And Alice put her hands to the table to push herself up, giving the answer: “Oh, absolutely.
I won’t go hard on you, but I won’t go easy either.”
“Aagh, I shouldn’t have done this. Jeez, it’s cold. Damn it’s cold.”
Gen was in the skies above the home of Alice Margatroid, shivering and complaining. His posture was weak and spoke nothing of confidence.
“You’re all bundled up like that and have a woman’s length of hair and you’re still cold?” Alice asked, also flying, but seemingly hardly cold.
“I’m flying while it’s snowing, Alice. First time, too. I’m not used to this.”
“Get used to it, it’ll toughen you up.”
He spoke magic into his hands, and pulling them away from his face fire was born. It poured down and over his fingers, swirling around them, his thighs and his feet. Flame ran a course above his body, draping his shoulders too and altogether warming him, but not burning in the slightest. He closed his eyes, his eyebrows graciously bending. With a sigh, he gave an evaluation: “Nice...”
“What’s that?” his opponent asked, flexing the digits of one hand and using the other to trace over the body of one of her dolls in examination.
He answered: “A little experiment. Master Patchouli ordinarily refrains from using it but the elements of Western magic include ‘air’, unlike those of Eastern. Coating that over the element of flame, I can feel like I’m before a fireplace, even out here. I’m sure it only really works on these winter days, though. Changing temperature with raw magic is not too simple.”
Alice remarked on this with a sound of vague interest. Then, she commented on his choice: “That won’t help you get used to being out in the cold.”
“It’ll help me now. Hey, just for you, I’ll fly to the Hakurei Shrine after this.” Now warm, Gen brought himself to a better stance, pinching one of his thumbs and smiling behind his scarf.
“You can just call it ‘the Shrine’,” Alice informed him. She let go her doll and hid all her puppets behind her back. Folding her arms again, she said, “So, you’re going to the Shrine are you?”
Her smile became sympathetic. “It’s too bad I’ll be sending you to meet the Shrine Maiden in tatters.”
His became smug. “It’s convenient you’re right here to tailor your clothes after I’m done with you.”
Alice looked proud, readying her arms and fingers. “Gen...” she said, “I like that confidence.”
“Thank you,” he replied with a hand out to her. Next opening his coat to display his tomes he proclaimed: “Let me show you why it’s deserved.”
The true spirit of danmaku, and the full breadth of its qualities, could only be known on a battlefield utilizing all axes. Gen somewhat knew this before his flight training from just watching duels, and could always feel something missing from duels brought to ground. Ascending for him brought epiphany as well. Patterns came to him much more easily.
Tangential to that, he was a little disappointed that his natural airborne movement couldn’t be categorized as “fast”. Like his Master, he was a bit gentle to turn and bank, and his pursuit speed was just slightly more sluggish than the average. Patchouli told him: in regards to flight and the speed of it, innate ability often took the highest precedence. Speed and maneuverability could be improved, but beyond discovery and basic mastery, upgrading one’s capabilities of flight was a numbingly tall order. At the very least, someone in the air almost always beat out one on foot; even the Library and her Apprentice were so capable.
And so, he faced Alice’s first, familiar, undeclared spell. First she scattered what looked like ice, then she fired two kinds of red rings in fours, and with all these varieties Gen had no trouble. He saw where they would go and steadily moved out their way. And, with a grimoire he’d detached from his belt floating behind him, he fired a steady and rapid stream of black and white diamonds in couples, drawing from his own magic to empower them. Alice received his counterattack with satisfaction.
“I’m glad to see you’ve improved,” she mentioned when he pushed her into another round. Finding a card in her pockets, she announced: “Now, a better spell.”
She once again showed him “Benevolent French Dolls”, however the maneuver included two more dolls than he remembered. Bullets were again fired and again multiplied twice, ending in a colossal and crimson sphere around the other magician. Back during his first spell card duel, this one had surprised him, and he’d failed it in an embarrassing manner. Furthermore it had been essentially flat... This was different.
It was fun.
From underfoot, overhead, and his front Alice’s magic ascended, descended, and charged. While it was nothing to avoid, it still felt almost like dodging red rain flying every which way, and slipping past it all built a whimsical flurry in his chest. With an open grin, he pointed at Alice, his shadow and light assault following through while bullets past his ears, under his arms, and missed his calves. He laid into her. He captured the spell, and began to incant.
Gen crafted a pattern he had practiced, next. He couldn’t use it to its full extent just yet, as its full extent was a bit complex, but he could try something similar for a lower degree of skill.
Four great, shining, beams of sun and spirit, turning in a half circle around you, and then four more turning opposite. Force your enemy into a hallway of light, and then... Right! With your hand like a gun, send a circle from your fingertip! Another! And another! Keep moving... And fire! Fire!
He made to glide while filling the sky with scarlet fireworks, and he gave a “Yeah!” to cheer.
Alice slipped through the sorcery, keeping close to his lasers and waving between the bullets. Watching him, she mumbled, “Hmph... familiar, isn’t it?” She directed her dolls to stop the mirthful magician and wondered aloud “Will you show me a familiar card, too?”
And he did, not hearing her commentary. “Fire Sign!” he called, “‘Agni Shine’!”
It was the standard version of the advanced spell his Master had used to try to kill him when they’d met. Frankly, he could not get enough of its use.
Patchouli had told him that his affinity for magic was heroic, and on telling him that she’d made a very bitter face. Essentially, he would naturally excel with “triumphant” spells of light, love, and the vanquishing of evil (which meant Marisa might be jealous of him should she ever find this out). He did not feel heroic, but according to his Master his affinity likely had to do with whatever the reason was that his family name contained the kanji for “wisteria”, a flower symbolic of such virtues. She found it ironic that a soul inclined to nobility would be used for dark arts. She was right; he glowed in experiencing this powerful feeling, fire spreading from a book at his hip.
Like Marisa, who was inclined toward water and yet played with love and stars, he knew inclinations were not fates. While in theory he could become a shining champion of justice with some ease, doing so would mean treading the sea rather than diving deep into the ocean that was sorcery. So he moved slow through the sky, bringing flames out his noble soul and having them encircle him in conic shape before encroaching on his opponent, measured but overwhelming. To dodge this as well was an enjoyable thing thanks to his Master’s good sense, but he was eager for the day he could advance this spell to its limits.
Alice had a fair look on her face, thinking about the mimicking magician in front of her, as she made her way through the pattern’s gaps. She captured his spell, saw him mimic another pattern of his master’s (red lights, fast and blue bullets) and “captured” that too. The Library’s Apprentice wore a trembling closed smile, very apparently giddy. Alice smirked, and finally her enemy called for something original.
“Fire Sign: The Furnace in Logi’s Stomach!”
In the air between them bloomed a small bonfire. Alice looked at it, Gen smiled at it, and it gave birth to three more. Each of those bore six, and each of those bore six again, and with each proliferation the flames all grew. Alice frowned at the result: a broiling mass of fire in front of her. She was severely disappointed.
“What part of this is danmaku...?” she chastised, thinking it would explode into a pattern after her saying that. It didn’t.
She tested shooting through the fires, noting that her dolls’ bullets fizzled out on contact with the flames. She looked askance. Perhaps she could simply go around it and throw bullets in his face instead...? But looking, it seemed like his attack spread wide enough that it nearly touched the boundary of their decided field of play. Alice concluded: this was a gimmick card.
She thought to call out and confirm, but instead decided to both wait and see. She squinted at the fireball and tried to see if there was a path through it, and without warning the ball suddenly expanded.
With a sound of surprise Alice backed away, fire almost licking her nose tip. She stopped to see the thing held open, “bullets” crawling so slightly through the air, and she saw Gen crossing his arms out ahead of her. She next spotted a wisp of smoke arise quite randomly in a space between the excessive fires, and then they all closed again, rejoining once more into an impenetrable mass.
She figured it out.
“Despicable move, Gen,” she said with faint disgust.
“Pull those dolls close,” she heard him say from across the fire, “I wouldn’t want them burned.”
When the mass opened again she realized it was unpredictable where the bullets would go out, and so the safest bet was actually to charge forward rather than wait for openings to shoot through. She flew toward him slowly and carefully, concentrating her attacks and her movements while his magic surrounded her, and keeping an eye out for another wisp of smoke. When it came, she rushed to where it was fading, and as she expected the fire closed over her, but did not touch.
She was pleased to note the fire was, interestingly enough, not terribly hot on the inside like it felt on the outside. Perhaps this was Gen’s way of intimidation? He’d also made it so, somehow, breathing and oxygen came easily while you waited for the mass to part again. Fingers on her temple, she judged it thus: while definitely irritating, this was a kindly mindful spell.
And so she waited for fire orbs to hang about her again, made risky approaches to better her damage, retreated at the sight of smoke, and gradually brought Gen down for a capture.
Thus she began her next round, increasing bullet density.
“How was it?” Gen asked. Pride was clear in his cheeks, and his movements were thoughtless, as though the sky were clear.
“Yes, yes,” said Alice as she was pelted by his counterattack, “it was a very interesting spell. It’s unlike your Master.”
“Master specializes in variety, power, and thoughtfulness. She knows such a wide breath of magic that she—”
Alice tuned the young man out.
He continued to prattle with enthusiasm, explaining as if she cared Patchouli’s strengths and weaknesses, her mastery over all elements, how she took to the spell card system like a fish to water, how he liked trickiness because he could never compare to her otherwise...
He was a student who was smart due to his master, and so stupid for her.
When Alice pulled her next card, she did so while thinking about her own, lonely process of learning the arts. Of course, not all Magicians were like her and Patchouli, learning much as they could on their own. Marisa was more insidious about her voracious appetite for learning, taking whatever she could quietly and then brazenly applying what she’d learned to her own or stolen spells. Gen had so much praise for his sources... In either case, Alice thought they were cute children.
“Did I ask for a Patchouli Knowledge lecture?” she mused. She held up her card, “‘The Phantom of the Grand Guignol’.”
Huh? thought Gen with an eyebrow lifted, I don’t recognize that one.
And so, Alice brought out a disgusting puppet from behind her back, sized like a diminutive person.
Gen’s skin crawled at its appearance: a sad and long-faced head rocked betwixt knobby shoulders, and it was clothed in a single, inelegant, pitch-black rag which began to end before its thighs. Its scalp was bare save a few odd red strands, and inexplicably its eyes were closed. It had fingernails... and they were digging into its chin and “lips”... and Gen swore for a moment that it seemed to be breathing. There was a small sigil representing flowers drawn onto its forehead in charcoal. Alice wiped the mark away with her thumb, and leisurely crossed her arms. Thus, the doll began to laugh without ever opening its mouth, and from Alice’s reticence he wagered she was not compelling it to do so.
Deep rubicund hair fell down over its body, bled from its skull torrential. Water ran down its face from under its lashes. It shook, those long and narrow limbs snapping with uncomfortable noise. It began to open its clouded eyes, and stare at him.
Vomit rolled up from his stomach.
The so-called phantom was the source of Alice’s next range of danmaku, but he was made so nauseous by its granted sensations that he hardly noticed the fading mauve circles it had made float in the air, and that Alice was no longer playing around.
Danmaku could often be described in terms of flowers’ waxing and waning. The pattern would bloom open, close up, twist, et cetera. Alice’s spell now was no exception, and by the time Gen realized it had completely opened up, he judged that it was without a doubt the most absurd collection of bullets he’d faced since Yuuka had stared him down. Weaving pink magic and flushed diamonds, a kaleidoscopic madness blossomed before him, fluctuating, wherever he could see. This psychedelic flower was not, however, hard to deal with. Gen realized this because he had been paralyzed with fear from both the doll and the spell, and so noticed bullets were easily grazing just under his shoulders repeatedly. He needed only move back and forth only a bit to avoid some strange, orbiting shots that came his way. He kept this up, thinking himself safe, and noticed too late a pair of bullets gunning for his gut.
“Bwff—!” He spat with the impact of a punch-like hit, and instantly he became confused under the light of this slow and fast danmaku, repeatedly sounding “Ah? Huh? Eh! Uhh...” and so on. Then came the roar of bitter, florid violet, its shots moving faster than any he’d seen before and making straight for him. With instinctual but jerky movements he went right in the sky to keep just barely away, feeling too similar to diving out the way of an avalanche, and came to a depressing understanding as he narrowly lurched beyond another red bullet:
Presently, he had no idea what to do.
Furthermore, when Alice was readying the rush of purple, she’d move from her centered position, shifting the patterns of the phantom completely. This was no help.
To survive this blasted card without losing the battle entirely, Gen resorted to clear-spells three—three desperate times, emptying his soul excessively with “Five Seasons”, a spell his Master had taught him that utilized the elements of quarterly nature, and the elements of Eastern magic in imagining a fifth, to summon wide and Venn-intersecting circle-barriers for protection. They dealt no damage unless he was close, but Gen was too put off by Alice’s shots and doll to approach her. He got through the round without losing, as he wanted, but left with his turn to cast he only remained stunned, not pulling any cards.
“How was it?” Alice echoed him, hiding away her revolting doll.
For a moment, he simply watched his summoned fires swirling around him in a daze, looking up after to ask, “Did you just use on me an ultimate attack?”
“Ah, yes,” Alice replied glibly, a cattish smile forming on her lips while she looked away.
Fiddling with one of the bows on his cuffs, glaring, he reminded her “What happened to not going hard!?”
“I thought twice.”
“Then I will as well,” he removed his fingers from his bow and now dipped his hand into his sleeve, pulling out a slip of paper. Holding it up, he told her: “I’ll win with this. Water Sign ‘Midgard Serpent, Release Your Tail’.”
Alice sighed and shook her head. “Again with something Norse?” she asked, “And the water sign... Can you really spare any more energy for creating water?”
Gen did not answer beyond a smile as his card became vapor, the air shook, and water erupted from the earth and trees.
Alice shot away at once, shock evident in her eyes and brow. She quickly took stock of the situation by reassessing their environment. Certainly snow was water, but to convert it so fast to another state should’ve been beyond Gen’s—
“Ah...” Alice bemoaned her lack of thinking: of course he had water to use, had this boy not cast fire before?
Alice could now see her bare roof and freed lawn, and the branches of the surrounding woods openly showing their bark. Melted snow was being gathered from columns into the sky, and though Gen still summoned water on his own, it was much less than this spell would ordinarily ask for. Upon amassing all he needed into a helical shape between them, Gen directed the water to wholly wrap their playing field in a coiled and closed, light-shimmering rondure. Staring close Alice could see he’d made the water into a snake’s shape—undoubtedly to resemble Jörmungandr who the spell was named after. When she saw the point where this ouroboros had its end within its “bite”, the maw was opened, and a storm broke loose.
At his current level, Gen’s spell was one he could ordinarily only use above Misty Lake and furthermore with as much concentration as his mind would allow. It forged a bullet curtain within the snake-sphere that replicated rains so harsh as to flood a dry land. Water fast swept throughout the air, cresting and crashing and scattering without pity. It turned in a set way, and left little room for freedom, but AS it was set it was not an impossible spell card. Rather, like Alice’s Grand Guignol, it needed the opponent to not be overwhelmed and instead understand the pattern calmly to see where movement was safe.
Alice was not fully able to do this.
She got as much that following the curves and sweeps of water worked best, but the “rains” that didn’t join within the greater waves proved massively irritating to keep in mind. Again like her own powerful spell, these seemingly unpredictable bullets were quick on their paths, and so demanded almost immediately reactive avoidance. While she did not fall apart like a clumsy fool as Gen had to this demand, she nonetheless suffered a miss, and another, and another, and even when she drew upon a spell to clear some of the water unrelenting, she had soon suffered too much, was driven to the wall of water, and then thoroughly soaked. As Gen had declared, it was his win, and her loss.
The Magician’s Apprentice descended toward the Seven-Colored Puppeteer; she dressed for winter yet sodden with water, he with both hands over his mouth to cover his smile. Alice offered him misery in her face, and Gen offered her the repeated question:
Alice Margatroid sat in front of her fireplace, drying herself, while her guest allowed himself to read one of her books. She was of two minds on Itou Gen’s forthrightness: not liking his brazen attitude like the thing in his hands was the spoils of victory, but quietly happy he’d taken some interest in her magic regardless of the context. Although she was still shivering wet, she allowed herself a small smile.
“Really, why cast magic from a puppet when a circle would do just the same?” Gen blankly pondered. “And these adroit demands for even basic actions... What’s the point?”
Alice’s eyebrows lowered and she thought: Never mind, he’s a troglodyte.
“When are you going to leave?” she asked him in a terse fashion from over her shoulder.
Gen continued to leaf through her copy of Fingers and Strings languidly, telling her without a glance, “I need to stay to make sure you’re alright.”
Her eyebrow’s lifted for a moment and she began to chew a little on the lower left side of her inner lip, not looking at him. Much a fool as he was, Gen’s sudden earnestness was disarming. To turn back the mood, Alice spoke again.
“R-Right,” she stammered, “again you leave me like the unfortunate victim of a carnival game. Is this going to be a trend?”
Gen looked up from his reading to look instead at her and say, “Only in the summer from now on, Alice. That’s a promise.”
“Please don’t promise that...” she whimpered.
“Autumn it is!” he declared with a point.
“Were you always like this!?”
Gen gave the loser a bright smile. They’d both overdone it with their last words, but he was glad he’d overdone it and won. He’d be sure to brag to Patchouli about it later. And thinking on his Master, he had accomplished one of his tasks, and now it was time for him to go to Reimu’s place and properly meet her. Although, beyond that he, wasn’t completely certain what his Master wanted of their meeting. He had some ideas, but...
Well, what he was thinking was: regardless, he wouldn’t spend much time at the Shrine now would he? Sure, Master had said to head immediately to the shrine once he was done but... she knew him, he wasn’t always obedient Why not put off seeing the Hakurei girl for a little while?
 I’ll meet Youmu first and touch base with her about her progress.
 I’ll go find Aomu... I should probably tell her I’m human.
 ... On second thought, defying Master might be a bad idea today. She doesn’t usually steer me from distractions.
[X] ... On second thought, defying Master might be a bad idea today. She doesn’t usually steer me from distractions.
The last thing I want is for her to actually be watching through Miss Sakuya or some such. I can’t be getting too courageous while I’m still here. Mistress Flandre did remind me: every day I live in Gensokyo is a risk... even in that house.
He looked at Alice’s back, her shirt slowly becoming opaque as water was warmed out of it.
Alright, he decided, I’ll do as I was told and go straight to the Shrine. To think of playing it safe, seeing Aomu would mean seeing other kappa on their turf, and I’d be a human walking right up to that. As for Youmu... if Master’s really keeping an eye on me, she’ll figure out why I was so pleased to learn “Five Seasons”. Not ideal.
He waited patiently for the doll-using magician to heat up to normalcy. Though age and hunger couldn’t kill her, illness still could. He wouldn’t want that from a prank, or anything else. With some well wishes and japes, he left when it was still morning, and he knew her to be safe.
It really was cold flying through Gensokyo’s winter skies, even with a cloak of flames to warm you. On one hand, he regretted making that promise to Alice before their fight, but on the other he would at least get to the Shrine much faster this way, perhaps even with some time for his side endeavors after whatever business awaited him concluded.
At least the sun came out, he thought, that’s certainly nice.
He went beyond the forest, and then over the village which he still had yet to step foot in, and finally woods appeared again, hiding a trail that led to what seemed to be a long flight of steps. As far as he recalled, this tucked-away thing led to the Hakurei Shrine. He looked at it, and then decided to land to climb it, dispelling his fire enchantment as he began. He thought, that might be better than an unceremonious landing in front of her house. The child was a firecracker, or so she seemed from all he knew about her. The last thing he wanted was her throwing needles quite suddenly in his face.
He climbed while surrounded by the soft sounds of winter, and rare animal steps and leaps as small things foraged under the trees. It seemed like the Shrine sat on a very tall hill, height perhaps just before a mountain. The staircase leading to it was not as well-traveled as he’d have wagered given how old he knew it to be, but it hadn’t entirely been cleared of snow and ice so it was not as if visitors were expected. Rather, most of the snow seemed to have simply been caught by the high branches of the forest. Master Patchouli, Miss Sakuya, Mistress Remilia, Mistress Flandre, and even Wakasagihime had all said the same thing: the Shrine Maiden was the only human that youkai paradoxically feared, and toward youkai was paradoxically fearless, and so they all loved her so greatly that they left her shrine barren. While she refused non-human guests, she never did so so strongly that any were honestly discouraged or rebuffed. She would even still have their company, and spend her free (or even busy) time with them. Although she protected Gensokyo’s humans from monsters, she’d gained a reputation for being surrounded by them, and thus humans rarely ventured up this hill.
He thought it was a little sad, but the few times he’d seen her at the Mansion, she’d only ever given off a quality of nirvana, almost. Like that was that, and she was free. He wondered again why his Master was having him meet her.
It took quite a while to summit the hill; when he saw the familiar red of a torii gate he knew he was finally close. After taking the last steps, he gazed upon the Hakurei Shrine with a growing frown.
The grounds were completely covered in snow.
He wasn’t sure exactly, but it felt like it had been an hour since snow had stopped falling. This snow looked like it had been piled to its utmost, however, and there was no one here taking care of it.
“Is there an Incident?” he wondered aloud, recalling Reimu’s position. Nothing seemed unusual about today, however.
Looking around more he could see that the shrine itself, the surrounding trees, and some sort of shed near the back were all piled high with white. Nothing at all seemed to have been touched by human hands, and he couldn’t even tell if the shrine lived up to its poor and old reputation with how obfuscating the results of weather were. He began to wonder if Reimu had just slept in, and then, he saw it:
“Hah?” Gen’s face twisted in incredulity at the thought that someone hadn’t even bothered to shovel the stairs, but had made time to slack off and build a snowman. When he was about to head toward the shrine’s porch to chastise its maiden, he involuntarily squinted to a frigid sensation above his eyes. It seemed snow dust had blown into his face.
... Although that didn’t make much sense: surely it would have touched his cheeks first. Looking into the sky, he saw two figures playing.
A small girl wearing black and white was hurling snowball danmaku at another girl in red and white, who was not using danmaku but instead had a large amount of ammunition for their fight in her arms. Gen squinted... and realized the former was Marisa without her hat. He looked back at the snowman and saw that it was wearing something on its head. That hadn’t registered to him at first.
“Dream Sign!” came a call from above, causing him to return his gaze to the sky, “‘Snow-Sealing Circle!’”
“You wouldn’t...!” shouted the girl in black.
The girl in red threw a snowball in her face.
“Aaagh!!” cried Marisa through frozen water, “Ya got meeee!”
“Ha ha ha!” laughed Reimu in a mock boasting tone, “Behold the power of a yuki-onna!”
“Don’t think I’ll lose here, ya dirty youkai!”
“It doesn’t matter how dumb, smelly, and stupid us youkai are, we’re still stronger than humans!” Reimu threw another snowball.
“Nngh!” with a grunt, Marisa steered herself out the way, a wave of snow following behind her. Gen was impressed by her again (he often was, whenever she came to steal from the Library). Manipulating elements outside of their base states was rather difficult.
Marisa slipped her hand under her collar and pulled a spell card out of it. She showed it to Reimu, who gasped with an exaggerated pose of recoil. “How can it be!?” said the Shrine Maiden yuki-onna. “You still have MORE!?”
“You got it. Magic Sign! ‘Snow Dust Reverie’!”
“That’s so stupid,” Gen remarked with a smile. This was the card Marisa had used to defeat the younger Mistress. Or, it was a silly variation on it. When she declared it, the snow behind her spread into a familiar pattern, and Reimu was swept up into it.
“Aaaaaghh! I’ve been defeateeed!! Aaaahh!” Reimu threw her stock of snow into the air and was now spinning in the sky with hands over her face. Soon she dropped out of it onto the grounds below in a burst of cold, laughing. With her came tiny diamonds of snow all over, settling in Gen’s hair and on his shoulders, and Marisa was close to follow. They landed near to one another and were loud with cheer. Leaning against the gate with his hands in his pockets, Gen watched as they made snow angels.
The girls broke into a traditional snowball fight next, tussling lightly as well, and full of joy. His irritation over the Shrine Maiden’s laziness vanished without his notice while he observed. Seeing them like this, he had some old memories in mind...
“Whoa, it’s Gen!”
Hearing Marisa’s voice, he was withdrawn from recollections of snow-filled neighborhoods. He looked at her, and a chestnut head of hair popped up from behind her with eyes to match.
“It really is!” said the second child. Then, she squinted and looked at the other little girl, asking “Eh, is it?”
“Ain’t you seen him before?”
“I see a lot of things but that doesn’t mean I remember them.”
Reimu’s squint deepened. “Who the heck?”
“Hello,” Gen interjected. “Yes, I’m Itou Gen, the Library’s Apprentice.”
Reimu pushed Marisa’s head down to lift herself up, shoving the tiny magician into a pile of ice. She was beaming as she said, “Great! The shovel’s in the storehouse!”
A small pile of snow fell from the torii and dropped onto his coat with a thump.
“Come again?” he asked.
Marisa, who had been struggling against Reimu’s strength since she’d been pushed down, managed to free her hands and get her face out of that mess. With an eye closed and a toothy grin she addressed the young man happily with a “‘Sup, Gen!”
“Uh...” was all he managed.
“Didn’t Patchouli tell you?” she continued, “You’re helping out Reimu today.”
“Why am I helping out Reimu?” he asked, looking at the girl in question, who was praying to a small jizou of snow she’d crafted.
“That magician-playing-hermit wants a favor out of me,” explained the Hakurei without looking at him, chopping the jizou on the head, “so she offered me a favor: she’d lend me you for the approaching snowstorm, and I’d do... something. She hasn’t said, but if it’s anything bad I’ll just punish her again.” Reimu tightened the bow on her head and now met his eyes, still clearly in great spirits. While Marisa created another jizou behind her with whispers of magic, Reimu thanked him, “Seriously,” she said, “you’re a real lifesaver. The snow was really bad this year so I wasn’t looking forward to it. Thanks for your help! Go get the shovel while we’ve still got the sun out, okay?”
Gen thought back to his Master.
He delivered a short sigh, levitated above the snow, and went for the storehouse while Reimu descended on Marisa’s jizou, prayed to it, and chopped it, too, on the head.
Back home, he was sometimes chosen instead of his father to clear the walkway to their front door, but it was never anything serious.
The Hakurei Shrine grounds were a significant leap in difficulty. While the grounds themselves weren’t ENORMOUS, they weren’t small or average in size either. Due to his inexperience he wasn’t able to manipulate the snow with magic, even with The Simplest Manual of Materials for Starting Magicians that he still never left without (it was explicitly stated in the text that unusual states were outlined in The Advanced Manual of Materials for Adept Magicians, a book he’d used before that was so large carrying it outdoors even by magic was simply unfeasible). Several times during his hours-long task of manual labor with a push shovel he considered melting away the snow with fire... but there were problems preventing him from going down that route. What if the shrine was engulfed in flames and burned down? What would he do about the water on the floor? If he missed any—any at all that would just be ice for another day, and plucking water from earth or stone wasn’t very... possible. Even if he melted the snow only a bit, he had recollections of trouble dealing with slush rather than its more frozen counterpart. While he was fairly certain it wasn’t any heavier, it was messy, awful stuff, and gods forbid any get in his shoes and absorbed by his socks. With that in mind, although his shoes had a ward against water enchanted on them, he still had regrets over not taking out a pair of boots for the damnable cold. He trudged through the snow, pushing it off into the forests and grasses around the shrine, and kept in mind the miserable reality that after all this he had the stairs to get through.
Reimu and Marisa, on the other hand, were simply having fun today and relaxing. Although they’d reminded him of the fair folk when he’d first seen them today, they had little of that distinct mischievousness, which he appreciated. They left him alone to his snow and his thoughts while they frolicked in their snow and lazed about interchangeably.
At one moment earlier in the day while they’d been beside each other in work and play respectively, Gen had asked Marisa how it had worked out with Miss Sakuya in the morning.
“She fought me!” Marisa had answered while sitting on Reimu’s shoulders.
“Did she lose?” he’d asked.
“I left her in the dust,” the little magician had bragged. However, Reimu next chimed in with a key piece of information:
“As in, you left her because Sakuya was trouncing you.”
Marisa nearly fell from her position then, a blush entering her cheeks. She gave an “Ahm...” and an “eh,” and after coughing explained, “I mean, Sakuya’s pretty scary when she’s serious.”
“She did look pretty driven this morning,” he’d replied, thinking Probably because Master asked her directly.
“Yeah, it was like she was possessed or somethin’. I was like, ‘come on, you never got a problem with me other days’, but she just wasn’t havin’ it, I tell ya. I got outta there, like my hair was on fire.”
Miss Sakuya didn’t give chase, Gen noted, She’s being like that again.
What Marisa had referred to by the Head Maid not having a problem with her was part of what Gen meant when he thought of Sakuya being “like that”. When she was “like that” she played dumb with the Mistress. When she was “like that” she put strange flowers in tea. When she was “like that” she would keep quiet when a certain rat invaded the Library, and would even feed it like she was keeping a hidden pet.
Here’s a theory, he’d thought at the time, smirking, I’ll get home, and Master will tell me that Miss Sakuya let Marisa get away, but didn’t break into her house to retrieve the stolen property because “that’s what criminals do, not maids”. And Master Patchouli will glower, furrow her brow, and say “Seriously, Sakuya is a lousy cat”.
And presently, as he pushed the last of the snow from the stone walkways, he thought this as well: I should remind her that cats aren’t known for their obedience... Though I have heard Miss Sakuya being called a dog before, come to think of it.
He was fairly exhausted now, and guessed it was perhaps three in the afternoon. He decided to request a break before he went down the hill, otherwise he was sure he’d collapse. He strode over to the girls sitting on Reimu’s porch, drinking tea and eating dango, and hailed them.
“Gum wohrk,” said Reimu, with dumpling in her mouth.
“Good work,” said Marisa, without.
“Yeah, but now I feel like I’m gonna fall apart,” he admitted. “I’m going to rest before I do the stairs, alright?” He took a seat before them with his knees up and his forearms on those.
“Yeah, you look pretty weak, and magicians already usually are ‘cause of what we do, ya know,” said Marisa, chomping down on her skewer.
“Yeah” agreed Reimu, “at least that first one.” While he sat offended, thinking about his daily training with Meiling, she stood and walked into her house.
He looked to Marisa. “So, how’ve you been?” he asked.
“Oh yeah, seeing ya reminded me!” she began with excitement. “I’m cookin’ up some magic usin’ that master of yours for reference. We ain’t never fought, have we? You wanna see the work in progress? I’m nearly done with it!”
“No,” he answered, eyes closed, “I already told you I’m pretty low on energy right now. That besides, I already had a spell card duel today.”
“What? You can only do one a day or something?” questioned Marisa in disappointment.
“Rather, I’d still like to restrict casual play a bit. I think I can do it – perhaps I even have seven or eight fights in me – but if I can avoid it, well... I need that spare strength, you see. We’re both humans, Marisa, but not of the same category.”
“Oh yeah, you’re not from here,” Reimu recalled, returning to the pair with a cup of tea and another skewer of dango. She offered both to Gen as if this was a matter of course, and the gesture struck him as rather disarmingly kind. He took the offerings, she sat back down on her knees, and he watched her thinking Goodness, it’s like hosting is just a part of her.
“Yes, I’m an outsider,” he eventually confirmed.
“Want me to send you home?”
“Huh?” sounded Gen in slight surprise, “Oh... no. No thank you.”
“Gen’s gonna become a Magician,” chimed in Marisa.
“Hmmm? Really?” Reimu asked, absently rotating the cup in her hands. “Well do what you want, but if you ever move to the Human Village don’t even think about it.”
“Hey, I’ve never said I’ll become a blood-Magician,” shot Gen at the tiny blond before biting into one of his dumplings. In response both children looked at him with mouths diagonal and eyebrows cocked. In response to that he complained, “What?”
“He says that even though he spends most of his days down in the basement of Scarlet Devil Mansion with Patchouli,” noted Marisa.
“He smells like Patchouli, too,” noted Reimu.
“He’s learning magic and he’s even used a forbidden grimoire for dark powers already.”
“That flower youkai said she let him live ‘cause she figured he wanted to live forever.”
“Remilia gave him some of her blood.”
“Oh yeah, yeah; she told me he started an incident in her house once. In the first month, too.”
“Listen up, Reimu, Marisa.” Gen halted their comments. “My humanity is very important to me. I’ve indeed brushed with death and feared it, but I still have too much appreciation for the wheel of life to just up and leave it.”
“Getting really scared of death,” said Reimu, “is the first bad sign. It’s one almost everyone has, but when you’re a student of magic too...”
“Come now, I don’t even have a reason to live forever!”
“Ah, so, when you find one...” Marisa began, sneering at Reimu.
“Like, a nice girl?” the Shrine Maiden continued, smirking in return.
The two of them bent back and clashed the single dango each had left together between them, calling in unison: “Marriage!”
“Death won’t let ‘em part, though!” Marisa remarked, grinning with her eyes closed.
“That’s romantic!” Reimu declared, doing the same.
The two of them then finished off their last sweet, and squealed together at the thought of Gen finding a special someone.
Gen finished his own dango and placed his skewer among theirs on the plate between them. Drinking more tea, he commented sourly, “For two strange people, you say some surprisingly typically girlish things, don’t you?”
“I’m a girl, you know,” said Reimu.
“Yeah, same,” said Marisa.
“Hmph,” he grumbled. He didn’t want to think about such things, mainly because, naturally, due to the day’s events, Mistress Flandre readily came to mind where these matters were concerned. This was all too large a can of worms.
... But, he knew he was being miserable for the sake of it. Reimu and Marisa were in good spirits and seemed to want him in good spirits as well. Feeling rested now, he decided to accept that sentiment (assuming that was their intent, and they weren’t simply being, well, children) and stand to get back to his task. He downed the rest of the tea in his cup and returned it to Reimu. “You know what? Perhaps you’re right,” he said, slightly turning from them and slipping his hands into his pockets. “It’s true this young man has yet to fall in love.”
“Old man,” they said, almost at once, following with “old man? Old man? Mm, old, yeah.”
“... Early twenties.” He shook his head. “I’m getting back to shoveling.”
“Best of luck!” said Reimu cheerfully, and he made his way to the stairs. The two of them steadily became quiet, Marisa on her back and almost sleeping as Reimu counted the clouds in the sky.
The stairs, while awkward to contend with, were not as bad as Reimu’s tiled grounds. Those were uneven and so he regularly had to reposition the pusher, miss a large amount, and go find a better variety of shovel for the problem. Back and forth, crouching to look for ice, picking away at more packed up snow, all of that tiresome work and more was involved in making the shrine grounds fit for walking. He expected the strange angles of the stairs to be plain agony, but really all he needed to do was shove relatively thin layers off of each step into the wild grasses and over roots of trees. He had them clear in what felt like an hour.
When he took care of the last step and looked back up at his handiwork with a blend of misery and pride, he took flight and decided to deal with the snow on the overhanging branches as well. A few times some melting snow from above him would slip off and force him to return to a previous step to get rid of it. Here, he would use magic.
Being very careful, the Magician’s Apprentice set up a system like he’d done during his Skyfall Incident at the Mansion, though now his circles and spellweaving were significantly improved of course. He directed fire wrapped in air above the trees for melting, and any falling water was caught in a floating stream over the staircase. This made short work of the piles above, and when he landed a strange kind of shoreless river awaited him below, leading up to the shrine and undulating eerily gorgeous. He walked up the stairs again after collecting the trio of elemental scrolls he’d placed, gathering the water into a ball above his fingers using soft and dark whispers.
When he reached the Shrine itself again, the ball had become immense—larger than himself, held over his head, and somewhat unstable without the firm support of a rune or glyph. It was unabashedly one of the more bizarre pictures he’d come across: that of a man carrying a veritable pool of water like this. He wandered over to Reimu (still on her porch) with the shimmering, shifting thing and informed her: “This is the snow from the trees. What do you think I should do with it?”
Reimu, who was having tea again and about to take another sip, nearly spat at the oddity he was carrying. Eyes wide, she opened her mouth about to ask “what is that thing?” and realized that question had been answered before she needed to speak it. She relaxed considerably after that, accepting the reality of this strange object, and told Gen simply “Put it over there.”
She pointed to her snow-covered lawn that he had, of course, not shoveled at all and followed with “I want to see if it can freeze overnight.”
He nodded with a “Roger,” and, with his left hand, prepared a seal so that the globe would remain congealed while floating in front of the Shrine Maiden’s home. He set it and the water there, looking like a very strange art piece from fantasy. Perhaps it was, really. It remained aloft a warped mirror and lens that he thought wasn’t likely to freeze over, but might contain some ice later, and he imagined Reimu could at least have some fun throwing things into it at any rate. “Careful when you remove this seal,” he told her from over his shoulder while crouching before the thing, “the water will just collapse immediately. I’d suggest getting a fairy to do it.”
“That’s a good idea,” Reimu agreed plainly, and Gen walked up to her again.
He glanced down at her and saw that Marisa was fast asleep, draped in a blanket now and drooling. “How’d she sleep in this cold?” he asked, incredulous.
Reimu shrugged and said matter-of-factly “She’s asking for a cold.” Next the child smiled at him. “Thanks again,” she offered, “I know how annoying it is to have to do something because you have to do it, even if you really don’t want to. Whether or not I think it’s a good or bad thing, that magician youkai is your Master. You have to listen to her. Here, don’t sit there, get up on the porch, I’ll bring out some sake.” Reimu stopped him from sitting back down on stone, patted the place beside her, and re-entered her home for the aforementioned alcohol.
Gen accepted the invitation graciously, but as he waited for her to get back while listening to Marisa’s snoring, he thought Wait, sake?
Reimu did indeed return with booze, a set of cups and flask, and a smile. He looked at her and asked outright, “Aren’t you a child? Are you even past ten?”
She looked confused and asked “Are you an adult? I don’t get the question.”
“Alcohol is for men and women,” he told her, “not boys and girls.”
“Alcohol is for people. And drinking.” The child was emphatic. “You get a cup, and you drink it. It’s not poison.”
“It is a poison, absolutely.”
“It’s a cure, Gen,” Reimu said with a sigh, shaking her head and setting her things down, “poisons cure poisons, and this cures the poison of a tired soul.”
“You just said it wasn’t a poison.”
Reimu sat down and, looked into his eyes, and with conviction told him, “I never said that.”
I can’t even tell if she’s lying, he commented in his head, eyebrows twisting as he considered the audacity of her denial. Without missing a beat she prepared two cups and soon they had performed a toast and were drinking together. He thought it was strange to be a man carrying a globe of snow water, but this—being a man drinking liquor with a child while seated at a shrine—was far more difficult to grasp. At least the sake was delicious: tasting of plums and not being strong in its body. He wanted to relax now as evening twilight hours approached, so he decided he would.
“By the way, we’ve never actually introduced ourselves properly have we?” Reimu mentioned, her cheeks already becoming rosily tinged.
“No, I suppose we haven’t,” he said in accord. “We don’t meet often either, nor during any particular times.”
Reimu pulled her knees to her chest and, comfortable, hugged her legs, pointing at the man beside her with the same hand that held her sakazuki (what skill!). “I think you were there when I went to stop that other devil. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t remember this one. Should I hit him too?’”
“Not one to recognize faces though, eh?”
“After that I definitely remembered that there was another human in the Mansion other than Sakuya, and though it never really stuck what you looked like I definitely noticed that there was always a butler among the maids whenever I happened to visit.”
“Hard to believe two humans would willingly live there, though.”
She was right about that.
For a while after they sat drinking without speaking, Reimu quickly becoming inebriated. While the plum sake wasn’t a hard drink, that made it rather devious, as imbibing copious amounts of it was easy, and encouraged by the taste. When the shrine maiden was tipsy, Gen brought up something he’d been reminded of tens of minutes earlier.
“Hey, Reimu, Miss Sakuya is an outsider as well, isn’t she?” he asked. “How come she doesn’t have to worry about being eaten?”
She raised two fingers to this, mouth turning pleasantly and nose flushed. “There are two reasons for that,” she said airily, “the first one is, she moved here officially rather than falling or being pulled in. The youkai are more lenient to those sorts of humans. It’s not easy getting through the Barrier, after all. Even if they got help doing it, the youkai think it’s impressive and lay off.” She went to drink from her cup now, frowned horribly upon seeing that it was empty, lifted the tokkuri and felt that it was the same with a light shake, and then leaned far back while putting both down. The girl reached for a purple bottle (that, really, seemed to be a third of her height), and brought it into her lap. “The second reason,” she continued as she unscrewed the top, “is the more important one. Her powers make her a being of fantasy even though she’s a human.” The bottle was opened, she licked her lips, and she drank from the thing, holding it with both her hands. Gen was rapt in his attention toward her act, and took another sip from his cup while watching in awe.
“Pah!” Reimu made a noise after pulling the drink from her lips. “Basically...” she slowly began, looking at him while she gripped the bottle’s neck, “she can stop time, right? That’s not normal, right? Here in Gensokyo we accept the abnormal. We protect it. It also depends a little on the Outside World, I guess. Like, ESP or something, or psychics or something... I think youkai might eat those guys anyway.” Seeing that his cup was empty, she lifted the bottle again and tipped it toward him, offering. He accepted, taking it into his hand.
While he drank from the bottle, she went on, “But yeah, say you had what you could only call a... what you,” she clarified this was not a general “you”, nodding at him, “would call fiction. No science behind it. No theory. Nobody believes in it, or if there are any believers, it’s not widely accepted as truth. It’s not wholly accepted. It’s fantasy. It’s here... Sakuya.” Having proved her drunken coherence was at a master’s level of competency, Reimu’s explanation was concluded and she proudly huffed warm air out her reddened nose.
Gen stared at Reimu severe, brought the bottle down into his own lap, and told her “That made perfect sense,” with all honesty.
“Right?” Reimu asked, grinning and pleased.
He looked out over the shrine grounds. Like he was now, he was an ordinary man with interesting tools. He, personally, could improve his efficacy with those tools (through study, training, and honing of his spirit) but none of this made him truly “special”. Any other human in his position could do the same. So, that was why if he no longer wanted his life at risk (and didn’t want to settle for the life of a villager), he had to transform... become something Gensokyo felt was worth keeping.
... I don’t have to extend my life, I suppose. When Master Patchouli was born as a Magician, alongside natural magical prowess she only had the abandonment of food, not the abandonment of temper. She and all Magicians have to choose to become immortal thems—
Wait, what am I thinking?
Maybe it was because he’d become a bit warm-headed himself; he found himself rationalizing becoming a youkai. First his Lolita complex, now this perhaps-subconscious ambition; this place was a hell, and corrupting him.
While thinking this over, Gen sank into himself, choking the bottle.
Reimu, who was leaning back on her hands, glanced over at him and made the observation: “Whoa, you look depressed all of a sudden.”
He looked up at her and pouted, saying, “Outsiders have a raw deal, here.”
Reimu, with a careless expression, told him “That’s how it is,” followed by, “if you want to live, you have to fight for it.
Long ago, almost every human here could fight for themselves, but over time we realized that the Hakurei Shrine Maiden was the only human needed to protect everyone in Gensokyo. Before I put the spell card rules in play it wasn’t ideal, and even now there are still a few exterminators to help in the village, but we maidens can trounce even youkai and gods if they’re causing any trouble. And if they’re causing trouble, we’re quick!”
She hardened her eyes to deliver a look that spoke “I am absolute”, and he was compelled to believe it despite coming from a child. This gaze of determination sobered after a moment, though. With solemn eyes and solemn voice, she informed the young man, Itou Gen: “But if you’re in trouble, and I’m not already there, I will have neither obligation nor motivation to save you.”
He grimaced under her stare. He had already heard this before, but hearing it from the shrine maiden herself sent throughout him a very cold and soaking feeling, even given the weather now. Without waiting for him to say anything in response, Reimu continued.
“Youkai terrorize and eat humans, and humans do what any other animal would do when faced with something dangerous: they fight, or they run away.” And, to his surprise given the seriousness of this line of conversation, Reimu gave him a smile. Very nicely she told him, “I think it’s better and safer to fight, so I hope that book-witch has been teaching you.”
“Oh she has,” he replied. “And since I’m not bound by the spell card rules, she’s taught me quite a lot for my survival. I’ve been pretty stubborn about neglecting materials in my magic, though.”
“Ah, like mushrooms or something? Like Marisa.”
“Yes, like the book-thief,” he confirmed, glancing at the snoozing girl in question. With a smile of embarrassment he explained, “They’d increase the power and variety of my spells, but Master rarely uses materials, and I like to imitate her the most.”
“Gross.” Reimu’s reply was immediate. He frowned. “Anyway that sounds pretty dumb..,” the shrine maiden continued, repositioning herself into a very mannish posture (chin on her fist, left hand on her knee, cross-legged, and slouching), “... you should probably use whatever you can. You’re just a human after all.”
“And what are you?”
“I’m a human Shrine Maiden.”
He laughed involuntarily, recalling his meeting with Marisa. Reimu asked “What?” before speaking further.
“Honestly...” she said, “you should be more worried. How about it? Want me to take you on for a bit? I’ll judge you.” In her smirk, smugness, boast, and pride were there. “I’m in a real good mood,” she admitted. “I don’t normally do that, you know? I’ll fight anyone, but I don’t bother evaluating, ‘cause when everyone else is so poor at it there’s no point right? Anyway, whaddya say?”
He thought about it this way: Reimu was essentially, as far as he knew, the pinnacle of humanity here in Gensokyo when it came to fighting, and even ranked highly when measured against the greatest powers this land had to offer. But, she was the creator of the rules, and knew the “game” best as a result. A fight with her, at least under the rules, would probably be very helpful... ordinarily. She was drunk, and although that obviously that didn’t overall impair her much he had to imagine it must reduce her combat proficiency to a significant degree. Thus, fighting this muddled shrine maiden could end up being a silly waste of time. Plus, if he fought with her he might lose the opportunity to see the kappa or half-phantom before heading home for the day. He really wasn’t so free to wander Gensokyo yet, after all, and so meetings like that were difficult to have. He still wanted to do meet them, even if he was now tipsy.
Which was another thing, he was definitely a bit inebriated, and he didn’t have Youmu’s second sword to clear his head right now.
Agh, but, I don’t think I’ll get many chances to fight Reimu...
Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. As they’d acknowledged earlier, the two had very little reason to meet.
“Alright Reimu,” he answered with a bit of a smile, “I’ll take you on.”
“Alriiight,” she drawled. She seemed pleased. “Let’s lay some ground rules then.”
Reimu put her hand behind herself and pushed up to stand, stretching once she had and then warming her fingers. “Two things first,” she began, patting through her clothes in search of something. “One: I don’t want you to use any spells you think are ‘special’ or ‘strong’. I want to see your average, not exceptional.”
Not finding what she was looking for, she retreated into her home. Gen craned his neck to see that she was heading into some other room, and after he heard her rummaging through something. “Two!” came a sudden shout from within that made him bring up his shoulder, “We’ll fight twice! We’ll use the spell card rules first, then we’ll fight without them! After all, you probably get less chances dueling than you do without rules. The first rule won’t apply to our second fight, of course. Don’t hold anything back, okay?” Reimu walked back out with a simple rod-and-paper gohei and nearly tripped, sending the lines of white diamond cutouts attached to the stick’s top wildly over her head. She was superbly demonstrating an air of dual preparedness and inebriation. With balance regained, she touched her fingers to her forehead and breathed out “Fuu...” before looking at him through bleary eyes and showing a cat-like smile. Well, this was what he’d signed up for.
At any rate, the lush was correct. While he tried to avoid places where he knew particularly dangerous and/or strong youkai liked to lurk, he still regularly had to fight youkai. At this point it wasn’t like every battle paralyzed him with fear, but they were indeed fights with no holds barred, so in the (generally unlikely) case he lost against a weak youkai, that person or monster would (most likely) eat him then and there. And, of course, in the case he had to fight something even approaching Yuuka or the ship-killer’s strength, even now... Ordinarily, wouldn’t he just die? More practice to avoid a grim fate was appreciated.
So he was fine with these ground rules. They’d be a good measure of his abilities. Or they’d be... a measure. Rough, but probably worthwhile measure? Reimu was absolutely not fine on her feet at the moment, and he could already picture her wavering in the sky. He’d still lose to her without a doubt, but these were surely not the ideal conditions for a fight.
“Oh, and uuhm, some advice, a suggestion,” Reimu raised a finger and eyebrow as she spoke, taking a quizzical posture, “a request, an order. This is an order.”
Reimu, who stepped off the ground, began floating.
She brought her gaze to his and commanded, “Don’t think you’ll lose to me.”
Gen started to lift himself, the hairs of his neck prickling to the sense of approaching battle, and voiced his confusion with a “Huh?”
“Don’t think about losing. Do you think about losing when your life is on the line? Do you fight against death thinking that death is going to take you? Even if you will lose to me, come at me like you’ll win.”
She continued, not allowing him a breath: “You have a face like you want to lose... Learning from your mistakes? Experience from failure...? Loser talk! You shouldn’t want to fail at all! If you want to win, think about winning! Look! Toward victory! Then it won’t be a dream!”
Shouting now she readied a sheaf of seals grasped from her sleeve, and he rushed to his feet. “That’s my advice and my order, Gen!” she declared. “Now, move!”
He’d gone colder than the air, and when he leapt backward to crash into the snow of the yard the sensation was nearly warm. Out the shrine came a torrent of paper, and soon Reimu gently followed it. Though she swayed in the sky freely and wore a satisfied expression, the drunken shrine maiden looked to be taking on the library’s apprentice with all gravity.
Marisa woke up.
“Hunh? Whuh?” she mumbled, looking up to see a pair of bloomers and legs. “Hah? Uh, Reimu?” she asked, moving onto her elbows.
“If you’re gonna sleep, do it inside,” advised the shrine maiden to the magician under her.
“What’s goin’ on? You’re fighting?”
“I’m teaching Gen two lessons.”
Marisa’s expression was grave, and her answer of: “That’s somethin’, comin’ from a girl who’s never even had one,” was serious.
“Quiet,” answered the red and white girl, lifting more seals. Gen, watching, took to the skies. Reimu followed after him, and Marisa wrapped herself in her blanket, transfixed.
As Gen ascended, Reimu wasted no time tossing the charms that were her ammunition. He moved in reverse, teeth grit while he avoided the shockingly fast projectiles. They screamed past his chest, through his legs, and he spun to have them miss his coat, but there didn’t seem to be a pattern to this, which had him perplexed. Certainly in spell card duels there were periods of play without any cards at all, but even those in-between rounds were marked by true and pretty danmaku. Reimu seemed to be coming at him like this wasn’t a match, but a hunt.
Eventually he bent his neck out the way of one final seal, and saw that Reimu had stopped. She simply stared at him with her warm eyes and face, and though he didn’t get why he decided not to bother doing so and reached for one of his grimoires. At this moment, another slip of paper flashed forward by his right ear.
His entire body reacted in surprise, and he turned to see that behind him Reimu had walled the sky in seals. More red, more white, stretching out as his sight seemed to allow. Then, it all came after him, while Reimu shot more to replace it.
Thus he was forced to dodge both an avalanche of talismans and a constant volley of them from either front or back, depending on where he faced. He moved horizontally, forcing his body to turn and dive and rise and stop in avoidance, and he immediately realized he had never moved liked this before. He sobered up.
Gen didn’t bother shooting. He genuinely needed to aim all his effort at keeping “alive”. When Reimu noticed that, she grew irritated and yelled, “Shoot, you moron!”
“With you, everything’s ‘easier said than done’, huh?” he growled, releasing a tome from his belt. He bid it follow him, and breathed, ready to speak the words for his countering magic.
Whether it was affinity or that he’d simply gotten used to it by now, he truly felt comfortable casting from light. He could speak the praises of variety all he wanted, but if Itou Gen was ever pushed into a corner, sun or moonlight was soon to follow. He hoped to one day not slip into a habit so readily, but that day was not today. At any rate the Sun and the Moon were almost always available, so he almost couldn’t resist. Without a second thought, he called to the cosmos above and sent its rays at his opponent.
Reimu was, again, right. Danmaku play wasn’t only about dodging (outside of specific circumstance), so he couldn’t neglect firing back, even at the cost of his concentration of movement. At least he’d learned that, when focusing both, generally speaking one’s counterattack would be honed for further damage. Not that he’d drag himself carefully now. Not when he needed the speed.
He crossed left and right several times and very quickly, dowsing Reimu in sunlight whenever he passed her, but his delay and technique left him without enough time. He ran the round to its limit, and with a frown Reimu lifted her first spell card.
“Pretty pathetic,” she noted, and she said the card’s name, “Dream Sign 'Evil-Sealing Circle'!”
That’s the one she parodied with Marisa, right?
When she’d “done” it earlier, she’d thrown only a single “bullet”. He had to imagine the true spell wasn’t like that. And, it truly wasn’t.
After her card dispersed into light, talismans began to flood out of her clothing in eight directions, cardinal and ordinal with her body as the compass pivot. It quickly appeared that every envelope she sent out was in fact a packet of many: after a short distance they divided and fanned, and as always in these fights “bullets” fast replaced the air. The idea here reminded him of Alice’s “Benevolent French Dolls”, but the execution couldn’t have been more different.
Although Reimu directed nothing at Gen and indeed seemed to not be thinking about shooting at all, the “Evil-Sealing Circle” was undoubtedly an organized pain (unlike Alice’s spell, which consisted of unorganized splashes of colors). Paper lattices crossed into a locking cage, forbidding any large movements. As he flew in place between them, drifting laterally as the cage would allow, looking on he got an impression to which nothing could be compared. Seeing these shrine maiden-colored chains surrounding everything, binding him on all sides, running overhead and underfoot, and the shrine maiden herself in the center... he thought it was no wonder she was commonly called “red-white”. He’d only see these colors for a while.
Just when he was becoming used to grazing the envelopes marked as though they were full of money (with “ooiri bukuro”; what on earth was that about?), Reimu swung her gohei. When she brought it down before her, she cast rings of pearls from her spirit, six around her, in rapid succession. The speed of their approach made him nearly back into a paper wall, but they didn’t actually reach for him. Instead Reimu lifted her gohei once they had stopped an appreciable distance away from her, and the white orbs became red spades.
“Aaagh...” Gen moaned as his expression melted into one of agony and his eyes glazed over. “Miss Reimu... are these the only colors you know?”
“Quit whining!” she yelled, still swinging her gohei and casting pearls.
It’s definitely amazing, but my poor eyes... he thought.
He squinted his way through her spell card. While this was a claustrophobic, commanding spell from the child, it was also fair. It certainly stole all his attention, and it was giving him a headache, but he could capture it, and after a measured struggle, he did.
“My turn, right?” he asked.
“You don’t need to ask,” she answered.
“How obnoxious should I make my card?” he wondered aloud.
“Make it as obnoxious as you want, it won’t make any difference.” Her reply was blunt.
This brat... I mean, she’s probably right, but—ah, oh yeah!
Think to win.
He decided to mimic his master.
Patchouli had a magic inspired by the light filtered between branches that he liked for many reasons. It was a little difficult for him, but would still fall within Reimu’s limitations. First he would summon wood, then he would once more call on the Sun.
He removed another book from his belt (that flew above his right shoulder, opposing the one above his left) and began invoking the elements. From the right book, thin branches shot out toward Reimu and spread throughout the sky. From the branches, leaves sprouted and began to fall. The shrine maiden looked on curiously as the leaves slowly drifted toward her, expecting more. And, more soon came. Gen’s left book began to channel the sky, and fired light at the “wood” danmaku. When magic met magic, sunlight scattered in all directions. As his Master intended, it looked like the scene of a forest in summer. Once the wood and light had gone, he got into a pattern of doing this repeatedly, and earnestly tried to take Reimu down.
Reimu, with her hands at her hips as she nonchalantly moved through the bullet curtain, revealed a smirk when a ray passed by her eyes. “Hmph, I like it,” she affirmed. “Patchouli’s?” After asking, she started to aim offensive energy at him. As in, it found him, not that she directed it herself (she wasn’t even paying attention, in fact). He didn’t know counterattacks could do that...
With pale red square spirit slapping his cheek, as he was squinting, wincing, he answered, “Yes, it’s Master’s.”
“Can you do it easier or better with ingredients?”
“You’re just casting from incantations!? Are ya STUPID!?”
Gen ignored Marisa and continued his spell unabated.
True enough, the biggest reason his Master could cast from her soul alone was that her soul was strong: a youkai’s soul tempered by a good amount of years and practice. This was why he, a human, often found himself on his last legs after a serious bout. But, while he did not have his Master’s power, he did have her stubbornness and her pride.
Reimu shot him in the face one too many times, thus he drew his first card: “Sun Sign ‘Noble Flare’.”
“Ah, ah, I remember this one,” Reimu commented with a small grin. Then she asked, “‘Noble’?”
It was another variation of his Master’s. Ideally, it was a “Royal” card with many double-layered waves of solar flares. He could only manage singles.
Marisa piped up again: “Maybe if you used magnesium or something, you could make it like Patchouli’s.”
“You’re not wrong,” he replied as his sorcery took effect. A triangle of solar fire formed between himself and Reimu, spinning outward. He had spoken and willed the magic to go a certain way, and he knew it would be simple for Reimu, but he had some hope the difference in density from what she already knew would throw her off. He’d summon, have the magic spin and wave, and do it again and again. At its best, this card looked like an orange and crimson screensaver. It wasn’t so pleasant to face, however.
But... as before, Reimu’s movement through his attack was effortless—truly effortless. When Youmu, Marisa, and even Miss Sakuya were avoiding danmaku, he could always tell in their flight and faces that they were trying, or concentrating, or had some awareness of the field. Everything Reimu did, from her thoughtless direction to her absentminded bullet-response, told him that this wasn’t just easy for her: it was as natural as breathing.
The shrine maiden proved to always, unfailingly, find a way through his spells. She would casually slip through gaps, stand still like nothing was coming and have it all miss her, and if she felt like it she’d fly before him to shoot energy from her talismans. Otherwise, energy would come regardless, and hardly miss him.
He went through three spell cards – of sun, of wood, and of both – as well as another undeclared pattern, and the unfair Reimu made it look like he was shooting nothing at all. He thought, It’s amazing Marisa can regularly beat her.
When her turn for assault came again, he refused to become disheartened. He faced two more Hakurei cards with “victory” in his head:
First, Kamikuji “Rule Violation Barrier”—
One that seemed to be based off of omikuji, and was an incredible and stunning response to his complaints over Reimu’s favorite colors. The young girl made the sky look like the inside of a forgotten and fantastical, crystal-wall grotto. She summoned innumerable ofuda of several colors, all soft and bright, but he did not realize that she was entirely trapping him for all the beauty she showed him. He was left like a man encased in gorgeous and magical stone, staring down at a glowing maiden surrounded by an unbound cave in the sky, whereupon Reimu poured out more of her spiritual energy and pummeled him. This nearly forced his loss (as he wasn’t allowed to clear anything with a spell card), until he realized he could slip out of the encasing seals before being trapped if he only moved carefully. While it was simple after that, his first failures were quite the embarrassments.
Second, Divine Spirit “Fantasy Seal -Blink-”—
He wanted it explained to him how it was supposed to be possible to capture this inhumane card. During it, Reimu began to slip through existence all around him and zoom about at absurd speeds, summon charms from nowhere, appear from nowhere, and suddenly fire large cascades of bullets that nearly caused him to yelp in surprise. His facing it had comprised of unabashed confusion. Furthermore when he noticed she was still perfectly susceptible to fire and thus this was not a survival card, he had cursed aloud.
It was madness to contend with, and eventually, while hanging about the center of the battlefield and worrying over where the shrine maiden would appear next, she appeared behind him, and immediately had him overwhelmed in a violet tide.
Gen was now on his back and on Reimu’s roof (which had not been cleared of snow). He heard Marisa call to him from below, “So you lost, huh?” He had.
What the hell was that...? How was she moving during it? It wasn’t stopped time, was it?
“Hmmm...” hummed Reimu as she descended close to him. She had a very puzzled look, twisting her lower lip and contracting her brow.
“What?” asked Gen.
“Well, considering you’ve only been doing this for about a year, and you’re being stupid about what spells you use, I think you’re doing pretty well.” Reimu pinched the same lip she kept squirming about. She revealed, “’Pretty well’ can definitely get you killed here, though...” and stopped her pinching to move her hand to her hip, lifting the other to point at him with her gohei. She gave her final judgment then, “Your ‘pretty good’ is still terrible. It’s below average, and maybe only a little like someone from the village playing at extermination. I guess if you do foolish and drastic things when you fight, you can survive, but all it takes is you screwing up stupidly once, getting exhausted from doing something like that, and then you’re basically a waiting plate of food for any youkai passing by.”
He nodded to this. There was excitement in putting it all out there for a fight, but...
“Your skill can still be terrible, sure—” she continued, “—most people are terrible—but it needs to be a better terrible than this, alright? Get that through your head.”
He certainly had to admit it: he’d probably grown too complacent.
“Fine,” he answered, “I’ll waste away in front of arsenic and mercury, then.”
“That’s the spirit!” cried Marisa. It was a lesson he’d learned early on in Gensokyo, but one he’d been choosing to ignore. Since Patchouli herself hardly used ritualistic or material-based offensive spells, she didn’t bother chastising him much over his choice. She’d already told him why he should use fueled magic. If he wanted to forego it and die, so be it; if he wanted to forego it and live, even better. She could brag about that. In all honesty, he wasn’t happy about having her lose some bragging rights.
“We’re to fight again, aren’t we?” he asked Reimu, lifting himself up onto his rear. She did not reply. “... Reimu?”
He only noticed now that the light of the Sun was being obstructed. He looked up to see a little girl flying in the air with an enormous sphere above her head, held only with one hand.
They exchanged words.
“Is that the ball of ice?”
“It’s the Yin-Yang Orb.”
With that, she threw it down. He scrambled out the way, knowing their next battle had already begun.
The black and white Taoist symbol was probably a head over his height in diameter, and when it crashed into the snow of the roof it sent out the cold white as waves, covering him. He ended up on his stomach and buried, and he could hear Reimu preparing a volley of paper “bullets” behind him. This was no longer “play”. This would hurt. He needed a plan of action.
 Quickly find some magical ingredients for better magic.
> I guess if you do foolish and drastic things when you fight, you can survive, but all it takes is you screwing up stupidly once, getting exhausted from doing something like that, and then you’re basically a waiting plate of food for any youkai passing by.
Reimu's spiel is I think underscoring that shenanigans against her is a trap, especially since his spirit is already partially or mostly used.
I might regret this but Gen has knowledge of what ingredients make the most sense even if he doesn't practice them, even if that means asking Marisa for what she has on her.
I want to see him adapt -- Shenanigans already failed him in a way with Yuuka, I want to see him take the step to remove his pride and take up using focuses/ingredients/reagents, what have you and grow.
I'm really hoping for a yelling match back and forth between Gen and Marisa as she shouts comments about things and he's hastily trying to improvise.
If Gen gets exhausted spiritually this is an instant-KO for him against Reimu, so he needs to play smart.
[X] Quickly find some magical ingredients for better magic.
What's funny is I can't tell if we were double-tricked, in that we should just "face her to win" to see what determination gets us, since Gen is a "hero" type, a determined hero can after all, accomplish a great deal.
[X] Quickly find some magical ingredients for better magic.
Alright then: for starters, I need to get to Marisa. He called on the air.
Reimu squinted as a wild vortex whipped up around her opponent, tossing away any seals she sent toward him and causing a few to slap into her face and over her eyes. She got caught in the strength of the wind as well, and could taste in the air that Gen’s own magical power was being used to bolster this. Reimu, light on her feet and even lighter off of them, was sent tumbling into the sky, finding everything very disorienting very quickly. Her cheeks turned green.
Gen, now uncovered, gazed upon the queasy, swirling maiden and bit down in concern. He really hoped she wouldn’t, but that girl was going to vomit.
He shoved himself from the roof and slid down on his back, eyes fixed on Reimu who has holding her mouth and stomach (and nearly dropping her gohei). She was spinning, and would continue to spin for at least thirty more seconds. He dropped down to the floor just as he saw her dry heaving.
“Oof!” he voiced on his landing, saying next “Oh, god,” as he heard the always recognizable sounds of someone throwing up, followed by splatter, plop, and splash.
He felt... really bad.
From above he heard an angry and despairing: “Oooeeeehhhgghh...! Blugh, guhh...”
He’d have to clean this mess later.
He turned around. Marisa was sitting, still in her blanket and looking up toward the horrible sounds with a face of terror. She saw that Gen had fallen, blinked at him, and asked (or rather demanded to know): “What the hell did you do?”
“I made a whirlwind. She’s drunk,” he explained, “I’m far less drunk. Rather sober actually. See? The sake bottle? That was mostly her.”
“Aah...” Marisa muttered with a miserable face, squinting at the empty vessel and sakazuki. She then huffed, and laughed, and said “Reimu’s such an idiot,” to herself.
“Well, the idiot will recover, and angry I’m sure,” he replied, still hearing terrible things overhead, “There’s something I must ask: could you give me some fuel to use in magic against her?”
“Huh? Wait... you’re... not doing a spell card duel anymore?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow.
“No, this is her second lesson.”
“Huh, I see...” said the small girl, lifting a hand to her lips in thought. She was mulling something over. In a brief moment, he thought she in her gold colors looked rather charmingly cute... Perhaps that was why Miss Sakuya acquiesced to her invasions and theft? ... No, that would be because she was Miss Izayoi Sakuya. The thief’s cuteness had nothing to do with it.
He shook his head. “Well?” he asked.
“Well,” she answered, showing a very thin, very worrying grin, “well, there’ll be a price for my stuff, y’see.”
“A price...?” A book. “Name it.”
“Nuh uh, I won’t name it.” Her grin opened for more of her teeth, “No, it’ll be a surprise. A surprise. That would be more interesting.”
“A surprise”...? his eyebrows twisted with this thought. Right now, Marisa looked wicked.
His magic would end soon, and after Reimu got her bearings again she’d come at him with all fury. He wasn’t liking the idea of possibly bargaining with Marisa here for his Master’s books. Or, if he didn’t want to betray Patchouli’s trust, he wasn’t liking the idea of possibly giving away the Rauðskinna (which was, technically, his). She’d love that book. She’d already tried to steal it before.
This was, of course, assuming that she wanted an item. A bit of him... thought she didn’t.
[X] “Fine.” He took that route, let's commit. She's probably not going to ask for completely unacceptable. You don't pull the "I'll tell you the price later" card for that kind of thing because it does't work.
>>66079 >>65991 >Due to his inexperience he wasn’t able to manipulate the snow with magic, even with The Simplest Manual of Materials for Starting Magicians that he still never left without (it was explicitly stated in the text that unusual states were outlined in The Advanced Manual of Materials for Adept Magicians, a book he’d used before that was so large carrying it outdoors even by magic was simply unfeasible).
Also! Snow isn't magical (it's an element, technically: "water", though if you were to use a water (liquid) spell on water (semi-frozen), it wouldn't work). Long ago in thread 1 our Master touched on this: how some things can be used, and some things can't be used in magic. Finding ingredients is thus not very simple; not everything works. Furthermore preparation is a factor for most of what you could find, though not all. While I wouldn't say that denying Marisa is a bad idea, I would say that denying her does carry some risk, and that perhaps you gentlemen are too worried over the thief. She's not a youkai! Anyway it may be more than some risk, since the shrine may not be ideal for items useful in magic.
If you want the basic positives and negatives to each choice, weighing what Gen should know: Accepting: Carries a ??? risk from a mischievous child. May or may not involve giving something away. Marisa's sense of value is strange. Getting materials from Marisa is guaranteed, and everything would be prepared.
Refusing: No deals with a witch, and possibly finding something good and useful in a pinch that could create some very powerful magic. Carries a risk having to seek something out while Reimu gives chase. This may not actually work, and if it does there will still be a matter of preparation while fleeing. I should also remind you that Reimu is both angrier than usual now, and has no need to hold back.
I'd ordinarily not chime in since that's being a spoilsport, but I felt perhaps things were getting misunderstood. I may be a bit wounded over the distrust of Marisa, though! I do like that blond brat, and most of the insults and bother directed at her in this tale is purely since she's a nuisance to the protagonist's Master.
As we've tied with my estimate for the number of regulars who vote, and I wanna write, I'm GONNA write with "Fine" in mind. This may take me a bit though. We'll see, depends on some things in my reality.
After her grin had grown wide enough that he’d begun to mirror it, the girl shouted “Great! Let’s get going, then!”
She leapt forward feet-first, casting off her blanket and grabbing on to Gen’s sleeve, tugging him backward. As he nearly fell, he took the opportunity to glance above the shrine and observe Reimu, no longer spinning bodily but her eyes certainly were: resetting right to left rapidly, constantly, as she held her head and barely held on to her rod.
Marisa brought Gen to the snowman he’d left unremoved that she and Reimu had made in the morning. She tore off its witch’s hat (hers) and turned said hat upside down, at which point she dove a hand into it and rummaged through.
Gen’s patience was somewhat thin, and that was manifest in how tensely he held his brow. He wouldn’t rush her, but watching the child go through a series of expressions (eyebrow up, glancing aside, grimace, tongue poked out...) he did want to yell “Look with your eyes!” in admonishment of her attempting to do so with her fingers.
Her expression became pleased, happy, and she announced “This!”, withdrawing three somewhat large, rather rotund flasks.
“Ah...” voiced Gen, noting their dull colors. “Basic concoctions I wager?”
“Just the stuff for any old magic!” declared the other magician. “You wanted fuel, I got that for ya! You can tell it’s pretty normal, huh? Not for specialization or nothin’, but you can work with it.”
“A mix of mushrooms and mustard seed?”
“This and that. Take it, quick!”
Marisa thrust the three round-bottom flasks toward him, and he grabbed them one by one, fitting each on his belt of tools. The way this sort of thing worked was simple as could be: uncork your magical fuel, cast your spell with an invocation, glyph, or formula to indicate this magic won’t be using your own power to be cast, and the potion, mixture, stone or what ever would be “burned” away as needed. If he hadn’t taken the low road for Marisa’s aid, he’d have had to find some bits of things in this shrine (and, of course, the forests around it) to mash together and draw off of. While this would work, it wouldn’t have been very easy (particularly given the season). He could already picture himself beneath the shrine’s porch, or foraging squirrels’ nests, or whatever he could to find anything of magical worth. And of course, while such ingredients were simple to use once they were prepared, the preparation was never short and sweet.
Judging by how long Marisa had searched her hat, the little girl must have had much prepared. He’d also heard that the strange octagonal device she often flaunted about was a magical furnace that doubled as some sort of weapon. While he liked the idea of working off of one’s own strength entirely, he had some envy of her for that so-called “mini-Hakkero”. In the realm of the dark arts, such a multi-tool was beyond rarity: it was perfectly unique. Thinking on it, he thought he’d not enjoy being on its receiving end (having seen what a “Master Spark” was since the day he’d first declined a demonstration) or to fight this prepared girl at all, even with three useful flasks of his own.
“Thank you, Marisa,” said Gen, not looking at her, but instead moving his eyes back to the growing-more-and-more-composed flying shrine maiden. “I’ll pay whatever your price is later.”
“Nuh uh, you’ll pay it now.” Marisa chirped up at his side. Now he looked at her, inquiringly, and saw that she was shaking her head.
The elder and less powerful magician, presently bent to a knee in front of her, let out a sigh and spoke in exasperation: “Alice is right, Gensokyo’s too unreasonable...” Gaze returned to Reimu, he then offered these words to the child, “Listen, Marisa: Reimu’s furious and unbridled. I can’t risk your games.”
“Yeah, this ain’t the time for playin’ around.”
“Hn?” He looked at her again.
With genial mood, Marisa carefully replaced her hat onto the snowman’s head. She held a hand out to her left and from a distance a broom flew fast toward her. Gen, unexpecting, was forced to lift his arm and grit his teeth as winds were brought with it, winds which whipped forth when she snapped the handle from the air. The younger magician smirked at her lesser reflection. “Hey Gen,” was the address she delivered without weight, “you don’t remember when we first met do ya?”
“I do remember.”
“Then you forgot.” Marisa pulled the broom behind her and sat back on it with a small bounce, impossibly floating before him. With palm facing up, she pointed at him with her right hand. Her eye shone beneath her hair, and gold was bright beneath gold. “Guess you thought I was kiddin’ when I said I really wanted to fight an outsider like you.”
“Marisa—” he began to protest.
“Fair’s fair, Gen.” She shrugged, and rose up as she spoke, “And a promise is a promise! At three flasks’ cost, I’m gonna kick your butt!”
Gen stood up quick, and every hair on his body rose shivering with him. A deep growl had fallen from a red, white, and green little girl above him. The girl cast her gaze down next, and lifted her rod up while speaking again, “I said you shouldn’t hold back, but I didn’t mean you should be cowardly and cheap instead.”
“Reimu!” shouted Marisa, “Lemme help out!”
“I don’t need your help,” Reimu answered with stony finality.
“You’ll get it anyway,” Marisa rejected, pulling something out of her dress.
“Fine,” the maiden dismissed. She was too focused now, and explained her ethos plainly: “At any rate it’s not my fault if someone like this ends up dust on my shoes today.”
“You said it!”
His mind returned to his first fully-cognizant night in Gensokyo, and he thought:
This has gone very badly for me.
Reimu had become much more sobered, and Marisa beside and before her wore unabashed thrill in her grin. The girl with power unbidden wanted to overwhelm him now with it, and the girl with power she had built wanted just to unleash it however she was allowed. He was below them, and reminded of Patchouli’s fire.
But, contrary to his first night, where fire was held in his hands in defense of his life...
Today, he was roused to feel fire purely burning within him.
Once the cold terror of facing true power had washed away, it was replaced in his chest with this blazing exhilaration. Itou Gen, knowing that in this duel there was no safety—only the perhaps-mercy to cling to of two children with dubious morals—was unmistakably excited. Reimu and Marisa were strong, but neither was “Yuuka”. He felt in facing them another oncoming reprise of his first night: near-to-grasp triumph.
This showed, trembling, on his face.
“That smile...” Reimu spoke with disgust, “you haven’t learned anything, huh? Not one thing.”
Gen brought out two of his books and denied her with a simple “Nah,” following with an avowal:
“I’ve learned very much, Miss Reimu.”
“Well then enough of that. Learn that you’re weak!”
The sky was alight with auras, and a spark went off from the thing in Marisa’s hand, briefly showing the girl who’d become a shadow in Reimu’s light.
Itou Gen gave a “tut”, and began to talk in a dead tongue.
And fantasy came forth.
Kirisame Marisa aimed at Gen with her signature “Master Spark”, while Hakurei Reimu sent the colors of her soul out to seek him on their own. The grounds burst with light, the strength of an incredible ray flanked by religious might, and when the crash came the girls winced to the touch of vapor.
“Wet!” Marisa called, “Wet!? Did we accidentally do him in?”
“Doubt it...” Reimu mumbled, deciding “That’d be too anticlimactic.”
Their first volleys and the aftermath of them dissipated, and both girls squinted through the settling dust.
“That’s... eh? A water screen?”
Marisa had observed what looked to be a sheet of water, but she knew this to be an impossibility. The amateur they were facing could not have shielded himself, not with a water layer. She saw soon that what seemed to be a sheet was more similar to a grid: many diamond shapes of liquid glinting before them and, as was apparent from any attempt at scrutinizing, toying with light. This was an illusion-maker.
“Heard about this...” Marisa started, looking up and around the grounds, “he’s squirrely,” she explained, “he’ll try hiding when he’s outgunned.”
“I’m not allowing a ‘flight’ option... Geh, I still feel sick,” Reimu grumbled her thoughts while she continued to look through Gen’s misdirecting field. Marisa cast her a confused glance, but didn’t question this act that she’d determined was futile. Still, Reimu explained herself:
“That weasel couldn’t have gotten out of the way on just his feet or by flying. He’s...” she stopped her talk and lifted her eyebrows. In the little snow left on the grounds she saw a telltale spiral that traced fast and just-gone movements. Traced them— “... there!”
Unfolding a hand of seals, Reimu, quickly turned left and spotted her target with his back against a tree (and evidently rather in pain). He pulled himself from the trunk and almost collapsed, wincing up at her. The little runt had hurled himself with air to attempt an escape.
“Just running and running and running...” Reimu commented although thus far he had ran very little, “you’re gonna make me feel like the bad guy!”
She threw her charms.
“Wai—! Reimu!” Marisa raised a complaint too late, and Reimu saw what it was intended for as her papers severely missed their mark. The shrine maiden scowled, knowing immediately what had gone wrong and squinting just to be sure. As she’d gathered, Gen’s little water diamonds had scattered very far, in part (it seemed) because of her and her friend’s assault scattering them. She quickly readjusted given the error, but when she tossed a second and true-aimed volley, the novice magician swung himself into the forest and her ofuda met only tree bark instead.
“Don’t let him run off!”
The two pursued immediately, Reimu’s zeroed patience going negative at the thought of this audacious battle.
Rushing on foot through the forest, Gen skidded to a halt when he heard Marisa’s call for chase. He was setting something up for himself, and he didn’t intend to hide forever as he’d done with Patchouli. Any possible win from that wouldn’t grant him much satisfaction now. He would, however, be very pleased with a win from a handicap.
Gen pointed toward his two opponents and spoke ancient words. One bottle of his uncorked, he called to storm and stem. The books beside him began paging rapidly and smoke poured out the bottle’s mouth. If he could call this spell a name, it would be “The Play of Nymphs”. The snowy tree tops erupted from the force of broken and flying branches, and winds too came to push forward a refreshingly scented and irritating to face wall of nature, stopping the girls and getting them to cover their eyes as well. In this respite, he kicked air from his heels and shot toward the shrine. Glancing back after passing under them, he saw that they hadn’t noticed him, and breathed out with relief. This would grant him opportunity to get to work. He opened his coat, and removed a scroll.
After a minute at the forest edge, his spell had begun to stop. The result: a Marisa with a leaf between her lips, and a Reimu with her hands up, eyes shut, and hair a mess.
“This is a youkai’s work,” said the maiden, “I’m gonna exterminate him.”
“Whoa, that was more like fairy work dontcha think?” Marisa asked.
“Fairies, youkai, maids, and butlers all get me angry and ALL GET PUNISHED!” the child thundered, gripping her gohei as if she intended to bleed it.
“Heh? Maids, huh? Ha ha ha!” Marisa only laughed.
Then, the two of them lurched forward at once, both having been struck on the backs of their heads by bolts of light. They turned to see that Gen was now behind them, and flying in the space where they’d began. They also saw many more bolts of light, radiating out from him like a planetarium’s, and rushing toward them, a certified curtain of bullets.
“G-Guh, I can’t deal with this!”
“It’s not that bad, but...”
The two handled his attack very differently—Marisa’s gripping and turning her broom with all her might, Reimu dodging with mild concern (a sight rarer than certain legendary flowers)—but both seemed to agree that something was definitely wrong with it. They were quick to pick up that the innumerable water crystals that Gen now guarded himself with of course not only affected their perception of where he was, but where his bullets came from.
“You’re just a completely dirty fighter, aren’t you!?” snapped Reimu.
“No, no!” he insisted, “This is just what happens when I don’t like my odds.”
“I don’t wanna hear about your odds!” Reimu nonsensically whined. Still having little problem dodging, she pointed at him emphatically and continued, “This is pathetic! You’re completely like a youkai, acting like this!”
“No, no,” he reaffirmed, “This is just a desperate human’s way of fighting.”
“Ghh, you piss me off!” Reimu was now flooding seals out her sleeves like she’d done before in their previous fight, but instead of sending them, she was amassing the slips behind herself. Gen did not neglect goading her.
“This is supposed to be a fight as I’d fight if I wanted to win, right!? If that’s the goal, then a coward’s win you’ll get!”
“Moron!” she shouted, “Don’t talk about winning! Get that thought out of your head!” And with no hesitation, she sent forth her ofuda.
As she’d found aiming to be useless, they came as they came. Completely without pattern, Reimu had Gen awash in papers. However, this randomness alone was not very concerning—he had fair enough skill keeping away of it (it wasn’t as bad as Alice’s awful spell). What was concerning was that he’d realized Marisa hadn’t said a word in about two minutes.
“Hey Gen!” Marisa’s voice. His right ear twitched. “Taste this!”
Looking over his shoulder, he saw Marisa with her tool aimed, firing at him wave after wave of pretty-colored cosmos all turning like the most beautiful pictures of galaxies. Matching her smile, he faced it all gladly. Soon, the scene over the Hakurei shrine was a display of madness. Charms intersected with stars while their intended target flit about a small space and cast light in all directions. Missing was plentiful.
“Can’t aim well yourself, huh?” asked Marisa. “Kind of a pain of a fight like that, though.”
He did not answer her, caught up in his dodging. Reimu, however, followed up.
“So you’re not so cheap that you’d avoid crippling yourself? That’s a surprise, Gen.”
He did not answer her either, because he had avoided crippling himself.
On the inner shrine’s floor, weighed by a trio of tea cups, was a scroll refining a certain student’s magic. In the glyph was outlined the call to cast vision (itself the reflection of light) astray, sight always confused by many “mirrors” (in the form of water droplets). They were, however, one-way mirrors.
Light from within at his place above the shrine would not be tampered with, but all light without was fair game. Part of his gambit was to hustle the girls, and it seemed to have worked. He ceased his bolts and began to gather light into his hand. While keeping aware of his opponents’ attacks, he opened another of his borrowed bottles. The first was already almost completely done from the hybrid magic he was using to protect himself.
Gen clenched his fist, invoking the sun once more, and with a shout he summoned spokes of solar energy, spinning around his sky-directed finger tip. They then began to pull up into columns, and slowly wrap one over the other into a brilliant spiral of orange-white. It resembled now a sword beyond imagination, and he brought this sword down on Reimu’s head.
“Ha!” The shrine maiden didn’t hesitate to laugh at this ploy, She confidently stood still, knowing Gen had no better aim than her, and while she thought to perhaps graze it, she was engulfed in refined sunlight. This was, again, before she’d heard Marisa’s demand to not do what she was doing.
Reimu wasn’t tumbled to earth, but the blast of the ray did send her reeling and force a tree to act as her catcher’s mitt. She now looked like a poor thing caught in a spider’s web, and she began pressing her nails into the soft flesh of her palms. Reimu now delivered hate to Gen through her eyes. But, quickly, she stopped. Now she breathed out with those eyes closed, and Gen knew what she was going to do as soon as she settled them once more upon him, all calm. If she couldn’t aim at him, she wouldn’t. Her might would speak and aim for her.
Marisa had stopped her own attacks when Reimu took the hit, but now she was continuing a steady stream of misguided lasers and bullets in his direction while barely containing her laughter at Reimu’s sorry state. At this juncture, sidestepping starlight and keeping an eye on Reimu, Gen knew he had to make a choice.
Reimu would sweep away his illusionist screen and leave him exposed to herself and Marisa’s unfiltered powers. After that, he had to determine who to go after and how.
Reimu was dangerous, but had finally calmed down. On the other hand that meant she would probably be serious from now on. He thought at this point, she might actually leave him with some kind of scar.
However, she was still drunk. She still hitched here and there, and wobbled or nodded poorly at times she clearly didn’t want to. Thrice he’d seen her hit by one of his bullets of light because of these involuntary mishaps.
Marisa was only maybe dangerous. She was not seriously coming at him, but... Why did he get the feeling that if he took Reimu out, she would stop being a supplement and instead come at him as a true threat? Reimu’s specialty was youkai extermination, and as he was not a youkai, although she could threaten him he couldn’t imagine a great loss from being trounced by her.
Marisa, on the other hand, he was quite sure could accidentally take off his head with an errant (or indeed true) magical cannon.
They were both... such awful children.
Also his strategy with either... To go defensive where defense was now a viable option? Attempt an offense? What to do to win this? And, should he risk moving out of where he found himself now?
First, who would he try to take out?
And then, how?
 Go on the defensive.
 More bullets.
 Try to get in strong, concentrated attacks. Or, at least one.
The two of them are relying on each other right now. Reimu runs interference, Marisa waits for a chance to use her giant laser and win. With that in mind.
If she's alone, Reimu can just keep dodging and eventually win with her trump card or two. As is now, Gen can't hold up a candle to her - only reasons she can lose now is because those two are working together and because she's drunk. Marisa's trump card is a literal "Giant Love Beam~" and we've just deployed something that really fucks with light. We can do something like that with some other twist on it later to not die.
[x] Terrain Tactics
Objective One - distract raymoo and smack some bullets into her. Objective Two - prevent Marisa from setting up the megabeam. For that end, we can pull something from Wood or Wind, maybe even Fire, but that's pushing it. Mana consumption will hurt, but it's okay if it K.O.'s the gohei enthusiast while throwing the other magician off.
[x] Remain stationary.
If all goes well, we can nullify/redirect the laser beam with a refraction that the scroll provides after Marisa is left alone, and if she wants to use Blazing Star, we can do something ridiculous with the Sun element to pull a double K.O. in the worst case scenario. We can't dodge their shots very well right now, they're too good at this and we're terrible.
I told you that we had too much on our plate already. [x] Marisa Magicians know Magicians best, if she decides to get serious after we're winded defeating Reimu, she'll start giving us a run for her money. Best strategy is to deal with the currently weakest link. [x] Some Other Trick? Multiple opponents, best method is always to get them to friendly fire each other. If we're gonna win, we're gonna have to fight dirty. Time for a trick based kit. [x] Remain Stationary Reserve as much stamina as possible, not out of cautiousness but out of necessity.
Might as well gamble on getting a big hit in before we see some super moves. Targeting Marisa since Reimu can just -blink- outta the way, and a drunk Reimu might be less of a threat than Marisa if it comes to a one-on-one.
[xx] Try to get in strong, concentrated attacks. Or, at least one.
[xxxxx] Some other trick?
[x] Fight on fair ground.
[xxxxxxx] Remain stationary.
[x] Fly around.
So that's what I'm going with for now! The only possible swing vote would be the strategy, I think, but most likely I think that would lead to a tie if it were to swing. That said while I'm writing, if you haven't voted, feel free to vote anyway. I like these strategies and talks on what to possibly do.
“The heck are you doin’!?” Marisa asked as he tore away his scarf as well. Reimu asked nothing, only wordlessly emerging from branches as spiritual energy slipped out her chest and flowed from her arms.
The Magician’s Apprentice pulled a gatherer’s knife from his belt, his clothing held aloft behind him with words. Marisa stopped her assault to watch, curious beyond reason as to what he was attempting. “You should keep that shooting up,” he told her, “if you don’t want me to win this.”
“Cocky guy...!” Marisa exclaimed, raising her handheld furnace. Gen took the knife he used to cut materials from nature and cut into his left palm through the glove. All the while he chanted, not faltering to the pain of the wound, and he bid his blood to move as Marisa sent an avalanche of stars. He dodged without looking.
Fingers twitching, eyes on Reimu, Gen cast black magic. Nothing too ill, nothing at all fatal, but his experience with the Rauðskinna had not only scared him, it had also given him ideas. His Master thought that was good. “It’s too early for you to specialize,” she’d said, “branch out all that you can.” Now in a dark voice he told his life essence to run through his coat’s sleeves, and down where his spine would be. Crimson rivulets streamed around him, whipping into place. His invocation ended, his magic was set. Reimu raised her gohei over her head, and he told his coat to dance.
“Fantasy Seal!” yelled the shrine maiden, and familiar effulgence leapt from her back. Knife in hand and palm still bleeding, he welcomed it, whispering to the forces of the world in hopes to trick that light. He knew that those auras shot for the “enemy”, and now he had a doppelganger on the field.
Reimu’s attack was the equivalent of a spell card duel’s “clear”, and his Master had described it as one of the more irritating kinds. It didn’t like to miss. In most cases, any bullet, fairy, youkai, or foe human before the shrine maiden would receive it. He intended to use that to his advantage.
He returned his knife to its place and raised his hand above himself. He called to the dancing coat as beautiful colors threatened to blind him all around. Reimu’s barrage swallowed everything else: it consumed Marisa’s cosmos and swept up his water-light shield, disrupting it entirely. It also swung for him and, more importantly, his robe. Like an eager child casting a net through clouds of moths and butterflies, Gen sent his robe-wearing blood through it all. Desperately, he bid it to receive as many colorful orbs as it could, and thankfully there were not too many as this attack seemed more about might than multitude. And once an orb was struck, it was spent. That said it was terrifying to be engulfed.
Reimu’s spiritual power felt godly to him. He hadn’t yet met any gods, but pulling himself through gigantic white vortices and grazing near pale and pretty lingering shades granted him the distinct sense that he was facing something bigger than himself—larger than life, as it were. If he told Reimu this, he had a feeling she’d tell him she was only human, but this kind of strength... It was as if he was being made to catch and dodge ethereal mountains. Throwing his clothing into the penultimate sphere, he cursed to find a much smaller one hiding behind it. It rammed him in his side, and nearly made him drop out of flight.
In the wake of the attack, Marisa had stopped again, and Reimu was glaring at him, still before the trees. His robe and scarf hardly resembled themselves anymore: they were strips of dark and light cloth, mixed with twitching blood. He held his side—Reimu’s last “seal” had torn open his shirt, revealing a reddened abdomen. He admitted aloud: “That’s going to bruise...” To himself he admitted, That counted as a kind of puppetry, didn’t it?
He knew both girls would not remain in awe long, so he looked at his precious ex-coat and scarf and, knowing this was foolishness, whispered the words to return them to their original states. “Time” heeded the request, and both items wove themselves back from nothing with speed. However, with this done he now felt lightheaded. It had fast drained his spirit, leaving comparatively very little. Nonetheless, he redid the enchantment once the clothes had rewound (his ripped-open shirt and sliced glove included).
Marisa made a noise of “Uwoo...” beside him, and he heard Reimu preparing another volley as paper sounded against paper.
The little magician continued to talk. “You just used an enchantment to bring those clothes back, but...” she began, and he saw that she was rubbing her chin now, “... that looked like it was high level: time/space magic for your clothes. It’d be nothing with a few nicks but you brought it back from nothing.”
Gen answered her, but he was now dodging Reimu’s danmaku again, and without the mirage-inducing water to protect him he had to make a greater effort. Thus, his answer was through grit teeth while he worked to pull back on his coat and scarf (it was cold!), “Thank you, Marisa—” he growled, pushing an arm through a sleeve and keeping out the way of paper bullets “—yes, yes; that is what I did.”
“That had to have left you almost dead. Like, I can’t even imagine that was just ‘reversed time’. How did that work? Why’d you even DO that?”
He glanced at her, firing magic at Reimu (who had no problem dodging anymore) and settling his mind. “This clothing is a gift,” he told her, “it’s among my more important ones. Anyway, I thought you wanted to fight. I’ve seen two Fantasy Seals, where’s the second Master Spark?”
“Hahaha!” laughed Marisa in childish mirth. “Alright,” she said, “I’ll end this for ya.”
And to that, he opened the last bottle.
Gen was in nearly top form in this fight. He’d realized it, but had no time to dwell on his accomplishments. During any second he was thinking of what to do in the next, and he was carefully, immaculately, planning every one of his minutes. “Exhilarating” was no longer enough to name this feeling of what was at this point primarily arrogance rushing through his core. Though he didn’t pick apart the reasons why, he knew he’d earned this malignant pride. Watching the mini-Hakkero in Marisa’s hand, he spoke so quickly that he worried for his tongue, and he spoke so darkly he worried for his soul. Eyes wide and pupils constricting, he allowed himself a thought in keen bliss: Seriously, I just can’t get enough of magic.
“Master Spark!” came the call he wanted to hear, and with two vibrant tomes and a word he ripped the orb of snow water in the yard asunder, creating the explosive sound of a splash.
“Aahhh!!” screamed Reimu, and he imagined she must have been grabbing at her hair. She continued to shout, “Wasn’t that a gift!? That was a gift, wasn’t it!?”
He’d already drained a fair amount of it in order to supply the glyph in Reimu’s house that had manufactured his queer lightshow. Now he was summoning it and linking it together with the rays of the Sun. The idea was simple and absurdly risky: he would create a reflector.
Marisa’s vast and overbearing spark erupted; a giant and shining lens crafted of water and light swirled in front of Gen to meet it. And immediately upon their meeting, Gen physically (with arms out), along with a many-worded phrase, shifted the water to an angle that would aim the cannon to his side. Marisa’s beam of starlight and love was thus redirected, and Reimu, never expecting this, received it suddenly, and almost fully. Only the brunt of Marisa’s strongest move could be reflected by the magic lens, and the “love” of it all went through (“love”, it turned out, brought a warm and dull pain). The water did not last long, and Gen soon found himself bathed in the black and white magician’s girlish light... Just, thankfully, he was not submerged long. Reimu was not so blessed.
In the wake of the blast, the two magicians looked to where the shrine maiden had been, one anticipating and the other dumbfounded. The tree that had caught Reimu before had been blown away. Reimu herself laid motionless, facedown, on the stones below. Gen became thrilled at once, face aglow and smile toothy. The young man pumped his fist and cried “Ye-heah! Can’t do THAT in a spell card duel!” with an emphatic point at the little girl he’d cheaply beaten. Something to note was that he was, once again, wearing a very ragged outfit.
“Ya really did that...” Marisa whispered, still staring at Reimu (who was, apparently, breathing), “I mean, it wasn’t perfect, but you just redirected my Master Spark. That’s crazy...” Now she looked at him, and he returned her stare. “I guess I’ve gotta make it stronger,” she said.
“I won’t stop getting stronger myself, you know?” he said with a smirk still showing his teeth. “Though, again, it’s not as though I can pull off that nonsense in a sanctioned duel.”
With that said, Gen breathed out to calm himself, straightened up, and informed the other magician: “Alright, I’m worried about Reimu so I’m going to make the rest of this quick.”
Marisa shook her head. “Now you’re gettin’ too cocky,” she said. “You’re runnin’ on fumes, you’ve got sake in your belly, and I’m over here barely even crackin’ a sweat. It is cold, though.” She shrugged.
Gen chuckled weakly. “No kidding...” he said, “yeah, that was mostly in jest. This isn’t looking good for me.”
“Won the battle, about to lose the war,” said the blond girl. “How much of my potions have you got left?”
He shook his head and answered “Not.”
“Well,” Marisa said, absently tossing her magic furnace up and catching it again in steady, repeated, and confident motions, “that’s a shame for you, I guess.” She grinned.
Gen, despite his brazen display of conceit not three minutes ago, had still taken Reimu’s advice to heart: he did not want to lose against Marisa. He couldn’t take much more punishment, however, and the hits he had already taken had surely reduced his dodging effectiveness. He also knew it from how she had reacted previously and her trade: Marisa was fairly wise to his tricks. Marisa herself seemed very weasel-ish, though he knew she had pride in her power rather than her wiles. At any rate, he didn’t like his odds on trying to fool her a... what? Fifth time?
Ideally he would simply match her and win. Marisa was not superhuman like Reimu. She was fast, and clearly an expert at danmaku, but she was not capable of slipping through space (somehow) and casting insidious patterns that she didn’t even have to think about to craft. Still, she was strong, and by God he was weak, especially now.
Marisa caught her mini-Hakkero a final time and told him, “I’m not gonna go easy on you just ‘cause I know you’re hurtin’.”
Great, he mused, I actually did think I might be able to appeal to mercy, here...
But... in a show of his expected outcome, Gen rewound his clothes once more.
Marisa whistled. “Maaan,” she drawled, “you don’t think I’ll even hit you?”
It wasn’t that he simply thought he could manage this, it was that he had to think so. Odds could be damned; he wanted to finish this 2-1.
“Nice eyes,” said Marisa.
 faced her in absolute fairness.
 became mobile, hoping cover and wide movement would save him.
 went to find Marisa’s hat.
 decided to forfeit. This was getting rough, and he still had get back home.
He had dropped down past the roof of the shrine and out of her sight, and she wasn’t much for tracking magic. Marisa pursued, went past the ridge, and saw him stealing her hat from off the snowman she’d left it on.
Gen put the hat onto his head and shot her a glance, saying, “To thieve from a thief shouldn’t be called thievery.”
“Come on, I’m not a thief,” she rebuffed with a frown. She then shouted again, as Gen kicked over the snowman, screaming “Aahh!! A devil! You’re a devil!”
Gen said nothing, only fiddling with the brim of Marisa’s hat while staring at the snow pile below and toeing it. Marisa continued to hesitate, which he had expected; she wanted to see what he was up to, and probably also didn’t want to potentially damage her own hat. Confirming the softness of the heap, he took said hat from his head and began to shake the thing out over it.
Marisa continued being flustered, hurriedly patting through her clothing in search of something. While vials and bottles were dumped from her hat into the safety of snow, Marisa found a few more in her pockets, but judging from her expression there weren’t as many as she’d have like. As Gen had suspected, Marisa kept the majority of her things in her hat.
Soon it was empty and he observed the spoils. There were several mushrooms and six concoctions. He flipped the hat over in his hands and squinted into it, mumbling, “No trick or magic...? How do you fit all this in there?” It wasn’t too big a hat.
He felt Marisa’s eyes on him, and a distinct intention of harm. Thus, quickly guessing at the contents of each glass container (Marisa seemed to have already given him all of her generic magic supplements), he took up a vial that seemed to contain blue gel and a captured, gently undulating, bolt of white lightning. With this in hand, he leapt back at once, a sharp laser striking through where his thigh had been. It burned the stone, and he wondered if it might have pierced his skin.
Flying backward and placing the hat once more on his head, he peeked with one eye at Marisa above, seeing her directing a beam of light with her furnace to where she thought he’d go. The Milky Way, too, looked to be dropping from the bristles of her broom, churning in the air, and then shooting forth in spiraling paths. He ascended in avoidance and thumbed the vial open.
He brought himself up before the woods and above the trees, having twisted awkwardly but successfully through Marisa’s chasing spells. He needed to better scrutinize his choice of potion, and Marisa certainly knew this. Not wanting him to have that time she tossed her mini-Hakkero over her shoulder and gripped the bamboo of her broomstick while a whining sound grew in volume. He got the proverbial “bad feeling”, and before he could blink she was flying toward him with the look and power of a comet.
He dropped once more, shifting side to side when enormous red and blue stars her size fell from the girl at intervals. Marisa passed by in a blinding flash with a loud, machine-like hum, and he noticed as he fell that his cuff had not evaded the attack. He landed and swore, but then noticed he had placed himself before Reimu. Still hearing the hum of Marisa’s charge, but not the strange high-pitched noise which had signaled her revving up before, Gen swept the child up in his arm and over his shoulder. In his thoughts he remarked, She’s light.
His ears perked to the sound of the whine again, and he turned to see a shining point through the trees. He uttered a quiet “No way”, held Reimu ‘round her back tightly, and shot left before Marisa could blast through the forest in a shower of snow and branches. He looked at her face through the screen of vibrant magic, and she returned his gaze with concern for the brief moment they were close. Marisa rocketed over the grounds and returned to the sky while more stars were left in her wake. She stopped above him, their battlefield now marked with drifting danmaku of no pattern or reason. He thought it looked rather fantastic, and said so with his smile.
Marisa was not smiling.
“You’re a real son of a gun, aren’tcha? Kicking people—” he interjected “snowmen” “—over, grabbin’ up maidens, stealin’ stuff and trickin’ folks...” Marisa finished her complaints by closing her eyes and crossing her arms, saying, “You’re a villain, Gen.”
Gen, who was peering into the vial he’d nicked (now held at his fingertips) to ascertain its contents, paused at this accusation and pointed at Marisa, still holding the glass. “Correction:” he stated, “I’m a survivor, Kirisame Marisa.”
“You know I’m gonna be more careful now that you’re holding that shrine maiden,” she grumbled, squinting down at him.
He casually indicated to the witch’s hat with his thumb and added, “The hat, too. I imagine you don’t want that taking much damage.”
“Thinking of everything, huh?” she asked.
Gen answered as he stepped forward, heading toward the fallen snowman. “In the most despicable ways I can,” he admitted, following with “since I really do want to finish this quickly.” With that, he dropped the opened vial into the snow, and began to incant.
Marisa’s expression soured further. With misery, she recognized some of the things he was saying.
“Damn it...” she swore. “Figured out it was for light, did you?” She retrieved the mini-Hakkero from its floating place behind her broom and began to wonder what to do.
The liquid and lightning in the glass was coaxed out of it in a stream of glitter. From what he could tell, it was comprised of luminescent plants and phosphorescent sands. The mixture, supplemented with his spirit, gathered over Gen’s open palm and started becoming whole. It’s nearly evening and we’re losing day... he mused with a smirk, How about some bonus night, now?
Soon enough a pale and dusty sphere had manifested for him, small but powerfully radiant with cold and mysterious light. He looked on it pleased, and then smugly met eyes with Marisa again. The moon was rising.
The young girl on her broom took a readied stance, he whispered to the sister moons, and with a pair of violent winds, the two magicians danced in the sky.
From here on out the Magician’s Apprentice held a unique position of offense and defense. He went close range with Marisa, who did not create any distance. She needed accuracy, as he continually turned in such a way that many of her attempts at spellcasting were stopped at once. He would put Reimu between her and him, and snipe at her with either the moon in the sky or the one in his hand (whichever she seemed to be neglecting in the moment). Thus they rounded one another like dogs chasing tails.
Marisa would grunt as she pulled back from a laser out his coat, and Gen would laugh as she relented to the presence of her friend. Still, despite his place of unfair and forged advantage, he knew that missteps here could prove fatal. They both knew this, and their movements reflected that in their tense and sudden, irregular pace.
Naturally he struck her several times, and often from her blind spot as she bent her head away and received a flash to her stomach or back. Further, Gen kept small patterns of diamond moonlight in rotation around them so that even if she wished escape, it would not be simple. Marisa, not entirely cornered, also pushed him toward the stars she’d made when charging at him before, occasionally dropping bolts of starlight that would scream upward in attempts to get her opponent from below. However, his weasely and twisting movements limited her boldness. This was as close as witches and wizards could get to swordsmen holding blades at one another’s throats.
In a moment, Gen swept behind Marisa, and the black and white magician raised her brow upon notice that no white bled from his coat. She reared back, two beams of the brightest light crossing just over her fingertips. The less experienced magician had dropped his moon behind to float in the air, hoping to catch his senior in a pincer attack. She grew frustrated, thinking this battle held too much delicacy, and as she disclosed this feeling in her gritting teeth, Gen leapt forward with her stolen property in his hand.
She turned just enough to see his leap and prepared to, in desperation, fall from her broom but before she could roll for a drop, he returned to her her hat, slipping it onto her head with a joyous cry of “Here!”
“Whagh—!?” the child exclaimed, and dropped her furnace, caught it in a hurry nearly falling by accident, and smashed her other hand onto her head to try and pull the brim from her eyes. In a panic, she heard Gen speak the name of a spell card, and ground her teeth again.
“Moon Sign!” he shouted, grinning in flight behind her once more with a hand and card out to her back, keeping Reimu secure with his left, “‘Sleep Forever, Endymion’!”
With two lunar sources, the sky at once became a sea with water and waves of moonlight. Marisa, only confused from Gen’s madcap move, and stinging from what hits he’d landed earlier, attempted to dodge on instinct. However, she was not Reimu. She was hit almost immediately to quickly enter a downward spiral, clothes torn apart and body struck all over until she fell into the shrine’s rooftop in a loud and snowy crash.
In the early night sky, Itou Gen rewound the cuff of his cloak, pointed at the fallen child, and with the gesture of a shooting gun, boasted a “Bang!”
“Just thought it might be nice...” Gen put a bundle of such sticks back where he’d found them in a cupboard of Reimu’s home. Marisa, who was speaking with him, was resting beside the homeowner in bed. He’d carried the two of them inside after his dishonorable victory, and although Marisa had been conscious at the time (and complaining), Reimu still had yet to wake. He’d prepared her ginger tea and the two of them had taken care of her nauseous, battered, drunken self while she slept all the while. The little girl magician between the two had bathed the shrine maiden (and herself) as well, and as compensation for using some of her things to take care of the girl Gen had left Reimu a seven thousand en donation (and a note, so that she knew).
All of this hadn’t very taken long (it was still early evening), and by now he was sure the two of them were alright. After the elation of victory had passed he felt somewhat disappointed in himself... but only somewhat. He had at least to admit that under anything like ordinary circumstances, the two little girls behind him now in bed would have swept the grounds with him easily. He could evaluate himself like this from the battle: he had certainly learned a lot in half a year, hadn’t he? And now, at least for some time, he would not neglect ingredients and mixtures.
“But man,” spoke Marisa, causing Gen to turn to her in attention and lean into Reimu’s sink, “I’m kinda pissed, Gen. You didn’t even give me a chance to use the spell card I made from watchin’ Patchouli.”
“Oh, right,” he whispered in a bit of a mumble, “you had mentioned that.” Marisa looked genuinely frustrated, and once more he felt a little bad about his victory. “Tell you what,” he said while folding his arms, “the next time you come to ‘borrow’ from the library, I’ll do you the honor of meeting you. And then, I’ll beat you properly. Show me then.”
“It’s a promise, okay?” Marisa swore in seriousness.
“Certainly,” he vowed with a hand over his heart, “I’ll promise you that.”
Speaking of promises I don’t have much time left to meet with Youmu... Too late in the day to wander near where the kappa work, so that’s out...
Marisa rested her cheek in her hand and poked Reimu’s, eliciting a squirming, closed mouth from the sleeper. “Wonder how mad she’ll be when she gets up,” she said, “you really gave her a crazy trip, huh.”
“We’ll have to meet again,” he answered, “I don’t want her thinking any less of me. That’s just dangerous, not to mention unkind on my part.”
“Good luck with that,” Marisa said. “You heading back now?” she asked, noticing him moving toward the entrance.
“Yes, an outsider like me shouldn’t be out at night; I’m really just asking for it.”
“Alright. When I come to visit the library next time I’ll tell you about Reimu, ‘kay?”
“I made a promise, but don’t come to the library; I don’t want to keep it.”
“A real villain...” muttered the girl, sighing after.
“Stop stealing Master’s books,” he snapped. They glared at one another for a few seconds, and then both shook their heads as if the other was beyond reason.
“Good night, Marisa,” he wished.
“Night, ya punk,” she replied.
And good night Reimu... I’m sorry I’m such scum.
He walked out the shrine and closed the door behind him, wrapping his scarf around his neck and over his mouth properly again. Through his breath he gazed at the dying purple sky above, not long for light. With his hands in his pockets, he wondered where to go next.
Cause I like mentioning it and the battle is over >>66034 Reimu's little talk about winning and losers was derived from a small but significant line spoken by Kitora Ai in the manga series World Trigger. That's a GRAND series I'd recommend to anyone... But it's been on hiatus for two years. Ha ha ha.
Also, all of this 'scum' business is undeserved. Reimu set this up as a real battle for survival. They weren't a charming Shrine Maiden and a mischievous thief, they were two youkai coming after our flesh.
We've done enough battling and we don't need to be heading out at night just to ask for more trouble to find us. We were going to give her an update on our progress, it's not like we said we would be heading over that day, so we can easily do it tomorrow.
Also, it would be wise to inform Patchouli of our own fight if only so that she can be ready possibly for an angry Reimu that comes looking for Gen.
We'll meet with the others tomorrow, right now is rest time. Also, Reimu said to fight as if it was real; I don't see why survival should care about fairness, especially in a situation where you're alone against two enemies. We're a mage, not a knight.
>>66213 Gen's is a matter of simple pride. While his ethos is, at least at present, survival, what he wants is to be confident without any trickery (you can go way back to his first teatime with Alice to see him admitting this). A clean win would speak to the successes of his study and training. Resourcefulness, although a positive trait, doesn't light his heart on fire in the same way or with greater intensity. He'll take it, but he always wants more.
Saying this, he walked on, passed under the gate, and started down the stairs...
... only to immediately stop.
Someone with odd-colored hair was ascending and while, again, he knew that not only youkai were strange in this way here, it nevertheless gave him pause.
He silently watched them climb and wondered if he should act guard or simply walk by and assume the best of this visitor. Reimu’s shrine was disreputable for its non-human visitors, however, and so he imagined this was not a kinsman coming up (not at this hour). Knowing Reimu was still resting and Marisa was not ready to fight, Gen stood at the staircase top and waited for the person – a woman – to come close enough for conversation.
“Good evening,” she said, and she walked right past him.
He winced, not sure what had just happened. The girl, dressed in a red tabard and decorated here and there with symbols of roses... wasn’t threatening. Thoroughly was she unthreatening. She had to have done something... When she greeted him and passed him by, he had simply stopped thinking about her for a moment.
Unnerved, he turned to see her again and forced himself to demand with emphasis, “Stop.”
She did so, and turned to face him with a quizzical expression. Her short, peach-colored hair bounced in her surprise, causing him to notice (and scrutinize with twisted lips and squinted eye) the cloth bun covers on her head.
“It didn’t work?” she asked rhetorical, and then looked sideways and muttered “I suppose I still have much to work on.”
“You did something...?” he asked, also not really seeking an answer. Looking to another side, he thought, and then decided to say, “This is a shrine for humans, not youkai. You should get.”
The woman shook her head and lifted her left hand, telling him, “Don’t I look human?” He noticed the shackle and chain around her wrist, and he frowned again. Before he could dwell on this, she mentioned, “Besides, couldn’t I ask what a magician is doing at the shrine? Well, I could ask, but a magician nearly lives here as well as the shrine maiden.”
He said nothing, not wanting to give her anything to latch on to in convincing him.
She eventually shrugged and said, “Yes, I mean Marisa,” with a gentle face.
Though he wasn’t assuaged of his suspicions, this knowledge of hers did ease him a bit. Still, he wanted to know, “What are you doing here at night? If you ask me the same, it’s since I’ve been here since the morning on task.”
“Just some farewells to the children, don’t you worry about it. I’ll be in and out in a moment and you won’t have to worry about me again.”
Gen showed his displeasure with this statement openly, dropping the lids of his eyes halfway and deepening his frown. He told her plainly, “I can’t accept that answer.”
“What is your problem?” she asked, growing annoyed. “People visit Reimu every day. Are you a guard or something?”
Again, he refrained from answering. Whether or not Reimu was friendly with youkai, he didn’t want a potential one knowing that she was currently in a weakened state. For various reasons, it would not sit well with him.
The woman detected this steadfastness, and rather than taking aggression, she seemed to think to herself and then show unease.
Speaking to herself, she mumbled “Huh? Could it be that Reimu isn’t well?”
His poker face broke for a moment.
“What’s wrong with her?” she asked, upon seeing the crack.
“She—” he began, but held his tongue. He started thinking about stopping her with violence, but not knowing her capabilities or intent and not being at peak strength meant that would be a very risky move... And despite his desire to protect Reimu, his need for self-preservation couldn’t help but take precedence.
The pink and red girl looked him up and down and said “Wait”. She then stepped toward him and tapped him on the forehead with two fingers. Thinking this bizarre he wanted to step away from her for the reason of “well, this must be dangerous”, but she once more felt utterly unthreatening. The woman spoke again in a level voice, and he felt no queer energies from it or her arm.
“My name is Ib—... Kasen. I am a simple ascetic and that is all. I was human too, once, and now I am simply another kind. I don’t recognize you, and you don’t smell very much like Gensokyo. You’re a human as well, aren’t you? Do you know about hermits?”
He answered smoothly—to his surprise, his heart was calming—“I know about hermits a little, at least in this land’s context. Still, what would a hermit be doing outside of her hermitage?”
Kasen smiled, moved her hand, and patted his shoulder saying “Whatever she wants.”
She left him then, walking straight for the shrine.
The magician’s hackles fell down, and he was concerned she’d again done something to manipulate his perception. Unlike before, he was able to address her without forcing his body to do so, but the woman was eerie in a way he’d never before encountered. He really, completely, did not like that.
“Seriously,” he asked, “what’s your deal?”
Kasen did not stop walking, only casting these words over her shoulder: “I am good-natured, that is all.” And after saying this, she opened the shrine doors and stepped inside.
He was still concerned, standing below the torii and looking where she’d gone. He worried that if he left now, and something did happen, he’d have regrets. But, eventually, after many seconds of staring, he sighed deeply and decided to believe that Reimu would not come to any true harm before her time. That, at least, was something he could have faith in. Itou Gen turned to walk down the stairs again, thinking to speak with his Master about hermits after delivering to her the device she’d asked for.
Night fell in its entirety nearly without incident. Twice youkai met him on his way home – when he was nearing the lake and later flying over it – but they were no matter; had he stayed out later that might not have held true.
He greeted the guard at the Mansion’s gate, flew over the wall, and walked inside. The familiar darkness of his new home fell over him immediately. He felt like sleeping...
Suddenly, his vision went entirely black. As if in karmic retribution, a hat had been shoved onto his head. Rather tired now, he could only make confused noises, wondering what was going on. He ultimately lifted the accessory on his head from over his eyes and saw his younger Mistress floating before him like a joking pixie. Arms behind her back and holding one wrist, she delivered to Gen a simper.
“Welcome home, Gen,” she said.
“I’m back, Mistress,” he answered, plucking the cap from his head by its brim. He looked at it in his hand, saying “This is...” in a quiet voice.
It was a newsboy cap (Breton, far as he knew) made from dark velvet, similar to his coat. On its left side was a large, crescent moon shape, yellow and shining, just like that on his Master’s night-cap. The thin and embroidered belt on it that separated the brim was fit with two buttons of what seemed to be amethyst, and to that (and this object in general) he was rather amazed.
“This couldn’t be a gift, could it, Mistress Flandre?” he asked.
“It’s a gift,” she said, her smile now showing her fangs, “Cut your hair, it’ll look better that way.” With this, she turned from him and flew down one of the impenetrably dark mansion hallways, yelling, “Good night, Gen!”
Mistress Flandre had made him a hat.
He looked at the thing, still only holding it (almost loosely now), and tried to process this event.
Eventually, he gasped with realization. Mistress Flandre had made him a hat: hand-crafted, excellently put together, and with some of the charm of his Master’s sense. Settling from the shock, he understood it to be another gift he didn’t deserve.
Calmly, he placed the hat onto his head, fitting it and looking at the world from under the lip. He liked it. Now he owed this house a little more.
“What are you doing just standing around stupidly at the front door?”
Patchouli Knowledge was approaching from the basement, coffee mug in hand. As was typical, she began their conversation with complaints, following with “The snow wasn’t that bad, what are you doing back so late? Where’s the ocular? Hand it over.”
He fished the useless device he’d gotten from Alice out of an inner pocket and held it out before him. His Master walked over and plucked it from his grasp, inspecting it before a candelabra’s light and drinking from her mug throughout the examination.
Eventually satisfied, she held it a little higher and allowed the loupe to fall into her sleeve. Still drinking, she looked him up and down, squinting at parts of him. Finishing and breathing out she said, “The honorable little sister gave you the hat, did she? It looks good on you.”
“Th-Thanks,” he accepted the compliment, though nervously.
“Good work today.”
He thought that was out of order, but nodded nonetheless, asking her, “What are you planning on doing with the meteorite loupe anyway?”
“I want to use it to look into space, if possible,” she sipped from her mug again and explained “Since it’s connected to space I might be able to scry into the stars with it.”
“Sounds probable. I’d like to see if you can do it, Master.”
“So would I,” she said. Her expression then soured and she turned from him, heading to another part of the mansion (from the direction, it was probably the dining area).
So, he asked, “Is something wrong?” while they walked.
“Sakuya is wrong,” she said. “At least one of you did something right, but she just let that little black-white get away with theft. I asked her why, and she told me she wouldn’t take the books back since Marisa fled and ‘breaking and entering’ is ‘what criminals do, not maids’.” Patchouli glowered and furrowed her brow, stating, “Honestly, that maid is a terrible cat.”
He nodded in agreement, saying “That’s for sure.”
“So? Why were you late?” Master switched the line of conversation again with capricious timing, but used to this he answered without missing a beat.
“After helping Reimu out I also fought her.”
“Hoh?” his Master gave him a sideways glance of interest, and there was a fluttering in his chest. He proudly touched the bill of his new cap and recounted the events.
“I lost against her with the spell card rules, but won against her and Marisa without. Might I also add? I defeated Alice early in the day as well.”
“You’re boasting so much,” she commented.
“I have so much to boast about, come now!” he said, opening his arms wide to show off himself.
“Won without rules, hm...? What tricks did you pull now?”
“You have to assume I pulled tricks?” he asked, disappointedly dropping his hands.
“I guess it’s not likely someone like me could win against those giants... Yes, there were tricks. I was mixing water and light again.”
“That’s been working out for you.”
“Yes. Near the end I also dabbled with the moon, and throughout I got more practical experience using magical fuel.”
“Probably for the best with someone like you. Anyway, ‘good boy’; is that what you wanted to hear?”
He nodded and confirmed, “It’s what I wanted to hear.”
“Then there you have it. Now we’re going to the kitchen; make me a snack and I may pet your head.”
He looked at his closed-eyes and soft-smiling Master and shook his head a little, telling her, “I don’t need my head pet for every good deed.”
“But you’ll want that, will you?”
Rubbing his neck and rotating his shoulders, he replied “I’ve a lot of loyalty, Master, but please don’t think of me too much like a dog.”
“Shake,” she lightly commanded, holding up her palm.
He put his in hers and huffed, and walked with her hand-in hand-to the dining room.
Later, after tending to the wound on his hand (which had already mostly closed) and making sure his clothes didn’t smell at all of the vomit he’d cleaned earlier, he went to be by himself.
Into the dead hours, he sat outside on one of Scarlet Devil Mansion’s towers, stomach full from dinner and head full from thoughts and encounters. In the past hour with his Master he’d learned about Taoism, about “gaps” (how Reimu had moved so quickly from place to place—she was creating strange spaces in reality to slip through), and about potions. They’d talk more tomorrow. She was tired.
At this, the end of one of those clearly significant days, he now wondered if anything important could be taken from it, and more vitally if he’d learned anything from it.
At the very least, he had completely realized he possessed arrogance, and that was dangerous. However, sitting there in Gensokyo and atop the home of one of its most powerful and terrifying residents with gentle night winds accompanying his solitude, he thought it was hard to not be arrogant. While he often felt he was given too much, there were things he knew he deserved. There it was: arrogance.
A voice came up behind him, and it was obvious: Komachi’s.
“Miss Komachi...” he said, “This really has been quite the day.” He rubbed the corners his eyes and top of his nose bridge and explained, “It’s been a while since I’ve had one like this, I’ve been studious and quiet for a while. Not much to say, you know?” He looked back at her, seeing her standing tall and imposing in the light of the moon. He asked, “How about you? Winter’s a time of death, right?”
“For plants, yeah...” she came to sit beside him, “but unless the place is really backwater, winter’s not too different from... say, summer. Extreme highs, extreme lows; either kill people, and... Well, things aren’t that busy, I’ll say.”
She looked at him now, pushing out her lower lip. She chewed it a bit and answered his first question, “I’m great, though, thanks for asking.”
“I met a hermit today,” he replied. She was not happy about that.
“Whaaat? Are you thinking about becoming some awful, gross, terrible hermit-magician? That’s... That’s just too much of an affront.” She looked very disappointed in him.
“Rest assured, shinigami: my answer from last month, and the last month, and before that even all the way to when we met is still the same.”
“I gotta make sure it stays that way,” she said.
“You don’t,” he mentioned, “I’m an outsider. I don’t fall in your jurisdiction.”
“Call me whatever, Gen, but don’t forget to call me ‘usually right’,” saying this, she poked him in his nose, and he only blankly stared. “My assertion from the month before and all that jazz is also still the same: you’re gonna become a magician eventually. Like, a real one, undying and everything. Like a lich, Gen.”
“That would be Taoist: shikaisen,” he clarified.
Komachi reeled back and looked upset, reminding him “Again, hermit-mages: abominations. Don’t even talk to me about something that heretical.”
“I’m not, I’m not,” he insisted, turning to look at the moon.
“Well you do look pretty mopey though,” she observed, resting her arms on her knees and her cheek on her arms to look at him. “What happened to Itou Gen today?” she asked.
Like before he opened his arms to show himself, announcing “Itou Gen realized he’s a big-headed fool. Well, more clearly at least.”
Komachi shrugged dismissively. “I mean, I saw you accept a fight with a Konpaku when you were actually drunk and disabled, and, face it, impaired judgements are still yours.”
He raised an eyebrow at her and asked, “‘Konpaku’?”
Komachi blinked, and then looked to the moon as he had, whispering, “Whoo—ps, she didn’t want me saying that did she?”
“Konpaku... Youmu, huh?” he clarified, returning his gaze to the lunar sphere.
“She’s a gardener for the Saigyouji... I dunno what she was doing outside the Netherworld, but since she was trying to be cagey: probably bad.”
She was probably right.
Gen pushed gently at his closed eyes and said, “Well, yeah, basically I’m too full of myself. I feel like I seriously might end up in a Muenzuka corpse pile at this rate.”
“You know, Gen, I’ve been watching you for a while...” Komachi began, looking at him again and coaxing his returning glance, “... and, I’m good at reading people, right? You, Gen, should be proud of yourself.”
“Huh?” He was confused; only his Master ever told him to be proud.
“At this point, you’re probably getting youkai telling you not to be uppity or play at being powerful, but that’s just ‘cause it’s not natural. Even when you become someone as strong as the Shrine Maiden or her friend, youkai will insist that you have no right being that way.
Listen up: you’re supposed to be just a scared little human, and you especially are just supposed to be an easy meal. You piss youkai off, and while that’s dangerous, that’s something you should be proud of. You’re pissing them off ‘cause they know you’ve actually gotten strong, and it’s annoying.”
Komachi clapped him on his shoulder and gave him a light shake, “Itou Gen’s a tough guy, and that’s just a mess. You might want to stay cowardly in front of really strong, really cruel types, but a lack of confidence is just as likely to kill you sometimes you know?” Komachi struck him on his back and stared up at the stars again, saying, “And I don’t want you to die before you’ve come under my wing. I’d hate that.”
Komachi had told him: she would know if he was going to die, and though she wouldn’t tell him when he got the feeling from her that it wouldn’t be soon.
While he felt always “separate” from the shinigami, he also always got the sense that she loved living things. When she said what she’d said just now, he knew that she meant it.
“Thanks for the advice,” he told her, “but I won’t become a magician.”
“And Lady Eiki won’t give lectures. Right.” She gave a laugh and ruffled his hair. Thinking, My hair? he opened one eye and noticed she had his cap in her left hand. She put it on and said, “Nice hat. Does it look good on me?”
“Sure, Komachi,” he replied, smiling wryly.
While they stargazed, he thought things over again. Maybe it was alright to be proud, but to be arrogant as well? Maybe not...
Though irritating youkai with his moxie was pretty appealing.
The days would go by and he would find more power...
What the hell? he thought. Why not enjoy all of it?
--End of Chapter 8: The Boldly Timid Apprentice--
The days would go by...
And most frequently, he’d see
 Mistress Remilia
 Mistress Flandre
 Miss Sakuya
 Miss Youmu
 Aomu, the kappa
 Miss Reimu
The Princess is not being counted because you are her steadfast pal. Similarly, every day is a day with Master.
Previous votes may have influence on this.
Chapter's done! You were right to avoid going out at night, I wouldn't have been nice about it.
I don't understand the appeal of Youmu. Surely, you don't plan to cheat on Lady Flandre, right?
[x] Miss Flandre
She's lovely, a perfect sparring partner and we owe her from before.
A fellow Magician of which we should learn more- and I don't mean just magic. It was a though choice between her and Marisa.
I lied, I can't choose. Nobody can break the Magician triumvirate! ...we need to learn more about foci anyway.
 Miss Remilia
Surely, you wouldn't ignore our second biggest benefactor? Or maybe we should make her somewhat jealous of the attention her sister is getting? Distance makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say. Anon, you clever bastard.
[X] Marisa - We have a promise to keep in some respect, and she's good to learn from [X] Alice - We used puppetry and we have some respect to give with/from it [x] Meiling - Gen can't neglect training body and learning about Qi could bring insight. [x] Sakura - We've neglected spending time with our fellow human
I like Youmu as she's written but I'm really not compelled to see her at all, I want Gen to follow through on his agreement but outside of that, eh.
File 15245239362.png - (203.11KB, 597x423, when the miko isn't at the shrine.png)
1|2|3|4 #|#|#|# [xxxxxxxxxxxxx] Miss Youmu 7|3|3|0 [xxxxxxxxxxx] Aomu, the kappa 1|4|2|4 [xxxxxxxxx] Mistress Remilia 5|1|2|3 [?xxxxxxxxx] Marisa 1|0|4|2--1? [xxxxxxxx] Mistress Flandre 3|4|0|1 [?xxxxxxx] Alice 0|3|4|0--1? [xxxxxx] Miss Sakuya 0|2|0|4 [xxxxx] Miss Reimu 0|1|0|4 [xxx] Meiling 1|0|2|0
(the numbers are the amount of votes each got at first, second, third, or fourth place; doesn't really matter, as I imagine not all of you ordered your vote) I may start writing today, or I may not. I'll say if I start. Since quieter folk seem to have rolled out I may also just wait and see if there are any others.
Regarding interpretation I gave Remi a vote and put a "floating vote" between Marisa and Alice based on >>66241 HOWEVER if you interpret it as a vote for Alice and Marisa and explicitly no vote for Remi (I mean, it does look like that and anon is talking about neglecting her), then it's quite different
[xxxxxxxxxxxxx] Miss Youmu [xxxxxxxxxxx] Aomu, the kappa [xxxxxxxxxx] Marisa [xxxxxxxx] Mistress Remilia [xxxxxxxx] Mistress Flandre [xxxxxxxx] Alice [xxxxxx] Miss Sakuya [xxxxx] Miss Reimu [xxx] Meiling
A three-way tie for fourth. I may accept that as 6 choices, then, but if I'm taking older votes into account due to neglecting old Remilia in the past I'd give fourth place to her, followed by Alice (who we've otherwise not seen much), followed by Flandre (who is in a high place in our hearts due to recent events).
Check me on vote numbers for sure. I am only one negligent man.
[x] Mistress Remilia [x] Marisa [X] Reimu [X] Miss Sakuya
Here we go, all the people we've been neglecting. We totally need to spend more time with Marisa and Remi, and reimu, and sakuya, but mostly the first two. the others'd be kinda nice, but this is what we need.
 Miss Youmu xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [15/14] Mistress Remilia xxxxxxxxxxxxxx-  Aomu, the kappa xxxxxxxxxxxxx  Mistress Flandre xxxxxxxxxxxxx [12/11] Marisa ?xxxxxxxxxxx  Miss Sakuya xxxxxxxxx [9/8] Alice ?xxxxxxxx  Miss Reimu xxxxxxx  Meiling xxxx
or, no extra Remi vote
 Miss Youmu xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  Mistress Remilia xxxxxxxxxxxxxx  Aomu, the kappa xxxxxxxxxxxxx  Mistress Flandre xxxxxxxxxxxxx  Marisa xxxxxxxxxxxx  Miss Sakuya xxxxxxxxx  Alice xxxxxxxxx  Miss Reimu xxxxxxx  Meiling xxxx
And I have begun writing with this in mind. Not sure how long I'll be cause I've got some travel stuff going on soon and a vacation, but I'm writing (oh god I hate plane rides please let me survive again fuck). The choice may not have immediately visible results, but its impact will be obvious. If there are any other folks hiding about they can feel free to vote, but it probably won't affect the outcome of the next update.
Now feeling more confident, he would visit his Mistress more often.
The first time he went to join her for morning tea she gave him a knowing look, saying “Gen, this Scarlet Devil would say that you’ve taken to Gensokyo just magnificently.”
At the time, the daring Remilia Scarlet was sat near a balcony in broad daylight, fearless of the Sun’s rays so close and threatening. She told him, gesturing to sit across from her, “I think that boldness is a quality all in this house should possess. A servant should be prideful, and a pet should refuse its chains.” She huffed and smirked and fluttered her wings. Gen sat down, happy to see her in good spirits.
He answered her, saying “I am thankful, Mistress Remilia, for the evaluation. I take your words to heart, and you did tell me to be showy.”
“Did I?” she asked, honestly.
He took his teacup and brought it up, admitting “Specifically, you told me to make a show of effort whenever I went out.”
“Then I haven’t said to be showy, right?”
“I learn best through imitation, my Mistress,” he said, and displayed an intrepid and refreshing look.
The Scarlet Devil chuckled through her nose and remarked “Goodness. You are adorable, you know that?”
“Many in the mansion seem to agree,” he answered, drinking.
Although he would sometimes find her and chat before, he had neglected visiting his Mistress since his entering Patchouli’s tutelage. He had not felt adequate. When first meeting Remilia Scarlet, the immediate impression he had of her was that, despite looking like a young girl, she was a woman above, and it was not an impression he had gotten from any other soul in Gensokyo: not his Master, not Yuuka, not Reimu, no one else. His Mistress was, in a word, noble, and her resolute majesty humbled him. There were many things he felt he didn’t deserve in this land of fantasy, and his Mistress’s favor, let alone her attention, had been something he considered particularly beyond his place. He still felt he hadn’t earned her kindness, but he thought he would try, and Remilia seemed to know and find that cute in him.
And so February went by until it came to be March.
One day, on the outskirts of the Mountain, in a place known this time of year for unnerving dried stalks of once beautiful flowers standing everywhere, he convened with the little gardener. The two of them saw winter’s manifestation before their eyes, crystalized in flakes of snow, glowing and blue enough to be distinct amidst all the white. When either reached out to touch this gathered essence of the season, it tied to them, flying around them whimsically. They could put and push “winter” however they wished, and when they did, burnt autumn color returned to a few of the resting sunflowers surrounding them, while piles of snow and the steady winds grew colder with its application.
“It works!” shouted Youmu enthusiastically. To be exact, it now consistently worked. It also wasn’t exactly magic... but rather a peculiar extension of belief. If one thought enough of the idea of a season, they could see it formed in pieces of a season. And, so long as one person made a “wish” for this essence, anyone could collect it. Winter was manifested as blue snowflakes; according to what he’d researched, spring manifested as pink cherry blossoms, summer as green leaves, and autumn as red ones instead. It was miraculous, strange, and to Gen, subtly terrifying.
Sitting above her on a boulder cleared of snow, he watched Youmu with his brow furrowed. After some time finding her elation cute, his eyes turned to the winter sapphire orbiting him now, and he returned it to the world, uncomfortable with what he’d done.
Youmu sought to gather spring.
To what end, he didn’t know, but he’d given her the means to do it, even if it was as simple as passing on the knowledge of something of which anyone in Gensokyo was capable.
However, it was obviously unnatural to steal a season. He had no doubt that Youmu’s movements in the coming months, given how straightforward and unyielding she was, would be outright disastrous. Spring was meant to come, and if it was taken, the season before it (winter) would remain instead. He knew this, but couldn’t bring himself to even suggest that she stop. Partly because he knew she would never listen, but he had to admit that mostly it was since he was worried for himself. Making a plaything of Scarlet Devil Mansion in jest as a present to his benefactor was one thing; being complicit with a full-blown Incident that would throw Gensokyo into an overlong if not endless cold season, and he was an outsider? There was no joke in saying this: Reimu would kill him. He imagined playing straight would be the best thing he could do, not trifling in any plans lest Youmu spitefully confess his involvement.
So he hid his thoughts from the girl, saying “Indeed, it looks like your mistress won’t be disappointed.”
And she answered “Yes,” with a fresh and spirited nod, “I must admit: I, too, can’t wait to see the Saigyou Ayakashi in full bloom.”
“Saig... Wait, what?” he muttered. He spoke under his breath, but Youmu heard his worry, and realized she had made a slip of the tongue.
“Ah, no!” she said, and she was flustered, waving her hands in denial, “Never mind that! Never mind!”
Gen minded it, looking askance at an orange sunflower drying as it was slowly reclaimed by the current season (current, at least, until near March’s end), losing its color. ‘Ayakashi’ as in... youkai!? he wondered, his eyebrow raising. And, “in bloom”... a youkai tree? Haven’t I heard of that before?
Youmu was at his ankles, trying desperately to derail his train of thought. He looked down at her, fingers laced under his nose, wincing. Yuuka spoke of them... And the books on Muenzuka...
Saigyou Ayakashi... A youkai tree that needs the entirety of spring to bloom? That’s...
He broke out into a cold sweat. The consequences of his assistance may have been even worse than he had anticipated.
And it came to be April.
While it was a month somewhat known for blurring the line in the transition of seasons, he noticed as weeks passed that rain wasn’t falling, and so the snow was never melted away. For now, everyone discussing it believed the weather to just to be vaguely unusual, but he knew the truth of it. He hadn’t seen Youmu since March had ended and she had vowed to grant her master’s wishes.
He had also not researched the Saigyou Ayakashi.
On a day during snowfall, he finally decided to remedy this ignorance of his that had been born of apprehension. In the Library, he stood in an aisle holding a record of Gensokyo’s history in his hands, or at least a record of as much as was known. He studied the Saigyou Ayakashi (a youkai cherry tree) and the garden of Hakugyokurou where it stood—a mansion tied to the Saigyouji estate since ancient times. They were all sad names speaking of death and the world beyond. His discoveries did not bode well.
While he read, the younger Scarlet wandered to him.
“Lady Flandre,” he noted, smoothly masking the dread which revelation had brought him and speaking as if everything was usual, “did you need something from myself or the Library?”
“Eh, no,” she said plainly. The vampire perused the spines of books as she stepped in his direction. She was wearing a disinterested expression as she came, one that told him she was only spending time.
He returned to the history.
“So—” came her sudden whisper, making him shiver, “—records of the Netherworld, huh?” She had snuck fast to his side, and was now hovering there with her hand on his shoulder and her mouth close to his ear. He flinched and moved away from her, whereupon she let him go and looked at him happily—happily, but also with a touch of wickedness.
He tugged down his hat to cut off her gaze, and answered with “Just curiosity, Mistress Flandre.” In response, she played with the back of his hair, teasing it with her palm facing upward. It was now only halfway down his neck after she’d asked for it cut, and he found she liked to do this sometimes since then. He blushed, finding the act a test for his heart in two ways: charming and frightening (again, he hadn’t noticed her movement). He didn’t move from her, allowing the ancient child to explore his tresses at her leisure, and grow increasingly provocative in her probing.
“I’ve been wondering: ‘what’s the second human up to lately?’” she mentioned, speaking softly, touch nearing the back of his ear.
He squinted, looking aside as if to look at her, and said, “I suppose I can’t just tell you ‘nothing’, Mistress?”
She replied “I don’t usually pay attention to what’s going on, but whenever I’ve spotted you around over the last year or whatever you have a look like, ‘ragh, ragh, I’m mad! I’m mad, you know!?’”
Trying to ignore her fingers, he closed the book in his left hand and posed pensively, his right hand rested over his nose while he mumbled. “Oh, that’s a problem.”
Flandre spoke flatly, saying “It’s annoying,” before dragging her hand down to his shoulder, and using it to pivot herself before him. He looked into her eyes, attempting to remain calm. She looked at him critically, and he spoke up.
“By the way,” he said, “it’s only been a few months.”
Flandre covered her face with both hands and bowed her head, fed up.
“At least, I’m pretty sure it has,” he continued, “I could’ve been scowling before I guess—”
“Shut up,” she spoke through a parting in her palms, and peeked at him from between her fingers, her eyes glowing red. “Tell me what you’ve been getting up to, already.”
“Hmmm...” He wasn’t sure if he should. Then again, the younger Mistress might have killed him for his refusal. “I would appreciate if you kept it to yourself but, I’ve been causing trouble by helping somebody out, and I’m afraid it’s gotten out of hand.”
“Too vague!” she moaned, tugging at her air and wiggling above the ground. “Just say what’s what!”
“Lady Flandre, I have to admit that’s irritating to hear from someone who speaks of their power of destruction as the moving and crushing of things’ ‘eyes’.”
She let go of her head and stared at him blankly to say, “Do you want me to take your ‘eye’, and then you’ll understand it better?”
“No thank you.”
Flandre stepped to the floor and put her hands on her hips, keeping only a toe to the ground and looking at the hem of her skirt move lightly from her motions, but otherwise remain still in the idle air of the underground. She said, “Then, talk,” and he stared at the pale skin of her legs a little too long before answering.
“Alright,” he replied with a shake of his head, pulling his gaze from her smooth and stimulating legs back to her face that he found beguiling, “I’ve helped a gardener from the Netherworld steal spring so that she may bring to life a youkai tree that compels people to sleep beneath it, at which point it kills them by draining their lives into its roots.”
Flandre was now holding her own contemplative pose, grasping her elbow and keeping her free hand thoughtfully under her chin. She said, “Ohh, hohh, is that right?” with very little concern in her voice.
“What’s more,” he said, ignoring her dismissiveness, “as that person is stealing spring, winter can’t be replaced; hence the recent weather, and lack of precipitation.”
“Woww~,” the young Mistress remarked, “you’ve really screwed up.”
“I intend to do something about it,” he promised, and though he loved to look at her, he returned to his book.
“O—” she paused, “kayy, I think I’ll keep your secret safe with me, Gen.” She revealed this while touching over her chest with her fingertips and bowing slightly, wearing a gentle and polite face. He looked at her, her eyes closed and brows indicating satisfaction, and was pleasantly surprised.
“Thank you... Mistress Flandre. Honestly, I mean that.” And he confessed, “I’ve truthfully been very scared lately.”
“I won’t tell a soul,” she assured him, opening her eyes just a little and showing him a smirk, “because you cut your hair.”
The Girl of Knowledge and Shade sat in one of the rare windowed-rooms of Scarlet Devil Mansion, warming herself with tea and looking at the snowfall outside with some concern.
With the seasons out of order, the weeks had become so as well, and naturally the days they were made of too. If it kept up, her mastery over the Eastern elements would be very difficult to maintain. Spirits, youkai, plants, animals, and humans alike would all change from this, also, and not at all for the better. She drank more from her cup, and turned to a book she was reading.
“This has really become too much of a bother,” she murmured.
And she earnestly felt that way. The Maid would have to take care of it, if the Shrine Maiden didn’t first.
Outside in the too-frozen lands, things that were to be revived were now slowly dying, too cold and asleep too long. A young magician acted as the older one, in her forest home watching the weather and remarking on it.
“It's ordinary, but I don't hate spring.”
Although magic always kept her and her house warm, she had become anxious. It was the time for flower-viewings, and blizzards had become a normalcy in springtime. “With a storm like this, I can’t be visitin’ the shrine,” she bemoaned, thinking This sucks.
And at the Shrine, its maiden bemoaned the cold. For a full week the weather hadn’t broken, and at this time of year she’d grown utterly tired of it. Talking to herself while rubbing her upper arms for heat she mumbled, “The cherry blossoms should have bloomed by now. Why is there so much snow this year?”
She whined, shook her head, and set off, knowing this to be an Incident.
And from some cave blocked by a great stone, smoke began to rise.
An apprentice, outfitted for winter weather (now with boots), stood outside Scarlet Devil Mansion’s gate. He’d never seen a winter last past March, and to think he’d see all this snow in May was absurd. He lifted his hand and caught a cherry blossom petal before it could be completely taken by the wind. It shined between his fingertips dully.
“Like I thought...” he said, looking into the snowstorm around the lake ahead. Here and there he could see cherry blossoms scattering. Something unnatural had taken spring away, and he knew exactly what it was.
“Are you going to follow after Miss Sakuya, Sir Gen?” the guard asked behind him, also completely covered in winter-repelling gear.
He looked back at her and answered, “Perhaps. I’ve got a few options, and Master is fine with me going out.”
“Be safe if you do,” she wished. He thought it was funny having a man-eater tell him such a thing.
He let the flower petal go and, as he’d expected, it began to follow around him in a swirl. Without a doubt, this Incident had been caused by Konpaku Youmu, and it was his tutelage that had helped it along. Surely, he had to give some aid to those who would be going to resolve it by now.
He didn’t know where or how to find her. Looking into the sky, he decided...
 to follow after the other human of the Mansion.
 to consult with Wakasagihime about the Incident.
 to ask Aomu about the Incident.
 to make his own way to Youmu.
You'll notice a lacka kappa. The plan is vignettes, hope it goes swell
[x] to follow after the other human of the Mansion.
We absolutely should not attempt to B-line our way to Youmu, if only to avoid getting there first and then Reimu sees us as definite incident instigators. I can't imagine us getting there now will in any way stop what's going to happen directly.
This gives us a good reason to go out (it's affecting the mansion), there is safety in numbers and Sakuya's discretion can likely be trusted. We also should spend some time with her in general -- we're both servants of the Mansion and helping resolve this issue on behalf of it's residents should make for a good bonding experience.
[x] to ask Aomu about the Incident. As much as I would love to check up on Waggysaggy, having a Kappa help us out might be more relevant for keeping the tree down if it fully awakens. After all, it shouldn't be able to bring death to machines right?
Another note: Taking responsibility is fine, dealing with something like THAT without being prepared is suicide.
I really wanna vote for "stay home and pretend nothing happened." Youmu probably won't sell a buddy out. Reimu will in all likelihood solve the problem. Nobody else is even aware of the guy's involvement. What merit is there to getting involved?
So eager to get into trouble, really. But since I lack the option...
[x] to make his own way to Youmu. My shenanigans radar senses we'll end up fighting alongside Youmu with this choice, and I'm okay with that.
[x] to follow after the other human of the Mansion.
I don't really see any point in asking Wakasagihime or Aomu about the incident. If we want to help then it would be best to simply tag along with the heroines. Despite the likelihood of it only causing trouble, I'd also be fine with going to Youmu since I think it would be entertaining to see what happens.
[x] to follow after the other human of the Mansion.
Considering that Gen hasn't gone to the Netherworld under his own power, letting Sakuya take the lead might be a good idea. We probably shouldn't try to catch up with her, to keep Youmu from blurting out something... undesired upon seeing us.
Besides, our Silver Slasher won't get to be a main character very often, y'know? Let's let her victories be hers alone.
[X] to ask Aomu about the Incident, first. Then he’d determine how to act.
“I know something about you that Patchouli doesn’t,” said his Mistress, chuckling with her knowledge.
At the time, Gen sweat at these words and held his teacup to his lips too long, worrying with a wincing face. The Devil then smiled and said, “Oh,” next touching her tongue to fang and saying, “several somethings, are there?”
Unable to drink, he brought his cup back down and wore a miserable expression.
“Our Gen is keeping secrets,” she continued, dragging her finger around the rim of her own cup while looking to the sun-filled sky askance, “well, I only know one of them.”
“May I ask which, Mistress?” he ventured, attempting to recompose himself.
“You may,” she allowed, nose in the air and eyes closed.
He looked across the table, placing his hands on it with one over the other in a vague showing of politeness. He continued to wait, for eight seconds, which was a short but thoroughly uncomfortable amount of time. Remilia let one eye slightly open to look upon him, and she grimaced. Upon seeing this, he didn’t wait for her to scold him and instead hurriedly asked, “Which of my secrets do you know, Mistress Remilia?”
Instantly, her eye was lid and her pride returned. She folded her arms and began to reveal her information, “Yes, you see, I know that you have been consorting with some kappa.”
Gen had braced for the impact of the revelation, but instead of like a truck, this hit like a feather. He opened his mouth and out of it came “Ah, that...” shortly followed with, “is something Master Patchouli knows already.”
Remilia kept her arms folded and her posture proud, but her face began to twitch with some confusion. Eventually enough cracks in her composure broke her mask of conceit, and she met Gen’s eyes with hers glaring. “Ehm, what?” she asked. “Come again?”
“Master already knows,” he repeated. “Her name is Kawaiwaya Aomu, and we met last year. The day we did, I told Master about it.”
He then jumped in his chair, startled that Remilia had slammed her hands to the table and suddenly stood, her wings unfolding to their full and intimidating three meter span. She cried “What!?” in disbelief, and he sank into his seat; despite her being of a smaller stature overall compared to him, even sat there, he felt dwarfed before her.
He ground his molars together and managed to calm himself enough to answer her, saying “Yes, though I’m wondering how you found this out, Mistress.”
Remilia was glowering; he could feel it although he didn’t meet her eyes. Soon, however, he smelled a strange kind of burning and looked toward the balcony to see his Mistress’s wingtip smoking on fire in the sunlight, prompting him to show her concern.
Remilia acted as if this was harmless and continued looking at him irritated. Eventually she took her hands from the table and brought them to her hips, making her wings small again and looking at the left appendage: that which had been struck by light. She flapped both her wings once, strongly, making a little gust inside and killing the flame, but not before casting a smoldering piece of herself forward. The vampire caught this snapping and hot, leathery bone in her hand before it could fly across the table and looked at it with indifference. It quickly faded to ash in her palm, and she lifted the newly formed black pile toward the outdoors to let the wind take it fully there. By the time he looked again, Gen saw that her damaged wing had already restored itself completely.
“Haaa...” his Mistress sighed, admitting with her fingertips touching her face: “I embarrassed myself.”
Twice, he thought, though he still was shrunken before her.
“Anyway, I’d noticed your heading to Youkai Mountain more and more, heedless I might add,” spoke Remilia, “and once, then twice, I decided to tail you.”
You had!? he commented to himself. He’d never noticed her at all, despite his Mistress’s presence typically being incredibly overwhelming and hard to ignore.
The Scarlet Devil pulled her chair back in and sat again while she explained her findings, “Although your dealings are... allegedly known to Patchy, I saw that you and this kappa wanted to keep quiet and clandestine. Why is it that you never go to where the rest of the kappa nest?”
Gen now flew outside Youkai Mountain, looking it over and wondering where he should enter. Having wasted some time disposing of hostile fairies on his way here, and time being limited, he quickly turned his eyes toward where he knew a certain gorge between the Mountain and Forest lay. He had until now avoided the Genbu Ravine on Aomu’s advice; to the kappa’s credit, her first thoughts upon learning of his humanity and outsider status were dedicated to fretting over his safety. If she’d felt betrayed, she’d never told it.
His explanation to his Mistress over their secrecy was an obvious one on his part: it was dangerous for him to travel to the kappas’ lair. As for Aomu...
“Should be around here, right...?” he asked the thrashing air, gazing beyond a thinning canopy. Before he moved forward, Gen looked back to Misty Lake and the storm brewing over it. The winds had lowered since a bit ago, and he figured the weather would break soon. He returned his scrutiny to the trees and looked specifically at their trunks. Aomu had told him, “If you really want to find me, and we haven’t set up a meeting like it’s a total emergency or something, and it’s very serious, right? Look for the tree marked with a cave on the trunk beside the Genbu Ravine, on the side of it closer to the Forest. That’s around where I live.” Finding an arc carving in one of the tree’s trunks, and only one, he made to push through the woods, recalling his engineer friend had also requested “But, don’t do that please. Just don’t.”
He did that, and came across the cave-dotted and hexagon-jointed Genbu Ravine, flying above it. Snow covered it in a way more fantastic than he’d ever prior seen in Gensokyo, and as usual he was compelled to float and admire. Towers, steps, and outcroppings of columnar basalt shaped this canyon, along with a healthy waterfall and river. The waterfall had frozen, though, and he saw that a few blue-clothed and backpacked dwarves were crowding it and discussing before a figure that seemed to have been frozen within it. He thanked whatever that distraction was for allowing him the moment to appreciate the scene, and carefully descended while hiding best he could in this rather open space. The snow died down.
“Phew,” he sighed and made a soft landing on a large stone, touching the ground with his gloved hand. It was slippery... he was thankful to be wearing boots, now. Ice was everywhere here.
Now, he thought how to get Aomu’s attention... assuming she’s even here.
While pondering, he heard a harsh whisper of “Gen!?” and looked to his left to see a familiar cap atop a more familiar dark head of hair. Aomu was poking up from the river and looking at him disbelieving. He raised his hand in greeting and smiled (though she couldn’t see that behind his scarf), offering a “Yo”.
The girl leapt up to shore, casting cold water everywhere, and she rushed for him. He recoiled and stood, and she pushed her wet hands into his zipper, eliciting from him a “Hey!” which was ignored. She hastily shoved him to a wall of gray and, when he was flat(-ish) against it, she tapped that wall with her fingers quickly and specifically. Then, she slammed her fist down on a remembered part of it. The whole thing gave way then, and he fell backward into what seemed to be a secret passage, Aomu landing atop him with a pained expression.
His reaction of “Off me, dwarf!” was quick, and he grabbed her at her shoulders only to find her clinging, letting the river’s water seep into his clothes.
As the rock doors of the cave closed, she sighed sweetly, commenting “Ahh, warm~... This is nice.”
He growled, and managed to detach the youkai and put her to the floor at his right. He sat up annoyed, and she spat a stream of water into his face.
“Damn it!” he shouted, picking up a dry part of his scarf and quickly wiping his eyes and nose. He heard her complaints.
“What are you doing here!? Didn’t I tell you!? It’s dangerous! Dan-ger-ous! And think about my reputation, idiot! I told you that, too! They’ll say I’m pathetic, keeping a human pet like a cat! And it’s in the middle of an Incident, too—What are you thinking!? Agh, the fairies, the mountain youkai, the others: everyone’s agitated! Aaagh, what a mess!”
He kept his scarf at his mouth, watching the little kappa frantically wave through her complaints and regularly grab at her hat in frustration and anxiety. When she pulled a cucumber out her pocket, bit into it, and began worriedly chewing, he spoke up.
“Speaking of the Incident,” he said, “is there anything you know about it? Anything in particular that you can tell me?”
“Whuff?” she asked with her mouth full of green. “Reary, Gen? Why wouf I know anyfing? The kappa didn’ shtart thish.”
“You’re the closest tie I have to the Mountain,” he explained, “so I thought you might know about any suspicious youkai who could’ve started this.”
Aomu continued to munch her stress away, sitting on her knees and looking at the crazy human whom she had befriended as if he were crazy. She swallowed another piece and answered, “We all suspected this one yuki-onna who was really excited, but the Shrine Maiden kicked her butt a little while ago and winter’s still here.”
“Huh...” he muttered, taking his scarf from his lips and unwrapping it as well. He opened his coat and took a silvery vial out from the lining, opening it and dripping a little out to the earth. With a few words, he called the concoction to spark, and created a little ball of flame. He put this between himself and Aomu, and the two of them dried, Aomu looking like a small chipmunk as she neared it and sat satisfied.
After his and her shivering had largely subsided, he asked her “Have the kappa looked into this Incident beyond that? Or are you all leaving it to Miss Reimu?”
Aomu gulped and seemed to focus on taking bits of cucumber from her teeth. Then, she answered: “We figured out that it’s not like spring isn’t here, it’s that most of spring is being actively taken away.”
The kappa stood up and started to walk into the cave, saying “It’s pretty much... mysticism... hooey... a natural phenomenon, not really scientific.” Gen watched her pull a remote from one of her pockets and begin to push down buttons on it, turning on lamps with oddly-shaped, twisting bulbs. These lamps illuminated mysterious, inelegant contraptions here and there in the cave, which he gave only brief attention having seen so many of Aomu’s inventions already. Eventually, Aomu also turned on what seemed to be a shimmering monitor. She tapped its screen with a knuckle and ripples were produced on it. She commented, “Kako made this thing, and we’ve all been using it. It’s a map of Gensokyo, and it works so long as the weather isn’t super dry.”
Gen followed after her, taking his fire with him and holding it a little from his stomach, still hoping he could dry himself. Aomu fiddled with two knobs below the monitor, staring into the black and glittering machine, and Gen raised his eyebrow. He noticed she had a cattail in her mouth, and wondered where she’d gotten it.
“Hm, just about... like this... See,” finished with her adjustments, Aomu glanced up at him and twizzled the stalk in her mouth before explaining, “we managed to trace ‘spring’, or the pieces of it, as cherry blossoms, pollens, and... hrmmrrm... ‘freshness’, I guess.”
He looked into the screen. On its black surface was what looked to be weather patterns, marked white and, he thought, likely signifying snow. However there were pink dots throughout as well. He didn’t know what science was behind this machine of theirs, but the kappa seemed to have somehow tracked down the missing season.
“Where are we on this?” he asked. In response, Aomu clicked something on the inner strap of her backpack and a comical, Inspector Gadget-esque robotic arm came out of her “shell”, complete with a cartoonish gloved white hand. She used it to point at the center of the screen and said, “The center of course!” He supposed she couldn’t reach. Now that he thought about it, he’d never seen her or any other kappa fly...
With the monitor’s purpose in mind, he looked over the map. Thinking, he came up with one more question—one that was sincere, not veiled by truth’s omission in a gambit for trust: “I imagine you all have tried to notice where these petals and pollen and freshness are being taken? You’ve had it longer, I can’t tell from just looking for this short amount of time.”
“Uh, y-yes and no—put, put out the fire, Gen!” she stammered, and he blinked at her, not putting out the fire. She glared, pushing the cattail in her mouth up before snapping her fingers and causing water to spout from a wall and douse his magic. “Not so close to the machines!” she demanded, “I don’t want people asking what I was doing playing with fire instead of water.”
“Sorry, Little Aomu, but you did soa—tch, hey.” He was interrupted by her spreading her arms and hugging him around his waist. She sighed again, pleased with his temperature. Gen wore a frown, looking off to his side while she squeezed him. She was still damp.
“Haaa...” the youkai breathed, nuzzling him. “Really, humans are always so hot.”
“Keep your hands from my rear,” he ordered.
“Jeez, Gen, I wouldn’t!” she snapped, but did not move her hands. She spoke beside his stomach, and sometimes into it when trying to heat her nose: “Anyway we figured out that spring is being taken out of Gensokyo, we just don’t know where. There are a lot of potential wheres.”
He leaned forward and folded his hands atop the kappa’s head, making her squeak but not remove herself.
“Where” would be the Netherworld... But how do I get there? That’s what I was hoping to find out... He stared into the monitor, seeing the spring it marked disappear at the screen’s edges. I’ve tried reaching the Netherworld from the Road of Liminality before, but I only ever can find the Sanzu River.
“Aomu,” he addressed her, “could this invention or something like it become more accurate outside the canyon?”
“Yeah,” she answered into his stomach, making him flinch to the ticklish sensation, “Or it’s more like, if we went out to some of the suspected areas we could find the portal or gate that would lead us to the offending world, but, you know, heh heh...”
He looked down at her and asked, “What? I don’t know what.”
“It’s scary, of course,” she said, hugging him tighter before picking up her head to look at him, causing his arms to fall behind her neck, “Just leave it to the Shrine Maiden. What do y’even care, Gen? You’re no Incident resolver.”
“Well...” he trailed off, looking into her sapphire eyes while considering if honesty would work out here.
In the past few months in particular, Aomu had proven to him repeatedly that she could be trusted, but – like the initial wariness which had kept him from amicability with the mermaid Wakasagihime – that Aomu was a kappa was not something he could easily overcome. He did, as a matter of fact, trust her. He enjoyed her company and on consideration, would easily name her a friend. However, every time he went to meet her he was reminded of an important fact to always be kept in mind: Kawaiwaya Aomu was a bit of an outcast. Their relation was something to be built with no carelessness or whim, and that was true from both sides. The closer he got to her and her experiments, the nearer he was to exposure. As for her, the more she knew about him, the likelier she would err on the side of caution (and for good reason). The more that she knew, the more secrets she would decide had to be kept. The more their comradery was burgeoned, the more risk they invited.
Without care and preparation, discovery would mean a gruesome and unhappy end.
So, rather than burden or unburden her by his own decision, he decided to ask her:
“I do have a reason. Do you want to know?”
“Whoa,” said the kappa with a serious look, “you look serious all of a sudden. Uh, I’m not really sure?”
“Well, think about it,” he said, and he took her arms from around him, walking toward the entrance after. Without her help, he’d have to figure something else out. With it...
“Sure, Gen,” he turned halfway and looked back at her as she spoke, nervously grabbing the tips of her thumbs, “tell me. It’s an emergency, right? That’s the only reason I gave you to ever come here, and up until now you haven’t let any other kappa know about our deals and stuff.” She frowned, then folded her arms and looked him in the eye to say “So, shoot.”
“Alright. I myself have something to do with this Incident,” he said, not stopping when she raised her arms in shock, “I gave the culprit the means to steal spring, and didn’t stop her although I knew that was her plan.”
“Gen, you idiot...!” she said in disbelief, “Why would you do that?”
“I gave her my word. When it began, I wasn’t sure what she was planning, either.”
“Agh, Gen...” the water dwarf pressed down on her closed eyes, head ascent while she spoke, “just how easily do you vow for things? How is a human as naive as you still breathing in Gensokyo?”
“Well, I’m pretty badass,” he admitted. “I can take the risks.”
“Ugh,” she groaned, dropping her hands and looking at him with all annoyance. She then mumbled, looking at a wall beside her: “Sweet Rivers, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“I do apologize, Little Aomu, however now you are complicit.” He pointed at her from under his arm and said, “You’d better help me.”
“Gaaa—n,” she voiced, the cattail dropping out of her mouth. He let one sputter of laughter loose at her silly expression, but didn’t allow himself any more than that. He honestly did not enjoy roping her in like this, or at all, but she had asked to be.
“Alright, kappa,” he said, turning fully and putting his hands on his hips, “let’s get out of here and help resolve this Incident. Even if Reimu stops whatever’s going on, I’m worried about whether or not she can bring spring back on her own.”
“Alright, Gen,” Aomu answered, also putting her hands on her hips and sighing before she continued, “but you’ve got a problem, first. You have to get us out of Genbu Ravine without you dying.”
“Hm, that is a problem.”
He crossed his arms and thought.
“Keep in mind, Gen:” Aomu said calmly, “I can’t really vouch for you. Well, I can, but it won’t matter; if someone wants your blood and shirikodama, I can try to stop them but it won’t do you much good. Every kappa in Gensokyo is here now. I also don’t want to look like a traitor forever after you’re dead, y’know.”
“Yeah, I know...”
Ideally, he had intended to make his presence known to the other kappa under significantly better conditions. Today, Aomu was absolutely right: they were surely all agitated, and they might really enjoy the warmth of his blood on this cold “spring” day.
[X] Be a coward -[X] stagger the intervals in which you leave. That way if you get caught, Aomu won't get associated.
alternatively we could just make a distraction and let her slip out. But I feel that doing so will make us known to the Kappa community and may make future meetings with her hard.
Also. >Aomu snuggles >She feels us as hot
She's noticing the spring on us, isn't she? Might be stupid to mention, considering the MC's character, but what's stopping us from just grabbing a handful of spring and hunkering down until Reimu fixes the situation? It was mentioned in PCB that the only way for the Ayakashi to bloom was to get all the spring, and when Youmu first encounters the heroes she notices that they're carrying the last bit of spring needed to make it bloom.
On one afternoon after having rapidly completed his tasks for the day, he met with the Netherworld gardener at the sleeping Garden of the Sun once again, and when he went to fetch his notes from within a sack he’d been carrying she addressed him.
“I’m just wondering...” she began whilst cutely, nervously, twiddling her fingers, “how well do you manage to keep it secret you’re helping me?” she asked.
And he grunted “Hm,” in response before saying, “perhaps well?” It had been before Flandre sniffed him out, of course. “Why? Are you worried I’ll accidentally betray you?”
She shook her head, her pretty hair moving silly with the motion, and clarified, “No, I was seeking more advice.”
Having found his notes among bottles and jars, he turned and shrugged saying, “Alright then. What?”
“Well, you see, when I eventually go to take spring,” she casually revealed, “I must do it sneakily. I’ve been worried about whether or not I can do that, basically...”
She admitted it... he noted with a miserable face, having gathered her intentions by this point, but had no full confirmation. Figuring he had already gone this far with aiding in something untoward, he decided to help her with this as well.
“I do suppose you’re more of a samurai than a ninja,” he said after a while.
Youmu put her hands together, holding two fingers and raising another two in a generic and familiar pose, saying “Nin nin”. He blushed.
“Like this, Gen,” she said with a smirk.
“Amazing, Youmu. You’ve gone and disappeared!” he praised in a faked voice, applauding steadily.
Now Youmu blushed, lowering her hands and saying “Sh-Shut up...”
“Whoa!! Miss Youmu! Where were you!?” he exclaimed, slapping his forehead with an open palm. Her blush deepened and her mouth wobbled. A pale face can really get red, he thought. He stood up straight and planted his hands on his hips. “Alright, Miss Youmu, I can certainly teach you some of the art of stealth.”
“R-Really!?” The phantom girl bounced back, fists raised in excitement.
“Not that I’d call myself stealthy,” he admitted, staring off toward the forest, “but I could give you some basics; I’ve had to hide before and succeeded.” This had been before he knew his Mistress discovered his kappa companion.
He expected Youmu wouldn’t retain much of what he taught, and at the time had been worried she would fail immediately and sell his involvement. To his shock, however, no one seemed to know that the long winter was due to the actions of the Netherworld, all the way to this current moment and hour.
Reminiscing on his lessons with Youmu, and knowing meeting with all the kappa here in their environment would be tantamount to suicide, Gen decided he simply... wouldn’t.
He addressed Aomu.
“Aomu, I’ve decided,” he told her.
“On whuff?” she answered, and he lifted his head to see her eating another cucumber. Was she so stressed? He squinted, she frowned (still chewing).
After keeping eye to eye for a moment, Gen sighed, and then stated, “I need your help. First, you have something like that map that can be held in one’s hand, don’t you?”
She gulped and said, “Yeah. When we go looking for where spring’s being taken we’ll use that. The range is much lower, but everything recorded and monitored is more accurate.”
“Am I right in this strong assumption? ‘It can identify the positions of your brother and sister kappa’, no?”
“Yeah!” Aomu exclaimed, lifting her hands in excitement and explaining, “Kako developed it for kappa rescue!” He’d figured.
“Alright. How many handheld maps do you have?” he asked.
“Just one,” she said. “One per kappa.”
“Then trust me and give me that. Tell me how it works, too. I’m going to escape the ravine without being noticed. You’ll help me do that.”
For a little while, the river dwarf looked at him sideways before asking, “You mean you’ll try?”
“If I don’t do it I’m dead, Aomu,” he confirmed with a smile.
She shook her head lightly. “Oh, don’t say that...” she moaned in complaint and worry. He shook his head in return.
“I must take it as the truth,” he answered. “Now, get out there for me, dear partner.”
After some several minutes, he was alone in the Kawaiwaya Cavern, while its master was gone to find a position above the kappas’ haunt for surveying
He had the gray, somewhat unwieldy portable version of “Kako’s” map in his hand: it was the length and width of a brick, the thickness of a small book, and the weight of a stone. Its black screen took up most of one surface, leaving a little space for a pair of knobs. While he waited for confirmation of Aomu’s placement, he observed its monitor to get a sense of his environment.
The map could show various things based on adjustment. Currently, it displayed the valley’s topography and residents. The topography was recorded mostly in standard to what he’d expect from the outside world (being ringed lines, the closer of which indicated steepness) but the way it showed residents slightly astounded him. Kappa in the vicinity were bright dots on the screen, with the brightest of them being the nearest to your position. Those colored white were on your elevation level, the ones colored blue were above you, and the ones colored green were below (he’d spent perhaps too long testing it with Aomu). The intensity of the color indicated depth or height; knowing all that, he knew that the river was brimming with the creatures a fair way below his feet. More interestingly, however, was that quite a few were within the walls. It wasn’t a stream of lights like the river, but more of a tri-colored starscape. Because of the amount of kappa down in the water, it was difficult for him to discern any who might be above it outside. This was why he’d decided to rely on Aomu to be his eyes. Furthermore, she could be helpful to him even if he didn’t attempt escape from outside.
Indeed, he had a pair of options: he could brave the open area that was the frozen ravine and ascend quickly, perhaps hiding himself in snow... or, he could take the caves. Aomu had explained that not only was the river the kappa’s domain, so were its surrounding cliffs. A network of natural and kappa-made tunnels could be found in this place. His borrowed device wouldn’t be able to tell the layout of such cave systems, but those systems promised far less trouble. Alerting the kappa while in the tunnels couldn’t be as bad as a mistake made over the water.
“Gen, Gen, can you hear my voice?”
There was one other device he’d been given. On the side of his head, over his left ear, was a headphone fit for aviation. It was an at once primitive and advanced piece of kappa technology that would allow him to communicate with Aomu across a distance. Most of the thing’s rather large size was dedicated to the things that made voice transmission possible... or so the dwarf had alleged.
Feeling purely giddy, Gen bent to a knee and placed a hand over this little large machine. He answered his friend as coolly as he was able, somewhat emulating a voice he admired. “This is Gen. Yes, Aomu, I can hear you. I’ve found the cave’s exit, but there’s a passworded door of some kind.”
“‘Found’...? You were already there, right?” he heard. “And I gave you the password too, it’s on that paper on the back of the portamap.”
“Paper...” he repeated.
“Hmmm?? Uuuhh— Not... ‘Power’ or anything like ‘god’, Gen. There’s nothing special on the back: just, flat, made-of-trees paper.” Aomu seemed to be worried he was confusing his Japanese.
“You’ll have to forgive me, I’m enjoying myself already here, heh.”
“What’s with that voice? Anyway, the others are definitely mostly underwater.”
“The kappa, Gen,” she answered sharply.
“Gotta know what I’m up against here, Aomu,” he explained.
“What the heck...” he heard her whisper, and he suppressed a chuckle. “Okay, well, most of them look like they’re... just holding stuff to keep them warm. Couldn’t tell you what’s in their pockets or backpacks, though... Yeah, could be anything really. We don’t exactly all work together here.”
Aomu continued, “The ones at the waterfall are still trying to get that frozen experiment out of it. There are some people flying around, but not much.”
“Is my cave’s ventilation wonky? Is your brain losing oxygen?”
Now he laughed, but recomposed himself shortly to say, “No, really, I’m kind of curious.” He slowly tapped the sequence needed to open the cave’s door on the rock wall. Regardless of his choice he’d need to leave this den in order to either escape through the sky or find a different entrance into the ravine’s cliffs that had more connections. When he was done inputting the right pattern, he turned slightly and addressed Aomu again, “You kappa can’t fly right?”
“You noticed, huh, or more like, ehh...”
“I noticed it looks like you guys can only do it over or near water.”
“Yeah,” he heard a crunch and flinched. This girl... “it’s kin’ of lihke... mmg, hah, a board game. I think that works since... it’s kinda weird, that we’re like this. We’re connected to rivers, so we get some extra powers when we’re near ones that flow strongly enough. Anywhere else, and we’re totally grounded.”
“Fascinating,” he said, and he meant it. “Alright, I’m ready to open the door on your signal. Tell me when you’re sure the coast is clear!”
“Aye aye, captain,” said Aomu, and she ceased communication. There was a fizzle and pop in his ear, and he squinted a bit upon hearing it.
Alright, that’s actually enough fooling around, I think, Gen thought, I need to seriously be on my toes here. An inglorious death just isn’t one I’ll allow.
If (when) we get caught, we can save our hide by offering to use our magic to break the kappa's experiment out of its icy prison. It's the perfect plan, and the kappa will all see us as a person who can help out.
[x] Use the tunnels to escape Kind of annoyed we couldn't play pretend villain kidnapping a Kappa, but that's how things go I suppose. Tunnels are the best route, while it's easy to get away by not being close to a body of water it would be a hassle not to get spotted.
Cold air spread over him surprisingly gently as the rocks parted (the inside of Aomu’s hideaway hadn’t been terribly warm), and he squinted to the light his eyes had begun to forget while inside. As he’d asked, Aomu had given him a moment to leave while no other kappa could potentially spot him. He slipped out, and looked along the column-marked cliff face. In it were several holes of varying sizes. He picked one which seemed large enough for his body, and flew to it with speed.
“Listen up, Aomu:” he addressed his companion, “keep an eye on the tunnel entrances for your sisters—let me know if I should be worried considering which I’m entering now.”
”Sisters”... he thought, I wonder where are the kappa men?
“The tunnels!?” said Aomu. “Do you even know the way!?”
“I’ll figure one out,” he replied, grabbing the edge of the entrance he had bound for and looking back to where he guessed Aomu might be.
“Do your best, crazy human,” she answered, and with a nod he entered the caves again.
There were no lights within, and he debated grabbing some from outside to bring with him, but thought against it for the potential trouble it could cause. He stepped softly, crouched very low and moving careful through the system. Not long into this tunnel, he had a thought and touched the gloved hand he’d been using to feel his way ahead against his cheek.
Damn it...! he thought, flinching at the sensation and pulling his hand away. Wet! How could I forget!?
He had somewhat known this: that the earth itself contained water, and some might either condense on the walls, or worse, run within them through kappa designs. After all, Aomu had cast some liquid at him from a wall while they were discussing the Incident in her place. He stopped and worried how much could potentially be drawn from them this source, and then worried more on the realization that in a worst case scenario, the kappa could flood the system and drown him with ease. Perhaps this hadn’t been the best choice.
He swallowed, and proceeded, keeping a frequent eye on the mapping device Aomu had given him. He was thinking: if the worst case, or any bad, came to pass, how could he handle it? What magic could he use? Would calling to the earth be its own danger? Could the air be useful at all? And no light in these tunnels... What could he do?
There were few sounds within this passage. Nothing dripped, and there were no echoes. It became pitch dark, and he began to try to hear whatever he could. Cramped, dank, scraping, slow movement defined his trek, and he so far could only move forward.
After a minute, his heart leapt at the feeling of almost falling, and he stopped again. He turned the monitor of his handheld map downward, and with the little bit of illumination it produced saw that this was a drop. He cast the faded light elsewhere, and saw that the path continued one way right and another upward. He looked at the monitor directly, wincing. Below him were two kappa, along the way right was another. There was nothing close above, but...
He put the map aside briefly and tapped the headphone on his ear. “Aomu,” he whispered, “there are three paths ahead of me here. What do you suggest?”
“Go to the right,” she answered promptly, “and then down, and then left. Call me again after that.”
“Right? There’s a kappa that way.”
“Up from there is a dead end. If you go down, there’s another way through, but it’s longer.”
One kappa, or two... he considered, mouth turning around in vexation. He looked at his map again, specifically to the kappa below his position. They’re close... he thought, are they chatting?
He crept closer to the edge and lay flat as he could, ear facing down while he clasped the other. He pulled the communications device from his ear slightly, and simply listened.
... A small scuff, the vague noise of moving water... and a voice, perhaps? Was he just imagining it? He brought his head down the hole a little more, and sure enough: it sounded as though the pair were relaxed by conversation.
“... ope.. ready... en... som... ing.”
He heard something strange and became confused, but quickly realized these broken words were coming from his communications. He pulled the phone back over his ear and begged, “One more time, Aomu?”
“There’s someone coming. Did you already get moving?” she asked.
“I... I’m going down,” he answered.
“Be careful,” she warned.
Getting back onto his feet, he slowly floated his way down the pit, and as he did so he saw a dull glow become clearer and clearer, as did girlish voices come to his ears. He landed in a small chamber before another, somewhat lighted tunnel. He quickly placed himself against a wall beside the way in, and eavesdropped.
“... bend, but would it really when she built it out of iron parts?”
“Something more pliable, huh.”
“That’s what I’d do.”
The human inched his way to where the wall broke, turned his face and eye a little past it, and spied on the kappa.
“You mean you’d make it go spinning, then blow up.”
“Convection’s a good idea, so shut your mouth.”
“Have you gotten anything to not boil over and explode?”
“Then it’s a scary idea.”
The two kappa were sitting in a space he imagined they must have crafted themselves. One had goggles on her forehead and aquamarine hair tied into a pair of braids, the other had hair about as dark as Aomu’s though it was much messier. The two of them were sitting on stones, the dark-haired one not facing him, while the other was somewhat turned to her left. They had the place lit with a number of small lanterns, and he could see a large boulder he could potentially hide behind and try to slip past. He looked up, hoping whichever kappa had followed his path into the tunnels would not come down.
“Aomu,” he addressed, very quietly, “would the lanterns you use here have firelight or something else?”
“Lanterns? As in handheld, portable?”
“We use electricity to brighten a wire we call a filament and light is produced that way.”
“Huh...” The kappa really are something incredible, he commented to himself. Electric light; if this was the case, he didn’t know what words could be invoked to wield it. Furthermore, summoning sun or moonlight here would be a risk. It was an annoyance, but he couldn’t obscure their sight with visual illusions.
So, he whispered to the tunnel air instead.
Gathering it into his hand and swirling it repeatedly, he created a compressed cyclone in his palm. He called for a few others (totaling six), crouched down, and aimed his sight all the way down the darkened tunnel behind the engineers.
In quick succession, he cast two gusts down the way, one setting off in the rest area, and the other setting off in the tunnel’s shadows. The two kappa immediately had their hackles up, and looked where the second wind had erupted. He glided in, and put himself behind the wall-like boulder.
“T-Tengu!?”, the goggled kappa stated, her voice shaking.
“Do they think we’re keeping winter like this!?” the other asked. “We’re not the ones stealing spring!”
The two of them looked at one another, while Gen secretly looked at them. The one with goggles nervously offered the explanation, “Maybe it was just the wind,” and at that the magician tossed another spiral of air, at the entrance of the tunnel he wished to go down. The two kappa leapt at the gust, and so he threw another.
“I-I can’t believe it! Let’s go topside!”
The girls tripped over themselves dashing the way Gen had come, and while they fled he went straight into the hiding shadows of the tunnel which gave progress.
He now had more of a sense of urgency, and his advance was done with less care and more rapidity—even though light soon left the path. He paid the map attention, and kept in mind that the two he’d frightened would likely alert the Ravine of tengu presence, and possibly even come into the tunnels to find and meet with the seemingly angered youkai. There were quite a few of Kappa above him, it seemed. He needed to contact Aomu again.
When he thought this, his covered ear perked up to sound.
“-mu!” he heard.
“What!? What is...” Aomu’s voice faded after a scratching noise; he imagined she must have hid her microphone in surprise.
Eventually he felt his way to another crossroads, leading either right or left. Remembering Aomu’s directions for another path and knowing her to be indisposed, he turned to the right without asking and continued on.
Suddenly, his eyes on the surface shouted “Gen!” into his ear and his head was banged on the tunnel’s roof.
“Oww...” he moaned, “what?”
“There are tengu in the tunnels! Everyone’s freaking out! I said I’d keep lookout, but...”
Gen looked at the map in his hand, noting quite a few kappa seemed to be leaving the caves.
“‘Twas no tengu, I merely cast some winds,” he explained, looking toward his chest where he was keeping a spare two cyclone orbs (not that he could see anything). Ignoring Aomu’s voiced disbelief at this revelation, he next said, “I went right at another split in the tunnels. Do you know where I should go from here?”
“Huh!? I, uh, what!? Uh...” He could imagine her pawing at her face in a flurry of emotions. “K-Keep your hand up and feel for a tunnel upward, fly into it, and stay in the hangar you find.”
“H... what? Hangar?” he briefly dropped his whisper in saying this, and quickly held his mouth.
“Just stay there! Keep an eye on your map! A bunch of us are going to look through the tunnels now!”
He thought to himself, Goodness, I’ve really underestimated how scared the kappa can get.[/]
The magician’s apprentice did as he was instructed, soon enough finding a way up and flying ascent. He approached light again, and found the hangar.
“... Hello now...” he commented reflexively, standing to his full height. [i]So many machines...
The hangar, or cavern, he now stood in had most of its space dedicated to a large construct of crisscrossing metal in a black, heavy matrix some four or five stories tall by comparison to a building in the outside world. This thing, surrounded and segmented by walkways, held in place what he wagered must have been over two hundred small aircrafts, watercrafts, submersibles, and other brands of vehicles. At its base, he paced ‘round the thing, looking at propeller-devices, what seemed to be rockets, wheeled things and so on. He touched a few in interest, and noticed many hoses and cables snaking their way through the mess of metal, making it all that much more confounding and messy, connecting into the walls. But, fascinating. He looked around the cavern more, and saw ways he thought the machines might be carried out of the underground and into the Ravine: on tracks, it seemed, and through wide circle doors that lined the wall behind him. Above, in the ceiling, was a very large and closed access. He wagered that was where many kappa would come from shortly, and so was why his friend wanted him to stay put and hide.
He took in this place some more, and saw a few nice places to hide. He settled on crawling beneath a worktable, and obscuring himself behind some nearby toolboxes, taking this time he knew himself to be alone to scrape the things along the floor and clatter them carelessly. With this done, he bid attention of his friend again. “So, Aomu, this is where you all keep your vehicular experiments and inventions?”
She was quick to answer with, “Where most of us do. Are you hiding?”
“Everyone going in’s rallying by the rock wall. They’re going to enter soon.”
“How do I get out of here? Through the ceiling access?”
“You could, but I wouldn’t...” she answered in honesty. “You should find the vents and go through those... Just make sure you keep your mouth covered, and after a while you should get outside.”
“Can’t I just go through these vents now?” he asked.
“They’re going to flood the vents,” the girl revealed, to which he responded with:
“They want to make sure nothing is hiding in them. They won’t flood the whole system since that would use too much water, and a lot of it’s frozen today.”
“Well, aren’t I lucky.”
“They’re starting,” said Aomu, “And they’re going in. Don’t get caught or die, okay?”
Gen did not answer. He heard cacophonous rushing and the noise of several blasts, and looked out from under the table for a moment to see flows of water from where the vents of this cavern must have been, far above him. The giant gate began to screech open, and more lights dazzled the room.
Watching the map screen, he saw perhaps a count of twenty five kappa converging on this place, and even more elsewhere within the tunnel system. They voicelessly moved through the hangar, and he remained still.
Cold water reached him, and he held his breath to stop the reflexive noise he would have made on his contact with it. Three kappa splashed down to the floor, and he saw their boots from behind the metal boxes. From the way light dashed along the walls, he figured they must have all donned cave-diving helmets, or at least something similar. While he kept still, he watched as they mercifully decided to not check beneath the table.
The water eventually drained, falling down the hole he’d used to reach here, and many of the kappa in the cavern began making their ways through other tunnels. The hangar now had six of the girls patrolling it.
Gen was thoughtless for a minute or so. For whatever reason, he had expected them all to leave this room, so now with kappa patrolling... he was concerned.
Eventually shaking his head, he decided: he would move.
He could slip past the toolboxes hiding them without any noise unless he flinched. From there, however, he wasn’t sure what to do.
From what he could tell, two of the kappa were stationary: one at the floor, another at the ceiling. Two more were monitoring the walkways, and the final two were rogue elements, moving seemingly without pattern.
Still, he at least knew where they were moving...
He had two winds left to cast, and whispering for any other magic would be too great a risk with them on alert like this.
 he would make a distraction and escape. ---- Where would he cast the winds?
 he would simply sneak. ---- Where would he go?
Tools in the toolbox can be thrown for distraction effect, it might be worth doing so.
We don't want to create such a pandemonium in here that everyone reconvenes back to this area.
We could attempt to hide for an extended period inside one of the machines, which could also give us a chance to actually call upon other magic other than air. We should be pretty careful about the water on the ground that splashed in regardless, since that'll be slick.
If we're using air, we probably want to somehow aim it going down the tunnel we originally came in on to get their attention more out of this room, but I also wonder if they're guarding this area because there might be something that they want the Tengu finding they have.
[x] He would simply sneak Yeah the winds are a terribad idea, with how many Kappa there are there is no telling what they'll do if they get spooped. [x] The Vehicles seem like good Blindspots until you reach the vents.
>>66403 I will remind some of his capability: he can indeed cast things out of sight, and even did so during his first fight with Patchouli. However! That was him setting things off he'd left behind. Sending a spell down a very specific way (like using a Nikita Launcher) would likely be beyond his capabilities.
[X] he would simply sneak. ----[X]The vents Though Gen should probably float a bit/do some water manipulation so he doesn't splish splash around as he goes. I feel like he should avoid distractions because if the winds alone got the kappa this spooked and wound up, anything else is just going to make it harder for him to get out.
I think we're having an issue with this vote (in terms of participation, compartively) because we've moved away from "style" of action instead to "specific" action, and that "specific" action set we're having a hard time framing with reference to the scene.
aka, every action here can be kinda screwed with in ways we can't expect. Most of the story has instead been "path types" like "be sneaky", "be foolhardy", "be friendly" and it plays off generally from there, but in a sneaking mission with a scene we can't fully picture, I think it's a lot harder to come down on specific choices other than, "I hope we get out without getting ruined by the random kappa troops."
With this decided, he brought the winds into his coat and, quietly, carefully, disrupted them, holding the cloth firm so that it would only ripple.
He peered at the floor and tested it with his fingers, looking and feeling for water. By this time it seemed he wouldn’t splash if he moved about, but pressing his cheek to his shoulder he surmised that he might drip. Thankfully many things were now dripping in this room, but he had to admit to himself that this had him a little worried.
He looked up to the iron matrix, and then down to his map. With a thought of Alright... he made his first move.
He was sure there were none that might see him, and with the time he had between them coming and going he crawled slowly out from under the table and past a toolbox. No noise, no one around. Holding back a sigh of relief, he crept toward the nearest machine...
She tossed the last green piece into her mouth, and crushed it to mush.
’Bout now? the kappa thought, standing. It had been around ten minutes since she’d last contacted her human friend, and she hadn’t heard any chaos since then, nor had any silence broken at all. She stepped to the ledge overlooking the ravine, and then stepped off.
She fell half of a meter, but with a wish, and the river’s granting, Aomu bobbed in the air and began to float. While she was of a water race, one might be surprised to know that to the kappa this flight felt natural. Flight elsewhere, however (usually by carriage, vehicle or device), generally gave unexperienced kappa a twisting feeling in their stomachs, while more experienced kappa learned to ignore it. Well, in general, when away from a shore they all tended to be very nervous. The river was much more than the kappa’s home.
Aomu went gently over the way, warily glancing toward her sisters, who were warily checking the exits of the tunnel-caves. I hope I’m not being suspicious... she thought. She was, but the other kappa weren’t paying her attention.
When she reached the other side she lost the river’s blessing and had to land. She began walking then, and threw one more worried and fleeting look over her shoulder before entering the woods.
The outer part of Youkai Mountain, where the Genbu Ravine kept it separate from the Forest of Magic, was quite safe. Not safe enough for Aomu to feel comfortable, of course, but she didn’t worry as much about being attacked here as the climb or the top. To the credit of greater powers, also, there had been much less chaos on the mountain than there had been not long before. That was the key, however: “not long”. It was for that reason that every kappa in the Ravine went into fear at the suspicion of a tengu in their midst. They were reminded.
Aomu trudged through the brush, nearing the Great Youkai Forest but taking care never to step too close; thinking about many things and trembling about a few. She marched quietly to a specific place: to where one could find some of the smoke joining that which could always be seen rising from the mountain.
“Gen...?” the kappa whispered, pulling a branch down and out her path. She walked into a wash of sticky, damp air—somewhat warm, also, and smelling a bit of coal. Feeling relief, she strode with confidence into the manufactured swamp of the kappas’ making.
A satisfying sound came from the stomping of her feet, and she reflexively squinted in expectation of a scatter of flies that would never come. It was still “winter” after all; were the eggs of little creatures even still alive now? The sleeping frogs? Gen had really made a mess of things.
She looked over the brown and white pools of mud and withered grass, opened up in five places for the caverns’ ventilation, and saw this human not. She scanned the piping that was connected here from the Ravine and turned and twisted overhead like cobalt vines, seeing that they were still dripping with floodwater. She huffed and thought, she wouldn’t scold him if he came out of one of those holes alive. She calmed. This place wasn’t quite the river, but at least it was a nice resting spot.
So she sat down in the muck, and waited.
In time, a hand felt its way over the edge of one of the vents, and a shadow-shape peeked above as well. She stared at it, and it lurched more upward, dragging its black form from the pit, and falling to the wet earth after all of it had emerged. It wasn’t a pleasant scene of birth.
“Fuu...” the shadow breathed, turning over and seeming to stand. “Do you... clean these ever, Aomu?”
“Every few years,” she answered.
“Every few years... I see.” The thing shook, and rose into the air. It then spoke a word she didn’t understand, and all the black slipped off of it until the perfect and unaltered figure of Gen was there, floating beneath the pipe-roof and adjusting his gloves.
“You made it,” she told him.
“I did,” he confirmed, and he looked down at her to ask, “Do you want to hear how?”
“Hm, do we have any time for it?” she asked in return.
“I think we don’t,” he admitted, descending in front of her. “Gods... I’ll have to carry you all filthy like that, won’t I?”
“I might be warmer than you now, at least,” she said with a smile, picking herself up. Gen removed the device from his ear and handed it to her, handing her also the other kappa inventor’s map.
“We’re going first toward the Road of Liminality,” he said, “I have to imagine a way to the Netherworld is there.”
“Uhh, can you protect me and fly at the same time?” she asked, her eyebrows saying everything of her instable confidence in him.
“It won’t be easy,” he was honest, “but I can’t afford easy right now.” He extended his hand to his friend, and she took it. “I’ll be sure to protect you,” he affirmed, ending his talk with, “Thank you, Aomu. I mean that sincerely.”
He pulled her into his arms, and while looking to the other side of Youkai Mountain, took flight once again.
At the time, the pain in the tip of her wing had been unbearable.
She thought of this now while sitting in the empty library, reading an old and Grecian work under a blanket cover and sighing often. It had honestly, genuinely, hurt so much. She still hoped now that the boy hadn’t noticed.
Itou Gen was somebody she liked. Remilia Scarlet could not say that about many people with the whole of her fragile and corpse heart. She liked many things, certainly, and even people were often wont to amuse her, but she could count those she truly liked on one hand. The whole hand, yes, but still only one of them. He had been lying to her and to his Master, and now he was off to try to return spring. Sakuya, too, was off to do the same without any order. Patchouli was upstairs, and she was in the library. Everything was out of order, and it delighted her.
The eldest Scarlet was a vampire, but more importantly she was a patrician and a patron. She didn’t ever want to say it, but it seemed like all in her house (save for that sister...) understood and complied with what she really wanted out of them. Gen had been keeping secrets, and when she teased one out of him while knowing the other, he had chosen to not disclose that other, worse matter. He had reasoned that wrong had been done, and had gone on to right it himself without acknowledgement or fuss, and she could not be prouder.
Thinking about this, her lips turned up.
She spoke with him often these days, regularly at tea, with a discussion on the old world here, a fondling of his glass amulet there, and game of rock-paper-scissors elsewhere. She couldn’t bother Patchouli very much, so at first when he came to sit with her day after day she’d only thought it a chance to learn more about what her dear friend had been doing lately, cooped up with her books. However, the boy himself was to her like what she imagined sunlight to be for the lesser things out in the world. She was always pleased with his company, and his foolishness.
The maid who loved her and wore an unheld leash, the witch who loved her and did however she liked without word or request, and the apprentice who loved her and enjoyed her hospitality, though he had demanded it without even a penny to return for it: they were all part of a warm presence she would never give up. But if she ever grasped that leash, ever made a bid in the library’s halls, ever told the boy to bow... she knew it: they would not a one of them hesitate to listen to and follow her without question, not out of compulsion, but out of will.
These were the strong residents of Scarlet Devil Mansion, and she was the Mansion’s Master. When she had stood before her foundling outsider and made the mistake of having her wing escape the safety of shadows, the pain had been excruciating, and by her will she showed none of that. The book in her hands ended, Remilia folded those wings over herself under the blanket cloth and looked into the infinite darkness of the ceiling above, thinking happily that she had done well in the best example.
The Master of Fate adored its defiance. Reminded of this, she hugged herself close, and shortly went to sleep.
“AAAAAH, GEN!! Stop talking in Japanese! Stop it! NO NIPPON! Not unless you’re casting a spell with it, okay!?”
“But Muenzuka was a bust too? Tch, alright, alright,” he answered in a mumble, thumbing open a flask at his waist. He jerked his head left with force, the Kappa under his arm yelped, and a bullet missed his neck. There were many others, however, and he was thinking this lack of being-hit was entirely to luck so far. The magician’s apprentice let a card slip from his right sleeve, and called to the spirits of air for aid.
The two were above the Forest of Magic, having without thought wandered into a place of many, many fair folk. They were all mad out of their heads, and firing on anything in sight full with joy and power. He hadn’t ever dealt with them like this, and was frankly terrified. The little brats also only seemed to notice him in the sky, rather than his traveling partner, so their shots did not seem to be... far from lethal—not that he really thought 1) they would even care in their very addled state and 2) fairies even had the power of lethality. On the other hand... well, he did not have a good feeling about this.
The cyclone of magic he had summoned began to subside, but he frowned to find that he had only cleared most of the bullets. He’d seen that result before, and was not pleased to know it meant this current bout presented a not-neglectable amount of danger.
“Why the heck are there still bullets!?” the girl under his arm yelled. She was holding on to her hat, had been for thirty minutes, and would not let go.
“The result of pairing with an outsider, sorry to say,” he revealed, quickly glancing at the flask on his waist. I used all of it, too... Damn. He spoke again, saying, “I did swear to you I’d keep you alright, so try not worrying that plated head of yours.”
“I-It’s only caps these days!” she corrected. “Aaahh... I never thought fairies could be scary!”
He brought Aomu into the hold of both of his arms and she squealed again. Pushing himself he began to ascend, hoping to breach the clouds, but the fairies below them weren’t keen on the idea. Blossoming vibrantly like the only flowers in winter, the little creature followed him with excitement and danmaku.
He’d already asked Aomu to help him with all of this, but without a water source or weapon on her, a fight was out of the question. She also had to navigate for him, pointing him toward likely spots where they might find the Netherworld’s portal.
What they had discovered thus far was that the stationary map seemed to have little need for more accuracy, because what it showed was what they saw: along the barrier of Gensokyo, bits of spring were vanishing. There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to where they slipped away, which had so far been an immense frustration.
While he thought about this, he also incanted a great deal, and when he was finished, the approaching clouds began to swirl. Immense spikes formed from them and dripped down, and from their tips a harsh and patterned rain fell.
“Water from the clouds!” Aomu shouted, and he glanced down at her, seeing her craning her neck to see the results of his spell. “That’s an idea! I wonder if I can do it, too!”
“Focus on the map, kappa. It’s all we’ve got.” He looked behind her back and far below her, sighing with relief as he saw fairy after fairy be struck and drop, each like a too-eager Icarus. Before he could smirk with satisfaction, however, he saw a strangely long woman far below him, but getting closer. Her clothes were long, her hair was long, and her nails, and her sleeves—and oddly, she seemed to glitter. He cursed under his breath at the sight. Youkai.
“Eh? Eh? Hold on!” Aomu began, and while he kept his eyes on the monster below he hoped she, too, hadn’t noticed it, and that she would instead offer some good news. “The Shrine!” she cried. “Now that we’re up here, I can definitely see spring going toward the Shrine!”
A blessing. However...
“The map’s too small to see the Shrine,” he mentioned. “What makes you say that?”
“The direction! It’s the only way that makes sense!”
Too bad the maiden’s probably out. But, the Shrine huh? That’s another way to other places now that I think of it.
“Then let’s go there,” he said with a nod. “Hold tight, we’ll pass through the clouds now.” The kappa braced, and he rushed through white fog, first water droplets, and then crystals; his clothing felt like it was being dragged and torn from his body. He hoped it wasn’t.
Within the frigid sheet, he saw the youkai in pursuit, matching his speed for the fun of it. They both left the clouds, and Aomu finally noticed their new company.
“It’s a Tsurara Onna!” she shouted at once. “H-Hey, we’re on an important mission, so could you just leave us alone?”
The Tsurara Onna ignored her, and spoke to Gen instead.
“A human outsider who flies?” she noted with a smirk and a sniff. “That’s, oh, that’s nifty.”
The woman was a little taller than he was, and much more thin. She wore a pleasant and shimmering robe as well as socks and sandals far too inappropriate for the weather. What little color that could be matched to her seemed pale blue, and he thought her face was certainly pretty, but he knew her kind’s stories. He responded immediately.
“Not in the mood to chat, youkai.”
“Is that a kappa you’ve got there?” she asked, as if she hadn’t heard his question.
Now, he began to cast a spell.
“Not right!” she moaned, and water began to bleed out of her, mainly falling from her eyes and her mouth, but also forming along her arms and body. It all quickly froze, making wicked icicles. “I ain’t even attacked you! Jeez, jeez.”
Aomu pocketed her map and gripped to the front of his vest. He kept her firm in his left arm, and reached for his materials with his right.
“Sorry, human, but you’re trying to stop winter, aren’t you?” the Tsurara Onna asked. “I mean, a flying human already got real mean with my friend today. Hey, I was thinking, we could be friends too, or maybe even better? But, man, if you’re gonna stop winter, eh...”
The icicles on her body fell, and a fire slipped off his tongue.
The Tsurara Onna shook her head. “And you just smell so tasty, ya know?”
The cold air erupted, and by all her effort she tried to keep it chilled, but Gen had no interest in play. Flame rolled out from his place without mercy, razing the sky and burning the clouds, melting away the youkai’s wave of icicle danmaku with too much ease.
“Whoa-ho~!” the woman exclaimed, backing to the edge of his magic with her hands in the air. “I know it’s rude of me, but I can’t get shown up like this.” While saying this, she clapped her hands together, one on top the other, smirking languidly and toothily. When she pulled them apart, a great column of ice, sharp at the end, was formed between them. Gen began to chant again, and she heaved the pillar over her shoulder, staring him down. The youkai promptly chucked it, and Gen let it come. Aomu, who was watching against her better judgement, began to shake him.
“Gen! Gen, are you kidding!? Are you kidding—cast something!!”
Irritated at nearly biting his tongue from her motions, he finished the necessary words, and offered a piece of himself to empower it. When the great icicle was half its way to impale him, fire coalesced before him from nothing, building on itself rapidly. He squinted as it blasted forward.
The youkai, still positioned the way she was after throwing the pillar, offered an expression mixing amusement and surprise as well as an “Eh!? Holy shi—” before being met with a cylinder of orange and red. The ice she had thrown became water, and then vapor, in less than a second.
“Not exactly danmaku...” Gen commented, moving forward, “but I really don’t have time.”
Still, he moved carefully. He already knew by now that pacifying most youkai wasn’t ever simple. Making his way, he heard a regular sound at his left, and looking in that direction saw the youkai lying in the clouds below him (or was she just flying there oddly?), saying “ow”. Her left arm and leg were gone.
The youkai continued. “Ow... ow... Maaan... Seriously?” she complained.
“Will you chase me?” he asked.
“Should,” she told him. “Go save the world and leave me alone.”
“Fine,” he answered, and he went off for the Shrine.
“Wow, Gen...” Aomu whispered, eyes on the map monitor, “aren’t you really strong?”
“That was convenience, and look:” he directed her attention ahead, showing her the many winged being emerging from below and spinning above, “this number of fairies won’t be as simple for me as acting on the knowledge that fire beats out ice.”
“There’s more of them...” she commented. “Then, we’re probably going the right way. The closer you get to the source of an Incident, the more fairies there’ll be.”
Alright, Youmu, he thought, preparing more spellwork and shifting Aomu to reach more of his bottles and jars, I hope you’ve not done anything too stupid. Don’t do as I predicted...
“I can’t say I’m comfortable with that. Higher than this?”
“Hope my breathing doesn’t go short... Gods, it’s cold.” Gen complained as he rose above the Hakurei Shrine, which had indeed been empty. According to Aomu, a significant number of flower petals were being courted in the skies over and behind the Shrine, and it stood to reason that, perhaps near the barrier here, they could find a way into the Netherworld.
“Where are the fairies?” he asked, observing none.
“They should be here. I guess that means somebody took care of them.”
Reimu? Sakuya? Am I too late? Damn, why’s it so hard to see up here?
The amount of clouds was quite something, and when they eventually came above them again after having checked the ground, it was as if they flew above airborne tundra. It was a very strange sensation, as the sky here was actually almost spring-like in its heat, making them both sigh involuntarily. Undoubtedly they were close.
When they did arrive above, they finally saw evidence of fair folk, blissfully sleeping or dead and at rest on clouds. They would surely repopulate this area soon, and as they hadn’t yet he was sure it meant whoever had done them in remained nearby.
“H-Hey...! You see that?” the kappa under his arm spoke, and he squinted out ahead.
“My...” he uttered. While it was difficult to discern, what seemed to be a closed door, oaken and fit for a giant, was before them. It was also painted in some ways black, and there seemed to be a few symbols emblazoned on it that he had to imagine were part of a seal. He was more confident of this theory as he could see a slowly counter-clockwise turning and rose-colored glyph, larger than the door itself, glowing before it. It was done with a several-pointed star he’d certainly seen in one of his Master’s books. There also seemed to be a stone wall in which the gateway was set, but he couldn’t tell how far it extended. He was certain now: they had made it. When they were even closer, eerie and grand wooden pillars came clear into view, and he slowed to a stop.
“What’s wrong?” Aomu asked. “This is it. This is definitely it.”
He had stopped because he saw a familiar red scarf flowing in the wind, the white-haired woman wearing it tapping a finger on her upper arm. She was flying in front of a triad of oddly-clothed girls (though with the girl being dressed like a maid, perhaps his consideration of them as oddly-clothed rather than her could be judged hypocritical—more so in consideration to his own outfit, in fact). The girls were crowded over one another, and the maid, Izayoi Sakuya, looked up at the door.
“Did she get here first?” he wondered aloud.
“River alive, it’s the maid!” Aomu cried, and he quickly covered her mouth. She spoke through his fingers, “Just drop me; I don’t wanna know how it feels to get stabbed.”
“I’m not dropping you,” he rejected her tersely. Sakuya, eh...?
 He went to help her.
 He tried to avoid her, and flew instead to Youmu.
Funny, I took it to be the other way, bringing Aomu forward when they all progress (and eventually catch up) puts her more at risk rather than introducing her to the others at this stage when there isn't any battle going on, because otherwise Aomu becomes one of the individuals at the "end", aka everyone there is automatically culpable when they show up.
We dragged her into danger pretty hardcore here and at least right now is the chance to introduce her as someone trying to help with the incident rather than being beaten up and asked later.
Alright gang, I still haven't started writing just yet as my laptop is out of commission due to bullshit, meaning I can't write in my free time during the week (at least not efficiently) AND I've been writing up something else in the mean while.
We're at a tie. I have used a computer creature known as Saigyouji Yuyuko to flip a coin, this was the result: Youmu.
However again I still haven't started writing, so if someone else wants to break the tie feel free. For now, when I get on with it, it'll be for Youmu.
>>65992 >When Master Patchouli was born as a Magician, alongside natural magical prowess she only had the abandonment of food, not the abandonment of temper. After looking into it, "abandon temper" seems like a really bizarre mistranslation of the magic magicians use to become immortal. It is literally Remove Bug magic, which SEEMS like it relates to the Three Corpses, or the Three Worms that Miko discusses here: https://en.touhouwiki.net/wiki/Symposium_of_Post-mysticism/Bunbunmaru_Newspaper_8
So consider this "abandonment of worms" instead. The idea is that the magician gets rid of the worms/bugs in the body that cause eventual death in all living things. I am honestly not certain this is what the idea is, but the kanji is read 捨虫 and that (specifically 虫), as far as I know, can in no way be interpreted as temper. It's an interesting idea that I will probably have to talk about more than this offhand mention here. Gen would surely be weirded out that the Taoist idea is something Magicians believe in, and that it's actually "real" as far as he can tell. Let's say that because he's not interested in immortality, he has yet to think of the implications of the magic "捨虫" (remove bug(s)).
Some reorganizing Kizin!3bPfzwokco2020/12/22 (Tue) 14:48No. 68237▼
>>65976 Chapter 8, The Boldly Timid Apprentice, now ends here: >He waited patiently for the doll-using magician to heat up to normalcy. Though age and hunger couldn’t kill her, illness still could. He wouldn’t want that from a prank, or anything else. With some well wishes and japes, he left when it was still morning, and he knew her to be safe. Turning into Chapter 9 from then on. The title is also getting a change. I always thought it wasn't a great one--for one it's stealing one of Marisa's titles. Chapter 8 is "Winter, Ante Meridiem" Chapter 9 is "Winter, Post Meridiem"
Because of the additional chapter created, every chapter number after this is +1, making 21 chapters.