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566 No. 566
I woke up today with a strange sense of foreboding. It was as if a pit had formed in my empty stomach, a chain around my ankle, tied to the world.

I could not tell what was wrong. I sampled the fresh morning air, drank from the spring, and prepared the traditional breakfast. I thought, surely, the incident would present itself.

It was not until I ate away at my rice crackers that I noticed. In idle thought, I wondered aloud.


Yet she did not come.

She always comes.

I quite forget what I did do in my panic. By the time I had gotten a hold of myself, I had on my outfit, my ying-yang orbs tucked securely in the waist pockets. My breakfast was ruined, it appears I had flipped the table at some point in my haste. I quickly righted it, although that did not make my breakfast any cleaner. It went to the birds, who happily ate at it, oblivious to my anxiety.

I resolved once again to clear up this incident, as is my duty. I looked to the heavens, breathed in, and set off.

The forest was much as it always was. The bushes rustled, and shadows crept, but no attack took place. The feral Youkai had long ago learned to avoid the red and white outfit, no matter how nice I smelled. A Youkai had told me that, once, when I defeated her. I ‘smelled nice’. Creep. I hope Yukari gave her a suitable punishment. Yukari…

I can tarry no longer, and hurry my way through the forest. I am relieved to see at least one familiar thing is still here. The wooden walls of the Human Village greet me, as do the guards. I hurry my way to its clocktower, but am accosted by its schoolteacher, Keine. Keine is a very polite woman, but perhaps a bit too motherly. She reminds me of… well, that would be a story for another time. I beat off her advances to stay with her for tea, and she relents as soon as she notices my anxiousness. Youkai are funny like that. They cannot tell emotions very easily. I am not sure if half-youkai are the same, but Keine seems to be the case. I wish her well as she departs, and she says she’s sure I mean it. I do, and I hope she can tell.

I scale the clocktower, exchanging a greeting with the older man who keeps it running. I do not give him time to engage me in conversation, hopping up steps before finally damning the practice and simply floating up through the center tower. As my feet touch the ground, I weaken, knowing the height I am at. It should not scare me – But it does. I am afraid of no Human, nor Youkai, nor Tengu, nor Beast. Yet this simple practice strikes fear in my heart. Still, I know it must be done.

I hurry to the window, throwing aside the great face of the clock and gazing out. The bustling village below me inspires a gasp in awe of its vast scale. It always seems to be growing. Yet, that is not why I am here. I look up, toward the horizon. As always, it dimly fades into blue in the distance, just like the sky. However, I can tell. The rolling hills and forests stop after a point and go no further. The border remains intact.

Yet Yukari is not here.

It is puzzling to me. Two very contradicting things. If the border is here, Yukari is here. If Yukari is not here, the border would not be.

Perhaps I am not looking high enough. The mountain remains a jutting existence, imposed over the horizon. A gust of wind swings the clocktower’s face back into place, leaving me standing there wondering. Yet there is little to wonder about. I know I must make the trek.

I hurry back down the stairs, too timid to simply float down for fear of looking down, or simply falling down. I bumble past the clocktower keeper, and out the door back onto the streets. Back past the confused schoolteacher, out the gates and into the forest.

It is a long walk. A much longer walk than to the shrine. There are no roads nor dirt paths this way. The forest itself closes in, branches tugging at the folds of my clothing and roots conspiring to trip me up and slow me down. If one were to turn around after stumbling over an exposed root, they would find nothing but flat ground. It is a worrying thing, and for that I hurry on. Even the Youkai do not know me. It is only my quickening closing to the Tengu territory that prevents them from falling upon me. I may be able to best them all; but I have neither the heart nor time to do it now.

It is clear when I exit the forest. Not the forest – not the trees nor bushes nor shrubs nor small wildlife, but rather the forest. The winds change and all chatter dies away. The bushes cease to rustle, and the shadows no longer creep. They encroach. The Tengu watch me even as I pass their villages, headed towards the top of the mountain.

One particularly noisy one bothers me.

“Ehehe, I thought you didn’t like us!”

“I don’t.”

“Oooh, cold. Say Gensokyo.”

“Aya, leave the miko alone. She has every right to be here.”

She melts back into the pack, arguing with her fellows about me. They speak of parading me, serving me, serving me as dinner, and parading my head, but never at the same time, and always in a mocking manner. Their words and actions come just close enough to graze the skin. They unsettle me more than the forest, and I hurry past their villages as the attraction slowly fades away. I head past the topmost limits of their hunters, where the trees die and the even the smallest lichen ceases to exist. The cold is biting. The wind nips at every exposed part of my body and seeks to freeze me. Still, I trek past the rocky outcroppings into the snow until there is nowhere left to go. I look up, toward the horizon. As always, it dimly fades into blue in the distance, just like the sky. However, I can tell. The rolling hills and forests stop after a point and go no further. The border remains intact.

Yet Yukari is not here.

It is puzzling to me. Two very contradicting things. If the border is here, Yukari is here. If Yukari is not here, the border would not be.

There is only one place left to check.

I hurry back down the mountains, past the flocks and herds of Tengu, past the noisy nosy one and through the forest, across the forest, to the end of the forest, into the border.

It is with relief that I see that her small abode still remains. However, one can never tell what is going on inside by looking at the outside. For as long as I have known, it has always looked the same. That has not stopped it from changing vastly on the interior, due to her manipulation of borders.

I steeled myself against what horrors may await me, and threw open the door. There seemed nothing wrong, except the scent of whatever burned dish resided in the cooking pan of the fox shikigami.


Where is Yukari?

“She will wake in several months.”

I freeze. The floor ceases to exist. I am in freefall, at the top of the world. There is nothing but fear waiting for me.

“Several… months?”

I manage to stammer. She is concerned for me. I can feel myself wobbling, almost ready to fall.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”

I lie to myself. I turn around, and before she can speak another word, leave the house.

Several months. I can live without her for several months. I can do it.

This winter… this winter shall be so very lonely.

It was but the first of many winters.
No. 567
Could have been executed better, but I'm a sucker for tragic love. Something slightly bitter but with hope for a happy end is a pleasant enough pill. Thanks, Treia.
No. 574
Good stuff. A bit rushed at the end, perhaps, but a nice overall theme.

I have to ask, though, why are the tengu taunting Reimu with "Say Gensokyo."? It seems like an out of place comment.
No. 578

That's Aya. "Say cheese", but with an appropriately... 'exotic' change?
No. 579

"You should say Gensokyo instead, because Gensokyo is wonderful and it should bring a smile to your lips!"
(Totally didn't just make this up right now)
No. 596
clingy reimu is clingy~
No. 697
not bad fluff.

Keep writing then

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