[X] Nightwish’s Wish I Had An Angel. (Flandre loved it)
Once more they were in the Library. The matter of Youkai Mountain was not discussed.
Although Gen would eye his Master suspiciously on some occasions when her eyes were put elsewhere, he did not ask if she had spoken to him within a dream and he did not bring up the unacceptable present state of his quest. He still had more than a week to accomplish it, so kvetching now was not needed—even if he had kvetched while in the World of Dreams.
To be frank: he did not wish to even be in the same space as his Master until he was absolutely certain he was on the right track. Presenting himself before her as “together” and “not a bumbling fool” was very important to him.
“Hm!?” He grunted this with a fool-smile on, lifting his cheek from his fist and blinking (he had been slouching over a table). Patchouli had struck the nail precisely on its head. He pretended as if she hadn’t, and replied, “No?”
“Gen is upset that I found what he couldn’t,” said Sakuya, who was almost sitting on the same tables at which he was resting. She pointed at the adapter, which she’d told Patchouli she had found in Muenzuka while Gen had failed at Kourindou. “And though it was only a flip of a coin which of us, if not either, would find success. Isn’t he precious? He is that desperate for your favor, Lady Patchouli.”
It was a lie they hadn’t agreed on, but Gen appreciated how quickly Sakuya had come up with it.
“Well, precious or not he should get rid of that foul mood. His bothered face is just a bother to me,” said Patchouli. She then turned to look at who was sat on the couch beside her. In the meanwhile, Sakuya looked Gen’s way and gave the miserable-looking apprentice an apologetic shrug and smile.
The one seated next to Patchouli Knowledge was Flandre Scarlet, wearing an old, brown, pair of studio-work headphones and bouncing joyfully in her seat.
She sang “I’m in love with my lust, burning angel wings to dust!”; evidently her favorite lyric of the song she had listened to several times now.
The iPod was functional. It had come with six songs, though oddly they seemed to be nothing akin to the kinds of sample music Gen thought one would typically find on a fresh device, though the number of songs to sample was about the usual. In any case the tastes of whomever had added the songs were... eclectic. There had been a heartfelt pop song from America, another with R&B stylings from Japan, a famous “noise”-y and frightening song by Aphex Twin, a song from a Japanese band he hadn’t heard of that blended pop and hip hop in a way he found delightful, and there was the song Flandre was listening to: a song from the band called Nightwish. He only knew a bit of them, but apparently their bombastic, “epic”-styled rock operatic and orchestral flavor struck just the right chord with his younger Mistress.
Moments before his Master had caught him staring worriedly at her, she, he, Sakuya, Flandre, and Meiling (who was no longer present) had been discussing the songs and which they thought the master of the house, Remilia Scarlet, would enjoy listening to first... or rather, which they would each like their Mistress to listen to first. Meiling had liked the foreign pop song, his Master had liked the pop/R&B song from Japan. He and Flandre had their favorites, but the only person who didn’t seem to favor any song in particular had been Sakuya. Sakuya wanted her Mistress to listen to Aphex Twin. Her wicked intentions were worn plain on her sleeve.
It was Gen who was allowed to ultimately decide, and seeing as his younger Mistress was so fond of Nightwish, he was leaning toward leading with that for Remilia.
“Ahh, it’s great...!” Flandre sounded exhausted as she pulled the headphones down from her ears to around her neck. She looked content: eyes closed and a single fang protruding from her smiling lips. She opened her eyes to look at the iPod’s screen as she navigated the short song list with its circular pad. “I like Aphex Twin’s song, too!” she declared.
“It’s fantastic, isn’t it?” agreed Sakuya, beaming with a serpentine lean. Patchouli and Gen looked at the made with evident exasperation.
“Let’s have Remi listen to the songs when night falls,” said Patchouli, calling a book from a shelf and settling down as Flandre hit “play” on Aphex Twin’s Come to Daddy. Soon the youngest vampire’s head was lightly bopping, and the two magicians were side-eyeing her uncomfortably.
Night won’t fall for a while, thought Gen. I’d better have something else to do.
He glanced at Sakuya.
He wanted to use magic to create or summon a “self-warming cloth”. He also didn’t want his Master to realize that that was his intention. As she’d already caught him looking into gods and artifacts, she would know that that avenue which he had been looking into only just that earlier morning had already proved a dead end. Then, she would question him about that. And, he would have to answer.
That thus returned to point one. Shielding his pride was paramount, and still very much doable.
He was thinking...
 getting Sakuya to help would likely be a safe bet. She could easily get him books with Patchouli being none the wiser.
 Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
 researching within the library, or using the library’s resources, was just too much of a risk. No... instead he’d pay the sleeping Marisa a visit, and he would convince her to help instead. A Founding Father of America once said something to the effect, “an enemy that has done you a favor—a kindness, will be only more ready to do for you another”.
[X] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
[X] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
[x] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
Maids are as reliable as a loaded gun from 1920. No way.
[x] researching within the library, or using the library’s resources, was just too much of a risk. No... instead he’d pay the sleeping Marisa a visit, and he would convince her to help instead. A Founding Father of America once said something to the effect, “an enemy that has done you a favor—a kindness, will be only more ready to do for you another”.
[x] researching within the library, or using the library’s resources, was just too much of a risk. No... instead he’d pay the sleeping Marisa a visit, and he would convince her to help instead. A Founding Father of America once said something to the effect, “an enemy that has done you a favor—a kindness, will be only more ready to do for you another”.
[X] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
there is 0 chance relying on the fairy maids can go wrong
[X] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
I wouldn't even mind if the fairies made things go awry.
[X] Sakuya was a bit too much of a wild card to truly “rely” on—or rather, she perhaps wouldn’t be keen on him “pushing his luck”, as it were. The fairy maids, however, were straightforward and simple. They, though wild and stupid and frank, could actually potentially assist him best.
I’ll go and rally them— he decided, no gifts, otherwise they’ll talk about it.
Alright, it’s settled.
He looked up from the table, the surface of which he had been gazing into while planning. His gaze was met with Sakuya’s, and the maid kindly asked, “Is something the matter?”
“I’m planning another coup,” he replied.
Her brow raised. “Ohh...” she breathed. “Be less troublesome about it this time, hm?”
He smiled and told her, “I will!”
“I hope you’re just joking, Gen. I will have no chaos on a day we give Remi a gift,” said his Master, staring at him from afar.
“No chaos,” he swore, hand raised.
“Not an ounce of it,” she demanded, and he nodded, standing from his chair.
“I’ll be back by dinner time,” he announced.
“Fare well, Gen.”
“It’s au-tomaaatic~!” sang Flandre.
He swiveled on the toe of his shoe and exited the space, and eventually the library.
According to a few maids he stopped, today a number of fairies were relaxing in one of Remilia’s studies on the first floor, pretending to be refined. He made his way, opened the door to that study, and interrupted them.
“Why, yes, Master Itou, there are seven fairies in the room,” declared one of the seven, seated in a scarlet armchair with a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar open atop her lap. This fairy was named Parchment, and this was not the first time she’d acted this way.
“... Where did you get a monocle?” he asked, his shoulders slumping as he closed the door behind himself.
“Hmhmhm... Ahahahahaha!! I am very glad you asked!” she chuckled, laughed, and gave an enthusiastic shout.
“‘Where did you get it?’—Ohohoho! ‘Where’, asks the human!” said another fairy in a separate couch.
“One may as well ask how glass is made!” said another with a scoff.
“And everybody knows how glass is made,” bragged one sitting on a bookshelf.
“Glass is made in ovens!” declared one sat a few feet away from him on the floor, reading a different children’s book before her.
“Yes, like cakes,” affirmed one who was sitting on the floor to the left of the doorway and fiddling with an armillary sphere. She closed her eyes and wagged her finger at the human in front of the door, as if chastising him.
“Heh heh...” chuckled the last, sipping tea at a small table to his right. Smiling, she looked into her cup and queried, “... Wasn’t if furnaces?”
“I’d much rather talk about cakes.”
“We should have some cake.”
“Yes! Gen, have you brought cake?”
“I haven’t brought any cake.”
“Then why are you here!?” yelled Parchment, to a following chorus of “Yeah!” from the rest.
This yellow-haired fae was outraged, her tiny fist slammed onto a page of mainly sweets through which the titular Caterpillar ate through in the story.
“Did you all find a radio or something?” Does radio even make it through the barrier? “Why are you all talking like that?” asked Gen, his face twisted in consternation.
“We are being like the Mistress you prolotratertaetrite.”
“I—what?” he asked, slouching now.
“It was proletariat,” said the faint blue-haired, tea-sipping fairy. Her name was Coffee Sugar.
“Coffee, why are you with Parchment?” Gen posed the question, looking directly at her. This was a rarer sort of fairy, and he most often saw her on her lonesome if ever—or with Mistress Remilia. She was a fairy who tended to prefer solitary pursuits.
“Parch stole a sugar cube and gave it to me,” she explained. Parchment swiveled her head quick and became panicked.
“Oh my god!” the blond cried. “Shut up!”
“What?” asked Coffee, genuinely confused.
Parchment quickly looked to him and begged, “Gen, please don’t tell Miss Sakuya!” Her hands were now gripping both the armrests at her sides. At the mention of their boss’s name, the rest of the maids sans-Coffee seemed to grow concerned as well.
Gen blinked. “... You wanted Coffee to teach you how to be refined?” he posited.
At once, the fairies aside from Coffee became red-faced and ashamed, hiding their glowing cheeks in their hands.
He began to grin. “Forget telling Miss Sakuya,” he said, “I have to tell the Mistress about this.”
“Don’t! That’s so embarrassing!” screamed Parchment.
“Oh, what a world!”
“Quiet,” he hissed. Coffee indicated that she wanted his attention, beckoning it with her hand. He looked at her quizzically.
“Gen, can you make sugar cubes with magic...!?” she asked, her eyes sparkling.
“No,” he said flatly, and she flinched, now looking just as mortified as the others in the room.
“Th-Then... getting me more sugar—”
“I’m not even allowed in the pantry, you know?” he answered.
“Oh no...” moaned Coffee, her free hand raised and wavering. She whispered, “I’m melting...”
“OH, WHAT A WORLD!” cried the fairy on the floor before him.
“Oh, Jesus,” he grumbled. This was becoming a chain reaction. “I won’t tell anyone!” he snapped. They all lifted their heads and looked at him with burgeoning hope—except Coffee, who was still horribly upset. Ignoring that, he informed them, “Rather, I came to you on business.”
“Eh? Work?” asked the fairy on the bookshelf.
“You all have jobs, don’t you?” he reminded them, his voice tired.
The one at his left straightened her back. From her place on the floor she looked at him sternly and asked, “You’re gonna order us, then? On whose authority?”
“Our orders come direct from the masters of the house and you, Sir Gen, are an apprentice,” the fairy argued.
Her name was May Truce. Like Coffee she wasn’t... without intelligence. She kept her hair short and proper, and she wore large spectacles not out of necessity, but as a statement. She adjusted those glasses now, their lenses catching the lamplight from the walls of the room.
“Parchment called me ‘Master’ Itou earlier,” he noted.
“That was a different ‘master’,” the fairy clarified, holding her hands in front of her as if she were holding the word itself. She moved her hands to her right side and said, “Not master, but master.”
Her distinction was clear enough in Japanese and, to Gen, absolutely irritating.
“Do I really have to argue with you, Miss Truce?” he questioned.
“It’s ‘Mistress Truce’ to you, preposterate!” said May with an emphatic point at his face.
“Proletariat...” Coffee corrected, still nearly weeping.
“Proletariat Gen!!” May shouted.
“Working class Gen!” Parchment followed with zeal, having found her strength again.
“That’s not right...” Coffee moaned off to the side. Gen put one hand on his hip and the other to his chin, frowning.
Alright, fine... he thought, what’s the next move?
 Remind them you’ve led them before.
 Lie about it, say you’re bringing orders from someone else.
 Attempt to redirect their focus again, ---- now on the subject of sugar cube magic. ---- now on the armillary sphere. ---- back on Parchment’s monocle.
Note: Gen lied and he absolutely can make sugar cubes with magic, or at least he can if he looks into it. Marisa makes candy stars after all.
Gen took a leader’s posture – one of confidence and sureness – in an instant. Seeing this, the rest straightened their postures as well—even Coffee, who had been crying (and was now sniffling).
So, he spoke, querying: “Who was it who commanded you lot not three days ago through the forests of Gensokyo, seeking treasures?”
“It was Sir Gen,” answered Parchment.
“And not long before that? The one who led Livy, Shimmer, Panora, and Lev in the investigation behind who was drawing humans and youkai to The Shrine?”
“That was Gen...” answered Coffee.
“And you should know:” began the Apprentice, looking down at May beside him with a cool, presidential façade, “who it was just last year who instigated and directed the rebellion against the rest of the Mansion—the one who you all followed into battle against Sakuya?”
“You, Gen,” the little maid replied.
“I am the second-in-command of the fairy maid contingent in Scarlet Devil Mansion!” he declared to the rest of the room, standing at-ease and keeping his chin up. “Stand!”
They all did so, taking the proper maidly postures which Sakuya had taught them: spines straight, heads held high, and hands placed neatly before their aprons.
He looked them over then, and said, “I have something for you lot to do.”
The idea was only to get them to act. He ordered this task force of fae to find him three categories of things from the library: books on fairy lifestyle, books on enchantment, and books on sealing. The books about their race were meant as a distraction—of which he would have liked one or two other categories to rest assured, but... three categories, all, was a safe number for the unintelligent pseudo children of the Mansion to likely keep in mind.
While they gathered, he walked through the mansion’s halls. He had time before evening and more time before they would be done. He wondered how he might spend it?
 By returning to the library in a bold showing that the one responsible for the fairies’ taking of books could not possibly be him. Also, to see his Master, younger Mistress, and his colleague Sakuya.
 By going to see Miss Meiling. They hadn’t had too much time together of late, aside from during tai chi practice.
 By going to see Wakasagihime. He could always make time for the Princess.
[X] By going to see Miss Meiling. They hadn’t had too much time together of late, aside from during tai chi practice.
A whistle carried on the wind.
At the gates of Scarlet Devil Mansion, its red-haired guard was dutifully keeping watch—standing at ease and passing the time with a tune. Not one in particular: a nonsense melody, for the hell of it. There was very little to do most days in Gensokyo as the Vampire’s gatekeeper. Few ever dared even near the mansion, and trespass? They only ever had one who tried to do that—and it was very rare that she ever tried going through the front. If she ever did, it meant the guard was sleeping on the job, and that really did not happen. Often.
Evening was soon. Ahead, Misty Look tended to not look particularly nice in twilight, she thought. Perhaps she had just already become accustomed to this sight in the time since they’d moved to the land of fantasy. It changed little—looked best in the winter, never pleasant at noon. And while youkai and humans frequented the lake every day, that the fear of the Devil kept so many away meant that watching people fish, frolic, and whatnot was always very distant. She needed manga. She needed something to distract from the drudgery.
She was glad she was also a gardener.
“Don’t nap,” said a male voice. Meiling looked up at the source. He didn’t always sit up there... In fact he’d only done so once before: when they’d first properly met. She stopped looking at the Mansion’s second human, and kept watch ahead instead.
“I won’t nap,” she answered tersely.
“Master Patchouli keeps saying you do. Often,” he countered lightly. Out her periphery, she saw him casually swinging his feet.
“I don’t!” she snapped in return, shutting her eyes with annoyance.
“Well, assuming you do,” he ignored her, “I couldn’t blame you. How often does anyone even come to the gate, Miss Meiling?”
She partly glanced his way and explained, “Not very. We’re almost a hermit estate, like this.”
“So you’re a guard for show? Like the fairy maids are just here to staff the halls?” asked the boy. Meiling flinched.
“Sir Gen!” she addressed him in something akin to a hiss. “You’re not supposed to say that!”
“Ahh... sorry,” Gen apologized honestly. His Mistress Remilia’s love of “veneer” was a mansion open secret—acknowledged, known, but never, ever bluntly addressed: especially outside its gates. This unspoken rule was one he’d gathered early, in fact...
With rosy cheeks the guard also added, “And I’m not for show...! Gensokyo is just peaceful! ... And I’ve had to guard the gate before, you know!”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized again.
“Sometimes I stop Miss Marisa...!” Meiling went on. “And there are youkai and fairies on occasion, thinking they can get past me!”
And the apprentice replied, “Didn’t you let a lot of people through during the last week? When the Incident was happening... Master said the gate had become a revolving door.”
“I-It wasn’t that many!” insisted the guard, now looking at him completely. Gen was slouching and had his hands locked together in front of his knees. Meiling thus told him: “Sit up straight!”
“Right.” He did, separating his hands and putting them on his knees instead.
“So did you only come here to bother me, Sir Gen?” asked the guard, returning to her watch once again.
“‘Bother’...” the young man repeated. “At the least, I wanted to chat with you.”
“I see... Well, I appreciate that,” she told him honestly.
“I was thinking of maybe getting you something to make guarding less dull, but... you have to give your complete attention for as long as you can, right?”
“Who guards when you go to sleep?” asked Gen.
“The fairies that I’m in charge of,” answered Meiling, turning her chin a bit as she gave him attention, “the night guard: fairies of the moon, the stars, shadow. You haven’t seen them since you always go to bed long before I do, Sir Gen. Mistress Remilia thinks it’s fine to have them keep watch while she is awake and at her best.”
“She’s only sometimes awake at night, though,” said Gen. Meiling smiled with apology and amusement.
“That’s on our Mistress,” she said. “Things have gotten very strange since we arrived in Gensokyo...”
“Right, the Mansion was moved here. Were things different where you were before?”
“Of course,” answered Meiling with a decisive nod. Memories of the night—of hunters and holy men at the walls—flashed through her mind. “I actually had real work to do,” she said.
The flash showed in her eyes, which had faded a second. The nearby human saw this, and considered it.
“Mistress Remilia... is over five hundred years old?” asked Gen, adding “Mistress Flandre has said she’s a bit younger than her, and Mistress Flandre has been alive for over five centuries.”
“That’s right,” the gatekeeper confirmed with a lighter nod than before.
“Did you all live in the same place for five hundred years?”
Wearing an apologetic smile again, Meiling said, “You’ll have to ask Mistress Remilia about that, and I’m not sure that she’ll answer.”
Gen thought, Because the past is behind, I suppose... She doesn’t bring up anything of her old exploits or life. Maybe I shouldn’t ask.
Not her, that is.
His Master would most definitely be more willing to talk, not that she had been alive anywhere near as long as his Mistress. She’d studied in her library for the last hundred years, and he was sure she was older than just one century... Almost two, he thought. But five? That was certainly not it.
“Anyway, Sir Gen: I haven’t gotten to ask—” Meiling began to pose a question, and the boy perked up, “—What were you hiding in your clothes last night? It was something alive, right!?”
He flinched, went pale, and began to sweat. Bringing his hands together once more, Gen’s thumbs did fretting combat as he tried to pretend he hadn’t heard the question.
“Come oooon... Tell me, Sir Gen!” Meiling whined.
“U-huh...” he stammered awkwardly, and Meiling started to slyly grin. She’d realized something.
“Wait... you like little girls so... were you smuggling one—!? Aha! Ahaha! No way, right!” Meiling laughed.
Gen was not laughing.
While the worry over his being a lolicon was sincerely unwarranted in Gensokyo, where so many could not have their ages accurately determined by appearance, the fact was still the fact:
He’d denied it once, but he really did like little girls. In fact, he had discovered very recently that he liked them quite a bit.
He had to answer; Meiling would stop tittering soon and construe his silence badly. He thought, should he tell the truth? Lie? He felt he could trust Sakuya but Meiling was a bit... sloppy.
He felt like she and he were siblings, all told, but sisters and brothers let secrets slip all the time... or so he’d gathered. He was still an only child.
He wanted to trust Meiling, but he was not certain that he should. She would mock the truth, most definitely... He ran through many scenarios in his head: quickly, worriedly.
And he decided—
 He would wholeheartedly tell her the truth.
 He would sincerely request that she not spread the truth, and then sincerely tell it.
 He most definitely wouldn’t tell her the truth, not now.
“Your wording is a bit wrong, but...” started Gen, nervously, and Meiling’s laughter began to halt. She looked at him with one eye closed while clutching her stomach. He continued, saying, “I didn’t want Master Patchouli to know about it, so I was being secretive.”
“Eh... Eh? You didn’t want her to know? So it’s not like last time when you were hiding something from everyone in the mansion?” asked Meiling. He nodded.
“I’ve already told Sakuya,” he admitted. “I’ll tell you too, Miss Meiling.”
“Oh!? You will!?” After she said this, Gen winced. It almost seemed like the youkai was glowing: her eyes had widened in surprise and an anticipating smile was opened on her face. He swallowed, and finally admitted:
“I was hiding an oni in my clothes last night,” he said, solemn and red-faced. “Ibuki Suika. I’ve entered courtship with the oni who showed herself a few days ago.”
Meiling took a moment to process this.
After this moment, her brow entirely distorted, and she shouted, “You WHAT!?”
“Ibuki Suika,” he repeated. “I’ve started dating her.”
“The—! Ah! The oni who escaped the mansion that day after the last gathering!? Seriously!?” cried the guard.
Gen nodded, saying, “Yeah.”
“Dating, then—” Meiling stopped herself to recall what she’d seen the previous night. In a few seconds the recollection was accessed and closely examined, and the sitting apprentice watched as his youkai friend’s creeping realization showed in her eyes. Soon enough, she determined: “Then it was perverted!”
“‘Per—’!? You mean when she—?” Gen sputtered with surprised, and thought of how the oni had begun caressing his back while clinging to him. “I... I’d prefer to think of that as affection,” he firmly insisted.
“Really...? It just seemed... lewd,” asserted the guard. At the last word, Gen shivered. “And, you showed up in the dark hours of the morning...” Meiling went on. “You didn’t sleep with her?” she asked.
“Well, I... I did, but...” Gen stammered, and Meiling was left in awe. “At the time, I wasn’t... there weren’t any... plans like that. When she rubbed my back it was because... she... needed to...”
He was slouching, and deeply embarrassed.
“Don’t make me talk about this!” he snapped, looking to Meiling with an expression of blended enmity and pleading.
“I haven’t made you say anything, Sir Gen!” she countered. She stood straight after having twisted and turned to shoot looks his way and, while still looking at him, told him succinctly: “Well, I’ll keep what you’ve told me a secret, though. I think you’re right: Lady Patchouli wouldn’t approve of your relationship.”
“Miss Meiling...” said Gen in quiet surprise. His bitter visage was wiped away at once and replaced with burgeoning warmth.
“Moreover,” continued Meiling, but before she said more a catlike smirk crept onto her lips. For a moment, worry washed over him again. The guard shut her eyes, grinned with glee, and declared, “I very much do approve! Oh wow, Gen! You fell in love!”
“Uh,” uttered Gen. And again, “Uh.”
“It has to be real if you fell for each other so fast!” jabbered his friend. “You’ve met so many people since you arrived, and you’re quite outgoing, so I figured you’d have met a girl you fancied much sooner than that!”
I... did, actually, thought Gen as he stared, unflinching and with furrowed brow, at Meiling. Though I never tried nor wished to try pursuing it before, suppose...
A thought occurred to him. He asked, “Hey, Meiling... didn’t you call me out for liking little girls when we first met? And just a few minutes ago... You know Ibuki Suika looks like a child, right?”
“Yeah,” said Meiling with a nod, “and?” she asked.
“... It doesn’t... bother you, or...?” he ventured while leaning forward, confused.
“Ehh? Why would it? I don’t understand.” Was Meiling’s response.
“... Then why’d you say that!? Why’d you laugh!?” he demanded to know.
“‘Why’...?” Meiling repeated, tilting her head. “I thought it would be interesting if we’d picked up a lolicon, so I asked if you were one. Because most of the members of our house are little girls, that would’ve been quite something. Are you attracted to the fairy maids, by the way?”
“No...” he answered with disgust. The fairies were just children. Perhaps he’d sing a different tune seeing them in the baths, but living with fae made them thoroughly undesirable. Like being attracted to your family of a hundred younger sisters.
“Well, I also laughed because it was funny to think you’d be smuggling a little girl. There are so many to choose from in the Mansion, after all!” followed Meiling, smiling brightly. He looked at her with an expression of somewhat deep concern.
It really was easy to forget that Hong Meiling had rather warped morals.
“Well like I said I wasn’t smuggling her, either... I was... I was just making her feel better,” he explained, sitting up straight and frowning.
“If you want, I can let you two use my bedroom and you can sleep together all you like! It’s a great place since it’s not connected to the main building!” She gave him a thumbs up, he sputtered with surprise again. “I know it’s gotta be hard finding places for you two to have sex,” she went on unabated, even as Gen began coughing, “but I don’t mind helping you out! We’re friends and colleagues, after all!”
“Th-Thanks...” he answered, shaking now. Uh...
 I think I’ll take her up on that offer.
 ... That would be a really, really bad idea, wouldn’t it? Forget it.
“So, are you attracted to the Mistresses, Sir Gen?” Meiling queried, cocking her head again. His shoulders sank.
“Of course,” said the boy in a tired voice. “Anyone would be. The Mistresses are gorgeous.”
“Ahh, but you like Miss Flandre more right?” Meiling teased, pointing at him.
“I love Mistress Remilia and Mistress Flandre,” he answered flatly. He knew better than to ever suggest he liked one Scarlet sister over the other, at least not ever aloud. Either one of them could kill him over such a thing, and more importantly their feelings would be hurt.
“Oh, did you give Mistress Flandre that gift you said you’d hand her personally?”
“I hope that she likes it!”
“What about that request Lady Patchouli made of you? How is that progressing?”
“Hm. About that...”
Dinnertime wasn’t long off...
As Gen explained his idea to Meiling, he kept that in mind. It wasn’t often that everyone ate together. Breakfast, lunch, dinner—all meals happened wherever you were; Sakuya would find you, and present you with a tray.
He was very much looking forward to it, and especially: he was looking forward to keeping this talk up with Meiling in the dining room especially. Even rarer was the day they broke bread together...
And he’d realized, he had a peculiar and particular, precious bond with the guard of Scarlet Devil Mansion. It was the sort of nonsense, absurd thing that could only function in a world very lacking in common sense. In fact, that was what kept the two worlds truly separate: a border of common sense.
How ridiculous, he thought, and he smiled. I think that last year, had I seen this scene in a vision I’d have called it a pure illusion.
“But, honestly—! Only five tracks? Why, I was certain CDs held more than double that, yet this—!”
“CDs use uncompressed audio, but with the rise of the mp3 format and thus better compression, the file size is smaller.”
“Songs tend to be up to five megabytes in size, and the iPod we have is forty gigabytes. There are one thousand per gigabyte and—”
“Hey, wait, stop stop—”
“—that means that for every gigabyte you can hold about... two hundred songs? And because there are forty gigabytes on that... hm, eight thousand I think?”
“Ten if you go down to one hundred twenty-eight kbps.”
At the head of the dining room table, Remilia clutched her knife and fork with a look that spoke of blasted revelation.
“THERE ISN’T EVEN THAT MUCH MUSIC IN THE WORLD!!” she cried. Gen, sat beside the gatekeeper a little ways down the table, wondered whether that was or wasn’t true. It probably wasn’t.
“If CDs came with twelve,” chimed in Patchouli Knowledge, seated near and to her friend’s left, “and there were even just twenty artists releasing twelve-track CDs per year, in about forty years ten thousand original pieces would’ve been made. These are using too-generous estimates.”
“I believe electronic music, and recording, have been around since the late nineteenth century, correct?” posited Sakuya, who was seated opposite Patchouli. Remilia glared at her. “Ergo, using too-generous estimates, more than twenty thousand original pieces would have been made, recorded and sold since that time.”
“How mwush mujic dihd recordsh shtore?” asked Meiling through a mouth stuffed with rice.
“A bit over forty minutes,” Gen answered. “Twenty-two, each side.”
His father collected a few vinyls.
The table they were all sitting at was several meters long, and rather wide as well. The fairies were one room over—everyone was half-keeping an eye on them, ready to stop any rabble-rousing. The fairies’ room was very spacious, on the X and Z axes; on the Y axis it came up short. Height was instead given to the main dining area (though it had less horizontal space). In fact, the Mansion’s clock tower blended with this room overhead, and if you were to find some way through the ceiling you would be met with staircases, giant gears, and eventually an enormous glass face. You’d have to fly or climb up quite a ways... The entire room was very ostentatious. A chandelier glowed above: mostly red of course.
“Very foolish, Elder Sister,” remarked the younger sister, who was sitting across from himself and Meiling. She waited for Remilia’s glare to change direction her way before elaborating, meanwhile absently spinning her fork between her fingers so that a cube of meat would rotate atop it slowly. “You don’t know very many songs, then? That’s so uncultured.”
Remilia scowled. “I don’t want to hear that from someone who thinks that a recording which contains twenty seconds of screaming counts as music,” she retorted.
“It’s thirty seconds,” replied Flandre, closing her eyes. “I counted.”
“The song you chose was much better than that, though,” Remilia went on while taking more from her plate. Before putting what was now on her fork into her mouth she shut her eyes and asked, “How can you like both?”
“My tastes are ‘eclectic’,” said her sister, before biting what was atop her fork—bitten, it should be noted, at the same time as her older sibling. The employees at the table looked at one another upon seeing this, and gave a chuckle each.
Gen turned to Meiling then and began asking how she knew of vinyl records. In the meanwhile Remilia and Flandre continued to verbally swipe at one another, and the remaining two took to finishing more of their plates. Before dinner they had all gathered around Remilia while she was presented with and listened to the iPod they had gotten her. Her reaction upon hearing Nightwish’s song had been astounding: the vampire’s eyes had sparkled, and her foot was soon tapping.
She liked all the music but Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy. Though they had made her save it as the second to last track (leaving another as a palate cleanser), she could never have been made ready for such an unusual sound. Gen thought, she only needed time to truly feel it.
Thanks had gone around, dinner was set, and conversation took place. It was a proper, lively, SDM evening. Such was it pleasant and enjoyable that it was easy – even when he took a break to make headway through his plate – to forget the amount of blood covering and imbuing the Mistresses’ dishes.
As long as I’m not eating it, I’m fine with it, thought Gen.
“What of sealing? That is magic too, no?” He heard Sakuya speaking, and looked up from dinner to pay attention.
“It is and it is not. There are a few methods to seal someone or something,” his Master explained.
“And do any of the magic methods work with gods and such?” Sakuya wondered. His Master nodded.
“Though the arts are unreliable,” she confessed. “Calling gods, too... In most cases you would need a priestess. The foundations of those connections are made through faith, not research and magical power.”
“Hmmm...” Sakuya looked his way.
“Oh? Gen? Were you dabbling in gods?” asked Patchouli tilting her head.
“I—was curious about a god,” he said quickly after fixing his posture.
“Which?” Patchouli asked.
“The god residing on Youkai Mountain?” she asked. “You wanted to do something with her?”
“Uh, no,” he answered. It was the truth, in a fashion.
“Iwanagahime...” repeated Patchouli. She lifted her teacup and leaned back in her seat. “You couldn’t possibly do anything about her. I couldn’t either. Not only is she a god, she’s an old and special one. Special, although I’ve read that she comes across as rather plain.”
“H—Hmmm...?” Gen uttered, trying not to let on that he knew what his Master had read was essentially correct.
“Why were you interested in her?” she asked, her question absolute and direct.
“The smoke on Youkai Mountain... I was wondering how it worked,” he told her.
“It’s that goddess’s doing, so if that was your theory you’re quite correct.”
“Why does she make smoke rise...? The volcano isn’t active, right?”
His Master smirked. “Maybe,” she said.
Worrying, he thought, and his concern showed on his face.
“It isn’t the kappas’ factories?” Meiling asked.
“Kappa...” muttered Gen, “Marisa mentioned them before. Was there a belief that the kappa were responsible for the smoke?”
His Master answered the guard’s question, saying, “No. Rumors aren’t facts. I seriously wonder how you go through life being so superstitious.”
And Meiling was taken aback. “Wha—! It’s a popular rumor in the village!”
“Tell me when rumors begin becoming realities. Until then, I don’t want to hear about guesses,” said Patchouli, words cold enough to make the other youkai shiver. Next to her, Remilia smirked, pointed, and said:
“Rumors are where theories rise from, and the fruit of a successful theory is ‘fact’.”
“Wasn’t it my job to learn things? What do you know about theories and research, Remi?”
“I know quite a lot,” said the vampire, sitting back and opening her hand as she turned it over. Patchouli sighed and drank more of her tea as Remilia Scarlet continued on. “It is the duty of the nobility to be aware. In some regards, I know even more than you, Patche.”
“You didn’t even know how much music might exist in the world... and music isn’t even close to my specialty,” answered Patchouli, looking somewhat miserably at her friend as she took her teacup from her lips.
Remilia pointed again. “Then, shall we have a knowledge-off? I’ll show you that your given name is only that! Surely I can best you...” she trailed off, and loudly declared, “... at TRIVIA!”
“Very well,” Patchouli replied. “I will trounce you, and as a reward I’ll have you assist me in research for a week.”
Upon hearing this condition, Remilia’s charismatic mask broke—though for only a second. “H-Hmm! Yes! That’s fine! And when I win, I’ll have you... read to me! At night!”
Ah damn, I want to play and lose, Gen thought, frowning sadly.
Patchouli, on the other hand, smiled. “We’ll have Sakuya moderate,” she said, roping in his colleague without her consent. Sakuya did not mind. She looked serene and pleasant, rather. “I’ll enjoy you regretting this,” the magician declared in all confidence. Remilia scowled.
“You’re so cocky! Hmph!” was what she had to say. Nobody commented on the hypocrisy, though Flandre did roll her eyes. The Mistress sat up from her seat, planting her hands on the table. “Nobody else intrude!” she ordered. “Especially not you, Gen!” Gen pointed at himself and raised one of his bushy brows. “Yes, you! I don’t need you assisting her in secret!”
“What about openly?” he asked.
“Quiet!” she answered.
“Alright, Mistress,” he replied, bowing his head. He was most sore that he had to accept this, though. So, so very sore.
And so, all the ruckus to die down. The two old friends and the head maid would be holding their contest in another room. Everyone else was to go elsewhere—not necessarily to perform any duties, however. The Mistress cared to do this at regular intervals: giving everyone within the mansion an evening of no serious responsibilities, and perhaps even a little Mansion-centered party. It helped mental health, was the reason she’d given him when he asked. His Mistress truly was a noble heart.
As he and Meiling cleared the tables in the main and side dining room (the fairies hated such work), he wondered how he’d spend his night. Hanging out with Meiling was tempting... Finding Flandre was very tempting. He also thought about heading to the Mansion’s roof, where he was quite sure Onozuka Komachi would notice him waiting.
Regardless of what he decided, he was sure tonight would continue to be grand and lovely, and that was especially something he needed after the failures of today.
 Hang with Meiling for the night.
 Find and talk with Mistress Flandre.
 Head to the rooftop.
Also; This choice is still open Meiling has offered her bedroom to Gen for his use with Ibuki Suika, whenever they wish to be intimate.
 I think I’ll take her up on that offer.
 ... That would be a really, really bad idea, wouldn’t it? Forget it.
In the kitchen, after he and Meiling had cleaned everything and set it to dry, Gen fished the water toy he had bought out from his pockets to bring it to a sink. He’d drained it after purchasing it from Kourindou (of course) and decided to refill it. He was going to see his younger Mistress.
Finding her was as “simple” as it could be. The mansion was very lively now that night had very much fallen. The hallways felt brighter than during the day, in fact. To find Flandre, he simply had to find where liveliness and light died—putting it in an uncomplimentary-sounding way. Or, not: Flandre Scarlet was a youkai, and a youkai particularly tied to the night, at that. It was also just a fact: most of the Mansion’s residents were quite afraid of her...
Within a hallway with half its lights taken out, and those remaining had been dimmed, Gen spotted through the darkness the lit lower edge of a random doorway. He knocked on the door, knowing the room’s occupant could only be his Lady Flandre or some strikingly bold invader.
“Mistress Flandre?” he asked at the door.
And a reply came at once. “Gen? What do you want? Come in. I don’t like talking to people through doors.”
He turned the doorknob and entered.
The younger vampire of the household was sitting on the carpet, leaning against an armchair, stuffed animal in hands as she stared absently at a cabinet on the wall to her left (and his right). He looked into the cabinet as well, seeing that it was full of board games from the outside world (and at least one box for shogi, which could be from either realm). Looking at it, a question arose in his head—but not one that he would ask or dwell on. Mistress Flandre was sensitive (or, more accurately, “volatile”).
“Evening, Mistress. Alone again?” he asked.
“What’s that behind your back?” she asked immediately, ignoring his question and turning her eyes on him without turning her head. When she did turn her head, a smile began to part her lips—one that said she’d caught him in “the act”—though there wasn’t really any “act” at play here. “I see...” she spoke smoothly, her right fang glinting in lamplight. “You’ve finally come to me with a wooden stake, huh? I see, I see.”
Flandre spread her arms, letting go of her toy bear and allowing it to roll onto the floor. She put her head on the seat of the chair behind her, exposing her neck in time with a pushing out of her chest.
“Be gentle, though,” she said. “And, if you’ll let me make a second request: please spare this child.”
Her right hand lazily indicated that she meant the stuffed bear.
“Mistress,” Gen began, sourly, “cut that out.” This joke was in very poor taste.
“Ehhh? You aren’t here to kill me?” Flandre asked, lifting her head. “Is that alright? The child is innocent, but I’m such a terrible, terrible, malevolent being.”
“Which would you like to hear: my saying that you aren’t, or that you most certainly are?” Gen asked.
“I’m not my elder sister,” Flandre replied, and she let her head rest again.
“... You aren’t those things, Mistress Flandre,” he said, and to that Flandre said nothing. “May I offer a gift to the innocent younger sister of Scarlet Devil Mansion?” he went on, leaning very slightly forward.
“A stake...!” gasped Flandre, lifting her hands and spreading her fingers into exaggerated, clawed postures. “Through my heart...!” she howled dramatically, and she threw her hands over the source of her precious little lifeblood.
“Can’t you stop!? That’s horrible!” the apprentice snapped.
“Right...” Flandre sat up as she whispered this, giggling after in—what else but a devilish way. The vampire girl looked at him. “You wouldn’t let me puncture you, so I can’t let you puncture me can I?”
Gen was not an oblivious boy. He frowned a disapproving frown at his younger mistress.
“What do you stand to gain from putting it that way?” he asked, embarrassed enough that his words were delivered almost in a grown.
“What way?” asked Flandre, with waving at him a mock gesture of befuddlement with her right hand. “In Japanese?”
“English WOULD be better!” she said loudly, closing her eyes and raising both hands now and shrugging and grinning openly. “It’s a much better language than the Japanese I have to speak in this silly land!”
“You sound like Lady Remilia now—”
“Oh, Gen. Was it the innuendo?” the girl asked, as if she had only just realized. The look in her now-open eyes said she definitely had not.
“You’d ordinarily say ‘bite’, wouldn’t you?” he answered, sighing.
“You wouldn’t let me bite you... I certainly won’t let you bite me,” Flandre replied, laughing again, The boy could tell: he was now blushing a little.
She’s talking nonsense again... he thought miserably, his shoulders slumping. Better to cut to the chase.
“I brought you something far less-compelling than what we got for Mistress Remilia, but I thought you might enjoy trying to master it, Mistress Flandre!” He forced the conversation ahead.
“What an exciting way to say you picked up a lazy souvenir for me! Thanks!” said Flandre happily. She was not being sarcastic.
“It wasn’t lazy... I thought this was a decent idea,” he spoke honestly, and a bit hurt, as he revealed the toy he’d purchased.
“What the heck is that? Are those rings? Are they candy? Is that food?” A slew of questions came at once, all as honest as could be.
“It’s not food,” Gen answered one of them, and then pressed one of the game’s yellow buttons. Water rushed up and swirled some of the rings in the tank. None landed on any of the pegs within.
“It’s a snow globe that’s box-shaped? It’s a box globe?” Flandre had stood up and was now walking toward him, her eyes focused on the little plastic toy. The smile on her face was now one of interest and amusement.
“Wouldn’t that naming schema lead to ‘snow box’? And it’s not that anyway. This is a game,” he replied, taking his other hand to it and trying to play the little thing properly. It really was more of a storm simulator, if he was to explain it more honestly. The little rings danced one intense and wild dance, being buffeted by rapid and interchanging water jets, but a wild dance wasn’t something controllable. After a minute of attempting success, a yellow ring settled over one of the pegs (all of which were mauve in color ), and he breathed out.
“One of them landed around that thing there!” said Flan in surprise. Perhaps she was convinced about her snow box theory, and thus genuinely had not expected some sort of game to manifest within it or show itself to be the (hidden(?)) main purpose. He could see her face through the water tank, and realized he didn’t usually stand before either of the Scarlets. They were both extremely tiny, and seeing the discrepancy between his height and theirs proved a bit of trip. The two were always so imposing, after all; their stature and charming fashion undercut that aura of intimidation.
He got the urge to pick up the Scarlet standing in front of him, but he also – firmly – had no death wish.
He needed to sit down or change where he was standing...
Gen walked over to the wall beside the cabinet, leaning against it once he reached there and playing with the water ring toss all the while, pretending that his Mistress’s cuteness was not disarming him. Flandre followed, eyes still transfixed.
“... Ohh,” she eventually breathed. “‘Ring toss’, right!? I’m pretty sure that’s the name!”
“Have you not played ring toss before, Mistress Flandre?” asked Gen, looking at her face now not through the tank, but directly.
“Festivals have too many people, and fairs show up more often in the day,” she explained.
He gave her the device.
“This is an honestly cheap imitation, using more randomness than actual control or skill to win. I’ve never won at it. I’m not sure anyone really has,” he said. “Kids usually play this on long car trips. It’s just something to waste time.”
“You can use different levels of pressure, huh...” his Mistress muttered as she fiddled with the game, testing its limitations. “Car trips... A rocking and bouncing car would totally mess up the balance.”
“I don’t think it’s balanced in the first place,” he retorted. Flandre, extremely focused on her new task, pressed at the two buttons and, in a few seconds, landed five of the rings onto the highest of the three pegs within. “... Hmm??” Gen made a sound of confusion.
“I’m not really sure I get it yet,” said Flan, almost to herself, “but I think I can figure this little thing out! ... Oh yeah, you said ‘master’—you think I can master this?” She met his eyes.
“I’m pretty sure you can eventually master anything, Lady Flandre,” said Gen, not even trying to sound complimentary—his voice and tone told that he was merely stating the truth. He crossed his arms, shifting his against-the-wall posture, and he admitted, “But, I was actually a lot more certain you’d never figure it out, because I was almost one-hundred-percent positive that these toys were unbeatable scams.”
Flandre huffed a breath from her nose and looked up at the human pitifully. “You bought me a scam toy,” she said, bluntly.
“I was interested in see your frustrated face...” he said, frowning with disappointment.
“Why did Elder Sister hire weirdo humans to take care of us...?” Flandre muttered, her wings slumping in a tired fashion.
“I’m technically not hired, I’m the live-in apprentice of Lady Patchouli,” he clarified.
“I’ll complete this game like it’s nothing,” Flandre went on, pushing at its buttons a few more times. “But it’s cheap, right? What will you give me if I beat it quickly?”
“What will I give you?” he repeated.
“Yeah, what will you give me?”
He thought about it.
Can’t give you my hand in marriage, anymore... “I would love to give you another gift,” he said, eyes closed in thought. He looked very pleased with himself.
“Yeah, okay, so what will the gift be?” Flan ignored his silliness.
“Pfff!” A burst of air was forced out from Flandre’s lips. With her eyes closed, she chortled heartily. “Kyaha! Ahahaha! Gen, you’re so stupid!”
The apprentice faux-gasped, lifting his bushy brows. “That wouldn’t do?” he asked.
“A reward for you is supposed to be a reward for me?” she asked, looking at him with eyes that told she thought he must be joking. “Don’t kid yourself, Gen.”
“Even if it was on the cheek?” he asked.
“I’ll let you kiss me on the cheek if you learn how to walk tightropes or something. Until then, you can’t kiss me at all!”
“Tightrope...” He looked as if he was thinking about it. “Well, forget that then,” he answered, relenting.
“Don’t give up so quickly! ... Ah. Ahhh...” She continued playing her little water game, sounding disappointed as a ring fluttered away from one of the pegs. “Anyway, no. Something else.”
He thought things over.
“... Playing with you, or serving you all day: which would you prefer I do, Mistress?” he eventually asked.
“Hmmm...” Now Flandre thought things over. After a few seconds, she answered, “The first one. Play with me when I beat this,” speaking with an almost dismissive tone: the tone she took when she was genuinely giving an order, request, or command. Hearing it, Gen stood straight and nodded, once.
He told her. “If you can, then I will.”
“I will, and you will,” she said with extraordinary calm. Her focus was on the game. Gen watched it as well.
“... And if you do well then...” she suddenly spoke up again, and he turned his eyes onto her. Peeking up over the top of the toy, her eyes met his as she told him, “... maybe I’ll reward you right back.”
“...” He stared, not moving any muscles in his face.
... Mistress Flandre is flirting with me again.
It’s never possible to tell how serious she is, either..
If she ever pushes me down again, then...
He told her, “Right, I await the day.”
She returned her gaze to the game and said, “By patting your head.”
The forces of nature, the spirits born from them, life itself—all is woven in the tapestry of magic. So, with study, the world is shaped by your words, your writings, even only your tongue. If you can conceive it, you can cast it. You only need to know how, or discover the Way otherwise.
To spool and spin a cloth that flows with heat as if a living being, what you need is—
 Powdered fire.
 A trapped and bound soul. Not a god—you need a contract.
Wrote how I'm sure Flan would react, fell back to the other three... three-way tied options. As there were two votes for her call, gave it to her. To be clear: had "Flan's choice" been the one voted on most (or second-most), she would've picked a fifth option. As things landed this way, I had her decide between only two. Felt I should explain this. There's definitely significance in having offered a kiss.
Or, that is what the boy was inclined to believe from what he read. In a secret room, with a cadre of fair folk, he read aloud a black passage from one of the tomes they had brought. He spoke of death; sacrifice; viscera, entrails, and the letting of blood. The fairies shivered in fear, and listened.
“And to have the blood at its hottest, to have the heat of life bound truly eternal, you must extract the heart you require as it still beats...” he read.
The flame lighting their hideaway flickered, and the fairies shrank away. The boy looked over the text again.
“... No mistake about it,” he judged. “Blood; and obviously mine won’t do...”
One of the childlike beings around him piped up, trying to ask, “A-Are you gonna—?”
He replied: “Cut one of your hearts? No. Even if fairies are effectively immortal...” He returned to the tome.
And there were many peaks to choose from where they would be grazing. Gensokyo was mountainous; it did not only have one “Mountain”. Furthermore, his maid peer had taught him the basics of hunting.
“We’re going, to find a goat,” he said. The fairies swallowed, and nodded.
So, still in secret (afforded by some of the fairies’ powers), he sojourned to a nearby hill outside the mountain. They quietly snuck up on a lone serow. He cursed the stout, fluffy creature to fall asleep, and had the fair folk help him bring it back down. The morning crawled toward noon. He stared at the sun in the sky, thinking nothing. Though... soon, a thought: if this was successful...
If it was, indeed, successful:
He would have passed his Master’s test with flying colors.
Friday morning. Nine days remain.
“A-Are you really gonna do this, Sir Gen...? Do we have to be here when you do it?” asked the flaxen-haired Parchment beside him. They had returned to their hideaway, and the goat was unconscious before them, resting on a slab, upon which was writ a magic circle.
“You’re dulling the sound, Parchment,” he replied. “May is obscuring the entrance, Thelma is maintaining the shadows around us...” He lifted a finger before his lips and told her straight: “This is a secret for only us. We are doing something the rest of the Mansion can’t hear of,” because I don’t want them mocking me for failing in the first place.
The blond gulped, and the rest of the crew shivered.
“Don’t worry...” said the Magician’s Apprentice, “the Mistresses will have goat for dinner.”
The atmosphere shined briefly with a cerulean, sparkling light. The air became calm. The goat grew relaxed.
“... Fires of the air, grant me—
Grant me your breath, for a moment.
Enough. Sweat the earth.”
The room’s temperature rose. The animal before them shook for a second, and its breathing quickened.
He waited a moment, then continued.
“... Evils of the air, yield to me.
Do you wish for fear?”
Something sickening swirled around them all. He swallowed, keeping down his nausea. The fairies barely kept together, but Evil had its audience with him—the fae were merely collateral from its activation.
“I wish for terror,” he said, and he waited until he could see it: a churning miasma, only visible for half a second. Its shape was small, impish. Ideal.
“Nightmare,” he bid, “make this creature suffer.”
It descended. Shortly, the ghost kicked in its sleep.
Good... he judged, and he withdrew a knife he’d prepared for this: one longer and larger than that he used when gathering materials.
He ordered of the fairies, in his native tongue: “Prepare the cloth.”
And once more he spoke darkly, the energy of his spirit lifting out of his body like smoke. “Let the blood in this body FLOW!” he bellowed. “Flow, endlessly, through these veins!
With his left hand, his right maintaining the spell craft over the panicked creature, he plunged his knife into its heaving breast.
Distressed, it delivered a high-pitched snort through its nose, still kicking in an effort to flee.
“FLOW!” he commanded the blood as it poured hot over his hand. “FLOW!”
The heart is here...! I have to be quick!
He carved its body open, quickly muttering the words for his other spells—those which kept the beast from giving out.
Past bone, past muscle...
Within its chest, a heart beat: triangular, pink and red thing, still beating.
He dropped his blade, reached within its body, and grabbed hold; pulling at the organ carefully—having to tug and jerky it from the flesh. His arm became drenched and dark. A smell of rust filled the room. At the end, the heart was within his grasp—thumping rapidly, and still tied by those passages and cords which brought the beast to life.
He then soundly declared: “This heart is mine, BEAST.”
There was a pulse of power—of the Art. The animal shook. The air shook. A red light shone throughout the room.
“Lift the cloth now!” he shouted. The three fairies responsible for this task did as told, fluttering into the air and holding a sizable, knitted wool red blanket aloft.
“You have never died, beast,” he continued as blood rose from the body, running through the air like rivers. “This heart still beats. This blood still flows. You are ALIVE.
You will never perish.
The heat of your body will never cease.
From this heart—!”
He held the organ high. The blood in the air seemed to melt toward the ground.
“I SEAL YOUR LIFE IN THIS! THE VESSEL IS FOREVER! THE BLOOD IS IMMORTAL!
You will only ever fade at my word.”
It all blended together overhead: a cosmos of red and thick liquid. The air became sweltering. A light bled out from the blood itself, and died at once to shade, leaving not a drop in the air at all. Instead the cloth the fair folk held became drenched for an instant, horrifying them, before the fabric absorbed it all as if quickly sucking through a pool. It was left dry and...
“I-It’s warm!” said one of the fae holding the vessel.
The goat perished.
Itou Gen looked up at the item in the fairies’ hands and smiled.
With half his body soaked in blood and viscera, he thought to himself only this: I’ve done it.
“Incredible, Gen! You’ve exceeded my expectations once more! This is wonderful—excellent work!”
Against this shower of praise from his Master, Gen stood frozen in place, an open and almost incredulous smile worn on his face.
In the library, his Master was standing with the blanket he’d just given her, infused with the essence of a living goat’s blood. She had, slowly, gone over the make of the article itself, and also the composition of the spellwork upon it, and she had grown increasingly, visibly delighted throughout her evaluation, ultimately resulting in this.
“You sacrificed a beast’s heart for this, didn’t you? Was it... Ah, it must have been a goat, right?”
“Y-Yes, it was a goat.”
“It’s so warm...! A serow’s blood! I’m so proud of you!” She brought the blanket to her face and clung to it, ecstatic.
“W-Well...” he began his response, trying to straighten his back as he continued, “it wasn’t simple magic, for sure. I get why during sacrifice rituals I’ve seen in movies and stuff, there’s usually a circle of people practicing it...”
“Indeed! You have to keep the beast panicked for something like this. Dark rituals are very delicate—at any point you could’ve been lacerated and drained of blood yourself in the process!”
Wow. I knew that already but she said it so plainly.
“Did you induce panic using a nightmare?” his Master asked, still glowing and smiling.
He nodded. “I did.”
“Did you make sure to ward yourself properly beforehand, so that it doesn’t visit you tonight?”
“A greater nightmare? A lesser nightmare?”
“Good. Then I expect your wards to hold. You’ve really done so well! Is there anything else...”
“Master... you’ve never been this pleased with me before,” noted Gen, now standing straight and folding his arms. He was feeling rather overwhelmed.
“You’ve taken a huge step in performing this magic,” Patchouli said, smiling enough that her cheeks were being pushed up. She did not elaborate, however. Therefore...
He said, outright, “What step is that? I just performed by the book, though it was difficult to manage everything.”
“My student is really fantastic. You don’t even realize, and that’s what makes you exceptional. I wonder when it was? When did you become this dedicated to the Art?”
“What do you mean?” he sincerely asked this. His Master sighed pleasantly through her nose.
“If you don’t understand... perhaps one of your friends will let you know. Gen, you’ve really performed splendidly. Will your drive bring you to my level?”
“Of course!” he swore, just as sincerely as before.
“Good. Meet me here, my prized Apprentice,” she invited him, and for a moment—just a moment—something of an understanding came to him. However, he couldn’t truly recognize it; it slipped away. “For today, I want you to settle down. Please avoid using magic as well.”
“Huh??” Gen was utterly incredulous. He then gasped, asking, “Did I exhaust myself by accident?”
Patchouli shook her head (still, the smile never left her lips). “No, just do as I say. You can enjoy yourself however you like, but don’t use any magic.”
“Does that include flying?” he wondered.
“Even flying!?” He couldn’t believe this.
The Magician put on a sly face, and smoothly gave her apprentice a warning: “If I detect that you have used magic today, I will deliver that punishment onto you that I promised.”
You never “promised” anything of the sort! he snapped back in his mind.
“I will put this away,” said his Master, turning with the cloth in her hands and seeming to finally calm down. She was still in an evidently grand mood, however. She seemed outright giddy, and he noticed a concerning rasp in her voice.
But, she glided away before he could ask about that.
Alone, he realized: ... All that, and she didn’t hug or pat me. That’s... That’s quite awful.
He scowled, turning toward the entrance of the library and marching forth.
Miss Suika will hug me... he thought. And, he smiled. I’m in a great mood. Let’s go on a date!
He left the mansion during midday, and so even from the door he could tell that the Lake had been consumed by mist. He stood at that door with his hands in his pockets, feeling the breeze running through the hair that poked from behind his hat. The breeze shifted the mist not an inch... to that strange Lake, it was as if wind did not exist.
In silence, he trudged through the front gardens, toward the Mansion gate. To himself, he thought, Can’t fly over, can’t fly past...
At the gate, he rattled a bar, grabbing the guard’s attention.
Meiling looked at him quizzically and went through the slightly bothersome process of opening the way for him.
“Could you not just fly?” she asked as he stepped through.
“Master Patchouli’s orders are... I can’t,” he told her.
“And yet you’re going out?” she asked while locking the gate again. She acted very smoothly... this was common around noon. The mist meant she needed to actually be attentive during this hour every day.
“I want to see my lady friend...” he said absently, withdrawing a small roll of paper from one of his pockets, and his pen from another. He wrote something on the paper, and waited, thinking, This should be fine. The magic is already cast, and I’m not using any manipulation of spirit—mine or otherwise.
“Be careful,” bid Meiling, and she returned to her position, peering into the white fog before her.
Ten seconds later, a tengu flew down to the young magician’s left, kicking up a gust as she did so. Meiling took a stance at once, relaxing upon her notice that the ordinarily very wary and jumpy Gen was entirely unconcerned. If he was unconcerned, that meant he knew who this was. And of course, he did.
The twin-tailed bird lifted her head after landing, and with a brilliant look in her eyes she asked him, “What’s up, Gen!?”
“Hatate...” he began, asking as he turned his head: “It’s fine if I write you from here?”
“I figured I knew what you were thinking yesterday... so, I stopped you. If you’re just making contact from Scarlet Devil Mansion, it’s fine,” the tengu explained, standing generically (for a tengu) on one of her geta.
“Thank you for not always following me, as I asked,” he told her.
“Not to worry!” said the bird with a smile and a polite-looking hand gesture beside her face. “I know how to respect my subjects, unlike some people.” She meant Aya. “So? Why’d you want me?” she asked.
“Could you find where Miss Suika is and tell her to come to the Mansion?” he requested.
“Gegeh—!” Hatate made an absurd noise while recoiling and shutting her eyes. “Th... The oni!?” she confirmed.
“Please do it,” he bid lightly, really pleasantly.
Hatate answered, “Fine...” rather sheepishly, looking askance, and she spread her wings. Beating them once, she... probably entered the sky, and was gone.
“Gen... a tengu? You’re risking a lot...” Meiling noted behind him.
“She’s pretty harmless,” he explained, stretching his arms and fingers.
“Even if she isn’t dangerous herself, she can spread harmful rumors... or worse: truths about you. It could come back to you badly,” his friend told him, speaking in a serious whisper. He smirked at her.
“If it comes to that,” he said, “at least I’ll know who to roast later.”
“Hehh... I suppose,” said the guard, returning to her stance once more. A bead of anxious sweat was stopped on her cheek. “... Gen, is something different about your ki?”
“...? Wouldn’t you know that better than me?” he asked, returning his hands to his coat pockets.
“Well, I’m not su—Heh!?”
For a moment, they both froze with fear. A great wind had blown past them and the lake had become void of mist. The sun shined on both of them now perfectly. The phenomenon had been summarily dismissed, out of nowhere, and so they both looked at the sparkling waters yards out ahead in utter disbelief.
The mist filled in once again in a few seconds, and a solid shape formed from it, in front of their eyes: a small shape, flanked by a pair of what looked simultaneously akin to stalactites as well as an old tree’s branches.
“Oh...” Gen sighed with relief. “It’s Miss Suika.”
The oni dropped to the grass in front of them once she was complete. A crow landed some paces behind her, looking nervous. The elder youkai lifted her head, smiling excitedly.
He threw scissors; she did as well. They grinned, and she stood, patting off her skirt.
She spoke first, “‘Sup, Gen? You start rulin’ the Mountain after yesterday?”
“I-I’m not at his beck and call!” mentioned Hatate behind her: blushing, raising her shoulders, and balling her fists.
“No,” Gen answered, smiling. “I’m just horribly calculating.”
“What’s up? You can’t fly or somethin’? It’s not like ya to not do stuff yourself. Mmn, c’mere, c’mere.” Suika raised her arms and beckoned him toward her. He of course obliged.
The oni took his face in her hands and brought it toward her own, kissing him on his lips and making some sort of highly pleased, squealing sound. With her claws at his temples and venturing beneath his hat, he felt an undeniable and rather embarrassing excitement. He close his eyes as she had closed hers, keeping his hands up as he had raised them prior in surprise.
“Mmmmmwuh!” She was being cute. She beamed at him, and he glowed in return.
He squatted to meet her height.
“S-So... Y-You two are really in a relationship?” Hatate asked while he looked into the oni’s face rather fondly.
He questioned the bird with a “You knew?” And then he answered, “Yes, we are,” as he reached over to that face he couldn’t look away from and cupped its cheek in his palm. Suika held his hand in both of hers, moving to enjoy the sensation of his relaxed fingertips on her skin and smirking enough that he could spot her fangs. After a few seconds, however, her smile vanished and she paused. With brows pushed together and lips pouted, she moved her head forward just slightly, lifted her chin a little, and sniffed at his wrist.
“Hmm...??” he gave a sound of confusion, raising one of his hefty brows. “Something the matter?” he wondered. Suika took her right hand from his and clawed not particularly gently at his chest, still looking as though she were determining something. She patted over his heart, and felt his ribs, palming under his arm as well. “What’s up?” he asked, a bit worried.
She pressed her nose into his wrist entirely and, looking askance, sniffed at him again—deeply.
“Gen, you...” she began... but she only ever began. Dropping the subject with a “Never mind” she said. “Um, we’ll talk about it later.”
Eeeehh...? I don’t stink, do I? I mean, I shouldn’t. I cleaned myself of the goat’s blood and properly rewound my clothing.
“What’s the matter, Gen? Do you stink again?” asked Meiling. He quickly turned his head to look at her in shock.
“He stinks?” asked Hatate, holding her nose and stepping back. He turned to her, sweating and bothered.
“He doesn’t stink,” said Suika quite bluntly. She started patting down his front, and pulling something from his clothes with her power. What, he wasn’t sure. It seemed to be black. She gathered a sphere of it smaller, in fact, than the span of a one-yen coin, and put that sphere between her palms, whereupon she crushed it into nothingness.
Wiping her hands in a “job well done” gesture, she eyed him and asked, lightly, “So, what is it? A date!? Are you gonna take me on a date!?”
She got excited partway through and grabbed the front of his clothes, grinning with her nose against his.
“Yes... I wanted to take you on a date,” he replied, still thinking about what could possibly be the matter. He moved her hands off of his robes and stood up. “I need your help, though. Lady Patchouli forbid me from using magic. I want to walk through the farmlands...” He drifted off, looking toward where he meant. Then, he let his head fall back, draped his left hand over the front of his skull dramatically and bid, “Carry me!”
“Aight,” Suika said this as she chopped at the back of his left knee, causing him to plummet. As he stumbled in surprise she held out her arm, catching him by his back and subsequently sweeping him off his feet. With his hand still draping his forehead, he blinked at this chipper oni and thought to himself, My prince...
“Oh! Oh! Can I come too!?” This was Hatate.
“Of course not,” he said, and she seemed confused by this.
“You can watch from far away if you want, it’s not like we’re goin’ anywhere to hide; s’not like we’ll be in private or anything. Do what ya want,” was Suika’s somewhat slurred answer. He didn’t love it, but it was true: they weren’t going anywhere in secret. She met his eyes then and told him, “Keep an eye out, ‘lright? I can’t see everything and you can’t use magic. We’re going someplace safe but I gotta cross the mist first and you look real yummy.”
He wasn’t sure how she meant that.
“I mean that ‘cause I wanna ‘eat you up’ but most youkai jus’ wanna eat you up, get it? Heheh.” Youkai humor.
He was getting more and more used to it.
Looking out as she requested, he awaited her leap into the air. It came in a second, and they were off; Himekaido Hatate keeping an appreciable distance.
His girlfriend had to kick a few lurking youkai in the face, but nothing serious occurred, Most, it seemed, could recognize her unusual silhouette through the fog, as even with her carrying a full-grown human male in her arms that silhouette had an absolutely unreal pair of arm-length shadow-horns.
Therefore, rather soon, they were on Gensokyo’s open roads.
Gen hadn’t traversed these much—or at least, he never really paid much attention while walking them. The roads were useless for someone interested in magic: the forests, mountains, and queer plains were all distant from here. You could somewhat rest assured that youkai wouldn’t be willing to attack you on this, the Human Village’s extended territory, but in exchange those precious materials were kept out your reach.
At least, aside from safety, there was another positive in that it really was a relaxing stretch of lands.
Flat with nay even the suggestion of a hill in side, and so beautifully green; the farms of Gensokyo stood unmolested and pristine, guarded by youkai and gods alike, in fact. Humanity was precious in this secret world, and near every being of fantasy within it recognized a native human’s value, even if gazing upon them caused grumbling stomachs and slips of drool out of mouths.
That wasn’t a nice thought. He moved his attention back to his surroundings.
Glimmering, water-full paddies, men and women trudging through them, barnyards with animals – the usual rural suspects – out to graze...
He was reminded, truly, how deep he was in the countryside.
In the Outside World he had no actual experience with such places, and here in Gensokyo he really only apprenticed. He went through woods and gathered materials... He explored beneath the Lake and studied in the Library.
Though a lot had changed, in some sort of way he still felt like he had it a bit “easy” when watching those humans go about their usual, effort-filled days... but only a moment. Only a moment did he think that. He himself knew how much of his life was poured into and bound steadfastly with magic.
“Nice, huh...” his oni remarked. He looked down to her, walking beside him.
The road was long and clear...
“It is,” he agreed.
“Gen, you ever done any farming?” asked Suika, meeting his eyes.
“I’m a city boy...” was his answer. “Have you, Miss Suika?”
“Mm-mm,” she grunted and shook her head.
“Really? In all this time?” he teased.
“Surely this king of The Mountain had to have grown something on it? A few of rebellious legumes, perhaps?” he continued.
“I had other people grow stuff...!” she admitted, whining and embarrassed. He lifted his eyebrows. He was surprised she’d done even that much... He knew her as so thoroughly apart from a throne, having abdicated in times pre-history, that it still was somewhat difficult to picture her giving orders or instating laws. “What about fishing?” It seemed she wanted to get off the subject.
“You sure like asking questions about me,” he noticed. She blushed, and looked at the road before her feet, eyes widening.
“‘C... ‘Course I would! Aren’t you going to ask me stuff, too!?” she retorted. Oh, he thought, still wearing a smirk from having toyed with her, she’s annoyed.
“I prefer sitting down when I ask you questions,” he replied, looking out on the path they were traveling, spotting a few white birds and briefly wondering what they were. He told her: “Because I enjoy looking into your face as we talk. That’s harder to do while walking around... I’ve always got to keep aware of what’s around us and where we’re going...”
He looked down at her. She was hiding the face he liked to look at behind her hands. The tops of her ears, poking out from her hair, were a brilliant scarlet. Seeing this, Gen closed his eyes and smiled more genuinely.
“Also you’ve asked me that already: if I’ve ever gone fishing,” he revealed. She began to slouch; his heart warmed to see it.
“I didn’t forget—I was nervous!!” she almost screeched with embarrassment, and her words were ashamedly honest.
“Yeah, I got that.”
He came to a stop. She heard this and stopped as well, taking her hands from her face to reveal the shy and almost miserable frown behind it.
They were in front of one of the rivers which flowed out from the lake, and more specifically they stood in front of a rarely creaking water wheel, surely polishing rice inside the small building it was connected to. She looked up at him. He, with his hands in his pockets, was looking at the wheel.
“Well, if you’ve forgotten or not...” he said, “I haven’t gone fishing, and I’m looking forward to trying it as you suggested at the time.” He looked at her then.
Her nerves easing, she answered, “Yeah, it’ll be relaxing.”
“Old lady,” he said.
“Wh-Why do you keep making fun of me...!?”
“I’m in a giddy mood,” he admitted, chuckling.
“Gen... do you want to know how old I am?” asked Suika. He paused his chuckling with a knuckle before his lips, met her eyes and said:
“You can tell me whenever you’d like to. I really don’t care how old you are...” And suddenly, he felt his confidence waver. Looking back to the mill in front of him, sloshing indefinitely, he told her, “Your age, honestly even your looks... it doesn’t matter to me as much as who you are.” He frowned, feeling his face warm. “I like who you are, Suika.”
For a few seconds, she seemed to be looking at him in silence. When the seconds were up, she took a light hold of the wrist of the hand he still had in his coat pocket. She pulled at him, took his hand, and they stood side by side watching the river flow; the sun’s light falling over its surface and fragmenting a thousand times...
“... Gen,” the oni eventually said, “you did some sort of evil today, didn’t you?”
That was sudden.
“What do you mean?” he asked, glancing her way.
“No—I mean, you did right? You couldn’t have done it without knowing what you did,” she said, glancing in return.
“... Sacrificing a goat?” he posited.
“... You did that without thinking!?” She was in shock.
He was mostly dumbfounded. “...” he went quiet, thinking over his actions again.
“... The goat had to die for the spell to complete,” he explained.
“No—that’s—Gen!“ she was flustered.
“What?” he was still confused.
“Gen, are you even sure about what you’re doing!? You can’t take this stuff lightly!” He looked at her with an expression that asked her to go on. She did. “You committed a minor act of evil for the sake of magic,” she said, holding his hand tightly, “that’s the first step to turning into a youkai magician!”
... It is...!?
“And it’s specifically when you’re becoming so dedicated you stop thinking about consequences...” she continued. “What’d you do to the thing?”
“I slaved its sentiment to an artifact so that the blood of its heart, or more specifically the heat that provides, would keep the artifact warm—it was—that was the task, you know?” he told her. He then rationalized with, “... I mean, I didn’t take its soul.”
“What sentiment, huh?” she bluntly interrogated.
“That... That doesn’t matter, does it?” he queried, his gaze beginning to wander off. He knew that it did.
“What kinda sentiment, boy!?”
“... Sfrng... fr...” he mumbled.
“Hah? Wanna say that clearer?” she pushed.
“Suffering and fear,” he admitted, with a face indicated he had needed to drag this admission out of his gut.
And she snapped a retort of, “See!”
“It had to suffer! For the spell!”
“That’s the point, idiot!”
“Actually, it was rather high level magic. An idiot couldn’t have done it,” he came back with this, sincerely and sternly.
“You’re a HUGE idiot!” she emphasized, lifting her free hand as she chastised him. “This is crazy! You’re already this far gone!? What did the fluffy magician say?” she asked,
“Fluffy”... She means Master, right?
“Lady Patchouli praised me,” he said with barely hidden pride.
Suika made a fist. “I’m going to hit you,” she said.
“What the heck!” he shouted, pulling back a bit.
“Of course she praised you! You’ve gotten so dedicated to black magics it’s taking a hold of how you think! You’re starting to turn into a sorcery conduit! You know what that is? Vessel? Battery? You’re turning into a completely magical being!”
“R-Really?” he asked with a shy and faltering smile. Suika’s eyebrows pushed together and up into a caret slope, and gazed upon him in disbelief.
“I’m not complimenting you, dumbass,” she growled.
“To me, it sounds like you should be,” he replied truthfully.
“Of course it would!” she replied back dismissively, waving out her fist. She then heaved a rattling sigh. “... Has your Master at least warned you about turning into a youkai accidentally?” asked his girlfriend.
He snapped the fingers of his right hand.
“That’s why Lady Patchouli forbid me from using magic today!”
“Right; I know that falling too fast and incorrectly will end up turning me into a drooling creature, worse off than a beast,” he told her.
“Well... that’s good,” she admitted, her eyes now returned to the reflecting water running below their feet. She held his hand with more strength, and he returned the gesture. “... You shouldn’t become a youkai without thinking about it. What you are, from when you’re born, is special. You can’t ever really go back once you march forth.”
She turned her head. Seeing this out the corner of his eye, he turned his head as well, and they locked into one another’s gazes.
“Promise me something, Gen,” she said, and he listened. “Promise me you won’t use me as an excuse to turn if you do. That ain’t how it should be. You’ve gotta want it... for yourself.”
He gave what she said consideration, for almost a minute.
In the end he answered, “Of course I promise. My life in Gensokyo didn’t start with you, Suika... it only became that much brighter.”
She puffed a breath from her nose and smirked. “You’ve gotta make everything into a pick-up line,” she grumbled.
“Is it working?” he asked, his tone hopeful.
“You know it is, you...! You...!” She started jabbing at him playfully, and he caught her fist in his right hand with every mock blow. “Take it seriously...” she eventually whispered, gazing distant toward his stomach.
And he replied, “I do.”
The sound of a camera shutter rang out.
The couple looked toward the road they had wandered from, seeing Hatate there with her phone-camera out.
“... Great! It’s great!” said the tengu. “I’ll put it in your wedding album!” she said, closing the device and beaming.
The image of an oni and a human, holding one another’s hands before a sparkling river and an idyllic water mill.
Gen looked at her blankly. “... Did you have to?” he asked.
“Give me a copy,” Suika ordered. He frowned at her with some scorn.
Hatate waved a goodbye and returned to the skies.
Suika caught his attention again, now with a chipper smile. She asked him, “Where to now, my Husband?”
“Quit it...” he insisted. He looked off toward the Sun then, absently stroking her fingers with his thumbs. She resisted squirming.
 “Let’s keep going. I think there’s a sweet potato farm or stand around here.”
 “You’ve gotten me a bit concerned about this ‘evil magic’ thing... ---- “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go see a puppeteer I know.” ---- “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go ask Marisa about it.”
[X] “You’ve gotten me a bit concerned about this ‘evil magic’ thing... ----[X] “If you don’t mind, I’d like to go see a puppeteer I know.”
Suika hopped in place and beamed as she said this.
“Ugh...” he groaned, “you’re so cute, Miss Suika. You’re always so happy, I can’t stand it.”
“Bask in my happiness!” she commanded, now speaking with arrogance. “Soak in it! Get happy yourself!”
“Yeah, I’m feeling it,” he said half-jokingly, taking a knee and waiting for the oni to pick him up.
“Good, ‘cause I bet you’re gonna need it.” She separated her hands from his, and slapped his bottom. A jolt of surprise shot through him, and he raised his eyebrows. “Talkin’ about evil and stuff... ish no good!”
Had she snuck more juice while he wasn’t looking?
The oni lifted him by his rear, raising him up over her head with one hand.
“I should squeeze yer butt more...!” she remarked. Now slightly embarrassed, he merely replied:
“P-Please go! Before someone sees this.”
“The crows see everythin’,” she breathed, still looking happy. She stepped backward, just lifting into the air. “I’ll get this picture too! Of my trophy husband!”
He attempted to look down and her while she held him shockingly steadily, only managing to twist and turn awkwardly. He tried to ask her, “Wh-Where’d you learn that ter—”
But she was flying toward the forest of magic before he could do so, or explain how within context... he was certainly no mere trophy. He was assuredly a catch.
The catch held his hands over his head and braced his entire body as his oni lover bounded over treetops, and began hopping on and through that lush canopy.
He noticed that she already knew where Alice Margatroid’s home was.
Indeed, she had spent a while simply watching Gensokyo for the last month rather than showing herself in a more “ordinary” form. Right, he knew that.
Still, as he stepped from off the seat of her palm and palmed his butt in mild annoyance (and his shoulders, and clothes in general, which now bore a few twigs, leaves, and even spiders’ webs) he felt compelled to remark:
“You really are a voyeur, Miss Suika.” He straightened up after saying this, having been slouching until then.
“Nah, nahh; I’ve just looked’t people, out and about, or in ‘n not about, like this one.” She pointed, drunkenly, at the white western house before them. She looked at him in a daze and said, “This one doesn’t leave much.”
“Let’s just head in,” he replied, dismissing her defense. He turned as he spoke, and began to walk toward the front door. It struck him that the last time he’d approached this door “on his own”, he’d been very, horribly wary. That wasn’t the case at all anymore.
“Gen? Right...” He heard her approaching the door. Opening it, she said, “It’s been four months. As scheduled you’ll be wanting another massage, then?”
He gave a bothered “No...” in response. His lady eyed him suspiciously. Seeing her, Alice lifted her eyebrows. In earnest, she hadn’t noticed that the oni was present.
“That is...” she trailed off.
Gen followed her gaze and put his hand down on the oni’s head.
“‘The oni’?” he posited.
“Yes...” muttered the blond magician, eyeing Suika for a while. Suika was still eyeing Gen. “She is with you... why, exactly?”
“She...” he paused, realizing “she” seemed suspicious of him, “... is annoyed, evidently. She massaged my shoulder, Suika.”
“Yeah? Why?” grunted the oni, now eyeing Alice with equal suspicion and not only a little malice. Alice seemed to raise her caution at this.
“I damaged it while rescuing spring,” he explained.
“And you scheduled another!? That’s not what you said you came here for!” She lifted a fist in a huff.
“She’s lying. We lie to each other,” he told the petulant youkai while looking at the one before him whom was apprehensive. “It’s one of our traditions.”
Alice then said, through a cool smile directed at the oni, “His other tradition is to leave me wet.”
He lifted his hand and flew backward from her fist, which had been swung at where his abdomen would have been had he remained. He stopped before one of Alice’s windows, crouched low and grasping at his heart.
“Did you have to put it that way!?” he yelled at the Magician he could no longer see.
“Would ‘soaked’ have been better? ‘Drenched’?” she asked around the doorway, wearing a light expression. “Ah... ‘sopping’, then?”
He frankly had no words for Alice, only a look of hate and utter disbelief.
“Suika!” he shouted before the oni could enter an oni-styled rage. “I’ve never lied, alright!? That’s the truth! Not to you—not once...! You understand!?”
She seemed to cool off from that, believing him.
But her sharpened gaze next pointed at the mage, who straightened her back and attempted to look polite rather than piss-afraid.
“Oi,” grunted the smaller, older youkai. She put a hand on her hip and gestured at Gen with her thumb, asking, “You wanna fuck my man?”
“Y-Your man!? Really!? I... I...!” This seemed to shock Alice Margatroid... in a right way. Ignoring the vulgarity of the question, she turned her head to Gen, grabbing the doorframe and looking at him with magic in her eyes. She exclaimed, “Really, Gen!?”
Idiot! She’s pissed off! he screamed internally.
“You stupid, puppeteer? I kicked your ass so easy it was like scratchin’ mine, and you think ignoring me is a good idea!?” Suika spoke with pure intimidation... That being said, he wasn’t sure that Alice felt it. “Go on! Answer truthfully! Oni hate liars!”
“Then...” Alice began, turning to look this oni in the eye, “you must really love Gen.”
He felt it in his face: he was blushing.
She, Suika, was beet-red now as well, and had been entirely thrown off guard.
“L-L-L-Love is...! That’s... not... somethin’ to say yet! E-E-EEeeven if I—No! I mean...! I... I... I LIKE him b-but....” Suika continued to stammer, lifting a finger and wagging it about as if she were a lector; standing on one foot and barely managing to keep her balance.
Then, Suika stomped her lifted foot down and screamed, “SHUT UP!” followed by, “SHUT UP!”
“My, you’re so upset,” Alice remarked. “May I consider this a victory, then? My revenge for your trouncing me a week ag... Goodness, it’s only been a week.”
Suika covered her face with her hands and screeched into her palms, muffling herself.
Gen stood; ashamed but forced to admit that this time, Alice had taken the point.
“Come inside, you two... what should I call you? ‘Shotgun newlyweds’?” said Alice, leaving them both embarrassed again. “I’ll put on some tea.”
Inside of Alice’s western-styled home was as comfortable as ever. He sat now at a table by a window, not wearing his coat (it was hanging by the door—he didn’t need it, seeing as he was prohibited from casting anything, and so his book-belt and other things were left there as well), waiting for the host to tend to her guests. The other guest was was sat grumpily on the floor, defying the atmosphere. He liked that, though: how it seemed that Suika was Suika, no matter the time, place, or circumstance. Perfectly open, easy to read, and obviously truthful even when she was trying to be dishonest.
“... I’d prefer if you sat at a table, Miss Oni,” noted Alice as she approached Gen’s table with a tray that carried steaming teacups.
Suika glanced up at her, and still with a scarlet face gave a feeble, “Guh...”
“Now, now...” said Alice as she set the tray down in front of Gen. “I will let the couple sit together.” She lifted a plated teacup from the tray and stepped over to a couch at the far wall. Gen watched as Suika grudgingly crawled over to the chair opposite his, climbed into it, and staring askance out the window, picked up her offered cup.
She took a sip.
Alice took a seat.
Suika took out her gourd, and spiked the tea.
“Pf—” This came from Gen. Alice looked at the oni with incredulity. Sitting unladylike, spreading her left arm out over her chair’s rest and sinking in her seat, Suika more readily drank the “improved” beverage.
“So, Gen,” addressed Alice, lifting the cup and saucer in her hands and dropping the matter of her other guest’s lack of manners, “what truly brings you here today? And why with an oni?”
“Well... we can put Suika’s being here aside; it is... essentially unrelated,” he told.
“Oh?” answered Alice.
“Yes,” he confirmed, as the unrelated person belched. The magicians gazed upon her with equal reproach.
“Miss Suika,” he chided.
“Sorry,” she apologized. He could tell she was still bothered. Her hand was over her mouth and she was looking at neither of them—that roar had been one slipped.
“... I came to ask you about some things,” he went back to Alice, who sipped her tea and waited for words as to what those things might be. “Does... becoming a Youkai Magician involve becoming evil?”
“You didn’t believe me!?” interjected Suika angrily. He glanced at her.
“In fairness I can’t be positive that an oni is an expert on magicians,” even if you’re old. He kept that to himself. “Rather, it’s because I believed you that I wanted to absolutely confirm it.”
“No,” said Suika. “You slaved its soul too: to a thingy.”
“I slaved its sentiment,” he retorted.
“What for?” queried his comrade in magic.
“A twist on necromantic arts,” he revealed. “Tricking a life into a seemingly traumatic experience to quicken its blood, and feeding that blood into an object.”
“Ahh,” breathed Alice. “To keep something warm? An odd experiment.”
“Less ‘odd’, more...” he waited for the words to come to him, vaguely holding one hand up, “‘novel’, perhaps? Though it sounds like you’ve done it before.”
“I’ve heard of it before. What did you use?”
“So I’d concluded, at least.”
“You induced terror in the beast?”
“Mm, through a nightmare.”
“A bit risky. I would have just used whatever was on-hand.”
“I needed it sedated while extracting its heart.”
“Ahh... to keep the heart beating?”
“You two...” Suika interrupted again, and those two looked at her, “... you’re totally crazy.”
“You’ve had quite the storied history yourself, no? Ibuki-douji,” Alice countered. She raised her cup and argued, “Perhaps you haven’t performed the same sorts of experiments we magicians may have, but with your queer ability surely you have had some fun testing your limits, and the limits of the world around you.”
“... Sure, but—”
Now Alice interrupted, “Magic is about finding the borders of reality, examining, and dismantling them. Rearranging them. Finding new form through the old, and if one is exceptionally lucky finding something new entirely on its own. You’re a master of rearranging, you should be able to understand this.”
Suika was unable to deny that. She did not simply clam up, however. She lazily lifted a finger to Alice and told her, “Fact is, malice, evil, wickedness, and sin can all be measured, and in the worlds we walk through that measurement’s still holding weight.”
“That is right...” Gen agreed. “And it is why I’m here.” He looked to Alice.
“Evil, hm...?” The puppeteer smiled.
“Tell the truth,” Suika urged. Alice chuckled through her nose.
“Evil comes with the package... typically,” the witch admitted.
“That makes more sense, I think...” said Gen, putting down his now half-finished cup of tea. “Let me guess: us magicians have some usual tendencies, and those of us who ‘make it’ are almost guaranteed to possess them?”
“That’s a fact, but not relevant,” said Alice, and once more Gen was confused. “When you devote yourself so powerfully to the art that you eschew morals, you open your soul to greater possibilities. The more you free yourself, the easier it is for ‘magic’ to become a part of you, because you are abandoning the old things that would ordinarily restrict you from the wider set of sorceries.”
“... Uh...?” He wasn’t quite grasping what she meant.
“Belief, will, perception, and so much else are fundamental to worlds like these... spiritual, and magical worlds. Worlds that have not succumb to reason,” Alice lectured.
“Yes...” He knew this.
“And in particularly—do you remember the six components of magic?”
“‘Ability’ of the caster, ‘temperament’ of the soul, ‘substance’ used, ‘space’ the magic is being cast within, ‘time’ of casting, and over all else: ‘fortune’,” he answered like a proper student of the Art.
“And which of those is relevant to our current subject of conversation?”
“... The soul’s temperament, huh.” He crossed his arms.
“I’m sure Patchouli has been properly taking care of your soul,” said Alice, pausing a moment after to drink. “She has likely done little to warn you aside from forbidding you from unwittingly tainting it. It is better for a true magician’s soul to mature without interference.. Various reasons in that: it is ‘healthier’, ‘stronger’, less fragile.” He nodded at this. He could believe it. “Since you’re coming to me about this, and this is Patchouli we’re speaking of, I take it that she told you to not use magic today to prevent your soul from being corrupted during this moment of growth. Like a muscle strained from exercise, your spirit needs time to heal, and be stronger, from what you’ve done to it.”
“Ya dirtied it,” Suika remarked matter-of-factly.
“Was that ‘dirt’ of the soul you removed from me at the gate?” Gen asked her, picking up his cup.
Suika lifted her gourd (her tea was done). “Nah,” she said. “That was a bit of nightmare left behind from what you were doing.”
Some of it clung past my wards...?
Alice noticed his expression, and responded to it: “It would have had an opportunity to slip through your wards as you’d just done something to compromise your soul. That is: an evil act.”
He grimaced slightly, unsure of how to interpret this information.
“Patchouli must have been very happy with what you had done,” said Alice. He looked up at her from his cup, a bit surprised that the puppeteer had nailed it. “And she must have been very worried, though it’s hard to imagine a worried look on that dull face of hers.”
He chose to ignore her bait.
“So...” Gen began to formulate his opinion on all he was learning, “there is an advantage to my temperament becoming dark, but it isn’t necessary for my becoming a real magician?”
Alice eyed him with a question in her look, but she did not verbally express it. Instead, she answered, “Correct... but it is difficult, really, to be a pure soul when one dabbles so heavily in black magic.”
“Because the forces I’m working with are risky?”
“No,” said Alice, “because you are the type interested in such things.”
What she said had Gen feeling unusual.
Suika glanced at him from across the table.
He looked into the little amount of tea he had left, at his blurred reflection.
He felt... as if he should feel apprehensive.
But in truth he felt nothing.
And it felt as if that lack of worry should worry him... but still: not a drop of worry came.
At some point... though he didn’t know if it was a point so much as during some gradient period... these sorts of things had stopped worrying him completely, and he had not recognized that.
Alice, studying his expression, knew precisely why that was, and knew the face he was making for one she had once made herself.
Gen spoke up. “Miss Suika,” he said. The oni lifted her head and bettered her posture. “Would you hate it if I became... morally void, for the sake of my study?”
“I’d only hate if you lost your mind,” she answered. “Just be careful.”
He furrowed his brow, and gazed into the tablecloth before him.
The magician’s apprentice felt as if there was a choice to be made here. As if he needed to consider the future sincerely...
But he had once in the past chosen to cling to his humanity forever, and here he was in the present contemplating how it might be for him once such a thing was abandoned.
He already knew: he was who he was.
And now he knew: what he was was something colored evil.
It was just so very odd: that that was something he didn’t seem to mind at all.
He realized hours later that he’d been lost in his own mind.
Looking up from his cup, which seemed to have recently been refilled, Gen shook off his pensivity. He was alone at the table. He thought to himself, Suika’s...?
It turned out, she was playing with Alice.
The oni had one of her miniature clones out, and was watching as it played with one of Alice Margatroid’s dolls (Alice, obviously puppeteering the blond, skirted pseudo-girl). They seemed to be playing patty-cake. Had Alice taught the ancient youkai the game?
He looked back at his cup, lifted, and drank from it, looking out the window absently.
How long was I thinking for?
Did I take up one of Master’s bad habits?
She had a tendency of becoming very absorbed in a single subject.
No... just a rare, serious think for once: that’s all.
He’d spent that time organizing his thoughts and feelings; thinking of goals, how to achieve them and why he even wanted to achieve them at all. Magic... he thought much of magic. Without an assigned task, his mind wandered from possible experiment to experiment, and possible spell to spell. His materials... both on him, and at home. He’d thought of a lot.
But, he’d dropped his date for all that... that was a misstep, even if he’d taken it unintentionally.
He cursed himself.
And, he finished his tea.
His stare distant, he realized that this matter would continue to be on his mind without it being soundly addressed. If he continued along with Suika, he knew that he’d be distracted and – perhaps only seemingly – gloomy.
She was having a good time. He had to leave...
... settle his mind.
He stood from his chair.
 He was going to head to the Sanzu River. The Shinigami might have some words for what he was thinking now.
 Perhaps the kappa Aomu would have an interesting perspective... Did she know of any humans who had turned “something else”?
 A proper authority on these matters was absolutely Hakurei Reimu.
>>68077 >She is an enemy, and telling her of what could happen is a mistake. But it's a guarantee that, if Gen decides to turn, he will die. So it's a win for my own goals. To be clear, since Gen is in Alice's category Reimu would have no beef with him. She is only worried about Villagers turning.
Aside from that being her canon mindset, looooong ago the matter was brought up in this story
>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 apart 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.”
[X] A proper authority on these matters was absolutely Hakurei Reimu.
“... Miss Suika, I’m going to head somewhere else. You’ve noticed I’m... confounded right now. I’m too distracted for this—our... date.” After saying this, and looking away from the two girls now looking back at him, he offered “Sorry,” and “see you tonight.”
He stepped swift toward the door, took up his coat, and gave Alice a nod and thanks. The little oni beside her stared after him with a wide-eyed, flush-cheeked face. The magician host nodded in return before her eyes fell on the stunned elder youkai. As the door opened and closed, Alice raised her eyebrows, covered her mouth with her three longest fingers, and asked herself whether or not it would be acceptable to indeed remark on the remarkable smoothness of the exited, gallant apprentice.
Though he knew where he wished to go, and got to heading there with speed... Hakurei Shrine was really very far away from the Margatroid residence, and he hadn’t walked many places for a very long time.
For a while, Himekaido Hatate seemed to want to call out to him from the trees after he’d left the forest and gotten on the road to the Village. She mustered the courage when he was near to that settlement, flying to his side and asking, “Is something wrong?” He told her he was heading for the Hakurei Shrine to talk about some things.
“D... Do you want me to carry you there?” she’d asked him while her head was turned to the eastern border where one could find the barrier’s edge and the maiden who protected it.
He answered, “What? Of course not.”
She’d then shot him a look and given an emphatic, “What!? Why not!? You did it with that oni!”
He said, “Of course I did,” and moved along. The bird followed him, floating behind his back, which forced him to go around the Village instead of through it. Not that he hadn’t walked through the Village with youkai before; it just wasn’t worth any potential trouble if anything happened and he couldn’t use magic to handle the situation.
All in all, by the time he’d reached the Shrine’s staircase he could tell that the day was beginning to give out. He marched up the flight, Hatate leaning her back against his all the while as if he were a moving lounge seat, or he was a car and she a passenger. With a slight frown and a low brow, he continued unabated while the tengu futzed with her phone-shaped camera.
The torii gate approached relatively shortly (comparing how long it had taken him to get here at all). As he crested the hill, he heard the little shrine maiden’s usual sweeping. He looked at the sky, noting its darker blue.
“... Hm? Who? ... Oh. Gen. Hey.” That was the shrine maiden’s slow response. She looked past the young man’s shoulder and scowled. “That tengu, too...”
Hatate feigned ignorance, continuing to play with her phone camera.
“Hello Reimu,” said Gen.
“Egh...” Now Reimu opened her mouth awkwardly and winced, leaning away. “What? You look like you’re depressed.” She frowned, and eyed him warily, saying in no uncertain terms: “I don’t do therapy; I do exorcisms.”
“I just had some questions,” the apprentice revealed as Hatate glanced behind herself to look at the younger of the two humans.
“About?” asked Reimu as the apprentice walked forward.
“Reimu...” he began once he’d approached her to, in his opinion, a satisfactory degree (ultimately: a meter apart from her), “what really happens if I abandon my humanity?”
“...” Reimu stared at him, processing this. Her face then glowered as a growing, open-mouthed smile brightened it. Gen looked back at her in confusion. The child then brought her eyebrows together, smirked, pointed at her elder, and said, “Y’see...!? I was right! Me and Marisa were right!”
“What...?” What is she talking about? He hadn’t the faintest.
She continued to point, saying “You’re gonna turn because of love!”
He glared and said, “No.”
“I seriously can’t believe it’s with Suika, by the way...” she went on, ignoring him, prodding toward him without any touching. “You asked for her this morning... Why? So you could kiss?”
“It wasn’t for a kiss...!” He knew not to mention that they had kissed, however.
“You kissed when you were leaving the shrine the day before yesterday...” she reminded, smirking even more.
Gen shut his eyes, blushed, and gritted his teeth. After stewing in embarrassment a little while, he growled out the reasoning: “Miss Suika wanted that, so...”
“Why are you trying to tell me you’re not thinking of doing something crazy for love, then? You’re so obvious, and girls can see a love-struck face really well!” she boasted, holding her broom like a staff at her side and resting the knuckles of her free hand against her hip.
“Get your eyes checked,” he retorted flatly. Looking at her, he explained, “I’ve just realized I don’t mind the idea. Suika has nothing to do with it.”
She just looked at him, smugly. Hatate looked toward him, with pity.
“Okay,” he admitted, “she has something to do with it, too.”
“I know,” said Reimu, and finally she stepped closer and poked him: in his side. He bent to it, frowning. “Okay, so, what do you want?” Reimu finally allowed, him, though still she looked quietly self-satisfied.
“I want an answer to what I asked before you began teasing me,” he said. “What happens from giving up my humanity?”
“You should know that. Are you stupid? Is that librarian not teaching you right?” Reimu’s voice and expression were concerned.
“Right. You’re Reimu,” he said, realizing he’d made a mistake.
“Seriously... You don’t know or what? How about you tell me what you know, and if there’s something the purple witch hasn’t told you I’ll be nice and fill you in?” offered the haughty Reimu.
“Alright, well...” he started, standing up straight (Hatate stretched out her wings and readjusted her position), “if I become a youkai I gain quite a lot, including – assuming I became a magician, specifically – lots of spiritual power, new magical power and energy, no need to eat or drink, and agelessness. As for negatives... A shinigami insinuated she wouldn’t appreciate me going from human to youkai and...” He paused, thinking. “... Master has mainly informed me of the risks of doing things improperly,” he said, “if I screw up and corrupt myself by accident I can become a mindless, filth-eating beast for example. Master hasn’t encouraged or discouraged me from becoming a youkai. Actually... come to think of it, she’s pretty much the only one who’s never mentioned the possibility to me.”
“Hehh... she’s smarter than I was thinking,” Reimu gave her acknowledgement with a bothered face.
“Because she’s been coaxing me toward youkaidom without letting me worry about it? Alice said something like that,” he told her.
“Yeah, so don’t think she was the nicest one around you for not ever bringing it up: she didn’t bring it up so that you wouldn’t worry about it. And now here you are, asking a shrine maiden if giving up your humanity is all that bad. It worked.”
I guess... he thought to himself. Reimu watched his expression.
“Look: you don’t even mind—you’re totally gone,” said Reimu.
“But...” he began to refute her. “... it’s really not bad?”
“Of course you’d think that, that’s how she’s got you thinking, right?” asked the little girl, as if what she was saying was perfectly obvious.
“Don’t deny it,” Reimu scolded him. “I guess I can’t blame you, but she sure got you good. I can’t break something like this; it’s in your head, it’s how you are now.”
Was it really?
“Well, I can tell you what you’re missing, but I’m going to hate saying it,” Reimu went on.
“Hm...?” he grunted meekly.
“Yeah,” answered Reimu. She sighed, looking toward some of the woods surrounding her shrine. He watched, and waited. “There are no ‘real’ downsides,” she said.
“... What?” he asked in disbelief. It was the last answer he expected.
“It’s an affront against nature and the cycle of life and death to do that. It’s a denial of ‘everything’ when you relinquish what you were and become something else. It’s a fake death, and a totally made-up life.”
“‘Made-up’?” he repeated.
“Manufactured, or artificial,” she clarified.
“I guess the shinigami did tell me that it wasn’t ‘bad’ inherently... she said hermits: those were problem ‘humans’.”
“You should ask Marisa or someone else more about hermits. I knew one, but she left a while ago and we weren’t particularly friendly, okay?”
“Okay,” he said. He nodded.
“I barely know about magicians...” she said in an irritated tone, grumbling. “I know why I say ‘human villagers can’t become youkai’, though.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because this world would completely fade away,” said Reimu, plainly speaking and looking into his eyes. “My job is to protect this world.”
A shiver pulsed through him, lifting the hairs on his neck and arms. It was a strange thing for a little girl to say... and with strange conviction.
“The more humans in the Village know about magic, and the more who abandon humanity, the closer we bring Gensokyo into a dead end... When I exterminate the Villagers who cross the line... I do it permanently.”
He went still.
He knew she meant “killing”.
“I told you before, I wouldn’t do that to you,” said Reimu. “You have a choice.”
“Why shouldn’t I take it?” he asked.
“The choice to become a youkai?” Reimu proposed.
He nodded, then said, “Yes.”
“That’s a better question for the Yama, I think...” said Reimu. “For you, it’s something inside you have to ask yourself, because it isn’t just a change of, say, color you’d be going through. That’s a change to self that can’t be reversed, as far as I know.”
“I see...” he whispered.
“You’re an outsider,” Reimu mentioned, “if you became a youkai, you could still go back to the Outside World at any time by asking me, but the world you recall now... the world as you’ve seen it might be gone.”
“What?” he asked, worried.
“You could die,” she revealed. “Because without the Barrier, and the humans of Gensokyo keeping your existence validated, you have to stick with either age or power, and either, like... way up there to not just... fade away, Forever.”
“You also can’t be sure you’ll still ‘feel’ the same way as you do now,” said the girl.
“‘Feel’, like... You mean my emotions?”
“Why would that...”
He trailed off, He knew why.
“Because your human heart and soul will now be a youkai’s,” she explained what he knew, but had not truly acknowledged. “If you’re lucky you’ll be like Remilia. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be like Yukari. Youkai aren’t... I guess I’d say ‘formless and cruel’ like from the get-go—not anymore, and they haven’t been for a long time... but that doesn’t mean they can’t be.
“Human flesh will appeal to you.
“Terror will appeal to you.
“Violence will appeal to you.”
She stopped, and readied something powerful that both Gen and Hatate listened to closely.
“Youkai are slaves to their instincts, only barely able to move their hands and feet free from binding chains. The powerful do better, but you won’t ever be what you aren’t. Humans are free spirits, youkai are spirits caged.”
He had no response for that.
“Are you worried now?” she asked him, with surprising sincerity (though without any sympathy).
“... What do you mean worried? Worried how? About what?” he asked, almost defiantly.
“About becoming a monster.”
Hearing that, he attempted to hide that he was shaken, quietly echoing, “‘M-Mons’...”
He asked, “That’s all?” lifting his head after having lowered it in thought.
“I said I’d listen,” Reimu reminded him, folding her arms, “and I did.”
“I got you to admit that you’re bothered by something. Go take it to Patchouli, and maybe your ‘everything’ will get set straight. Whether you still want to become a youkai or not after you talk to her, I don’t care. You deal with it. I already told you, I’m not a therapist...”
She closed her eyes, sighed, and hunched her shoulders. Then, she looked at the bird behind his back, asking, “She gonna take you back home?”
“I thought you didn’t care what happened to me,” he reminded her in a weakened voice.
“I don’t care what happens to outsiders,” said Reimu, turning from him and walking toward her storage shed, “but I do care about my friends.”
“... Huh?” he uttered, but she was already more than halfway to the little building. “...”
“... Do you want to go?” asked the tengu resting against his back.
“Yeah,” he said.
“... Should I carry you?” she asked.
He turned, and started toward the torii gate.
“You’re really insistent. Do you want to kidnap me or something?”
Hatate was startled by this, recoiling as she floated beside his shoulder. “No!” she yelled.
“Why not?” he asked, smirking lightly.
“That’d be an international incident.”
He started down the stairs.
“The nations of SDM and... Tengu-land?” he proposed.
She grumbled, “Don’t make fun of me...” and they were off.
That was his thought as he neared the Mansion gates, in early evening light.
I guess I’ll be direct.
Hatate had departed once the Mansion was in sight, having wished him a good night and explained, she just wanted to be sure her subject wouldn’t fall before reaching his home. He did appreciate it.
The youkai guard now spotted and addressed him, rather happily. “Sir Gen! Your lady is hanging around! She said she’d wait for when you want to go to bed!”
The human Gen blushed, avoiding her eyes and wincing. She’s too forward...! he thought, with Suika in mind.
“You can tell her that if I don’t die tonight, I’ll likely be there somewhat soon. An hour? Two?” he told Meiling.
“‘If you don’t die’? Are you planning to bother Lady Patchouli?” Meiling asked with curiosity, turning to open the gates.
“That’s a way of putting it.”
The gates swung open.
“Head inside, Sir Gen!” the girl directed him with an energetic smile and an inviting palm. She added, “Come see me when you’re ready to visit your woman!”
“Right...” he replied as he walked past, looking at the red-haired girl with defeat in his eyes. In honesty, “Suika” was a nice thought, but it wasn’t really the time to have her in mind.
He went through the courtyard, and entered the mansion.
He would keep interactions to a minimum, until his worries were thoroughly addressed.
The now-familiar library.
The scent, the darkness...
The sound of turning pages that told him his Master was there.
He heard her voice before he could spot her pink-laden form.
“You’re back, hm? Very late. You were pushing it.”
She was, like often, in a small and temporary study a little ways into the room. Walking there, he laid his eyes on Patchouli Knowledge, who was lounging and reading a novel on a scarlet couch. On her stomach was the warming cloth he had created, folded neatly.
“Or will you go out again, to those unknown places you rest in at night lately?” asked the soft-spoken woman, smiling his way teasingly. This embarrassed him a little, but with tension so deeply rooted in his skull and chest, the embarrassment only manifested in the slightest tinge of pink on his cheeks. His expression remained the same: one which suggested a quiet, aching pain, Patchouli closed her book, and lost her smile. “What’s the matter?” she asked him.
“... I’ve become evil, have I?” he asked.
Patchouli stared at him with no change in her eyes.
“... And you’ve made me that way,” he said.
She sat up, her hair swaying gently with the motion. However, she said nothing.
“I’ve started worrying... about quite a few things,” her apprentice explained.
“I have made you nothing other than knowledgeable,” said his Master plainly. “Your nature is yours. With a path laid out before you, you have walked it.” She straightened her back, looking to the back cover of the book in her hands. “The path was dark, but you walked it. You want to see what awaits along it, and at the end.” She met his eyes again, and again was unwavering within those amethyst pools. “The choice to walk that path: that is what makes magicians.”
“You’re saying I always would have turned out how I am now?” That’s what Alice said. But, Reimu told me Master’s... “You really had nothing to do with my growth?” he asked her, directly.
Her gaze lowered to his chest for a few seconds. “I see...” she said, in some confirmation to herself. Making eye contact once more, his Master told him, “I most certainly have tailored you,”
“Hm...” he grunted quietly, in a deliberate non-reaction, but within it felt to him as though lead had suddenly dropped down in his heart.
“I stopped you from veering off the path,” she said.
“... Hm?” he grunted again. He was taken off guard. Recalling what Reimu and even Alice had said, it sounded as if Patchouli had wanted him to experience a twisted fate... But, his Master wasn’t one to lie. Lying was useless to her. “Can you explain that, Master?” he requested.
“Let us elaborate this ‘path’ metaphor,” Patchouli answered. He gave a small nod, readying his mind for lecture.
So she began. “The path is the abyss of knowledge, with an obscure goal and a hundred thousand, several million shadowed hands grasping along the way. We magicians contend with the abyss, seeking the ways to its ‘end’. What lies at the end is, of course – conceivably – the ‘truth’.”
“Yeah,” he accepted. He knew this; an old explanation of any magician’s motivation, repackaged.
“Along the way we discover other truths of the abyss...” said Patchouli, tracing a finger through the air down from over her head, until she could point at the red carpet below her. “The darkness is not lit, but understood... adapted, applied. Our magic springs from the dark, as unknowns become knowns.”
“However it is dark, and blinding, and in the first place what has tempted us is the dark. The ‘end’, which none of us have yet seen.” The witch explained. “Lesser magicians, like the puppeteer in the forest, and the black and white, human witch who lives nearby her, will become satisfied exploring one realm of the abyss, or small portions of it. ‘Truth’ is their goal as ever, but not ‘the’ truth. This is also the trap of reprobates of the truest sense: those who are so enticed by the dark that they are consumed by it. Some taint is inevitable as we venture further... that is ‘evil’, but should you embrace it altogether... Should you plunge headlong to the depths without a proper understanding, then you are consumed... to become a thoughtless demon, beast... a monster, pathetically shaped like our kind.”
“And finally,” she finished, “even aside from these, there are worse.”
“‘Worse’?” he queried. Patchouli lifted her finger back up, stopping before her chest, and she looked at him.
“There are the thoughtful monsters,” she explained. “Monsters like me.”
“Eh—” he uttered, his brow distorting.
“And,” she continued, turning the aim of her hand, “like you wish to be.”
She pointed straight at him.
“Though it’s a matter of perspective and opinion,” she interrupted him, dropping both her gaze and hand. “What is worse? Doing whatever you like because you’ve utterly lost your sentient faculties, or doing whatever you like because you are able, and willing? Answer that...” she paused, meeting his eyes again, “and answer your dilemma. However, I know that you want to see the end as well, and that hardly anything will stop or stay your path. And no: if you’re thinking that it’s what you’ve done today that proves it... it does not. Rather, your ‘self’ does.” The magician relaxed her shoulders. “Gen,” she said, “you were always going to walk the path to its end. The abyss entices you as strongly as any magician, and you know that understanding it often means ignoring those who don’t, and would never.”
He grit his teeth with his mouth closed. He narrowed his eyes, and quietly broke his gaze from Patchouli’s: looking past her.
“I know,” said Patchouli, “because none of this really bothers you.”
“... It does! I’m human!” he shouted emphatically. “Being ‘evil’ isn’t what I’m meant to be!”
“I believe I’ve explained before...” the elder magician went on, unfazed, “... that lies, with me, solve nothing.”
“If only you could hear how it was that you even said that,” she continued, giving a single, dry laugh. “How you emphasized the most damned word says it all. Gen, do you know what ‘evil’ is?”
He was unable to answer. There was conviction in his heart, but reason kept it down.
“Or were you upset,” she asked, “because the word was given to you, and you then realized you’ve forgotten?”
Again, he couldn’t answer.
“You know that the bother of ‘evil’ will only get in the way of discovery. You may even enjoy it: indulging in the dark that you have taken for yourself as you’ve learned. You have fallen like all proper magicians should: naturally, and with little concern. You aren’t so lost that you would resort to being overwhelmed, you are entirely the opposite: you have become so aware, and you have come to ‘know’ your place on this path so well, that you don’t even properly recall life before the dark.”
And Patchouli Knowledge smiled.
“And that,” she said, “is a wonderful thing.”
He wanted reassurance.
He didn’t really want this: this cold take.
... Even if she was right, and he didn’t remember.
He knew ‘evil’ to be wrong, but his view had been distorted. Itou Gen did not understand it anymore, it seemed almost not in the slightest. What was “bad”, really, when all you wanted to do was learn?
... This was as if he’d turned into a youkai somewhen, without having realized it whatsoever.
He still had his tether to old values. That tether told him: his continuing on would mean this link would one day sever, and like his Master before him, he might do near anything in the pursuit of knowledge.
And as she said, as he had realized earlier in the day, the idea of that happening... did not truly upset him.
But there was that.
There was flesh. If he would come to eat human flesh...
That primal, gut-centered revulsion to the idea that he had...
... it made him almost see his old values more clearly.
“I don’t...” he spoke, and Patchouli waited for him to continue, “want it: being a monster, eating people: I don’t want any of it. I don’t want to not be me. I don’t want to be a shadow aware or un-. I want this. What I have! I don’t want to be a... a husk!”
“Then it is good we have an answer,” said Patchouli, “sitting before you right now.”
His emotions lowered. “Master?” he asked, to be sure.
“What do you think?” she asked, clarifying: “Of what you see. Of this Master who you know.”
“... You’re beyond me. A powerful person, who I admire.”
“Gen,” she addressed him, standing up. He straightened his back as she strode toward him, book no longer in hand. She stood almost against him, and looked at him with something rare on her face...
The stern-eyed magician met him close, and from there she told him, “I will not do this often. You know that I won’t.”
She grabbed at his clothing, gripping his vest and looking at his torso. He froze, but listened intently.
“Don’t speak roundabout right now, I will not either. This is something important. It is important, Gen.”
He did not interrupt.
Patchouli spoke with a clarity he couldn’t recall ever before hearing in her voice. She often spoke... distant. Even when he had seen her shouting and impassioned, she had a quality to her tone that always spoke to practice. This was not practice... This was his Master, the magician Patchouli Knowledge, without a guard. Hearing her... he determined that she was speaking to him with what he could only call one thing: the entirely bare honesty of an oni. “Gen,” she called his attention again, and he quickly gave it, finding her eyes which were now finding his. Now, they wavered. “What do you think of me, as a person? Say everything—everything that you think. Tell me, who am I to you? Who am I, to Remilia?” Not ‘Remi’...? “What am I? Speak!” she ordered.
... So he thought, somewhat long before he would answer.
“Patchouli Knowledge...” he said a hefty while later, calling her with no title, “you are a magician with little moral awareness. You enslaved me and wanted at first to use me, a human, for experiments. You work closely with a devil who kidnaps humans. You exhume the dead for magic. You have no qualms, at all, with whatever it is that you do, and you possess one of the most loving hearts I have ever encountered.
“I have seen few people so vastly loyal to their friends: so close that they can be called family. You have the most charming smile I’ve ever seen, and every time I earn it, to witness it makes my love and devotion for you deepen more and more, more than I ever think possible. You can laugh, I have seen you cry; it is plain to me that while many things would not bother you for the sake of magic, you could never truly be so far gone that you would do some of the more reprehensible acts known to humanity, or simply to kin. You limit yourself... and you would never betray anyone, so... If... you are shaping me into you, yourself, or at least guiding me that way... I know why it is that until today I’ve never worried or questioned any part of the path.
“You are evidently evil, but also immeasurably kind... it is very much like Gensokyo itself: a contradiction that lives despite that.
“... And you don’t eat humans, which tells me it is unlikely that I will want to, should I ever turn.”
Patchouli waited a moment, to make sure that he was done.
And then, her lips turned up.
“Look at that,” she said, “I didn’t need to say anything at all.”
“But if you want to reach the ‘truth’, do you think you would really eventually do ANYTHING?” he asked.
“We always think,” she replied, “and that keeps us from being... completely detached, really.”
“Some reassurance...” he commented, “a guarantee of evil, but at least not to anybody I like... and maybe more?”
“Maybe more,” she agreed, with a nod. She was still holding his vest.
He had said that, in a mock dismissive tone... but he was reassured. The worries in his heart and head were simply, near entirely... gone.
“Patchouli...” he said, to indicate he still wished for openness for now. She listened. “Does Sakuya butcher the humans that Flan and Remi have through their tea and cakes?”
Patchouli shook her head. “Do you want to go see for yourself? We’ve caught an outsider again...” she offered.
“I do,” he said, resolutely.
“The process is simple. Syringes are difficult to come by so Sakuya lets their blood instead.”
“She cuts them...?” That surprised him.
Patchouli shook her head. “Bloodletting requires no such thing. It is a very simple and rather safe process. We keep the humans alive, and then set them out after.”
“And then, Meiling...?”
“Meiling hasn’t eaten a single human since she came here, that I know of,” answered Patchouli. “You may ask her yourself. Even if she had, would you stop talking to her?”
“I wouldn’t, I think,” he admitted. “That said, I think I remember you telling me that a youkai, once they’ve eaten human flesh, will endlessly crave for it again.”
“Did I?” she asked. “I would say that they always want that taste again, but not that they’ll necessarily indulge the want, nor will they necessarily have a craving. I don’t recall what I said, however,” she admitted. “Ah!” then she yelped with surprise. “I think I recall! I believe that’s what I said, then—what I’ve just told you now. Gen, shouldn’t you remember everything that I tell you?” she asked him.
“I try...” he gave her that, weakly.
“I remember that I told you Remi is called the ‘Scarlet Devil’ for a reason, but never explained it...” she beckoned him closer, his ear in particular, to her face. She whispered to that ear, “When she bites, she often makes a mess.”
“Ha...!” he chuckled. “So, it’s because—?”
“She becomes covered in Scarlet. She doesn’t kill often, however. Remi is a light eater,” she quietly explained.
She then pulled away, though she was still holding him.
“But she does kill, huh...?”
Patchouli lifted her left hand, pinching at the air to indicate... what she proceeded to demurely mouth at him: very, very rarely.
“But death is still a part of this Mansion,” said Patchouli, dropping her hand and looking at him with a somewhat plain, though oddly sincere face. “We have all killed in this Mansion—though not all the fairies. Flandre, too, has never killed anymore.”
He registered this information. Somehow, he knew Flan hadn’t, even ignoring that she had been previously imprisoned. If anything, her sister may have been trying to prevent her from having blood spilled on her hands...
“And if you kill, Gen?” asked his Master.
“I hope... that I have a damned good reason,” he said.
“If the reason is hunger?” she followed.
“Please make it so I don’t turn out that way, Master,” he begged.
“In the end,” she said, “everything comes down to you. Now, shall we go? Sakuya should be getting ready with the outsider.”
Softly, Gen put his hand down on his Master’s wrist. She looked up into her apprentice’s face curiously.
“Lady Patchouli... Master,” he addressed her, “... may we hug?”
... The elder magician’s face relaxed into a pure happiness once she heard his request. She nodded, accepting, and it was so that teacher and student shared a sincere embrace.
“...” Her body’s so adorable. I probably shouldn’t tell her that. His body eased, half his face now pressed into her faux-nightcap hat. Her shampoo.. Hm..
But, Lady Patchouli sure feels weak... He thought this, still feeling Patchouli’s fluffy body through her fluffy clothing. I didn’t notice when we hugged before, since everyone else joined in.
It was a strange feeling: a reminder of the effects dedication to the Art, through this reminder that his Master valued him highly.
He put a little more strength into his hold, and she did as well. He thought, he might not have strength forever, so he wanted to hold her tight. She reciprocated, and he calmed even further to the scent drifting from her hat. A scent, he realized, he knew well now.
He smiled, contented, and against his chest she was smiling too.
After, he wished his Master a good night and went outside to walk under the moon. He stepped past the gardens, and soon came upon a small building, brick-built like the mansion it stood to guard. It wasn’t exactly ornate, though the Mistress had clearly not neglected the place where her gatekeeper most often slept.
He made his way to the door (heavy, dark, and wooden, like any on the premises), and knocked on it.
... From inside he heard what sounded like something being dropped, and then rolling a spell, but no answer.
He decided to open up.
Meiling’s room was not decorated particularly distinctly in any way. She had a colorful rug on her floor that brought to mind rainbows (unsurprisingly, thought Gen, given her chosen danmaku), there was a mirror, a closet, a bookshelf full, mainly, of manga from the outside world...
A bed sat at the center, and behind it was a pair of horns and shortly a pair of eyes. Before Suika could leap up and charge him at him, the apprentice also took note of a door to a somewhere else (possible a bathroom) as well as a window of an angular, pretty, Chinese design behind the oni’s head. The oni then jumped to her feet and patted the bed before her, rather than tackling him at the doorway. What’s this? he thought, curious.
She smirked at him and said, “Welcome, human, to my lair.” He blinked to this. She continued, clearly full of energy, “Yes... Yeah!! That’s right!! I defeated your guard and took her castle!”
At her boasting, he rose his eyebrows, checked behind himself, and stepped inside while closing the door and asking, “Goodness, what should I do?”
“You’ll have to fight me, boy!” Suika explained, patting the bedsheets again. “On this battleground!”
Yeah,,, thought Gen, shutting his eyes and blushing to his ears. It was as he’d guessed. Straight to that, his thoughts went on, we’re not even going to talk first...!?
“Looks like you’re ready...” the oni intruder observed, eyes locked on his hidden away, but indeed now “noticing” privates. Grinning, she loosened and removed the ribbon tying her collar. “Let’s ‘fight’,” she made a proposal pregnant with implication, “honest and bare! Strip!”
After she’d cried this and undone one button, Gen fired back a “Wait!”, holding up his hand and turning his eyes away. She had very much flustered, “You’re too fast, Miss Suika!”
“Show me honor, Apprentice of Knowledge and Shade!” she demanded. Halfway done with her buttons, she undid the belt around her hips and put her thumbs into the waistband of her skirt. She then stood straight, with confidence and her still partially covered chest out, and she roared: “Honor me!”
Aaaaaggh! he resisted looking. The human was still in a serious mood from what he’d witnessed not ten minutes ago. Suika, on the other hand... Suika was drunk.
Ugghh... internally he groaned. It wasn’t as if he was against the prospect.
What should I do?
 “Honor” her.
 Fold your arms and put your foot down. This can wait.
 Comply (with embarrassment). She’ll just attack you if you deny her anyways.
Without a word, and with a look of resignation, Gen grabbed his belt as well.
“Gweheh,” his partner chucked from across the way. “Gweheheheheheh...!” She seemed to be truly out of it.
He undid the belt, untucked his shirt, lowered his zipper... and as Suika leaned over the bed with anticipation obvious in her face (having abandoned her stripping), he parted the front of his boxers and granted the oni the honor of seeing her full effect on him.
Her eyes glowed, and her body turned into smoke.
Gen straightened up as the smoke zipped across the room and coalesced before him as his lover, eyes transfixed on his manhood. He looked down at her with his mouth frowning and his brow furrowed, a bothered blush filling his cheeks. “... Weren’t we supposed to fight on the bed?” he asked.
“Hm? Gen,” she looked up past his standing wood and said, “that was just a metaphor. I wanted to play around with you like, sex-stuff! Like that.” She took hold of him abruptly, giving him a jolt. “Come on, boy. That was obvious, right?”
... She’s not joking, of course, he judged while she happily began moving her hand. He gripped at the front of his pants, over his thighs, and watched her.
“You talked with eh... your magic teacher!?” She couldn’t control her volume, beaming at him with her with her eyes shut.
“So how’d it go?” she asked, smirking at him once more.
“Miss Suika... you want to discuss a serious topic while doing that?” While he asked this, he observed her sniffing at him, and felt his heart tighten. She answered:
“Huh?” She hadn’t been paying attention.
“... It went well.” He gave up once again. “I’d say that’s thanks to you, Miss Suika.”
“Weelll, you didn’t get kicked out so I guess you’re still doing magic yeah?,” she went on, jerking him with a firm hand and closing her eyes in delight once again. “What are the results!? You gonna get corrupted by evil!?”
He slouched. “The only one corrupting me is an oni, not a magician,” said the apprentice.
Suika gave a, “What!?” and let out a small noise as he put his hand down on her head.
“This is supposed to be a fight,” he reminded her. “Let’s go to the battleground.”
She finally let him go and slipped her shirt off her shoulders, grinning brightly as she said, “Great! You’re all excited! Me too, nyaha!” Seeing her chest, he bounced. “Oh!!”
Suika quickly went to unclasp the last few buttons over her stomach. Gen spoke began to undress as well, and addressed her entirely theatrically. “You’ve intruded on my home and changed me terribly,” he said. “You’re right. For all you’ve done, I’ll have to take you down.”
With his robes and scarf off and dropped, he had nearly completely unbuttoned his vest. As he took it off, Suika set about about unchaining herself, and when she saw his hand moving to the collar of his undershirt, she froze and shouted, “AHH!!”
He stopped and lifted an eyebrow.
“Leave it on! I wanna take it off a’ you myself!” she said. This embarrassed him, and naturally he complied. She looked to be embarrassed as well... “Hyaaa~” she exhaled at a high pitch. “We’re gonna be in a room! I-It’s my first time doing something like this, my head’s all crazy...!”
Ah... Is that why she’s so gung ho right now?. He reached down and slipped off his shoes, she dropped her skirt. He hadn’t actually thought about it, with the to-now grander events of the evening still very fresh in his mind. His expression muddled, crossing between nervousness and joy. It’s my first time too... oh, right, she knows that but I should say that...!
She put her thumbs in the band of her bloomers. He froze and gave an, “Ah!”
She stopped and cocked her head.
“Leave those on... Let me take them off of you myself,” he said. Suika’s lips curled up and her eyes narrowed in content and satisfaction.
“Hmmm...? But I wanna tease you though?” she coyly replied. “Could we do both? I’ll start pulling down, and you go the rest of the way...”
“‘Tease’...” he repeated while sliding his pants from his legs—taking his socks and boxers along with them, “aren’t you actually trying to drive me mad?”
“‘Trying’?” she repeated while plucking off her socks. “Nah. I ain’t ‘trying’.” She stood with her hands on her hips, looking him up and down, gratified. He took off his hat and put it down onto her head, increasing her smile. She stepped into the air, then, and drifted to his chest, pressing against him and clinging to his shirt – with her hands, with her sweat. He put his arms around her back, now hearing the sound of his own blood from within. “Gen...” she said his name quietly, warming his skin through the fabric she’d pushed against. “You’re really alright?” she asked.
“...” He couldn’t formulate an answer. His thoughts were a storm of “Suika”. After heating up from her snuggling, nudging, and her huffing of his scent through his clothing, Gen spoke from his heart, telling her: “Let’s talk after I’ve gotten my tongue in you.”
Suika swung her head up, looking into his stoic, flushed face with hers mirroring it in color. “Let’s go to the bed! Right now!” she proposed. Gen lifted his head and hoisted the oni up into the crook of his right arm, holding her under her thighs with his left. He leaned his face to her body and opened his mouth.
“Who gets to start?” he asked while glancing at her and extending his tongue.
Suika gazed down upon him with smug superiority while he began to lick at her chest. She let him at his task for some time before answering, “It’s a fight, yeah? It’s gotta be whoever gets the upper hand...”
He stopped with his cheek over her beating heart, eyeing her with a lowered brow. “... You remember that I can’t use magic today, don’t you Miss Suika? And if it’s purely physical... I can’t beat an oni.”
That oni chuckled. “Too bad, huh?”
He started forward and brought his mouth away from her, keeping his posture up and straight. “Be gentle,” he bid.
She wrapped her arms about his neck and replied, “I’m gonna be rough.”
He stepped onto Meiling’s bed, and once he had both his knees atop the covers, the oni let him go briefly, lifted her hands in a pose for attack, and so attacked him swift. The youkai pushed him down and pinned his arms, spread out, to the bed. This left her grinning over him, obvious and eager. She moved her legs to straddle him, the back of her hips pushing against his now entirely prepared little gentleman. Her hair fell forward and tickled the sides of his face.
Suika said nothing, she only took one hand to his face – gently as she said she would not be – brought it down and began unbuttoning his shirt from the collar, leaning forward as more of his chest was exposed. From there she began to return the favor to him with her tongue for what he’d done a few moments before.
His one hand was thus free. As his partner continued running her tongue along his skin and progressing on unbuttoning his top, he rested that hand against the side of her chest. When the final button was undone, Suika giggled softly and sat up, a line of her spit connecting her tongue and his neck (where she’d last been licking). She put the hand which had just been at work onto his abdomen, and with quiet satisfaction began feeling his stomach, side, and chest. He swallowed. She released his other arm, and with her now-freed hand reached behind herself to grab at him. Gen shook at her touch, and she giggled again.
“Not fair...” the apprentice growled, reaching up to her breast with his freed hand.
Suika laughed more openly. “Feels like you like it, though,” she teased.
And so he set about concentrating on rubbing her sides and chest, while she moved her hand up and down over his lower part. He liked it, most definitely, but the boy was aggravated that he couldn’t do more. Being serviced alone didn’t suit his tastes. He wanted his feelings to be shown in action as well.
As of now, his penis was very happy with the arrangement, but his face was only a lightly constricted mask of frustration. His ears were hot. She was pulling him along as she liked, and all he had available to worth with was her upper body. He thus struggled between wanting to push back, and appreciating her grasp... really appreciating it. She had his hips when she tugged him up. He loved that. He hated it.
He chose to endure. For a few minutes, he shut his eyes and stopped his hands to let Suika do as she pleased. And she was pleased: by his tension, by his shivers, with how his lips eventually parted and his breath began to gently warm and wet her stomach. With those minutes passed, her heart fluttering at how long he’d held back and how stiff he’d gotten, the oni girl bent forward again. She let him go, and lazily bent her arms over him.
Brow furrowed, mouth and nose against his chest, she started moving her pelvis, bumping her backside against him and spreading heat over his lower stomach. Gen grabbed her sides, lifted his head, and pushed his own mouth and nose against his hat she still wore, and – flinching, huffing – he enjoyed how this was somehow less stimulating, and all the same a hundred times more precarious, for his bullied rod. With little thinking, he brought his left hand to her lower back and began to sit up, still letting the oni lean against him. He lowered his right hand, then, to take his member.
With the youkai still slowly bucking against him, and now panting and flinching herself, he pulled himself from under her thigh, making her jolt; he felt for the buttons at the front of her bloomers, and once he’d had them opened, slipped himself in (almost finding the fit, the raw humidity, and the slickened press of her stomach and clit unbearable), took her ass in his hand, and felt her grind and slide against him. All with their eyes shut; the pair of lovers pushed against one another; gripped one another; hugged and clung to one another, and as the smell of their sweat and lust filled the room, their thoughts each faded.
There was no fight. Each half of the pair was simply happy to now have the other. Nuzzling, clutching, and in time holding hands, they eventually could feel each other’s tension about to break, and shortly after they finished just about together, kissing and taking their hands to one another’s hair through the climax and into the calescent afterglow.
“Mg...” with a grunt, Gen opened his eyes a little. “I messed up... your bloomers,” he told her, apologetically, though he was still in the process of messing them up.
“Gh...” Suika grunted as well, breathing heavily now. “... Messed them up myself,” she revealed. Well, he could feel that much. His penis had been drenched in – and was presently being drenched in – something far thinner than his jism. He pulled his hands away from behind Suika’s neck and within her tresses and turned his head. Gen brought his mouth to hers. He pushed Suika (who was still holding him close) down, letting his cock bounce free from her knickers, and he stuck his fingers into her waistband. He slid what he found there around her, and began to push one of his digits in.
She bent, dragged her hands from his hair, and dug her claws into his back. She bit down on his shoulder, as well, and began to whine. Driven, the human continued to go on until he could feel her drool running plentifully down his arm. She pulled off his shirt, and once he’d extracted his arms from the sleeves he grabbed at her bottoms and tugged them off. Forgetting whatever had been worrying him or elating him before, he became entirely spellbound by Ibuki Suika, and acted with no forethought. He lifted her ass with both his hands and, between her soaked and steaming legs, he went down on the oni. He sucked, tongued, and pushed as she screamed and growled underneath him. He grabbed at her ass completely and lost himself to feeling. He stepped back, laid his stomach down to the bed, and parted her thighs, all while keeping his mouth to her crotch, and from there with eyes shut he pleasured her, feeling butterflies in his chest when she grabbed his skull and thread her fingers through his hair.
He’d learned a few spots she liked most already. He knew that when she started calling for him she wanted his thumb on her clitoris, and wanted him to abuse her. She called; he did, and seconds in he got her to climax again: spraying his cheek and releasing a clear stream against his face. He let it fall on his tongue, and soon felt heady. The boy got on his knees and lifted her bottom again.
Before he could go back for more she kicked against the shoulder she hadn’t been biting before, and this instantly knocked him onto his back. She turned over, then, and crawled to his erect penis, opening her mouth wide above him, and – once she knew she had his attention – going down on him in return. She pivoted also (causing him to convulse and flinch), and swung her leg over him, dipping her head lowm choking, and lifting her hips. She glanced back at him. Gen lifted his head, and took her ass and pussy with his hands and mouth again.
Suika... he thought as he spread her lips and teased her other entrance (exit?) with a finger. She bobbed her head up and down, wrapping her tongue around him best that she could. They kept this up for five minutes? Ten minutes? Once she truly started sucking at his member, it wasn’t long before he felt himself cumming up (down?) her throat. He fell back to the bed, her twitching his fell on hi chest. His mind went sheer white as he felt himself popping out of her mouth, and casting ropes over her face. He realized then that he should take his hat off her head before they got any wilder...
And so, after minutes, and minutes, and minutes had passed (and his hat had been put to Meiling’s hat stand with a wiped-off hand), an hour and perhaps on its way to two later, he found himself exhausted and nearly asleep on Suika’s sweat and cum- (of both kinds) slicked stomach, squeezing at her body absently. She pet his hair affectionately, equally exhausted and laying down with her eyes closed.
“It’s so late...” the human groaned.
“Night is the time for youkai...!” Suika’s cry was weak and hollow, but there was an attempt at the enthusiasm those words, from her, implied.
“Should we go bathe and hamper these sheets...?” he proposed.
“Mmg, but... I like this smell...” saying this, Suika held him tight.
“Yeah, but...” he muttered, almost drifting off as he thought I mean, I do too...
He liked the smell now, but if anyone other than Meiling came in here after they’d nodded off, awoken, and snuck off, anyone would notice. It was a bit risky.
Going to bathe was also risky: even if they tried to escape the grounds to wash off somewhere else, they could be caught on the way. This was to be between a rock and a hard place...
Or rather a soft place. Suika’s soft, welcoming belly, begging to be touched and slept upon... Indeed: if he didn’t get up now, he was not going to.
 Get up, clean up, and bathe.
 Drift off in Suika’s arms. It’s probably fine: Meiling has your back.
<<= THIS IMAGE IS NSFW though the thumbnail is normal. Also it's a .gif animation The update is worksafe, btw.
[X] Get up, clean up, and bathe.
“Mmf...” he grunted, and put his palm to the bed instead of Suika’s stomach. With another noise of effort, he pushed himself up, escaping her hold. “Okay, get up,” he said. “Let’s not get in trouble.”
“I like trouble,” she replied.
“I’ve already told you, I don’t like trouble’s consequences, oni.” He flicked the tip of her nose as he said this. She didn’t sell the strike. “Up and at ‘em; we probably reek of sex and sweat.”
“Am I going to have to lift you?” he fired back. She finally got up.
The couple took up the sheets and stuffed them in the guard’s hamper after the youkai of the pair had extracted their sweat and other signs of their enjoyment into a small orb, opened the window, and flicked the orb out. Still naked, they stumbled to Meiling’s closet just to make sure there were clean clothes and sheets to replace things after they went off to bathe.
Gen stepped over to his clothes at the door and picked them up, frowning. Wish I could take care of them with magic, he thought, but he’d have to wear them dirty until he was bathed, at which point he would change into the pajamas always left for him in the changing room. He didn’t love the idea of going through the mansion for a bath... but it would be less complicated, and probably less suspicious if he was found.
Gen reminded his love- and sake-drunk lady friend that she couldn’t be caught and so instructed her to either turn small or spread out. Suika decided she would turn small.
“So ya can carry me,” she said, or rather slurred.
“Sure,” he agreed. He then asked her to gather the further evidence from their bodies, to get rid of it all as she’d done with the sheets.
She did, scrutinized the resulting, translucent ball of “sex” in front of her face, grinned and then said, “I’m gonna eat it!”
“No!” he firmly snapped back, and at once he pushed his palm against her forehead, grabbing her wrist as well.
“Aaaaahh...” she sounded, trying to connect mouth and hand.
“Don’t do that, that’s disgusting!”
“Ahahahaha!” she cackled.
“You’re still not letting up...” he noted with strain in his voice.
“I’ll give it up, but you’ve gotta let me at you one more time,” Suika floated a deal, looking at him slyly.
He flatly replied, “Rejected, rejected,” and after managing to pry her arms apart, he bent low and took her lips—looking irritated all the while.
“Nm...” Suika moaned, putting her left hand on his back. She crushed the ball in her right hand, and after its smoke had vanished into nothing from her palm she put that palm also against Gen’s back. He then briefly took his hands from her before putting them back to her body and lifting her up, as he’d warned, all the while unable to stop her from kissing him back.
The oni pecked at his neck, chin, face and lips while he toed through his worn clothes. Throwing her over his shoulder (and briefly shuddering, wincing, due to misjudging the position of her horns and whacking himself in the forehead), he started dressing again. Over his shoulder, Suika kissed at and patted his back. Her head was entirely in the clouds. His was about halfway—keeping just enough sense to reign in his desire to plant a kiss on her bottom and return right back to everything they had just stopped.
He got on his pants, he got on his socks. He took Suika off his shoulder and placed her on the floor so that he could don the clothes of his upper body. When he was done, he picked up her old clothes and stuffed them into his coat.
“Careful,” Suika warned, now sitting on the floor and slouching, “if you smell those you’ll go crazy.”
“Don’t joke about that, it’s a legitimate danger,” he replied. “I have to hide them...” he muttered after. Hopefully nobody catches sight of them before tomorrow morning. The chains and baubles he moved to Meiling’s closet and hid within and behind a pile of weights and exercise equipment. A youkai needs such things? I can get Tai Chi because it’s also spiritual, but... He shook his head.
He turned – crouched before the closet – to the still-sitting Suika. From there he told her, “Let’s go.”
She pointed just above her head. “Wear your hat,” she told him with a smile. Her gaze drifted to the rack where he’d left the article.
“I don’t want to get it dirty...” he grumbled. He needed to wash his hair.
“Put it on,” said his lady as she leaned back on her hands and pushed out her chest. “Your hair’s a right mess, yeah? And if someone sees you without the cover you’ll get in trouble. If someone finds it in here, you’ll get killed ha ha!”
Fair point, he admitted, pinching a lock of his surely tousled hair. Fine.
He retrieved and put on his hat.
He stood, fully-outfitted, in front of the bare Ibuki Suika. “I’m a sweaty, gross, tired mess,” he told her. “Let’s get in the baths before I fall asleep on my feet and befoul this room.”
On cue, Suika belched and, looking away from him, shortly broke wind.
After taking the reality of this in for a second, the apprentice closed his eyes and sighed. “... You’re making this a tradition?” he asked, opening his eyes back up to a narrow glare. He had come to learn: this amused her.
Suika was silent now, but hiding her mouth and still deliberately keeping her eyes from his. From the way her back shook (every second or so, suddenly), he knew she was trying not to let go one of her more powerful peals of laughter. He put a few of his fingers to his temple.
Keeping his mouth still and trying not to acknowledge that she had furthermore amused him, he exhaled. With the tickle threatening the corners of his mouth successfully stifled, he stomped over to the oni, shoved his hand down on her head, and ordered, “Turn small, already.”
“Hey...” she answered, looking up at him and still hiding her mouth, “Hey, your turn,” she said, referring to...
“It won’t ever be ‘my turn’!” he snapped. And, he repeated, “Turn small!”
And she did, mocking him with the comment “You’re so stuffed up, Gen,” and once he felt she’d shrunk, he pinched her left horn and brought her into one of his pockets. “We’re going before you do anything dumber,” he told her.
“Nice stuff in here,” she said.
He replied “Shut up,” and. once his shoes were slipped on, he opened the door.
Making it through Scarlet Devil Mansion was less trouble than he was expecting.
He had to tell a few fairies hello on the way, but none of the estate’s other major residents appeared. He did have to more than once stop himself from laughing at the memory of the noise his unladylike lady friend had made before they left Meiling’s room, so taken aback by her attitude, but that aside the most harrowing part of the trek was the span from that room to the mansion proper. He wouldn’t want anyone to spot him there. At the time, he’d hoped nobody had.
He now sat to his shoulders in the large bath of the Mansion, seated to a wall and watching Suika swim past him some meters ahead.
I wonder if she’s already that comfortable with me, or she’s just an oni so impoliteness and poor decorum become her. As he thought this, he eyed her with something similar to pity. She spotted him, stopped there (bubbling her mouth in the water), then opened wide and with what filled the cavity quickly shot a stream directly between her lover’s eyes. When it struck, he closed those eyes, frowning.
And she snickered, slouching into herself and strongly pleased with the look on his face.
“Remember to keep quiet,” he reminded her, wiping his face with his hand. His voice echoed thoroughly within the room, despite his keeping it at a low volume. “What if someone walks in?”
Putting her thumbs over her brows in... what he imagined was imitation of his face, Suika mouthed Remember to keep quiet, and What if someone walks in?
He pulled down his right eyelid and stuck out his tongue.
She stood in the water and struck a “sexy” pose, one hand on her cocked out hip, and one behind her head. She winked at him.
So Gen turned away from her and kept his laughter within his chest.
He loved this. He honestly felt, in here, constantly elated. It had been nice having her wash his back in a normal place. It had been nice, too, to wash hers. Relaxing as they did now was pleasant as well, he thought. Almost too pleasant. It was easy for him to forget the risks.
He bent his head backward and looked at one of the stools before one of the room’s showerheads. On it lay Suika’s clothes, folded neatly.
He heard the swishing of water nearby and looked to find Suika floating his way, on her back.
“Thinking of something dirty?” she whispered.
“Well,” he said, “literally, but nothing perverted.”
“I kinda wanna do something together in the bath...” she admitted, with secrecy, squinting off toward the ceiling. She blinked as her head stopped against the same wall Gen was sat before.
He put his hand down on her stomach, pouting curiously. She craned her neck to look at it. “No,” he said.
“Like you don’t want to?” she whispered, turning her head and putting her left hand down on the back of his.
“...” he thought before answering. “I would definitely like to do something in a bath, but perhaps not this one,” he said.
She put her free hand down on his backhand, along with what had already been there, and began messing with the human’s fingers quite slowly. “... I’m not too sex... sex, um,” she started. He waited. She looked at him and said, “Sex, uh, brained. Sex-brained. Am I?”
“... Am I?” he asked, looking askance with one eyebrow raised.
“Are we?” she asked, her expression severe.
“... I think we’re healthy,” he asserted, staring out ahead.
Suika brought his hand to her mouth, put his middle three fingers in, and started gnawing absently. He looked her way, expecting her to speak. She did.
“I wanna go on ano’er da’e,” she mumbled.
“Where?” he asked. He was still sorry for having interrupted their so quickly after it started.
“... Mayoiga?” she asked.
“What,” he answered, turning to face her properly.
“Mayoiga?” she repeated. Gen replied:
“Saying it again doesn’t help,” he told her,
“Ish kinda lige where Yugari ribs,” she explained, and after doing so she began to suck his fingers with a bored look on her face.
“Like where. Not where?” he asked, putting his right hand on her belly now that it was free (and still it was tempting).
“Mm,” the oni grunted.
“... Damn you’re good at floating,” he observed.
“Jjjen,” she slurred.
“‘Zen’?” he thought she said. Meanwhile he began drumming a light rhythm below her navel.
She simply nodded. Gen kept up his drumming for a few more seconds, but he then put his hand into the water, reached underneath her, and tickled at the little bump of her coccyx.
She spat over his hand, splayed her legs, and splashed.
Good sound, he noted, keeping his face stiff and still moving his fingers.
The squirming, but still floating Suika took one hand (her right) away from his, scooped water into it, and threw it in his face. He was drenched at once.
That was too much, he thought, blowing water away from his nose. She used her power, figured the boy.
Smirking through the flowing stuff all around him, he tickled her side, and then her stomach. She kept on floating undeterred, even after several seconds. “Amazing... It’s like ticking a swim-ring...!” he breathlessly observed.
And Suika grinned, his left hand between her teeth. “Thash ish,” she said, meeting his eye and raising her right hand. She coolly declared, “Yer on.” She poked his open armpit.
“Hh...!” he made a sound, not quite a laugh. Now she let him go, turned over, moved to his front, and from there put her ready and wiggling fingers to his body. “W-Wai...! I don’t want... to la... laugh!” he begged, on the verge of doing just that as her hands crawled over him.
“Shoulda thoughta that before you tested me, boy,” she spoke with dark, but clear enjoyment. He managed to get his fingers under her raised arms and return the attack, however.
“Gaha! Aha!” she guffawed, losing her momentum.
“Hey, hey, stay quiet,” he told her through a smile, unseriously.
“Sh-Shut i... t!” she managed to say, before laughing even more, shutting her armpits down over him, and running her fingers over his sides. “There...!” she shouted.
He pushed his hands through her arms, and pulled her in, hugging her close.
“Can’t get carried away,” he said, smiling and chuckling.
Suika relaxed, soon nuzzling to him close. He felt her smile on his chest.
“...” He squeezed her close. She let him. “... I decided, I’m definitely going to become a magician,” he said.
“You’re already one,” she noted. He took one arm from her back to flick at the side of her head. She laughed toward his stomach. “Alright,” she said, “a magician?”
“A magician, even if I become ‘evil’,” he continued. “I can’t let go of what I want to do, I suppose.”
“... I like that,” she admitted. “Don’t become ‘evil’, though.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, pulling back so that he could see her face, “I’m thinking I won’t.”
Suika, on his lap, nodded proudly. “I’m gonna trust the librarian with ya, then,” she said.
“...” He kept quiet a moment, looking at one of the walls—of a mural showing an old god breaking free of a prison. He had a few words in mind... but chose not to say them. The place and time were a bit too lax for any grander declarations.
“Gen,” Suika said, and he listened, “I love you.”
His eyebrows raised at once. A wave of sharp emotion had run over and through him on hearing those words.
Gen turned to look at the oni sitting in front of him, bringing up his right hand to the hair beside her ear. His face was a bit severe, and his heart was pounding. “... Can we say that?” he asked. “Already? Um... Do you,,,? You really—”
“I do,” she said, honestly. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said it as well without hesitation. Then, quieter, and with a weak and slouching posture, he added. “I do.”
Suika brought her right hand to his cheek, and brought his head up. “I think it’s okay,” she said, “I think so, seri... really. I think so.
“I’m seriously in love with you... I don’t think it’s just fluttery stuff.”
“We said we’d say this later,” he answered. However, he was happy that—
“I feel it now.” Suika brought down her hand and left it above his heart, looking down to it. “... I don’t really care about how long it’s been. I want you to know how I feel. That’s an oni... hm. It’s... an oni maxim: ‘If your heart is right, then you are right’. I won’t lie about it.” She met his eyes again. “I’m gonna believe in you... so don’t let my heart down.”
“You can’t put everything on me,” said Gen. “... I don’t want you to let my heart down either.”
“We won’t let each other down, then.” She took her hand from his chest, and raised her pinky. “Swear it, and the one who breaks the vow will swallow a thousand needles.”
He brought his hand, and pinky, to hers, and he swore it. “The one who lies has to swallow a thousand needles.”
“Easy for me,” Suika said calmly, as they bobbed their now-connected hands.
“Don’t say that,” Gen chastised her, as they bobbed their hands once more.
“Make it ten thousand,” the oni suggested.
“Quiet...” he breathed.
Dropping their hands and hold, the pair of lovers looked above to the ceiling, tying their fingers (all of them) within the water instead.
“... Will we get married?” Gen wondered aloud.
“... You gotta propose to me,” Suika answered.
“You’d say no now. You should. That’s too early,” said the boy.
“I’d say yes,” she asserted, narrowing her eyes in sincere thought, “so you can’t ask me yet.”
“Ha,” he laughed. “... Am I really that much of a catch?”
“I don’t care about ‘catches’,” said Suika. “I love you.”
“I fell in love with you,” saying this, she lowered her head, let go of his hands, and then lowered her body against his. She hugged him; he put his left arm around her back, and looked down at her head.
“Mmgg~~!! You’re so cool!” She squeezed his ribs.
He smirked, ignoring the pain. “... Mm.”
I don’t mind any of that.
I like it... being honest.
He began to stroke her lower back, resting in the bath and putting his other hand to the submerged floor at his side.
I will learn magic, to the fullest.
I’m the man that she chose.
I’ll keep proving to her why it was that she did.
“I love you, Suika,” he told her again. Suika, at peace, began to nod off... though he shook her awake once he noticed this.
They slept peacefully that night: human and oni, beneath fresh sheets, and within each other’s arms, with a newly discovered comfort they’d been carefully ignoring – for fear of its shape being quite comfort’s opposite – now realized quietly, there, between them.
--End of Chapter 17: Magic--
。 。 。 。
 Roasted soybeans.
 A mask.
The maxim Suika refers to is a real one. 心正しければ則ち事正し or to make it more obvious 「心」正しければ則ち事正し. It's not actually related to oni, far as I know, but it is about honesty so I nabbed it.
He was told that the Shawl of Kagutsuchi was supposedly given a proper burial.
With that tumultuous week finally behind him, he spent the following days much more at ease. The magician’s apprentice studied and was careful with magic. He spent time with his Mistresses, he spoke with his friends, he continued to sneak an oni onto the premises and sleep with her so long as the gatekeeper allowed it.
Today he woke up with his face in that oni’s stomach, where he was finding he especially liked to sleep. She enjoyed hugging any part of him through the night... so it was a good arrangement, as it turns out.
He wiped his drool away from her stomach and sat up, stretching and scratching his own stomach. He was getting used to sleeping with her in a bed, which could prove to be a problem down the line. Wondering what he could possibly do about that, he got up and moved to the bathroom in order to brush his teeth.
It was probably already suspicious how often he wasn’t sleeping in his bedroom... Could I bring her in there instead...? he wondered. Merremia liked to get into his bed, however... That would mean he couldn’t get intimate with Suika, even assuming he could hide her from the morning fairy in the first place.
He returned to the bedroom.
... I’m forgetting something, he thought. He was.
Suika woke up, rubbing her right eye and looking at him through her bleary left. “Morning, Miss Suika,” he said.
“Get back in bed,” she commanded in a groggy voice, although it was past six in the morning. He had been considering heading to the main building and grabbing his clothes. He walked over and sat on the bed instead, letting her grab at the back of his pajamas and tug at him as she tried to get comfortable and return to the world of dreams.
What am I forgetting...? he wondered as Suika moved about like a cat behind him. Something about Master...? But it can’t be serious if I’m not remembering it at once.
Suika pulled him down to the bed by his top and crawled to his side, hugging him and already drooling onto his shirt. He let her, with his arms laying carelessly atop the sheets.
He looked down and examined one of her horns absently with a curious hand.
Whatever he was forgetting, he knew forgetting it was not a smart thing to do. Nonetheless, he had.
Unable to recall, he waited until he was sure Suika was asleep before rubbing her head and tickling her a bit to get her to release him. He went to the main building while surrounded by illusory, light-refracting magic. He swiftly reached his room unnoticed, and opened the door.
“...” Merremia was there: in his bed and hugging his pillow.
As he changed into his outfit from his wardrobe, he thought about his walk through the halls to here... It was worth mentioning: “unnoticed” would imply there were people to notice. The halls were more empty than usual... Something was certainly afoot.
Once he was changed, he stood over his bed and pinched and pulled at Merremia’s cheek, almost clinically. The fairy woke... about halfway. She took his hand, smiled a dazed smile, and brought the fingers against her face. “G’morning, Sir Gen,” she muttered,
“Don’t you have your own bed?” he asked.
“Don’t you have yours?” asked someone who was now behind him. He flinched, and quickly turned his head to see who it was. It was, of course—
The head maid was leaning against frame of his door, folding her arms and looking his way with little expression to note.
“I’m not supposed to warn you about anything, am I? You should have your own sense of danger,” she said. Gen turned back as he heard this, and began prodding at his morning fairy more. She seemed to want to stay in bed, unusually. “I can guess what you’ve been doing, but I suggest you be careful with it,” Sakuya told him.
Finally Merremia sat up and began to stretch, still holding his pillow in an arm. He briefly tried to take it back from her, feeling that doing so would be simple... but ultimately not wanting to upset her. She could have it, for now.
“Anyway we’ll be starting very soon, so I’d like you to hurry up.” Sakuya informed him. “You’re the one most sure about this entire process, so you need to be our guide.”
Guide for what? he thought, and thus realized; he had been speaking with his Master here and there about the separation of seasons, and specifically the most well-known festivity associated with that and named as such. Though it was out of season, and now marked the division of spring and summer, Patchouli Knowledge had three days ago told him: “I want to hold a Setsubun festival in three days.”
Sakuya smirked at the now fairy-carrying and pale-faced Gen. “Well well,” said his friend, “I hope that she isn’t still here...”
Gen was recruited to help the maids with their work, the whole lot of them receiving orders from the librarian in the basement who was spearheading the event. He would often get asked “Is this right?” and “Is this okay?” by messengers sent by his Master, and on occasion his Master herself. Everything seemed copacetic... His Master had clearly, earnestly, paid full attention to his explanations.
But because this was forgotten to Gensokyo – because the oni had all left Gensokyo – every resident of the Mansion, comprised of foreigners and natives alike, was rapt with anticipation for the event. The fairies were almost explosive, Sakuya’s brows were often raised in quiet fascination, his Mistress was ecstatic and prattling on about being the first to revive old traditions here, and even his younger Mistress awaited the coming festivities with gently fluttering wings.
Therefore, it was hard to not feel happy here. It was hard to feel happy as well, however—at least for him. He had not found Suika in Meiling’s bedroom, and he had a strong feeling she had not flown from the premises.
“... We’re about ready?” Sakuya asked him. He and she overlooked several giant bowls of roasted soybeans. The platters of sushi rolls – the ehomaki specific to this event – had already been brought to the yard outside the mansion. He turned his eyes on his fellow human, and on the blue oni mask worn askew on her head. He had a red oni askew on his. Every fairy wore a mask as well. Horns and peculiar colors were donned on all participants, as fashioned by his Master—who seemed to be the most eager of all, and he’d even found her wheezing and muttering quickly in the halls a few minutes before while putting up paper lanterns with the rest of the staff.
Sakuya now quietly revealed to him, “... I’m a bit excited.” She was clearly very excited. As for himself, he now indeed felt the same, and his anxiety had turned into a light nervousness.
... This is going to go terribly, isn’t it? he thought. He and she then heard Patchouli’s voice booming throughout the mansion, cast loud through magic.
“Let us bring a time-honored tradition back to this land of fantasy! The hour has come to heal this wounded land...! Onis out! Good fortune in! Let the Setsubun festival... COMMENCE!”
At once, everything went straight out of hand.
A troupe of fairies behind the two human started hurling beans from boxes at the tall-folks’ backs, screaming happily and pushing them out of the kitchen and into the halls. There they found beans already scattered over the scarlet rugs. Sakuya and Gen looked at one another, sighed and shrugged respectively, took up their own ammunition and began to scatter the tiny tanned legumes just as well at the shadows of flying and fleeing fae.
The actual intent of Setsubun was, of course, to have only a few play the “oni” role and be chased away with beans. Because his Master had gone overboard with producing masks, however... the role had lost all meaning and quite instantly the festivities became indistinguishable from a food fight. Rather: this was a food war. The mansion became a giggling battleground of beans and screaming “oni”. From the first to final floor, in the basement and in the library (until Patchouli barred entrance)—out into the gardens, and to the sitting area where Remilia had barricaded herself with her sister and best friend, munching quite angrily on sushi rolls while Patchouli directed the madness and Flandre watched it with glee.
Over time, Gen – recalling what fun he’d had in his old home – took up a contingent of maids against Meiling, who had managed to do the same against him, and the two fought for control of the Mansion itself, rather losing the plot. The head maid bowed out at noon, realizing that there was going to be hell in sorting this all out once it was over. She’d also learned that her two mistresses had discovered that the beans stung them to the touch, and decided to stalwartly defend the sitting area from Meiling and Gen’s expansion and approach. The blood-sucking oni were ever oni still.
And now, the human general neared that area to report to his Master through the seven-color barricade which she had erected.
“We got Mistress Remilia’s bedroom and now we’re trying to get Sakuya’s. We’ve nearly taken the top floor!” he told her this, beaming. Behind him, an outright spell card of beans had been launched against a group of Meiling-aligned maids, and yells of joy rang out. On the roof, a crow observed the proceedings with a bead of sweat crawling down her cheek, her body otherwise still and her camera unmoving in her hands.
“Good work,” Patchouli told him as Remilia glared at the two from her chair and Flandre cackled.
“Miss Meiling has the basement right now, but we’re gonna get the Library, too!” he vowed, putting a fist against his chest. An explosion rang out behind him.
His Master crossed her fingers in an X before her chest. “No,” she said, “that’s off limits.”
“Breaking through the wards Master placed on the doorway...” he whispered conspiratorially, squinting off toward the Mansion walls and rubbing his chin.
He smirked at his Master. He’d heard her. However, he would try: he was just having too much fun.
Lurking in the kitchens now, with the mask of a furious and scarlet-faced oni worn on her head, was the ancient and true oni herself: Ibuki no Suika.
“My... My, my, my... the gall of that Librarian...” the oni muttered while taking up a masu cup from a stack of the things. “Starting a Setsubun festival? And not inviting any oni!?”
She scooped roasted soybeans into her hand, smirking as they tingled her palm and fingers. “Man! Wow! You really don’t want any oni here, huhh!!” She spoke to no one as she filled her cup. “I come back to Gensokyo and you’re already tellin’ me to get out...!? Some nerve a’ you... Patchouli Knowledge!”
She closed her fist, crushing the soybeans in there into powder. Ibuki Suika stood proud and pulled the mask of her brethren down over her face. The four-horned oni turned from the vats and slouched, ready.
“Yeah...” she breathed, “that’s enough a’ your nonsense... I’m gonna remind y’all... of what a REAL oni is!”
Go forth, and spread terror.
 Strike from above. Let's blow the roof off this joint!
 Wreak havoc below. Let's uproot this whole shindig!
The stone halls of the mansion basement had been thoroughly ravaged by combat and legumes. Fae maids of distinct factions were fighting toward the library door. Those who stood with the Apprentice had secured the Younger Mistress’s room. Those who stood with the Guard were gaining a foothold. If you were overwhelmed by beans and driven down or forced to withdraw, the territory you maintained became the enemy’s. Elsewhere in the mansion bean battle ensued as viciously as here. The cleaning would be a nightmarish task, to be sure.
The morning fairy, Merremia, ever-loyal to her master Gen was currently down in these roasted trenches. She lit the area and blinded the opposing forces. She was sure: they would win this, and her master’s “home” base. And then... And then... something, probably. There was a prize at the end, right? There definitely had to be.
As she and her unit pushed again for the door, just as the Guard’s fairies did the same, the morning fairy’s mind wandered to daydreams of lemon and strawberry cake. It was the gravest of mistakes for a vanguard. Had her mind not wandered, she may have been the first to spot Ibuki no Suika manifesting before the archives’ doors, in a storm of Self.
Suika took form, masked appropriately, and recognized by none. The skirted demon gave every fairy but the daydreaming Merremia pause. The morning fairy stumbled down in front of the – to-her unknown – latest oni, her mask nearly falling from her head. She got onto her knees, and looked into the mask of the horned-being before her. Certainly, it was someone unknown, but another certainty was this: it was youkai.
And it spoke one word. “Yo...”
“Eep—...” squealed Merremia.
Behind her mask, Suika grinned. “Looks like yer an oni,” said the elder youkai, bringing forward her masu box. “Oni’s’ve gotta...”
She plucked a bean from the cup, holding it betwixt thumb and forefinger... and aiming it at the now-standing and now-trembling Merremia’s chest.
Thus, she said, “... GET OUT!!”
She flicked the legume. It met the fairies chest; the fairy met the squadron of fairies behind her; the squadron met the far wall, all in a few seconds, and with tossed dust, winds, and bean debris.
Ibuki no Suika snickered. She then took a wide grasp to her first box of beans (she had in fact, carted out several). Gripping, she grinned and felt herself trembling with excitement—her skin tingling against the burned plant life in her hand. So she roared—
“ALRIGHT...! Leeet’s... GOOOOOOOO!!!!”
... in all its raw power and vigor...
... shook the walls, grounds, and the surrounding trees. It rippled the lake. So, Scarlet Devil Mansion knew:
A real oni had come.
Ibuki Suika, with as much show and splendor as she could muster, scattered her soybeans, and as danmaku they struck all fae on either of her sides. Suika began hopping from floor, to wall, to wall, to roof in pursuit of fleeing and fighting fair folk.
“Mayday!” one cried.
“It’s September!” cried another.
“THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT! I MEANT IT’S AN EMERGENC—” As the maid attempted to clarify, Suika beaned her in the cheek. This knocked her unconscious on impact
“AAAAH!” cried the one she was talking to. “IT’S AN EMERGENCE!
“I know that word!” one shouted enthusiastically from down the hall.
Suika stopped and sighed heavily.
“Man, fairies don’t know when to pipe down and just scream,” said Suika, gathering all the fallen and still-whole beans from the hall. They amassed around her in a tanned cloud.
“W-We can’t...” one said, looking up at her through a childish mask.
“Hahn?” Suika grunted, tilting her head.
“We can’t... do both those things at once... p-p-pipe down and...” the shaking fairy explained from her place on the floor.
“Ah.” She was right, and Suika paused. “Aaahh, yeah, haha! I guess you’re right...!” She rocked with drunken laughter, and then suddenly bent toward the fallen and nearly fainted fairy, telling her, “Then, SCREAM!”
And the fairies did scream.
As they hollered, the ancient oni cast waves of legumes, impossible to dodge, through the hall to sweep up any stragglers. She then dispersed herself and swirled in a mass of youkai and soybean, flooding up the staircase and bursting onto the ground floor.
“What the heck are you saying!? It’s September!”
Fairies really never get old... Suika remarked to herself as most of the maids she came across fled in terror, speaking nonsensically. A blond in the area, however, ran toward her mass. Oh...?
The golden-haired fairy maid faced her with a masu cup and a green-faced, large-fanged mask. “Steady, troops...! We’ve fought fogs before...!” There were five other fairies behind her.
“No we haven’t!” one said. Suika chuckled to herself.
“N-No, like...! With the drunk thing! The party thing!” said the blond with insistence, turning to the one who’d disagreed.
“That wasn’t us, that was Sensor Battalion V,” said one at her left.
“You’re a dumby, Livy,” said one at her right.
“GIVE ME A BREAK! I’M IN CHARGE AND I SAY WE’VE FOUGHT FOGS BEFORE, OKAY!?” the blond vanguard shouted.
Ahaha...! Precious...! Suika noted. These were the only fairies standing before her... not fearless, but certainly courageous. Courage was... something like, where loyalty met terror, and loyalty won out. She admired that, and so dignified them with her true form. Alright, fair folk... she thought, darkly, try me. She coalesced, and landed with soybeans scattered, floating, all around her and them.
The leader of the troop, Livy, gasped. “... The intruder’s a deer...!” she said.
“How’d a deer get inside...!?”
“Deers eat beans!?”
“I’m not a deer,”
Suika held the forehead of her mask and furrowed her brow behind it.
Livy noted their surroundings. They were in the hall before the basement staircase, and had almost no maneuverability here... She made a decision.
“... Fall back to that atrio,” she said.
“Atrium,” said the one who’d corrected her about which group had “fought” – Suika suspected – Suika herself.
“What Summer said,” said Livy, “But it’s a tactical retreat!” she shouted to the “deer”. “We’re gonna bring you somewhere open, first!”
“Heh heh, eh? You sure you wanna tell me that?” Suika asked, shrugging and lifting her claws. “You’re gonna lead me into a place you guys can run around better?”
“Wha—!? She figured out our plans!” Livy gasped.
The “smart” fairy, Summer, flinched and asked, “How?”
“I don’t know... I don’t know, but for now let’s get going!” ordered the commander fairy.
“YEAH!!” the rest shouted, and they all promptly turned tail, heading for the entrance.
“Idiots and idiots,” Suika said, chuckling to herself again. “I don’t hafta follow ya, you know!?” she called after them with a hand beside her mouth, but they were already out of proper earshot. “... Well, whatever,” Suika dismissed it with a quick puff of air through her nose, and mask. She hopped up, lightly, and began to fly in place. There she decided, “Let’s just have fun with it, yeah...!?” She gave chase, and exploded into the atrium, a new and very-much contended battleground.
“Guard team! GUARD TEAM, WE’VE GOT TROUBLE!” Livy shouted as she hurried into the first hall with the deer in close pursuit. Suika noted: she must have been with the gatekeeper’s faction. Fairies of that ilk were hurling beans over banisters at the other faction, who was hiding by staircases and pillars. All saw Suika as she leapt over Livy and plucked her up by her sleeve. “GYAAA!!! Shiny Battalion! Titania formation!”
At once the five other fae separated and surrounded Suika, arming themselves with beans and raising their hands. Suika smirked, and watched.
“Fire!” shouted the commander. They hurled their “bullets”, and Suika spun in place in midair. “Wai—! No—! Cease fiREGMM!?” As Livy’s mask lifted from the centrifugal force, beans flew into her mouth. Beans flew at her body. Beans got in her hair. With an effective, though protesting shield, Suika parried every legume.
She landed. The rest of the fairies in the atrium stared her down, finally realizing the gravity of the situation.
In her grasp, Livy still struggled. Suika dropped her, let her tumble forward and try to scramble away, then grabbed her once again—now by the back of her collar. The oni raised a finger, and a cyclone of soybeans was called up.
The chaos was immense. The factions united as they attempted to take her down through her storm, and none were successful. The oni danced with a fairy in her hand, traipsing through their fire and firing back on her own, through her power or through sheer physical force. The fairy she carried continued to give orders throughout the madness. Suika had to give it to her: this “Livy” had guts.
Surprisingly enough, as the situation grew worse – their lines in the sand dashed and rules of engagement destroyed – the fairy maids became more organized. It was something to behold... ordinarily fairies resonated with insanity and power. These fairies, despite their silliness only minutes before, were showing that they were trained. Suika, though entirely unbeaned, was nonetheless very impressed by their efforts.
... But nonetheless, a bit bored now.
The ancient oni eyed the staircase upward, and then eyed the doors to the front gardens.
Gen was outside.
What would be better: having him chase after her, or bursting into that little guard post he had with the Vampires, Magician, and Maid?
It was nearly night...
What to do... she thought.
 Finish wrecking the inside of the mansion, until reinforcements arrive (Gen, hopefully). Be the boss in the dungeon!
 Burst out of the mansion and come to Gen yourself. Those vampires should be playing, too! They’re “oni”, too, aren’t they!?
His Master judged him correctly. He was, in fact, concerned.
As evening set in and the moon began to show, faded, in the sky, he realized that his communication line with the inside of the Mansion had become lost. Itou Gen eyed the red building warily. His feeling was... the party may have turned.
He had been teasing and chatting with his Mistresses and Master for long enough to not notice this at all. When the others were preoccupied, he asked Sakuya in confidence to go to the guard tower and ask if their guard had the same concerns for her team. The maid had yet to return, but with her control over time she could at least come and go easily without notice.
“... I suspect someone else is in the mansion, or there is a force of some kind...” the Apprentice admitted to his Master. Remilia looked up from her (bean-free) ehomaki.
“Is that true, Gen!?” said the elder vampire, seated at a small table with his Master. He nodded. His suspicions at the least were true enough. “... Where’s Sakuya?”
“Meiling’s forces have also broken the line of communication... she says,” said Sakuya, a little exasperated from having to use the childish terms of her two adult colleagues. Nobody had seen her arrive, but none were surprised by her appearance beside the Mistress.
“On top of this event being a joyless aggravation, we have UNWELCOME GUESTS!?” Remilia roared, slamming down her fist-holding-roll to the table where she sat. Rice spilled. Sakuya watched the grains fall and sighed as they did. What was a little more mess after all made thus far?
“It’s an event to drive out those unwelcome. This might be a very fitting way to end it,” chimed in his Master, bluntly, as she reached out and plucked up a single piece of rice that had dropped before her friend. She tossed it into her mouth and looked at the two humans as she chewed it. She swallowed and – as she reached for another grain – said, “Part of your work is stopping such guests too, isn’t it?”
“Yes!” Remilia supported the magician’s statement. She pointed at Sakuya and Gen. “Sakuya! Gen! Get Meiling and investigate the mansion! Patche, you’ll protect me and Flan, right!?”
Patchouli nodded. Flandre glanced behind herself from where she was sat on the grass, her wings waving just slightly.
Sakuya and Gen bowed. “Yes, Mistress,” they said in unison, and they took off, for the gate.
Night was coming on quickly. The Mansion and its grounds, which were usually noisy come evening, were now so quiet as to hear the forests surrounding them. This was never before, and they had been noisier than usual all day, at that... It rather unnerved him as they flew, thinking how suddenly it had all ended.
“This is... Marisa, most likely,” Sakuya noted, looking his way. He nodded.
“Reimu may be along for the ride, then,” he replied.
“Is it perhaps your...? Right? The o—... Suika, was it?” Sakuya asked.
Gen considered it. He then realized he hadn’t considered her presence much, if at all, since the morning. Really... In fact... the likelihood that it was her sowing chaos was astronomically high...
... So, he nodded again.
“She is friendly with Reimu and Marisa as well,” Sakuya reminded him. “With any luck this will all be fun and games, Gen, but let’s not be... lax. We are all still new arrivals to this place... Some consider us unwelcome to the land itself.”
Once more, he nodded. He felt bolder, and more assured. He was glad how easily Sakuya’s confidence was conveyed, and resonated.
With that, they soon stopped before the guardhouse.
“Come out,” Sakuya ordered the youkai inside clearly after landing. A scramble was heard, and shortly the redhead swung open the door, closed it behind her, and in a fluster looked at her coworkers. She read their faces, and hers grew severe.
“It’s serious..!?” she asked.
“Assume so,” Sakuya answered, standing with her arms folded. Gen looked back to the mansion.
“It may be my... may be Suika,” he said.
“Or Miss Marisa, surely,” said Meiling.
He nodded, and returned his eyes to her. “Let’s go, then?” he asked,
“Stay apart, but together,” Sakuya commanded, lifting into the air. Her companions took either side of her, a few arms distant. She looked them over, nodded, and turned around. “Take note of any fairies along the way,” said the head maid, and at point she took right off, followed by youkai and apprentice.
When they arrived, inside they found fairies dotting the shadowed ground. The lights along the walls and above from the chandelier were out, and all the hired maids were unconscious: viciously beaned down.
There was also a fog in the mansion... one unmistakable, and which they all recognized. Observing how it lingered in their halls, Sakuya said what they all thought: “The oni.”
“Miss... Sakuya...” a conscious fae spoke up weakly from the child bodies lying all about. As they recognized the mist, they all recognized the tough Livy’s voice—ragged though it had become. Sakuya took a knee as the maid limped toward her, after having crawled out from under one of her friends. “Was a... big... big deer...” the fairy informed her boss, nearly falling after doing so.
“‘Deer’?” Meiling repeated, crouching next to Livy and patting her head, steadying her by her shoulder.
“More likely ‘beer’,” said Gen, as he gazed up the staircase to the next floor. The place was a mess. He saw the faint purple smoke of his lover gliding over the steps. With that witnessed, he frowned.
“Have a rest, Livy,” said Sakuya, standing. Meiling stayed low, rubbing the fairy maid’s head. “See the Mistress. Before you go, however: might you tell us where this deer went?”
“E-Everywhere... spooky deer... I think I fought it before... smoke deer...” said Livy. Gen nodded.
“She helped me round up Sensor Battalion V when I was trying to find the cause of the past Incident,” he explained. “Shimmer, Panora, Lev...”
“Then it’s confirmed. How vexing...” Sakuya quietly hissed as Meiling stood as well and let Livy take her leave.
“I... I’m a little excited...” Meiling admitted. She was twisting her fingers together and wearing a lightly-twisting smile, as well. The humans regarded the battle-hungry youkai dully.
Said Suika, as her shape manifested in front of them. Except...
“I’ll leave your masters alone if you can strike me one thousand times...!”
... His lover... wasn’t a giant, was she?
“Not one less... Not one more...”
“What on earth is this...” Sakuya muttered with an incredulous, furious glare. Suika was indeed appearing before them, as smoke twisted and coalesced, but the shape was massive. She was filling nearly the entire atrium, and taking on a black and wicked visage, her eyes and mouth full of an effulgent glow.
Through spiked teeth, Suika said, “But I’m really, really generous...! I’ll give the three of you four minutes to stop me! One minute for each a’ ya, and a BONUS!”
She slammed her palms down to the floor. Her chains fell, and scraped with a powerful sound. Power itself was crackling off her shade-body, and the floors below were snapping. The building began to quake at its foundations... All three steeled themselves, and gripped, each, a handful of soybeans.
“Now, GEN! Get ready, get ready...! ‘CAUSE I’M JUST ABOUT GETTIN’ STARTED~!!”
Damn it... She doesn’t usually lie, so... do we really have to defend the mansion by doing something so absurd...!?
If we win, Suika better do all the cleaning after this.
Gen and Meiling remained to ground and contemplated where it might be best to attack. Sakuya, on the other hand, sprung to action. She leapt up, disappeared, and in a fraction of a second after returned with a field of beans floating between her and the self-styled “final boss”. Suika lifted her chin, and looked.
The head maid threw her hand forward, and the beans flew. To this, the oni said, “Nah,” and twitched a finger up, in something akin to a gesture of beckoning. The fallen beans on the floor rose to match Sakuya’s mamemaku and stopped every shot, bean to bean.
“Tch.” With this sound, Sakuya fell back, stopping between the other two.
“I thought I said no cheating, Maid of the Devil.”
“You did not,” said Sakuya, and Gen thought, Not explicitly. “Gen,” she looked at him, and he listened. The look she gave told: you don’t need books for your spells, do you?
He looked Suika’s way and began to think. Meiling and Sakuya could handle themselves; he needed to pull his weight.
He started simply, and tossed a handful at the colossal oni positioned in their foyer. Suika lifted a hand and slapped them to the floor, crushing them all and sending Gen off his feet from the impact. He landed on his feet, but bewildered and quivering. The sound barrier may have broken...
“Just hits,” said Suika, grinning at him. “No count,” she explained. As he waited to recover from the shock, he wondered, Where’d she learn that? A grip of beans struck her cheek and she turned her head. To her right was a fierce and flying Meiling in action. She was pelting Suika with beans from her box as if she held instead a stack of shuriken. However, her speed was akin to a machine gun... Out of the two humans, one was impressed. Sakuya was not impressed. Below, Sakuya was kneeling, watching, and awaiting opportunity.
Suika reached behind herself, into one of the mansion’s hallways. While Meiling racked up hits and Gen exhaled, the oni dragged her arm forward, and there flung a small hill of soybeans at the guard. The two humans gave a start and shouted, “What!?”
On collision, Meiling was hurled to the mansion’s front wall, and there fell in a brown and unceremonious pile. She quickly, but shakily stood, shaking her head as well as legumes dropped off of it. Suika then lifted a hand. “Over two hundred, girl,” she said. Beans floated above her clawed fingers. “Not bad, not bad.” With this praise, she gave a pointed signal, and began pelting Meiling with a steady line of soybeans. The guard stepped out the way in a blur and went to attack again. Suika split the stream, and like a maestro conducted the veg-bullets to fly at her two remaining enemies.
Sakuya dodged with elegance and irritation. Gen found his voice, and summoned the air. With a tumult, wind blasted upward and shielded him from the line meant for him. With a few more words, he readied ammunition over his shoulder.
“Hey, hey...! No...” Suika bellowed, looking his way with her impossibly bright eyes again, “... magic!”
He knew she had done something, but could not see what in the dark. Sakuya appeared before him as he incanted, with her wrist held up—showing the back of it to the boss. A single bean bounced off of it, and from its trajectory Gen realized it had been aimed for his open mouth.
“Play fair, humans...!” Suika commanded.
“Not when you aren’t, little demon...” said Sakuya, staying in front of her friend in his defense. She lowered her wrist. “Gen...” she whispered.
Gen completed his incantation and launched a ball of air full of some hundred beans at the oni’s horn. The beans struck true, and the oni faltered, falling somewhat on her left arm.
“I’ve set something up that can end this...” Sakuya revealed to her fellow human as Suika reeled. Meiling continued to strike, keeping wary for anything sudden. Sakuya glanced at him. “I’ll use it when the time is right. For now, keep goi—”
They both planted their feet firmly as the ground shook. Then, they levitated, and looked at the invading oni. The ancient child had her hands together, like she was holding an invisible ball. Between her palms, she was gathering soybeans. Without warning, she took the result into her left hand and slammed the ground, releasing her grip just before. All three yelped as a wave of the things came at them unavoidably. Gen covered his mouth and Sakuya blocked his body with her forearms crossed. Commanding the wind again, the apprentice took hold of as much ammunition as he could.
“I’ve counted, we’re at over four-hundred...” Sakuya commented as the wave fell and beans dropped and rolled from their clothing. Aside, a particularly graceful Meiling (she was spinning—hair marvelously flowing) caught crashing beans in her cup and began countering with the catch. Gen launched his volley at Suika’s forehead, and immediately began to gather more with his summoned winds. In the next second, Sakuya said: “Near six hundred. Two minutes.”
Meiling set up, again throwing rapidly and landing another clean two hundred on Suika’s shoulder. Suika, however, had suspiciously gone quiet. Gen furrowed his brow.
Sakuya, however, seemingly not noticing this spoke up again with, “I’m going to—” before the oni groaned too loudly, interrupting her at once. All three watched as Suika shook, dropped her jaw open wide, and with her breath summoned a vortex which kicked up in a flash, spiraling toward the eldritch youkai’s waiting mouth. And, in reply, Sakuya fired: “What!?”
Their bean supply was being quite literally vacuumed into an oni’s gullet and that being the case, it wouldn’t be long: they would run out soon, and quite permanently at that.
“What was that about no cheating, you devil...!?” Sakuya growled. Gen spoke a spell to drag the air back from his partner... but without glyphs, material, or significant power it did little more than slow her feast down. Nonetheless, with sweat at his brow, he struggled.
“Miss Sakuya! I haven’t got anymore!” Meiling shouted from where she was (on the floor, gripping tile through with her fingers to stay in place). “What should I do!?”
“Get here!” Sakuya shouted back. The guard quickly nodded through her winds-scattered hair and leapt backward toward them. “Take hold of Gen,” said the Maid on Meiling’s arrival. As if on cue, Suika dug her own nails into the ground and her vortex increased. From the hallways, beans were dragged out like swarms of locusts. Gen felt his body lurch forward, then Meiling’s hand dragging him back by his ankle. “I’ll finish it,” said Sakuya, and she vanished again.
As his heart pumped and his ears rang from the feasting. Gen stared forward wondering what exactly his friend could’ve done. Below his other friend now had her arms around his leg and was holding him down desperately. He felt that at any second, he would be growing intimate with his girlfriend in a way he would really, truly, never want.
When he thought that, the atrium’s chandelier fell.
“EH!?” shouted Meiling. Gen shouted nothing, he only looked on in disbelief. The great, glass-shard and wax-candle thing flew down, turned, and went straight to Suika’s maw – surprisingly quietly – where it stopped the oni like a... if he had to be honest, the impression he gathered was of a pacifier.
The vortex ceased. Great swathes of beans fell around her. Meiling and Gen stared, frozen. Sakuya returned, shaking out her wrist and tossing something to the floor.
“I was planning on that falling on your head but this is probably better,” the maid said. Gen and Meiling looked at one another, and Sakuya looked back at them, annoyed. “What are you waiting for!?” she snapped. “We’ve less than a minute left! Hurry! Get going!”
They nodded to each other and set to work, Gen flying to Suika’s left while Meiling ran to the oni’s left. Sakuya stood... there, between them and in front of the extremely confused and hopelessly unsure Ibuki Suika. He got the impression that for once, Sakuya was very overwhelmed. Just to think of getting the chandelier back up... and whether it had any damage...
He shook his head of those concerns.
So, the two free hands set about finishing the fight. Suika merely struggled and seemed to genuinely not know at all what to do. It did not take long. Eventually, as they threw beans, Sakuya shouted, “That’s enough!” and the shadows began to fade from Suika’s face. “We had twenty-one seconds...” Sakuya noted. Suika nodded, and plucked out the chandelier from her mouth.
“... Did it,” said Suika. “You did it,” she... “praised”. She did not seem happy. Suika was drooling, and she had her tongue hanging out her mouth in a little disgust, judging by how she squinted one eye and had knit her brow. Gen considered going to her face and asking if she was alright, but surveying the area once again to remind himself of what she’d done, well... he wasn’t very sympathetic.
Smoke then filled the entrance area and obscured everything. When it cleared, they saw Suika there, small-size as was the norm for her, and on the chandelier now instead of holding it. She was sitting cross-legged and looked rather bothered.
Meiling flew up to her, and grabbed her up by the back of her collar, holding the oni like some... thing. Suika did not seem to appreciate it. The guard then hopped down in front of the fallen chandelier and Gen crossed his arms. He asked the invader in her hand:
“What were you thinking?”
“‘You guys gotta show respect’, and... ‘I wanna have fun’...” Suika admitted, grumbling.
“You were terribly rude yourself,” Sakuya replied, bending down to the floor. She picked up what she had thrown earlier: a little wooden thing, which one could hold in a palm. A pocket knife? thought Gen. Or was the technical term “multi-tool”... Sakuya put the thing away in her vest and told Suika, “You’ve caused quite a mess for us, and you were not invited.”
“Yeah! You didn’t invite me! And after I got back you basically told me to go away!!” Suika yelled, thrashing about a bit in Meiling’s grasp. From the sound of her voice, Gen knew that she was honestly upset, and felt conflicted.
The guard holding her rather looked wary. “Let’s take her to the Mistress,” the youkai suggested, looking from colleague to colleague. “Mistress Remilia can decide what to do about her.”
“You’re alright with that, Gen?” Sakuya asked as she stood, looking the outsider’s way.
“That doesn’t matter, it not my home she turned over,” Gen replied, “it’s Mistress Remilia’s.”
“Then, let’s go?” Meiling asked. The other two nodded.
Gen thought, when it came to Suika being interrogated by his Mistress...
“YOU...” was what his Mistress said upon seeing the youkai hanging from her gatekeeper’s hand. The youthful, old vampire had her arms crossed—her legs crossed. Her eyes were narrowed, and she, too, was cross. Suika looked up at her, irritated as well. “And what are you looking bothered for?” the vampire demanded to know. “YOU came HERE. RUDELY, I might add! And you caused me havoc—I don’t even want to look inside the mansion! Hmph!” Remilia turned her head and shut her eyes, her brow twitching a few times within a few seconds. She soon opened her eyes on the oni again, and asked her, “Well? Have you got anything to say for yourself?”
“I’ve got a lot to say...” Suika answered swiftly, grinning with her eyes shut. “Like, ‘what’s a kid doing talking to me like this?’ and ‘what’s this brat know about respect? Looks like nothing, huh...’”
“What?” Remilia hissed, glaring once more. Her male servant grew a bit anxious. His lover went on—
“You didn’t do a greeting. Greeting. You didn’t greet me, you just told me to get out...! You’ve got a lotta nerve, you brat!” as Suika angrily spoke, Gen raised his eyebrows.
To his surprise, in a quick motion Remilia uncrossed her arms and slammed a fist down on the table beside her, leaning toward the hanging oni with her fangs bared. “I didn’t organize this event!” she shouted, and then she pointed at her magician friend. “It was Patche!” the vampire spat. “Paaaa-tche! Pa-tchou-li Know-le-dge.”
“You allowed it, Remi,” Patchouli reminded her as she took tea.
Remilia closed her hand into a fist again, bringing it to her chest as she turned and declared: “Because you’re my friend, Patche!”
“Huh?” uttered Suika. She tilted her head, and her brow lowered in confusion.
Gen straightened his back, put his hands behind it, and interrupted, saying, “I think Sui—... Miss Ibuki may have been upset, Mistress, because she was under the impression that you had organized the event...”
Remilia slouched, looking at him and reading his face. He looked away. His Mistress then said, “... We’ve clearly established that, Gen.”
He brought out his chest further and continued to look off at dark clouds in the sky. “A-Aaahh... Of course! Well, I think that, Miss Suik—I-Ibuki perhaps wanted to you to have fun yourself, Mistress. You and Mistress Flandre...”
“Why do you say that?”
“Uh—Uhmm...” Why? What sounds convinci—Ah! He looked at his Mistress. “She said something to that effect.”
“Did she?” Remilia asked, doubtful.
And Sakuya chimed in saying “Well—” and drawing the group’s attention “—she did say something... like that.” The maid met eyes with the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper flinched. She widened her eyes for a second before slightly narrowing them, and subtly nodding once.
“I thought she wanted to make a game of it, Mistress,” said Meiling. “We were only allowed to subdue her through a challenge, and she wanted to come after the three of you, since you weren’t participating...”
“If I don’t wish to play then I don’t,” Remilia said flatly, looking at the oni and folding her arms again. “The roasted soybeans burn my and my younger sister’s skin—it’s a rather bothersome holid—”
“GAH!!” Meiling yelled, stopping her Mistress before the final syllable. Light befuddlement stirred the group, and they turned their eyes to see that Suika had grabbed the other youkai’s wrist and was jamming her thumb into its underside. The guard let her go, and Suika landed fine: her eyes closed and her stance low.
“What are you doing?” Remilia asked, ignoring the guard waving out her hand wildly and hissing, “aiyaaaa”. Suika stood up, and met eyes with the other child-sized youkai.
“Has the littler vampire at least had fun?” Suika asked her.
“Flan?” Remilia redirected the query, glancing back at her still-sitting sister.
Gen saw his younger Mistress turn slightly and offer a glance at the little trial occurring behind her. With this given, she returned to watching the perimeter wall. “It was fun,” the blond lightly replied, “to watch.”
“Hm. She had fun watching,” said Remilia. The vampire turned her blood-eyes down on her elder. “I can’t say I shared the pleasure.”
Her elder began processing this, never breaking their eye contact, As they stared in silence, her manservant spoke up once more.
“She didn’t do anything too bad, I think, Mistress,” he said, somewhat quickly, “so, I mean, she can—fix everything—pr-probably! She can... fix it, all, so...”
“Gen,” said his Master, and he flinched and shut up. Remilia coolly looked to her magician friend, and Gen looked with a shaking, hesitant glance. Then, Patchouli asked him plainly, “Did you form some bond with this on—”
But the oni interrupted.
“I AIN’T ACCEPTING IT!” yelled Ibuki no Suika, the air vibrating around them from her voice. Remilia remained firm, only increasing the sharpness of her glare. The oni said, “I can settle my beef with your pillow there later but...”
Patchouli? Remilia thought, cocking her eyebrow briefly. In the next second, the ancient youkai pointed straight at her.
“You,” said the oni, her voice fierce and clear. Her eyes, too, were fierce. The Scarlet Devil recognized them: the eyes of one looking to challenge her. “I ain’t accepting that you just had to sit around and have a bad time!” she continued. “I ain’t gonna accept that, y’hear!?”
Remilia narrowed her eyes. “What on earth are you saying?” she asked. Then, in her native tongue she proposed, “Can you speak Japanese? English?”
Gen answered, also in English, “Japanese...” Out the corner of her eye, Remilia caught Patchouli’s frown.
“Hey... Vampire...” spoke Suika again her head now lowered and her voice somewhat. Remilia turned er eyes and gave the elder attention. “You said next time we fought you’d beat me...” A moment passed, and the oni raised her head to ask, “Is fourteen days enough?”
The hairs over her body rose, and in a rare moment: she felt her heart beat. That defiance... That vigor...! It made her blood quicken. She clawed the table beside her without thinking, and she bared her fangs once again as she boldly declared, “Anytime! Anywhere!”
Suika grinned, and whispered, “Great...”
Remilia heard her manservant say, “Wai—... Suika—” but his protest was too late. Suika leapt backward quite suddenly, a gust tossing up around her, and when she landed it was atop the roof of Remilia’s mansion. Under the moon, the oni held her arms out and her hands open. Remilia looked upon her with defiance.
“Great, great, GREAT, GREAT!!! REMILIA!!!” her enemy roared. Sitting forward, Remilia grit her teeth.
“What are you thinking!?” she shouted back in response. Even from here, from the moonlight she could see the oni’s brilliant smile.
“Come on, VAMPAIYA! Blood-sucking ONI, yeah!? You said that, right!? THEN SHOW ME, SHOW ME!”
The oni clenched her fist, and Remilia stood. Around her, her followers and friends grew tense.
In a quick, upward strike, Suika beat against the sky. “LET’S END THIS THING WITH A BANG!!” she said, and the sky—no—the moon...
As the moon fell apart behind her, its great, pale shards floating away from the core, Suika opened her hand out before herself, palm upturned and her nails shining in the broken moonlight. Her skirt and collar rippled with bleeding power, and she kept her smile wide, showing her fangs right back to the Mistress.
“If you don’t want your Mansion to end up like the moon...” Suika told her, closing her hand into a fist again and cracking the sound barrier in an instant. After, the sound of the moon’s destruction rang out and shook the earth, quaking everything like a plate beneath had, too, been blown apart. Over these pounding, almost deafening sounds, Ibuki no Suika shouted strong, and clear as day, over it all:
Remilia Scarlet stood from her seat, Patchouli Knowledge as well—her hands gripping against the table before her, and her chair fallen down behind. Every subject and friend of the Scarlet Devil had gone pale.
“It’s an Incident...” Remilia muttered to her followers. Straightening her back, she directed them in a staid voice. “Patche. Go observe the moon right now. If you can fix it, do. Sakuya, Gen: secure the fairies and then the perimeter. Flan... get inside. The Sun might bleed out from behind the Moon. Meiling,” she looked at the red-haired youkai, who was waiting for her word entirely rapt, “be our guard.”
The vampire held out her right hand, and from the palm branches of blood first eased, then fired outward across it, tangling and sharpening into a great lance. She gripped it tightly.
“Don’t let the Shrine Maiden anywhere near here,” she commanded, and when she leapt to the roof, her wings flared out, the rest scattered.
The devil landed before the ogre, her the roof’s shingles splitting and tossing up. She glared at the ancient being in front of her and asked, “What have you done?”
“Just a trick, for me,” the oni bragged, unstopping the gourd she always kept on her side and gulping down from it several times before wiping her mouth with the back of her free hand. She stopped the gourd again and looked at the vampire. “C’mon then, Remimi Scarlet,” she said, and she beckoned the Mistress.
“To you,” said Remilia as she stood to her full height and let her wings expand to block part of the sky, “it is The Scarlet Devil!”
With that, she vibrantly and explosively glowed her color, seeming to catch afire. Thus, their fight was on.
Gen hurried out the front door with Sakuya. With speed they had gotten all the downed staff into their quarters, and had secured the Younger Mistress. With Sakuya’s power over time and space, they had been less than two minutes. Now – or rather, still – in a panic, he quickly turned as he left.
Above the mansion was a storm of chains and red magic.
Glowing white with heat, immense chains which ended in spears danced over the building, dancing with three familiar gray lengths that ended in a pyramid, a sphere, and a cube—one each, The objects, and chains, were far larger than usual—in fact, gigantic. He took flight with Sakuya close behind, and stared into the chaos.
Rarely had he seen his Mistress fight, and never had he seen her serious.
The blood-sucking oni was in fierce combat with the ancient oni, leaping faster than his eye could catch from spire, to roof, to tower, to wall and always striking suddenly at Suika, who intercepted near all of it be it with wrist or palm. His Mistress had a seemingly endless supply of grandiose and brilliant crimson spears that she would hurl at the party crasher. Those, the crasher would always be sure to dodge, letting them crack the roofing and dissolve there.
He recognized Suika’s danmaku in the mix as well. Remilia refused to keep still, so it seemed his lover had decided to spread herself and her magic out to catch the girl instead of confronting her. She wore a smile the entire time. His Mistress he was sure was stern—although he couldn’t ever catch a glance at her expression with her impossible movement.
“This is outrageous,” his friend noted at his side. “Has she really done this? On a whim? It’s... madness!”
Gen was silent, but his heart told him this:
Though, as he looked into the fractured night sky... that was very difficult.
“The Mistress told us to secure the perimeter,” Sakuya reminded him, and he glanced at her to meet her eyes. On the roof, the fighting intensified. The two demons clashed—hands slammed into opposing hands. The humans’ clothing rippled at the impact, and they looked to see their Mistress snarling at a wide-grinning Suika. “But I suspect you’re keen on doing a little more,” Sakuya said.
He did nod. He felt uniquely positioned within this ordeal.
He could of course go to the roof and try to stop what was happening on his own, but that was a terrifying prospect. The two had begun to wrestle, and the Mansion and air were quaking and pounding again.
He suspected there was something the matter with what he saw, but it was nothing he could prove with only sight. He could see to it on his own, but seeing to it with his Master would surely be ideal... if he had not eaten his foot in front of her just minutes ago. He knew that she suspected him... though he couldn’t be sure of what.
... And of course, he could really just put his trust in his Mistress instead of any of these flying and fanciful thoughts. Just, let the devils have their bout and properly see it through to the end. Yet, he worried: about Remilia, and about Suika... In the chance that this was a joke on his lover’s part, it had surely gone too far.
He gripped at his chest in thought.
I have to... Well, do I have to...?
The devils parted, and readied their magic. He looked at them, and at the vast waves of rich and brightened bullets they were summoning. He looked to the East – to Hakurei Shrine – and then back again to the Mansion scene.
 Get in there and try to stop them.
 Go investigate the moon— ---- with Patchouli. ---- without Patchouli.
 Secure the perimeter with Sakuya. If Reimu gets through there could be hell to pay.
[x] Secure the perimeter with Sakuya. If Reimu gets through there could be hell to pay.
Above all he's is Remilia's employee and Suika's beloved. His job says to protect the perimeter. His heart says that the moon is fine. Both are strong arguments against investigating the moon. As for stopping those two... why? Remilia acts serious but how long since she could cut loose and go all out? I think this will do her some good.
Also, I'm looking forward for a rematch with Reimu\\Marisa.
Had the moon’s destruction not summoned the attention of Gensokyo, the sounds of their fighting would.
The skin on Remilia’s hand rippled, burned, and tore, blood flying from out from its back. Her latest summoned spear held too much energy for herself. She glared at it—the crimson magic she had manifested curling and molding into a fierce shape. She grit her teeth.
“Don’t finish yourself off before you can have a go at me,” the oni apart from her mocked.
“Quiet,” she commanded, and in defiance, the oni laughed. The vampire flew forth.
She sure puts out a lot... thought Remilia as she went at Ibuki no Suika. Between the two of them, the roof of the mansion had become engulfed in red and white—with each caster having a preference for simple and small bullets. Lights were strewn and casting without relent, bright and intense as if a new festival had begun. Remilia met the oni, and let loose her spear.
“You’re just dropping it!?” shouted Ibuki no Suika. Indeed, Remilia had. She had let it loose from her hand, with a turn, allowing the staff to prop itself up within a crevice. She fell through a sheet of bullets, and with a head turn toward that sheet the oni was briefly blinded. She was then promptly tackled, eliciting an “OOH!?”
Remilia dug her claws into the oni’s back. With a shirt and stomach against her face, she held strong and planted her feet. The other girl then suddenly slammed her hands around the younger youkai’s waist: a hold in return, and the clasp beat the sky.
“Gggghh...!!” Remilia groaned in struggle. She kept her hold. She could feel the oni’s bones beneath her skin.
“Not... just... yet!” said Ibuki no Suika in reply. She brought back her left foot, and held fast to the ground.
And Remilia felt herself being lifted.
With shock, she put back her left foot as well, and fought against the grappling.
“Yeah... this is more like it...” the oni whispered.
And Remilia uttered, “I... told you... to...”
Once more she summoned her strength, and as she unfurled her wings gave a shout:
With that sound, Ibuki no Suika let the vampire go as her arms were forced aside. The vampire’s wings had gone out to their full, dark span: over twice the size of the vampire herself, and almost shielding the sky.
“Oooh...!” the oni breathed impressed. Furthermore bullets had cleared with the wings’ motion. Plainly, she found them incredible. Remilia beat those wings once, and the two demons took flight.
Under bits of moon- and sun-light, she soared. Ibuki no Suika covered her own eyes and reached for the vampire’s face. Remilia promptly released her, pulled the guarding limb away and grabbed the oni’s face instead.
“FWHM!?” the elder youkai grunted. Remilia forced her hand forward, and made the oni lateral. Snarling once again, she forced them to plummet, dragging the demon down to the roof in a meteoric fall.
Suika grasped her arm and tore through her sleeve. Below, her spear of Gungnir stood as a pillar:
as a pike.
Remilia tore her arm back, out of the oni’s grasp in a rush of spilt blood as her flesh was rent—her color and cloth dancing between them like the petals of a flower destroyed by a bullet. She stabbed her fingers into her enemy’s stomach, and with her undamaged arm slammed her left palm once more against the oni’s face. With perhaps two dozen meters left, and the sky screaming around them, the vampire laid the oni out over her knee and aimed for the spear.
They dropped. They met, and behind her hand her enemy screamed from the feeling of a stricken back and a removed side: removed utterly by a violent spire of red magic. A shockwave went out then, stopping a pair of two-colored humans in their path toward the epicenter of destruction.
Gen and Sakuya nearly tumbled from the sky. A wave of scarlet had rushed past them, and turning they saw their Mistress had dealt a massive blow to the intruder.
Gen’s eyes widened, and he moved.
The head maid arrested his attention. He turned to her with a panicked stare and a pale face. Sternly, she told him: “They’re coming.”
He looked to the east.
Red and white, black and white, were flying toward them over the Lake.
He grit his teeth and felt his heart twist.
“Remember who this is for!” Sakuya told him powerfully. He met her eyes again: their sincere and cold intensity.
For Mistress Remilia... he recalled. For Mistress Flandre, for the fairy maids, for my family in the Mansion...
He watched once more the exterminators’ approach.
The Incident has to be resolved by us. By our Lady.
I have to put my faith in her.
Thinking... that was a supremely easy thing for him to do.
With his heart no longer wavering, he unlatched a book of magic from his belt.
And they arrived.
“Gen...” uttered Reimu, her gohei drawn and go-shintai – the yin-yang orbs – in flight behind her.
“Sakuya,” said Marisa, eyeing the maid and thumbing the mini-Hakkero in her hand. She gripped her broom as the two of them came to a stop, and after a moment of looking at the defenders... she grinned brilliantly. “You guys are getting up to somethin’ really crazy tonight, huh?”
“Well, I’m not sure we can call this ‘night’ anymore...” Reimu added. She sighed. She laughed, and then glared at her fellow and foe humans. There she quietly asked them, “You guys... you know what you just did, right?”
“I regret to inform you that the moon’s fall isn’t our doing,” Sakuya replied, drawing her knives and entering a stance. “But you don’t believe that, do you?”
“Of course I don’t!” Reimu snapped. “It happened over your mansion!”
“It is because this happened over our mansion that we will see to it,” answered Sakuya. She raised her blades and commanded the shrine maiden and her companion: “Leave.”
“The heck we will,” Marisa answered in Reimu’s stead.
Reimu followed, “Right.” Both became ready.
“Sorry girls,” Gen apologized to the children, the book in his palm now opened to his first-intended spell. He told them sternly, “I’m not letting you reach Mistress Remilia.”
“‘Cause you know I’ve already had enough of her...? I guess you’re right,” said Reimu, forming a grin as well. “I’m not gonna listen, to whatever she says.”
“We all know how this works,” he answered. He and his friend readied themselves fully. Finally, he said to the pair: “Come on, then.”
Between the four, light and sound rang out at once.
A fist collided with Remilia’s jaw, and for a moment she could feel her own eyes jostle. She held to the limb, and bit her teeth down on the knuckles. An oni dusted in shingles and splinters and residual stone got up from a crater in the mansion roof, darkness pouring from her abdomen and pooling a bitter crimson around her feet. Under the twisted moonlight, even Remilia shivered to see the cracked shadows cast by her eldritch horns, and the blackened expression of her face.
The red light of her spear dissipated. Without a second thought, she dispersed herself in a cloud of vampiric bats. A mist exploded over the rooftop. Clouds and wings stormed together, and coalesced into demons’ shapes under the broken moon: a fist under the oni’s chin; a fist in the vampire’s stomach.
The oni winced. The vampire coughed blood.
D... Damn it...! she thought. With red oozing off her tongue and from the arm she hand under Suika’s chin. She decided too to cast red magic—shouting indeed for just that with what remained of her voice: “RED MAGIC!!”
They separated with a screen of scarlet between them. A vortex of red was unleashed and each recovered—Suika finding it difficult to steer away from larger concentrations of violet magic the vampire had thrown in. Her side was still open; her face was still obscured.
Each youkai landed again to the roof, and between them a ray of prismatic energy shot out with an overpowering hum. They looked to the East: the exterminators had arrived.
“Reimu, huh...” grunted the oni.
“Reimu... Marisa...” whispered Remilia. The light died between them. Their eyes met again, and they rushed.
The chains and their baubles quickly interfered while Remilia flew around the wounded oni. She could now plant her fist more easily, and plant her foot into that rebellious face more easily, but it drove her to awareness. Her advantage could cost her more than she earned. So with caution she approached, and the elder youkai was evidently disappointed with that motion.
In a flash, she caught Remilia’s ankle when it was near, moving her hand away from her wound to do so.
“Hwha!” uttered the vampire, and she was thrown a ways away. She turned over quickly, expanding her wings to balance herself and land with grace. A chain flew out then, shining far too brightly, and it severed her right thigh in two, leaving burning flesh behind and the right leg of her undergarment falling.
She quickly dropped her body to connect the stump with the severed limb. Growling, she urged the tissue to mend, and above, in midair, found Ibuki no Suika with her fist raised.
He hadn’t fought with Reimu at all in the time since their first sparring.
While he had her in his sights, Sakuya dealt with his blond and child senior in magic. Mercifully, the duel adhered to the rules of the land due to Sakuya’s presence. Unfortunately, without being able to trick the fool... Reimu proved again to be inhumanly proficient.
Don’t I have a single card that can foul her up...!? Even a single pattern...?
Rainbow light and red beside white marked their engagement over the walls of Scarlet Devil Mansion, with the shine of metal plentiful and brilliant as well. Reimu seemed invincible to him. Marisa was fairing worse with Sakuya, however.
A close glint of a knife – likely deliberately placed – took him from his anxious thoughts. He gave a quick shake of his head and thought this instead: it didn’t matter if he could win, what mattered would be if he could be a proper guard. At least, stall until the Mistress was done.
He slipped away from Reimu’s seals once again, and her turn was up. A card slipped out his sleeve, and he made its incantation as his tome of Water Sign spells shined.
“Water Sign,” he finally said “‘Midgard Serpent! Release Your Tail!’”
A whirlpool in the air—
As it was summoned around his target, he saw that target slice through reality with her rod and he gasped, utterly stunned.
She appeared behind him, slipping out from a lavender gap bound with two seals. He turned, and she did not. As his Mistress called forth red magic, the shrine maiden muttered, “Sorry, I don’t have any time to play around.”
The gap sealed shut, and vanished as a line.
Reimu then simply went on behind him as his spell card collided uselessly before him with the force of a sea.
A brief cry of “No!” escaped his gut as he reached out for the girl, but any further words were cut short by geyser of qi erupting from the earth and stopping her pursuit. From the swathe of energy, Meiling appeared and whipped out her leg to a shower of floral auras. Reimu backed quickly, and readied for battle again. She had only reached the gardens...
“Sorry, Sir Gen!” his companion shouted, staying firm between the Mistress and the Maiden in a tai chi stance. “I had to be sure none else were coming!”
She looked his way with eyes of passion and bid, “Now, help me! She’s slippery and I’m no good at danmaku play!”
“Heh...” He smiled despite himself, relieved and shaken. Firmly, he cried back: “Right!”
The fist came down to the vampire.
With her leg severed and healing, dodging was no longer an option. She instead brought her hands low, to her side, and bellowed loudly at the opposing demon: “DIVINE SPEAR! ‘SPEAR THE GUNGNIR’!!”
Her dress was shredded from the power. Her wounds that had been sealing re-opened, She aimed at the oni’s still-whole and opposite side, and held her ground. Suika was undaunted, and came down with rage.
“And another—!” the vampire shouted, “Kouma...! ‘SCARLET DEVIL’!”
Her body ignited in a column and cross of her own power. Wicked forces rolled out and shredded the roof of any remaining tiles and of some stone. A tsunami of power was unleashed, and catastrophic.
However, her face was crushed by the oni’s fist once again.
A chunk of Suika’s body was burned away by the spear, and her front side was promptly assaulted with crimson magic.
Remilia fell, her leg tearing away from itself in the impact and quickly becoming lost in the chaos.
Yet soon, she no longer felt the oni’s fist. It was a flash of fury, and at once thereafter calm and silence. Remilia realized then... she’d won.
With her body wracked with unfamiliar pain, she looked up to the sky.
And to the silver moon: whole as it ever was, with the bloodied body of a youkai on its knees below.
Remilia lifted herself by her elbows.
The now-shirtless oni was knelt before her: upper-face removed, and lowered arms bereft of skin. Her muscles, heart, and spine were open, there, like that.
Remilia panted with the heat of their battle leaving her, and she glared at the near-corpse that she had made to conclude it.
Of course she was bothered.
How could she ever not be? After all...
With what remained of the oni’s defeated face...
A joyful smile was carved across her lips.
--End of Chapter 18: The Division of Seasons--
Another chapterKizin!3bPfzwokco2020/10/30 (Fri) 04:52No. 68197▼
The humans and guarding youkai immediately looked to the Mansion, and then to the Moon.
“I knew it...” Gen breathed, relieving. “It wasn’t real.”
The Moon’s shape had returned, unchanged, to the night sky.
“It was, Gen,” came a response from his Master’s voice. He looked to the gardens, where it seemed she now stood, looking at the sky same as all the others. “It was a tangible occurrence. but not of the sort we first determined it to be...”
“Huh?” You’ll have to forgive me, Master: my brain’s totally worn out after everything that happened today.
“We have to see Remi,” she replied, staid. She began to float, up toward the roof.
“Ah... yes,” he answered. He and his manor friends moved as well. The exterminators were delayed.
Smoke obscured their vision. One could see in silhouette the Scarlet Devil laying on the roof, upon her elbows, and the horns of Ibuki Suika before the vampire. Anything else was speculation.
With a spell of wind, his Master summoned a breeze to clear their line of sight. He sighed with relief to see his Mistress alive and staring on at Suika, unshaking. However, what else he saw behind the debris shook him more deeply than the sight of the broken moon.
He stopped still on the roof, and stared.
Sui...! S—... Suika... Suika!
His mind raced. Her eyes were gone. Her body resembled red licorice, almost. She’d been blown apart—left a head and shoulders with nearly burnt away arms, standing on a bent column. Too much of her was missing.
But, if he acted, what would his Master say?
If he went to Remilia instead, he couldn’t forgive himself.
But, his Mistress was missing a limb...
I’ve... I have to...
“Gen... go see to the intruder,” Sakuya said. She went to Remilia after, not giving him a glance, and Meiling began looking through the rubble of the rooftop.
He dashed to Suika, dropping onto his knees.
True, she was a horrific sight, but with new adrenaline coursing through him it little fazed him to see her so destroyed. He wanted to know how to save her.
Is she dying? Is she dead? That can’t be—her pulse—! Agh... He reached for her wrist and stopped himself. She was without skin, after all. In panic, he stared directly into her chest: to her heart.
It was beating.
“Suika... are you alright? Can you hear me? Can you speak? Wh-Where...” he addressed her in a voice quiet and calm, but unsteady, and he lost himself a moment soon after starting. Swallowing and finding himself again, he asked. “Where does it hurt?”
“Gen, I’m fine, I’m fine. Look: see my left hand?” She was speaking. He looked where she asked. “Look. The skin on my palm is back, right? See?” Her voice was weak. She indeed had skin there, but her voice was quiet, and it seemed not intentionally judging from how it sputtered and cracked. She... were those charred hanging behind where her breasts would be her lungs?
He held her hand in both of his.
“Why did you do that? What were you thinking?” He asked. “Are you really okay?” He squeezed her palm, and she squeezed back.
“I’m alright. I’ll be back in about a minute... How’s the vampire?”
“She’s...” he made to look behind himself, but stopped quickly, unable to stop watching her body recover. Her organs and flesh were restoring, regaining color and... blooming almost, as if watching a plant grow in time lapse. He took one of his hands from hers and widened his coat. I don’t want her to get any infections... I mean, can she? I need to cover her just in case. He stepped over her, and blocked her body from the wind, finally answering, “I’m not sure, but Lady Remilia is alive.”
“You’re covering me?” she asked.
He nodded. Her eyelids had returned, and he imagined the eyes behind them were coming back too. She opened the lids in a few moments to indeed prove just that. Seeing her eyes, he felt his emotions lurch. His face twisted, and tears fell onto her cheeks.
“Miss Suika... is this your idea of a prank?” he asked.
Suika reached to his cheek with her right hand, touching him with blood and sinew—as she hadn’t yet pulled the limb together. She smiled warmly, shook her head, and told him, “I just did that for her.”
“Hmhm! Gen?” Sakuya had cleared her throat. Thumbing Suika’s blood and his own tears from his face, he stood and faced her. “Were you...?” the maid began to ask. She had what looked to be a leg in her left hand.
Gen was confused, considered what his colleague might have meant, and had a jolt of revelation. He quickly shook his head. “I was protecting Miss Suika from any... I don’t know, particles?” There was a pause without communication. Now he cleared his throat. “The Mistress is...?” he asked.
“I need to replace my leg,” Remilia answered from where she lay.
“I found it in the rubble,” Meiling said as Sakuya lifted their master’s skirt and connected the parts gently. “We’re lucky the gap youkai didn’t show up...”
Gen looked at the Moon once again. “... Really, what did you do, Miss Suika?” he asked in a lower voice.
“That oni broke the sky,” his Master replied, looking at the oni in question blankly. “In a way it’s more terrifying than simply destroying a massive object like the Earth’s moon.”
“Heh heh...!” Suika chuckled. Gen looked at her over his shoulder, and his eyes widened.
“Well...” Patchouli began, “I suppose I am complimenting you, yes...”
“She shattered the sky?” Remilia asked, confused. “How is that? How would she do that?” The Mistress’s voice was ragged. When he’d looked earlier, a stream of red was flowing from the corner of her mouth—but never mind that.
“We don’t see the moon, y’know? We see an image, or a reflection. If you punch a mirror, the image breaks right? That’s all I did,” Suika explained with obvious self-satisfaction.
“Miss Suika...” said Gen.
“Hmn?” she looked at him, curious.
“You can’t recover your shirt...!? Cover up...!” he snapped. He knew his face was red.
“Well, I don’t want to yet,” she said, cupping her flat chest and presenting it to him. “No problem, right?”
It’s a huge problem! It’s a ‘getting bigger’ problem!
“Hey, hey!” she teased, grinning with sheer glee. His lady was out of control today.
 Keep your eyes off Suika until she decides to restore her shirt. (though perhaps that might look suspicious?)
 Give Suika your coat. (perhaps also suspicious, but, bonus: will have Suika’s scent later)
 Attempt to pretend that the half-naked Suika is no big deal for you. (risky)
Gen removed his coat, and with less than innocent intentions handed it to the half-naked oni without looking her way.
“Put this on, Miss Suika,” he said. She snatched it from his hand immediately, grabbing his attention along with the article. He saw her throw it on, and melt inside the body and sleeves. After shivering in fear, he uttered a “Wai—!” all too late.
“Gen’s coat...! Heh heh... heheheh...!!” muttered the oni, to an audience. Several looked perplexed, some hid their laughter; the apprentice tried to pretend he didn’t notice, looking vaguely toward his Master and saying—
“So... her... expiation... didn’t make... sense... to me...”
His voice was weak. His Master was eyeing Suika curiously. He eyed the oni as well... seeing that Suika had pulled the collar beneath her nose and was sniffing it. Embarrassed, he hissed: “St-Stop that...!”
“AAAAH, I’M IN A GREAT MOOD!” she yelled, standing suddenly with her hands in the air, all to his Master’s surprise. “WHAT A THRILLING FIGHT! WHAT AN INCREDIBLE NIGHT! WHAT A DAY, REMILIA SCARLET!!”
“Shut up...” grumbled Remilia Scarlet.
“I’m wrapped in Gen’s scent, I had a blood-shedding battle...! Ahhh, I can’t take it!”
“Oi! Remilia!” shouted the oni, stomping on the roof and staring at the vampire.
“I’m listening. You’re too loud. And don’t ignore m—”
The vampire stopped as the oni became mist and sped to her, her maid glaring at the still-rather-indecent girl who had stolen the course of the day. Suika put her right hand to Remilia’s scuffed left cheek.
“Say,” the oni began, looking into the Mistress’s eyes and wearing a smirk, “would you marry me?”
Gen spat air.
“Hah?” grunted the vampire.
“Whaddya say? You can be my wife and Gen can be my hus—”
Gen had already started toward her back before her reply had began. Before she could say her last word, he grabbed her left horn and tugged her up.
“HEY! I’M INJURED!” she squawked, flailing in his grasp.
“The hell you are,” he growled.
“Why would I marry a brute!?” roared his Mistress.
“Eh? You’re okay with a lady then?” Suika replied, going still and looking back at her.
“Don’t start that...!” Remilia threatened. Suika opened her arms wide and grinned, exposing her chest again as she cackled.
“I’ll be a lady for you, Remimi!” she claimed. “I’ll change—just get hitched with me!”
“Suika!” Gen snapped in disbelief.
“I wouldn’t even consider it after another five hundred years,” said his Mistress.
“Ahh, that’s a while. I gotta court you properly, then? I can’t just ask?” prodded the oni.
The vampire replied, “I WON’T MARRY YOU!”
Her leg had mended, and she was standing now—angrily, of course.
“You’re called ‘oni’ in Japanese, sure, but that doesn’t mean you won’t lie. Really?”
“Take my tongue out if I’m lying! You infuriate me!”
“Ah man... I was hoping we’d all get along...” Suika relented.
Remilia folded her arms. “You made a mess of a day that was already awful,” she said. “What other result would you expect than my ire?”
“You didn’t even have a tiny bit of fun at the end?” asked Suika, closing her eyes bitterly and making a pinching gesture for emphasis.
Remilia growled, but did not answer.
“Ah... so you enjoyed the ending, Remi?” asked her closest friend. She cupped her chin and squinted thoughtfully. To herself, she whispered, “I see...”
Now Remilia looked worried.
“Are we all done, then?” asked Sakuya, standing finally. She looked across the roof, and down to the gardens. “We’ve... much to clean up, now.”
“Yeah, are you done? Can we go?” Reimu asked. At some point, she and her companion had begun observing from the sky.
Gen, who was now dangling his woman by both of her horns, looked up at the pair of children in misery. They looked at each other, and chuckled. Suika began investigating his coat again. He lifted her in a futile effort to dissuade her.
“Yes, I believe we’re all done. Remi, go to the basement with Flan. I’ll check your conditions...” said his Master.
“I’d better start...” whispered Sakuya. Meiling mentioned going to check on the other maids. “What will you do, Gen?” Sakuya asked him. Everyone put their eyes to him, awaiting his answer.
 ... He would escort the intruder home.
 ... He would interrogate the intruder inside.
 ... He would just ask his Mistress and Master what they wanted him to do.
Suika, who he was still carrying by her horns, asked him this as he walked beside the Lake. He looked at the water’s surface, pouting absentmindedly. The night had begun, yet the night was over... What did he have to say?
“... No,” is what he settled on.
“Why not!?” the oni screeched, causing him to close his eyes.
“... Your whims bewildered me,” he replied. “I feel as if as soon as I let you go, you’ll go to wreak havoc.”
He said this, and sighed.
“N-No, it was special today, so...” the oni stammered. He looked, and saw her touching her fingers together nervously. She turned her eyes upward, though she couldn’t quite see him. “Are you mad...?”
“Hmmm...” He considered this. In his time since arriving in Gensokyo, it could be easily argued that he had gotten up to similarly wild antics, and in just as short lengths of time. And if he were to mention his involvement in the Spring Snow Incident... his crimes weighed heavily. Because of that, it was simple enough to answer: he wasn’t angry. Suika’s impulsiveness and zeal drew him in, rather. He loved her.
But he was, instead...
“... Exhausted,” he revealed, almost groaning in his delivery. “You really pulled me all around with those stunts... honestly. I’m... utterly drained.”
“I’m sorry!” she shouted immediately, waving her arms. She carried on; he frowned, and listened. “I’ll hug you, okay? Let’s hug, okay? It’ll make you feel better?”
Is this the feeling I’ve subjected Master and Wakasagihime to before?
‘This brat is too reckless, and too stubborn.’
“Miss Suika...” he started again. He had stopped by a small clearing. It had been where he’d celebrated with his friends after surviving the ship-killer in the depths, just a year ago. He put his lover down, and squatted behind her. “We’re two complete idiots,” he told her, in a voice of total resignation.
Suika turned to face him, and he watched as her shirt and necktie formed once more around her torso and shoulders.
“You were out of your mind when you first came here, too,” he said. “You got on Reimu’s bad side, didn’t you?”
“Mrm. Well. Yeah,” she grumbled, not looking at him and instead looking at a nearby log. “I was really...! Confident, though...” she claimed, unconfidently.
“That confidence will be the death of us,” he replied.
“I won’t die! You don’t die either!” She pointed at his face. She was commanding him. He glanced at her hand, and nodded.
“Yeah,” he said.
Suika sighed with release, her eyes shut, but she soon jolted with surprise as he took hold of her dropping hand. Gen looked at it. He exhaled once again with relief. She was healed, yes. Suika blushed, in silence.
“What you were going to ask me for one day... that’s something reckless, too, isn’t it?” he asked her.
The oni met his eyes, and said nothing.
“You wouldn’t say that we could fight over it without that fact. It’s something crazy you’re planning, aren’t you?”
“Hhm...” she grunted with quiet dismissal. Then, once, she nodded with a softer, “... Mm.”
“I think I figured out what it is,” he said, and she looked shocked. “And I think you’re right; you can’t ask me to help you yet. I might honestly refuse.” Saying this, he smiled, though apologetically.
Suika lowered her eyelids by half, and nodded.
He blinked, then shut his eyes.
“... Well, I want to believe in you though,” he admitted with a shrug. “I’ll keep waiting. I think we’ll both know when—when it’s right, I mean, to ask.” He let her hand go, stood to take a few steps, and sat on the log by the water.
She followed him.
And there they sat side by side, looking up at the stars.
They gazed at the moon.
“... I’ve been up there,” Suika revealed. His eyes widened, and he blinked again. He looked down at her and asked—
Suika nodded. “It was one of my dumb moves. It was pretty early on... when I was on top of everything.
“The Moon always looks down on us. It’s kinda cool, isn’t it? It’s how youkai get their strength, mm, but that damn thing...
“It’s not like the Sun: like warm and it loves you. The Moon is a cold punk. I haven’t really stopped thinking: I wanna get rid of it. I wanted to then, I still kinda want to now.”
“Really? That’s kind of intense,” he admitted. “It’s just a rock in the sky.”
“You’re in Gensokyo, Gen, and you’re a magician, and you think that rock’s just a rock in the sky?” she asked him with plain skepticism, pointing at the sky with a loose sleeve. She shook her head, too. “It ain’t, Gen.”
“... There are rabbits on the Moon...?” he ventured.
Suika nodded. “Yeah, but I ain’t got any beef with the rabbits,” she said.
“What have you got a problem with?”
“The people,” she said. “In the Heavens, and above.”
“This is kinda up there I guess,” said the oni, now entirely in a lecturer’s state. Or, near-entirely. She revealed her gourd and unstopped it soon. “It’s serious talk, y’know. Gods an’... politics, and race stuff...” She took a swig.
“Huh...” he breathed.
“Ya wanna hear about it?” she asked in a slur, gazing up at him with bleary eyes.
“You sound like an old man,” he remarked.
“Yeah? No?” She sounded a bit aggressive.
“Tell me,” he answered.
“Hm. Hm.” Suika made two sounds through her nose, and she drank more. She glared into the Lake, past a boulder jutting out from the surface. “Hm. When I was young—”
“Ahh, don’t say that,” he bid, slouching.
“Shaddap. You like that I’m old, right?” she grumbled, glaring now at him. He thought, Yes, I think it makes you very cute. She took another swig from her gourd and again grunted, “Hm.”
“When I was young,” she continued, “there was this metaphor... uhhh, what was it... That humans were our ants, and like they did with ants we could play with them, crush them, burn them or drown them just ‘cause we can or uh, could. That was what everyone said... yeah. Mm. When I got older... but I was still young then—when I got older, Gen, I met—uhhh, I met—well, you’re really smart, Gen, so you can know. You’d know. I met um... she said she was someone else back... back then, hold—hold on... Mmg, gmh, mh... Pwuh... Yukari, and she was real cute, but she got me thinking, after this one thing happened... I’m skippin’ details—Gen!”
“Yuh huh,” he responded.
“Hold me!” she demanded. With a blank face, he opened his arms and she crawled into his lap, sitting with her face in his chest. He rested his chin on her head, and held her as requested. She continued on, warming his vest and undershirt with her words.
“The Moon, to us—uuhhh, no, the Earth, to them, it’s an anthill. With us all bein’ ants.”
“It put things into perspective for me.”
“Like, ‘I want to keep everyone alive. I want the best world’.”
“... I love it, Gen,” her voice shuddered, and she clawed into the back of his vest. He frowned, feeling pangs from her tone. “I’m in love with being alive, I wanna share it. Okay...?”
She was crying: he felt the results. So, he cut off her words with his hand. He took his right arm from her back, and brought her head in closer with it instead.
The weight of this tiny body, in terms of its history, seemed too heavy to carry. Once more since the night they’d come together, he had doubts over his ability to help share it. Not in that he could not bear it too, but that without context of a similarly long life, he felt undeserving, or unfit.
Suika was right: Gen was smart, and he deduced that not only did his lover hold regret in her heart that she was unable to forget, the source of her regrets likely came not from a failure to act, but from her acts conducting failure. His lover, very deeply, hated herself.
Perhaps she had killed her people. Perhaps she had abandoned them. Perhaps she had led them straight into their ruin.
She had to have harmed her race, of that he was becoming more and more certain. The way she spoke, and the distance in her eyes when she remembered the past told it all. There was a missing record of her race’s existence, and she was now utterly alone. But, that hadn’t been her intent, had it? She wanted his help. He imagined, for that very reason.
These were matters beyond the scope of an Apprentice who hadn’t even finished his stay in University, and he hated it that that was how he felt.
He comforted Suika regardless. He understood: she had pushed his Mistress to such lengths because of her zeal for life, and her displeasure at his Mistress evidently feeling no such joy. She did nothing out of malice. She was reckless, however, and that was at times to her detriment. She was an oni who knew shame and guilt, and her unusual dishonestly, paired with how unusual it was for an oni to feel either, had her like a cage. She could not speak her ire and frustration. It manifested instead as chaos and violence.
She fell asleep, sniffling in his arms, and he sat worried, Worried as to what he could ever say; worried as to what he could ever do, as a human, or as a magician.
It was good to start: that unlike her, he was completely satisfied with himself.
But what else did he really have but his heart and face for her? His experience paled. He listened so often because he wished to learn. What could a student teach? That frustrated him.
And ultimately Itou Gen, though knowing himself to be an impressive man, was but only a man.
“Damn it...” he whispered, hugging Suika gently, though that gentleness didn’t matter. “The Moon, huh...”
He looked up at it.
I’m seriously frustrated... he thought. I can’t just show her pretty things when she’s down, or have her hold me like this like I’m some comfort toy...
She’s mine. I have to take care of her.
He glanced down, and rubbed down her spine. The oni murmured, and clung closer.
>>68215 >Is Suika powerful enough to actually break the Moon if she wanted to? Honestly, I don't believe so. Or maybe, it's possible for her but she'd get stopped before she could really try. She's mostly truthful and has claimed she can easily destroy Youkai Mountain. Increase scale a bunch, probably with effort she could destroy a celestial body?
It's my belief given what canon we've been given, old Suika is probably the most powerful youkai in Gensokyo, and that's truly an impressive title. However, being the strongest youkai in Gensokyo is just that. There are gods and other realms that would shut her down, and she has other limitations besides. Limited Suika is part of what I want to explore in this story
Careful not to wake the sleeping oni, Gen reached into his robes and found the Mermaid’s Flute that Wakasagihime had given him. He used it fairly often, but this would mark the first time he would be using it at night. He executed the reset and her tones smoothly, and reached after Suika’s sleeping body to let the artifact dip into the water by its string. It sounded, and he waited. Not half a minute past before his friend burst abruptly through the water’s surface, and with frantic eyes looked every which way. When those eyes landed on him, and who was in his arms, Wakasagihime (panting, and still visibly distraught) closed her mouth, exhaled... once, and twice, then sank deep through the surface, until her mouth was no longer visible. She now stared at Gen with a narrowed gaze.
“... What time is it?” she asked, water scattering a bit at her nose.
“I think past ten,” he replied. He had minded Suika while cleaning the mansion took place, and started toward the lake deep into the night.
“... Something happened tonight?” asked the mermaid, slowly surveying the shore. She eyed him sideways. “Are you okay?” she fished. Gen nodded, once. “You wouldn’t call me at this hour for nothing,” bubbled the youkai girl.
“I’m okay but something did happen tonight. Were you looking at the moon at all from within the Lake? Or maybe you went to bed early?”
“I wasn’t looking at the moon. I slept early,” she replied.
Wakasagihime shook her head. Then, she began to swim, left and right, slowly, seemingly observing the oni who he was cradling.
“... Is this about her?” Wakasagihime ventured. To this, Gen nodded. Wakasagihime stopped and said, “Of course.”
She then swam closer.
“Well? What is it?” she prompted.
“I feel inadequate,” he began, sadly.
“Sex talk!?” she cried.
And Gen flinched. “What!? No!” he shouted back. Suika grumbled in his arms and he shook with surprise again. He shushed his friend.
“It’s about her, it’s at night and you said ‘inadequate’!” hissed Wakasagihime, keeping her voice low. “What else would that mean!?”
“I meant... lofty things! Grander ideas!” Gen whispered. Wakasagihime rolled her eyes.
“‘Lofty things’,” she repeated. “And? What ideas are those?”
“... I was hoping you’d boost my confidence,”
“What do you mean?” the mermaid asked, sounding genuinely curious. “Aren’t you doing fine?”
“Well, that helps,” he admitted, shifting his posture a bit.
“I guess... you meant inadequate in comparison to that oni of yours?” Wakasagihime poked her bottom lip in thought. “She settled on you, though... oni are rather particular about who they befriend.” She squinted, and after a moment added, “Or, um, be with.”
“I impressed her,” he admitted, “but I’ve been feeling...” Gen looked away, at the quiet mansion in the distance. “I can’t catch up to her.” He met Wakasagihime’s eyes. “In a thousand years, she’ll have a thousand more over me. Her experiences... I don’t have them, and I can’t have them. I feel like I don’t have any place to stand from, or any way to confidently...” He lost the words he was looking for. “You wouldn’t want me to tell you how to swim, right?””
“What happened?” Wakasagihime pushed. “S... Miss Suika is ‘Ibuki-douji’, right?” she asked. “She has a constellation in the sky. She’s... a youkai with history. Maybe... you’ve started to feel that?”
“I’ve sort of always felt it,” he said. “I’m starting to understand it.”
Wakasagihime moved close as she could without leaving the water, looking at Suika’s resting back when she arrived in the shallows. “She must have a lot she’s dealt with. Oni hardly exist here anymore, even in everyone’s memories.”
“So that’s what’s bothering you? Like, um, like...” the Princess thought about how to word what she wanted to say, a fist under her chin, a hand under her elbow, and her eyes askance. “Her heart,” she finally decided, glancing again at the sleeping youkai, “you’ve noticed her heart is hurting from something, and you want to help, but... well, hm... you feel inadequate.”
Once more, he nodded.
“You’re just a human, after all,” his friend admitted. She stared a little longer before saying, “... She’s clinging to you.”
“She’s clingy,” he said, and Wakasagihime shook her head, turning her eyes to him.
“She feels safe when sleeping beside you. She hugs you. She talks about you,” the younger youkai lowered her arms and rested her upper body across the small stones and pebbles below her. “Doesn’t that mean she loves you?” she asked,
He held Suika a bit softly, and felt heat growing across his face.
“Gen...” Wakasagihime addressed him, her tail swishing behind herself, “does it really matter if you think you can help her or not? You are helping her.” Wakasagihime nodded upward. “Look,” she said, “she looks totally calm. Can I guess? Was she crying before?”
Gen lifted his hand and put it to Suika’s cheek. Gently, he shifted her from sleeping against him, in order to see her face. He didn’t tend to watch her sleep. She tended to fade out alongside him. She always had such energy in that countenance when she was awake—her eyes bright, her brows wild; always smiling or yelling or crying. Now there was nothing in her face but ease. He wiped a lingering tear from under the corner of her eye. Like the night she hadn’t been able to stop his eyes from becoming blinded, tonight she’d calmed down when put against his chest.
She really was fond of him. He was very much fond of her.
“... So at least I’m your favorite pillow,” he muttered. Thinking back: she had started to sleep against him quite early into their relationship—even before they could be called lovers.
“Oh don’t be a downer, Gen,” his friend chastised him, groaning. He let Suika return to his chest and acknowledged the Princess again. “Miss Suika trusts you. Let that be and trust yourself to be there for her—not just as a pillow; be what you are, Gen,” she said, glaring at him. “Her boyfriend.”
He felt his lips squirming and his heart began to glow. I was right to call her, he thought.
“You look happy,” said Wakasagihime, unhappily. “Why do I have to tell you these things!?” The youkai began to slap her hand down before her, splashing water toward him. The apprentice whispered a spell to catch the waves and droplets in the air before they could hit him or his passenger. “‘Be a magician’, ‘be a boyfriend’—” the mermaid repeated herself, still complaining, still splashing. “Am I your conscience or something!?”
“Sorry,” he apologized with a soft smile.
“Well I’m okay with it if no one else is going to be...” the mermaid grumbled. She was pouting now.
He said again, “Sorry.” And his smile became more sincere.
“I’m tired,” she complained, closing her eyes, sighing, and massaging her left shoulder.
“Wakasagihime, have you been fine throughout the summer?” he asked. She nodded. “We should hang out under the waves. I feel bad calling you out,” he said.
“That would be nice. I mean, you can use that air magic now,” she replied looking at him.
“I feel like I’m picking up a lot of responsibilities...” Gen thought aloud. The mermaid flattened her stare.
“Take up your responsibility for talking with me,” she said. “I go out of my way for you.”
“You do,” he answered, smiling again. “I love my water friends.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the mermaid said. Her tail once more began to move behind her slowly.
He hugged Suika close, and rested his chin on her head. She returned his embrace and made herself more comfortable. He looked up to the stars, and the moon.
Wakasagihime followed suit.
“... Glad it’s back,” he said.
“... Is it?” his friend asked.
“Hm?” he grunted, confused.
“Something happened to it, right?” Wakasagihime brought her eyes down, as did he. “You can’t feel it or see it?”
“What do you mean?” he asked, growing somewhat worried.
“You said something happened to the moon. Isn’t this what you were talking about?” she looked up again.
“It was shattered...” he said. “But it was just the image. The moon wasn’t destroyed—what are you seeing?” he quickly asked.
“... Oh,” she breathed. A bead of sweat crawled down the youkai’s cheek. She swallowed, and slowly answered, “Well... not ‘the moon’.”
He straightened up, and squinted, viewing the celestial body with more scrutiny. I can’t tell, he thought. Isn’t it exactly the same? He muttered a lunar spell, speaking its lengthy incantation and touching the relevant book along his belt. He completed the spell, and waited for the glow—for the effect.
... However, it drew no power.
“What?” he hissed.
Though it seemed entirely the same to him, a human...
... any youkai in Gensokyo could tell: tonight, the moon had quite suddenly been changed.
--End of Chapter 19: The Moon Above--
Another chapterKizin!3bPfzwokco2020/12/11 (Fri) 04:45No. 68225▼
A note, not an update. Actual latest update here >>68224 the vote is still open, with the Devil leading.
Just letting y'all know that I'm slowly reposting my stories to AO3 (archiveofourown), and since we've hit another major event I'm starting with this one. Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/28070256/chapters/68769375 This is the definitive version, reason being I can edit things on AO3 of course. The story is MOSTLY the same, with error fixes and minor changes every so often. There are a few MAJOR changes too, but nothing changing the story's canon--just stuff like fixing what I perceived as not-so-good on a reread (for instance, Patchouli and Remilia's first danmaku bout is very much reworked).
Basically as I repost it, I'm inviting y'all to reread if you like. A chapter should be posted either every day or every other day. As for the story as is, not sure when I'll get ready to start writing the next update. Got another story to tend to that I've been neglecting.
Another chapterKizin!3bPfzwokco2021/02/01 (Mon) 10:56No. 68246▼
He was only made aware through his connection with magic. The rest of mankind would be unaware. There was a mask over the moon—or, perhaps, the true moon had been quietly taken away.
“You’ll go with them?” asked his Master at the gate. He and his human colleague were gazing up at whatever was playing as the night sky’s light. Being honest: neither of them could tell the problem, even at scrutiny. Out ahead, standing against a tree, an old oni watched as well—perfectly able to see the issue.
“He’ll do as he likes,” said his Mistress Remilia, flexing her fingers before her and watching the light gleam off her nails. She looked at the magician, Patchouli Knowledge. “It’s been long enough without that maiden acting—how many days? Someone must, Patche, at the very least.”
“Mm,” her friend agreed.
And Remilia smirked.
“Don’t worry about him,” she said, “under my wing he shall see no harm.”
“I’m not worried about him,” Patchouli replied, and Remilia chuckled. “Remi, my magic with Sakuya’s power can keep the night still for as long as necessary, but as I was crafting the spell I could see that there were other factors I hadn’t accounted for.”
“The person who stole the moon?” Remilia asked.
Patchouli shook her head. “I accounted for that,” she said, and she looked out across the lake. “There are probably other youkai, or humans, afoot tonight.”
“There had better be!” the vampire snapped. “That I have to act at all is preposterous!”
“Ya, you said something like that when I whooped your butt before, too,” the oni standing by chimed in with a smile. The oni’s lover looked her way and lowered his brow. Remilia glared.
“You don’t have to come along if you don’t want to! In fact: don’t!” yelled the red and bloodsucking oni. Suika pushed from the tree she was standing under, and grinned.
“Nah, nah, let’s deal with this together. I’m a little annoyed... s’like someone tried to set me up, here!”
“You did tamper with the moon not a week ago,” Remilia reminded her, folding her arms and meeting Suika’s gaze with a narrowed one.
“I broke the sky!” Suika clarified, proudly thumping her chest. Remilia groaned.
“You’ll manage her, Gen,” she said. And, Gen nodded—glad none of his masters had surmised precisely why this oni got on so well with him.
Remilia beat her wings, and lifted a meter from the earth. Her servants followed; the oni watched, for now.
“Have a safe trip,” said the friend of the Devil.
And with an intrepid smile the Devil replied, “Thank you, Patche!”
They headed for the Human Village, with Gen and Suika behind.
This had been the second “day” of frozen night. The first twenty-four hours had been a test for this action, and with Sakuya’s powers over time so well known, he and the others had determined they had no further time to waste. The Incident Resolvers would be after them soon enough, and in the first place a stolen moon was too concerning for a land of youkai to ignore.
“Have you ever seen something like this before?” he asked Suika beside him.
She looked at him with wide eyes, but an otherwise incurious expression. “Why you asking?” she asked in turn. “‘Cause I’m so old?”
He flinched, and nearly fell from the air. Suika smiled cockily.
“I am old,” she admitted, “but no: I ain’t never seen this before.”
He righted himself, closed his eyes, and answered, “I see...”
I wonder what she talked about with Yukari, though, he thought. The two of them had disappeared after the alteration, or perhaps “the theft”—though, it wasn’t easy to find Yukari on any day, ordinarily. Suika, however, liked to remain very obviously in Gensokyo—on its paths or at its known places, and so her absence was noted. The guard at the gate, even, had come to him a few days into the Incident to ask if it was his woman who had been the reason for whatever was now happening in the night sky. Obviously she would ask... The oni had made quite the show of the night, after all, and very recently. That being said, his girlfriend had (probably) been asleep during the change, so he told Meiling that it was likely not Ibuki no Suika’s doing. Not assuaging the doubts surrounding her, however, was that when she returned she’d done so secretly.
That day, yesterday...
“I have no regrets,” his Mistress had said, half a day into endless night his Master and Sakuya had started. “Something’s got to be done about this.”
They’d been convening in the library, and monitoring the world outside through a crystal ball. As his Mistress made her declaration, she dropped a fist powerfully into her palm for emphasis. Just then Ibuki no Suika manifested beside her, jokingly mimicked her gesture, and smiled warmly at the vampire when she received for her act a grimace.
She told Remilia that she was not involved, but also told that she had old grudges with the moon—and a few suspicions, therefore. There had been a lot of preparation before they ultimately set off, and many other questions to Ibuki Suika to eliminate her suspicion (even if oni were honest); he hadn’t gotten any time to ask her to clarify through it all.
Thus, now he asked, “So who is it you suspect?”
“Well, I’m not sure they’re there...” Suika said, putting her hands on her hips and turning over to view the “moon” again (and so now, she was flying backward). She glanced at her human. “There’s a few places in Gensokyo nowadays I couldn’t check out when I came back, kind of like... like ‘missing’ spaces.”
“You mean like how the Village disappeared?” he asked, concerned. Seemingly unconcerned, Suika again looked to the heavens. During their planning, the oni had informed them that over the long night the Village had ceased to be—vanished. She’d also added, with frustration, that she couldn’t at all tell why.
“Missing humans and a missing moon!” Remilia had yelled at the time, full of disbelief. “We’re going! We’re going!”
And so they were. Presently, Suika answered, “Maybe like that. Every place feels different, though.” She met his eyes again. “We’ve gotta check out the humans first.”
He nodded and looked out, past the nearing shore.
This entire ordeal had him unnerved. He may not have needed it as youkai might, but he’d become very used to the Moon as a central element of magic, and its absence felt wholly wrong. If the Human Village was also missing as Suika said... and furthermore there were multiple areas which she, who could encompass all of Gensokyo, could not access... This was almost incomprehensible. It was under his skin: surreality. Not only had something utterly stumped every person he knew, it had done so very subtly. It was like Suika, in a way, but many had noticed her before when she’d wrapped Gensokyo around her finger. In fact, she had “joined” every party—she had never “hid”. Now someone was doing something worse, and they were trying to remain unseen.
Whoever this someone was, he wanted a word with them.
Suika examined his face, got close, and nudged his side with her elbow. “Hey, lighten up,” she said, grinning a bit. He could tell: his color had drained. “Don’t get too eager when it comes to the Moon; you’ll wind up another Icarus.”
“That was the Sun,” he said. Suika grabbed his cheek, and yanked. “OUSH!”
“Just give me it, Gen,” she growled.
“How wou’ you eben mehl a wings offa Icarush wi’ a moo—OW! OW!”
“GIVE ME A BREAK!” she yelled.
“Are you two enjoying yourselves back there? I haven’t been there, but Sakuya says we’re almost at where the Village should be,” said his Mistress dully from over her shoulder.
“And it isn’t,” the maid added, nodding forward. He looked to where she was indicating with Suika’s hand still on his cheek (being honest: he didn’t mind any touch from the youkai).
So it was the truth... There were only forests, now, where the sprawling village he had been to only days before once stood.
“Thish ish wha’ you shaw, Mish Shuika?”
“Yeah,” Suika answered, now gently and intermittently pulling at his face. She rested her free hand on her hip. “It’s not... an illusion, I think?”
“Our business is the Moon,” Remilia said, stopping and turning around. The rest stopped as well. “Does this have to do with the Moon?”
Suika brought her partner into a tight hug, and, defeated, he rested his hand on her head. The vampire frowned. “How should I know?” answered the oni, snuggling with her boy. “It’s probably a problem anyway, wouldn’t you think?”
“It’s a problem... but it’s so obvious that Reimu will certainly take care of it,” Remilia replied, putting a hand on her hip now, and raising the other in explanation. She closed her eyes, and with a natural air of nobility she went on. “Our purpose is higher,” she said.
And she opened one eye to see if anyone had caught her double-meaning. They had.
“... Higher,” she repeated, with emphasis. No, no, they understood—they just weren’t giving her the satisfaction. “... The Moo—”
“What a foul retinue,” said someone ahead of them all, cutting off the poor Mistress, “and it’s a terrible Devil that leads them.”
Remilia grinned wickedly, and met eyes with the one who’d met her troupe. “Aye, the most terrible,” she accepted darkly. “And who is it here who would shower a Devil in such bitter compliments?”
“Kamishirasawa,” said the blue and white-haired woman flying above the trees before them, “Keine.”
Gen’s eyes widened. Miss Keine...!?
The half-youkai teacher was glaring at the lot of them intensely.
“A school teacher from the Village,” Sakuya noted, staring at the woman before her with some fascination.
“A were-hakutaku, too,” Remilia noted at a glance, coolly beating her wings. “Maybe we could have her teach my sister history? How about that, Sakuya? Gen?”
Sakuya looked put off, and answered, “If we bring any more bookworms into the mansion, we’ll have to freeze it to stop the eggs...”
Remilia chuckled, and turned back to the teacher. “Well then... Keine...” she began, smiling still. “what else have you got to say other than compliments? Why are you here? There’s no school or village to teach in, here, now is there?”
Miss Keine closed her eyes and spoke with clear effort to remain calm. Her brow, though, betrayed her emotion. “That is so,” she replied, and she met Remilia’s eyes. “There is no school. There is no village. Neither were ever here. Have you got anything else to say? I have said my piece. If we both understand the circumstances... then move along.”
“Well aren’t you rude...” Sakuya answered in Remilia’s stead. Remilia glanced her way. “The humans and their village are gone, and you’re all that’s left. Do you think standing above its empty place removes you from suspicion?”
“You don’t trust me? You don’t understand?” returned Miss Keine, a tinge of annoyance coloring her voice. There is no village. I have made it so that there never was a village. I will stand here and protect its history and its existence. Now move on.”
“Right,” answered Sakuya. She smoothly drew a blade out from behind her hand. “Mistress, I would like to spend some time here.”
“We’re a bit poor for time, Sakuya,” Remilia replied, folding her arms.
“You gonna let her go on without you?” Suika asked, and Remilia now looked her way. “That there’s a youkai and a human! What are you two!?”
Gen glumly noted, She’s goading the Mistress...
And it was working; Remilia’s brow furrowed and she openly grit her teeth.
And Keine spoke up, saying, “I’ll take a devil’s history. too.” She readied herself, clenching her fists and straightening her back. “A noblewoman can spare some stories, can’t she?”
“I already said, we’re poor for time right now,” Remilia repeated, bringing up her left hand and touching her fingertips to her face. Through the gaps, she saw the half-youkai. “You want to take mine? Well, well, come to think of it I would like a snack before setting off. You’re too full of yourself for a little half-youkai... Let’s see this village you’re so desperate to hide...!”
His Mistress glowed red, and queer moonlight struck and scattered from Sakuya’s blades. They were going to fight.
“What did she do...?” Gen wondered aloud, half-covering his mouth. Ahead, the many colors of a spell card duel were erupting. Suika (who had finally let him go, and was now floating beside him) lifted an eyebrow his way. “The village’s ‘history’...?” he muttered.
“She ate it,” Suika said bluntly, and Gen flinched.
“She what!?” he hissed.
“Ate. It.” Suika opened her mouth and pointed at her teeth, chomping down. “Munch. Ate it.”
“... That doesn’t make sense,” he told her. In front of them, a hundred bicolored swords encircled Keine and fired out at the pair before her. Suika and Gen, as well, dodged.
“It’s ‘cause she’s a were-hakutaku,” Suika said while a bullet grazed her nose—as if her answer was explanation enough. It was not.
Gen, with more effort, moved out the way of a far-flying laser and shook his head. “She can remove history, as well as create it?” he attempted.
“She eats it,” Suika repeated.
“How do you—Okay... Alright, Miss Suika, she eats it,” he answered, resigned.
“I don’t decide how were-hakutaku work, Gen! She eats history!” the oni insisted.
Like... paper? he wondered, frowning with some concern. Her scrolls? The ink, or words off of them? I think I need to see this happening. He returned his attention to the battle. He and Suika watched its progress silently, through spell after spell, and hit after hit. Those of the Mansion were certainly at play; the present Villager, however...
Miss Keine is going all out, he observed. Around her now was an almost ceaseless barrage of red and blue, crisscrossing in a grid. Neither his colleague nor his Mistress were slagging at all to it, however. On the contrary, they’d already clearly worn the teacher very much down, and from how his Mistress’s back bent, he could see that she was frustrated by the display, if anything.
“You talked so big, but this is the best you can do?” Remilia asked after they’d captured that spell. She declared a spell of her own. “A monster is at your invisible gates... Aren’t you going to do more!?”
A colony of bats clouded the skies. Below, Miss Keine clung to the front of her blouse, and she seemed to spit a swear.
There, the bats swarmed down.
The village guard moved through them hastily, all the while firing back spears of blue magic at the two perceived invaders. They did not meet their mark, and Remilia scoffed. Beside her, Sakuya smiled slightly.
“Haaah,” the Devil sighed. “This really has been a waste. At the least I was hoping you would dance well with me through this night. Or... you can’t, with this ‘moon’ above, full or no, being a mere mockery?
With her head hanging and her teeth bared, Keine said nothing. She ascended, and moved forth... but her strength was evidently flagging.
“You’ll throw in the towel? You’ll raise a white flag?” Remilia continued. Then, she snarled openly, her bats and bullets suddenly swelling in number and making the already dark night pitch black. “Don’t you get it!?” she snapped, glaring at the guardian. “If you don’t pick up your head and act, human, then your villagers will become my meal!”
Keine lifted her head, gripped through the cloth of her clothing with greater strength, and flew to the face of Remilia.
The were-hakutaku grabbed both sides of the vampire’s head, brought her own back, and struck her forehead fast and fierce into that of the Scarlet Devil.
The loudest CRACK resounded.
“Khhi—! Ah...!” The Mistress’s eyes involuntarily filled with tears. An unbelievable pain had fired into her skull, down to her tongue. She spread her arms and wings, and she moaned. Her mind shook.
“Lady Re—!? Wha—What part of that is danmaku!?”
The maid gasped, the apprentice shouted, and the oni pumped her fist.
The half-human villager backed away, unwillingly—swaying as she went. An old, eastern sword manifested in the palm of her hanging right hand (her other was on her head), and she grabbed it tightly, swinging it up at the two in front of her as their curtain began to vanish.
“I’ll put the rules aside,” said Keine, “and run you through... if you so much as present a fang to a child of this town.”
Sakuya and Gen fretted over their Mistress. The Mistress held her forehead, breathing sharply with her eyes shut.
Keine was panting; her clothes were ragged. She ordered them, “Leave.”
“We had no business here in the first place!” shouted Remilia, wincing at the teacher. “Funny! Only devils are bound by contracts, is it!? I was playing by your rules!”
“Ah... well... you said something very... very worrying,” Keine replied.
“It was banter—! Agh, my skull...!” the vampire screeched and groaned. “What are your bovine bones made out of...!?” The were-hakutaku frowned with some shame.
“Um... sorry,” she said.
“Too late!” yelled Remilia, and she pointed a sharp nail at the teacher across from her (meanwhile, her maid checked her forehead, and her manservant was preparing ice through magic). “You’ve ruined our game! Now, you owe me!”
“Um... that’s understandable,” Keine admitted. “My... My head hurts, too—”
And Remilia screamed, “What should I care!? Owgh... Ghaaahh... You... You, do you know anything about the Moon, at least!? Give me some value for this wretched first stop!”
“There... might be someone responsible... in the forest...” Keine said, and Gen looked at her, stern and curious.
“The Forest of Magic?” he asked, presenting his Mistress the ice pack he’d made for her. Keine shook her head.
“The Bamboo Forest,” she clarified, and she looked out to those distant stalks to ensure her meaning.
Detecting his thoughts from his expression, Keine shook her head. “No,” she said, “not her. They quite do not get along.”
... He knew.
Though he didn’t know who Eirin was, or where “Eientei” could be found.
He kept the pack of ice against Remilia’s head; Sakuya fanned the devil’s collar. Suika was floating around Keine, who looked uncomfortable at the oni’s examination.
Should we try to find Mokou, sis?
... He shook his head.
We haven’t got any more time to look for her if we’re also going to look for that place... Even if she knows how to find it, the Bamboo Forest doesn’t bear the name of “The Lost” lightly.
We’ll have to find it on our own.
As things cooled off... he wondered:
Would it be better to suggest they split up to find the place faster...?
They could find each other easily once they did... But he remembered, still, the danger that Mokou had spoken of when it came to “The House of Eternity”.
 When you reach the forest, suggest splitting up.
[X] When you reach the forest, suggest splitting up. The way it is right now, Remilia and Sakuya seem to take priority in tag team danmaku, so splitting up will change that a bit and let us be likelier to fight alongside Suika.
FYI >>66672 RETCON >“That book you have now was helpful to me when I began my training with knives under the Mistress’s tutelage. Like Meiling, Mistress Remilia wanted me to be capable of fighting and winning against anything.” She smiled, tapped the ridge of her teacup, and caught his eyes to follow with, “‘Like Meiling’ is a funny thing to say in this context, isn’t it?”
This is now: “That book you have now was helpful to me some time after the Lady Patchouli’s arrival. I knew of the Mistresses, yes, but most youkai were very unknown to me... Seeing the opportunity, Mistress Remilia wanted me to be capable of fighting and winning against anything. That was also why she sought out Meiling, now that I think of it...” She smiled, tapped the ridge of her teacup, and caught his eyes to follow with, “Mentioning Meiling is rather funny in this context, isn’t it?”
++++++++++++++ The change is kind of significant. In my own headcanon, due to how Remilia describes Sakuya in IN, I assume that Sakuya has been a member of SDM for longer than Patchouli. 100 years is not a long time to youkai, after all, but Remilia can't recall how long Sakuya has served her.
So it's like, in this/my headcanon: 1) Remilia and Flandre. 2) Sakuya, ages ago. 3) 100+ years ago Patchouli and Remilia became friends, and Patchouli moved in. X) At some point before or after Patchouli arrived, Meiling was hired.
[X] When you reach the forest, suggest splitting up.
“... I’m fine!” his Mistress snapped, batting away his hand. He brought the pack he’d been using back into his coat.
“So we’re going?” Suika asked, still hovering around the were-hakutaku.
“We’re wasting time,” Remilia replied in a growl. She turned in the direction of the Bamboo Forest. “Keep doing so if you want! I’m finding those thieves!”
She flew, and Sakuya looked his way briefly before blinking out of existence, and at once joining Remilia at her side.
“Miss Suika,” he addressed his partner. Nearly as quickly, he found her beside him.
With a quick bow at Miss Kamishirasawa, he followed after his Mistress.
After joining his pair of fellows from the mansion, it did not take the group very long to find the stalk-forest’s edge.
“Mistress,” he said as they approached. The Vampire glanced back at him, still looking somewhat irritable. “Let’s split up here, and try to get through the forest easier. You know, it loses you...”
“A fine idea, Gen,” Remilia spoke honestly, surprising him with how little she’d thought his proposal over. However, she followed this with the question: “But you know a little something more about the Incident this time as well, don’t you?”
“Uh—” he stammered. Suika smirked beside him. “Y-Yes, but this time I’ve got nothing to do with it!”
“A relief!” Sakuya said with a mock gasp.
“Ahh, so I’m not raising troublemakers then?” replied Remilia.
“Eh—” uttered Suika, drawing the vampire’s attention. “Didn’t you spread a mist throughout Gensokyo? What’s that make you!? I definitely heard about that!”
“My. Was that troubling?”
“I can’t see how it could have been, Mistress,” Sakuya agreed.
“And in any case, you could never call any of my acts troubling;” continued his Mistress, spreading her both her hands over her chest and closing her eyes, “for I am not trouble, I am evil.”
To this, Sakuya smiled. Gen furrowed his brow.
“Trouble and evil, huh,” noted Suika with her arms crossed and a doubtful expression. “Well this villain troop wants to rescue the moon, though...”
“For the sake of evil!” spat Remilia, balling her fist. She quickly turned to her manservant. “Gen! What do you know!? That look on your face while we faced the cow was your pensive one... You realized something!”
Gen nodded, and extended his arm to point into the forest.
“Eientei,” he said. “I’ve heard of a place known as the House of Eternity, hidden somewhere in the Bamboo forest. They’ve made enemies of an immortal who lives here as well.”
Remilia considered this with a bent finger to her lip.
“Speaking of mists, you spread all over Gensokyo, didn’t you?” Remilia asked Suika, who turned her gaze from the forest and met the vampire’s eyes after being addressed. “You were spying brazenly... did you see this House of Eternity?”
“Ahhh... well... nahhh...” Suika groaned to admit. “The Bamboo Forest, it’s... it’s really confusing, y’know... I—I do know about that immortal, though...!” She added her final point with a raised finger. The residents of the mansion observed with varied expressions.
“... Well, we know some place within...” Remilia followed. She looked once more at Gen. “Might we know its residents?”
“Only ‘Eirin’,” he answered, “and at least another woman... ‘Ka’ was all I heard of her name.”
“And you think these might be the culprits, Gen?” Remilia asked. He nodded.
“I would trust Miss Keine, and they’ve tried to kill me before.”
Hearing this, Remilia flinched.
“Well now!” she boomed. “Now we HAVE to return the favor, hm!?”
“I just don’t know anything about them, or the Moon...” he said, thinking again. He met the vampire’s determined gaze. “At the least we have some sort of ‘direction’.”
“Then let us take it!” Remilia declared, spinning about and now pointing into the forest herself. “Sakuya and I to the left, and Gen and the Oni to the right!”
“I’m Suika,” said Suika.
“Let us be off!” cried Remilia, ignoring her. She rushed in then with her maid, once more leaving Gen and Suika behind.
“Ready?” Suika repeated with a thin smile, mocking his need to ask.
“Right, let’s go.”
After floating outside the forest for a moment, they decided that instead of holding hands to remain together, they would fly over the forest much as they could. The confounding expanse was still difficult to navigate or scrutinize within or without it, but they reasoned as their partner team had entered the forest, flying over it could be of some help. They went, and found nothing. Not even youkai stood irritable in their path.
Gen spotted a wolf rushing through the shadows and greenery below.
“... How does the fake moon feel to you, Miss Suika?”
“Nn... Stifling,” she answered, doing her duty and looking over the forest as the went by the tallest stalks. She pulled out her gourd and began to drink from it. After chugging for some time, she took it from her lips and added, “Well, you know how I feel about the Moon, though... And you, Gen?”
“The Moon doesn’t ‘feel’ any way to me, real or fake, but... Eh, what I know about it...” Gen thought on just that, eventually muttering, “Hmmm... uhhh... Tsukuyomi... rabbits... I think there was a ‘Jouga’ and...”
“You know a bit, Gen...!” Suika sounded and looked pleased with this. “It really is a pain... the Moon isn’t theirs, but they treat it like it is.”
“Right... I think the legend was something like, they went to the Moon and made it theirs...” he replied. He then admitted, “No, I don’t really know.”
“What do they say about the Moon in the Outside World, Gen?” asked Suika with earnest curiosity. He thought back again.
“In the West they call the face of the moon ‘the man on the moon’. Of course, we see rabbits pounding mochi. Also there’s a really famous legend of Kaguy—Ah!”
He suddenly realized.
“Ohh...!” uttered Suika, looking at him seriously. “I dunno who that is!”
“I bet we’re looking for Princess Kaguya!” he shouted. “The Princess from the fairytale!”
“Eh? Eh!?” Suika did not understand.
“Eek!” Suika yelped, and covered her eye.
“Agh, but what was it... Why did she come to Earth again...?”
Gen raised an eyebrow. “Ahh... Oh, you mentioned ‘people’ on the moon. It isn’t only gods?”
“It’s a lotta pretender gods and a WHOLE lotta rabbits!” Suika explained. “And all of ‘em are jerks!”
“I don’t really get why Kaguya would have it out with Mokou, sis...” Gen went on, thinking. “Or why that ‘Eirin’ of hers would want me dead. They’re keeping themselves... secret!”
“They’ve sealed off the Moon!”
“‘Cause the Moon’s looking for them!?”
“And they don’t care who gets caught up in that! That’s why they tried to kill me just for seeing them!”
“And they’re hiding in the Bamboo Forest!”
Gen thought this over.
“... They really are jerks!” he concluded.
“I told you, Gen!”
“... This is worrying, though,” he admitted, bitterly.
“Mokou has told me that there isn’t a person in Gensokyo, her besides, who can face them. And for her it was only ‘Kaguya’; Eirin...”
Suika looked at him silently, without reply.
“... What?” he asked.
“... It’s nothing,” she said. And, she repeated, “... It’s nothing.”
He recalled a moment he’d had with Suika atop the Mound of the Nameless.
“And tampering with the world like a plaything”, she’d said...
... Miss Suika... fought against the Moon?
In a moment of her rare and demon passion, Suika had roared a declaration to attack “the Heavens” along with Yakumo Yukari, and to do so “again”.
She had faced the Moon, and she had assuredly lost.
He felt his confidence waver again.
“It ain’t about what I ‘can’ do—”
A different memory resurfaced: of an ordinary day, finding a defeated Marisa who had been pilfering from his Master’s shelves again.
“It ain’t about what I ‘can’ do, it’s about what I will. You get it right? You’ve fought tough people right? You work for it, and you win, and you do better. That’s why I keep coming...
“And, it’s why I keep fighting her.”
“Lady Patchouli?” he’d asked.
And Marisa had blinked in realization, before slowly shaking her head.
Why’d that come to mind...? he wondered.
... He put a smile on his face.
“Let’s find Eientei and get the Moon back,” he said, looking at Suika. “You can shatter the sky, right? It’ll be no problem.”
“Y... Yeah!” Suika agreed, hiding a bead of sweat on her cheek behind her hand. “Let’s get those bastards!”
And someone spoke above them—
“Tch, that’s rude.”
The two looked to the source.
Against the false moon, they found red, white, and violet.
“Yukari...?” Suika whispered.
“Miss Reimu...” noted Gen.
The Shrine Maiden and Gap Hag were staring down at them. Reimu, who had spoken first, spoke again, asking, “What did you do with the moon, Suika?”
“Eeeehh!?? Nothing! Why would you think I did something!?” whined Suika at his left.
“You broke it last week!” Reimu snapped. “Do you think I’m stupid!?”
“This again...!?” Suika hissed out all her breath and sank her shoulders. She pointed at the blond beside the child. “Ask Yukari! She can tell you!”
“Well, Suika, I don’t know,” said the other youkai, wearing a sympathetic expression and folding her arms. “I haven’t seen you for a while...”
“Yukari...!” Suika growled.
“And you, Gen,” Reimu addressed him. “Remilia and Sakuya... did they stop the night?”
Gen swallowed, and looked away.
This... is not a fight I want to have, he thought grimly. I’ve never faced Yukari in a duel but I know she must be powerful, and Reimu looks serious...
Of course, since Suika is here we’d have to play by the rules. We could win, but...
It’s a waste of time...!
With enough scrutiny given, the Scarlet Devil Mansion would naturally be brought to suspicion as well, and it was true that they’d stopped the night—or, at least, were among those using some means to keep the night from passing. Excuses... would likely not be helpful either. By now he well knew how others would act when suspicions were raised, and unlike Marisa Reimu really wasn’t the type to be convinced with words rather than bullets.
But, Yukari was here... With that in mind, Gen glanced at Suika.
Maybe talking could work with her...? It has before...
 “Have either of you seen a mansion in the forest?” Perhaps I can distract them.
 “Yukari... have you ever heard of Princess Kaguya?” I think Yukari has been here even while Suika was not, so she may have heard the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.
 “Yukari: we did stop the night but only to find whoever it was that hid the Moon!” Honesty is the best policy...?
 “... Whoa! Is that Marisa!?” Let’s just lie and run away.
[X] “Yukari... have you ever heard of Princess Kaguya?”
The youkai met his eyes.
And, she uttered...
She tilted her head.
“Um... Princess Kaguya...?” he repeated. “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter?”
The youkai had not heard of The Tale of the Bamboo cutter.
And so, the human found himself panicking.
“Th-There’s a story—” he began, feeling sweat on his chest, “about a g-girl from the moon...”
“The moon?” Yukari echoed, seemingly curious.
“A... A pair of humans found her in... bamboo...” he continued, unable to meet Yukari’s eyes.
“Is this a fairy tale, Gen?” Yukari asked.
“Fairies...” chimed in the Shrine maiden, with some confusion. “They don’t have tails!” She seemed insistent on this point. Yukari and Gen looked upon her with mild concern.
“Douwa, Reimu,” Yukari clarified. “A ‘tale’ is a ‘story’.”
“Douwa? A story?” asked Reimu, now looking Yukari’s way. “Wait—he’s telling us a kid’s story!?”
“It seems so...” Yukari confirmed with a slow nod. “How bad you are,” she said, and she smiled with some sympathy—some teasing, “you and Suika. You can’t see that this is serious? We can’t be telling stories.”
And the apprentice snapped. “This is Gensokyo!” he exclaimed. “You want to tell me that you don’t believe in fairy tales, here!?”
“Fairy tales,” said Reimu, looking his way, “aren’t legends, Gen.”
Oh for the love of—
Suika then spoke up, balling her fists. “Gen isn’t lying!”
“Said the liar oni,” followed Yukari. Suika growled once again.
“Yukari...!!” the name shook darkly out her mouth, and she glared at her friend.
“Suika!” said the friend, happily; smiling and closing her eyes. This frustrated the oni.
Reimu looked to her right, and Yukari looked at Reimu. A ray shining the colors of a rainbow fired toward them, and seemed to pass through them, without either of the two moving.
“The sky is getting crowded...” Reimu said, as she stared out at an approaching, tiny witch.
Knowing that he and his had caused the night to stop, Gen began to slowly float away from the area. Suika grabbed his arm and kept him there.
“‘The Sun’?” Yukari repeated. “You’ve a youkai with you right there, and you don’t know that the pressing matter right now is the question of the Moon?”
The aforementioned youkai, Alice, replied, “No... we know the Moon has been changed, but... Ah, hello Gen. And hello, Ibuki Suika...”
“Suika?” Marisa repeated, looking toward the oni and novice magician.
Alice continued as she and Marisa came to a stop in the sky. “The night is—”
“YOU did it, didn’t you, huhh!?” the tiny witch accused. She was staring at the tiny oni.
“Stop blamin’ me!” Suika pleaded.
“She’s not lying,” said Gen.
“She’s a liar,” said Yukari.
“So you did it!?” said Marisa, and Alice beside her closed her eyes and sighed.
Yukari answered, “Did what?”
“Changed the Moon!”
“Stopped the night?”
“Then, the boundaries...!?”
“Could it be... an Incident!?”
“This is moronic,” whispered Gen. “This is completely moronic.”
“Gensokyo needs the day much as it does the night,” Alice interrupted her fellow blondes’ routine “While the Moon is a clear issue needing dealing with, this isn’t the way...”
“You know better, then?” Yukari asked, waiting for an answer. Now the shrine maiden interrupted.
“This is stupid!” yelled Reimu. “This is completely stupid! We don’t have any time to waste!”
And Gen attempted to bring things back, saying, “Y-Yeah, so Kaguya—”
Only to have Reimu cry, “Shut up!” She lifted her gohei. “If we’re going to do this let’s do it already! I’ll beat you all down to the ground and bring the Moon back to normal!”
Gen grit his teeth, thinking, This brute...!
Strings of light flashed around Alice. Marisa gripped her broom handle tight.
And Suika let go of his arm to punch together her fists. Yukari above smirked down on her with satisfaction.
He knew they were all going to fight. In only a second, they did.
He had seen a fair bit of chaos during his time in the skies. Or, he was still reasonable enough to know that it looked that way to an untrained eye. While the result was regularly a mad display of multicolor lights, varied bullets, and immense waves of power, a spell card duel was nonetheless marked always by practice, grace, and planning. Knowing that... he had seen and participated in enough battle to still know honest chaos when it was about, and what he witnessed now was entirely that.
Most of this, however, was definitely due to Suika.
Alice, Marisa, Yukari, and Reimu knew the law and had had a year to become familiar with it. Suika had not. At once, she brought back the day as Marisa had requested—or the look of it, at the very least.
With no sign, Suika lifted her hands above her head and declared a card which now floated before her chest. “‘Night Parade of a MILLION demons’!!”
Playing to a crowd of mixed reactions, she began firing an amount of bullets he was quite sure was impossible: white, and shining violet. All attempted to dodge, but it proved an exceptionally difficult task.
Invariably, through the various sized bullets hiding the false moon, the other four in the sky angrily called her name. Her card was likely rule-compliant, but that did not make it particularly fair.
But while she did the most to create bedlam above, the floating dolls, flying seals, massive beams, and many butterflies were no small contributions. Gen himself was not interested in fighting. He was not interested in any of this.
Miss Suika’s too engaged for me to leave... he thought, a grimace darkening his visage. I should just help her win, or...?
He looked at the youkai partners of the other two pairs. He knew how to handle Alice, but of course he still knew nothing of Yukari’s capabilities. She was the one who, like her Netherworld friend, liked to employ a plethora of butterflies in her attacks. Like most danmaku, he thought it beautiful. He’d admire it, if not for the present circumstances.
Suika’s spell began to clear out. Seeing that, he began an incantation, and reached for the ingredients at his belt. A sun appeared over his shoulder. Wind and water danced around his ankles. Suika’s spell finished, leaving the rest bothered and fairly exhausted, yet before any other could raise a hand in retaliation, he lifted his own high above.
“Wind, Water, and Sun Sign,” declared the Magician’s Apprentice, “‘Morning in Autumn.’”
Once more, the night was illuminated.
Marisa, recognizing this, immediately prepared for what she remembered of it. Reimu looked on with irritation, and Yukari seemed to be intrigued. It was difficult to tell. As light and mists filled and fired throughout the sky, visibility became a rare commodity.
Suika beamed at the scene. He grabbed her beneath her armpits, and around the sides of her chest.
“Hyau!?” she yelped. He held her tightly, and flew forward—diving, too. Her windswept hair covered his face, and he drove her toward the forest below. “You’re running awMMBF!?”
He brought his right hand up, and covered her mouth.
He was running away, and he didn’t need their opponents to notice. As he flew without any sight, he heard Suika brushing aside bamboo and whatever else that stood in their way—cracking the ancient stalks as if they simple twigs.
Eientei... he needed to spot Eientei.
It would be very convenient if around now his companions—
“Mm!” his girlfriend grunted, and he ground to a halt. Hugging her, he let go of her mouth and moved his face from her hair. “Look!” she said, pointing through the bamboo around them. He looked. He breathed a sigh of relief. Their old battle was now far behind.
Against the imperishable night, red sparks were moving up in the air, and clawing through the firmament.
And at once, he knew the magic, breathing the word: “Mistress...!”
Suika turned in his arms, smacking his chin with her left horn before burying her face in his chest. “If you’re gonna rip a fight outta my hands, Gen,” she growled, “then you’d better bring me into a good one!”
His Mistress had likely found Eientei, the home of the enemies of his cousin. Those enemies to whom – she’d warned him – no others could compare on Earth.
Finally caught up! I saw this on AO3, and its what introduced me to this website, so thank you for that! Anyways, like was said above, they are the only protagonist group for this game we haven't seen yet, so I want to know what they're up to. (Although I also want to know who the guardians are).
Spring had returned. What was left of it in the Netherworld, she and her Mistress had personally brought back to the land of the living. The Barrier of Life and Death had been weakened by her Lady’s friend, and that, too, had caused some trouble. Again personally, she’d had to gather back what phantoms had crossed the door. Her Lady had said...
“Repentance. It’s repentance, Youmu.”
Her Master had taught her to think nothing of her actions—only to look and cut out ahead, heedless and certain. For a half-minded phantom, certainty—stability, was a coveted thing. Her Master had grasped it, but she could only commit to a half-hearted reflection. Yet, a commitment was a commitment still. “Repentance”, to her, did not seem to be something she should ever strive for.
But, perhaps the thought of such had brought her attention to the Moon.
She’d whispered while staring at it: “Has Lady Yuyuko not noticed this yet...?”
And moments after, her Lady had arrived as if summoned, and prodded her servant for not spotting the change in the Moon any sooner—much to her servant’s chagrin. Also, she seemed to be hungry...
At any rate, the Moon had been changed, the night had been stopped, and, it seemed, nobody was doing a thing about it.
With a divided heart and an empty stomach, respectively, she and her Lady set off to resolve the matter.
And now, their trip had brought them somewhere deep in the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, on the ground, and surrounded by the plants for which the place was named.
“It smells like rabbits here, Youmu,” said her Lady. Youmu closed her eyes, and thought it best to ignore the comment. Her Lady made another (the same): “It smells like rabbits here, Youmu.”
“Yes? And?” she replied. To her, the forest naturally mostly smelled of bamboo, actually. Rather, she wasn’t positive what rabbits “smelled” like at all—but ignoring her Lady would not work very long.
“We’ve had quite a spread...” Yuyuko replied tapping her lip thoughtfully. “Rabbit after beef sounds quite nice, doesn’t it?”
They had fought a bug, a bird, and a bovine on their way. Her Lady could not stop talking about it...
Youmu opened her mouth to answer...
... and another’s voiced overlapped with hers.
“That doesn’t matter,” she said in sync, “we have to see to the moon...”
She looked askance, and saw a short and pale-haired girl beside her looking right back, dressed in a light pink dress and mobcap. The girl may have been shorter than her. Also, she was familiar...
The vampire...! thought Youmu, and realization fired through her. She drew her longsword, and aimed it at the vampire’s nose—the tips nearly meeting.
The vampire, Remilia Scarlet, looked cross-eyed at the blade, and squinted slightly as well. She then turned to someone at her right, and addressed them. “So call for Gen,” the vampire said, “I believe he knows these criminals a good bit. Their names, and maybe their motivations... It would do, now that we’ve found their house.”
“Lady Yuyuko! These are surely the culprits!” Youmu declared. “It was in the newspapers... These two covered the night before! It is certain that they’ve tampered with the moon in some strange, nightmare effort!”
“Oh, okay,” Yuyuko replied. And, Youmu flinched.
“That’s all you have to say, Lady Yuyuko!?” she yelled.
“I did not touch the moon,” said Remilia, as she pressed her finger against the Roukanken’s point. She began to move it aside and said, “I did not touch the sky. Children shouldn’t be playing with knives.”
The area illuminated with red light, and Youmu looked up to see sparks rocketing into the sky, fired from the maid’s fingertip. She opened her mouth to speak, but the maid spoke first. “You need a stake, rather,” she said, and she turned her eyes to Youmu, “not any knives.”
“What are you telling her that for!?” Remilia snapped, gesturing with disbelief. Still merely half-engaged with the conversation, Yuyuko muttered:
“A steak doesn’t sound bad at all.”
Sakuya replied, “That kind of steak does need a knife.”
“But a vampire doesn’t need any steak, right?” Yuyuko answered.
“A stake, but not a steak, and not a knife.”
“And not a sword, hm?”
“But certainly a stab.”
“Straight through the chest...”
“And straight through the heart,” the maid confirmed. Her Mistress looked horrified.
“Ah, may I have your Mistress’s heart?” asked Yuyuko.
“In your palm? On a plate?” asked the maid.
“It is not my decision,” said Sakuya. She looked at her pale-faced Mistress then, and beamed pleasantly.
“... Where on Earth is Gen...” the vampire groaned. To look at this master and servant, Youmu felt a strange way.
... Wait, Gen is arriving? The half-phantom finally realized as she lowered her sword. I have not seen him in a while.
She looked around.
... And saw a shadowed mansion, not very distant.
“Lady Yuyuko, that’s...” she whispered.
And, her Lady Yuyuko glared as well, saying, “Mhm... it’s a rabbit, Youmu.”
There was a rabbit. The white-eared, pink-dressed youkai dipped out of sight after being noticed. It had not been what Youmu was referring to.
“The house, Lady Yuyuko! Was such a thing in the Bamboo Forest?”
“How would I know? Youmu, we do not live in Gensokyo.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Youmu turned to face the vampire she had threatened moments ago and asked, “Was such a thing in the Bamboo Forest?”
Remilia stared with her mouth slightly agape. She blinked once, twice. “Shut your mouth,” she said. “Don’t you talk to me, phantom child.”
“Ah, my apologies,” Youmu replied. Remilia flattened her brow, and Youmu went on, “I don’t think anyone lived in the Bamboo Forest... Could they be the reason for the moon being tampered with? We should investigate, Lady Yuyuko.”
“That seems like a good idea,” her Lady agreed. Youmu smiled.
“Hold it,” the maid spoke up as they began to step forward. They stopped and listened. “If we’re all in agreement that that house is suspicious, we should tear it apart together, shouldn’t we?”
“Sakuya is right,” said Remilia, lifting a finger as if to indicate grace and expertise. “And besides, Gen will be here. We should have him and his friend barrel in first. They’re quite dull-witted, and one of them’s an oni.”
“Oni”? Ibuki Suika...?
“‘Oni’?” Yuyuko repeated, frowning after the word had touched her tongue. “Ibuki no Suika?”
“... If we must,” said Yuyuko, but she walked ahead regardless—evidently to observe the hidden house with better distance. Youmu quickly kept to her side. A mansion, hidden away which no one had known of... found on an eternal night of queerest moon. Youmu gripped the handle of her youkai-forged blade. Some kind of feeling was welling up inside her: something like “an end”. She felt a need to slash.
Air rushed over the four. Behind them, a magician and youkai were landing.
“Mistress, did you find it?” the magician asked. Youmu caught sight of his scarf, and the colors rippling off of it, first. It was Gen, of course, and he was setting down the oni Ibuki Suika, his hand in hers. Youmu narrowed her eyes. Something about that connection looked... cute.
“Yes! Fly in! Fight for the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Gen!” Remilia shouted, opening her arms wide and showing her other servant the place they’d discovered. He looked, frowning, and nodded... though he added under his breath a note that his Master would not be pleased with his going first.
Ibuki Suika sniffed the air. She sneezed, and nearly snarled.
“Yeah,” she rumbled, “I’ve been here.”
“Youmu...! Mi—Y-Yuyuko!” Gen said. Youmu felt light on her feet as she saw his surprise, and she smiled warmly at her friend
“Hello, Gen!” she greeted him.
“Hello, Gen,” her Lady greeted him as well, nodding. “And that one.” She eyed the oni, who eyed her back—obviously annoyed.
“... So I’m going into this first? I heard the residents here are... Shouldn’t the strongest of youkai go in first... Mistress?” Gen looked at Remilia.
“I will shield you if any harm comes your way,” said Remilia, giving him a curtsy, “and Sakuya will shield me.”
“Will I...? Well, that is the word, Gen,” said Sakuya as she folded her arms. Youmu’s smile began to wiggle.
“Reimu and Marisa are behind us, and Yukari and Alice as well,” said Gen, “I’ll... start ahead. I don’t want to wait for them to get here and give us more trouble than we need.” The young man fixed his collar, and looked down at the horned youkai sticking close to him. “Let’s go, Miss Suika,” he asked her. He lifted from the ground, and so did she.
Gen traveled until he had found the Netherworld pair, and he looked at Youmu, studying her face a moment before he asked—
“You’ll be with us, Youmu?”
She nodded, and replied, “Right behind.”
They would assault the mansion. Gen flew forward, and the rest went after him. Ibuki Suika took point quite soon, and beat in the entrance doors with her fist.
“... We don’t know it’s them, Miss Suika!” Gen snapped.
“I know,” the oni said as she flexed her fingers. No dust fell from the abandoned hinges. “... You’ll be able to smell it, too,” she said, and they traveled in. Then Remilia and Sakuya, then Youmu and Yuyuko. As they passed the opened way, Youmu suspected she could feel—not smell—what the oni meant.
This is... a pure land... thought Youmu. She glanced at her Lady. Had the Ghost Princess noticed? As always, her face gave away nothing. What is a place like this doing in the land of the living...? What is this...?
All six could feel that the world had shifted as soon as they had entered that house. It showed for certain on all the others’ faces... save for the oni’s. Youmu looked at what they had found... at the hallway around them... unlit by even a single lantern.
... And there, light began to bleed into the hall. At even intervals, and to what looked like infinity beyond them, lights Youmu had never seen before came to life along the walls and ceiling, oozing down and giving little to see. The floor was darkness, and the corners were shadows. This place, Youmu felt, was not somewhere meant for living. That was apt, likely. Lights she and all around her knew very well came soon after. Of course: what met them at once was the welcome of barrage.
The six scattered.
“Lady Yuyuko, it’s—!”
“I told you, Youmu!” her Lady answered as they dodged, casting butterflies from her palm in elegant return. Youkai rabbits were this estate’s army, and though rabbits alone were always weak and easy things... she could not count their number, and that uncountable number undoubtedly gave them strength. Blue and red magic waved and spiraled down at them—still air being pushed suddenly and with aching in its wind past her ears. The violence—the intensity—it reminded her of how their phantoms had fought back the intruders of Hakugyokurou at winter’s end. This was a force that wanted something very desperately... and, she recognized, much more than what will her whimsical Lady had had. With six persons trying to dodge the vehemence, it made their efforts most definitely worthy. This hall was an unideal space. Still, the vampire had a blinding speed, and the maid had speed that surpassed time. Youmu herself could move to wall or floor or ceiling in an instant, and she could carry her Lady if ever the case needed be. She saw Gen, and saw that his movements had improved much since she’d last seen him. Ibuki Suika... now roared.
The rabbits scattered—or, they tried. The rabbit they had briefly seen outside had suddenly appeared before them, in flight as all the others, and now smiled coolly. She pointed at the intruders in her home, and the rabbits who had yet to turn tail remained steadfast. Those who had left returned. A wall of white was before them. Ibuki Suika was staring hell at the rabbit who led them.
“Fire, you fools!” shouted Remilia. She lifted both her hands, and her maid raised hers as well.
Magic, spirit, blood, blade, and knife came. However desperate these rabbits were, Youmu kept in her heart why they were all there. The Moon had to be returned.
One rabbit fell. And another, and another. Their leader, still keeping calm, wordlessly continued on.
A pure land... A stolen moon... A rabbit guard... thought Reimu as bullets screamed past her. ... Are these rabbits of jade? ... No. Do they even exist? Does Lady Yuyuko know?
She looked at her Lady, and recognized something in the Ghost Princess’s eye. “Knowing”. Her Lady knew not only where they were, but why they were there. All of them: the guard as well.
Again, Youmu’s smile began to twist. She hadn’t known that she was smiling at all.
They cut down the lead hare, and that hare fled.
“The hall goes on forever...” the half-phantom muttered as they continued. Out the corner of her eye, she saw the maid nod.
“... Time and space have been changed here,” she said. To that, Youmu thought, That as well!? ... What on earth are we dealing with in this mansion?
Her cold heart beat warm.
“There’s a Moon Rabbit,” said Ibuki Suika, and Youmu’s eyes widened, “out ahead of us.”
“A rabbit from the moon?” asked Remilia. “And is it making mochi, too? Your eyes aren’t just playing tricks?”
And Suika answered, “It’s here.”
Youmu swung her sword at the appearance of a beam of light before her, and she cleaved it in two. Split, it burned two holes in the paper doors beside them. However, five more beams had arrived.
For the maid Sakuya, it missed. Remilia hit it away.
Her Lady dodged the beam. Ibuki Suika held up her hand and caught the blast in her palm.
For Gen, the light struck his shoulder, and he scowled.
The scene shifted bright crimson before them, and out the distant shadows something with eyes as red began to appear.
“You’ve all sure made your intentions clear,” it said, showing more of itself: a black and stiff jacket, a light and rose skirt. “Then I won’t waste time either. You ought to all turn around, before I make you turn.”
“Quite the gall for a space bird,” said Yuyuko, perplexingly. She addressed her servant: “Let’s ignore it, Youmu. There’s sure to be a brain in the depths of here.”
“I won’t let you past me,” said the rabbit (by now its ears, and its obscene length of violet hair, were visible), “and I won’t let you into any of these doors, either.”
They had not tried the doors. Youmu looked at one immediately, and held her Roukanken’s handle tightly.
“What’s this gaggle? They’re not here for you or our princess?” asked a new voice. Youmu looked up, and saw a red and blue figure, with hair as pale as her own, floating behind the rabbit. A bow without string was held in her right hand, and a strange arrow was held in her left. Looking at these, Gen spoke up.
“That’s Eirin, Mistress Remilia! I’m sure it’s her that we’re after!” he declared. The woman, Eirin(?), looked at the human rather curiously... and, Youmu recognized, with a quiet, violent wish. “A princess... that must be Princess Kaguya.”
“Who....? Why do you...?” the woman muttered. She squinted. “... You are—”
“You are the villain who tried for my ward,” said Remilia Scarlet, staring straight at “Eirin”. She bared her fangs. “I’ll try for the Princess in your Castle... but after, I’ll be coming for you, E i ri n. And, a name for a name: the one who will take you down is this Remilia Scarlet.“
“... Youkai... humans... ghosts... They aren’t a problem... and neither is an oni,” Eirin decided. She turned away, and Youmu shivered to see hatred in Remilia’s eyes—but, again, and worse, to see what was in Ibuki Suika’s. “But we can’t afford their distractions, either. Udonge, take care of them. The seal over the Earth is firmly in place. You understand, don’t you?”
“Absolutely, Master!” the rabbit answered. With that, Eirin eased into the darkness behind.
“Mistress!” Sakuya shouted.
“I know, Sakuya,” said Remilia darkly. “We won’t let it be like this.”
“I’m afraid I’m not leaving you any choice!” said the rabbit before them. She pointed her finger at the six, shaping her hand a bit oddly... her thumb was raised, for some reason. “Don't you see that you've already fallen into this Moon Rabbit's trap? Left, right, up and down...Your sense of direction has already gone insane. Though you're trying to fly straight ahead, you're just floating around aimlessly.” The rabbits closed her eyes and scoffed. Then, she locked her gaze with the intruders, saying, ”Now, gaze into my eyes, and completely fall into madness!”
“You naive rabbit, all that prattle is worthless,” bellowed the Scarlet Devil as she looked fearless right back at the rabbit from outside Earth. “The one who controls fate is me.” She said this, and looked now at Youmu. “Phantom!”
“Y-Yes!?” yelped the half-human girl, almost dropping her sword at the address.
“Decide! Where will you be? Here, with this guard, or ahead with the masterminds. Answer, and let’s shatter this illusion of a grasp.”
The half-phantom’s master indicated to the violet-haired rabbit before them – and the cadre of auburn-haired hares who had flocked behind it as well – with an open palm. “Then we shall begin with the hors d'oeuvres,” she said, and with flair she raised her hand higher, to lead the others’ eyes beyond the guard, “you start on the main course!”
Youmu lifted her blade. Remilia’s grin opened to bare her fangs once more, now in sheer mirth.
“Well said!” she praised, and as Youmu cut ahead and luminescent butterflies flew, the vampire and her party rushed past the rabbits—of space and of earth.
Gen turned his head, and raised his voice before he left the gardener’s view. “Thank you, Youmu!” he said, and Youmu smiled to herself.
Flustered, the Moon Rabbit quickly aimed a finger at the procession. Youmu drove ahead, and swung to cleave the digit away.
“Yagh!?” the rabbit screamed, pulling her hand back to safety once she had registered the half-phantom’s presence. Youmu lifted her Roukanken high. The rabbit faded into red and black, and vanished as Youmu swung down.
Youmu brought up her blade again, and hunched. Her Lady came behind her, easing her back into that of her servant’s. Youmu eyed everything around them. Rabbits with mallets and without had them surrounded, and the purple-haired rabbit appeared among those beasts again a few seconds after she had gone.
“You got through too easily...!” the guard complained, snarling and glaring at the duo. “There’s too many of you!” she snapped.
Lady Yuyuko blinked: once, and then twice. “... Do they not teach the rabbits how to count on the Moon?” she asked.
“Q-Quiet!” this rabbit stammered.
“Lady Yuyuko,” Youmu addressed her master in a steady tone, and her master listened, “Most off these rabbits should still be nothing to take care of.”
The ghost princess put a finger to her bottom lip, and lifted her chin as she considered this. “I’m not very sure I can eat that much,” she said.
“We shouldn’t eat them...!” Youmu hissed, gripping the handle of her blade tightly.
“Not even one?” asked Yuyuko. The moon rabbit answered—
“Not even one!” and aiming her finger again, their battle began in earnest.
Gen followed his Mistress as the halls grew darker, and surreal. He looked to Suika. Did she understand what was happening, as she understood this building to be “different” from its scent alone?
The halls had begun to turn—or rather, to rotate. The floor would be lost now and then. Stars glittered in the opened gaps and chasms.
This place felt similar to the World of the Dead.
Unlike that place however, this one did not induce in him that dreadful feeling of unwelcome and mortality. Rather, this place was not “aware” of him and his people—it did not “recognize” life, rather than persistently conveying death.
It was not like another world. It was as if the world was forcibly being changed into another.
Is it magic...? thought Gen. When youkai, gods, and other incredible beings were involved, detecting “magic” always became that much more difficult. Natural ability and the craft of art seemed indistinguishable without being “special” yourself. Again he was reminded of the Netherworld, and the killing tree that slept within it. The seal upon it could not be fully understood—not by him, nor by Marisa. The craft at work here was similar. Furthermore, as he recalled now—even his Master could not figure the workings of the night sky from initial observation. Would she have some trouble here in the House of Eternity as well?
The boy was full of thoughts.
“Look alive, Gen,” said Remilia, glancing behind herself as she tossed a bullet into the face of an eager hare. “We’re in a pure land. Aren’t you aware?”
“‘A pure land’...?” he repeated. “... Free of impurity. Free of life?” he asked.
“And death, yes, like the Netherworld those ghosts came out of,” the vampire replied. “Cocky, aren’t they...? I’ve heard the Moon is some mock pure land. Don’t they have gall... Making a summer home? Perhaps something more insidious, ha ha... It’s definitely looking more and more that you were right, Gen.”
Before Youmu had arrived, he had explained to his Mistress and Sakuya his full theory of the Incident taking place: about the Princess named Kaguya, and about the Moon that she had gone from. The apprentice still could not recall whether she had fled to, or been imprisoned on the Earth, but he had strong suspicion that regardless now the Lunarians here were trying to create some divide between the two worlds.
“Bugs me I can’t tell what they’re up to,” said Suika, “but I also feel like I’m getting led by the nose.”
“By pursuing Eirin?” he asked.
“Sakuya’s already spotted another path on our way here,” said Remilia. “Before we head down it, shall I perhaps pay her back once for what she’s done...?”
Gen felt his face warm.
“Also—you said that Reimu was behind us!?” snapped Remilia. “And Marisa!?”
“Y... Yes!” he stammered, still feeling some embarrassment and adoration.
“Well this night is mine now. Like before, you won’t let them get in my way if they come, will you?” his Mistress asked.
“Of course!” he swore.
... Although, that neither Marisa nor Reimu had found them yet had him somewhat concerned. They were two efficient spell card duelists to be sure... but a battle between them couldn't take THIS long, could it?
He couldn't afford any more time to ponder however.
As the halls fractured further, and more doorways closed and opened on their own around them, the chaos eventually gave way to a vast and open space. They stopped their chase there. Above them, a woman wielding an archer’s bow flew and awaited them now, still and staring.
Behind her was the “moon”.
The last rabbit of the earth had fallen. With a bead of sweat clinging from her nose, Youmu looked up at the rabbit of jade above her.
A bullet rang out, and with it a hundred more.
Her Lady pinched her sleeve, and pulled her along as the red and violet things came: in shapes unknown, and flying fast. The ghost princess looked upon the rabbit and frowned.
It was a twisted battle. The moon rabbit had placed herself fast as the clear threat among the defenses of this mansion, both in endurance and power. And, in illusion.
The hallway divided in two, and the rabbit became two as well. Yuyuko and Youmu stared at each figure, and with the princess saying only her servant’s name – only once, and only softly – they both raised their arms.
Youmu moved straight and true, hearing the rabbit’s magic scream past her ears, but through it all not once did she consciously dodge. As she rushed through the new hall, spiraling with it as the rabbit made it seem to, she took her conviction into her hand, and grasped her blade with intent and a focused zeal.
She hadn’t stopped who she’d tried to before, at the door between life and death and winter and spring. She knew that she would now.
The moon rabbit split in two again, and Konpaku Youmu did the same—her ethereal half taking corporeal, human form, and drawing the wakizashi smooth and practiced from her other half’s hip.
“Thank you for following so earnestly. I haven’t had to talk with the inhabitants of Earth much ever since I got here, but... you’re all as stupid as I remember. Thank you, honestly.”
The woman named Eirin spoke to them all with a condescending tone and a smile so self-satisfied that even the smug Gensokyoans’ whom she’d addressed felt their small hairs rising with contempt.
“So what’s this thing behind you?” asked Remilia, tersely putting the slight aside. “I see it’s full as well...”
“This?” said Eirin, turning her head and looking upon the body – vast and dark – just behind her. “It’s a little mock moon. Full, I might add. Put this in the sky and, well, just like that the two worlds can’t meet.”
“The Lunar Capital?” Suika asked.
With a nod, Eirin replied: “And the Earth—or more importantly Gensokyo. The full moon is the key—”
“It’s the open face, the best way that you’ve got to get there,” finished Suika. “Yeah, I’ve heard that. It’s so open, you might even be able to get to the surface through a mirror...”
“... There’s an idea,” mused Eirin. Next to Suika, Gen shivered as the oni clenched her fist further. “Don’t worry, though. I see you’re all very angry about all this but once dawn comes, I’ll be returning your moon safe and sound back to the sky. I merely closed the way like this tonight for the Princess’s safety. She is being pursued, and I won’t have her caught.”
Gen squinted at the woman from the moon.
Really...? he thought.
And Sakuya spoke up. “Ahh... that’s some relief then,” said the maid. Gen agreed, provided it was true. “Mistress, the moon will come back whether we win or lose.”
Remilia narrowed her eyes and turned her lips downward, parting them slightly too.
“What happened to you, Sakuya? And don’t you nod, Gen...!” Remilia pointed up at the woman before them. “Her list of sins: playing god, attacking those of our House, and disrespecting me! The moon...? That’s a side note by now, I hope you realize. I have my reputation to recover.”
“That’s right,” answered Suika with her eyes shut. She cracked her knuckles against an open palm, and lifted a glare to the Lunarian. “You disrespected the friend of an oni, and you had the guts to go after an oni’s man—”
Remilia’s eyebrow twitched. Sakuya glanced away. The vampire turned to the oni and quietly, quickly asked, “—‘Man’...?”
“—I’m gonna pay all that back for ya, right now,” Suika finished, and a familiar power began to pound into the air.
But Gen was not stirred.
Gen focused on their enemy, and considered what he knew.
Considering that, he was too preoccupied... and what Suika had said didn’t concern him whatsoever, if he’d even truly “heard” it. What concerned him, instead... was fear.
Fear that this woman who wished to belong only to her own world, and wished to only play by her own rules... would keep doing so.
This woman whom his cousin had warned him of the most.
... Given what he knew, he knew also what precisely he needed to do.
He stepped to Suika’s side, making himself dauntless.
He would stand with the woman who had his heart. And as for his Mistress... he turned and caught her eyes.
“Find Kaguya, Mistress Remilia,” he told her. “If Eirin wants her protected, you should take her and force this woman’s hand. In the meantime, I can’t allow any harm to come to you.”
The vampire sputtered and beat her wings at once.
“You’re worried about me!?” Remilia yelled in anger. “I’m invincible, Gen—!”
He looked his friend and colleague in her eyes.
The head maid nodded, placed her left hand on Remilia’s left shoulder, and in the next moment she and their Mistress had disappeared.
Eirin spoke up, looking after where the maid and Mistress had been.
“That girl...” she muttered with a thinking gaze. Turning her eyes to the remaining pair, she dropped whatever thought she had and addressed them with “... So, an oni, is it?”
“My Mistress is an ‘oni’, too.” Saying this, Gen smirked. He could feel his heart pounding into his throat.
Eirin held her arms open. She bowed her head, closed her eyes, and let out a faux sigh. “You know, I’d wanted to brag a little more,” she said. “I don’t really get the opportunity to explain myself, and the Sealed Chamber spell is definitely some of my best work. An oni would understand why. Explaining things to someone who doesn’t understand is a bit more fun.”
“... I don’t recognize your face, though you definitely smell like the dust of the moon,” Suika replied, still steady on the Lunarian. She began to crack her knuckles again, alternating hands. “... Were you there?”
“I wasn’t,” said Eirin, and she shook her head as she answered.
“You just heard, then. Y’know... that only ticks me off more. You weren’t there, huh...”
“I should say: you don’t know me, Ibuki-douji,” said Eirin.
“Showing me respect isn’t gonna change anything. You’re right, Tsuki no Zunou: I don’t know you. But, I know you lied about that promise you made...”
Suika beat a fist into her palm.
“... and I know your type.”
She snarled, and was ready now.
“Your type,” said Eirin, with disgusting pleasantry as she aimed her bow, “is something that I know as well.”
Gen knew that they needed to win.
If Suika had caught that lie, he believed her that Eirin had lied.
The presence of the Moon... the full moon, especially—that was, most assuredly, not something he could let be stripped away.
He looked at her.
His thoughts went empty, but he knew by the look on her face that he needed to say or do something now, before it began.
 He said Suika’s name, and warned her to be careful.
 He put his hand to Suika, and built her confidence.
[X] He put his hand to Suika, and built her confidence.
“... Gen?” Suika spoke, feeling his fingers at her ear and setting aside her hair. She looked up at him.
He locked his eyes with hers, gave her a measured nod, and told her—
Suika’s furrowed brow twitched, and then relaxed. Her face filled up—glowed with joy.
“Good...!” she said, putting on a wild grin. “Good!”
With that, the two lovers turned again to the Brain of the Moon, and felt self-sure.
It was a bit of a nuisance.
Minding another caster; targeting two—
It was aggravating.
Kirisame Marisa stopped her broom mid-flight before a prismatic orb could fly into her. For an instant she glanced at Alice; after, she looked at Reimu.
Yukari, beside the shrine maiden, now turned her eyes to the red and white girl.
“You want to fight with her all night?” asked the gap youkai with a relaxed smile. “The night isn’t going to end, you know.”
“Shut up...” Reimu growled through grit teeth. She looked at her opponent. “Marisa.”
“Ya?” the ordinary magician replied.
“Can we just get this over with? We don’t need them, do we?”
“Ha...” Marisa now looked at Alice, who looked curious. Suika and Gen had passed them by quite a while ago now. The younger magician did not know if either of them were particularly reliable... Suika had, in fact, caused trouble twice in a rather short period of time. And, maybe, part of the reason the night had frozen was his maid friend’s doing.
It was also, surely, Yukari’s, and considering that—Reimu’s.
She and Alice had a hand as well, but...
Tonight, with Reimu stopping her although her actions and intent were of course right...
Her golden eyes met Reimu’s steady pair. Under the false moon, tonight they looked red.
“Okay... Back off, non-humans,” said Marisa as she lifted her mini-Hakkero. “We’re gonna settle this, just the two of us.”
Reimu gripped her gohei, and Marisa smiled.
Yukari gazed over to Alice with a smirk. Alice looked to Reimu with concern.
Each youkai slid back, and bowed out, and with final words told their humans: “Don’t lose.”
They still hadn’t found the mansion. Within it, battles were now raging.
Indeed they knew to not lose, and neither felt that they would.
The bamboo stalks below them shivered in the wind. For now, the hour was still midnight.
Finally, Marisa properly grinned and spoke to her friend again.
“I think it’s four times outta that ten you lose to me?” she asked.
Reimu stared at her empty hand, raising and lowering fingers on it. She looked at Marisa again, now with one eyebrow lifted. “Two times out of five?” she asked.
“Four sounds better,” Marisa replied.
“Well if you’re going by ten,” answered Reimu, picking her gohei up and pointing it at the magician, “tonight I’ll make it three.”
Marisa shook her head.
“Tonight I’ll make it five,” she said.
“You mean one? Out of two?”
The blond girl chuckled.
“Sure,” she agreed. “Sure.”
“Good luck with that,” said the shrine maiden, now raising her gohei over her head. “Especially since I’m going to end it here...!” Her body began to glow.
Marisa let go of her broom handle then, and quickly moved her hand beneath her apron. She felt for a vial. She felt for a flask and jar. With practiced fingers, she unstopped and opened each.
A Fantasy Seal was approaching. Muttering an incantation, Marisa made sure that a Stardust Reverie would meet it.
Her hand flew from her dress with a card between her digits, and the glittering trails of her reagents came with it. Orbs emerged from Reimu’s back—stars filled the sky. The bullets flew fast, and then their casters.
Stars swung out powerful and far in spirals and swirls, and soon enough the sky was dazzling. Marisa’s grin remained as she watched her work, and Reimu slipping through it. The maiden’s work was, however, overwhelming and perfect. The stars were swallowed in spirit and might, and in seconds Marisa was forced to swerve. She grit her teeth then, and then each spell broke.
She heard Reimu while she recovered.
“Divine Arts,” the shrine maiden declared. “‘Omnidirectional Dragon-Slaying Circle’.”
Marisa sucked her teeth, and set her mini-Hakkero to fire beams rather than bullets. Charms were already flying as she lifted her head, The sky became sealed, and she moved at once to fire back.
Within the first halls of the House of Eternity, flame burned past a half-phantom and jade rabbit. In deeper and obscured halls, a vampire and maid found themselves alone. Beyond them, within a false passage, Ibuki Suika and Itou Gen faced a Sage of the Moon.
“You said you know my type right?” asked Suika. “But, I don’t think you’ve ever fought an oni before, have you...?”
“I haven’t needed to,” Eirin replied, “I don’t see why I would to know that any one of them is definitely beneath me.”
Gen frowned. Suika shrugged, and scoffed.
“Maybe if we’re just taking those words as the words they are,” she said. “‘Beneath the moon’ there’s really an awful lot you know?” The oni lifted a hand then, and looked at the Sage through her fingers. “Even fists that can break it.”
Eirin let go of her bow, and opened her arms. Smiling pleasantly, she told the youkai, “Alright. I’m waiting.”
Suika closed her hand and answered, “Biiiig mistake.” She built her strength once more, lifted her knuckles, and pounded down on the air below her.
Gen’s coat waved out. At once he opened a spell book and began thinking on what to cast.
The power of Suika’s blow struck “space” beneath them, and the tunnel that Eirin had made shook. The Lunarian looked around herself, as the stars she had crafted began to burst and collapse in the distance. She blinked, and looked at the creature who had done that. The oni’s hand had caught fire. Her body was becoming smoke.
“I’ll stop at about nine of them,” she told, and as she told it a ninth and final star went out. “The tenth,” she said as she straightened up and looked to the Sage, “will be my fist shattering your face!”
The oni vanished, and in the next second came before her opponent—ready and eager to strike. Behind her the atmosphere was left ablaze. At once Gen called to that fire, and promptly molded it.
“Devil’s Spear—!” he shouted as his book burned. “‘Burning Gungnir’...!”
The flames coalesced, becoming a gargantuan and familiar spear aloft and aimed at Eirin’s back. He launched his spell and Suika swung her fist. The Lunarian had to know that she was trapped. He smirked at the little victory, and to that she simply lifted her finger.
With only her touch, an unseen barrier formed. His flames were stopped and scattered against it. Suika’s fist was stopped fast against it. Now, light overwhelmed them, and in silhouette he saw Suika turning – her chains and symbols swinging – to try and catch a shadow moving to her back. When his proper sight returned, he saw Suika alone, and an arrow of what he knew to be true moonlight screaming toward her side, out of her sight.
Suika’s name leapt from his tongue and teeth before he’d even thought to say it, but even hearing that the oni could only stare at the coming bolt.
Fire flew over his head once again. It burst wild and strong before the oni.
Suika lifted her arms as feathers of flame were tossed around her.
Eirin, hiding in dark matter, emerged and looked at the bleeding and burning figure that had arrived. Gen’s eyes widened to see those wings. Of course he knew them. Of course he smiled.
“You’ve got to stay sharp when you’re up against immortals,” said Mokou in a ragged voice. She was hunched over. Her ribcage was open to the air, and the arrow Eirin had shot was stuck between the bones. Eirin stared unflinching as the other white-haired girl pulled the shaft from her shattered body. “They don’t tend to care about this world now that they’ve seen enough of it, y’know...?”
She straightened up. The wings at her back unfurled and hid the oni behind her. She put her other hand in her pocket, and met the Lunarian’s eyes with stark, cold ones. The arrow in her grasp turned to ash. “But man, Eirin,” said Gen’s cousin, “you don’t know when to quit...
And I’ve gotta say... that’s really starting to piss me off.”
Marisa found herself panting now. To her surprise, across the way Reimu was breathing a little more too.
The youkai they had come with continued to watch. How many spell cards? How many hits? The girls continued to endure, but they were tired. This had to finish.
The humans each swallowed, and exhaled long through their noses, deciding to say nothing. Then they raised their weapons, and came again to end it.
What made Reimu the worst to fight was certainly not power, like Marisa prided herself on. Reimu was an unnatural natural. Her ability to avoid was unthinkable—and in actuality, unthinking. Marisa already knew that without something big, Reimu would continue to last. In all their rounds thus far, the one who’d needed to graze, and had over and over again been hit, was ultimately Marisa.
So now as they spun around one another, hurling normal fire and twisting out the way whenever needed and able, Marisa formulated a plan—with another magician in mind.
A sheaf of seals came her way, she fired lasers off in four directions. Bullets, red and white? She met them with stars.
And, when Reimu fell into a gap, she followed right behind her.
“Wh—You, what!?” Reimu screamed with the blond girl at her back. They had slipped through space, through a rift tied by ethereal seals, and were now high in the sky and bathed in false moonlight. Reimu turned over to catch Marisa, and caught only her broom instead. She let it go in bewilderment, and felt a hand on her shoulder and a shoe on her bottom. She craned her neck toward the night sky, and saw rainbows held within a palm.
“MASTER SPARK...!” Marisa bellowed with all her strength. She felt her own spirit bleeding into the furnace gripped tightly in her hand.
The beam went off, without Reimu having any way to dodge it. An avalanche of magic erupted from the hand-fit cannon, and the shrine maiden received it all as the magician let her go.
The forest lit up, and strange shadows were cast upward by the ancient stalks. Alice and Yukari looked up, one flabbergasted and the other impressed.
Marisa won, and from the entrance of Eientei, Youmu witnessed it.
Their battle had been done. The moon rabbit was seated on her knees before Youmu’s master, both seething and sulking. The ears atop her head were crinkled. Youmu called to the Ghost Princess.
“Lady Yuyuko, there were rainbows just now casting all over the forest,” she said. Her voice was quiet, not deliberately. Her posture was slack as well. Even though she had tried her best—or perhaps exactly because of that—she had grown very tired from the battle she had chosen.
“And?” Yuyuko replied, turning away from the rabbit. “I’ve heard that one stalk glowing is impressive. If every stalk glows, then what’s special about glowing bamboo?”
“Uh,” Youmu replied, sinking slightly more in her posture. She had nothing else to say.
Hadn’t something else strange happened, not very long ago? She might have seen fire where no fire should have been.
Now she gazed at her other half, which gazed right back. They looked out at the forest again, and the switched moon still hanging in the sky. She wondered, then, just how much longer the night would last.
In the artificial space made to seal the earth, a human, two immortals, and an oni had been brought to a standstill. The stardust of previously ruined lights was now adrift among them. While it moved, it seemed that for these moments no others wished to.
Gen – once the euphoria he felt from Suika’s rescue had passed – began to feel an almost frantic concern arising in him now for his cousin. That cousin, Fujiwara no Mokou, had removed the arrow from her body, but the wound itself was still there—still open, and burning. Flesh embers glowed a frightening red and dropped, once charred, from her bones, and the underneath of her left arm – along her chest – had become exposed now from the damage to her clothing. Nonetheless, she seemed to only be wincing from what he could see. Her eyes were still settled on Eirin, and it was apparent that “weakness” was the last thing that she wanted to show. She lifted her hand before her gaping wounds, and he watched as her flesh restored—weaving back together. Or rather, it was as if the damage rewound. It was much similar to how he and his Master restored their clothing after experiments, exploration, and battle.
It didn’t take very long for her body to heal, although she left her side and stomach exposed from the blow.
“... Thanks,” she said in a low voice.
“The Princess says you stole what you drank,” said Eirin, speaking without emotion. “I gave you nothing.”
Mokou looked to smile at this.
“Human...!” Suika interrupted them, her hands up in concern as she looked at Mokou’s opened shirt. “Are you alright!?”
“Me and Yagokoro here are persons of Hourai,” she answered, and she finally removed her hand from her side. Suika shuddered. Lowering her hands and staring between the two before her with widened eyes. Gen did not know what that was—but at the least surmised that “Yagokoro” must have been “Eirin”.
“You’re... not a hermit...!? Wait—why’d you come here anyways, human?” The oni seemed to have found her spine, and had changed her expression to a stern one.
“For him,” said Mokou, only barely indicating to Gen with some small movement of her head. “For you.” With that, she nodded ascent to the oni.
Suika closed her mouth, and swallowed.
“Anyway...” Mokou looked back at Eirin, who was now about fifteen meters off, and moving toward the false moon hanging above them, “looks like you’re still hiding away from the Moon? Not that I care, but... you’re about as crude as ever about it.”
“And how about you? You have no blood on your hands?” Eirin asked, as she ran a finger along a bowstring Gen now saw was, in fact, there.
“You know about our eternities, Eirin. You know that the stains on my hands aren’t going to wash out,” said his cousin.
“I don’t think I have to say anything more, then,” Eirin replied, now settling before the face of the moon once again. “What do you think of protecting those precious to you, even if it means killing?”
“I never killed for something like that,” said Mokou.
“Nobody who wouldn’t get back up again, you mean.”
“Who I killed before, I killed for fool reasons. And, I’m never going to do it again.”
Mokou began to descend. When she did, Suika who was beside her vanished, and appeared soon beside Gen instead.
“To be honest I don’t care about your morality and I don’t care about you,” said Eirin, and what she said next felt like fire in the hearts of those below her. “I am devoted,” she said. “I am bound by choice. You have guilt? Can you imagine mine, Miss Mokou?”
“Probably not,” said her fellow immortal, as she settled at Gen’s free side: his left.
“Then we really do have nothing more to say,” the Lunarian finished, and Gen glanced downward as he felt a grasp on his pant leg. Suika was holding him, and holding her gaze on the Sage above. However, her eyes seemed to be very lightly shaking—as if she could not quite keep them steady. She swallowed again. She gripped at him harder.
... And, he was forced to realize.
... Miss Suika is—?
... Gen clenched his jaw.
Whatever fear he’d been feeling, he pushed it down now as he, too, met the Lunarian’s eyes.
There couldn’t be fear in his heart.
He settled his mind, and began to recall his Master’s lessons as Eirin went on.
“You’ve wasted enough of my time,” said the Lunarian. Evidently, she was too impassioned to not continue. She exhaled through her nose, and straightened her back. “I will not have the Princess be taken back to the moon. I will not bend for the rabbits after my own.”
She spoke with a sentiment that was barely hidden. Gen recognized it from other, tearful nights.
“You’ve entered my house. You’ve threatened my charges. You can hate the Princess however much you like. You can fight back however much you like...!”
That tone in her voice revealed an undeniable pain—
“I’ll take you down, and that vampire as well! You know that you’re no match for me! If you won’t be silent, then I will rain down on you and make you silent! Make you still!”
A pang reverberated through his heart, but he put that feeling down as well.
No. Diplomacy—talk—that wasn’t for now. He would speak honest with Eirin—after all of this.
“You have brought the filth of this forsaken rock in, and I will clean you out! This Hall of Eternity is our sanctuary—for you, it will be nothing but a—!”
“Say whatever you like,” Gen loudly interrupted. “I do care about it, really and truly. But, you’ve become a threat to people that I love dearly. Evidently, we’ve become just the same for you. I won’t get your blood on my hands for it, whether you’re immortal or not. I don’t have whatever you may that drives that passion.”
Gen kept his heart whole, and he kept on.
“I won’t kill for mine, but I would die for her—for any of them. Unfortunately for you, I don’t want to die tonight.”
Gen touched Suika’s hand, to tell her to part from him, and he lifted a grimoire before himself.
“I’ll have to settle for beating you down and dismantling your spell, Yagokoro.”
“... Ha ha!” Eirin genuinely laughed. “Ah ha ha ha ha!! Haha...” She threw her head back, and could not stop her grin. Returning to a better posture, she met his eyes directly. “The youngest among you is the most stupid of all. Of course.”
She raised her bow, and took aim. Mokou cracked her knuckles, Suika stood firm.
The Sage of the Moon became radiant as a descended star. At once, Gen began to whisper what he knew.
“Alright!” cried the Brain of the Moon, new atmosphere billowing out from her like a cyclone. “Come try it, then...! Now... the dawn of Gensokyo is at hand...!”
“Suika...” Gen interrupted his spell with her name, and the oni looked into his determined countenance. “You may not be a god, but know that I believe in you.”
“... Of course,” she answered, her words both quietly and sweetly delivered. She seemed to think for a moment, and then tried to ask: “Gen... you figured out that I’m—?”
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, stopping her. And, he looked at her again, speaking clear through his whipping scarf. “I’m here with you... I’ll always be here.”
“Gen...” she answered. She moved toward him, but that had to wait.
“It’s coming,” Mokou told them. “One danmaku volley that’s way against the Shrine Maiden’s rules. Can you handle it?”
“I’ll have to.”
“Good, keep speaking your spell then, Gen. And, we’ll be counting on you, Oni.”
They both nodded.
In return, Mokou nodded back, and gazed at Eirin again.
“Do your best, you two,” said the immortal as the light grew almost too intense. “I can tell that she ain’t holding back...!”
Suika could handle herself. Mokou could handle herself...
What could he do but be a thorn in her side?
... He was determined to be the most intolerable thorn that one could ever be.
His Master had done much in their more recent lessons to ready him at a distance, as he had aimed. Now he reached for what would give him access to water and wood, and as he spoke the pages in his grimoire turned on their own. The book glowed—cerulean and green.
He needed fire again, too. Perhaps he could use his partners for that.
That moon... could he draw from it? Could he disrupt it?
In this fight, he was the only other mage. He wanted at least that to be recognized.
Versatility. Knowledge. Power.
I’ll use all of that and lock down this hall...!
His spell was done. On his right, Suika was eyeing the danmaku building around their opponent. On his left, Mokou had taken flight with wings of flame again.
Eirin fired her arrow directly at him, and he dodged it. Her curtain came right after. In white and blue, her magic manifested as a suffocating elaborate lattice of beams and spheres. Frightening, but not enough.
“Water and Wood Sign!” the apprentice bellowed as the bullets grazed his body, “‘Water Elf’!”
His book pulsed and pulsed and pulsed with the power of the Earth’s most essential elements. The Lunarian had spoken of filth? He would shower her in it. Circles fired in circles, and even if she could find the hall-like patterns of his Master’s magic simple to dodge, she would also find herself restricted.
Suika brought her hands behind herself, as if holding something between the palms. Mokou brought hers behind herself as well—yet in a wild and open pose. She sparked with flame, and launched herself at the confined Eirin, and meanwhile Suika pitched what she held at the back of the Lunarian—
—it looked like a simple ball of soft and purple light. When it arrived at its destination, it lost all color, and seemed to split space itself. Rather, it most definitely did. A rift was opened behind Yagokoro Eirin: a black, voracious hole. It tore through space and swallowed the light of her spell and his. It tried, too, to swallow her, and as it did Mokou’s approach did not cease.
He couldn’t not stare in disbelief. He had to force himself to speak for his next spell before the sight. Suika’s ability to gather and disperse could be used, also, like this. It was an incredible, awesome thing. And, though she had that ability, she still feared the woman she had just used it on. Eirin began to whisper. Mokou, having reached through the chaos of black, beams, and bullets, swung her hand forward and summoned claws of flame with the strike.
With another barrier, the Sage stopped her fellow immortal, and there raised her right hand, letting the back of it touch the void behind her. The black hole sealed and vanished at once.
The things that Eirin seemed capable of defied what he knew. The woman was no youkai: what she had spoken of and in fact demonstrated thus far was craft. The art. Surely: magic. But, she used no books; her incantations were too short; her implementation, too, seemed to rely upon her hands and fingers. It seemed almost as if her magic was not bending reality as he had become used to—instead, she seemed to be rewriting it entirely.
“Resurrection—” she spoke suddenly, and Gen readied himself, “‘Rising Game’.”
Bullets surrounded himself and Suika—not quite caging either in, but certainly giving them pause. She seemed to tease them with this once, twice, and three times, making them shift cautiously with each sudden and vanishing volley around them. It might have reminded Gen of honeycomb, if not for the pale and royal colors. The eruption of magic afterward, however, brought to mind nothing other than the fiercest tornado.
Eirin threatened with power and density that reminded him of Suika, as red magic tore away from her with staggering force that vibrated the hall. She released the vortex, and began to retreat.
Mokou found that she could hardly deal with it; Suika slipped past it; and Gen found himself concentrating as much as he could. The pale lattice continued to come and go. As Eirin regained her distance with ease, Gen saw that a missed movement now – even the slightest mistake – would cost him dire in this structured chaos.
As the spell subsided and he exhaled a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding, he determined that surely he needed to rethink his approach. The Sage could handle everyone here like Suika could handle his Master. Now she was glowing radiant again. Bubbles red and white in color cropped up around her—reminiscent, to him, of waves of sea foam. Mokou found herself trapped again, and was shielding her face with her arms. The Sage snapped her fingers, and released ring after overwhelming ring of dark magic. He and Suika stayed careful. Mokou opened herself up, and made to brave the bombardment.
Gen looked past the fantastic sprawl to the false moon. Sucking air through his teeth in irritation, he determined: As I thought, even up close to it I can’t call to that moon. Of course, I can’t tell what it’s comprised of either.
He looked at Mokou, and saw her pushing Eirin now into the cosmos with her pursuit. His partner followed as well, and the two kept to her unflinchingly, striking and kicking wherever they could—their hair, her chains turning in majesty, with rage refined. Again, he found himself admiring, but he turned away as Eirin cast and countered with her bow and bullets—helixes and volleys, hurried and true. Gen pulled back all the fires that they left behind, drew them to his side to hold them there firm, and drew away from the core of the fight.
... “The full moon is the face,” was it? he recalled, looking again at the vast, pale thing. He glanced at the others, who had begun hurling spells three ways in a rotating, luminous delta. Eirin did not neglect him. She doggedly continued to shoot off bolts his way whenever space was availed as the three dodged one another in a circus of smoke and lights. He avoided what he could, and continued toward the moon. It was not something that Yagokoro Eirin cared for.
A long shot of power rang out from where she was, aimed again at him. And, though he avoided it, he could feel its heat across his covered chest where it had grazed. It felt almost like a hot rod had been slipped through his vest.
He thus took time to summon and shrink a sun, and soon as he had it above his hand, he bowled it at her face—telling it to fluctuate in size along its way. He let her have that, and called on the flames again.
Reaching the false moon seemed as if it was impossible. That was understandable, but he felt that he still needed to be closer for a theory—a theory regarding its light.
Although she had been very distracting at the moment, he recalled that after Suika had broken and restored “the moon” she had had something interesting to say. That “we don’t see the moon, we see an image or reflection”.
“And if you punch a mirror,” he repeated now, under his breath, “the image breaks. I can’t punch light... but ordinarily I can twist it.”
“But what light is this?” he muttered. He glanced at the fight afar, and saw that his sun was still bothering the Sage, and giving his companions very much to work with.
Determining a “name” won’t be possible without a lot of experimenting. I can’t touch this light...
But surely I can taint it.
Gen began to incant.
I just need to stain this “moonlight”... his thoughts continued as he spoke in a dead tongue, ... with firelight.
He separated light from flame, similar to what he’d had the fairy maids of Scarlet Devil Mansion do during his Skyfall Incident to craft his false sun and filter out daylight. Master Patchouli had taught him this much, in a somewhat bothered tone, after the events. Only somewhat—for his shoddy original work. She had been eager to tell him more.
Like gathering grease with soap, or separating metals out of sand with magnets... he wanted to fill the false moon’s light with that of flames’ and drag it aside. And, from there... it could be possible to—
“Making a flaw in the sphere will cause it some malfunction,” said Eirin, now beside him. “With ‘real’ moonlight, summoned from your soul or items?” she asked. “That’s adroit execution of an intelligent idea.”
She was once again expressionless. She held an arrow in her hand, and had its point pressed against his chest, over his heart. He held his gaze with hers, and held his tongue entirely.
“Go,” she said, and she plunged the arrowhead forward.
Immediately, he spoke to his robes—to his vest—to his shirt—to rewind. Eirin narrowed her eyes, noting the resistance.
“Who taught you this...?” she whispered harshly, still pushing forth as he rewound and reset his clothing rapidly, rapidly. He could almost swear that the tip was breaching. “That maid?”
What...? he thought, still desperately repeating himself.
He shut his eyes for a second, then looked at her arm.
He looked at her face.
Do it, he told himself.
He filled his cheek with spit, still incanting. Quickly, he shoved his right thumb into his mouth, scooped saliva forth, and flicked it into the Sage’s eyes with a distinct and wet sound of splatter.
“Y-You—!? Ugh!” she grunted, closing her eyes and hissing. He grabbed her wrist, and pushed his thumb into it. He scratched the back of her hand with the nails of his left, drawing blood. “Ah!? Tch—! Hah...!”
She finally let the arrow go. Within a second, he urgently thought over and over, Thank god I was right and she’s not ‘youkai’ durable thank god I was right and she’s not ‘youkai’ dura— Suika arrived at right his shoulder, perching on it with one of her shoes. She leapt from him, pushing him backward, and she grabbed Eirin’s throat, eliciting a short and gurgling sound from the wincing Sage before plummeting then into the cosmos below. He felt a hand on his left shoulder immediately after, as Mokou came and pulled him behind herself, chasing the other two.
He still felt the rush while watching the fire the two produced trail far downward. He could see that Suika was gripping to kill. He knew, likely, that she would. He returned to his task of tearing aside the “moonlight”.
And then, from below, more light glowed suddenly and strongly, and he soon saw danmaku’s approach. The apprentice began to incant for a moon of his own, feeling through his materials to aid the task as he dodged the upward rain of mauve globes. Silver began to gather above his palm.
And Eirin, with her hand over her neck and grimacing, rushed from below to face him.
Her clothing had been ripped half apart, and her hair had become disheveled—her braid almost loose, her hat almost off.
“You don’t know what’s at risk!” she roared at him, glaring with hatred. He saw that her eyes were now bloodshot. The Lunarian took her hand from her crooked neck and straightened the damage with a single motion. She drew a new arrow from the air, and notched it with her bow.
And as he expected, Suika arrived at once with winds and power, forcing the Sage’s left arm up with her own. She drew back her free fist, and hammered it against the Lunarian’s heart. The Sage now spat blood, as her body quivered. Suika looked behind herself and shouted – quickly – “Now!”
He nodded, but it had not been him that Suika intended to address.
Mokou arrived as well, and immediately grabbed him by his collar, then rapidly began to toss her gaze around the infinite hall.
“Mokou-nee, what—!?” he tried, but she seemed to spot something then and began to turn in place, spinning him. He braced himself, and as he squinted through the air saw Eirin breaking free and taking aim again. A mist formed around Suika, and she began to grow.
“Thanks, Hourai Human,” said the oni as Mokou let her partner go, sending him flying to the edges of artificial space and, he was surprised, through some new door.
“WAIT!!” he screamed out, surprised at the anger bleeding from his voice. “SUIKA—!”
“I’ll take care of her,” he saw and heard Mokou say before she turned in midair, set herself once more to flame, and the doors he had entered slammed unceremoniously shut before him. He crashed to the floor—some wooden floor and as soon as he was able he rushed toward the slid-shut portal. It vanished soon as he neared it, leaving only a wall behind.
“What!?” he snapped. He slammed his fist at the wall. Again. Again. “WAIT! NO! SHE CAN’T.... She... She can’t...”
He suddenly shook, and felt overwhelmed. Tears were in his eyes, He held his mouth shut and collapsed to his knees.
No, no... What’s happening...? What...
He turned his head to the familiar voice. Floating through the dark hall behind him was Sakuya, accompanied by his Mistress.
“Gen, is Suika alive!?” Remilia asked at once. He thought, for a moment, before answering.
“Sh-She is...” he said. He hurriedly, roughly wiped his face with his palm as they approached, standing too for them. “My ap... I’m... I’m sorry,” he told Remilia, though he was unable to lift his head and look her in her eyes.
“She threw you here to protect you, Gen?” his Mistress asked. Her voice was so clearly full of concern. He met her gaze, and as he held it his mind steadily began to settle down in its chaotic thoughts. She looked entirely stern and sincere.
“... She didn’t,” he finally replied. “There was somebody else... right, there’s somebody else there. I was just... That happened before I was ready for it, so...”
Gen, with measured motion, put his left hand to his face and rubbed at it, his lips twisting into a bitter, irritable frown. He was irritated with himself.
“I told her that I believe in her. I mean that,” he said. Perhaps it was not to his Mistress or his friend. He dropped his hand, and looked at his Mistress again. “We’ll see her after we finish this,” he said.
Remilia wore a smile on her lips... it was understanding, though some twitch of it told that it was also meant a bit teasing. “It isn’t pleasant being forced to go, hm?” she said.
“Sorry, Mistress Remilia,” he said. He meant that, too.
And Sakuya reached out to him, holding his left cheek in her palm. He looked at her.
“I’m sure you’re aware that by now Lady Patchouli’s magic is at its limits. My powers are as well. We don’t have much more time before dawn breaks,” she said, speaking straight. “You’re here with the Mistress now. You know what we have to do.”
He nodded again, with more earnest motion.
“We’ve been wandering these halls long enough,” said Remilia, turning away as Sakuya brought her hand down and Gen shook his head of his concerns and worries. “The final boss has to be close by.” She lifted back into midair, returned to the hall, and her servants followed.
“You know what that is, Lady Remilia?” Gen asked, trying to reignite himself (he felt, awfully, sluggish).
“Patche told me!” she cheerfully replied. “Right, Patche decided to stay back today...” said the vampire. She glanced back at him, smiling now in a way that relieved him. “Good that we have you then, isn’t it?” she said.
He laughed; softly, but honestly. Saying that he appreciated the thought and word... couldn’t have been more of an understatement. He nodded in agreement. “Yes,” he said, “good that I’m here.”
They progressed, thus, deeper into the House of Eternity, leaving all other battles behind to only face the last.
When supporting the Mistress...
 Attempt to help Sakuya by assisting with temporal magic.