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Enjoy this long update. Actually too long for thp so I had to split it in two.
[X] Youmu [X] Alice [X] Reimu [X] Remi
He looked to his book of notes (noticing only now with a break of flow that his left-handwriting was... genuinely not ideal) and put the quill he’d been using between its pages. He looked up and behind himself after to say, “I think that I will. Let me tell Master Patchouli first and I’ll meet you at the door. You did say I should pace myself after all, and I should probably cool off.”
“As you will,” said Sakuya, and disappeared. He stood then, marked where in the tomes he had left off, and began to wander through the library’s rows in search of his dear Master.
“And here we are,” said his Mistress, landing before him and his fellow human, “the miserable stairs of a poor human. Unkempt as ever, aren’t they?”
“They are, Mistress,” said Sakuya in agreement. Gen was silent, looking over the Shrine’s staircase and surroundings with curious eyes. He hadn’t seen it or the hill it was on before without any trace of snow.
“We will, of course, walk from now on,” said Remilia matter-of-factly, “and look, the Sun is down;” she indicated to the sky for the both of them, where now hung the Moon, “I won’t be needing this anymore.”
His Mistress, who had been carrying a broad parasol, now closed it and handed the fanciful and girlish item to her second servant. She ordered simply: “Gen.”
“Yes, Mistress,” he answered, taking it and hanging it on his right wrist.
With it given, the vampire looked him up and down with a charming smile and a confident pose before declaring: “You look very cute.”
“Thanks, Lady Remilia.”
His Mistress only huffed with pride, her eyes closed. She turned from her two humans and started up the stairs, only to trip and fall, her wings spreading in shock. He started toward her at once, while Sakuya looked happy at his left, and walked past their Mistress without extending a hand. “Watch where you’re going, Mistress Remilia,” she said, and continued up the stairs.
The boy among them stopped at his Mistress’s side and offered his good hand, which she took and used to pick herself up, growling all the while. When he saw her face, he puffed with laughter behind harshly closed lips. She glared at him.
“Very well, Gen,” she said, “now you must escort me hand in hand up the stairs. Enjoy my cold touch, boy.”
He smirked at her demeanor, and kept her hand, saying, “Please, Mistress: you know this is a reward if anything.”
“Of course it is!” she answered, and they were off to follow Sakuya, who had not waited.
The Hakurei staircase to the same-named Shrine was quite pretty, he thought. In the outside world, he had lived somewhere where the night sky lacked stars, and on those Gensokyo nights when he got to see it, he was always taken aback for a while at the swirling, fantastical cosmos spreading overhead. On the staircase, it almost felt like he was ascending now into the Heavens, with a Devil in hand. There was a sound of joyousness in the distance, but mainly from the surrounding trees he could only hear the little things of the earth, loudly crying now that the season had finally turned: as if to scream “I am alive!” He squeezed his Mistress’s hand, feeling some significance to this time and place.
“You look happy,” she observed, “do you like the underside of Sakuya’s skirt so much?”
He turned his head to the vampire quickly, wearing a glare. “That isn’t where I’m looking!” he snapped.
His Mistress pointed upward, looking to tease. “It’s a nice place to look, though,” she said.
“Don’t tell Miss Sakuya that I said that, Mistress. She’ll kill me.”
“She will, won’t she! Ahahahah!!” his Mistress laughed, and then grinned, her left arm bent elbow out at her side in her childish glee.
Scowling, he continued to make his way.
After a few minutes (or so it felt), they neared the highest point, and Remilia spoke again. “Do you still keep my gift?” she asked.
“I always do,” he assured her.
“I appreciate that, Itou Gen,” spoke his Mistress in cool honesty. “Come now,” she said, “let’s enjoy bothering Reimu.”
He nodded, and they crested the hill where Sakuya stood waiting.
[ ♫: http://listenonrepeat.com/watch/?v=r8oOcoHyikk ]
[風穴カーニバル - Carnival! (Floating Cloud)]
“DRINK!“ roared a child’s voice, and a storm of cherry blossoms, shining with moonlight, blew over him.
He stood still, Remilia gently removing her hand from his and giving Sakuya a look (arms crossed), before joining her to enter the Shrine grounds.
Although when last he’d seen the Hakurei Shrine it was in a state that could only be described as “sorry” (and indeed still it was looking no better from a perspective of maintenance), at present it seemed to be bustling with excitement and gaiety, likely for the party had been going since the afternoon. The Shrine’s now blooming cherry trees were also showering the scene in a lovely and almost dazzling pink and white hue that made it splendor to witness. There were youkai reveling here, and he thought even one had the look of a tengu, but at the center of the chaos before him was Hakurei Reimu, looking the happiest of the bunch with Kirisame Marisa under her arm. More than the few other humans there, eating and drinking with monsters beside them, it was that little girl’s glowing face that told him there was nothing to worry about whilst on these grounds.
He hadn’t noticed while ascending the stairs with his Mistress, but there also seemed to be a band playing near the trees. Or... they weren’t playing, it seemed. Three flight-capable girls in distinct colors (red, black, and rose-white) were... perhaps manipulating(?) three separate instruments floating beside them to give song to the festivities. They brought strings, brass, and what seemed to be a keyboard of all things to the Hakurei’s gathering, and a festive, distinctly loud and somewhat messy song was being cast out from their direction. Although rough, it did not seem the party-goers minded the almost-noisy tune.
Still standing dumbly beneath the shrine’s torii, Gen returned his eyes to the guests surrounding Reimu. He wondered if he might find Youmu and her Mistress there, and in short order he did.
Moving first to a spread of food for one skewer of dango and another of fish, he intended to swiftly approach the dead and a half pair, but stopped after taking a single step toward them. With recollections of the day before, and a worry about the awkwardness of his self in general, he froze there, reconsidering an approach so forward.
Gen began to worry. Although he had become quite familiar with Youmu, he recalled that with parties he had nowhere near the same acquaintance. Sweating there, and with his heart beating nervously, he stood in front of the table of food, nibbling at his skewer of fish with a pale face. Chewing anxiously, he attempted to look as though he was appreciating the flowering trees while glancing toward Youmu now and then. After a little time had passed, he sighed, squinting at the earth instead.
The fates had mercy on him then, however, as when he stole another look at the half-phantom, he saw that she was looking at him as well. When she caught his eye, she waved toward him with a pitying glance that he wasn’t sure he understood, and beckoned him over. He looked behind himself at the no persons there, and began his uncool walk toward the girl of his sad affections. As he did, he came to understand her look of pity.
On Youmu’s lap was a significantly piled plate of food, and at Youmu’s side was Saigyouji Yuyuko, the Mistress of Hakugyokurou, eating from it plentifully. He approached them, and offered a greeting of, “Good evening.”
Youmu’s smile was still one of pity (he now knew toward herself) as she sat in seiza, while Saigyouji Yuyuko looked up at him with her doe-eyed faced, her seating posture a heart-catching yokozuwari.
“Oh my,” said the full-ghost of the pair, touching her lower lip with her left hand and setting down a pair of chopsticks in her right, “if it isn’t the boy from the Outside World. Welcome to my party.”
“It’s my party!” yelled Reimu, to his surprise (as it had not registered to him that the child was really very closely sat by the pair from the Netherworld). “This is a celebration for my resolving of the Incident!”
“I resolved it,” said Marisa, still under Reimu’s arm with her eyes now sleepily closed, and looking very red-faced.
“You got in the way,” grumbled Reimu, looking at her friend. After a moment she looked at Gen with a bright grin and said, “Like this guy! Hey, Gen, drink up! Have a seat and a dish! Go on, go on!” She splashed her own dish of alcohol in a boisterous gesture while addressing him, and he stiffly nodded while following her command.
“You can put those down on our plate,” said Saigyouji Yuyuko, looking at his skewers. With an “ah” of notice, he did so.
“Ah,” echoed Youmu, seeing his move, but elaborating no further than that. He raised an eyebrow as he looked at her.
“Here, a dish,” said the ghost beside him, handing him a sakazuki. He took it, and began to realize that without the floating spirits gently following this woman, he would not have taken her for dead at all. “Your cup,” she said, holding a tokkuri. He held the dish she’d given him up, and the Ghost Princess of Hakugyokurou filled it with the smooth motions of a thoroughly experienced host. He felt his face blush.
“Th-Thank you,” he said as she placed the tokkuri down among a large circle of others and picked up her own dish.
“Youmu, you too,” she said, and her servant took up a sakazuki as stiffly as he had. “A toast, to Gensokyo’s safety. Cheers!”
“Ch-Cheers,” the half and full humans said, stuttering in the same manner. They drank, and when he finished he put his sakazuki atop his crossed legs and reached for his now-barren skewers. He made a gasp of confusion then, looking at Youmu, who looked at her Mistress, miserable.
Saigyouji Yuyuko had her left hand now entirely over her mouth, and her eyes were closed. She said, “Delicious~” and he was astonished.
He opened his mouth to confirm his suspicions, and heard Reimu’s voice instead of his own: “‘Gensokyo’s safety’!? I don’t want to hear that from you!”
“Oh? What do you mean?” asked Saigyouji Yuyuko, genuinely confused. Reimu growled at her, reminding Gen of an angry dog. Yuyuko looked all the more concerned, mumbling “I don’t understand...” before turning to him and speaking again. “It is very nice to meet you, Gen. I am Saigyouji Yuyuko, Youmu’s master. I understand you are the one who helped my Youmu with her gathering of spring. That was very bad of you, you know.”
“Uh—” unused to her pace, Gen could only manage this, pausing after to compose himself and answer in seriousness: “Yes, I apologize.”
“Yes, you should,” she scolded, “Youmu doesn’t know aaanything. You shouldn’t have helped her, and should have let her learn on her own!”
“Oh,” he answered, thinking just after, Hm? That’s what she meant?
“L-Lady Yuyuko...” mumbled Youmu, blushing with embarrassment.
“What is it? Youmu. Speak up,” said her Mistress plainly.
“I-I’m...” managed Youmu, and he saw her quickly glance at him before staring into her sakazuki with an even more scarlet face, “I’m still young!”
Now he blushed.
“Oh, Youmu,” said Yuyuko, almost squirming with delight as she reached to her servant and began to pet her hair. Youmu squirmed as well, and he saw that she was not sure whether to smile. “You’re so cute, aren’t you?” continued her Mistress, following with “Hey, hey,” as she poked the half-phantom’s cheek. Youmu’s ghostly half twisted in the air behind her, and seemed to try to hide at her right side. Gen, who was still stunned from secondhand embarrassment, began to understand the gardener a little better.
Eventually he could talk again, and said “W-Well, I have a bad habit of helping, I’ll try remedying that.”
“Hmm?” replied Saigyouji Yuyuko, looking over to him, and she said no more than that.
“Ahem,” he cleared his throat, fist before his mouth. “I am honestly sorry that I had to try to stop you, Lady Saigyouji. I thought it would be for the best.”
“My name is Yuyuko,” she said.
“Ah, Lady Yuyuko.”
“My name is Yuyuko,” she repeated.
“Y-Yu... Yuyu... ko...” he said with painstaking effort and an expression to match.
“Talk to Youmu now,” Yuyuko casually ordered, standing up. “I will go see the flowers of earth, in their inelegance.”
“Hey!” came an expected shout.
“The beauty and majesty of these gardens, minute as a cat’s forehead, can of course not at all compare to that of those in the Netherworld.”
“A cat’s...? Jeez, I’ll send you to the Netherworld,” threatened Reimu, and with a fresh smile to the Shrine Maiden, Saigyouji Yuyuko walked toward the musicians and the cherry trees behind them.
“So that’s your master,” said Gen, watching the Ghost Princess stride away.
“Yes, that is Lady Yuyuko,” answered Youmu, almost in resignation.
“You seem to be a lot better, by the way, Youmu. I’m happy to see you in fairer spirits than yesterday,” he told her, taking up Yuyuko’s abandoned chopsticks and awkwardly grabbing some beansprouts from the cornucopia on the plate Youmu was steadying.
“Yes,” said the gardener, turning her lips up only slightly, “I had just needed to face a trouble I’d been having head-on. I also... I also have decided to hold onto the hope that my Master is still out there, and that his departure was a lesson I have yet to understand.”
“Oh?” he commented while munching.
“He, Lady Yuyuko, and Lady Yukari, are all adults who are hard for me to understand, but I am sure that in time I will have a grasp on it all.” She showed him a determined fist, smirking a bit with building confidence. “Until then, I’ll try to just be sure of myself first! I will follow the way of the sword that I know, and be certain of it! More certain! Absolutely certain! So, thank you Gen!”
He stopped chewing. With the simple innocence displayed in her face combining with her hopeful words, he felt as though an arrow had been shot through his heart. He quickly looked to the left, and then the sky, chewing again as his gaze shook. Bad...! he thought. This girl’s purity is too much...!
“Y-Yeah, don’t mention it!” he said, floundering. He pulled his eyes toward her again, and they went wide as his gaze fell on her neck. He noticed that it was exposed, her tie loosened and the first button of her shirt undone. His gaze sharpened as the thought of Collarbones...! fired through his mind. He tried not to focus any further on the sight. Not her small beads of sweat clinging to them, nor the tapered and smooth way they seemed to curve out of his sight, nor the motion of her throat when she drank another cup and sighed with heat, nor the way her chest rose and fell with the steadiness of her breath.
He tore his eyes upward to meet with hers and said, “You know Youmu...!” pointing toward Reimu’s entourage with the chopsticks he was holding, “My Master is here too! Well, my Mistress: Mistress Remilia!”
“Ah, the vampire?” asked Youmu with interest. “Is it that girl in the pink dress by Reimu? The winged one?”
“Yes...” he answered, already calming down. It helped that, at the time of his witnessing the Mistress, she was clinging to an irritated Reimu while squeezing a rather uncomfortable Marisa’s face in with her stomach. He continued, saying, “She can be unreasonable, but she’s done a lot for me since I got here, and she’s quite admirable.”
“Lady Yuyuko is not very admirable,” said Youmu frankly, which surprised him. “I am her loyal retainer all the same. I would do anything for my Mistress.”
“Well that’s good,” he said, “insofar as you must like her very much then. It’s not good what you two tried to do to Gensokyo and that tree.”
“I have to follow my orders,” said Youmu flatly. “Would you not do anything for Lady Remilia and Miss Patchouli?”
He thought about this, staring at Youmu for a moment before his eyes began to wander and his expression began to shift in thought. “At present,” he eventually started, “I don’t think that I would, honestly.”
“Gen, that’s terrible,” responded Youmu at once and with all honesty, a look of pity again on her face. He shared the look, and continued.
“My masters are the kind who could whimsically send me to my death should they be at all bored. I will have to say no sometimes, and it is expected of me if I’m being truthful.”
“Hohh... to your death...?” repeated Youmu seriously, sipping from her dish of new sake.
“The Scarlet Devil Mansion is a bizarre place run by bizarre people,” he said truthfully, though looking at Remilia he followed with, “but I’ve come to like it. I would do... near anything they would ask of me.”
“You need to work on your loyalty,” said Youmu, “I would half-die for my Mistress.”
“You’re already half-dead,” he told her, frowning.
“Ah, you’re right!” said Youmu in shock. He looked at her with concern. “What on earth...? I’d forgotten...!? Could it be the moon, driving me mad!? Could it not affect me while in the Netherworld...!?” The half-phantom held her head, staring into the source of her present conundrum in her other hand.
“You’re getting drunk,” said Gen, pointing at her sakazuki. “It seems that you’re a lightweight, Youmu.”
Again to his surprise, Youmu giggled at this comment, beaming at him and saying, “Heh heh, yeah, I am. Do you want to hold me and pick me up? I am very light in weight, you know!”
She held her arms out to him.
He put his hand up, and looked away from her while a blush spread over his cheeks and to his ears. As he answered, he glanced at her open collar several times in spite of himself. “I-I’ll pass,” he said, “in fact, I think I’ll leave you for a moment at least. I should take the time to talk with Miss Reimu and my Mistress while I have this festive opportunity.”
“Very good,” said Youmu, serious again as he stood up, placing his sakazuki down beside him. “I will guard Lady Yuyuko’s food. Be vigilant, Gen!”
“Uh, right, I will.” He put down the chopsticks he’d been using where he’d gotten them, picked his sakazuki up from the ground where he’d placed it, and walked toward the vampire, maid, magician, and shrine maiden.
“Oh ho, if it isn’t Gen, finally deciding to join his lord after escorting her to a party.”
Gen stopped before his Mistress, and with furrowed brow looked away before answering, “... ‘Lady’, Mistress?”
“Master of Fate!” said Remilia, squeezing a groaning Reimu and Marisa tight to her, “Your fate in particular, Gen!”
“Mm, yes, Mistress Remilia.”
With this, he sat on his knees before her. Remilia finally released the humans, and Marisa collapsed, her head falling on Reimu’s lap where she proceeded to sleep and drool. The Shrine Maiden flicked the magician in her cheek a few times, but it only made her friend readjust for comfort. Giving up, Reimu continued to drink, using Marisa’s head as an armrest.
“It looks like you get along well with the Hakurei, Mistress Remilia,” Gen commented. As he did, he spotted that Sakuya beside her seemed to be nodding off while sipping from a cup.
“Of course, it’s me after all,” bragged his Mistress. Reimu only glowered at her while drinking.
“So,” began Gen, turning to the little girl, “taking all the credit for resolving the incident, are you?” He smirked at her, and she turned her glowering on him, pulling the cup from her lips.
“I recall you being there, Gen,” she said, “but I don’t remember you fighting with that ghost.”
“I ‘fought’ with the tree, with Marisa’s help,” he told her.
“I didn’t need any help. I just needed my seals, my gohei, and my needles, like always,” the shrine maiden insisted.
“Well, rewrite history as it’s being made, little girl; I probably would be safer kept out of it anyway, and a Marisa even more big-headed than usual would just give me and Master a headache.”
“Reasonable,” said Reimu. “You get how this works. You want to take credit? Learn to fight first, and how to dodge before that.”
“Learn something first before first?”
“It’s easy,” she said.
Ignoring this nonsensical advice, he told her, “As a matter of fact, I’m going to learn how to avoid fighting altogether for now.”
“That’s even smarter,” Reimu told him, drinking more.
“Now is that so...?” his Mistress remarked, drawing his attention. When he looked at her, he saw her presenting him a filled dish, and realized shortly it was his. She delivered to him a composed look, and he took it to mean “be honored”. He was.
He took the dish and drank from it as his Mistress continued speaking, her mouth a perfectly devious-looking shape, “I appreciate your boldness every day, Gen, but you really will die by keeping up the way you’ve been going you know. Does Patche know about this change in direction?”
Finishing his cup, he answered, “I told her just today, before we left for this flower-viewing.”
“What did she say?” Remilia asked.
“‘Huh? Since when did you grow sense?’”
“Kyahahahaha!” his Mistress laughed, holding her stomach.
“She said that as punishment for being stupid for so long, she wouldn’t help me on this new front I’m attempting.”
“How cruel of her,” said the Devil.
“I haven’t seen that shut-in for a while,” Reimu cut in, “how’s she doing?”
“Master is doing great, and she isn’t a shut-in,” Gen replied.
“I invited your master, so why ain’t she here?” the girl asked.
“Busy,” he answered bluntly.
“Reimu, Reimu, listen to this...” his Mistress began, and the two of them turned to her. At this point, he noticed that Sakuya was fast asleep, sitting perfectly straight. The vampire continued enthusiastically, talking animatedly with her hands, “Patche made a replica of the Netherworld’s Hakugyokurou!”
“She’s still researching things about it,” he elaborated.
“Hmm...?” moaned Reimu, showing some interest in her eyes.
“It was a gift to me, and I will allow you to come see it if you like!” Remilia offered, touching a hand to her chest as her wings fluttered happily.
“I may take you up on that offer,” said Reimu, “because going to the real Netherworld is kind of a pain. Does it have real ghosts too?”
“That would be useful in the summer then. Or was it phantoms that were cold?”
“Sakuya caught both, and as well she gathered soil and unique cherry blossom petals,” explained Remilia, clasping her maid on the shoulder and waking her up,
“Hn?” was the only noise the maid made before quickly dozing off again.
Gen observed this small conversation worriedly, thinking that tampering with departed souls was really not the best thing to do (even if he had done so himself under his Master’s instruction).
So, he said as much.
“Shouldn’t you be worried about messing with the departed, Miss Reimu? The Mistress is already a lost cause.”
“Hey,” snapped his Mistress, who he did not give even a fleeting glance.
Reimu shrugged. “Nobody’s perfect,” she said, “and I’ll take my imperfections to the Yama in the end. She can judge me then, my good deeds and my bad ones.”
Spooky... he thought. Reimu’s so at ease with mortal life. I mean, I guess I sort of am too, but I’m not sure I could say what she said that easily.
“It’s those souls’ fault for not escaping Sakuya,” Remilia said. “They should’ve had more sense than that. How’d they even get caught!?”
“... That’s a good question,” he replied.
“Is it anything like catching rabbits?” Reimu asked.
“... They’re dead,” said Gen.
“What do dead people eat?” asked Reimu, looking at Remilia.
“I’m not dead,” said Remilia, shaking her head.
“Aren’t vampires undead?” the shrine maiden asked.
“As you can see, I am clearly alive!” his Mistress insisted. “And if I were undead, I wouldn’t be dead!”
“Un... I... guess?” pondered the Hakurei, looking puzzled. “But the undead are moving corpses?”
“I wonder if they can think if their brains are rotten,” said the vampire, arms folded as she seriously considered this.
“Let’s ask Sakuya, then.”
“Sakuya’s brains are totally healthy!”
“No, about catching ghosts.”
There was silence for a moment before Reimu spoke up again.
“... Our Sakuya is asleep. Please write a memo for her to read later and submit it as the standard mailing rules dictate. Before the witching hour.”
“‘A memo’—? ... I don’t have any paper.”
“Gen probably has paper.”
“Wait, why don’t we just ask a dead person?”
“Are there dead people here?”
“I think those two are dead.”
What is this conversation? thought Gen.
“Hey ghost!” Reimu called to Youmu, “What would you eat to fall into a trap!?”
But Youmu did not respond. She was chuckling to herself while hugging her phantom half, and seemed oblivious to the world.
“Tch, useless huh?” said the callous Reimu. Gen reminded her that phantoms were not ghosts, and further that Youmu was only half of one anyway. “... Hah?” was the shrine maiden’s response, before she began to lecture him about phantoms, ghosts, and departed souls in general in surprisingly great detail (more surprising was the fact that at no point did she prove phantoms were equivalent to ghosts, nor did she even try). Meanwhile, Remilia began to stack sakazuki atop Sakuya’s very still head, enjoying the rare moment she had caught her maid sleeping before bedtime.