less on the caster and more on what was cast. He might end the battle shamefully, but it would be a shameful victory rather than a shameless loss... Maybe. He was being optimistic.
Now, as he whittled Alice down and kept on his toes for her round, he wondered:
If you aren't confident in your dodging skills to begin with and try to focus on staying on target with a narrow non-homing shot, all that happens is you get hit and die. If you've played touhou yourself, you know this.
Winning or losing is less important than leaving a good impression and trying to adapt to spelled duels. Alice will probably tell the mansion about how the fight went. Therefore, we should at least try for the expected grace instead of resorting to more inelegant tactics.
Forgot muh code and fucked up twice again. I am amazing, guys.
[X] Shift into focused fire.
He ran a hand over his face and through his hair, glanced at the book he held, and looked at his enemy. He exhaled and squinted ever so slightly. He mustered almost everything: near all his strength, near all his will, near all his determination into his rays of light.
Now his assault was like a magnifying glass before the equatorial Sun risen to its highest point, yet still somehow intensified ten times over. Furthermore sunshine rang off of his beam like a hose overwhelmed with pressure, splinters of light allowing his target very little escape.
When he ended her round, Alice regarded him with some interest, and then revealed a small and knowing smile.
“Darkness Sign:” she called the coming magic’s name and readied her paper, “‘Foggy London Dolls’.”
Her dolls came again and with them she brought out a blooming flower into the sky. It unfurled and its “petals” fell away, all of its pretty killing intent now speeding toward him with abandon.
But Gen’s only concern was the puppeteer.
Alice was moving slower – in fact, she was stepping at an even pace to her right, completely unconcerned. She was avoiding the core of his sunlight as though it wasn’t even present, only taking damage from its chipping fragments. In response, he took her example: he dropped his attack, moved to face her straight, and fired – met with the satisfying sound of a direct hit.
Meanwhile, her bullet-petals always neared him, but didn’t meet their mark. He’d notice them when they came too close, but this seemed to not be very often. Prioritizing his attention was working well! He even allowed himself a smile, his pride returning. Alice proved a somewhat wily target (she didn’t tend to linger in one place, regularly coaxing him to change position), and her puppets might have intimidated had he given them any mind, but he felt he could keep up with her. In a gambol they fought, and in short time, Gen captured his first spell card.
“Yes!” He shouted, pumping his fist.
“Don’t celebrate, Gen!” Alice words were like a cheer, “I’ve got one more!”
And Alice brought out her final spell card.
“Curse:” this word, and its delivery, chilled the air. Alice’s last word had no sign. What she said was what it was. The paper in her hand crumpled and decayed into a purple mist.
Alice used only three dolls to provide Gen with easily her most elaborate pattern yet. Before he could begin to take it in, Alice spoke again.
“Alright Gen,” she said “let this be your first taste... of proper danmaku.”
In a spiral of color, her magic rose, and the puppets that cast it wore expressions and floated in poses reminiscent of lamenting ghosts raised on a morose witch’s night. They did glow, they were luminous, and the powerful lights they emitted almost seemed to submerge the world in sickly prism hue.
It was not as dense as the greater powers he had seen, it was not as aggressive, and it was surely not as complex, but to face a curtain of bullets was much different than to watch another do the same. It was... humbling. He at once admired and was almost paralyzed. The sorcery undulated before his gaze, turning in on itself and twisting wonderfully. Soon enough it came at him in triple-color spokes and giant lilac globes, and Gen remembered to shoot.
He decided to maintain his efforts in overwhelming the puppeteer, and not let himself be overwhelmed in awe of her skill instead. Alice did not move against his trying. She stood and received those efforts of his with a serene face. Like the ray was pleasant to her, she relaxed in it, and bid her dolls continue their splendor.
Twist after twist, layer upon layer, the lights came, and Gen did not waver. He gripped tightly his master’s booklet and kept aware and away of what bullets came near. He would manage this, he—
He now faced a yellow wall, and though his eyes were wide and searching he saw no opening. Right—he could escape right... if he’d seen the wall many seconds before. It would stop him and he had nowhere to go. With nothing to show for it, he would ruin his clothes and slink back to the library.
... But he recalled: Patchouli Knowledge never simply lectured. An explanation might end in a few words, but a lecture never fell short of a quarter-hour. When he had asked for general information for spell card duels, she easily came to explain the specifics.
“And Gen,” she’d told her not-yet apprentice, who was sitting on the floor before a pile of unorganized books, “there’s a small detail of spell cards somebody as weak as you would enjoy keeping in mind.”
Remembering this, Gen used all physical power to drop to ground before the yellow wall, pressing his free hand into the grass.
As I thought, he had realized something much earlier while he’d studied and Alice did her chores, the grass has been wet.
His mind returned to his master. She’d told him even a particularly clumsy duelist might still have decent reflexes. If so, if they were quick, they could announce a spell card – so long as they had any card to use – and survive a mistake.
He let the wall strike him.
And on-strike he loudly declared, Master’s spell in hand: “Water Sign: ‘Morning Dew, Ephemeral Starscape’!”
“I expect you to have to cheat death one day, Gen,” Patchouli had told him while wearing that merciless smile of hers, “Tell me when it is that you do.”
Not quite right, but I’ll be glad to tell her this, he thought, wearing an expression wrought with exhilaration. The card shifted into liquid and dissolved, and the book at his hip tore open again, projecting a blue symbol.
With an otherworldly pulse, the sky seemed to darken, and all moisture from the earth shot into the air in the form of innumerable, crystal-like droplets. When they did, the bullets of Alice’s magic were all cleared away by them. She and he met eyes for a moment, and Gen saw that Alice had been happily blindsided.
The water moved between them in a way that vividly brought up memories of nighttime to both magicians. It seemed that Patchouli had crafted the spell to have the water refract light in such a way that, always, it would look its most stylish and best. Almost standing now, Gen felt as though he was commanding the cosmos, like the open dark sky turned around him. Though this was a slow-turning sorcery, it had very few blind spots. Alice was splashed at first a few times, but soon found herself bombarded as the water directed itself to its enemy in one swelling and utterly immense motion.
It was over in only a matter of seconds, and Gen found himself still as he looked through the resulting vapors of Alice’s beating. Then, he saw a light, another, and another. He could see her dolls still flying, and it wasn’t long before the Curse was continuing in earnest.
The mist cleared, and he saw Alice standing where she had before, water dripping from her hair and nose. Her hands were raised, and he couldn’t tell if she was shrugging or just puppeteering. Her lips and eyebrows were turned up so as to demonstrate pity, and she informed the apprentice:
“Sorry, Gen, but that wasn’t enough.”
Without hesitation, he lifted his book of the Sun again and took aim, but he wasn’t concentrating. His thoughts were in a panic. He stumbled to his left and his bullets went entirely astray of Alice. Next he knew, the dangerous glow of his opponent’s might was upon him, and he was to the earth, lost.
... He looked up at the sky, all sorcery ended. His eyes followed clouds less empty than his head. And, without any opportunity to try, as no one tried to get a word out of him, he knew himself to be speechless.
“My, you look terrible,” Alice mocked Gen, whose clothing was ripped in many places. One could see his skin beneath the outfit, and the face he wore made him seem at once lacking thought and full of reflection. They now returned to Alice’s cabin, Alice having tea and Gen seated on her floor. She had a towel around her neck, and as he’d lost the battle, he was absently concentrating light on her using the Sun booklet and one of its weaker spells to get rid of the moisture on her body.
At her comment, he looked himself over and spoke in Esperanto. His clothes were ruffled as before, but now they also mended (or rather, it was like the “time” of his clothes rewound, the damages removed). He redid the spell as Patchouli had taught him, and then gave Alice his full attention.
“I don’t feel terrible, though,” he answered.
“Now, I’m rather dry, so how about I give you your prize then guide you out the forest?”
“My disconsolation prize?” he clarified.
“Yes, just wait for me to choose something particularly irritating.”
Alice drank some of her tea and beamed, full of warmth.
“Ahh,” she sighed, “tea after victory is incredibly satisfying, even against someone green.”
And Gen returned a half smile as Alice finished her cup, this puppeteer brimming with joy.
It was early evening when he returned to Scarlet Devil Mansion, making sure he smelled fresh and looked well before reaching the gate. He greeted the guard, who congratulated him on a successful first outing, and he entered the red-brick house with mild confidence in his steps. He found that the maids were still busy doing nothing in particular, though all who saw him took time to mention that Gen had been gone “forever”. Miss Sakuya agreed, and told him he should meet the Mistress later to speak of his long and storied travels.
This was all becoming quite quickly familiar. Though it wasn’t something he would’ve expected when he first awoke in the library, the mansion’s consistency was something he now found comfort in.
Speaking of the library, it was of course his first destination upon coming back to his Gensokyo home. He made his way down the basement stairs, and pushed open those too-large entrance doors, seeking out his master.
“Master Patchouli,” he called out, calming to the scent of books and dust, “I’m still alive!”
Patchouli sat deep into the library, and when she heard him she raised her head from her work and told him: “Then, you had better brought stories and materials to impress me.”
... Come to think of it – her work? This was the first time he had found Patchouli doing something other than reading. Along with the common scents you’d expect in an old library, the mansion’s also occasionally smelled of experimentation, chemicals, and what could only be described as “magic”. Thus, Gen knew his master must also perform more practical research and spell crafting; he’d just yet to see it.
He approached his master and looked at the new (very large) table she was sitting at. The table, of course, had books, notes, and scrolls piled on it haphazardly, but there were also vials, bottles, droppers, stirrers, mortars, pestles, odd feather pens and ink, peculiar devices, ingredients, and a general assortment of items that gave the impression of a sorcerer’s laboratory. Ah, and there were snacks, so this was Patchouli’s library.
Resting her cheek into her hand, Master Patchouli told Gen, “Sit.”
He sat beside her.
She looked at him and grinned, saying “Welcome back, Gen.”
“Thank you, Master. I’m happy to report I’ve done everything you asked.”
“Of course. Don’t ever come into my library after not doing what I told you.”
“I’ll never forget it.”
“Mm. Don’t. So, what did you discover in the Forest?”
“Many things!” Gen declared.
And so he presented Patchouli with his findings. She and he went over each mushroom individually, explored the applications of the moss he gathered, excitedly explained the uses of silicon carbide, and examined an ancient twig that, according to Patchouli, was a gnarled piece of a fairy’s tree. Without even reaching his fourth bottle, they managed to burn the candles nearby down almost to their stubs, lost in their talk and lessons.
Patchouli spoke of her happiness that he hadn’t overlooked the potency of mushrooms, and was cheerful that he had managed to find a rare mineral ingredient (and the two of them took out his map to note its presence in the cave, as well as a warning to keep aware of fairies). She wasn’t impressed with his moss, which was allegedly very common, but she said she wasn’t disappointed – she had been honestly expecting Gen to return with three vials of dirt.
They talked extensively of fairies, and possible countermeasures against them. They spoke of fairies’ lifestyles and how their life cycles were almost infinite. She asked if he could remember where he’d found the twig, since discovering fairy homes was quite difficult. He asked about the mansion’s maids, and this too led into long conversation.
He learned very much, and even was able to apply his knew knowledge practically in some experiments. Magic was varied, and “fuel”-based – magic that required materials – could be used to create exceptionally powerful spells.
“But powerful magic of the spirit and grimoire/runic magic: that is an impressive thing,” Patchouli said, at this point in the night exasperated and lightly wheezing. “If you can create sorcery that relies only on your practice, your soul, and your determination, and that sorcery causes exceptional effects, you can call yourself a truly great magician.” Patchouli turned from the ingredients before them and looked into Gen’s eyes. Her expression was calm and prideful, and without arrogance she told him: “It is what I have achieved.”
“So why have me study magic that uses materials first, Master Patchouli?” Gen asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Patchouli asked him in return, looking slightly annoyed now. “Your spirit is weak, your mind is weak, you have no practice. Novice Magician, you are nowhere close to what your Master is capable of. Be satisfied with your crutch.”
“When you say grimoire/runic magic, Master, is that the kind of magic used with the spell cards you gave me today?”
“Yes. As long as the glyphs are properly inscribed and the elements are present for your needs, the spell cards you used today should activate. They are some beginner magics I created to see if I was able. The magics that I normally use also require sufficient spirit and willpower to activate.”
Patchouli, seemingly finished with this small lesson, looked over the jars Gen had given her. She seemed to be counted them, and counted them several times with growing concern before turning to her apprentice and saying: “You were given four jars, Gen. Where is the last?”
At this question, Gen shut his eyes and looked instantly tired. He had hidden the last jar on a clip inside of his robes. Heaving a deep sigh, he pulled his coat open and revealed it as he had promised two different magicians, and the first he’d promised now stared between him and the bottle confused.
“What is the meaning of this?” the concern on Patchouli’s face had not left it one ounce. She reached into her apprentice’s coat and withdrew the object, brushing against his side carelessly and making his left cheek flush rose.
Gen did not open his eyes as his master turned over the last “ingredient” in her hands. She put it up to a light, scrutinized it with eyes squinted, looked at it from all angles... but refused to open it. Finally she set it down on the table, resting between her hands, and turned to address Gen.
“I asked you a question,” she said without humor.
“This requires my story...” he started, now opening his eyes but not looking into his master’s.
“I was able to participate in a true spell card duel today,” he explained. “My first. I put on a show like a court jester’s that you’d surely have been happy to see.”
“Oh?” she responded.
Now he looked at her and spoke his tale, gesturing like a showman all the while: “The Library’s Apprentice faced three spell cards of a Seven-Colored magician, and failed to capture two: the first, and the last. He made what could only be described as a noble effort, and he was very cool. You see, he had little to guide him beyond his wit and his dear Master’s words. He stood against a youkai playing easy as if they were playing hard, with all the sweat and effort that implies.”
Patchouli regarded her apprentice without comment, but her expression indicated that she was listening to him properly.
“Incredibly simple danmaku put him to the floor! He focused his attack! He captured a card and was flooded with a feeling of glory!”
“What next?” Patchouli asked, smiling.
“He faced half-decent danmaku and put himself into a spot that a child would never walk into! And...!”
“He remembered his master’s words!”
“What did his master tell him?”
“How the weak survive! When all he saw was a wall, rather than climbing it he met it with his face!”
“Deliberately, I’m serious! His Master had told him—”
“Even a particularly clumsy, foolish, sorrowful duelist might still have decent reflexes. If so, if they are quick, they can announce a spell card – so long as they have any card to play – and survive a mistake.”
Gen paused and pointed at his master, saying “There was a little more in there than he remembered, Master Patchouli.”
“Keep with your story,” his master dismissed his claim.
So he continued.
“He called a sign of water at the moment of impact! He stood among mock stars, and called them to crush his enemy! And, Master Patchouli...!”
“He fell like a rock.”
“Wasn’t he already on the ground?”
“Like, a tall rock being kicked over, Master Patchouli.”
“But he doesn’t look very dirty.”
Gen put his cheek against his knuckles, smirked at her, and replied, “He remembered his Master again.”
Patchouli then laughed, and laughed, and laughed, almost soundlessly, with a small fist to her lips and her eyes pleasantly shut. “Ahh... my asthma...” she muttered (Master Patchouli had asthma?). She looked at her apprentice again, stating: “I take back what I told you yesterday, Gen: you are an idiot.”
“I’m really sorry I failed, Master.”
“How did you manage to death-spell and still lose?”
“I basically thought I won and stopped shooting.”
“Gen, remember this: you should never, ever, stop shooting.”
“Got it,” he acknowledged her with a nod.
“So you lost against... Alice, it seems?” she wagered.
“Yup,” he said, “and she gave me that,” he pointed at the contents of the last jar.
“... Gen,” Master was speaking seriously again, so he sat up straight and removed his smile, “do you understand what a ‘gift’ like this means?”
“I understand what it means.”
“That prism-girl... is she trying to pick a fight?”
Gen did not clarify, as he wasn’t actually sure. Instead he observed as Master Patchouli raised the bottle again. He and she both looked at its contents, offering no comment. Within the jar was a healthy lock of golden hair, tied sweetly with a red ribbon.
“If it makes anything clearer,” Gen began, “she told me ‘this is for you’ as she handed me the bottle.”
“She’s trying to pick a fight,” Patchouli determined.
Although it was something he’d only read about in books, and it was also something that apparently no longer happened; for a lady to offer a lock of her hair to a man was an intensely romantic gesture. This “gift” of Alice’s said clearly: “you are mine, so make a swift return”.
“She’s terrible,” Patchouli grumbled, “she knows that I’ll have trouble explaining things to you.”
Gen chose to say nothing again, and so Patchouli continued.
“You’re mine, Gen,” she told him, looking at him sideways, “but... of course... I have... no...”
Patchouli groaned and gripped her face with her hand. She seemed to have a headache, and she uttered an odd and cute noise as she rubbed her temple. Gen had heard it before, and it was still surprising this second time.
Throwing her a bone, he said, “I know, Master. You don’t have to say it.”
Patchouli brought the jar near candlelight again and spoke, almost to herself at first, “Maybe I’ll use it to create my own doll. Do you know about Haitian magic, Gen?”
He shook his head.
“Agh, but I don’t want to open it,” Patchouli moaned, looking at the jar in misery.
“I’ll open it,” Gen offered.
“I don’t want you to open it,” snapped Patchouli, shooting Gen a bit of an angry look.
His master composed herself while gazing at the lock. Eventually, she put the jar down, held her nose, and unscrewed the top.
She next put a telescopic monocle on and adjusted its magnification. Then, with tweezers, she gingerly brought out the hair and looked it over with her scope. After a minute or so, Gen noticed that she was frowning very much, and so he spoke up.
“This isn’t a magician’s hair,” Patchouli whispered bitterly, “this is mohair that’s been ironed.”
“Mohair, Gen. From an Angora goat.”
“You’re saying things that mean nothing to me.”
Patchouli set down the hair and tweezers, let go her nose, and pulled off her magnifying glass. She put her elbow on the table and placed her chin in her palm, glancing at Gen.
“The Angora goat is one which hails from European nations,” she explained. “Its fleece is called mohair, and one of mohair’s common uses is in the creation of doll hair.”
“So... it’s not Alice’s hair?” he asked.
“No. Are you disappointed?”
“No! But... you can tell just by looking?”
“It’s already curling. Besides, I’ve seen it already.”
“Curling? What do you mean?”
Patchouli lifted her other hand toward the “mohair” and whispered a short incantation. As a result, a small bit of vapor flowed from her palm, and the lock on the table became incredibly twisted.
“Alice’s hair can probably curl, but this kind of curling is definitely a certain fluffy goat’s. She tricked you and me, hoping I would say something embarrassing.”
Patchouli pinched the curly hair, raised it to her eyelevel, and whispered another incantation. The hair instantly burst into flame, and with a flick of her hand it was all gone.
“Mohair is useless for magic,” she said, and then added, “If I see that seven-colored imbecile in my library again, I’m turning her into dust.”
And it was Gen’s turn to laugh. Patchouli gave him a “What?”, but otherwise allowed his laughter. It had been a long day, and Alice’s joke was a good way to end it. He had thought about many things and had worried over more, but in Alice’s gesture there seemed to be an answer he needed. The fleece of the Angora goat had a simple meaning for Gen:
“This is Gensokyo. Enjoy your stay.”
--End of Chapter 3: Gensokyo’s Feared and Fearful--
>>65336 O-ho. There's time for a stupid love triangle yet, although I'm not sure that's where this is headed.
Actually, although I'm enjoying this story a lot, I can't pin down the tone and where it's going very closely. Is there gonna be romance? Some kinda adventure plot? Just general slice-of-life with magicians? What?'s gonna happen?
Maybe it's a positive that I can't tell, after all.
>>65337 I can say this much: up until around the Spring Snow Incident (if I handle this right, even though that's a year away it won't be very long) we will not see this tale's truest colors.
>>65338 Master Patchouli refused to say "But of course, I have no intention whatsoever of pursuing you romantically."
Master Patchouli decided that before she sent out her apprentice into the world again, she would make sure that he was not only equipped well in items, but in mind. She’d explained that while sending him out into places like the Forest of Magic offered amusement, meeting an unfortunate end on a simple excursion would mostly make her disappointed in him, and be a waste of her time. Though her time was infinite, she said, she didn’t like the idea that even a little bit of it had completely served no purpose.
So Gen would be made to study, assist, and practice for the next two weeks’ worth of days. At the end of it, she would have him go to Misty Lake; though according to her there’d be some twist to this excursion. As always Patchouli proved to be an incredibly informative teacher, and he enjoyed the sense that his Master was genuinely trying to figure out how she might keep her apprentice alive.
For the thirteenth day, Patchouli told Gen to take a break. She told him she didn’t want his weak, mortal, human brain to get burned out when he finally went to the Lake. “Do something else,” she ordered, “but don’t come into the library. Don’t you like exploring? Do that.”
Now he awoke on that thirteenth day, and after dismissing his cheery alarm and finishing the rest of his morning routine, he wondered what he’d do next.
Patchouli had done a lot to improve his confidence, but he didn’t want to leave the mansion grounds. This was for two reasons: first, his confidence wasn’t that much; second, he knew that if he went out before Patchouli had told him to do so, that would count as disobeying. Even so, he was happy thinking of doing so and not being too afraid of the idea. At the very least, morning tai chi with Meiling had been keeping his body up at least somewhat with his mind and he was fairly sure he’d now be able to outrun most youkai in pursuit of him... though he had little basis for this thought aside from vague memories of nearly killing himself to get away from a (very fast) ghost that chased him on his first night in Gensokyo.
After another routine with Meiling was done, he walked through the morning halls of Scarlet Devil Mansion and wondered what he might do. Something to not work his head much, he supposed. If he told Patchouli that he’d read a book on his day off, for example, he was fairly sure she’d chastise him harshly for not listening to her. “What did I tell you? Has your brain already shriveled from everything else I taught you? I simply have no patience for this kind of moronic insolence, Gen.” ... She’d say something like that.
So, what options?
 Find Remilia!!!
 Simply wander about, explore the mansion.
 Tease the maids, that wouldn’t use his brain at all.
 Tease The Mai... no, rather, just try talking with Miss Sakuya about things.
 ... Mistress Flandre? This seemed like a bad idea.
Alright, I'll still keep voting open since theoretically the tide COULD change, but I'm gonna start writing the next update with fairies in mind. If something happens I'll wipe the slate and do it differently...
[X] Tease the maids, that wouldn’t use his brain at all.
The fairy maids of Scarlet Devil Mansion were often told to work, and some even did, but mostly it was as if the red house was their strange playground. The combined efforts of so many effortless, childlike beings did have a positive effect on the state of the place – chores would get done eventually, and accidents were surprisingly enough infrequent – but of course the head maid, Izayoi Sakuya, was responsible for almost everything getting done in Remilia’s home. The workload was perhaps an 80-20 split.
Still it wasn’t like the mansion was constantly in chaos of rambunctious youths. Actually they tended to find one spot of the mansion to congregate in, though this spot changed daily. To find it, one merely had to approach the sounds of laughter.
Today, the maids had decided to make a base of an atrium in Scarlet Devil Mansion’s west halls. This was one of the few places light entered the mansion, and perhaps the only place it entered in such a great quantity due to the grand skylight. As Gen strolled into this area, he wondered what the Mistress could have possibly been thinking when she had it built. At any rate, it certainly was invigorating to walk into sunlight rather than wander through darkness in this place fit for youkai.
While he was still thinking, the room exploded with energy to his presence. He looked up, and the maids – perhaps around twenty of them – were running about and falling over balconies in some sort of mad preparation.
“It’s Sir Gen!”
“Incoming vagrant, assume defenses posishions!”
“Defensive pos... positions!”
“Mayday, mayday; are there any Sunflower Fairies!?”
“Hey! This is no time for songs!”
“Fairies,” Gen called with a shout, “I have come to form a truce, as a representative of the Scarlet Devil Library!”
Most of the fairies descended to the floor with this claim, though some fluttered in the air with their arms crossed or hid behind those with their arms crossed. A few closest to him turned to each other and spoke in heated whispers about what a representative was, who might be their representative, and no really, what was a representative.
Eventually they nodded at each other and one stepped forward to address Gen, “Well well, you think we’ve forgotten what you did, Sir Gen?”
Hands now in his pockets, Gen raised his shoulders and leaned in with his answer: “Master Patchouli said you fairies don’t remember much of anything at all.”
Many of the fairies nodded at one another and muttered between themselves. Gen heard little voices saying “He’s right”, “That’s true”, and “What happened yesterday?”
The self-appointed leader of this gaggle, a long haired fairy who was blond and blue eyed, thrust out her chest, put one hand on her hip, and pointed a finger at Gen declaring, “You may be right but you’re wrong. I definitely remember, because another fairy told me about what you did last week this morning!”
“Me!” came a shout from a green-haired girl flying behind another fairy’s back.
The commander pointed, “Her!”
“What did I do?” he asked with a smirk.
“You, uh... what was it again?” she withdrew her hand and consulted with the council of maids on this matter, eventually returning with, “Right! You used some of us as target practice!”
“Master Patchouli’s orders.”
The commander slapped her hands to her face, squeezing her cheeks. Baffled, she exclaimed: “Lady Patchouli!?”
Looking at the rest of them, Gen saw that they were mostly frowning and shaking their heads. One told her commander, “No, I already knew that”, and another nodded with a “Yeah”.
The head fairy then said, without removing her hands from her face, “Oh yeah, I knew that too.”
Gen now lowered his shoulders and stood up straight. The other maids were arguing about who was to blame for last week’s unforgivable crimes, many bringing up Master Patchouli, but many more saying “wait, Lady Patchouli’s way too scary”. Eventually they unanimously agreed that as Gen had committed the heinous act, he was the one they had to punish.
Gen wore a mocking expression and asked them, “I’m weak and all, but can you brats even take me on?”
One fairy of the crowd called out, sounding distant, “Where are the Sunflower Fairies!?”
“Don’t need ‘em!” declared their commander, who folded her arms and glared at the young man in front of her, “Aren’t we the toughest fairies in Scarlet Devil Mansion!?”
And they all agreed.
“That’s nice and all, but I came here for a truce,” Gen reminded.
“Yeah... Why should we have a truce with you when you’re so scary?”
Gen thought for a moment, looking off to the side. Then, he pulled his hands from his pockets and posed like a monster.
“You’re right, never mind,” he said, grinning, “actually, I think I’ve got a better idea since I’ve been here two weeks.”
“Negotiations have failed!” yelled the commander in a panic. “Regroup!”
The fairies flew into the rafters, behind pillars, and near the skylight. Gen stood firm and threw his hand into the air. Like this, he announced, “Maids of the Devil! I think it’s been long enough and my guise is no longer needed! I will now lay claim to the Scarlet Devil Mansion for the Scarlet Devil Library! This is an insurrection!”
One fairy gasped, exclaiming, “An inspection!”
“Ohh no, is Miss Sakuya coming?” another fairy worriedly asked.
“An insurrection is a rebellion, ladies. It’s a coup, usurpation! It’s beating Mistress Remilia in the name of Master Patchouli!”
The fairy maid commander flew down from her hiding place and shouted at Gen, “No way you will! Mistress Remilia is the strongest youkai in Gensokyo!”
“So I need the aid of the strongest fairies,” Gen replied. “I’ll take you all under my wing.”
“Stupid! You don’t have wings! Everyone!” she called for the other maids, and they came to her back, all hiding behind it one after the other in a shape comically reminiscent of a fan. “Let’s show this punk what having wings means.”
And she was met with a resounding, “Yeah!”
Gen faced them with a wicked smile. He pulled a small grimoire from his belt and flipped it open, the fairy battalion ahead of him flying apart and soon casting their magic.
Midday at Scarlet Devil Mansion, summer still high, and Lake’s mist rising thick and mysterious. It was quiet, and somewhat unpleasant. The Mistress of Scarlet Devil Mansion felt it was too hot, but there was nothing to be done. She sat in one of the mansion’s cooler rooms on a wide, pink-hued sofa, crunched up into a corner of it and reading a comic book.
Every once in a while the Mistress grew bored, and this book was just barely staving that pressing boredom off for her. Meiling’s recommendations were exciting, but unfortunately this was the latest volume in Remilia’s hands right now. She was halfway through it. It was hot. Patchouli had been busy lately.
Remilia leaned back her head on the sofa’s arm rest, put the book over her face, and flapped her wings.
It was like she was in the doldrums. Perhaps she should suck it up and bother Reimu...
“Mistress Remilia, there’s terrible news,” Sakuya was now in the room, calmly addressing her Mistress and smiling.
Remilia peaked from under her book at her maid and frowned. “You don’t look like you’re bringing terrible news, Sakuya.”
“But I assure you, it’s quite terrible.”
“What is it? It doesn’t sound like my little sister’s done anything.”
“The Scarlet Devil Mansion is experiencing an incident.”
Remilia sat up more properly and gestured to her maid, “An incident in the mansion? What kind?”
“It seems little clouds are filling the halls, like the sky has been brought down to Earth.”
Remilia simply looked at Sakuya entirely confused.
“Furthermore Gen and several maids are missing,” she added.
“Gen isn’t studying with Patchouli today?”
“It seems that he isn’t.”
“Hmph.” Remilia now stood up, saying: “It’s very mysterious isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sakuya agreed.
“Well then, what are you waiting for? If the sky is in the mansion I can’t very well investigate myself. What if the Sun is here too? Have Meiling go to Flandre’s room to make sure she’s alright, and take some fairies with you down to the library. Your first order of business should be understanding this situation before diving into it headlong.”
“That’s very wise, Mistress Remilia,” Sakuya complimented.
“Of course,” Remilia said, “only shrine maidens rush into the unknown like that.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” the head maid bowed as she answered, then told her master, “I’m off to solve the incident.”
“Do your best. I’ll monitor the situation from here.”
“Yes, Mistress,” she confirmed, and then she was gone.
Sakuya flew through the halls with a contingent of determined fairies. Mistress Remilia was probably right to stay in a safe place, as the clouds filling Scarlet Devil Mansion also gave off light. The Head Maid wasn’t sure it was sunlight, but she was glad her master hadn’t gotten conceited and rushed into danger.
When she neared the staircase to the library she suddenly stopped, her fairy entourage stopping as well. There were a pair of the missing maids at the top of the stairs, and upon seeing her they seemed to ready for battle.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“The new leader of the mansion ordered us to not let anyone get into the library, even if it’s you Lady Sakuya!” one of the two answered.
“There is only one leader of this mansion, and she has yet to abdicate,” Sakuya replied. “Are you girls really going to stand in my way?”
“Absolutely!” the other fairy declared.
“Interesting.” Sakuya revealed a half-smile. “This new leader of yours knows how to keep you in line well if you’re serious about going against me.”
The Head Maid hugged herself and withdrew knives from behind her back. Putting on a serious face, she addressed her insubordinate subordinates again.
“I’ll remind you who you are loyal to, and punish you both later.”
She flew forward and the rebellious maids raised their hands to shoot her down. Sakuya moved through their barrage with complete ease, almost appearing to swim in the air. And, in no time, she had planted a knife each into the foreheads of her disobedient maids.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured them, floating over their bodies, “I used the dull edge of the blade.”
“There’s... no...” one of the maids groaned, but then expired. The other quickly followed suit. Sakuya sighed at this and shook her head before calling over her troupe and heading down the stairs.
“Gen was kidnapped and some fairies are trying to take over the mansion?”
Sakuya stood in the library before Patchouli Knowledge, who had been reading a novel today in a rare occasion.
“Sakuya, are you going crazy?” the magician asked with eyes full of actual concern.
“No, I don’t think so,” said the maid.
“What exactly is going on?”
“It seems to be an incident. Along with our missing second human and the turncoat maids, there are strange clouds drifting throughout the mansion.”
“Clouds?” Patchouli wondered.
Sakuya looked back at the maids joining her, and upon doing so one nodded and came close to show Patchouli what it had in its hands: a piece of one of the clouds.
Patchouli looked it over and ran it through a short gamut of tests, including understanding it through her senses. Once she’d determined it wasn’t poisonous, she tasted it then she told Sakuya: “It’s made of water and artificial light. I’d wager fire.”
“So it’s like a real cloud.”
“Real clouds aren’t made of any light,” Patchouli grabbed the cloud piece from fairy maid and examined it some more with a finger resting between her lips. “Interesting, simple magic,” she commented.
Patchouli then suddenly went still, squinted harshly, and went through a series of ponderous and frustrated facial expressions.
“What’s wrong?” Sakuya asked her.
“... Nothing. Have you asked those maids what they might know about the incident?”
Sakuya shook her head.
“Well?” Patchouli looked at the fairies that had followed Sakuya, demanding, “What do you think?”
“I think this sounds like a really fun game!” one of the fairies answered, oblivious and chipper.
“That the clouds aren’t made from sunlight... I’ll admit that makes it sounds rather fun,” Patchouli said, then she added, “But I feel like having the clouds illuminate at all was a foreboding hint. Sakuya, make sure Remi and Flan don’t leave their rooms at all; I think when you find the heart of this incident, you’ll also find someone’s attempt at making a Sun.”
“Why do you say that, Lady Patchouli?”
“Because if what you’re saying is true, the culprit is indeed making the mansion into a model of the sky. A sky needs a Sun and a Moon, but as these clouds are bright, I think the implication is our false sky on earth is one reflecting only the day.”
Patchouli returned to her book and finished with:
“If that false sun uses sunlight, that presents an actual danger to those two. If that false sun uses sunlight...” mumbling almost to herself, she next glanced at the human, “punish the culprit without remorse. If it doesn’t use sunlight, simply punish them.”
“How will I know that it doesn’t use sunlight?” the human asked.
“Use this,” Patchouli reached into her sleeve and revealed a small, thorn-covered seed. She handed it to the maid, who received it gingerly.
“That seed will instantly grow when exposed to true sunlight,” Patchouli explained, “so keep it hidden until you reach the false sun.”
“Understood,” Sakuya took a small handkerchief from apron’s pocket and wrapped the seed until its thorns no longer pierced the fabric. She then used a safety pin from within that same pocket to keep the cloth from unwrapping, and hid the seed away somewhere in her clothes.
“This should be easy for you, Sakuya,” Patchouli told her. She went back to her book again and continued, “Tell me when it’s done.”
She warned the Scarlet sisters properly and soon came to the lobby of the mansion. Along her way she would find rebel maids and dispose of them, but she came no nearer to the true identity of the culprit. Her Mistress posited the theory that this was a god or goddess’s work rather than a youkai – that this was retribution for her acts not too long ago. In return for forcing night on Gensokyo, some divinity sought to force day on her mansion.
If it was indeed such a being, this would be Sakuya’s first time facing one. She had no beliefs in any gods, but she couldn’t deny their alleged power. She wondered about Gen... Lady Patchouli gave no mention of him in her postulation. If the culprit had indeed kidnapped him, she imagined Lady Patchouli would become quite angered, and if the culprit was using a true-ish imitation of the sun to harm her best friend, the magician would probably want to draw this enemy’s blood herself.
However in all honesty she wasn’t very worried. A large factor of this incident was the rebellion of fairies. After she’d received her instructions and advice from Lady Patchouli, she’d set the fairies following her to guard her Mistress, but none of them seemed deeply worried about the situation. In fact, aside from the truly ignorant maids she encountered while investigating, she was quite sure most of the maids in the mansion knew exactly what was happening today. If that was the case, she felt the culprit can’t have been a bad person. The maids were loyal to Remilia Scarlet, and they had no cause for dissatisfaction under her order. Whoever they followed now was likely playing a joke.
However, the moment Patchouli’s seed sprouted, Sakuya vowed that she would show no mercy and be swift with the intruder.
She now flew deep into the mansion, following the clouds, and her knives glinted menacingly in their light.
Sakuya approached what seemed to be the core of the incident. For a while now, the inside of the mansion was looking more and more sky-like, particularly with an increase of clouds. Now, faded blue light filled the hall she was in, and cool air was pushed all around her. Six fairies awaited her, seemingly guarding the western atrium.
“Amazing,” Sakuya said to herself, stopping to admire the handiwork, “it really is like the sky.”
“It’s awesome, right?” one of the fairies called. Sakuya looked up at her, and saw that it was one of her more competent, if not whimsical maids: Livy Mayflower. Livy had her arms crossed and seemed to be flying within a gust, her long yellow hair being tossed around stylishly. Her eyes, blue as the “sky” around her, seemed almost to be shining as she gave her superior a confident smile. “The Boss’s first order of business was making Scarlet Devil Mansion more suitable for fairies!”
“Oh my, were you displeased with the mansion as it was before?”
“Uh, no,” Livy said, immediately losing that confidence, “Mistress Remilia is a wonderful Mistress.”
“Ah, that’s good,” Sakuya replied with a pleasant expression, “But you’ve still been a bad child, Livy. I’ll have to punish you and the rest.”
“Sorry, Miss Sakuya, but you’ll only be able to punish us if you can beat the Boss!” Livy threw her hand out forward and yelled, “But too bad! The Boss can make the sky! Isn’t that incredible!? You can’t do that, Miss Sakuya! You’re gonna lose!”
“Unfortunately for your boss, I’ve been forbidden to lose,” the Head Maid told her with a look of pity. She drew one of her knives and said, “Come now, Livy. I’m curious how well I’ve trained you all.”
“Shiny Battalion!” shouted the fairy commander, “This is the last line before the production facility! We can’t let Miss Sakuya pass no matter what! Don’t give up!”
They all gave a rousing shout of “Ohh!!”, and the battle began.
Fairy danmaku was almost always simple. For example, up until now the fairies Sakuya had taken down would simply fire magical bullets at her in a straight line and either stand in place or move clumsily in one direction. They usually only demonstrated even slightly notable power when an incident threatening all of Gensokyo was going on, and even then their numbers were the only particularly threatening thing about them. Fairies didn’t organize, either; they had little sense of camaraderie, and when they joined together for an incident it was in a kind of wide-spread, explosive play that all wanted to be part of. Thus, fairy danmaku was almost always simple.
However, the maids of Scarlet Devil Mansion were different.
The ones that were a part of this “incident” that Sakuya had already defeated were only ever in pairs or alone, but she had trained her maids to work together in the event of emergency. The ones in the hall led by Livy were just enough of a squad to get into some of the formations they had been taught.
Not wanting to simply get this over with, and instead wanting to observe, the Head Maid watched her little ones separate into three, two, and one. Three swept the hall and turned the blue sky red with their bullets, coloring the mansion more appropriately. There was very little room to move in their spread, and while most of the bullets were the same shape and fired in the same pattern, their point man made sure to differentiate in bullet shape and direction. It was actually a little difficult to dodge, and Sakuya was pleased.
Two dropped in midway through the first squad’s pass and began firing two things: great circles of magic and shots specifically aimed at their true boss. At this point, Sakuya began to take the assault seriously, and fell into something akin to a trance of dodging. She kept aware of the field, and carefully escaped whatever the barrage threw at her.
Finally, one (Livy) flew to the middle of the hallway and did her best to act as a true threat. She shifted from pattern to pattern, pinwheel to waving bands, aiming to scattered, and Sakuya unconsciously smiled with warmth. Now, she returned fire.
Although their power was satisfactory and even made their superior proud, an unfortunate aspect of fairies – and another reason why the mansion had to employ so many – was that they were really not strong at all. A few in the wild who would appear during incidents had impressive endurance, but Sakuya could count the ones like that who worked at Scarlet Devil Mansion on one hand, and none were here. Once she began to fight back, it didn’t take her long to finish them all off.
Soon done, Sakuya flew over to Livy who was riddled with knives. The little fairy spoke in a warbling tone.
“S-Sorry Miss Sakuya...”
“Right, you should apologize. However, you fairies are fighting well. I’m happy with you. Good work.”
Sakuya continued, saying “It’s good enough I have to wonder how it was someone managed to get you all to go along with them.”
And she expected an answer, but Livy had already passed away. She’d be reborn with the new day, but her supervisor didn’t like putting these maids down. Even if they hardly did anything usually, fewer maids meant cleaning and such would always take that much longer.
That’s why she sighed. But, thankfully, this would be over soon. The end of the hallway was very bright, and according to Livy something was being made there. It must have been the source of the false sky. Steeling herself for whatever could be in store, Sakuya proceeded again.
And inside the atrium that knew only day, “he” was there.
“But really, you fairies are terribly impressive,” the culprit of the mansion’s crisis stood at a high balcony and complimented a water fairy before him.
“Heheh,” the fairy giggled and blushed, not pausing from her duties. That is to say, she constantly summoned a stream of water from her hands into the air until she could summon no more, whereupon another water fairy would take her place while she recovered. The summoned water was received by fairies with the aspect of flame, who evaporated whatever came their way. The culprit, a magician, had several glyphs and magics in effect in order to keep a mad plan of his going.
The evaporated water was pulled together to make clouds; the byproduct light of the fire was used to illuminate them, and the fire itself was gathered at the center of their base – the west atrium of Scarlet Devil Mansion – in a great, rolling ball of heat. This was a facsimile of the Sun – or perhaps “imitation” would be a better word. Furthermore, fairies of wind spun a circle of breeze round the atrium, which the magician gathered to create false atmosphere. He expected by now that the full scope of his manufactured sky would have reached the mansion’s lobby, and so he allowed himself a chuckle.
Then, he suddenly lurched forward as a familiar fairy rushed into his head from behind. It was his alarm clock, who he’d learned was named Merremia. She tugged at his cheeks and complained.
“Quit laughing and make more skyyy!”
“At thish point the shky ish being made on itsh own,” he replied, his voice sounding strange from her manipulation of his face.
“I’m kinda annoyed I can’t make any sunlight for the Sun. Agh, I’m frustrated!”
She tugged particularly hard at his face, eliciting an “Ouch!” after which he removed her hands and held her at her wrists from below.
“If I made the sun from sunlight that would hurt Mistresses Remilia and Flandre.”
“You’re already a villain, so why not?”
He looked at her from over his shoulder and spoke with disappointment in his voice, “Are you like this because your aspect makes you naturally oppose vampires? You should be more respectful.”
“I’m saying you should do it, not me.”
He dropped his hold and decided not to explain that even if he did it, he’d probably have to use her.
Now, she hummed a song at his back and began to fiddle with his hair. He decided to take this time to really look over this strange fairy factory of his. Basically: he’d written down some magical seals on scrolls and set them up around the atrium at key positions to direct the flow of elements the maids produced and manipulate them as he wished. After he’d defeated the fairies in their hideout, he thought up the plan while gazing through the skylight. Everyone agreed that it was a “super” idea, and they’d all high-fived.
Every fairy looked incredibly happy in their work, and he was surprised they could be so organized. Then again, his Master had explained that fairies and pranks went together like tea and cake. Finely tuned mischief was still mischief in the end, so of course they rallied with ease for this dastardly purpose.
He returned his attention to Merremia, who was tying his hair into a braid, and asked her, “You are making sure no sunlight enters the fake sun, right?”
“Yeah, I can absorb sunlight with my wings. In the outside world, it’s new technology. Did you know that?”
Did she mean solar panels?
“Does that mean you’re some sort of battery?”
“Huh? Mistress Remilia is a battery.”
“She’s made of bats!”
The rest of the fairies, who had apparently been listening, suddenly chimed in with a collective “Yeah!”
“You know about solar panels but not batteries...” he said with a sigh.
Merremia finished her work and leaned in so she was at the side of his face. Her expression was entirely haughty. “I know...” she began, “that Miss Sakuya is going to come to save her Princess soon.”
He smirked, but said nothing in reply. Merremia left his side and started laughing with her hands over her mouth and her eyes closed.
“You’re gonna get it, Sir Gen! I can’t wait!”
Once more, the rest agreed all together in a shout.
And as if on cue, the Head Maid glided into the atrium.
Everyone gasped except the instigator, who called: “Do not cease production!”
The fairies all nodded with fierce looks, and continued their work. Itou Gen descended from his balcony on a cloud he had thickened with more solid materials in the air in order to make it more tangible, and he met Izayoi Sakuya with flair.
“Miss Sakuya! Are you impressed?”
Sakuya’s face held no humor as she looked upon Gen, bringing her gaze behind him to inspect the artificial star he’d forged. Wordlessly, she reached into a fold in her clothing and withdrew some kind of white package.
“Hm? What’s that?” Gen asked.
The maid unwrapped her package, and from what he could see it contained some kind of barbed seed. She looked at it for a moment, then plucked it up between her fingers and held it aloft. Gen witnessed her in silence, and eventually Sakuya’s expression softened. She re-wrapped the seed, addressing him.
“Even with this glass ceiling, no reaction. You’ve been thorough...” she spoke lightly, and putting her now-pinned cloth away looked him in his eyes while smiling, “Gen... I don’t know why I didn’t predict this possibility. I don’t think a braid suits you, by the way.”
“Ah...” Gen flicked at his hair, but didn’t bother untying it. Coughing, he answered: “Up until now, I think I’ve been pretty unassuming.”
“To answer your question: I am impressed, in many ways. It seems as though Lady Patchouli has been a good teacher to you.” She crossed her arms and relaxed her posture. “Though I’m surprised your behavior is this bad.”
“I only make this bid for power in the Library’s name. I am ever-loyal to my Master,” he said this with a butler’s bow.
“As I am to mine,” she answered with a curtsy. “But you act independently. Gen, to discipline you, I’m going to have to cut you.”
“Cut me! So violent!”
“It is merely my choice of weaponry,” Sakuya explained with eyes closed. Bringing her arms over her chest again, she looked at the culprit and raised her voice, “Gen... you may have scared our Mistresses with your actions today. Furthermore you’ve usurped control over my girls and bid them work for you in such a deplorable fashion. Finally, you have created quite the mess. Do you know any remorse?”
He shook his head. “None.”
“Then I will teach you...” she stated darkly, rising to his level. “But I first have to ask: how did you gain command of my maids? Even with Lady Patchouli’s tutelage, I see no way you could survive the barrage of twenty of my most skilled subordinates in a confined space like this.”
“I find your curiosity flattering,” Gen said, and he brought forth more thick clouds to fill the atrium and give him space in the air. Once he was satisfied with the amount of false ground, he gave Sakuya an explanation. “You’re overthinking it, though. I just used a spell capable of clearing bullets.”
“A cowardly tactic,” Sakuya commented.
“I’m trying to be better.”
“This boldness is a good start!” Sakuya pulled out her knives. “Of the things you’ve done to impress me today, this gall has done the most!”
“You know, Miss Sakuya,” Gen answered, removing a small book from a belt hook, “I’ve realized we haven’t had the opportunity to talk much.”
“Then, how about we chat over tea when this is over?”
“That sounds lovely.”
“Yes,” Sakuya agreed, “I think it does, too.”
The two humans of Scarlet Devil Mansion stared each other down. With something like tension and respect mixed between them, they were silent. Then, when that feeling of a need for battle had risen high, they both raised their arms and shouted in unison:
Sakuya would not be merciful like Alice. She came at Gen as if she had met her match, although she surely hadn’t. However, as the “challenged” in this fight, Gen held some advantage over her. For instance, he would be able to use more spell cards... assuming his endurance kept up with her assault.
The Maid of the Devil was quick to launch her blades at the Apprentice of the Library, and Gen was able to largely avoid them as he launched an undeclared barrage.
Today he would use a combination of the nearest fairies’ energies to fight, and since wind fairies were present this meant that again he would be practicing a western combat style of air, fire, and water. He used all three to prepare interweaving waves of bullets both aimed at Sakuya and sent out in a spread. She dodged incredibly skillfully, and wasn’t hit once. Soon enough, she had forced Gen to declare his first spell card.
“Air Sign: ‘Fantastic Turbulence’!”
It was a spell inspired by the few plane rides he’d experienced before falling into Gensokyo. The entire area shook with power as he rolled great wheels of cerulean magic in threes toward his opponent. Sakuya decided to “graze” these, though she did not seem mocking as Alice had when she’d done the same. She seemed to stick close to his danmaku because she could, like this was the way it should be. All the while she laid into him with her knives, which surprisingly left no major wounds. He had to imagine this might be different were he a youkai or had he incited the Head Maid’s full wrath.
Sakuya had Gen’s spell captured in moments, and it was her turn to launch a pattern. Although she herself alleged to not be a magician, she summoned a quartet of glyphs that floated out from her and began firing spiral-shots. He did suppose Meiling had mentioned that magic was a wide-use kind of thing; perhaps “magic” was almost all-encompassing and magicians simply knew it best. At any rate, already Gen felt he was in no position to be fighting such an opponent. It seemed like facing a sudden spike in difficulty in a video game, and he dodged her fire in a panic. He didn’t neglect a counterattack though, and was still using a combination of three elements in a stream aimed at Sakuya. As if thinking her pattern was too easy, Sakuya herself began sending out immense waves of knives in fans that intimidated, but thankfully seemed very open. It was just a matter of spatial awareness, something the Magician’s Apprentice had been building up over these last two weeks. Somehow, he managed to not fail, and the next round was entered as a slip of paper appeared in Sakuya’s hand.
“Illusion Existence: ‘Clock Corpse’.”
... This card certainly seemed to have a lot of buildup. Sakuya stood still, accepting Gen’s fire with her eyes closed, as some sort of fog gathered toward and within her. Eventually, she scattered some bullets haphazardly and drifted to her left. Gen thought this was a bit of a letdo—
He now faced perhaps near a hundred knives waved out before him. They mostly came at him then, though some descended in equidistant columns. Unable to actually process this, Gen rushed to his right and fell into the clouds below, still keeping his assault up and making sure he was in line with Sakuya... Was he? He looked up as the knives passed overhead only to realize that, somehow, she was further to the right of the atrium than she really should have been given how slowly she’d moved. He adjusted quickly.
Time manipulation! he realized. She uses that in her spells, too? No, of course she does.
This spell was fairly terrifying to contend with, and must’ve been worse without prior knowledge of the maid’s abilities. Thankfully, it was only briefly horrifying to Gen because of his knowledge, and he quickly figured out her rhythm. In due time, he had the card captured.
“My turn!” he said, and he cast forth a different pattern: something like falling rain, but waving slightly due to the influence of wind. No fire was used. He was saving that for something else, potentially...
As before, Sakuya handled it well, so he increased and decreased the rate of the attack intermittently. She simply zig-zagged through it all, correcting her speed as needed. Really, she was so beyond him. He was pretty sure he was going to lose this (though he felt he certainly deserved it).
A “killing” blade struck his shoulder and Gen had to declare his next spell card. He took it out and used it without delay.
“Air and Water Sign: ‘Mackerel Sky’.”
Once Patchouli had been sure her student was confident with at least two elements, she’d explained to him the various ways in which one might combine them. Generally, it was more about what the magician could think of rather than how strong the magician’s magic was. That said, offensive combination magic always always required the caster’s spirit, and Gen didn’t have much.
Upon casting the spell, it felt as though energy was being drawn out of his gut. This is, of course, because it was. He still wasn’t used to it, and according to Master he wouldn’t be until he had enough spiritual energy to simply not notice it being drained. From how it felt now, he was fairly sure he already didn’t have much left.
His power snaked up his arm and toward his hand, meeting with the paper there and activating it properly. Though this entire process was near instant, to the still-green apprentice, this all seemed very slow. He winced, and a field of clouds encircled both combatants, filling their field of play. Less than a second after, air rushed through them all and split them apart into Gen’s intended danmaku. The clouds became cirrocumulus, or like fluffy scales slowly drifting ahead. Witnessing this sorcery, Sakuya actually momentarily paused with some awe. She began slipping through it all soon enough, but his barrage wasn’t over.
Eyes widening in surprise, Sakuya suddenly flew back as the clouds began dropping blue bullets, every other cloud producing a single shot in one-second intervals that shortened more and more. This was something genuinely difficult to avoid, though Gen imagined if his Master saw it she’d criticize its lack of beauty and the lazy implementation of the “rain” which shortly followed the appearance of these clouds. She’d be happy to know that due to rules of fairness, the barrage only lasted about six seconds before having to rest for another four and reset. Having the danmaku be constant would simply be obnoxious. Naturally his opponent, who couldn’t really risk moving much during the assault, used these opportunities to get very close to him and throw very many knives. He only got in two waves before she’d shut him down.
Sakuya’s next two attacks had Gen dodging like he’d been stuck on one of those recently-popular arcade dancing games, as she began using her knives exclusively and bounding them off the edges of the playfield. It was tricky, but he managed to survive her “ordinary” attack. He wasn’t so lucky with her spell card. He got hit many times trying to deal with that spell card. He was able to beat Sakuya at her round and have the position of offense returned to him, but now he felt terrible both physically and mentally.
He now stood still, almost shaking.
Sakuya ceased fire and deigned to address him, “Are you forfeiting?” she asked. “You still have more spells to use, do you not?”
“I—I do...” he managed to answer.
“Then bring out your ordinary magic,” she ordered, lifting her weapons again.
Gen swallowed. Being hit while using a spell card was a lot different from being hit while facing one. Allegedly, this, too, was a matter of spirit or its capacity… or something. To wit: get stronger, hurt less, get stronger yet.
Gen used another pattern, but its simplicity and meager output clearly reflected his state. Sakuya needed to only barely move to avoid it. In a surprising act of mercy, she did not attack Gen, instead quietly reaching time out and waiting for him to declare his next magic.
... When he would, he’d feel reinvigorated for a time, but he wondered about what he’d do for a finale.
“Fire Sign: ‘Midday Shine’.”
Strength returned to him as his spell card burned. His penultimate attack was a series of rays pulled directly from the false sun. One, two, three, four they aimed at the desired opponent, after which pellets of light burst out of the makeshift star and gently swayed throughout the field. This pattern really made the area sweltering. Although a fake sun stood in the atrium, Gen’s other magics kept its heat from running wild. Sakuya was clearly sweating under the rays and lights, but never missed a step. Gen stood still and allowed her to aim her knives. He wanted to force himself into a choice impulsively and quickly. He had two options. If he used one, however, the other would be locked away. One was a card he’d practiced with which would take some of his spirit to call. It wasn’t hugely complicated but it presented no risks. He could use it and leave this incident behind graciously... or he could use “that”.
Unpracticed, all theory, but if it worked as intended...
Sakuya caught his gaze and flung a single knife toward his chest. Gen knew that once it hit, his round would be over. Thus, gathering his thoughts, he decided:
 Use a reliable spell card that has been practiced before.
I agree, he has gone out of his way to make sure that his "sun" doesn't have real sunlight... wait a minute. Is allowing Remilia and Flandre to experience what walking under a shiny sky is like his endgame?
Although he expected and indeed on some level even wished to lose here, he didn’t want his plan to stop here and not be fully realized. Really... he couldn’t allow it.
The approaching dagger pierced his chest, and as he let it dully sunk into him, he drew his final card.
At this Sakuya actually found herself exclaiming “What!?”
And he finished the incantation, shouting: “’Skyfall’!”
His whimsical cohorts in the atrium all gave a rallying cry, he grinned weakly, and his card at once exploded into rainbows, wind, and fire.
All his spiritual power flooded out of him and his face was drained of color as the remaining fairies came to join him above his clouds and the elements filling the atrium whirled with fury. He wouldn’t be able to move now, even with the boost casting a spell card provided. However... this was an experimental attack. It was one that used allies, and one that was meant to be survived rather than beaten.
Meiling had told him she used fairies in some of her spells, and his Master had told him about survival cards. Both were highly spiritually intensive things to pull off, and a weakling like Gen genuinely felt on the verge of death upon performing this. Still, he stood best as he was able, and fairies came to his side, hiding him in a shield of three colors. Before Sakuya could no longer see his face, he stuck his tongue out at her.
Production increased exponentially. The sun pulsed with power, winds howled, and clouds erupted from the center of the atrium rapidly as the core of this danmaku. Sakuya, with intensity and concentration defining her face, decided the best course of action would be to find a path forward through the clouds. Graceful yet fierce, she rolled and dashed through the bullet curtain, and soon came to Gen’s shielded form, whereupon she tossed her own barrage that was easily deflected by the energies circling him. She noticed: his fairies were also covering one another, meaning that this had to be a card meant to be endured. So, she withdrew.
Backed away, the flow of clouds suddenly stopped, and Sakuya looked behind herself to see that they had all rushed down the hallway, followed by air, light, and color.
He’s filling the entire mansion! she realized. Gripping her knives’ handles between her fingers, she looked at the other human and grit her teeth, unable to put a stop to this.
The attack then moved into its next phase.
The “Sun” finished pulsing and had now expanded perhaps one and a half times its original size. Now, like with “Midday Shine”, it cast rays of firelight, though this time the rays were first preceded by thin streams of light marking their future paths, and none were directed at her. Larger bullets of “sunlight” were shot out of the structure en masse, and Sakuya began twirling to keep herself unscathed. All in all it was a simpler phase, but she wondered just how many he had in store.
Next, three fairies with aspects Gen need not use for his plan came down from the skylight to attack Sakuya in a similar way they might defend the mansion. Meanwhile, rainbows spun beautifully and dangerously, bent from flying streams flowing near the apprentice magician. They would cascade in large motions from left to right, then right to left, forcing Sakuya to keep her movements very precise.
The next phase came as she’d finally gotten a feeling for this pattern, jet streams abruptly bursting forth and scattering bullets randomly. This almost hit her, if only for not expecting it, but once she’d registered the change it was only a matter of dodging well.
Soon enough the winds quieted, and there was a calm, but Gen’s sorcery had clearly not ended. In what Sakuya felt had to be the final gambit, the fairies at Gen’s side dropped his shield, revealing his now very-pallid look before entering an arc formation behind him.
“Do your best, Miss Sakuya!”
“You can do it!”
“Gooo!! Go go go!”
While they prepared their last hurrah, her maids cheered for her, and Sakuya was surprised with herself. She felt... moved, to be honest. She looked down at Gen, who was now sinking into his clouds. With his head bowed, he gave her a thumb’s up, and disappeared below them.
The maids, the sun, the clouds, the sky, and all were part of this closing pattern. The fairies gave their everything into supplying “material” for the attack, raising their hands and casting with all might as sweat formed on their brows. From their combined efforts and Gen’s incantations and scrolls, clouds were weaved together and came out one after the other in waving lines. The clouds essentially formed a double helix, which was one layer of the spell to be moved through. Next, the fairies of wind whirled out energy in orbs, vaguely aiming at their superior. The fairies of fire fed into the Sun, which slowly and erratically deployed beams like cannon fire around the atrium. The water fairies also evenly distributed bullets in a mock rain (bullets which were very easy to inconveniently forget about), and with this came halos of prismatic light at the atrium’s center, seemingly only there for show. Finally, the fairies unused for the sky-creation magic did their part by spiraling shots outward, but again this was mostly for aesthetics. Sakuya thought: it was proper danmaku, it was a challenging spell.
Her maids continued to offer her support as they pushed themselves on, and she couldn’t resist a smile. Displaying obvious joy in her movements, she properly dodged, grazed, and – with pounding in her chest – finally reached the end, capturing Gen’s last word.
With its capture came an immense, roaring explosion of brightness and sound, and when it cleared, the maids all fell exhausted. Gen’s cloud-floor dissipated, and Sakuya found him kneeling and barely conscious on the ground. She dropped to him and said nothing as he made an effort to speak.
“Now...” he said “... make sure... Mistress Remilia... and Mistress Flandre see... it...”
His thoughts faded as Sakuya continued to make sounds of confusion. Before his sight faded as well, he took in a wide glance of the sky he had created, and passed out with a smug look of self-satisfaction.
Well then, I take back my vote >>65370 , I was just concerned it might be something dangerous and, y'know, not danmaku. Should've had more faith. I'll have to make up for that in later votes. Way to be a coolguy, Gen.
He regained his senses and felt warmth at his side, while a calm breeze brushed over the rest of him. Still feeling too weak to raise his eyelids, he twitched his brow in response to these sensations. The source of his warmth, something he was leaning against, then shifted.
“You’re awake, Gen, so sit up straight.”
He opened his eyes, but still couldn’t do what was requested of him, and only even managed to hold a blurry gaze now. Across from him was Miss Izayoi Sakuya, drinking tea and paging through a book. Beside him was his Master, Patchouli Knowledge, who he seemed to have been using as a pillow. He looked at her, not entirely registering the situation. Patchouli was reading a novel... how unusual. But of course, her decision to not react to his sleeping against her was so “unusual” it made him think he must’ve dreaming.
Eventually, he had enough strength to pull himself away and drop his back into the sofa they were apparently sitting on. Patchouli regarded him with an honest, soft smile and asked him: “Did you sleep well?”
“No...” Gen answered, holding a palm to his head. He explained: “I feel like a husk.”
He looked back at her, and she shrugged before returning to her novel. She told him: “That’s natural. You decided to be a stupid boy and stupidly hurt yourself today, Gen.”
Gen finally understood that he wasn’t dreaming, and he couldn’t stop a blush flooding from his cheeks to the tops of his ears. He realized that although his slumber had been similar to what one would experience after taking pills designed specifically for the task, he had felt so comfortable and nice when his consciousness had returned and he knew he was resting on his Master. Honestly, he wanted to pretend he was still entirely unwell and sleep at her side again, and the thought made him blush further.
“Awake, Gen?” asked the maid who sat across from them. “It’s unfortunate your rest was unpleasant... For your work today you deserve a good one.”
He looked at his fellow human now, trying to calm himself. She seemed to realize his thoughts, and laughed lightly while turning away to her tea. Next, he tried to find out where they were, as it wasn’t the library.
They seemed to be in some sort of event hall or ballroom, but at the same time it was clear that they were outside the mansion and above the clouds. After all, this wasn’t his magic. Gen’s clouds were almost cartoonish and all aspects of his sky were haphazard. While one could say it was realistic, that it was also fake was never hidden. This was just too real. Clouds were thick and thin exactly as they would seem outside, the breeze was convincing, the light was carefully layered rather than bullheadedly emphasizing blue... He was certain: not even magic could be capable of this.
Patchouli, who had been observing her student’s wandering eyes, informed him: “I couldn’t allow Remi and the little sister to walk through your grade school diorama sky, so I reworked your spells and added some flair of my own.”
He met eyes with her again, and after he did, Patchouli said, “It was still exactly the level I expected you to be capable of, and most of the material supplied for this modification came from your gamble. Good boy, good boy,” and she lifted a hand.
Tender, slow, caring, and careful, Patchouli Knowledge proceeded to pat and pet the head of her apprentice, running fingers through his hair and optimizing her show of fondness for comfort. Her hand would occasionally brush against his ear, always making him shiver.
His expression was and posture were stunned. He now... felt... emotions. Regarding his confusion, he looked at Sakuya for answers, his eyes asking if there was something wrong with Master. To this Sakuya shook her head.
“Do you not remember? Just before you lost consciousness you told me to make sure our Mistresses saw your skyfall for themselves.” Sakuya went back to reading, turning a page as she spoke. “Before I did, I had to make sure your spellwork was structurally sound, and so consulted with Lady Patchouli.”
Sakuya then glanced up from the pages and gave Gen a smirk, mouthing to him: “She’s happy with you.”
Patchouli now removed her hand and looked to Gen for a response. He gave one.
“Th-Thank you, Master!” He wasn’t sure why he was thanking her and decided, he should not think about why he was thanking her.
“There’s nothing to thank me for,” she answered, not out of politeness. She then offered a compliment. “You at once think a lot like me and not at all, Gen. It makes you a very amusing student.”
Gen briefly looked to his side, sporting a quaking smile. Holding his eyes closed, eyebrows wiggling, he managed to settled it down from taking over his face. Then, he breathed out and asked:
“So, the Mistresses saw it? They’re happy with it?”
Sakuya answered this.
“They’re very fascinated and pleased with it. The clock has nearly struck twelve and they keep on exploring it.”
“While there was still daylight,” Patchouli said, “I had portals to some views of the day-lit Gensokyo from its skies. Ah, and that reminds me: another way I added to the scenery was to fashion the basement areas after the Forest of Magic, and to replicate some other areas of this land with Sakuya’s help for manipulation of space.”
“You... did all that...” Gen was almost speechless. This meant his Master had to have completed everything in only an hour or two while the day still remained. It had taken him almost three to just figure out how to regularly produce clouds.
“Remi saw fit to show you her appreciation, though,” his Master said.
Still contending with the fact that this had all gone over so well, he stared at her perplexed and asked, “What? How?”
Patchouli closed her novel and felt along its edges, eventually stopping for something she felt between two pages. Opening the book now to those pages, she withdrew a somewhat large, gold-embroidered card. It bore a pressed rose flower and had been splashed with two small drops of blood which looked only recently dry. She presented this card to Gen and told him: “When I allow you time again, you should formally introduce yourself to Flandre.”
The card, written with superbly well-penned English, said the following:
To Itou Gen (written in the Eastern script 伊藤彦), student of my dearest friend Patchouli Knowledge and recent guest of my house, the Scarlet Devil Mansion,
In this long life of mine you have given me a new experience that is irreplaceable, and offered me rare opportunity to walk once more with my sister. New experiences and fun-filled moments are all precious to me, and an experience such as this – to openly stroll under and fly through a daytime sky, despite my constitution – brings me no small amount of joy. For your efforts, know that you will always have our thanks: hers, and mine.
With affection, your benefactor in fate and life,
Remilia Scarlet, and also, Flandre Scarlet –sisters
Itou Gen finished the card and repressed a “holy shit” (in English) from escaping his lips. He also stifled a laugh upon seeing Mistress Flandre’s deliberately over-inked signature. While he mulled this sign of gratitude over with a hand partially covering his mouth, his Master reached into one of her sleeves and pulled from it a fine steel-chained necklace with what seemed to be a ruby centerpiece.
“This is Remi’s gift,” Patchouli said.
“Gift!? Are you serious?”
“Remi does not ignore favor and kindness,” Patchouli said in a serious tone.
He received the necklace and carefully looked it over through both of his hand, rubbing the jewel of it between his thumb and forefinger. Something was strange... He looked more closely, and was taken aback to realize this was not a gemstone, but a small vial containing red liquid.
“What is it...?” he asked no one in particular, having simply let a thought slip from his tongue. Patchouli, of course, told him.
“It’s vampire’s blood;” she said, gently taking the vial into her hand, “Remilia’s. Even if you slay a vampire with a stake they will hardly bleed, and whatever blood you manage to collect will burn with any exposure to sunlight. The glass of that vial was specially forged, and cannot be pierced by the Sun’s rays. With contingencies needed such as this to keep it, in addition to the difficultly of even getting one’s hands on it in the first place, vampire’s blood is an exceptionally rare thing to possess. I should also say, on top of all that and before anything else, what little blood a vampire has in their own body is extremely valuable to them.” Her explanation done, she spoke with importance, saying: “That is what Remilia has given you.”
Sure there must be insane magical applications for this blood, and fairly certain receiving the Scarlet Devil’s blood from the Devil herself held some sort of implications, Gen could barely manage thoughts, eventually just asking the question:
“Why would the Mistress give me something so... so incredible?”
“Because although you were stupid today, Gen, you did something good.”
“Good deeds are rewarded,” Sakuya chimed in.
What about bad deeds...? he thought, and again it was as if Sakuya was reading his mind (perhaps just his face).
“Bad deeds are punished,” she replied, “and you and the fairy maids have already been punished.”
“Yeah, come to think of it you really didn’t go easy on me,” he moaned, rubbing at aches on his stomach and arm.
“Yes,” Sakuya agreed, and that was that.
They all then relaxed. They chatted about the artificial sky, what the sisters had thought of the model Sun (which Gen was told he had to see before he went to bed), and thoughts on being human (which Patchouli wasn’t, but she had questions they could answer). Sakuya and Gen had very different perspectives, since Sakuya had supposedly faced persecution for her strange powers. Gen was “normal” in his original world, apart from having curious hobbies, and so faced no such thing. It seemed neither of them felt like equals, but there was in this evaluation a sense of “not yet”. They had both earned one another’s respect today, Gen’s for being so noble and swift, Sakuya’s for being so amusing and thoughtful. Patchouli seemed really very interested in the two of them, and in explaining magic and the sky, and their conversations went on long into the night.
Eventually, Gen succumbed to his fatigue once more, and though he consciously recognized that he really shouldn’t do this, he ended up slumping into his Master’s shoulder again, quickly falling asleep after contact. She made no change in expression, and continued reading her book. Sakuya chuckled at this, and continued reading as well. The confused hot summer’s day began to draw to a close, under the pleasant and cooling lights of a manmade sky.
And, deep within the mansion, two sisters held hands as they delightedly wandered the magicians’ artifice: warm, close, and unable to end their curiosity.
>>65385 Definitely something I found to click in retrospect and ran with, so thanks for that >>65374
It was purely fairy mischief, but connecting it with Remilia's boredom/concerns, and Gen's natural avoidance of any true harm, seemed perfectly fitting and made for a hell of a ride to write and a surprisingly conclusion, even to me.
Because of his stunt, Itou Gen was made to “rest” rather than go to Misty Lake the day after as planned. He stayed indoors, helping at the library and learning more about spiritual reserves and how to build on them. This took a week, during which he came to realize that a lot of ominous pressure that had previously waned on his sanity in the mansion had... just gone away. He was not yet a true resident of Scarlet Devil Mansion, or even Gensokyo, but he was beginning to feel like, at the very least, this place was somewhere he could trust.
Before they’d removed the daytime sky from the mansion’s halls, he and Patchouli had spoken before his Master’s much-improved Sun in the western atrium (the flames on its surface moved like water, yet it was on the whole perfectly stable: with such craftsmanship it bore an otherworldly, uncanny beauty that made him feel like he was adrift in space). She gave him more information, and warning, about Misty Lake.
“Misty Lake is a mysterious lake,” she’d said, “it is like the font of life to Gensokyo, and all youkai take some part of it. The mist it’s named for rise only at noon, and no one has been able to determine a reason as to why. We put the mansion here... simply because it seemed like it would look nice.”
‘Right.” He’d nodded.
“Because it’s popular with youkai and fairies, and has low visibility mid-day, it’s without a doubt a dangerous place. I wanted it to be the case that when you finally got there, you were prepared enough to deal with any aggression or lost sense of direction.”
She’d looked at him then and said, “But, I think I ought to prepare you more.”
According to Master Patchouli, Gen’s next trip would not involve walking around this lake, but instead walking into it. She explained that there were several dangers above the water’s surface, but below it was almost like another, merciless world. In fact, “other worlds” were supposedly connected to Gensokyo in several places, so in her opinion this would be a good introduction to the concept. He was tasked to find a series of five distinct stones on the lakebed that, when brought together, released an obvious glow. He was told he also must, under absolutely any circumstance, not attract the attention of, encounter, or otherwise interact in any way with the so-called Master of the Lake. Patchouli herself only knew about this master through reading and firsthand testimonials, but apparently Gen meeting the creature would 100% guaranteed result in the outsider’s swift death.
To be on the safe side, along with his other lectures and responsibilities during his rest week, Patchouli told Gen to research Misty Lake as much as he could. She seemed to think that in Gen’s next excursion, there existed many very severe risks.
Now he stood in the library hopefully ready for his trip, and Patchouli was casting magic and wards on him. Nothing defensive, she claimed, as she didn’t want to give him any advantages she wouldn’t have had in his place and matching his ability. She summoned a rotating sphere of air around him that, in her words, would always “seek out itself”, whatever that meant. She also put enchantments on his clothing, articles, and things so that they would repel water. Finally, she gave him a tube-vial filled with a thin green liquid. Drinking this would recover his spirit energy if he needed it. She did remind him, though, that he wouldn’t be allowed to use it during any spell card duels.
Patchouli gave him a once-over with a thumb pressed to her chin and over her lips. Satisfied, she nodded and told him, “Alright, it’s time you be on your way.”
“Yeah, I’ll do my best,” he replied.
She then looked on him fondly and said, “Take care.”
Soon, Itou Gen reached the edge of Misty Lake. It wasn’t too far from the mansion, just enough that the Mistress probably didn’t have to really worry if the water level ever began to rise. Both the lake and sky were bright and clear as it was still morning, and Gen took a moment – just a moment – to appreciate the view of distant, playful beings and the somewhat faraway and vast Forest of Magic (noting the lake, itself, was not THAT large). He didn’t want to stick around very long and become some youkai’s mark. He looked at the surface of the lake, finding he could hardly see below due to the sunlight’s reflection. So, he used a large stick he’d picked up along the way to gauge where might be a good place to enter, hoping to avoid any sudden drops. Finding what seemed to be a smooth decline, Gen left his stick at the shore and stepped forward. As his foot approached, water was pushed away.
Like this he descended, the air Patchouli had called around him shoving water out of his way and offering him a means to breathe. The experience was basically just as unreal and baffling as he’d been expecting, and most distracting was the odd tone that came when he’d gone low enough that he could be entirely submerged. It was suddenly loud, then suddenly quiet, and then raised a noise almost like everything surrounding him was incomprehensible whispers. When himself and the sphere, which had a radius of two and a quarter meters, had finally all gone below, this din like whispers stopped, and instead now it was like a soft and atmospheric, modernist, Dadaist score accompanied him. Gen had to stop long before he’d reached the lakebed to hold it and process only the sound alone.
When he’d... kind of gotten used to it he decided to actually observe the scenery beneath the reflective top.
The view within Misty Lake was, frankly, beyond strange. The “landscape” stretched out a great distance, and there were clearly underwater caves here and there where little shining things would dart in and out randomly. Most of the volume here was dedicated to nothingness, and if not nothingness then shadow-shapes that seemed to be fish (ranging in size from average/small to freakishly huge). As for the lakebed: for whatever reason it gave Gen the impression of a kingdom. It was majestic, unabashed chaos, shaped by a thousand eras of forgotten things. The flora was too varied for one lake, there were some tall, ring-bearing manmade structures jutting up from the pebbles and sands that looked as though they held some purpose, but indicative by their thick moss that purpose had been lost for a long time. There were also a few... “mirrors”, apparently, that looked to be directly channeling sunlight. Fish and stranger creatures congregated around these, but never directly interacted with any. He wondered if they used them like heaters, or this was a situation akin to moths and flames. As for a distant view, Gen could see nothing. Not only did the lake seem to sink rather deep and dark, his range of sight was debilitated by the water. He looked up at his now-rippling view of the sky, and saw that his circle of air was connecting to oxygen above via a several thin whirlpools, bending and swaying like tethers. He supposed these were his supply sources, and hoped they couldn’t be easily disrupted.
Now, looking underwater again, he wished he was able to say with confidence that he was a magician, because then this alien realm would have easily filled him with wonder. Because he was not confident, he began his exploration and search in anxiety, hoping that nothing would take great offense to his land-dwelling self being there.
According to his research, the stones he was looking for subtly repelled one another: if you found one, you could use its gently reversing direction to gauge where another was. If you had more than one, they would all shift away from the next he needed. They’d had a lot of time to drift apart, though, so this did mean he would be wandering around the lake floor for quite a while.
He decided to avoid the “busy” areas of the lake and, despite primordial fears, entered the darkness where he might discover a particular kind of stone. There unfortunately wasn’t much to see in this way, and so he mostly kept his gaze to a meter before his feet, watching the wet lake flooring rapidly dry to his presence and standing seaweeds suddenly collapsing without water to float them. Although he explored more empty and shadowed parts of the lake, he made a point of not heading any deeper. He’d only descend if the stones he eventually found guided him that way. Speaking of, the kind he was looking for now apparently had a curious property in that they would “float” – not to the surface, but in place an appreciable distance from ground. This made them easy to see, so long as you didn’t confuse them for fish (though allegedly some fish used those stones to hide).
As he walked, he shrank, expanded, and shaped his vortex of air with the words Patchouli had taught him to do so. He also knew how to recast this magic if it failed... though not underwater (there was no air to use, and how would he even be able to incant?). He was trying to keep his mind off the fact that, once more, he walked through Gensokyo’s environs deeply worried. There was no real pleasantness in this journey, with its abyssal horizons, unsettling soundscape, and plethora of beasts and youkai he’d certainly have trouble with should it come to a fight. He tried to focus on the task at hand, and if his thoughts ever returned to woeful understanding, he manipulated the air again.
After some time, in what seemed to be a particularly still area of the lake, he spotted the queer stones he was looking for hanging in place and naturally spaced apart. At a glance there were perhaps fifty there, shone in slowly waving light and looking to serve as decoration to the water. He viewed it as some kind of incredible but confounding art piece, and stopped his march to simply gaze at this school of rocks masquerading as fish. When he was eventually satisfied with what he’d committed to memory, he stepped toward it.
But only once, because he heard something new.
“La-di la-di ladadada hm~ hm~ hmm~! ...
Oftentimes have we laid out, Toil nor danger fearing, Tugging out the flapping sail, To the weather earing...
Long we’ve tossed on the rolling main! Now we’re safe ashore, Jack~
Don’t forget your old shipmate... La-di da hm hm hmm... uhh... How’d it go~?”
Coming in from behind him was a clear, full voice, singing in a strange way he was entirely unfamiliar with, not helped by it being in English. It was almost an exciting song from how this... girl(?) performed it, but her pretty and earnest voice didn’t seem to match exactly. Lyrically, tonally, he deeply felt this must be a song to be sung by men, but...
He looked for the source of the voice, almost entranced... But he kept to guard. He couldn’t find it immediately, but instead caught something swimming toward him from out some shade only after noticing the singing (well, now humming) growing louder.
Seemingly forgetting the words, the approaching... “person” (probably) stopped her approach, made what looked like a quizzical shape with her body, and moved along anyway, improvising.
“Rolling main! Why won’t you come home, Jack~?”
And, somewhat speedily, somewhat lackadaisically, she passed him by, swimming over his head with song still in her heart. He saw that she had her eyes closed, but she moved with total familiarity in this space just as well as one would expect were they open. However, this meant she didn’t notice him. She reached her destination, the floating rocks, and finally had her eyes open to a quietly happy expression. Gen recognized what she was with ease, her species’ fame entirely global. This was a mermaid.
The mermaid was beautiful as mermaids ought to be, but Gen found it strange... Although she looked physiologically like the Western creature of fairy tale rather than the Eastern youkai of legend, she seemed in small ways distinctly Japanese, and not just for the short-cut, bottle-green kimono flowing elegant over her figure and draped down to obscure a healthy pair of hips. Bordered by cobalt hair done thick in curls, between odd fins where ears should have been, she had a face at once gently tapered and strong. He saw that in her sleeves her arms were muscular, yet the hands they ended in were pretty and delicate. So on... Really, it wasn’t very much, but it left the impression that her Grecian features weren’t all to be seen. She was a small and exquisite design that seemed as if she could only be here, in the Land of Illusions. The young magician was transfixed as she breathed deeply, lifting and lowering a distinct bust, sighing bliss while she cradled a pebble before her eyes.
“These ones~ are always nice~.” She was still singing, but it was only for her mood and she no longer followed meter or lyric.
“Yer’ wand’rin’ eyes! The swayin’ sea! Those swayin’ hips! They called for ye~”
... That did not last long. She bounced left and right with rhythm as she continued her remarkably crude song and held that small rock of hers between both hands.
“But once you’re back! Lips don’t be slack— Pay her insincerity~ The sea won’t tell, I won’t as well, boy-ya-go from port to port~! A man does know, heartache’s a foe, and yer an honest sort!
Ohh~! ... Oh!”
Before she could break out in the chorus, the mermaid finally spotted the lake-diving human, meeting his eyes with an honest face and mouth still open. It was difficult to see... but her cheeks seemed to become a little pink for a moment. She closed her mouth and moved some hair from her eyes with a palm. Then, she leaned slightly forward with her hand over her brow as to look into the distance, eyes squinted and lips pouted. When she’d determined what was there, she looked suddenly excited, clapped her hands (which, Gen thought, was REALLY impressive), and then... deflated, looking confused. She extended a possibility...
After a pause. And after touching a hand to one of his grimoires. Naturally, his Master’s sea-diving spell was too complex to be used only by words, and written magic detailed and enforced the things it could do. One of those things was adding “sound” (not an element!) to the mix of things it affected. When this feature was invoked, sound within the shield of air that hit the shield of air would amplify and be sent out through the water (or atmosphere, as the case may be). In so doing, one could communicate with submerged lake dwellers.
So Gen answered once he’d dictated the sorcery to change and confirmed with himself that he was okay with directly engaging a fish-youkai.
“Hello,” he replied, “yes. Human. Hi.” And he waved. He thought, he was happy that his Master’s magic was so well-regulated. If anything he said or did blasted throughout the water, where sound traveled particularly fast, he’d probably be chum within seconds to any hungry fiends listening out.
Once he spoke the youkai’s face immediately brightened with happiness and she called, “Ah~! How wonderful!”
She swam toward him quickly, and examined where he stood, turning around him this way and that with a finger to her lips. She seemed to be figuring out his magic: looking at its radius, and staring at the whirlpool tendrils attaching him to the surface. Eventually, she put her hands out behind herself and addressed him elated and loud.
“You’re a magician!? A human magician!”
“Hmm, how could you tell?” he asked, and made his bubble smaller so that she could get in closer (she seemed to want to).
Seeing this, the girl did just that, and pushed her hand through the shield of air with a joyful face. Soon satisfied with the bizarre sensation of touching swirling air beneath the lake, she answered him.
“There was a youkai magician here not very long ago with a youkai maid and I think they were using the same magic. I didn’t talk to them, though! They looked dangerous.”
Master Patchouli and Miss Sakuya, huh? he thought. Then, he thought, I... guess I don’t look dangerous? while wearing a muddled expression.
“Well, you’re just a human!” said the mermaid, folding her arms and closing her eyes to a “come now!” look. She seemed to be answering his expression and her assumption of his thoughts.
“Right. I think I know the two you saw before. I’m the magician’s apprentice.”
“Oh... so, you’ll become a youkai?” she asked with quizzical eyes.
“I don’t know. I’ve met a human magician who hadn’t after all.”
“I see, I see...” She was bouncing side to side again... she really seemed to be in good spirits. “So? What brings you to Misty Lake?”
“... Those,” he answered, and he pointed to the stones he’d come for. “There are five kinds I need to bring back to my Master.”
“Five?” she repeated. “Five, what? Is there something special about these pebbles?”
She presented the rock she’d taken from the collection and let it float above her palm.
“According to Master, when I get all five I need together, they start glowing.”
“Glowing...” the girl muttered, absently turning the floating stone over in front of her. After a few seconds, she raised her eyebrows and said, “Glowing...! They glow! You don’t say!”
He nodded. She plucked her stone from its position then and looked at it happily. After a moment, she moved her hand into his air again, pebble in her grasp.
“Here’s your first one,” she offered him the stone with a fresh smile.
“Oh... thank you,” he accepted it, touching her somewhat wet, but surprisingly warm hand in the process. The stone had the consistency and weight of pumice, though were it truly pumice it would’ve raised all the way to the lake’s topside. He pocketed it and spoke to the mermaid again, “That’s helpful of you. The stones look like they might be a little high for me to reach down here.”
“You’re welcome. In return, show me how the stones glow!”
He’d had a feeling things were headed in that direction.
“Is that really okay? For both of us I mean. I don’t know how trusting I should be of youkai... and I am training to be a magician. You may not want to trust me either.”
The mermaid put her arms behind her back, gripping her wrist. She leaned in so her face wasn’t far from his and told him plainly, “Mermaids and humans are friends.”
“Don’t mermaids bring sailors to their deaths?”
“Those are sirens! They’re truly dangerous!”
“You see, youkai don’t all have to be mean...”
She straightened her back and spoke matter-of-factly. When she saw that he understood, she extended a hand into his air again. Gen felt she was really markedly forward...
“My name is Wakasagihime. It’s nice to meet you! Mermaids and humans have always gotten along, so, hey, let’s get along!”
“Fish...” Gen repeated, hands now in his pockets. “Princess?”
“I’m not a princess, though.”
He took out a hand and accepted her handshake with a hesitant smile.
“Well, I’m Itou Gen,” he said, “despite my name I don’t think I’m nobility either. Let’s get along.”
“Yes, Mister Gen!” She cheerfully shook his hand up and down. She was... shockingly strong! Gen’s entire body moved with her handshake. When she was done, she didn’t let go of his hand and instead asked: “Can you make that bubble only go around your head?”
“... Worrying question. Why?”
“Your legs aren’t as fast as my tail. We can cover more of the lake if I pull you along.”
“...” Gen really wasn’t sure about this. He glanced down at his clothes and possessions. Master Patchouli’s wards should still be in effect, but... Well, tempting fate seemed like a bad idea. Then again, he thought there was a little something insulting in not having faith in his Master’s magic to keep him dry. He closed his eyes for a while, noticing Wakasagihime was gently caressing his hand with her thumb, and eventually looked at her once more with an answer.
“Well... Little Miss Princess, I’ll accept your offer. I’ll tell you where to go, so please take care of me.”
“You’ve got it!”
Gen whispered to shrink his air even further. The number of whirlpools to the surface reduced to one, and he began to float. The Princess held him tightly, and he watched as bubbles formed all over his body and things. He felt no moisture whatsoever and sighed with relief, though he still looked to be rather scared.
Wakasagihime brought his hands close to her chest with her eyes shut and whispered thoughtfully: “It’s alright. I have confidence in my abilities underwater. Don’t be worried.” Opening her eyes, she gave him a look of determination and said, “Now, let’s go!”
Gen nodded and said, “Okay. Then, first, let’s head east.”
“East!” she shouted, and he was suddenly tugged along with great force through the lake as Wakasagihime swam along, hand held firm.
According to her, the songs she sang were called shanties. Her kind entered Gensokyo quite some time ago and brought with them old English songs to sing while working a ship or with friends. She mentioned many of these songs were sang at pubs, and added “Which, it turns out, is very appropriate for Gensokyo.”
Gen didn’t really know what she meant by that, as the residents of Scarlet Devil Mansion only drank tea. He’d yet to realize this land’s fondness for alcohol.
Now Wakasagihime sang again, the song she’d begun to sing before she’d spotted Gen. She told him these shanties really meant it when they came to the chorus, and so taught him what to sing when that came. This was now, and they sang together.
“Ohh~! It, will be fine! We’ll all be home in time! To ladies fair, all waiting there: our dearest, lovely wives! But if ye seek to keep yer cheek, take advice from me~! Let down your secrets in the sea~!”
Gen heaved a deep sigh and shook his head. The Princess continued, entirely chipper.
“You said six pence! She said two more! You said ‘alright’, and closed the door~ Ye took her lips and then her hips- oh by the end, oh you’d be sore~ But yer lady fair~ still waiting there~ oh she came to yer mind~! Ye stopped the dance, took up yer pants, and left the lass behind!”
“Man...” Gen interrupted, “if I understand it right, that’s one raunchy song.”
Wakasagihime, who was disappointed at the denial of a chorus, explained to Gen: “The raunchy ones are the most fun to sing. They’re foolish and silly fun.”
“Sailors sang these?”
He wondered how mermaids would know human songs... but then recalled what the Princess had said. He supposed the two races really had been friends.
He was still mostly apprehensive, though. Mainly, he allowed himself to be wrapped up in Wakasagihime’s pace because... why not? If he had refused her and she was dangerous, she would’ve probably attacked him then and there; if she was bringing him into a trap, then that meant a delayed death at least. He also figured he could cause trouble for most things down in these depths by calling on air from above and dropping whatever swam to ground. He’d see where this went... If the Princess really was going to help him, then that would just be a surprising boon.
Eventually the two of them arrived at their next stop: a giant pile of mossy stones. Gen retrieved the not-pumice from his pocket and lifted it toward the pile, which reacted by shifting ever so slightly.
“Looks like this’s it,” he said, putting the rock away.
Wakasagihime was watching him, and when he confirmed this was their next find she asked, “The stones are magnetic?”
He shook his head as he answered, “Nah, they’re... magic?”
“I wonder what your master wants them for...” She swam to the pile and took a piece, handing it to Gen. “Don’t you wonder?”
“I assume it’s for some sort of ritual, but yeah... I’ve got no idea.”
They agreed to find the next one, which was in a busier area. Wakasagihime took charge there, and obtained a red and black rock while making sure no youkai went after her ward. She gave it to Gen, they sang more songs, and made their way toward some caves.
Gen had to admit that the Princess’s friendliness seemed honest, but he couldn’t entirely remove his natural prejudice against something so other while he stood in a place so other. He felt guilt over it... and this apparently showed on his face.
“Here?” Wakasagihime asked. Gen had the three stones in a sack now, and noted their being repelled by the mouth of a cave before them. He looked at the surface of the water and frowned. He probably couldn’t go in the cave and expect the magic to hold. While he was thinking, Wakasagihime took his bag, let him go, and moved to the cave’s entrance. She gave him a specific, sympathetic, and somewhat sad look. “I’ll... find the one here, then,” she said, “Can’t really bring yourself to be a friend, huh?”
“Ah... uh...” Gen wasn’t expecting her to be direct.
“Oh, I don’t mean anything by that!” She held up her hands in denial. “I just think... ‘the way things work here is pretty set in stone’.”
He looked at her with an eyebrow raised while he swam in place.
“When I meet a youkai...” she carefully began, “... I’m always scared. When I meet a human, I don’t think much of it.” She paused, then asked, “Mister Gen, are you an outsider?”
Gen hesitated before answering, “... Yes.”
“I guess that’s why you’re scared,” she said with a nod. She then turned around and gave him a wave, saying “Well, I’ll be right back.”
Let's not be so naive, yes? If he'll be living in SDM, there'll be many opportunities to meet the fish lady. You could even set it up. No need to go swimming into isolated underwater caves with youkai you've just met today.
Aw, way back here >>65333 >a general assortment of items that gave the impression of a sorcerer’s laboratory. Ah, and there were snacks, so this was Patchouli’s library. >so this was Patchouli's laboratory OF COURSE, DUH
[X] stopped her.
“Hey, wait.” He raised his hand and Wakasagihime faced him again. “I think I’ve been far too ungentlemanly for your kindness, and I would like to apologize for that. You’re helping me out and protecting me, after all.” He put his hands together and rubbed his thumbs over his forefingers, not looking at the mermaid. “I just, uh, can’t separate the idea of ‘inhuman’ from ‘fear’.”
“If—” Wakasagihime spoke suddenly, and cut herself off just as quick, thinking for a moment, then deciding to continue, “If... you’re that magician’s apprentice, does that mean you live in the mansion? I heard a devil lives there.”
He nodded, “One does, but for a lot of reasons I can feel more comfortable there than down here.”
“Mister Gen... you make a lady feel very self-conscious.”
“I’m just a coward... I’ve been in Gensokyo for just under a month and I’m wary of everything, but I’ll admit I’m much more wary of, uh...”
“Whoaa... say no more! I get it, I get it,” Wakasagihime put her hands up again and was shaking her head. She looked at her tail and said, “It’s the tail. It’s the tail, right? Too bizarre.”
He put his hand over his mouth and disclosed his thought that, “No, I actually think it’s beautiful but...” The Princess blushed. He finished with, “I mean, it definitely tells me you aren’t human.”
“H-Hmm,” Wakasagihime huffed and crossed her arms. She then said, “I’ve met a racist human!”
“I really don’t want to be!”
“Then...” the mermaid swam up to him and raised her fist, “bump fists with me.”
“Uh?” Gen was perplexed, but listened and lifted his own fist. The princess struck her knuckles to his, thankfully without full strength, while wearing a serious expression. When this was done, she smiled once more and asked, “Do you feel better now?”
“S-Surprisingly enough, I do...” he admitted. In this gesture of camaraderie less formal than a handshake yet close enough to be surely amicable, he felt a very surprising amount of relief.
“I was feeling a little awkward, too...” the Princess confessed while she turned from him. “I think I got too excited, since the last time a landlubber was down here I was too scared to talk to them. Sorry if I was too forward and it riled up your fears.”
Gen was unable to formulate an answer, simply blinking.
Wakasagihime now floated before the cave again, her back to him. She put a hand on her hip, looked over her shoulder, and gave Gen a thumb’s up saying, “Let’s try this again; start off on the right foot and fin! Got it, G-Gen!?”
He returned her gesture with a nod and smirk, saying, “Certainly, Princess.”
The Princess brought to him the fourth stone, one heavy and colored blue, and they now sought the final piece. Gen had brought his air back to all around his body (and dumped the water from his rock-sack), and Wakasagihime was swimming beside him. The stones they had were directing them to the lake’s depths and, just in case. Gen wanted absolutely all maneuverability availed to him. An abyss was a natural source of horror and monsters. Because of Wakasagihime’s presence so far, youkai may have looked hungrily at him but never attacked. According to Wakasagihime, this was because she was strong (said with a tough pose; Gen already knew, but he supposed she meant she was magically strong as well). He thanked her, and she told him it was the natural thing to do.
Gen now understood that Gensokyo wasn’t simply hell for outsiders, it was only mostly hell. There were people in it, magical or otherwise, who were helpful. Alice was helpful despite having abandoned her humanity. Mistress Remilia was helpful despite claiming to be evil. Wakasagihime was helpful despite not being human at all. He remembered that not all youkai and mystical creatures needed fear to survive, despite what others had told him. He knew this: youkai sometimes were kind and sometimes were simply beings that explained phenomena that science of old couldn’t answer. Other beings of fantasy were similar: not every odd creature was an enemy.
Still, due to Gensokyo’s nature Gen knew that dread and terror were what most beings here wanted and needed, as the outside world offered neither. He couldn’t be fully trusting, but he thought, I should research bestiaries when I get back so when I next find something like a mermaid, I’m not a jerk to them. He’d certainly learned about mermaids when researching the lake before, but he’d also learned about sirens and conflated the two. He’d have to remedy that flaw in him...
Now they came to the depths.
The Princess grew worried.
“It’s down there?” she asked.
Down into darkness that seemed to refuse all light. This didn’t make sense: light would only be lost in insane depths and they certainly hadn’t traveled down at least a kilometer, had they?
“Gen...” the Princess addressed him, “let’s be very careful. There are no seas in Gensokyo, but it accepts all fantasy.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Take mermaids for example: we’re an ocean-dwelling people, but in Gensokyo we only have the lake...” She looked into his face with worry and concern. “The ocean has always been a source of great fear for humanity. Fear forges youkai. Some of the most terrifying unknowns came from the sea... and presumably, they would have eventually found their way here.”
Gen peered into the darkness again, noting an absence of fish, and even youkai.
“I’m confident in my strength underwater, Gen, but if we encounter something like a cetus or worse...”
“Don’t worry,” Gen said, worried but not showing it, “my Master left some incredible tools at my disposal. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“That should be my line...” the mermaid said with a weak laugh. They both looked their environs over, and then at each other. They nodded, and entered the depths.
Be they fishermen or navy men, weak or willful, they would come in their boats and think like their lands they could master the seas.
These were humans. Arrogant.
And when they came back to their lands, soaked and broken and bleeding, they would write on their maps...
“Here be dragons.”
Yet, this was laughable.
Here were worse.
Itou Gen and Wakasagihime descended for a long time. They descended in silence, the Princess not even thinking to hum. When they reached flat ground again, they didn’t know how long they’d taken.
The magician’s apprentice lifted his bag of stones. They shook, and he knew where to go. He pointed ahead and told the mermaid “There...”
But neither moved an inch.
Gen looked toward the lake’s surface. They were certainly far down, but... really, they couldn’t possibly be far enough down for it to be this dark. Something was—
“Something’s here...” the Princess whispered, and she got as close to Gen as she could. He saw she was shaking. Gen reached out from his bubble of air and put a hand on her shoulder.
“We’ll get what we’re looking for and go right back. If you want, I can go myself.”
Wakasagihime shook her head rapidly, not removing her gaze from the darkness. “No,” she said, “I can’t let you go by yourself.”
Gen withdrew his hand. “Hm, then...” he said, “let’s go.”
She nodded, and they moved ahead.
They both stopped. A voice was inside their heads. This was not something resonating through the water.
Now with power strange, humans think the depths, too, are ready for their slave collars. And the mermaid... I wouldn’t have thought your kind so brash. So foolish. So dumb, really.
Gen knew at once that they had to leave.
I won’t let you be so impolite. We haven’t even shared our names...
Something crawled through the water. He could see it – something white and maggot-y, swimming through. Wakasagihime looked paralyzed. When he tried to step back, he saw that his sphere of air did not move with him.
No, no, mortal: you came here, now see what you find.
Gen noticed that the shadow before him was moving... undulating. A part of it... flopped off the side, producing a cloud of sand. What seemed to be tentacles... fingers, unfurled in places, and reached out. The mass lifted, but only a little. This was an incredible being of incredible size. It seemed to have a long, brawny pair of legs that it kept bent. If it hard arms Gen couldn’t tell. And those things curling around it... definitely tentacles. He looked at the monster, and fed it fear.
Aaahhhhh... came a rattling, old sigh. He winced upon hearing it, and held his head. He looked at Wakasagihime, and saw that she still could not move.
You smell disgusting. the being commented. It continued, explaining why, You have the stinking taint of the undead about you... About your neck, it seems. But worse than that, you stink of that industry which drove me and my kind out the water...
A part of the great beast moved, giving an odd impression of curiosity.
An out side errrrr...?
“I’m...” Gen spoke, surprising himself, “I’m a native of Gensokyo.”
The monster began to throb.
Ah ha...! Ha... Ha...! ... No.
Even if you weren’t a desperate liar, what do I care about what pile of wastes this grotesque mortal crawled from? Wherefore should I follow those “rules”? For the shrine maiden who cannot fly beneath the lake? For the gap hag who cannot see below the lake? Ha...! Ha... Ha...! It is to laugh.
It throbbed again, and seemed to point at Gen.
While in that thing of yours, I cannot touch you with my power.
It dropped an appendage.
“What the hell are you?” Gen demanded in a whisper. He could hear his heart beating in his ears.
Please, introduce yourself first. came its polite reply.
“I am the only apprentice of my Master Patchouli Knowledge, great magician and she who maintains the Library of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. My name is Itou Gen.”
That is very interesting, and it seemed honest, a little outsider is trying to make himself viable in a land where he’s seen as a meal.
The thing laughed again. He really hated when it did that.
There are many like me, lost to time and even to Gensokyo, where they could not sustain for the lack of trepidation the lake holds in the hearts of those men here. Even I, likely, will fade and wither away down below, for fearing the lake is naught compared to fearing the sea...
It... It, physically, produced a sound that Gen thought was a sigh of some kind. It shook the lake.
I don’t remember what they called me, but I was one of many things to consume ships and sailors. I was the crag to pierce the hull, the undercurrent that grasped and drowned, the storm to capsize the vessel, the maw to swallow it whole. I was all this, if you’ll pardon cliché: “terror of the deep”.
“... So? What? Planning to eat me? Eat us?” Gen shut his eyes. “Don’t eat her, at least. It was my pushing that brought us here.”
You have not sailed; replied the horror, we are unforgiving and indiscriminate. When bringing calamity, we never did so with “reason”.
“Y-You’ll eat her too?”
Fuck this! Gen thought, glaring at his feet. Absolutely not! I’m not letting this happen! If Master Patchouli sent me down here, she knew I could find something like this and... Wait...
“Are you... the Master of the Lake?”
He peered into the writhing mass and finished his earlier thought: She knew I could find something like this, and knew I could handle it.
You are definitely human. You think this situation is escapable.
The creature moved again.
What do you think to do? I can only skim your mind.
“How long have you been in Gensokyo?”
A long time.
“Then even some abomination like you would have acclimated differently.”
Gen spoke an arcane language, and cast a spell with spirit.
From his hand he summoned an avalanche of “earth” – salt, to be specific. He made it flow outside of his bubble, and saw as the strange white strings in the water were dissolved. The monster in front of him quivered, but “said” nothing. As Gen had figured, although the beast was originally from saltwater, it had been long enough in freshwater that it would be difficult for it to suddenly change. Its weird, disgusting spawn, too, wouldn’t be able to maintain in a new environment. As for Wakasagihime, who was now free, he figured she was probably at least young enough that the change wouldn’t harm her much if at all. It was a risk, but at least it would definitely release her.
The Princess at once began to prepare a volley, knowing that simply fleeing would just expose their backs to the creature. Gen paged through his grimoires quickly, thinking to do the same. They connected in a plan to fight the beast at least enough to get away.
And finally, it addressed them.
No, mortals, this is not a fight... This is... feeeeeeeeddiiiiingg...
“Gen!” Wakasagihime called, “This is no cetus, this is something worse, and it’s definitely not something we can kill! Don’t even think about it! Do your best to figure out how to get us out of here!” She shot him a look and shouted, “I will too!” Then, she cast at the beast an immense, unrelenting barrage.
Gen decided: to begin, he’d try a spell using water.
Speaking his incantation and raising book aloft, he had several vortices spawn around the monster, tugging at its body. This was, according to Master Patchouli, one of her best “basic” spells.
Parts of it were torn off, and black fluid clouded the water as those parts involuntarily thrashed about and shriveled. Meanwhile, Wakasagihime brought out a colorful and wide stream of bullets, lighting the thing’s shape.
In the light they were met with its many different eyes, and a crooked, man-like smile on its “face”. Both Gen and the Princess decided that looking on this “face” for any particular amount of time would be a bad idea.
“But now I know it has eyes...” Wakasagihime spoke under her breath, “I’ll put them out.”
She brought out a spread of danmaku, aiming roughly where she knew its eyes to be. Gen kept the whirlpools up, ripping at the creature’s form more and more.
It’s still not fighting...! Gen thought, worried.
The creature flexed, and for a moment the darkness was dispelled. The moment was long enough for them to see that this gigantic abomination was much more gigantic than they had thought, its body winding behind itself further than they could see. It then regrew its lost limbs. They both stopped their attacks, simply stunned.
A tentacle was raised, and with it at once came a beam of highly pressurized water. It sliced deep through the sands and in-between the two mortals. They looked at the results, and then back at the beast.
Before I dine on fish and man... let me drink that palpable fright of yours.
The beast pulsed with laughter again. Gen found himself panicking.
What the hell do I do? What the hell do I do!?
“Gen.” Wakasagihime was beside him. “Can you use the Sun in your magic? More than sunlight, can you create one?”
Gen looked at her, not answering. She continued.
“Creatures like these would appear on stormy nights only because they loathed the day. That’s probably why it’s hiding in the dark. Light might be able to do something.” She reached into his bubble and grabbed his shoulder. “Think about it.”
Wakasagihime left his side and began sending out what seemed to be as many bullets as she possibly could. Gen looked at her, shut his eyes, and then rubbed them. Putting on a fierce face, he began incanting for a magic that would bring down the Sun.
“If you know you’re going to die anyway, why bother doing this?” The Princess asked the monster.
Oh, hush. Instinct. Does that satisfy you? I just want to do what I was born to do, even until I die.
It began to raise many of its tentacles now.
And it’s been, so, looonngg...
The Princess understood what was happening and yelled: “Gen, dodge!”
Rather than cutting water, this time the beast fired a proper bullet curtain, dense as could be without being a sheer wall. The mermaid avoided it effortlessly; Gen avoided it with all effort.
“Jesus Christ!” he exclaimed, English still on his mind apparently. He’d now have to restart the incantation, though... But it was hard to blame him when killing magic was entering his space viciously and violently, and he could only barely keep out of the way. He and she rounded the beast, seeing more of its long, horrifying form in the process, but finding it easier to avoid the attacks at the very least.
The creature began to attack somewhat in earnest now, casting bullets and beams and not simply playing. If either mortal was hit, they would perish. Gen kept his incantation up, while the Princess seemed to be looking for a way to lower the beast’s bullet density by separating its arms. This worked, but was temporary.
They kept this up for a full minute before Gen was ready. Shouting an ancient name for the Sun, one began to materialize in the waters before them, surrounded by a sheet of air.
The creature screeched with pain, and one could see that its body was burning and smoking. Wakasagihime wasted no time as soon as she saw this effect, turning to Gen and telling him to reduce his air. He did, and she rushed into him, hugging him close and swimming with all speed toward the surface.
she pushed him away, sending him spiraling.
She lifted her hands, and summoned water to rush forward and push at him.
Before he was jettisoned from the lake, he saw a sickly gray appendage wrapped around her tail.
Gen was fired upward far enough that one could say he flew. He quickly expanded Patchouli’s spell of air, and when he eventually crash landed on the shore nearest to Scarlet Devil Mansion, his fall was cushioned. As soon as he was to ground he lifted himself up and looked into the Lake.
“Princess!!” he yelled. “Wakasagihime! Answer me!”
He slammed a fist into his thigh and shouted, “Fuck!”
There was no way he’d live this life knowing it took another’s to continue.
He put his hand to his throat and drew out his spirit from his gut, overwhelming the “sound” aspect of his Master’s diving spell with a few words. Then he yelled with all his breath, the spiral of air swelling his voice enough to shake the trees and ripple the water.
“THIS IS GEN!
WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING, PLEASE, HELP ME!
THERE’S A DREAD BEAST IN THE WATER WHO HAS TAKEN AN INNOCENT GIRL!”
He took the largest grimoire from his belt and threw it open. Concentrating, composed, he dropped to a knee and began to incant with the skill and smoothness of his Master.
His voice reflecting darkness and filling the sky with chilling tones, he conjured with ancient whispers nature through his hands, esoteric powers coming to bend and manifest around him as the tome glowed. Prepared, he gave one more shout:
“TO ME! FOLLOW THE LIGHTS!”
He returned the sphere to normalcy of volume and the volume of spells to his belt. Standing, he assumed the sorcerer’s role that his Master trained him for, and invoked a new array of magic.
“Parolu falsan lingvon en iluzia lando, kaj la elementoj estos ordigitaj.
Fajro, suno, vento, akvo: kliniĝu.
A gust turned harshly at his feet, lifting him, and from his tome danmaku the color of the mansion began to fire into the sky such that they would soon indicate his path. The lake bubbled before him; he forced his foot down through the powerful winds and leapt from the shore. The water curved like a serpent and caught him quick with the gale, driving him forward with the speed of an eagle. Gen lifted his right hand at his side, and sunlight began to gather in his palm. The light was not gentle, and fire too whipped out chaotically from the manifesting star, striking his cheek. He was building a sun at once large and small – forcing it into a compact shape to bring with him and later expand. All the while, he kept steady a flow of Esperanto from his lips, frantically arranging those elements at his command. His balance threatened not to hold on the rapid stream while he soared over the lake, and the intensity of his sun seemed to burn at his arm and face, but he kept steady the flow, and lifted his left hand.
Here! He was above the monster. He could see it. He told the lake to bend before him.
It was as if a god had pried open the water, out twenty meters it split and five it parted, creating giant falls at his side. The evil lurking at the depths noticed him, and he brought himself toward it, bringing his right hand forward.
“Fuu—!” he exhaled and grunted as he approached the lakebed, making sure to drop his star from his hand and in front of the creature. Fast, he slammed and crunched into the wet earth, rolling and rolling until he was on his side. The magic holding the lake open began to close, water rushing down and toward him. He wasn’t sure the shield of air could withstand that oncoming strength and pressure, and so he pushed his body up with one arm and called to his copied Sun.
With this word he finally felt like his “spirit” was diminished. However, the sight he witnessed raised his spirit of emotion.
The summoned star at once twisted and spun into a vast size while the lake crashed into it and largely fizzled into vapors. Air accumulated around the fiery orb in a rippling curtain of bubbles so as to keep it from being too dowsed. Gen’s sun was effulgent, enough that he saw the beast below was no longer wearing a smile. It was burned, washed in blazes; it wailed, and lashed out its curling parts. In a mess of mad noise – screaming, flooding, boiling, hissing – and force unimaginable, weakened by all he had cast, Gen’s air was broken and he tumbled into the water of the lake. He tried to keep conscious, breath held desperate as he was tossed through savage undercurrents. In a moment more calm, he peered into the water at the horror he had severely harmed, and could see Wakasagihime in its grasp still alive, but not awake. He then looked at the surface. One more spell he’d laid – one more that he needed to survive this was there. What little he could manage: a bubble of breathable air that would follow from the sky into the sea (or lake, as here). He could see it descending: his simple, roughhewn magic that was nothing like his Master’s. He waited for it to come in desperation. The great beast lifted some clawed thing of its body and simply popped the sphere.
But... he had called for more. And more came, that the old monster put out. In its reeling and hurt before the still swirling sun, this was all the monster could do. Gen watched with dread increasing and air supply waning, thinking How many? How many did I call for?
While between hope and despair, Gen lingered motionless and in growing pain staring at the surface...
... and with a rainbow’s appearance in the sky, hope won out.
One day, when they had been speaking frivolously, his Master had said:
“How I think of it is: in legends, ‘dragons’ were more than a kind of beast, they were an idea. Dragons were, in essence, the end of things. They were the power ideal, the ultimate foe, and that to which no other being of fantasy could compare. In Gensokyo as well, the being which reigns supreme is a dragon.
She is not a dragon, but in her breast and in her fist are all a dragon’s makings: all one’s beauty, and all one’s fury.”
Below Misty Lake, an old and wicked thing held in its grasp a young and lovely thing. The latter was a mermaid, unconscious and more than ready to eat. But, the old one had decided to wait. Feelings of vengeance and rage gave it no sustenance. To wag this bait out – bid attention of that silly human – that would give a better and frightful meal.
And it did, but the unsightly mortal brought with it a greater sun on its return. The water was now too hot, its body was being recklessly damaged, and the human’s corpse-ish and pollution stink now assaulted the senses to make matters worse. To spite the little thing, the beast began to destroy independent pockets of air the human had clearly summoned to help it breathe down below what with its shield ruined by its own absurd (and ultimately fruitless) actions.
While it bemoaned reckless and stupid humanity, the surrounding waters seemed to grow even hotter. It gazed above and saw a burst of prismatic auras and bubbles, shining so wide it was as if the entire surface had been soaked in colors. It saw: at the center of those fast approaching auras was a closed hand.
It sent out a thought, and received a punch.
The old one determined: there was no queer touch to this being’s strike, what hit the beast now was frighteningly refined physical energy, and on contact it ruptured, broke, and shattered parts of the thing’s body. It hurt.
Into the lake spiraled wisps of somatic power, drilling a vortex where the beast’s attacker had come in. A whirlpool formed at once yet was still for a moment, as if what had transpired was too much for the world to process. The water spun violently in and downward, and she clenched and twisted her fist, breathing out sharply. When she had completely exhaled, and the full power of the maelstrom was at her back, she deepened her punch in a short, inhumanly quick motion that sent out a crack! as a bubble-ring formed. She injected her life-force, bright and flashing, into the monster, causing the creature to compress into itself, and knocking it back several meters.
At the end, among the curtain of vibrant colors only red and green were left. She landed a ways behind from where she’d made contact, almost letting her hair and clothes complete a rotation, but stopping them with a stance. The whirlpool she had caused followed her to the bend of her energies and was so immense that, where she stood, only lakebed remained as the tunnel of water spiraled around her. Hong Meiling, the Gatekeeper of the Devil, breathed out again, and faced the monster without qualm.
The human who was present was elated. He called his rescuer’s name, but of course this only resulted in meaningless sound. Now, he spun like a leaf in Meiling’s cyclone, closing his teeth together and wincing as he felt arms and legs start to be wrenched. He threw his head forward and became recomposed. His eyes scanned the waters above and indeed, a bubble approached him. Now, mustering what little energy he had left, with all effort he reached for and grabbed this one of his last bids for air from the surface. Shoved it over his head, breathed deeply, nearly emptied the damn thing. He thought quickly, and determined there were perhaps five more of these he could rely on after they’d been largely massacred. Then, he made an effort and attempt to direct himself so that he had a path to the mermaid within this fast swirl.
“Sir Gen!” said the Chinese Girl, “I’ll need you to cast something on me if you want me to fight this beast...!”
Gen would answer her, but she would not hear it. He wondered how long the tornado of water created from her impossible power would last, but figured on the safe side he should rush.
Due to Meiling’s blows, the great beast had been shaken and its grip on the Princess was loose. She was held out ahead of him, but not in his way. Now that he had air to speak through, he used small spells to redirect himself with jets of water and was able to move enough that even in this strong turning, he would come across her. Putting his hands out wide, Itou Gen braced so as to be careful on impact, and grabbed Wakasagihime into his arms.
He did his best to hold her tightly, as they were now spiraling their way over the abomination’s twisted body. Gen turned his gaze from the old beast to the mermaid as their rolling stabilized, and assessed.
“She’s not hurt...” he whispered, looking over her tail and what skin was exposed. But, the thing next lifted its tentacles, and the pair was hurtled through their waving. Gen’s eyes widened at the chaotic sight, he looked at Wakasagihime’s sleeping face and shouted, “Wake up!”
... A thought occurred to him. He looked at Meiling in her place and saw that her whirlpool was shrinking. With his swimming ability and with the Princess he carried, he couldn’t see this having a good ending. He needed her awake. He also needed magic, but his essence so drained only allowed him minor elemental manipulation. This low spirit also meant he had low endurance, and the Princess too must have been exhausted during their earlier fight.
He had his Master’s potion.
Between the two of them, Wakasagihime would have more use out of it, but he couldn’t just unstop the vial and pour it out underwater over her face.
A thought occurred to him and he swallowed, face burning, eyes shut.
Meiling watched the horror before her still contend with the pains she and the sun had dealt it. She wanted to continue her assault, but without a guarantee of air... If she ended up having to swim, she could still fight but she’d be severely handicapped. She called to her Mistress’s ward.
“Sir Gen!! Hurr—eh!?”
Pulling back in surprise and losing her stance, Meiling wore a face of pure scarlet. She saw her Mistress’s ward turning in the vortex she had created. He had the mermaid’s face pressed to his, his face severe and resolute as he clearly locked with her lips.
With his mouth full of the potion his Master had given him, Gen fed Wakasagihime spirit through a kiss. He cradled her head with his hand in her hair, bringing her into his bubble of oxygen (which was already running out) and keeping her body close with a palm on her back. He pushed down her tongue with his and let the thin liquid flow into her throat. He pressed to her, waiting, to see as color returned to her face. Some returned to his as well... and finally, she opened her eyes. Releasing her mouth from his, saliva and spirit connecting the two, he gasped several times, and the Princess blinked in confusion while speaking weakly.
Turning his eyes up at her, wearing a stark expression, Gen demanded: “Wake up, and bring me to the red-haired girl.”
Wakasagihime looked around herself with her eyebrows raised and her cheeks puffed out, covering her lips but not her reddening face. She tried to gauge the situation. Her thoughts were in a mess, but she chose to give focus to the human’s request.
Between the moving limbs of the creature that had captured her, she saw the woman to which Gen must have referred. She pulled the human into an embrace, flexed her tail, and began to maneuver through the flailing mass of horror, headed for the youkai overflowing with qi.
“There you are!” Meiling cried as she saw the two coming from the water. The mermaid slowed not one bit, rocketing through vortex and into the open air. She and he fell and dragged through the ground, and she unhanded him.
Still fallen, Gen took the book that had the inscription for diving magic from his belt and, while standing, began to speak the diving spell. He quickly stumbled to Meiling’s side and knelt, pushing the tome against her thigh. Essentially, he performed a haphazard field enchantment, and when he was done he invoked a spell to tether the book to the clothes at Meiling’s waist. Air rushed around her, and she lifted her hands with an expression of awe. The sensation made her recall, smiling excitedly as she deduced: “Ohh! This is Lady Patchouli’s magic!”
Gen had already turned away from Meiling and was on his knees examining Wakasagihime more thoroughly with what little time he had before the maelstrom broke.
... Soon done with his second examination, he released a long sigh with a hand over his face. Wakasagihime lifted her upper body and quietly patted Gen on the head a few times.
Gen stared at the mermaid blankly through his digits, but was appreciative. He then glanced behind himself and addressed the youkai from the gate. “Meiling, thank you. Are you capable of stopping that thing?”
Meiling had returned to a stance and was now building strength inside herself. She answered Gen honestly, “Oh, no way, but I’m sure I can get us away from it.” She beamed at Gen fulsome and prideful. “Leave it to me!”
“Hey, beast!” Meiling spoke now to the ancient creature. “Did you know this? When they used to make ocean maps in the west, their sailors had a way of giving warning about uncharted waters.”
Yo u ka i...
From the sound of its mental voice, the creature’s mind was in havoc.
“Because they didn’t know what was out there, and couldn’t picture anything worse, they’d say ‘here be dragons’!”
Idiotic... Don’t d-d-dare...!
Meiling now glowed brilliantly, and color shined off her similar to the northern lights. She left her stance, and jut a thumb to the Chinese character on her hat, smirking.
“Can you read that? ‘Lóng’— ‘dragon’! Now, I’m no dragon but...” Meiling lost her smile and dropped low, extending her right leg and arm. She looked at the beast, eyes thin. “I can show you why men feared dragons more than they feared you.”
She bent slightly, and sprang forward. Gen and Wakasagihime (who was now on his back with her arms over his shoulders) had their hair blown back when she dove into the water, and their eyes went wide as she whipped her leg into an upward arc. What they seemed to see was a thousand colored scales tearing ascendant like a gigantic beast erupting from the earth and carving into the horror, deep and ripping it twain. Meiling followed the axis of her kick and smoothly drew low once more, bringing a fist to her stomach. When she had gone three hundred and sixty degrees, she bent her back, exhaled breath like gusts from her nose, and punched into the creature’s form once more, now from below. When she did so, her energies looked as though they formed jaws around her large enough to take off the thing’s “head” in one bite. This aura knocked apart, and a shower of rainbow qi blossomed into a spreading, gorgeous, lotus shape, its “petals” battering her target without pause. The creature received Meiling’s blow so harshly that it was knocked upward almost enough to breach. The martial artist looked joyous, and focused again.
Meanwhile the spiral of her first attack had finally dispersed and the two she came to rescue swam and observed. Hanging around them were four large bubbles, Gen having used another to replenish his air. He saw that his sun was finally fading, and worried about how much Meiling could actually do.
“Hey,” Wakasagihime spoke at his ear, “it likes to show its face, how about we check what it hides on its butt?”
“Eloquent,” Gen replied, and then nodded. “Let’s do it.”
The two of them made their way to its behind.
When they passed its front by, the great beast finally descended back to the lake floor, and brought down with it its arms with intent to crush its small enemy. Meiling stopped preparing for another attack and hopped out the way as a tree trunk-sized limb landed where she just had been. Others came, slamming, slamming, slamming, and she saw that the creature was pushing her away.
“This is Gensokyo,” Meiling answered the beast’s actions with words, “I can fight at range too.”
YYyes, this is Gen so kyo, the creature’s thoughts were becoming more together again with the sun’s now rapid disappearance, lllet’s fight with beautyy.
Once more, it called on a volley of large, frigid bullets and profane shots of sharpened water. Not constrained to a duel, Hong Meiling slammed her foot down and used all she was able. When she stomped, she sent out her qi through the sands, and it burst all around her like geysers, meeting the incoming barrage and walling it away from the tai chi gāo'shǒu.
Seeing her aura, Meiling did worry though: This is no longer play, right? If Miss Reimu hears of this, will she exterminate me?
She bit her lip.
You should be fearing me. The beast reprimanded.
“Do we have to taunt? Well then, I already know you’re like a cephalopod before a predator as you crawl before me. Look at all this black ink you’re spraying!”
This is Gensokyo, it replied, the way of things is to taunt. And this is not ink, this is my blood.
“I know. Let me see more.”
It is impolite. I should see yours as well.
Meiling shook her head and answered singsong, “Not happening~”
The beast seemed now to stand on its muscular legs.
In time, its tentacles reached out far to its sides and it “said” again, in time.
“Flying” now over the creature’s back, Gen and Wakasagihime tested its hide’s thickness and sensitivity by hurling water-formed danmaku at it. They were having no luck in finding a weakness. As they went, the Princess’s swimming was suddenly interrupted and she awkwardly pitched downward, almost dropping Gen. A wave of cold water had unexpectedly surged over the both of them, and they looked behind themselves to see that the beast looked to be lifting itself up now. Clouds of bubbles and seven-colored lights were all they could see before the creature. The battle seemed to have intensified. Gen turned away, and continued to fire.
“Man! This really seems hopeless!” said the mermaid in a huff.
“I hear ‘hopeless’ and my brain registers ‘do-or-die’.”
“Keep swimming. We’re not yet to shore and its body still goes.”
“Right!” She moved ahead, and added her danmaku to his.
At its face, Meiling mostly found herself dodging. While she indeed could hold her own at range, she needed to get in close to really push the beast back. But, its spellwork was so thick. It laid out pressurized water that threatened to dismember her in hardly spaced rows, such that the gatekeeper felt as though a giant now pressed a grill down upon her. Between the rows it kept shooting a line of bullet magic such that she could not close in, and only found herself moving backward. Eventually, she grew sick of this. Meiling grit her teeth, churned qi into her hands and through her stomach, held it close, then rammed the energy forward. A gigantic white and rippling rainbow orb roared out from her hands and through the monster’s onslaught, burning it all away. In the clear this created, Meiling hopped upward and flew below water.
Not once more! the creature voiced denial and aimed a barrage at Meiling.
She periodically dropped from sand to flight to stones to sand, flight, left, above, right, turning and hurling her body through a terrifying and wintry, merciless pattern, her clothing being torn as she failed to properly graze at this speed. She was soon near and ready to deliver a set of three strikes to the abomination’s ugly countenance, but it opened wide its mouth then to reveal a glowing and silvery liquid.
There was a high pitched sound that grew to bleeding volume in half a second. The liquid in its mouth boiled, and looked ready to shoot out. Meiling knew innately that if this touched her, only her waist and legs would remain.
It launched its attack, but just as it did so it spun as if wounded, groaning horribly, the ray it was producing vomited out yet going far off the mark and obliterating all water in its errant, sidewinding path. The human and mermaid had found and exploited an old sore spot.
Meiling did not hesitate. With aura applied to every hit, shining fierce and beautiful, she delivered a triple assault: a spinning kick with her right leg followed by her left with a deliberate delay, then a strike with the base of her palm, pressing the beast back down to its knees and forcing some eyes out their sockets.
Without using mental projection, the creature raged in true, vocal agony. The sound of its true voice shook Meiling at her bones, but she was already readying another series of strikes.
She noticed: one funny eye of its face was looking at her. She thought to—
“FraaUUghh!!” She screamed as pain filled one of her limbs. She’d hoped to move, but the eye that gazed upon her had suddenly popped itself, sending out a blindingly fast stream of black blood that clean-speared through the muscle of her right arm. She descended to the lake floor then, wanting to hold the afflicted area but stopping a near-gripping hand before it instead. She glared at the beast, which “spoke” to her.
I have had ENOUGH of this scribble, scrawl, claptrap madness! Devil’s gatekeeper: I will not stop after your corpse—I will have them all! I will rise to that gaudy base at the edge and devour every pitiable breathing thing I can reach and crush! While you cross the River Sanzu, I will remind you one should not make enemies of things they cannot understand!
It rolled its entire body, seemingly ready to make good on its promise. The motion seemed to move all the water in the lake, and like a powerful tide the Apprentice and Princess were fast dragged back to where they’d began, befuddled and gazing eveywhere.
Meiling stood still.
“Are you kidding...?” Her voice was quaking. She looked into her enemy’ face with eyes casting wrath. “You speak openly of invasion to the first guard?”
Gen and Wakasagihime realized something dark was brewing between them.
“You tell me you will harm my Mistress and think I will cower!?” Meiling gripped both her fists, and brought herself to a new and fiendish stance. She lifted her bleeding arm and flexed it so the inky gunk of the creature’s lifeblood was wrung from her wound. Meiling’s qi wrapped around her and flowed into the lake with an almost celestial magnificence. It looked like a hundred, warping veils drew out of and cloaked around her, and she roared at the horror with a beastlike ferocity.
“Abyssal worm! I’ll crush you beneath my fist until your coward guts spray out!”
You will only be scattered like a pet which lost its way beneath a tire! I will remove you without mercy, Devil’s slave!
The two monsters were fearful, and the two innocents felt fear. They witnessed what had recently been forbidden in Gensokyo: a meeting of two evils with murderous wills. Meiling launched forward, and the beast threw forth its tentacles, and Wakasagihime whispered:
“... Hey... doesn’t something smell like... flowers out of season?”
“What? I can’t smell anything with this bubble on. What do you even mean by out o—”
“Alright, alright~. Isn’t that enough? Play like that is a no-no.”
There came a female voice clear as if they were in the sky rather than water. The abyssal creature stopped its onslaught and seemed paralyzed. Confused, Meiling stopped as well.
“I didn’t think Reimu should be bothered with this, but while I was watching, I thought, ‘now, now, didn’t we just change the rules?’ It’s too soon!
Sea-child, humans from the other world are fair game, but do not harm the lost we shelter here. Treat your fellows how you’d be treated, isn’t that the saying?
I thought to intervene when you touched the mermaid, but waiting I got to see something interesting. I apologize for the delay, rowdy dragon. You were a lovely, dark hero.”
A black, thin hole unfurled around the center of the old one. While Gen couldn’t see the bottom of this hole, he saw that the top was awfully strange. This seemingly second-dimensional figure was being twisted, almost cutely, by a brilliant red bow. The sight of this thing alone made him instinctively unsettled, his skin prickling. He grew anxious when he realized within the hole there were many vacant, staring, singular eyes. Whoever was speaking continued, now that the bizarre gap in the lake was set.
“Now, please remember where you are. I’ve connected your insides to a vacuum of mine and will soon open the path. This will be delightful.”
Gen, Wakasagihime, and Meiling could not actually see what was happening to the beast, and could only “see”, and hear, that it was wrought with horrible, torturous suffering. A gurgling, bubbling, deep-toned scream escaped its warped maw, and bounded through the water almost as if it hoped to share its pain with all those in it. It would twist and suddenly jerk backward into the strange hole, and its “tail end” was rapidly “slurped” into the very same. In a short amount of time, its extended body was all gone and its face was the last thing before the gap. The gap shut, became a line, and disappeared. The horror slowly drifted into the sand, now only a colossal plate of tentacles and eyes with an anguishing mouth. The three in the water stared in stunned silence, and the unseen woman spoke again, sounding joyful.
“You are immortal, and you have lasted in this world so long by craftily reminding rare humans of you when the need demanded. But, how long will it take to pull yourself back together from this, I wonder? And who will fear the crippled beast that no one knows is bleeding in the dark?”
All three could tell it was trying to speak with what was left of its mind, but it was only capable of announcing emotions: sadness, a bit of anger, and regret.
“I honestly hope you were satisfied with your time here.”
She sounded spiteful, and completely dishonest, and then they knew she was gone.
Light entered this part of the lake once more for the first in the longest while. Meiling’s bloodlust dissipated, Wakasagihime gripped at Gen’s sleeves, and Gen wondered aloud:
“What... the hell was that?”
Nobody had an answer. They were all still, until Wakasagihime began to drag Gen forward, saying “... Come on, we’ve only got one stone left.”
They spent a noon which became after, which became dusk, which became evening sitting on the no longer misty shores of Misty Lake, and drinking.
A Land of Fantasy...
When you first thought of such a thing, wouldn’t you also think “wonder” and “magic”?
Although terrors lived in fairy tales, rumors, and legends.
They talked of Gensokyo – the Gatekeeper, the Mermaid, and the Magician – even as the darkest of night fell, and what queer things lived there, themselves included.
Itou Gen had little experience drinking since he’d entered college, and actually none with the sakezuki they used right now. Beer hadn’t done much for him, but he found that he enjoyed the taste of brandy, at least. Wakasagihime had brought them several unopened bottles of the stuff from the wreckage of a ghost ship that had made its way beneath the lake, and Meiling had procured the cups (while, in her words, trying to avoid Sakuya). He commented that sake (obviously) was meant for these cups, and Meiling remarked that this was fitting for Gensokyo.
The princess was on her stomach and elbows, half in the gentle pushing and pulling of the lake’s water and half upon the pebbles of the shore. The apprentice and guard were sat on a boulder and log respectively. All had cups, all had been drinking for many hours, and all their faces were flushed. It was a strange, not celebratory, not somber gathering. Under the cool light of the moon now that the summer sun was long away, they sat relaxed and listening to small breezes and bubbles of the lake between moments of conversation.
Gen noticed that the sack he’d brought along for his quest had brightness leaking from its mouth. However, he was a little out of it, and it had slipped his mind what the sack was for. He muttered a “What?”, reached out, and opened it to light.
“Oh right~,” Wakasagihime spoke, lifting her cup, “that last rock was really small, huh. Like, it was really a pebble pebble.”
Gen pulled out stones from the bag and held them in both his hands. Together, and trying to separate, they glowed with the intensity of a proper lamp. Their little party, which had only the moon for illumination before, now felt a little more comfortable in their shine.
Gen swallowed and shut one of his eyes, thinking back. When he’d remembered, he brought the stones between them all and whispered some invocations. Water drew out of the lake and surrounded the glowing things, then a circle of wind formed under it all and kept it floating, the rocks within the makeshift fishbowl drifting whimsically and casting dancing gleam all over this small place.
And Meiling made a sound of epiphany.
“Ahh! Lady Patchouli brought those back when she went in the lake last time. How pretty~.”
“Master did?” the boy asked, sipping his brandy.
“Yeah, she said they don’t seem to do anything, but it’s nice that they glow.”
“... I see.”
He, of course, began to wonder what purpose had been in his Master’s head when she sent him out today.
“But that reminds me, Sir Gen,” Meiling started, her voice noticeably playful, “how cool of you, getting a lover and you haven’t even been here like a month right?” She prodded his side with her elbow while smirking, and he winced with cup to his lips.
He reached for a bottle and replenished the dish in his hands, answering “Lover? Wakasagihime? We’re not lovers.”
“I hope~ I’m his friend~” the little princess wished.
“I’m certainly beginning to think that way,” he admitted. “Did we thank you for the brandy? Thank you for the brandy.”
“Thank me for the brandy!” Wakasagihime ordered, lifting her cup again.
In response, Meiling leaned back and shouted, “Thanks for the brandy!”
And at unequal volumes, they brought their cups together and cried, “Cheers!”
They swallowed their drinks in a grand motion, and the present male addressed the mermaid.
“By the way, I do hope you didn’t mind what I did. Time and situation and all, I had little choice.”
Wakasagihime looked at him...
... and sang.
I’m sick to me head, And I haven't been to bed, Since first we came ashore with all me plunder. I see centipedes and snakes; I'm filled with pains and aches, But now we’ve got to push out over yo~nder!
And it's all for me grog, Me jolly, jolly grog All gone for beer and tobacco.” she lifted the dish in her hand, denoting here was the chorus. “I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin, Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder.
Where is me hat? Me noggy noggin hat?” She conducted, they came in.
“All gone for beer and tobacco.”
“The brim is wore out, and the crown’s been kicked about, And me head’s been lookin’ out for better wea~ther.
“And it’s all for me grog, Me jolly, jolly grog All gone for beer and tobacco. I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin, Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder.”
They followed the mermaid’s command, who swished her drink and nodded her head to the lively rhythm. Slowly, they forgot why they were here.
“Where are me boots? Me noggy noggin boots?”
“All gone for beer and tobacco.”
“The soles are wore out, and the heels are kicked about And me toes are lookin’ out for better wea~ther.”
“And it’s all for me grog, Me jolly, jolly grog All gone for beer and tobacco. I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder.”
“Where are me pants?”
“PFF—!” Gen spat his drink.
“Me noggy noggin pants? All gone for beer and tobacco. The zipper is wore out, and the legs are kicked about And me ass is lookin’ out for better wea~ther.”
Meiling chortled heartily, and next they cried out:
“And it’s all for me grog! Me jolly, jolly grog! All gone for beer and tobacco! I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin, Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder!”
Alone now, the Princess went through the chorus in hums and vocalizations, entirely absorbed in song. Nearby, fairies were peeking at the troupe through trees, seemingly wondering in excitement if they might join as well.
Wakasagihime breathed, and entered the next verse.
“Where is me bed? Me noggy noggin bed?”
“All gone for beer and tobacco!”
“The sheets are wore out, ladies kicked them all about, And the springs are lookin’ out for better wea~ther!"
“And it’s all for me grog! Me jolly, jolly grog! All gone for beer and tobacco! I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin, Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder!”
Their shanty guide sighed out and lowered her voice until it was soft. She sang the last verse with a touch solemnity.
"Where is me wife...? Me noggy noggin wife? All gone for beer and tobacco... Her good will’s wore out... and she kicked my arse about... ... But now I’m sure she’s lookin’ out for better wea~ther!”
And the fairies and youkai and human all came ‘round in joyous noise, chorus ringing.
“And it’s all for me grog!! Me jolly, jolly grog!! All gone for beer and tobacco! I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin Now across the western ocean we must wa~nder!”
“And it’s all for me grog!! Me jolly, jolly grog!! All gone for beer and tobacco~! I spent all me tin on the lassies drinkin’ gin, Now across the western ocean we must waaa~nderr~!”
Danmaku filled the sky, fairies swiped drinks, and a mermaid hummed more raucous melody.
It was a not too ordinary, but not too strange day in Gensokyo. With laughter filling the air, and laughter from his gut as well, Itou Gen thought perhaps he might actually make it here. Between the lurking horrors and resplendent happiness natives both provided, he thought: he could survive, and maybe even enjoy it. Of course, there was fun in festivity, but desperation – when desperation ran dry – retrospect showed was fun too. Combat had its blood-pumping pleasures. Triumph over the strange was appealing.
Singing again with a fairy resting on his head, that was how he genuinely felt.
--End of Chapter 5: Wicked Things, Lovely Things--
Lovely, broken, BBCode... FOURTH TIME'S THE CHARM
Phew! There were a few ways this could've gone quite poorly for young Gen! I hope some lessons were learned. Nothing's easy.
I remind you this is all prologue. I'd wager we have... about two more adventures before we start to march forth in earnest. I know what the second will probably involve, but I'm honestly not sure what will happen next. Gen will be two or three month's into his life in Gensokyo when we meet him next.
Early morning at Scarlet Devil Mansion, the Unmoving Great Library remained sedentary to her title. In a rare act, she had coffee while going over notes for an experiment’s progress. The experiment was the human that had been fated to her: the outsider Itou Gen. The Library’s Apprentice had been her apprentice for two months, and he now entered his third. Technically speaking due to arriving midway through July he had entered his third month (September) about two weeks ago, but this was just too specific detail. Soon enough, they’d all forget the exacts.
Her evaluation of his progress was thus: precisely satisfactory, and thus exceeding expectations. Apparently her student had already studied quite a lot of what she had to teach back in the outside world, it was just that since it was the outside world any time he tried to use magic, even alone, he merely managed to make himself look silly. This had him take to her teachings much more well than she’d thought some wayward human would. He often forgot things and was still clumsy, but for two months of dedicated education, both theoretical and practical, he had truly become a student of magic now. Yes. Satisfactory.
To speak of practicality he had had some extreme ordeals during his first few weeks in Gensokyo, and though Remilia Scarlet had made it so he was a fated apprentice magician, he had been reminded that the vampire did nothing to change any fate regarding whether he lived or died after becoming such. One particularly harrowing experience of his had been his quest through Misty Lake. He’d encountered a ship-killer on a quest for stones. She’d told him that she’d expected him to avoid the ship-killer when he realized something dark was in the lake, as there were other sources for the pebbles it guarded. But, apparently, this did not occur to him. What an idiot.
But this was his most harrowing moment so far aside from his first life-or-death test and the time he’d introduced himself to the little sister. He had wagered meeting her on his own would make him seem more trustworthy. It seemed to just make him almost lose an arm. In the end he managed to please her, but he’d admitted to his Master after the fact: “I think I’d like to avoid Mistress Flandre until I’m strong enough to not have to fear her.”
Gen would not be able to entirely separate “fear” from “youkai” until he himself transmogrified into a full magician. It was beyond early to be thinking of such things, of course, so he would remain cowardly for some time to come. To his credit, though, the boy also knew courageousness, and she did find it admirable and human how he often decided when faced with a wall to not succumb to what brought him there, but instead break through it by all means. He’d grow in power, youkai or not, and have less cause for fear.
He was nice.
Now, she’d woken up early today to figure out what to have that nice kid do next with his two months of experience. He was beginning to get used to gathering ingredients from the forest, and he’d found a friend in the lake that he felt confident to call on (and happy to chat with often, it seemed). She’d send him out again today, but why and to where? This was her current question.
By now after consideration she had two categories she could decide on: sending him on an errand, or sending him someplace new in Gensokyo. First decision, to be followed by another...
 Send him on an errand to somewhere he’s already gone.
>>65461 >>65462 I'm sorry. Honest! Thing is, due to time skips I couldn't conceivably fit an introduction between then and now. I certainly wouldn't have Gen meet with her MONTHS after he'd been living in the same house. Talk about rude.
I did want to write it, might do a side story or flashback to what happened some time later.
If you saw that, don't worry you sadists; I wrote from the right decision.
[X] Have him visit the field where the nameless dead are laid to rest.
She wanted him to get familiar with both these places, but she did like a sink or swim approach. Muenzuka was a deadly place, even without the youkai that stalked it, though she’d be sending him to the place without the higanbana in bloom. There was her mercy. Itou Gen, if he did not become a blood-magician, would eventually die, and when he died he’d presumably be interred at the field of intersecting borders on the outskirts of Gensokyo. Perhaps seeing the place and knowing that, he’d have some motivation.
She didn’t want him to die. Who liked failed experiments?
And so he was given his assignment. Two weeks’ preparation, then go to youkai hunting grounds and come back alive with a treasure.
Gen, after reading up on the Mound of the Nameless, thought: Ah, so she’s finally thinking to kill me.
Because Muenzuka was an area where the Great Barrier was weak and thus worlds intersected, outsiders such as Gen often slipped into Gensokyo through there. Why Gen hadn’t (he had been spirited away quite randomly, actually) was supposedly since a particular type of human often entered at Muenzuka and the Road of Reconsideration which led there. To put it in a word, they were “malignant”. Perhaps a little harsh to refer to the suicidal that wound up at the place as such, but were you to look at the etymology... what was more rebellious toward God than to deny the life God gave you? Other than the terminally depressed, there were many criminals and vengeful folk as well. All of these were types youkai loved to feast on. In autumn, when spider lilies bloomed and their airborne poison left those humans weak, youkai found it to be like harvest season (well, coincidentally, it was). In autumn, that place was like Hell. As of right now, it was only incredibly dangerous.
As he was yet incapable of flight (Patchouli said she didn’t trust him and his wanderlust, so he’d be grounded for longer still), Itou Gen’s journey to Muenzuka ended up taking a very, extremely, long time. Not because of the distance, no, but because of the damnable fairies. The road to Muenzuka was past the Forest of Magic, and there was no actual defense one could have against the pranks of the fair folk when in the Forest of Magic. He had gotten... much too used to that fact since he’d begun taking regular visits to the place. He wondered if Alice might have some advice on getting through the forest without any trouble, but asking her without his Master’s blessing seemed potentially dangerous (Master Patchouli still seemed pretty riled by that early joke). He’d heard that book-thieving brat was living on her own in the forest as well... but if there was one person Master Patchouli hated more than Alice, it was Marisa. So, he had to contend with walking in circles until those whimsical punks had their fill of amusement. This meant he left the mansion at a little after eight, and found the exit of the forest at one in the afternoon.
When he finally saw the light of the open sky again, he didn’t actually know this. He only knew that he was famished and his legs were tired. He actually had a pretty odd relationship with time, now that he thought about it. At the mansion, there was almost always a clock to use to get the hour and minute of the day, and both Master Patchouli and Miss Sakuya had calendars for the date. Whenever he left, he left without a watch of course. He had a pretty good sense of time on his own so this had never been a problem, but he wondered if he might ask Mistress Remilia if he could do her a favor and be rewarded a watch.
“Phew...” Gen fell lightly into a tree and slid down until he hit dirt. He next retrieved a paper package from his coat: a wrapped sandwich made by Miss Sakuya for his lunch. He unsealed the paper and bit hungrily into it. Ham, lettuce, and tomato were its main contents, and like (almost) everything that maid did, it was prepared excellently (she still pulled some strange acts in the kitchen from time to time). He was happy he’d gotten used to eating meat in a place where those around him ate man. For a little while, he’d thought he might become a vegetarian.
With these considerations, he brought his hand to the necklace his Mistress had gifted him and lifted its “pendant” to the sun. He never removed this necklace, even during baths. Remilia had noticed this and teased him over it constantly, but there was a lot of honest happiness behind her mocking. More and more he was beginning to feel like this vial and blood truly bound him to Gensokyo. He just wasn’t sure how he felt about that yet.
Soon done with his meal (and drank water of a canteen he’d also been provided), he tucked away the necklace under his collar as always and stood up. Scarlet Devil Mansion, although it still felt vaguely hostile, was too good to him. They gave him all means to survive should he ever leave its red walls. He felt almost pampered, honestly, and really he might have been to some extent. It absolutely made him uncomfortable at any rate. He’d been feeling rather useless, and like his accomplishments weren’t so much his own lately. He hoped today, when he would surely face mortal danger, he could prove to himself that he was worth something.
And so he stepped onto the Road of Reconsideration.
... But there was nothing very remarkable about it.
It was late summer. The path to Muenzuka was a long and twisting one of short grass, flanked by a tall variety and some shriveled, white flowers. There were unsystematic, far apart and large trees with long and overhanging branches, and that was essentially all to see. Now it definitely felt strange being there... but not very. Almost like he was always about to fall down, but it only felt that way to a small degree. If he was being honest, what he found the most notable about this place was its openness. That was bad. He saw no youkai, but he didn’t have any places to hide or escape to should he be attacked. That worried him, but even worried he marched on.
He remembered: it was very loud in the Forest of Magic. Fairies’ laughter, rodents, larger creatures, wind, birds...
It was quiet here.
He walked toward Muenzuka and only heard his own footsteps as he crushed grass beneath his feet. He wondered if, perhaps, youkai weren’t really out and about right now because night had yet to fall...
“Ah, another human. Hello.”
Gen stopped on his path. He hadn’t noticed for looking over the sleeping flowers that someone was up ahead of him. A woman in red plaid clothes and carrying a parasol. He... couldn’t honestly get a read on her with her back turned, and she seemed to not have much interest in looking at him.
Still, he should be polite.
“Good afternoon,” he answered. “I understand humans don’t come here much at all, so why are you here, if you don’t mind me asking?”
The woman was silent for a little while before turning slightly and answering, “It’s odd that there aren’t any youkai around, right? I came to see if there were any unusual flowers.” The woman showed her left hand and gestured off the path, “And there, there are some. Higanbana awake and out of season in Gensokyo. It’s very peculiar, though some of them start blooming this early in the outside world, depending where you are.”
He looked to where she was indicating, and indeed a small patch of those white flowers had turned red, curled full and upward with their long and thin petals. “Hey, you’re right...” he commented, drifting his gaze to her feet. His eyebrows raised and he added, “Oh, and there’s some anemones just below you. Do those bloom here?”
“Sometimes...” she bent down and seemed to be looking at the several-colored flowers surrounding her, but still hadn’t turned to face him “... but not in summer. These are children who wake up from autumn and into spring. That’s also strange, isn’t it?”
“... Is something happening?” he felt he had to ask.
“No,” came her reply, “although I get the feeling something else will happen within the next year. Just a feeling... from someone interested in trouble and flowers.”
Weird florist, he thought. Or, he hoped she was just a florist. He wasn’t sure... A problem with youkai in Gensokyo was that while some like that abomination in the lake looked obviously monstrous, many more didn’t. If this was a youkai, he wouldn’t be able to tell, especially without a look at her face (he found it was sometimes obvious once he saw how people expressed themselves).
She’s... probably just a human taking the opportunity to visit a place she ordinarily can’t while the air’s still clean. Gen felt this was a sound theory, adding the thought: Probably.
If she was a native as he suspected, she wouldn’t have to worry about being killed. Thinking of that, he wondered when he’d start finding corpses... this road was supposed to be littered with them. Muenzuka, too, was just a sad and dead place. All this, with the addition of monsters and queer space; this wasn’t a place most humans would go to willingly.
“... You know,” Gen began, “if I remember correctly, it’s technically autumn already.”
“Oh—” she now began to turn in earnest “—you know a thing or two.”
The woman showed him her face. She looked... homely. Her hair was messy and green, kept short and kept jovial in style. This might have given him pause had his Master not told him some humans had peculiar hair colors here in Gensokyo. However, despite her mostly simple face, pleasant and comforting to see, her eyes were surprisingly striking. They were red, sharp, and seemed in some way indicating ages of wisdom. This was not for any crow’s feet or dark circle: her glance itself held untold knowing. Rather than putting him off, he found staying in her vision to feel attractive. He wanted to ask what those eyes knew.
That all said, the smile she now showed him, while obviously intended to be polite, sowed in his heart a deep seed of worry, almost instantaneously. He couldn’t explain the concern he felt, the “RUN” that flashed his mind, but if he had to try it wasn’t like the girl was pretending to be well-mannered, it was like she had practiced. That he could tell was what worried him.
But... this was the only trait of hers that felt dangerous, and humans certainly had such traits from time to time.
She continued speaking.
“Time is an entirely human invention,” she raised her hand as she said this, catching a healthy green leaf he hadn’t noticed coming toward her, “I’m not trying to sound intelligent saying that, I’m mentioning it because it’s important to the conversation. You say that it’s autumn,” continuing, she fiddled with the leaf, and then showed it to him, “but is this leaf yet red? ‘Autumn’ is declared when that specific equinox occurs, and that is the arbitrary decision people have come to, but plants and flowers will wait for the weather that they want.
In certain times and places, the higanbana will have blossomed by now, but in Gensokyo true autumn tends to come within October. We’re... still yet in September, no? The sun still wants this place all bathed in its light unrelenting. The cool winds and pretty colors of autumn... it’s ‘autumn’, and they all have yet to visit.
But these kids are early,” she finished, toeing the anemones in the grass and letting the leaf fall into the red flowers beside her. She faced him fully now to accomplish this. After lingering fondly on the spider lilies yet to bloom around them, she turned her gaze to him and put both her hands to her parasol’s handle. She gave a slow, deliberate, and somewhat deep nod while closing her eyes, and introduced herself: “My name is Kazami Yuuka. I’m sorry for not introducing myself sooner.”
“I’m Itou Gen. Never mind it.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” she opened her eyes and smiled again while offering this line. Gen’s skin crawled.
“What is it you do, Gen? What brings you to the Road and Muenzuka? Did you remember somebody nobody else did, and come to pay respects?”
“I’m... just a researcher,” he decided to be careful, “I came because I’m apprentice to a Master that wants me to find something worthwhile from the Mound of the Nameless.”
“You should have Reimu with you... Do you not fear youkai?”
“Same to you,” he countered, “I know you wanted to check the flowers, but a florist should probably be checking somewhere else if they’re going without any assistance. It may be forbidden for youkai to eat humans now, but you could still be injured rather horribly.”
“Thank you for your concern,” Yuuka replied honestly, “you’re a good boy.”
“I’m being serious...” he muttered, looking away.
“But good boys shouldn’t lie, by omission or otherwise. You research magic, don’t you? Your tomes aren’t hidden at all, Sir Magician.”
“Uh...” was all he could manage in response.
“So, you’re a youkai yourself?” she asked, tilting her head.
“No! No! Human! Totally human!” he denied her while waving his hands before himself. Putting one of them behind his head and another on his hip he followed with, “It’s a bit early to really call myself a magician, though.”
“You have dark plans. Scary.”
“To abandon your mortality is absolutely inhuman – it’s the most inhuman thing one can do. Is that what you’re planning?”
“I, uh, honestly don’t know yet.”
“That is something you should think about. Take it from... a florist. I know of mortality,” her eyes once more possessed a knowing look as she cast them again on the sleeping white flowers.
“I’ll think about it...” he confirmed.
“You should! There are two places in this land where you must really think on the only life you have, and you stand in one now!”
Yuuka’s concern was obvious in her face. This wasn’t practiced like her smile: the woman was looking at Gen with her eyebrows turned up, her lips pouted, and those piercing eyes now dulled and calm. It was almost motherly. Mothers, huh...
“I’ll think about it.” He meant it.
Yuuka’s smile returned, but this time lax and halcyon, like she hadn’t thought to smile at all. She told him, “That’s good.”
“Will you go all the way to the mound, now, Gen?” she next asked, “May I join you?”
“Yes, but keep close to me. I’m not very experienced with defending others with magic.”
“I don’t think we’ll have to worry.”
Gen began to move forward while he spoke.
“Really? What makes you say that?”
“While youkai should be feared, these corpse fields are so easy only weaklings would come to pick up the fallen and rolling fruits.”
Looking back at her, he saw her smile was still fully genuine, but that only perturbed him all the more. They walked toward Muenzuka chatting absently about magic and flowers.
“Did you know that there was magic to create flowers?”
“No, I didn’t. Do you know it?”
“I don’t know a spell for that, if that’s what you’re asking. Having flowers whenever, wherever, and helping them grow... Lovely.” When Yuuka spoke of flowers, he found that she always wore a pure and happy expression. It made her nice to be around.
“Then, I’ll learn a magic for that and come by wherever your shop is in the human village.”
“Wow! You really are sweet.” She spoke with love and gently pressed into him as they ascended the Mound of the Nameless, and he could feel incredible definition along her forearm. He blushed. In truth, though he’d been trying to forget about such things while he stayed in Gensokyo, a woman with great physical strength was bad for his heart. He was thankful he could only think of his mermaid friend as a friend, otherwise he might have started pathetically flirting with her by now.
He would not flirt with Kazami Yuuka either! He focused his eyesight forward and asked her, “So, do you do a lot of gardening?”
“Do florists do a lot of gardening?”
“Right. Stupid question.”
“I admire and take care of many flowers all year ‘round;” she said, “that’s all I do.”
“Look, we reach the top.”
And they did, and again, it was an unremarkable sight, but it bore some more notability than the road that led to it.
Muenzuka itself was surrounded in more sleeping flowers, but also had what looked to be a few large, purple cherry trees. From what he’d read, this place was a stunning and otherworldly scene when certain conditions were met – cherry blossoms in bloom, or higanbana spreading – but this was not now. It was only a quiet, somewhat barren-feeling field and hill.
“This place will look strange and phantasmal in just two weeks,” Yuuka commented, “and in months after, it should look more amazing than any viewing of cherry blossoms you’ve been to. However, the higanbana will want to kill you, and the cherry blossoms are born of youkai trees.”
She stepped forward, monitoring the flora around. Gen, meanwhile, realized that the queer sensations he’d felt along the road were here much more noticeable. Oddly enough, he felt “security” within his sternum, but everywhere else on his body felt as though he might lose balance and be swept into deep waters. It made his heart pound.
“Are you scared?”
Yuuka was asking him a question. He looked up, realizing he was grabbing his chest over his clothes.
“I hate being here, too,” she consoled him with sympathy, “this sensation like you’re going to be rudely pushed somewhere new is quite frustrating.”
“It’s not like that for me... it’s more subtle, which might be worse.”
“Oh?” She looked very curious about this, and then asked, “Do you feel... ‘safe’ on any particular part of your body?”
“Well, answer it.”
“... My sternum. Definitely weirdly specific. What is that smell?”
“You almost looked disappointed when we crested the hill,” the florist walked towards him now, “but how about now? Is Muenzuka satisfyingly grotesque and off-putting for you? That smell is the old scent of cremation. This is a graveyard. Daily, they burn corpses here. Outsiders, mostly... Your sternum, huh...?”
“R-Right, graveyard...” he was beginning to feel nauseous. He remembered, and then thought it was odd: why hadn’t they encountered any youkai at all? He hadn’t even seen one.
So he asked, “Really, where are the youkai here?”
“I wonder where...” she asked faintly, feeling over where Gen’s shirt and vest met. Pausing, she raised her eyebrows, then squinted dragging her fingertips to the side of his neck. Feeling so sickly now, he couldn’t even muster embarrassment as she slipped her hand into his shirt, felt around for a second, and revealed his necklace. “What’s this?” she asked.
“It’s a...” he wondered about being honest, settling on: “It’s vampire’s blood.”
“How did you get it?”
“Sorry, I don’t really—”
Yuuka looked up at him and said, “Hey,” in a commanding tone. “How did you get it?”
He swallowed before answering, “A gift... from the vampire the blood came from.”
“I see...” she put the hook of her parasol on her wrist and reached around his neck now, leaning close. His nose was brought very near to her collar, and he smelled all kinds of flowers, earth, and oddly enough sunlight. When she pulled back, she had his necklace, and was putting it on.
“It’s sentimental to you?” she asked, stopping. But then she continued, saying “It’s tying your heart to that vampire’s and making you care about Gensokyo. It’s a physical embodiment of your connection to your home, and so it is your refusal to leave it. That’s why you’re feeling sick when others try to take you. I’ve seen this before.”
As she mentioned it, instead of light waves of tugging, invisible forces, Gen now almost felt buffeted by winds. Like, his soul, or spirit – something inside him was being suddenly pulled without warning, quite randomly. His vision swam a moment, and he felt close to vomiting.
“Chew on this, come on,” Yuuka was presenting him with a leaf. “It’s mint.”
She put it to his lips and he bit down on it, pulling it into his mouth and next grinding the leaf between his teeth. Bitter, but it certainly helped. Made him realize he was on his hands and knees now.
“Now you won’t feel nauseous, but you’ll have to face the forces of perhaps three worlds vying for your body. Stand up.”
Weakly, he managed.
“Even if you have a physical representation of your sentimentality, if your emotions are strong you won’t feel this push and pull... Gen, do you not feel at home in Gensokyo?”
“It’s just a question,” she smiled, politely.
“... It may be feeling like a second home.”
Yuuka’s smile widened.
He frowned at her, twisting his lips as he chewed the leaf. Actually... where did she get that leaf? She didn’t have a pouch on her, did she?
“Don’t you still have a job to do?” Yuuka reminded. “Pull yourself together and get moving.”
“Man...” his voice was hoarse and feeble, “you got really serious all of a sudden.”
“I saw that you weren’t being serious enough,” she looked at him with the severity of a disciplining authority before a lout. He looked away under her gaze and answered.
“Don’t worry, I came here to prove some things to myself. That was... It was just sudden. I didn’t know Muenzuka felt this way.”
“Well I don’t see a treasure in your hand, so you better get used to it.”
“Watch it,” he snapped lightly, “I’ve got something to do: I’m going to do it.”
Gen walked on ahead and Yuuka followed him. He hadn’t realized how dangerous being at an interstice between worlds would be. He thought as an outsider, he might be more acclimated to reality slipping, but then again he still mostly remembered his transporting as a dream, and it only happened once. Trying to focus on staying in Gensokyo, he began looking for so-called treasure in this shifting field of unmarked graves.
“Look at this little bauble, and this one,” Yuuka still had her parasol at her wrist and held now two awful things. One was a cheap, handheld water ring-toss game (just looking at it filled him with rage), the other was a pogo stick. “They’re so interesting!”
“Put those down!” he demanded. He was now looking through a pile of batteries in vague hope of finding something worth powering with them. The common theme of the Mound of Junk (芥縁塚, Akutaenzuka) was that there were things from back home that had slipped into Gensokyo through here. It was almost all just... incredibly useless. Finally reaching the core of the battery pile, he had to slap his hands to his face, for he had come across another CRT monitor.
“Aaaagh, seriously, why is it all trash?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yuuka replied, now wearing a cap with straws twisting off of it and two, odd spaces to hold things at its sides. The cap had a logo of some soccer team on it from... he didn’t know, probably the UK. What the hell was that thing?
“What the hell is that thing?”
“I don’t know—” she had her hands above her head and was playing with the straws, “—maybe I’ll ask at Kourindou.”
“It’s filthy, take it off your head.”
He groaned, then sighed, and Yuuka said, “Yeah,” while taking off the hat, “not near as fun as flowers.”
That was of course not what he meant. He and she had been looking for perhaps an hour and had only found broken things, old things, crappy things, and not a single thing that he could call treasure. He was worried that he’d be going back to the mansion empty-handed, and having never seriously disappointed Master Patchouli before, he didn’t want to imagine what she’d do. He hadn’t even exterminated any youkai. Today was turning out to be entirely pointless, and all he’d received was horrible feelings from being in a weird non-place.
“This area’s so wide, too... God, I’m getting sick of being here.”
He looked. She had a black-headed pig statuette with an earthy tannish body. A Chia Pet. He slapped his hands to his face again.
“I said look! There were instructions, it’s entirely untouched! You soak the pig in water... Give me your water!”
He did not protest as she tore his canteen from his belt.
“Douse it and then... Hm, the seeds... This preparation is a bit irritating... but, look, look!”
He reluctantly gazed upon Yuuka’s messy, seed covered hands and statuette pig.
And, to his bewilderment, it suddenly sprouted greens in four quick stages of growth.
“Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia~” Yuuka spoke while hiding behind the terracotta animal, and peaked out from there when she was done, clearly almost giggling. Noting his expression, she added “... it said that on the seed package.”
He stood up. “Doesn’t... Doesn’t that take two weeks!?”
“Hm, so it says... Maybe it works quickly because we’re in Gensokyo?”
Like, the commercial got so well-known, “fast-growth” became part of public conscious, and here the myth is reality? I’ve only seen the commercial in English once... the things aren’t that popular in Japan.
“... Maybe,” he finally said. Still a little shocked, he shook his head, shut his eyes, and told her “Let’s look somewhere else,” while turning around. He then grunted as he walked into something. That something promptly pushed him away.
“Hey, let me see that.”
The new voice was a bit gruff but obviously young. He turned to see a small girl with gray, short-cropped hair. She wore an interesting-looking black dress, and had mouse ears and a tail. Mouse ears and a tail...
Gen jumped back. Yuuka did not react, and had given the statue to the mouse. The mouse looked back at him briefly before returning her attention to the Chia Pet. She turned it over, sniffed it, flipped it in her hands, and then began to fiddle with two very long, oddly-shaped black rods hanging in the crook of her right arm.
“Strange... why didn’t they react to this?”
“Are those dowsing rods?” asked Yuuka, who was uncomfortably comfortable around wild youkai.
“Yep. Was just searching again today, but the pig thing didn’t make them flinch.”
“They’re for treasure hunting?” Gen interjected. “Then they didn’t react because it’s just some too-old fad that clings to humanity like an ancient kitsch tick. It’s garbage.”
“What do you mean, human?” the mouse asked in a dismissive tone. “You saw as well as I did how it suddenly grew, right? It’s like fairy magic, but this is clearly from the outside world.”
“Very mysterious!” Yuuka repeated.
“I should take it...” the youkai mumbled, “Hey,” she said, addressing Yuuka, “would you give me this?”
“Hmm... yeah. For free.”
“Okay,” Yuuka said, to Gen’s surprise, “it’s yours.”
“Thank you!” said the mouse, and Gen frowned again, having witnessed something very stupid.
Cautiously lowering his aggression, he decided to call out to the mouse, “Hey, uh...” he had thought to ask about her presence here, but then thought a different but similar question would be better: “Do you know where all the other youkai are? I was told the Road of Reconsideration and Muenzuka were filled with them.”
“No, I don’t. Only been me since this morning. Why, you got a death wish? You should’ve come here in autumn, that’s what the road is for.”
Yuuka nodded, saying “She’s right.” He supposed she was. The Road of Reconsideration was so called because the spider lilies’ miasma whilst in bloom made one rethink suicidal thoughts should they have any.
“No, I don’t have a death wish... I’m here for treasure hunting myself.”
“You don’t say.” The mouse didn’t care. She was still not looking at him and seemed to be preparing to get a move on.
This was something I had to look into a lot, but basically Nazrin has been around for a loooooong time and so has Shou, but the REST were trapped underground. It goes like this.
-The heretic Byakuren is becoming more and more heretical, decides to make a youkai into Bishamonten. -Tiger is chosen. Tiger isn't trusted, Nazrin is sent to observe her/do as she pleases. This is ages ago and in Gensokyo. -Byakuren and her crew are finally punished by being sealed away. However, Shou is such a good Bishamonten avatar that everyone assumes she's actually Bishamonten/not a youkai. -Shou ignores Byakuren in favor of her duties as Bishamonten, lets the temple fall into ruin. -SA happens. Shou, filled with guilt, helps those other filthy youkai unseal Byakuren. -Meanwhile, Nazrin.
Gen’s patience was at its end. He pinched his nose bridge, and called to the youkai with a stern voice.
“Hey, before you get a move on I’d thank you to apologize.”
“... What?” The mouse answered with clear annoyance, facing him and showing her red and angered eyes while she gave Yuuka the statue to hold, “Stupid human, you really do have a death wish.”
“You seem pretty civilized, Miss Mouse. Maybe you know that when you shove people, accidentally or otherwise, it’s considered terribly rude.”
“You should be happy I didn’t shove you to the ground and rip out your throat. Where do you get off—”
“How about you apologize,” he cut her off, “or I finally get to use the arts I’ve been honing to bury your kind?”
The mouse glared at him as he touched a palm over one of the tomes on his belt.
“My name is Itou Gen, apprentice to the great magician and master of Scarlet Devil Mansion’s Library, Patchouli Knowledge. Learned in all elements, studied in vivid patterns, and well enough versed in rat poisons to deal with the pest before him now.”
“... You talk big, for a human.”
“Only with reason, youkai,” he removed the tome and lifted it, repeating “I have every reason.”
“Okay, stop,” the mouse held up her hands. She was closing her eyes harshly, and he looked at her confused and a little bothered. He was honestly raring to put a youkai down after all the disappointment he’d faced coming here. This youkai now curled in her fingers while not looking him in the eyes. She flicked her tail a few times and, next coughing into her hand, recomposed herself. She put one hand on her hip, put out her chest, and presented her other hand to him in a way that oddly enough evoked a businesslike sense to him. “I don’t wander Muenzuka looking for a fight. I’m not even here looking for humans. I’m here for treasure. You’re looking for treasure, right? How about you settle down, I find some for you, and we let bygones be bygones.”
“What?” Gen felt vexed.
“You’re not that strong, I can feel that much, but if you’re gonna be so damn pushy...”
“What sort of youkai are you? Beast youkai should be more aggressive than this, even mice-kind.”
“I’m a special being,” the mouse touched her fingertips over her breast and spoke with absolute, blunt pride, “my name is Nazrin, and I am an emissary sent from Mount Meru on a sacred duty of no minor importance. I am a leader of mice, a finder of lost things, and ever first an observer of Bishamonten. After all this am I youkai.”
“You really are civilized,” said Gen, still not lowering his book.
“I meant you no offense, I meant only to continue on as I always do and not face distractions. I apologize for my rudeness.”
Nazrin did not lift her head. She bowed with all respect. After several moments passed, Gen returned his book to his belt and answered her. “Lift your head. If you want to apologize, do it with your actions. Find me something... if you please.” He remembered politeness as his temper subsided. Muenzuka and its repulsive existence were doing things to him... He really did want to use those magics he’d practiced, though. He sighed, and finally added: “Preferably something magical, or usable for magic.”
Nazrin stood straight and replied, “Yes! Let us not waste any time.” She took her rods from the crook of her arm and lifted them like pistols. Before she began dowsing in earnest, she looked into Yuuka’s face and spoke in a well-mannered tone. “Thank you for the treasure, and for holding it now. Would you mind if I asked you your name?”
“Don’t worry about it. And, I don’t mind. My name is Kazami Yuuka.”
Gen, who had begun to walk past these two, noticed as he did so that the treasure hunter was not moving at all. He looked back and caught Nazrin’s expression for just a second as she locked eyes with Yuuka. She had looked terrified, but after the second passed she quickly stared at the sleeping higanbana at her feet and spoke under her breath.
“I see...” she said, “... Well, let us go.”
The mouse began to walk. Gen met Yuuka’s eyes and raised an eyebrow. Noticing his stare, she gave him a practiced smile, lifted the Chia Pet, and giggled lightly.
“Ah, over there; I have a good feeling about this, Mister Customer.”
“You keep calling me that. Am I supposed to pay you after this? I’m afraid I don’t have any money.”
“Habit. People usually pay me for this.”
With Nazrin as their helper they still took a long time at Muenzuka, but this was his last hope of finding something worthwhile. He was putting faith in dowsing rods... what he knew to be utter bogus, but they probably worked in Gensokyo. They didn’t react to garbage, he was certain of that at least, and according to Nazrin she had found genuine treasures here before and that was her entire reason for apparently setting up a home on the mound. To assure him, she mentioned a handful of obscure, legendary artifacts she’d had appraised at “Kourindou”. He still didn’t know what that was, but coupled with how Yuuka mentioned it earlier he figured it must be something like in a game he’d been playing before he was brought here: an American game called Diablo II. A character would identify items. Simple. The explanation worked for him.
As he realized he was missing home, Nazrin stopped them all, announcing, “Here!”
They stood before a field of unburied dead.
He clasped his hand over his mouth and brought down his eyebrows.
“It looks like the underneath of a graveyard slipped here.” Nazrin spoke without a single bit of concern. She spoke like a tour guide. “This happens sometimes with hidden gravesites of heretics, heathens, and cultists.”
“Yes,” Yuuka agreed.
“Oh... So it’s not youkai...” he whispered.
“No, those are youkais’ work,” Nazrin answered and pointed to the left of the corpses. There, he saw many fresh bodies lying with open wounds, dismembered, bitten, and with flesh ripped off obviously by teeth. His eyes widened. “Looks like they didn’t finish,” Nazrin commented, stepping into the older dead before them.
“The higanbana won’t bloom very well with corpses piled so high...” Yuuka spoke sadly as she walked toward the newer dead, “I hope the cremator comes soon to take care of this.”
Gen followed her.
Nazrin called to them while they walked: “Those would be grave robbers, likely! Scavengers who felt they’d gotten lucky! I’m near the treasure now, just give me a few minutes!”
The two stopped before them.
“... It still only smells like ashes,” was all Gen had to say.
“Bodies may only begin to rot after a day.”
“It is a little sweet though.”
“Blood, and spit.”
If I’d been unlucky... would I be in such a pile, then burned the night after? Gen thought this as he lowered his eyelids. He thought... there was probably something he should do here, he just didn’t know what it was.
“What are you thinking?” Yuuka asked him, still fondling the terracotta pig and its bushy sprouted life.
“I’m thinking...” he was going to speak, and merely trailed off.
“Might you have been in that pile?” she asked, smirking at his side.
“No. I’m not... worthless.” He had still been holding a hand over his mouth, now he touched his temple. “I... don’t think I’d ever fall so low as to loot graves.”
“You’re doing that right now,” she teased.
He huffed from his nostrils, turning up his lips just a bit.
“No, I’m getting someone to do it for me, and it’s coincidence anyway...” dropping his hand, he next admitted: “but, I’m not against it. I think if I fell into this world again as I am now, I might end up here.”
“You are an outsider.”
“Don’t worry...” Yuuka smiled at him. “I knew, and I won’t tell anyone else.”
He answered her with a frustrated look before returning his gaze to the grave robbers. “Hmph. Maybe I am a bad boy.”
“You’re not.” Yuuka answered flatly. “You’re not yet.”
He folded his arms and stared at her again. Looking askance at the bodies, he told the florist: “Whatever I am, and whatever I’ll be, I don’t want to be weak like this. I hope I’m not weak like this.”
Yuuka looked at the bodies too, and answered: “I wonder...”
Nazrin had a loud yell. They turned and saw her shadow waving to them through the miasma of death filling the area. Glancing at one another for a moment, they went to her.
“Look,” Nazrin lifted the treasure to Gen, “my dowsing rods went wild over this.”
“...” he looked at it silently. The treasure was a crimson book... still-gripped by the corpse that held it. He didn’t feel comfortable prying it off.
“Take it out the man’s hand,” he ordered. Nazrin blinked confused, then tore it out the grasp, the fingers breaking off in small bursts of dust.
“Pretty old dead, it seems,” she said, handing it to Gen once more.
Somewhat reluctantly, he took the book, kneeling down to sit beside Nazrin, who was excitedly breathing through her nose. Yuuka handed her back the Chia Pet, and she gripped it with both hands whilst wearing an expression exuding drive and anticipation. He looked in her eager face for a while before flipping over the book to its cover and dusting it off.
“... How do you say this?” Gen wondered about the title on it.
“Rrezguinna. It means ‘red skin’.” Yuuka’s answer came from knowledge of language, not the book. He looked at her and blinked. “There are flowers that only Iceland knows,” she explained, “so I know Icelandic.”
He looked at the cover again. The book’s title was “Rauðskinna”, scarred into it and seemingly tattooed there as well. It felt like something he could easily identify when he held it in his hands. It was a grimoire, a sickeningly potent one. Grimoires like this were things Master Patchouli didn’t allow him to yet use (just to sort), saying they were explicitly for youkai, and so very dangerous. She’d told him, “Well, they’re not all for youkai, but if you want to fall into becoming one...”
This large and several-hundred paged red skin book had an appropriate title. It was bound in thin red leather, though on close inspection he could see that, strangely enough, it wasn’t dyed. By touch and sight, he felt the skin used to create this wasn’t Earthly, or at least not the earth he knew. He was reminded of Western devils, not like his Mistress but like those from Christian Hell: blood-skinned fiends, supplicants of evil, powers bid from desperate and dark-hearted mortals. He supposed you could call this a “treasure”... but just holding it made him nervous.
He flipped it open.
“What’s it say!?” Nazrin perked up at the sight of many foreign words.
“I can ‘read’ it, but...” Gen of course knew Roman letters, but the way they were arranged here was entirely strange.
“It’s more Icelandic.” Yuuka knelt with them now. She had her parasol open again. “Turn to the first page with words, Gen.”
He obeyed. She read.
“... Looks like you have a spell book of entirely forgotten magic. I’ve never heard of it, of course, but it claims to be capable of some very funny things.”
“‘Funny’?” He repeated, looking at Yuuka like she must’ve made a mistake.
“Funny!” She said no more than that, only smiling.
I need to get this to Master, he thought, his worry showing plain on his face as he flipped through the book.
“... Thank you, Nazr—” he was about to speak with the mouse, and when he looked in her direction saw her hand nearing the tome, fingers eager wiggling. He repeated himself, “Thank you, Nazrin. I think this is perfect.”
“Ah... I want it...” she was talking to herself.
“Sorry, you said you’d give it to me. You get the pig.”
“The pig... is pretty good...”
Man, it’s really not, he felt guilt.
“The day isn’t out. I really suggest you look for another treasure before you turn in.” Gen strapped the Rauðskinna to his belt and made to stand up.
Nazrin remembered her attitude. “You trashed it before, but why? What do you know?”
Gen glanced to the side for a moment before leaning toward her and placing a hand atop her head. He made her look into his eyes and said, “Because I’m an outsider. I know what I’m talking about.”
Nazrin shut up. She looked at the Chia Pet, frowned, and then looked at him. “You shouldn’t have told me that,” she said.
“I know, but I’m feeling guilty.” Gen stood up fully, looking down on the youkai. “That... treasure might actually be special, but where I come from these terracotta things are just a trend.”
“You’re really an outsider?”
“... Humph. You’re insane.” Nazrin stood up as well. She stared disappointed at the statuette.
“... You should still keep it, but...” Gen tried to reassure her, and then looked from left to right. Recalling, he stuck a hand in his pocket, and withdrew something, presenting it to the treasure hunter. “Have this,” he said, “a gift.”
“... Huh.” Nazrin received the object in one of her hands and gazed through it. It was a sphere of glass encasing water and depicting a wintry scene from a famous foreign play, with little statues of mice encircling and performing obeisance to a triumphant and proud Mouse King.
“From The Nutcracker, a foreign ballet.” He pointed at it and explained. “Call it coincidence or fate, I guess,” he shrugged, “I don’t think it counts as a treasure, but I found it before we came across each other. Picked it up ‘cause I’ve always like snow globes.”
Nazrin was quiet, watching small white flakes fall in the glass.
“Take it, put it on a shelf with the pig, remember the stupid human you met that day.” He blinked, and then decided to bow to the youkai. “I was rude today myself, so I apologize. I hope we can meet another day as fair acquaintances, Nazrin.”
“Feh, if you bow your head before me I’m likely to step on it. Get out of here before I decide to.”
She sure flipped quick.
Gen rose, nodded, and faced Yuuka, now ready to say farewell to this blasted mound.
“Hey, Gen: one more thing.”
Gen stopped and turned back to Nazrin, lifting an eyebrow.
She looked between him and Yuuka and said, “Be careful, alright?”
“Oh... thank you, I will.” He nodded again and gave the mouse a simple salute, saying, “Goodbye. See you another time, with money in my pocket.”
He smiled; she did not take her eyes from Yuuka. So they left the Mound of the Nameless, one confused and one conspiring.
As they walked down the Road of Reconsideration, Gen noted that the sun was falling. Daylight was going to be nearly out, and he hadn’t met a single threatening youkai. He felt like he’d only accomplished half of his tasks, holding the Rauðskinna in his fingers and glancing at it on his waist.
Yuuka answered him with the necklace already in hand, “Of, course,” she paused between her words. He had come to the conclusion by this point that Kazami Yuuka was definitely odd.
He received his token and put it back on. They stood at the exact middle of the path. He wondered if he should offer to guide her to the Human Village... not that he knew where it was.
“So, Itou Gen: human playing at magician,” Yuuka began speaking once he’d slipped the vial of Remilia’s blood into his shirt.
“Kazami Yuuka... florist with too much time on her hands.”
Yuuka gave one, great, powerful laugh. He immediately lost his good humor. It was a laugh that pounded through him and made the trees and grasses flinch. “Oh...” Yuuka moaned, wiping a tear from her eye. She looked at him, happy in earnest, and said “Let me finish.
How long have you been playing?”
“Two... and a half months.”
“What magic do you use?”
“A variety... Elements, mostly.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“Because...” Gen paused, “... well, it makes me feel strong.”
“You like feeling strong?”
“But, are you?”
“Huh?” Gen was beginning to think in his fraternization with Yuuka, he had erred terribly.
“Are you strong, Itou Gen?”
“I am not,” he answered firmly, “but I’m not an ordinary human anymore.”
“There was a girl...” Yuuka started to speak like she would speak at length, and looked into the orange sky, walking back toward Muenzuka. “There is a girl, who was a girl, who was like you. She found power, and grasped it, and unlike you—” Yuuka flashed her eyes at him; they shined “—she felt she was strong. I bullied her a little, and she proved it. When I had met that girl, I was allowed to crush her.” Yuuka stopped looking at the sky and now looked at him, stepping backward. Beneath the parasol she no longer needed, he could hardly see her face. The hairs all over his body were raised with a chill. “She stopped me,” she finished, “I am wondering: can you?”
“Gen, remember when I told you that good boys don’t lie, by omission or otherwise? That applies to good girls too. Unfortunately for you, I’m a bad girl.” Once more, Kazami Yuuka spoke with love in her words. She stopped, now quite a ways from him, and beamed.
“Of course, stupid boy: I’m a youkai!”
He swallowed. He’d wanted to fight today, but every part of his being was screaming to leave.
Yuuka brought down and closed her parasol. Wind swept over the road and tossed her hair. Her dress rippled, her shirt rippled, she showed him her practiced smile.
“I think you can grow incredibly well, but somebody’s put you in the wrong soil too early. I’m going to have to hurt you a bit... no, a lot~, and punish the gardener.”
Spreading upward faster than he could see the air behind her and skies above were filled with rows of red magic. Yuuka lifted her parasol, pointed it at him, and a light sparked from its point.
He cast a magic of air at his feet.
Itou Gen shot up into the sky with sudden force. Where he had been, every bullet collided, and from the point of Yuuka’s umbrella shot a ray of magical power so immense that even here it felt close to touching him.
“Fuck...” he whispered English. He found himself doing that when things got bad.
He called winds to slow his fall. Yuuka tapped her “weapon”, and let him come to ground. Then, she did the exact thing she’d just done.
“Seriously!?” Gen whipped his hand right and blasted wind so that he was hurtled into the sleeping flowers at his left, narrowly avoiding the barrage and blast. Rolling with some skill, he managed to stop in a kneeled position, spotting a second Yuuka, aiming her umbrella. He tore out a spell card from his sleeve.
“Earth Sign: ‘Mysterious Tectonics’!”
The card crumbled away. He puffed out his cheeks and leapt forward at once, just as the umbrella sparked. A column of earth erupted from under him, knocking the wind out of him but moving him quickly out the way of Yuuka’s attack. While stone and earth burst forth all around him, he felt himself falling. He looked down, and saw that her magic had torn through the rocks like a hose through paper. He used wind to blast himself again, this time shooting air left and moving right. He could not land with skill now, tumbling like a stone, and when he recovered he saw more bullets coming at him from overhead.
Give it a rest! He ran now, thinking desperately what he could possibly do to get some sort of footing and launch attacks of his own.
He pulled back. A laser fired where his foot next would’ve landed. He looked to his left, and saw Yuuka was flying, alone now, with sunflower heads spinning in place around her. From them came the lasers, and still she cast more bullets. At least now she wasn’t using that ridiculous beam.
She lifted her parasol. Gen cursed himself.
This was basically an impossible fight. When he came to Muenzuka, he was expecting something tough, but Kazami Yuuka was unreal. The casual, intense display of strength reminded him of how the ordeal with the wayward sea being had ended. He had a theory as to why all other youkai had vanished from the road and mound.
The landscape still rumbled from his spell card. He noted the dust of the earth kicking up nearby, and leapt over the clouds. Underfoot, earth launched him up, and again Yuuka disintegrated it at its base. He jumped from the pillar, knowing the pattern and so knowing where another would come. As he fell and a column rose, he began speaking incantations for earth. When he slammed into the rising dirt, he slammed his palm down as well, and drained some of his spirit. Columns and steps began to rise all around the area now. He allowed himself one moment to pant, and started running and leaping across them.
“You can’t fly, huh?” Yuuka commented. He could barely hear her over the sounds of their fighting, “That’s really unfortunate.” She summoned another clone of herself. He saw that it simply... walked off of her with no theatrics or strange tearing. That alone was strange.
Expecting this, Gen brought his hand in toward himself, rushed through a spell trying not to bite his tongue, and threw out his palm toward the clone with magic turning over his fingers.
He called for fire, demanding his spirit again. He shot it like a lance, aiming to pierce the second Yuuka’s heart. And with mercy of fates it hit. He hadn’t expected that. The clone spiraled in on itself and vanished along with the fire. Gen redirected himself and started jumping toward Yuuka, thankful for whatever physical training the gate guard back at the mansion had put him through. The flower youkai looked at him and blinked like she didn’t expect to see him there. He rushed to a platform that had come up before her, and thrust both hands over her breasts.
“Oh my!” Yuuka gasped.
“LOREM!” As he shouted this, behind his back manifested uncountable shards of shadow and light. This was a magic spell, simple and without rune or glyph. This was something that touched the elements of the world only slightly, and otherwise relied entirely on Gen’s magical power. The shards twisted, then in wild and unknowable paths came for Kazami Yuuka. The youkai pulled open her parasol and raised it overhead, entirely dismissing any bullets that hit into it.
But, everything below was unguarded.
The greater brunt of Gen’s attack was received by Yuuka’s torso and lower body. As it pounded her, he prepared another volley, and when he was ready to invoke it, Yuuka looked down at him, taking her left hand from her umbrella’s handle, palm up.
“That was nice,” she complimented, and she flicked Gen in the forehead.
It felt like he had been struck by lightning. Next he knew he was to the ground, lying in a bed of flowers. After a second, a gust of wind blew all over the area, and there was a sound like an explosion.
“I gave you a soft landing,” Yuuka said, “let’s not end this quick.” She spun her parasol in front of her, bullets turning off it in absurd quantity.
Gen looked around for one of the staircases he’d summoned and made a run for it. He safely dodged her assault, ducking, hopping, and turning when he needed, but made no time to praise himself over it. He ran on a rock staircase, heading for Yuuka again.
“Why do you keep coming at me?” she asked, still spinning her umbrella and overfilling the sky.
“Seems like it throws you off,” he answered.
“Oh, like this?” Yuuka vanished, and next appeared before him on the stairs. He stopped, stepped back. She wore a frightening face, and pulled back her right fist.
Gen stepped over to his right, and she let loose a jab, the blast of which carved a hole through the branches of a tree ahead of her. He looked at the results, blinked, and then began to speak an incantation. Yuuka opened her hand, and in an instant brought it left. She grabbed Gen’s collar, lifted him, spun, and hurled him into the grass below, creating enough clouds of scattered things that it was like a fog enveloped the area.
In the crater he had formed, Gen’s body was wracked in pain. He brought himself onto one knee, and Kazami Yuuka appeared before him again.
“Oh...” he groaned. She grabbed his collar, lifted him, spun, and hurled him toward Muenzuka.
This time he spoke incantations while he flew, having some time to do so. He called for a muddy pillar of earth, mixing water and dirt, which caught him like a catcher’s mitt when he had flown about twenty meters. Having kept his eyes closed while tearing through air, he pushed away from the soft wall and opened them now. He saw she was throwing magic at him again.
“Air Sign... ‘Tengu Gusts: High Level’.”
He had withdrawn a spell card. It was an advanced version of one he’d used during his first duel, and he used it now to clear the assault coming toward him. Cyclones rose up and swayed, throwing things through the air and shielding him entirely, he took a step forward, thinking about what he could do to win this.
In the clouds of debris, walking slowly yet with total confidence, he saw the flower youkai dodging his spell card and coming now.
“She’s dodging it...? But, the way I used it... Is it because this isn’t a duel?”
Gen stepped to his right, but nearly collapsed. He still had spiritual power to spare, but Yuuka had simply beaten the shit out of him. He wasn’t even scared at this moment. He couldn’t register fear. He only felt cold, numb, and mortal.
Soon, she came to face him. Now she brought her pointer finger over Gen’s stomach, and poked him there. Of course, it had none of the power of an ordinary touch. He thought his spine had broken, and began to fall to his knees.
Kazami Yuuka caught him at his arm. She looked into his eyes with a blank face and told him, “You coming to Muenzuka was a mistake. You talking to me was a mistake. You thinking you can fight was a mistake.
Gen, youkai kill you humans. You humans. You, from the outside world. They would’ve just killed you. Did you want to die?”
“I wouldn’t have died, shut up.”
She wagged him in her grasp.
“Why do you think you wouldn’t have died? The youkai would be weaker than me? That doesn’t matter when there’s twenty of them, Gen.”
“I’m... not weak.”
She began to wrench his arm.
She began to bend it like it shouldn’t be.
He closed his eyes and ground his teeth. He shouted at her.
She kept going. Pressure was welling, and he couldn’t control his breathing.
“Please! Please stop!”
She kept turning his limb, slowly.
He opened his eyes and looked into her face. She still looked at him without emotion. He thought, This won’t end here, have to do something.
I understand what she is trying to do. If Rurouni Kenshin taught me anything is that the fear of death is something that every warrior needs in order to reach their full potential. After all, being brave doesn't mean you lack fear, but that you feel fear, yet move on regardless.
[x] Magic. Any Magic. Just use magic.
Are you a scared villager or a magician? Didn't you say you still have more than enough magic? Can't your other arm still move? Then move it!
>>65516 Outside of this book teaching you how to be so good at dark magic that you can control Satan, which implies raw power rather than mind control, and having a bunch of spells that can cause a lot of bad stuff (basically Graskinna 2.0 Master Edition), norse magic is actually incredibly good for fighting if you have enough time to prepare. Though you're right that in the middle of a fight, it can't do much. Still, this book is about singing, and I want to see if we can get away with a sudden musical number. Maybe confuse the fuck out of her, because even if she knows what it can do, she might not know how it works, or even expect us to try it. Or she might just be curious about the result.
For those interested:
Seiðr makes you physically weaker, but is really useful, allowing you to see the future, control fate, sever people's limbs from a distance and stop others from moving. You need a ritual that includes a staff and a bunch of thread for that though, so in combat you better be away from your enemy.
Spá is used to see the future, like seiðr but less varied in exchange for not becoming weaker and not taking an entire ritual to do.
Galdr is singing magic that allows you to do such things as making childbirth easier, bringing madness to others, summoning storms, sinking ships, damaging weapons and armors, manipulating fate and raising dead people.
And if you're chosen by Odin, you can use your rage as a source of power to become stronger by a lot, transform into an animal (bear, wolf or boar, depending on the type of warrior), be immune to steel and fire and make earthquakes. Only problem is, after the rage-induced power-up, you lose all your strength until you can rest some time.
>>65521 You make a good point, but remember, we use a grimoire already. The other options seem more akin to panicking than anything. Consider this adapting to circumstances, and it isn't as if our ability won't influence things. Using the dangerous unknown magic thing in a dire situation is a classic for a reason, it's a serious test of our skills. Yuuka may not be trying to kill us, but that doesn't mean she won't if we let her.
"I don't take risks, I take calculated gambles"
That said, The option doesn't say we use the SPELLS in the book, what if we just HIT HER with it? Patchy does that in the fighting games, after all.
Yuuka held his left hand. He reached for the red skin book with his right.
The flower youkai’s lips parted into a thin, toothy smirk.
“You idiot,” she said, and she said it like she thought him adorable.
Itou Gen opened the Rauðskinna to some random page and looked over the words, trying to see if any arrangement of letters beneath the unknown glyphs looked more like an incantation rather than a description. Kazami Yuuka continued to bend his arm meanwhile, and showed no sign that she would stop. She leaned in to his ear, and whispered into it.
“Sing.” And after, she chuckled wickedly.
“You’re... telling me to scream?” he asked without looking at her, desperately scanning the pages.
She straightened her back, squeezed his forearm, and said: “I’m telling you to sing.”
Song magic? He now looked for repetitions, patterns, anything like a stanza.
Eventually, he found what seemed to be a section that matched what he was seeking.
There were many little blocks of repeated words and letters beside what he imagined to be notes and runes of power. Each page here began with a block of repetitive text, and was followed with lists of what he had to imagine were the names of spells. So, he began to chant one of the incantations, one starting with “thurisaz, thurisaz, thurisaz”.
... Nothing happened. She tightened her grip, and reminded him: “If you don’t speak a spell right, won’t it just fail?”
He turned to another page and spoke, “tiwaz, tiwaz, tiwaz...”
... Nothing happened. The flower girl yanked at him.
“Naudhiz, naudhiz, naudhiz...”
“Isa, isa, isa i, i, i, i, i, i, i, i, i i, i, i, i, i, i, s, s, s, s, s, s s, s, s, s, s, s, i, i, i, i, i, i i, i, i, i, i, i, i, i, i...
Stormur~ fyogu~rra he~ima!”
She broke his arm.
It... didn’t really hurt, but he thought that was probably chemical. He gazed wide-eyed at his unnaturally turned limb, and his mind was blank. His stomach churned. Then... Then it hurt. It hurt so much.
Tears filled his eyes before he could stop them, and his hand felt like it tingled, both warm and cold. Where the fracture was felt so hot – rushing; blood? Was his arm bleeding within itself? – and a sensation like he was under a thousand leagues ran from it up to his shoulder and into the tendons of his neck. Yuuka let his arm go, and so also let him drop. His wounded arm fell to the earth, and he screamed with his mouth firmly shut, fast-breathing and looking at it while feeling like a sword was being plunged through there.
Yuuka put her heel on his unbroken, fallen hand.
Looking at the Rauðskinna, Itou Gen continued to chant in a shaking and fluttering voice. It was like a thousand horns blared in his head. He closed one eye. He could barely think.
“You were close with that one, but it wouldn’t have helped you here. Maybe in a gambling den.”
She stepped down on and sprained his thumb. Spit dropped from his mouth, and she offered some more advice while stepping onto the back of his head:
“It said this book had many ritualistic magics, even with those you must sing, but there’s a little secret. The book is special. ”
Gen palmed the old pages and forced his way through them. This was too confusing. He didn’t know the pronunciations. Why wasn’t this like kana? Why was the Roman alphabet used in so many different ways?
He slammed down a page. He thought, this would probably be the limit of Kazami Yuuka’s mercy. After all, she was saying...
“This is getting boring. I think I’ll kick your skull from your shoulders and into the trees~. Whoosh~!”
perthro, perthro pu— pa— pi— pe— po— purdh, pardh, pirdh, perdh, pordh po— pe— pi— pa— pu— p, p, p, e, e, e, r, r, r, th, th, th, r, r, r, o, o, o...”
Yuuka put the side of her shoe against his cheek and caressed him with it. He breathed out from his nose. He touched a finger to one spell. He thought he could read this.
“Brenglaður skógur”, it read.
And reading it, he immediately was void of all his spirit.
But, it needed more. The magic did not ask for more. It took more. More, but there was nothing in his soul to take. It took his body.
“Isn’t it funny? Clever magician, he had it so when you use the book, you can use any spell of galdr so long as you have a body! Hahaha! It’s a riot!”
Within himself he felt the cutting of knives. He opened his mouth and bled from it. Much. His blood was murky with slips of yellow. He stared at his life, vomited before him, and burning into white fire before it touched the grass. Everything darkened around them. No... it was the shadows cast everywhere that were lifting and filling the sky with black. He put his functioning hand to his face. He felt like a body long dead. He knew he was becoming pale.
Gen suffered, and curled into himself. He held onto his stomach, and Yuuka backed away.
“Let’s see what it does...” she whispered with anticipation.
What it did was kill light and blend it into shade, whereupon it met with evil and spun everywhere. It wasn’t danmaku, but it had a curtain’s spread. Shadow became branches, and they grew with speed any place they were able. It was a spell to end an army.
The Road of Reconsideration became an obscure, twisted forest of magic. Within the brambles, Kazami Yuuka did her best to dodge, but was cut on her face and arms. Her clothes were torn, and she smiled as she recognized the limitations of this sorcery were very high. It pushed her back and refused to stop. It drove her to the true forest. It chased her to the sky.
Wiping blood from his lips, Gen was amazed to realize he was still conscious. He knelt, and then dropped his back against the wall he had summoned before, which was now only a pile of moist dirt. His teeth hurt...
He looked up and saw the foul magic still spreading. Yuuka, in the air, stopped and shoved her hand into some darkness behind her. She gripped it, and tore it asunder with unrestrained force. Much of the magic was splashed away, and she danced with what was left, dragging it along to make the shape of a rose in the sky.
Not even this could stop her.
Gen looked at the red skin book, knowing he couldn’t risk casting anything else. His lips quivered.
Kazami Yuuka ceased playing and now brought her palm over the still-growing forest. Sparks flew from her fingers, and a cascade of white and blue light came.
Gen winced, and could see in the effulgence that his spell was still trying to reach for the woman of flowers, but was punished akin to Icarus at every attempt. She did not let up, until the spell was done.
Once over, she began to descend toward him. Petals of flowers in all colors fell with her, and to his delirious mind he was certain she was an angel. Not an angel so beautiful and pleasant to the Christian eye, but a being of power from on high and beyond human comprehension. A monster.
He felt serene as he began to whisper the same spell. He was going to die now, so he thought to at least give this youkai a permanent wound.
Yuuka came up to him as he neared the end of the chant. She adjusted his posture with her foot, paused, and then punted with all might his gut.
"Not an angel so beautiful and pleasant to the Christian eye, but a being of power from on high and beyond human comprehension. A monster." So ... like a christian angel then? Because they're not supposed to be adorable actually, more like "what was God smoking when he made them?". Also, looks like we need to get better at the whole "singing in a language we don't know" thing if we are to use this book again.
>>65539 I figured, but then we have the Touhou version of Sariel who is more like the new version of angels appearance-wise, so I wanted to know what we were going with in this one ...
>>65540 >>65541 I imagine that somehow, someone read the description of a man with calf hooves instead of feet, a head with four faces, the front one that of a man, the right one that of a lion, the left one that of a bull and the one behind that of an eagle, four huge wings covered in eyes (six for the highest ranking angels), whose whole body glows like it's made of fire, and decided "I wanna fuck that but I don't want to look like a furry and also I'm not gay so let's make some females too".
>>65543 To be fair, if you read the comments, you'll see that at least some of us knew about this book. Some of us also knew we were getting our ass beat and that nothing we could currently do would work. In fact, some of us even said it would be either dangerous or impractical. But we took the risk anyway. The only mystery was the spell we would get, if any, not the danger of using it. Unlike the other option that people voted for, which was "throw random magic at her and hope it works even though it didn't work when we weren't getting our arm broken". Yeah, desperation might make our magic better, but we can also be desperate enough to try something that might work.
>>65542 >I imagine that somehow, someone read the description of a man with calf hooves instead of feet, a head with four faces, the front one that of a man, the right one that of a lion, the left one that of a bull and the one behind that of an eagle, four huge wings covered in eyes (six for the highest ranking angels), whose whole body glows like it's made of fire, and decided "I wanna fuck that but I don't want to look like a furry and also I'm not gay so let's make some females too".
He opened his eyes and saw that he was flying through the air. The day was almost entirely gone, now. That was... Misty Lake below him. He felt he was dangling. He glanced behind himself to see that Yuuka had him by holding firm the clothes at his back. He was being carried like a plastic bag.
They began to descend in front of Scarlet Devil Mansion, Yuuka lifting him to her side and stopping several meters ahead of Meiling. The gatekeeper had been chatting with a fairy maid, but now she wore a mask of terrible worry.
“Kazami... Yuuka...” she whispered. “Why are you here? ... Tea?” She was hoping.
Yuuka brought Gen’s motionless body before herself and said, “Obviously it’s for this lost property. Sorry—” she tossed him to the ground “—I play with toys rather roughly.”
“Gen...” Hong Meiling didn’t move for him, and seemed to have said his name without thinking.
“I broke it,” she said, “but not in a way that can’t be fixed. Now I’m returning it.”
“... Sanna,” Meiling commanded the fairy beside her, “get Lady Patchouli.”
“Oh, thank you, I was going to ask after her.”
Meiling did not answer, and did not take her gaze from the youkai of flowers.
The master of the library came from the gate, and between her crippled apprentice and the youkai that had brought him there, she gave attention first to the boy.
“Gen...” she spoke with disbelief, and her face was both concerned and frustrated. She next looked up at Yuuka, full angered.
“Kazami Yuuka...!” she hissed, “What were you doing at Muenzuka? The fall season isn’t yet begun.”
“Did you think he’d have done better if I hadn’t been there? Think he’d have survived?” Yuuka toed his body, and lightly kicked him so he was facing the sky.
“I know it!” Patchouli snapped. “Do you think I’ve taught him nothing!? You weren’t supposed to be there!”
“Ah~, terrible,” Yuuka spoke while frowning. “You really are like they say. You only think with books. Is it because you were born a magician? You’ve never thought about weakness?”
“My student is not weak! You’re like a last boss!” Gen looked at his Master as she shouted and wondered where her ire was born from. Was it just that Yuuka had meddled in her work? “I expected it to be tough on him taking the road and searching the mound, but you? And you have the gall to show him to me like this. How brazen!”
“Be happy he’s only shaken up and not dead.”
“‘Shaken up’...” his Master’s voice was quaking. She was staring at him, but hadn’t seemed to notice he was awake. She kept yelling at Yuuka, “Be predictable! Be more like a youkai!”
“No~” Yuuka refused. “Oh yes: you should also be glad I taught him a lesson that you wouldn’t.”
“You scum...” Patchouli looked like she was trying to contain herself. She was gripping her hand into a fist in front of her. “You’ve never nurtured someone else, so don’t lecture me.”
Yuuka shook her head.
“No, I take care of many children. You should be gentle—”
“Humans are not flowers!” Patchouli said this, and coughed. Wheezing, she closed one of her eyes and used the other to look hateful at this woman. “They...” she was having trouble speaking, “They don’t need to be tended to hand and foot. They don’t need to be so carefully raised. They can think. Humans are not flowers. He would’ve survived...!” She looked at Gen. He opened wide his eyes, as he saw hers were glossed and waving. She proudly, weakly, barely said, “... I taught him so.”
“I disagree.” The youkai now stepped on him. “In fact I’ve been thinking of just squashing him for a while now to save some oxygen for other living things. He’s that worthless.”
“How did that worthless human wound the almighty Kazami Yuuka?” the magician accused, noting the youkai’s somewhat damaged form and clearly ripped clothing.
“It wasn’t him, it was this,” Yuuka took off her foot and pointed at the ancient red grimoire on his belt with her parasol.
Patchouli was shocked. “The Red Skin...! Gen, you found the Rauðskinna at Muenzuka!? That book!?”
“Casting from it seemed to cast from his life.”
“It would—” Patchouli looked like she wanted to grab the tome, but stopped and calmed herself “—but that proves it was him. If he was too weak, the spells of that grimoire would’ve devoured him completely. Besides...” she locked eyes with Yuuka as she spoke, “the only reason he would’ve even used such a thing would be because you forced his hand. I told him to never use tomes of this sort, and he would only disobey me if it meant his life.”
Patchouli continued speaking, holding tight a book she had brought with her from the library, “My Gen has vowed to study under me. He wouldn’t die today, not even to you, flower harridan.”
“Excellent word,” Yuuka complimented. She then said, “It’s unfortunate we disagree on this point. Really, nothing was going to change my mind and I’m sure even the book-dumb you knew that. I’ve decided you need to be punished for being a poor gardener.”
“Try it,” spoke the mage, “I’m in no kind mood right now. You see, a weed’s sprouted on our lawn.”
“This... never gets old,” Yuuka spoke nostalgic, and was openly pleased. She smiled, and lifted her parasol.
“I told you, I’m in no mood.” His Master’s face was stone-like, severe, and refined in loathing. It was an expression he’d never seen. She was defying his every expectation. She ordered: “Meiling, take care of Gen. And, get out of the way... I’m going to kill this girl.”
She began an incantation.
Meiling, with a face telling recognition, ran between the two other youkai and grabbed Gen up, taking care with the arm she saw to be broken. She had to near Yuuka to do this, and she’d thought she’d moved fast enough to not be noticed, but the woman had clearly looked into her eyes as she went past. Despite herself, the brief connection made her feel sick. She brought Gen to one of the mansion’s outer walls, and shook the sensation off herself. She gazed down at the human, and then moved that gaze to his teacher.
Meiling had seen Patchouli like this a few times before. They were all times when Miss Sakuya or the Mistresses of the house had been truly threatened back in the outside world. She wasn’t sure Lady Patchouli felt toward Gen how she felt to those she could call family, but Meiling could tell this human had value in her eyes now. What Patchouli Knowledge valued, she always fiercely protected.
“You erred to meet me after nightfall,” spoke the magician now. “The lunar goddess of Ellada watches us in earnest. Moon Sign: ‘Silent Selene’.”
The card she held became dust, and moonlight dropped to her from the sky like fired from cannons. The light splashed down and then wrapped her body before rocketing up in what looked to be solid beams fanning behind her. Squinting, one could see individual bullets in these lines. Standing still, Gen thought she looked radiant like a goddess herself. She began to lift into the air, and Yuuka followed her ascent looking entirely unperturbed.
“A Western Goddess invoked with Eastern magic... Patchouli Knowledge, I enjoy your style.”
“Shut up.” Blue diamonds speckled in front of Patchouli, while the lines of light behind her started increase in number and form a circle of bullets around her like a reversed case. “Dodge.”
“Scary, scary~” Yuuka mocked as the barrage came. She did as she was told, and slipped through. Because Patchouli moved as well, it wasn’t an entirely simple matter of getting out the way. She had to keep track of the other woman’s movements, as well as those little speckles she had brought out to go along with the ring of moonlight. Those were real trouble, almost sneaking up on the flower youkai. She kept her smile up, and her movements were noticeably slow, but she was paying attention. She fired at the magician flower petals, and she dodged.
Once the card was captured, Patchouli had another readied.
“Moon Sign: ‘Sleep Forever, Endymion’.”
This time moonlight swam around the sky in waving and curving streams. In this almost hypnotic, sea-like curtain, movement was hardly allowed. To be in it felt like facing an astral flood. Patchouli Knowledge kept in place, and directed this beautiful chaos.
Yuuka focused on hitting her enemy, lasers grazing by her worryingly closed. She eventually slipped up, and so missed the chance for capture, but she was even hit twice more after this. She cleared the spell after a while and waited a moment though it became her turn. She fiddled with the cuffs of her shirt now, and whispered, “Wow~... tough, tough.”
Yuuka closed her eyes and slowly drew out paper from her sleeve as Patchouli had always done. She held it up, looked on it with a tiny frown, and said, “I won’t hesitate either. Simple Sign: ‘Little Spark’.”
The card disappeared. She aimed her parasol at the magician.
“This nonsense...” Patchouli complained. She quickly spoke to conjure several books she needed from her library, bringing them in through floating glyph-portals (it was something she could only do from this near the mansion). They followed her in the sky, and she launched an assault of straight and bullet shots from them all. Yuuka unleashed her spell.
Patchouli smoothly avoided a gigantic demonstration of Yuuka’s magical power: a too-large expulsion of her energy that seemed to bend the sky. Patchouli was able to dodge it because she knew somebody who stole it, and she dealt with them regularly. Compared to the “master spark”, though... this spell was stronger, wider, and more “pure”, she felt.
As Yuuka fired the main “gun”, the parasol spread smaller bullets out as well to keep the magician busy. Patchouli flew through them with practiced motions, and never let down her attack. She hit Yuuka enough to force her to put her card away, and the flower youkai sighed with a blend of satisfaction and disappointment. She began to twirl her umbrella in front of herself ‘round her finger, and lifted her free hand from which flowers grew, their heads sent out in strange and drifting paths toward the librarian. Her umbrella meanwhile spread circles of ordinary bullets, and so Yuuka’s non-declared spell was in full swing.
From the ground, Meiling abruptly spoke to Gen. “You’re awake, Sir Gen?”
He only hardly managed a reply of “yes”.
“Your qi... has become like that of a youkai’s.”
“Shit...” he answered, groaning and trying to lift his deeply hurting body, “did I turn?”
“No, it seems like your qi is only tainted. It’s dissipating. I think you’ll be human yet.”
“I messed up...” he spoke bitterly and sat up, resting against the gatekeeper, “and now Master Patchouli is fighting that girl.”
“She’s decided to fight for you, Sir Gen.”
“Nonsense. She’s mad over me, sure...”
“If Lady Patchouli loses this fight, Miss Yuuka will come to kill you.”
“Huh?” he looked back at Meiling over his shoulder.
“The flower youkai wants to know if Lady Patchouli has enough strength to raise a powerful human. She has a little interest in those,” Meiling explained. “So, if she wins, she’ll know you have no heights to reach, and will cut you down early.”
“Isn’t that just your speculation? Isn’t she only teasing?”
“Miss Yuuka is infamous for her teasing, yes... But she’s also infamous for unceremonious killing. You had better hope Lady Patchouli succeeds, Sir Gen. She’s fighting to save your life.”
Gen turned his eyes to the now colorful and bright night sky, assailed with Yuuka’s immense pink flowers, spokes of yellow energy, and interlocking circles of auburn and gold. It was apparent she was now using a spell card, and Patchouli seemed to be taking great effort to avoid being hit. He looked at his fierce Master, and felt he had much to think about.
Up above, the card was captured, to Patchouli’s exclamation of “Yes...!” She raised her left hand over her right shoulder and invoked the moon once more. Light touched her fingertips, and she turned herself in a graceful, full rotation. In four directions, moonlight arcs were shot from her turning, and then in four directions between more arcs came in reverse. Yuuka grazed between the spotlights with her parasol held close. Then, Patchouli brought up her grimoire, and fires flew out of it. In a pulse, a pulse, and another pulse, flame billowed out around her and engulfed the air in heat. Yuuka put on a sneer and looked at Patchouli, who only looked at her book. The flower woman flew to the right as the magician glided to her left, and she grazed the fires with hand full of petals, her own barrage unrelenting.
Patchouli Knowledge was not done. She shot a glance at Yuuka and returned to the center of their field of battle. Again she spun out lights, again she summoned fires, yet now both came with no mercy. It was a pattern she used knowing she would hit. And she did.
“Wow—!” Yuuka exclaimed as her hand and arm were bathed in fire. Patchouli only continued, moving next to aim her magic at the other youkai.
Yuuka pushed through, ended the round, and Patchouli drew another card.
“Fire, sunder metal and from its ashes deliver
Earth, drink of water and forge
Metal, ruin wood at its roots and sweat
Water, swallow fire and feed
Wood, grow from the soil of the earth and burn into—
Fire Water Wood Metal Earth Sign... ‘Philosopher’s Stone’!”
Yuuka gasped in joyous surprise, calling: “Your signature card already, is it!?”
“That’s Master Patchouli’s ultimate magic?” Gen asked.
“It’s her favorite, at least,” Meiling replied.
Patchouli did not answer her enemy. She shut her eyes and pointed to the stars as power flowed from her body and crystalized. Her sorcery crackled, and even from down at the walls, Meiling and Gen felt overwhelming natural force pushing down on them. In an instant, surrounding Patchouli manifested five stones of separate colors, each representing an element. The magician opened her eyes, showing dark circles had formed under them. She breathed out her mouth in loud rasps. Yuuka grinned, and faced a nature storm.
Gen stared upon a display of gorgeous, preeminent spellwork and might. From the crystals around his Master came all sorts of magic in all ways. It was near everything she had, put out to put the flower youkai down. Fire crashed into spirals of metal, collapsing into earth which churned over water and spat out lines of steel, which pierced branches that had choked the sky and bled out water, which came against and doused the fire, spreading over the cage of wood, which drove down to the earth below and gave way once more to flames. And all this was brought down on Kazami Yuuka.
“How wonderful it is,” she shouted as the majestic sorcery drew near, “magic of art and practice! I am very impressed, Patchouli Knowledge!”
She dove headlong into the craft and mess, grazing it all.
And Gen found himself once more entranced.
“When I came here...” he said, watching Yuuka narrowly avoid being impaled by a spike of metal, “... what convinced me to stay was Master Patchouli’s magic.”
“Really?” Meiling asked.
Yuuka was swallowed by water and crested out of it wearing a maniacal grin.
“Yeah...” Gen answered, “and now I remember what had me amazed.” The florist was pushed back by a soaring root system. She grasped at it from its top and pushed herself out its path, spinning in the sky with her parasol out and open. She held out her hand, and a storm of flowers met with the storm of nature.
Again the paper vanished, and out from her image walked a clone of herself. The two Kazamis glanced at one another, then raised each their weapons at a mirrored pace, locked on Patchouli. As lightning arced over and between the umbrellas’ points, flowers endlessly bloomed at their backs, over their heads, threatening to block the sight of the moon. They rushed down, and the pair sent forth their natural magic, with force and spread to slay a mountain.
Patchouli pushed herself left, and stopped and started between falling flowers, dodging, but not dodging well. When the sweep ended and Yuuka prepared another wave, she began coughing in a fit.
“Lady Patchouli!” the two at ground both shouted for her at once.
She went through the next wave with eyes blearing, hardly capable of maintaining her own firing let alone keeping pace with the bullets and sheer magic. She grazed everything, but almost accidentally, and when this wave had passed she spoke loudly to Kazami Yuuka.
“I am... a magician of seven days,” she picked up her head, and withdrew a card from her sleeve, “my magic does not end with five.”
Patchouli Knowledge straightened herself and made steady her face. Wheezing through incantations, she finished, breathed out, and looked directly at the sparks gathering at the parasols’ points.
“Now”, said the librarian, placing a hand over her breast, “let me show you how I’d do it.”
Patchouli drew out something from her heart, and looking as closely as he could, Gen saw it was a star. His Master put a sun into her palm, held it up, and declared the name of her spell card:
“Sun Moon Sign...! ‘Diurnal... Spark’!”
Light came down and out, and it was all dazzling. Tempered through her book, from her heart’s sun and the moon above, it dashed around her and began to combine in front of her. Moonlight and sunlight both were radiant and gleaming, and he saw tears in droplets shining aloft at her cheek when his Master turned her gaze upon Yuuka impassioned, bringing up her hand.
When she cast, Yuuka cast, and their magic met violent and mad above Scarlet Devil Mansion.
His Master’s “spark” brought together luminescence that should never show at once, impossible and roaring with as much, if not more width and energy than the two rays and floral avalanche it pushed against. Patchouli openly grit her teeth, Kazami Yuuka (both) bared hers in a grin. Meiling hugged Gen to herself as power scattered everywhere, even all the way to earth.
“Do it, Lady Patchouli!”
“Ah...” the true Yuuka uttered when she noticed fluctuation where their attacks met. She smiled thinly, seeing Patchouli’s spell begin to swallow hers.
Like a fist breaking through ice, the Diurnal Spark tore through the twins. From great distances the deafening grasp for triumph could be seen and heard. The ancient sorceress had all her soul invoked, and reaching for the ancient flower. Errant light carved into the earth, clouds were cleaved in two, and those of Misty Lake looked on in awe at a spectacle rarely beheld. Her spell found, pushed, and consumed her foe in might overwhelming. An unearthly, massive bang resounded, shaking the world, and heralding Kazami Yuuka’s defeat. And, under Patchouli’s power and the burst of Yuuka fallen, the sky came to resemble day instead of night.
Patchouli came back to earth, panting heavily. She looked down on Yuuka and saw that she was sporting satisfaction on her face, although her body was smoking and her clothing was ruined. Ignoring her, she walked toward her student and the gatekeeper. When she stopped before them, she inhaled deeply, and exhaled as long. With a forcefully composed expression, she told her broken apprentice this:
Locked Girl, Burst of Frustration - THE BEST OF TOHO TEMPEST (Sonic Hispeed Omega) Title - Animal Crossing 堂々巡り - 東方アイリッシュ8 妖精奇譚 (Floating Cloud) Frontier Village Dali - Final Fantasy IX Harvester's Dance - Sister's♯3 (Ganemes) Sealed Sword - Ancient Treasures (Oriens) Alice in Wonderland - Ancient Treasures (Oriens) Deep Breath Deep Breath - Persona 3 Reincarnation One Problem Settled... - Final Fantasy IX Illusionary White Traveler - Hidden Star in Four Seasons Fairy Wars - Great Fairy Wars Ruse Rain - Great Fairy Wars Magus Night - Great Fairy Wars Hopes and Dreams - Undertale SAVE the World - Undertale I Would Like to Drink Some Tea/紅茶が飲みたいわ - Adventures of Scarlet Curiosity Zidane's Theme - Final Fantasy IX Awakened Forest - Final Fantasy IX Kind Magic - ARATAMA, 荒魂 (GET IN THE RING) Descendent of the Shinobi - Final Fantasy VII Main - Final Fantasy IX PLUS Iifa Tree - Final Fantasy IX Battle 2 - Final Fantasy IX TOR - Iji It Has to Be This Way (Platinum Mix) [Instrumental] - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance 静寂の姫 - 謀叛和楽陣 (O-LIFE.JP) All For Me Grog - All For Me Grog/Pirates' Gold/All For Me Grog(/The Dubliners/The Jolly Rogers/Royal Bliss) [bonus] Melancholic Road - Melancholic Road (TLi-synth) Tiny Little Adiantum/タイニーリトル・アジアンタム - TOHO BOSSA NOVA 2 (ShibayanRecords) BATTLE! Kazami Yuuka/バトル！風見幽香 - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) BATTLE! Shinki/バトル！魔界の神 神綺 - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) BATTLE! Makai Trio/バトル！魔界の住人たち - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) ヴアル戦記 東方映画音楽選 Toho Film Music Selection ～ 紅幻奏詩 (Tutti Sound)
Locked Girl, Burst of Frustration - THE BEST OF TOHO TEMPEST (Sonic Hispeed Omega) Title - Animal Crossing 堂々巡り - 東方アイリッシュ8 妖精奇譚 (Floating Cloud) Frontier Village Dali - Final Fantasy IX Harvester's Dance - Sister's♯3 (Ganemes) Sealed Sword - Ancient Treasures (Oriens) Alice in Wonderland - Ancient Treasures (Oriens) Deep Breath Deep Breath - Persona 3 Reincarnation One Problem Settled... - Final Fantasy IX Illusionary White Traveler - Hidden Star in Four Seasons Fairy Wars - Great Fairy Wars Ruse Rain - Great Fairy Wars Magus Night - Great Fairy Wars Hopes and Dreams - Undertale SAVE the World - Undertale I Would Like to Drink Some Tea/紅茶が飲みたいわ - Adventures of Scarlet Curiosity Zidane's Theme - Final Fantasy IX Awakened Forest - Final Fantasy IX Kind Magic - ARATAMA, 荒魂 (GET IN THE RING) Descendent of the Shinobi - Final Fantasy VII Main - Final Fantasy IX PLUS Iifa Tree - Final Fantasy IX Battle 2 - Final Fantasy IX TOR - Iji It Has to Be This Way (Platinum Mix) [Instrumental] - Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance 静寂の姫 - 謀叛和楽陣 (O-LIFE.JP) All For Me Grog - All For Me Grog/Pirates' Gold/All For Me Grog(/The Dubliners/The Jolly Rogers/Royal Bliss) [bonus] Melancholic Road - Melancholic Road (TLi-synth) Tiny Little Adiantum/タイニーリトル・アジアンタム - TOHO BOSSA NOVA 2 (ShibayanRecords) BATTLE! Kazami Yuuka/バトル！風見幽香 - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) BATTLE! Shinki/バトル！魔界の神 神綺 - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) BATTLE! Makai Trio/バトル！魔界の住人たち - 幻奏演舞 幻想人形演舞MusicCollection (Fantasy Puppet Dance Performance) ヴアル戦記 東方映画音楽選 Toho Film Music Selection ～ 紅幻奏詩 (Tutti Sound)
Oh right, I should post in thread 1 doi >>65260 >>65263 >>65261 >>65262 Hopefully you didn't jump right in and read from the start, and instead you notice this post. Not that I think this is bad, but I've rewritten the story keeping MOST of it but changing a few things to make it more readable/enjoyable on AO3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/28070256/chapters/68769375 If this is your first time reading, you should start there instead.