[x] Tell Dai and Luna about Juniper's potentially problematic honesty.
[x] Ask Star why she started acting strangely once Juniper showed up.
Well, there’s rather a lot of ways you could pass the time now, really, and you mentally filter through your options to pick a couple good ones. Not like you’ve got a week to spend here, after all. Speaking with Dai and/or Juniper are first to come to mind, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that they’re still on your mind, given how recent their behaviors were. Confronting Dai about what you overheard is more tempting now that Letty’s gone, but you dismiss the idea quickly. It’s likely that someone else would overhear you even now, which wouldn’t exactly encourage her to respond meaningfully.
As for Juniper, hmm...You should let at least one of the others know about how honest she is towards pranks, as that could cause problems, but you’re not sure who should know exactly. You’re still wondering about her practically breaking into tears when you left earlier, but seeing as you’ve just smoothed things over it’s probably best to let that lie. Her earlier animosity’s all but disappeared, even Star was more upset than her.
...Come to think of it, why was Star acting so oddly, exactly? Part of it seemed to be worry about your injuries, but that doesn’t seem enough to explain why she was the most hostile towards Juniper, -you’d expect the opposite, really- nor why she left in such a hurry. That seems something worthwhile to find out, in fact. But first, you’ll need to catch up with her...
You fly forwards through the mists, shivering as the moisture soaks into your already-chilled clothes and skin. Great, first the snow and now this. You hope the mansion will be at least a bit warmer.
Dipping down to evade Juniper as you fly, you observe her giggling as she traces out patterns in the mist, spiralling every which way through the air and tracing faint trails of emptiness on her ethereal canvas. The girl makes art wherever she goes, you guess.
Continuing forward, you catch sight of Cirno to the right in front of you, chattering to Sunny about something or other as they progress through the mists.
“...So you guys hang out with Marisa that much, but you’ve never tried, I dunno, taking something from her house? She’s supposed to have collected a lot of cool stuff, right?”
“We’ve tried, actually, but it turns out she’s not as fine with other people ‘borrowing’ her things as she is with borrowing herself.” Sunny shudders. “Still has the same criteria for returning them, though. I guess I should be glad her Master Spark’s at least a quick death...”
Dai, hanging by Cirno’s side, catches your eye and gives a small wave, beckoning you over. You return the gesture, floating over to her and merging her flight paths.
“You and Juniper are keeping up all right, then?”
“Ah, yeah. She was hanging behind a bit, playing around with the mist, but I’m pretty sure she knows where this place is so that shouldn’t be an issue.”
“Well, that’s good. Er, playing with the mist you said?” Dai asks, quirking an eyebrow. “That’s a new one...”
“I think she’s trying to draw something in the air. She seems really interested in art, for whatever reason.”
“That’s not uncommon, really. Danmaku is as much an art form as a mode of combat, and many fairies like competing with each other to make the prettiest bullet patterns. Well, most everyone does that, actually, but we’re no exception.”
“Well, I’m not sure if she really-” Come to think of it, looking back you realize that all the bullets she was shooting at you were organized in distinct shapes and patterns, evidently tailored to Juniper’s liking. Not that you were paying much attention at the time, the aesthetics of the weapons flying at you seemed less important than not dying to them. “Actually, I guess she does do that. But there’s more to it, she also tried controlling her house’s growth to be artistic, not to mention...” You glance backwards to see some strange pattern of concentric rings, bridged with curves and spirals which it hurts your brain to look at. “That.”
“I see. Well, that’s interesting, but still fairly typical. Most fairies have their own individualized interests or passions, although those tend not to last too long. Short attention spans and all that.” She shrugs.
“You’ve met a lot of other fairies, I take it?”
“Not all that often, just when Cirno wants to go out somewhere, but yes.”
“Why only then?” Dai starts at your question, squeezing her eyes shut and spitting out an inaudible word. “Are you just not very social? I mean, you don’t seem to mind our company, but...”
“No, I like being able to meet and playing with you and other fairies, it’s just...I need to stay by Cirno’s side, and- Er...” Dai falls silent, her voice replaced by Sunny’s emanating from your right.
“Nope, no way you managed to freeze Marisa’s Master Spark. I refuse to believe that.”
“Okay, fine, so I froze a shield out of thin air and used that to block the laser beam. The part about beating it’s still true, though.”
You remind yourself of the decision not to pry into Dai’s secrets, at least not yet. “It’s okay, I think I get it. You’re really passionate towards Cirno, then, and that’s why you’re always with her?”
“I - what? How did - no, that’s, ah...” It’s really quite amazing how fast blood can flow to her cheeks like that. Dai quickly spins towards Sunny and Cirno, who seem too engrossed in their own conversation to have heard, and turns back to you with a sigh of relief. That’s the second time you’ve said something that made her blush, now. You should probably look into that.
Oh, I could explain that. Or help you cause more...
No, shut up, she doesn’t need to know these things.
“...Like what you just said, about fairies having interests like that?” You prompt, ignoring the voices.
“I - oh, that’s right.” Tomato-shaded cheeks fade to sakura blossoms. “I suppose you could put it that way, yes. Although, on the other note...” A glint of mischief enters her eyes, and she smiles at you. “Are you planning to talk to Star about the two of you?”
“I was just going to, actually, yeah. She was acting kind of oddly and upset, and I was wondering why.” You pause. “Wait, what other note?”
“Nothing, nothing~” She waves a hand absently, giggling. “If you haven’t realized yet, it’s not my place to say. Go talk to her, it’s something you might as well clear up now.”
“All right, I will. But, um...” A thought occurs to you, given that Dai seems to know how other fairies think. “I’ll want to ask you for advice about Juniper in a bit, there’s a chance having her with us might cause problems. Is that all right?”
“Advice? Well, I’m not sure if I’d be the best one to ask, but sure.”
“Right, thanks.” You accelerate forwards again, leaving the three behind.
After a few moments, you can see two silhouettes through the mist, which fade into clarity as you approach. Unsurprisingly, it’s Star and Luna, who seem to be talking from their flapping mouths and gesturing hands but are producing no sounds. You cough audibly, and Luna looks back towards you before snapping her fingers.
“-and I just can’t help it, honestly. Luna, what are you looking at-” Star’s mouth snaps shut as she catches sight of you. “We’re still muted, right?” she mutters out of the corner of her mouth.
“Hi. What can’t you help, Star?”
Star deigns not to answer, instead exhaling through her teeth while fixing Luna with a glare.
Luna, for her part, looks wholly unapologetic and seems to be trying to hold back a smile. “Oh come on, you had that coming. And I didn’t let her hear anything important, anyway.”
“Humph. Well, then,” she turns her attention to you, “Hello. Decided to ditch the other one, did you?”
“I’m not ditching anyone.” You say, frowning.
“Ah. Well, your loss, then.” Star turns away from you, evidently choosing to focus on her forward flight.
“I just wanted to talk to you.” That gets her attention, though she only lets it on through a brief glance before turning away. “You’ve seemed upset since I came back, more so once Juniper came along, and I was just wondering why.”
“….Luna, do you mind giving us a bit of privacy?” Star asks.
“Sure, no problem.” Luna snaps her fingers again, and shifts her flight path a few feet away from you.
“All right, then.” Star focuses on you again, sighing. “Look, recently I’ve been feeling a bitLuna I know you can still hear us.” She grits out. Luna, for her part, continues flying innocently and silently by your side. “All right, then. Star Sign, 「Comet-”
“Ack, okay, okay!” Luna cries, flinching away. “Sorry, for real this time.” Another snap, and the faint rushing of the winds and water is cut off.
“…Can you use Spell Cards without taking them out, then?”
“Oh, no, I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t even sure if Luna was listening, that was just a little trick~” She beams at you, but the moment of happiness fades into hesitance. “A-anyway. Like I said, I’ve been feeling- no, that’s a stupid way to say it…” Star bites her lip, looking away again.
You wait for a few moments of silence, before prompting her gently. “Did I do something to make you mad, or worried? Or did Juniper, maybe?”
“Did- well, yes, actually. I don’t like the fact that she hurt you so much and you’ve still been willing to let her so close to you.”
“…I don’t really get that, though. From what everyone’s said, fighting and even killing each other is pretty commonplace, and you all still manage to make close friends. Or maybe I’m just not understanding what you mean by close…”
“I…Close, affectionate, you know?” Apparently your blank stare clarifies that you do not, as she sighs and continues. “Holding hands with you, hugging you, that sort of thing.”
“What’s wrong with that, though? You act like that with me too, not that I really mind when either of you does.”
“Well, yes, but…” Star shakes her head.
“Do you like me?”
“Eh?” You blink. That seems like a simple question to ask and answer, but the anxiousness with which she’s looking at you makes you think there’s something you’re missing. “Well, yes, I like all of you that I’ve met so far. You’re interesting, and fun to be around, and-“
“No, that’s not what I meant. Do you feel anything- ahh, this is hard to describe.” She locks gazes with you, her eyes a bit wistful, and you shiver.
“Anything more than with the others? A strange but not unpleasant fascination you’ve never felt before, urges to hold you- hold me to you tightly, try something more even, maybe your heart beats a bit faster when our eyes meet or hands touch…”
“I don’t...” You shift awkwardly, and this time you’re the one forced to look away. You feel rather exposed, looking at her like that…No, you suppose that she’s the one who’s exposed too much of herself, and neither of you know quite how to deal with it, however much you’d like to. “I don’t think so, sorry. I’m still new to all of this, and I haven’t really…Sorry.”
“…No, don’t apologize. It’s my fault, really, I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.” Star avoids your gaze, staring down at her feet and the lake below.
“Star…” You reach out tentatively to touch her hand -she said she liked that, right?- but she pulls it away wordlessly.
“I’ll meet you all at the mansion, okay?” She speaks the words through a masking smile, eyes hidden by her dark curtain of hair, and shoots away before you have the chance to respond. Your hand is left grasping empty air.
“…Well. That didn’t go all that well, it looks like?” Luna says, gliding back over to your side.
“Not really, no.” You’re still not sure what you should have done, but the obvious outcome is still that Star’s feeling worse than before.
“No memories of anyone confessing to you conveniently popped up, I guess?”
“…Confessing what to me?” You respond, blinking in confusion.
“You really didn’t get it at all, then? Well, that’s a bit disappointing, but I can’t say I’m too surprised; we are fairies, after all. Any one of us behaving like Star’s been is a huge rarity.” Luna frowns, tapping her chin. “Actually, this is weird even for her, I don’t think she’s ever acted like this before...”
Luna’s pensive look breaks into a smirk as she elbows you sharply in the side. “You must be just that special, huh?”
“Oww...what do you mean, special? I don’t understand why Star was saying the things she did, or why I’m involved in this at all really. Well, other than getting Juniper involved, and what that did...oh.”
“Getting it now?” Luna nods.
“No, I just remembered something else which would be good to get advice about. Could you come back with me, I was going to ask Dai too...”
“So, you’re just going to drop this issue then. Just like that?” Luna says flatly.
“If I had any idea what else to do about this, I’d do it. But I really don’t know what more to say, or how to deal with this at all really.” You shrug helplessly.
Luna’s expression softens. “...Yeah, all right I guess. Feel sorry for Star, though. So,” she continues, eyes brightening slightly as her thoughts shift onto a new topic, “what was that about advice, then?”
“Juniper being with us might be a problem, and I’m not really sure what to do about it. You and Dai seem to have a bit more common sense than the others, so...” Well, rather less in Luna’s case, but you don’t mention that.
“The green shrine maiden wouldn’t approve of that, but thanks.”
“And for another thing, you both understand whatever’s up between Juniper and Star. Er, and me. Still, do you think I should let any of the others know? Sunny, maybe, it was her plan...”
“Oh, Dai noticed too, huh. And no, don’t bother. No offense to Sunny, -well, not much at least- but while she’s the best of us at putting plans together, she’s not so hot at actually knowing how to carry them out.” Luna looks at you expectantly for a moment, face falling when all you do is nod. “You know, hot...like the sun...n-never mind. Where is Daiyousei, then?”
“Back a little bit, with Cirno and Sunny.” You about face and head back in the direction of said fairies, Luna following. “I was hoping you could keep them from listening in?”
“Sure, that’s easy enough. Ah, there we aagh!” The fact that your two groups are flying at high speeds towards one another means that the three loom up out of the mist much faster than you expected. You manage to dip down and evade the oncoming Sunny, but Luna isn’t so nimble, crashing directly into Cirno and sending the two of them spiralling down and away.
You halt, as does Sunny, Dai immediately following the wayward pair. “Um, are they okay?” you ask.
“It’s just a little collision, they’ll be fine.” Sunny says dismissively. “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen Luna’s clumsiness affect her flying, though.”
Sure enough, the three of them quickly ascend back to your position, Luna rubbing her forehead and grimacing. “Geez, Cirno, my head’s been hit with bullets that hurt less than that…”
“Just be glad it isn’t a few years ago, otherwise our faces would probably have been frozen together. And you’re the one who hit me, anyway…why were you coming back here?”
“She wanted to ask me and Dai about something.” Luna points to you, maybe a shade accusingly. “And yes, just us,” she adds as Sunny opens her mouth.
“Ah, right, you mentioned earlier.” Dai nods. “So, we should probably keep going, but did you want to…”
“Ah, just a sec.” Luna does the seemingly obligatory finger-snap, and she falls into place beside you with Dai, Cirno and Sunny flying a few feet ahead in silence. “All right, soundproofed from both sides, we’re good.”
“So, what’s this about Juniper that you think might be an issue?” Dai asks.
“Ah, well, she’s…honest.”
“Wow. Honest. Yeah, we better lock her up, she’ll be the death of all of us.”
“By which I mean,” you continue, giving Luna a sharp look, “that when she tries doing pranks on her own, she explains them. To her prospective victims.”
“She does what?” Luna looks at you incredulously.
“That…could be troublesome, yes.” Dai says, wincing.
“And it’s never occurred to her that this is, I don’t know, incredibly stupid?” Luna spits out. “Come on, nobody’s incompetent enough to do that! I’ve met some really, really dumb fairies before, one of them thought picking that flower youkai’s sunflowers would be a great idea, but even she wasn’t that bad at pranks!” Luna interrupts her rant with a shudder, and her eyes glaze over briefly. “Oh, that poor girl…”
“Yeah, well apparently Juniper’s really big on honesty, even when it violates common sense. Now, I know that seems like it makes her a liability…” You’re quickly interrupted by a snort from Luna.
“It…really does, sorry.” Dai murmurs.
“But, I’m pretty sure there’s a way to stop her from just telling everyone in the mansion about our plan.”
“Short of kicking her out or permanently gagging her, I’m not seeing it.” Luna mutters.
“Oh, let me finish. The thing is, she’s also really steadfast on keeping secrets. So, if we can convince her that the whole plan is supposed to be one…”
“Then we should be safe, or at least safer, yes.” Dai nods. “All right, if we’re going to keep Juniper with us that has to be done before we enter the mansion. Once we reach shore would probably be ideal, I assume you’ll talk to her?”
“I’ll do my best.” Convincing her shouldn’t be that hard. You hope.
“Even accounting for that, though, we’ll need someone to babysit her the whole time we’re inside.” Luna says. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she forgot she was supposed to keep it secret.”
“I, uh, think I’d be more amenable to babysitting her if I knew what it meant,” you say.
“You know the word ‘amenable’ but not…ah, whatever. Human term, means having someone watch and take care of their babies or children when the parents can’t.”
“Well, Juniper’s not a baby. Or a child, for that matter.” Childish, you can see, certainly, but…
“You’re one to talk.” Luna smirks at you, but her expression turns a bit doubtful. “Well, at this point, I guess I’m not too sure of that…”
“For all intents and purposes, she is a child.” Dai speaks up, and the two of you look at her. The gesture isn’t returned, however, as whatever Dai is seeing in the distant mists certainly isn’t you.
“All fairies of Gensokyo are children, the children of nature. Eternally youthful and carefree, lives full of easily-forgotten pains and pleasures. Journeys from play to pranks and back again, no worries marring them for more than a few fleeting moments. Death’s of no concern, it simply doesn’t exist in a child’s mind, nor meaningfully in our own. That’s all there is to the life of a normal fairy. A scant few like us might mature some, gain knowledge of the world and lose traces of our naiveté. But most, like Juniper, will keep that pure innocence for all of their existence, and be infinitely happier for it.“
“The way you say…all of that…makes it sound like you’re not one of us,” notes Luna.
“Oh, I am.” Dai’s vacant eyes and upturned lips are juxtaposed in a melancholy smile. “I’ve just been forced to grow up a little faster, that’s all.”
“Forced?” Luna tilts her head.
Dai gives no sign of having heard her, merely staring into the mist.
Luna stares at her for a few seconds. “Does this have anything to do with what happened ear- what?”
“She won’t want to talk about it, now’s not the time to make her,” you mutter, ceasing your tugging on Luna’s sleeve. Still…
“Dai, I don’t actually care how you know, or why you’re saying these things, so long as it doesn’t cause us problems. I’m not planning to pry beyond that.” You say slowly, emphasizing the last line.
Dai stiffens slightly, but doesn’t respond further to your statement. That’s all right. The idea’s taken root in her mind now, and it won’t easily be extinguished.
“...Ah, looks like we’re here.” Sunny says, breaking the silence and evoking a puzzled look from Luna.
A shadowy profile looms out of the mists, sharpening into focus to reveal an enormous redstone building. Soaring towers mount either side of the main structure, in turn spotted with crimson rectangles of glass. An iron fence lines the building’s front, with a green-clad figure visible by its gate. It looks like, for better or worse, you’ve reached the first stage of this little adventure you’ve embarked on.
The Scarlet Devil Mansion.
End of Prologue.
“Welcome to Gensokyo, we’ve got fun and games
We got everything you want honey, but we don’t know your name.”
Well, this isn’t too bad, I suppose. More than I was expecting, although your presence was an unpleasant surprise…
For myself as well. It was fortunate that this one is susceptible enough to allow my growth, otherwise I would not have reached even this state.
Allow your...oh. Oh, so that’s how you pulled it off. Damn, I knew I should have made my move earlier.
It’s rather unsurprising that you could not, considering what you had just been put through.
...So you remember that, do you.
Naturally. Apparently you don’t realize just what I am, then?
I think I’m starting to. Heh, so that last-ditch attempt of mine was more effective than I was hoping for, was it?
...Wait a second, then how were you able to influence her so quickly? You shouldn’t have been in any better shape than me.
Adaptation is no stranger to me, even in this fragmented form. You know that.
Much more effective then, if it messed you up so badly that you’re all that’s left.
...Ah, yes. That’s what I meant, of course.
Well. Even playing field, then. Or not, given that I was able to hijack your powers those times-
You overestimate your own importance. Those effects were only due to how deeply integrated into her my power already was. Your measure of control was a fluke, at best.
We are antithetical, and cannot both be sustained here for long. You’ve been proven to be weaker, and have no chance to survive.
...We’ll see about that. Survival’s something I’m pretty good at, after all.
I will not lose to you.