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File 145085554316.jpg - (771.96KB, 723x1023, d8351990d322ff88678ddf33b60619ec.jpg) [iqdb]
38956
Hey folks! New here to Touhou-project, and I've been sitting on this idea for a while. Will be posting it here, hoping for some good fun. Now sit back and enjoy the show!
______________________________________

Leaves crunched under my feet. I held my head up, staring straight on, looking for some kind of path to follow. Anything to take me back the way I came. A few glances around. No, nothing. The only way to go was forward.

The dark forest taunted me. Each passing second stretched on for an eternity. My shaking body never stopped. Fear and anxiety overtook me.

“H-hello?” I tried to yell. I wanted someone to come save me. “Is there anyone there? Hello?”

It felt like there was someone there. Someone beyond the thicket that had their eyes on me. If I didn’t keep walking, if I didn’t say anything, whatever was there was going to devour me.

Keep walking. Had to keep walking.

My legs moved, but my eyes didn’t. They were still fixed on the black between the leafless trees. Autumn air assaulted my face.

“Hello? Is there anyone there? HELLO!”

It was cold, but bearable. Whatever was in front of me couldn’t be any worse than what was behind.

“ANYONE!”

Leaves crackled.

Yes, there was something chasing me. My instincts were right. I had to keep running no matter what.

Then, I stopped. My body collided with the ground. I wanted to cry. It hurt. But I didn’t. I shuffled my feet into a run. Though before I could even stand, I hit the ground a second time.

It wasn’t a branch like the first time I fell. I turned slowly back.

Two red eyes illuminating the dark.
A smile from ear to ear baring fangs.

I knew I couldn’t get away. I closed my eyes, trying not to cry. I knew it was hopeless.

“Let’s eat!”

… And that’s when I was saved.

There was a shift in the air. I was pulled forward, out of the monster’s grip. I turned to look. What the devil bit into wasn’t me, but a traffic sign?

“Sorry, but this one is mine.”

I felt another touch. It was light, but not gentle. I found myself looking at a purple-eyed woman. She looked on at the monster who tried to devour me. After a moment, she fixed her gaze on me. “Shall we get going?”

“W-where?”

“Away from here, ideally,” she pointed at the monster again.

“Wait, this isn’t-” she spit out the metal in her mouth. “Heeyyy~”

I hugged the stranger’s purple dress, “Please!”

“Oh, you have manners!”

Then we fell. I’m not sure where, but we ‘fell’ into the earth. As we sank deeper, I thought back on how I ended up there.

I was walking. I didn’t know where to, but I wanted to go ‘away’. No mother, no father. No one was going to wait for me. I resigned myself to charging ahead. The only thing I had was my name.

Who I was, really? There was nothing attached to that, so what good was it? I stole some food, grabbed a pack, and left it all behind me.

But this was when it changed.

“Thank you,” I said those words for the first time in forever. “Thank you!” I clenched the fabric of her dress.

“Still crying?” I felt a soft touch from this woman I just met. She dabbed my tears with a handkerchief. “Now, I suppose introductions are in order. My name is Yukari Yakumo,” she had a gentle smile. Even if there was an ulterior motive, some different intent, I didn’t care. “What’s yours?”

After I stopped sobbing, I cleared my throat.

“My name is…!”

[_] Saya
[_] Yume
[_] Reina
[_] Custom
>>38956
[x] Yume

Not sure why, the name simply calls out to me.
[夢] Yume

Hooray! A new story!
[X]Yume

I hope you have fun writing here.
[X] Saya
[X]Yume
[X]Yume

Most quests use "You" instead of "I", but that's more of a tradition/preference than a rule I suppose. Intrigued nonetheless.
>>38956
[x] Yume
I always liked that name.
>>38962
I don't think whether someone writes in first person or second is an issue. There's plenty of first person quests here, after all.
[x] What
[x] Who
[x] Slim Shady
File 145090620711.jpg - (198.51KB, 1280x960, hakureishrine2.jpg) [iqdb]
38965
“My name is Yume,” I do my best to look up at her when I spoke. It felt like something was pressing my face down into the dirt.

“Yume?” Yukari said while looking up at the sky. “It fits,” she pressed her hand to shove me forward. I flinched, then looked back at her. “Now come with me,” I was scared, but the fear I had when dashing through the forest had subsided. My savior guided me through a forest pathway then up a series of cobblestone steps. It was a different experience for me. Someone went out of there way to save me, so I was still shocked about that. Then they’re leading me somewhere?

“Miss Y-yukari,” I said while looking up at her. “Where are we going? Is that monster going to catch us?”

“No,” she said while still having her head fixed forward. “And we’re going home.”

“Home?” Was she taking me back to the orphanage? No, I knew she wasn’t. I had the feeling that, back then, there was something else in store for me. “I don’t want to go back there. I’ll be hit again. I don’t… want to.”

I felt a gentle tap on my head, “You’ll see, just be patient.” I didn’t argue. As long as I wasn’t going back there and I wasn’t going to get eaten, I was content.

At the top of the stairs, a red Torii marked the entrance to a shrine just ahead. “Welcome home!”

I froze, I looked at Yukari, then back at the shrine. “... What?”

“Orphans are meant to be adopted, right?”

What Yukari said was right. Orphans were meant to be adopted. Though usually the kid got a say in whether or not they wanted to go with the person trying to adopt them. Here there wasn’t any consent from my end. This was just something that happened. I know I ran away to abandon what little of a life I had, but this happened way too suddenly. “I... don’t… know,” I mumbled.

“Come, it’ll be fine. I’m sure you’ll like it here,” she stepped in front of me, bending down to put a hand on my cheek. “Don’t be shy, now,” then she took my hand to lead me toward the front of the shrine.

I wanted to stay put, but it was either the touch of her hand or her forceful nature that got me walking forward.

Yukari told me to take a seat on the steps in front of the shrine. Yukari walked on into the back of the shrine. I heard the sound of a screen door opening, “Hello, Reimu! How is your night going? You seem to be doing well.”

“Y-YUKARI?” I winced from the sudden scream. “What are you doing here?!”

“I came with a little something.”

“Something…? What?”

“Here,” Yukari walked back to the front of the shrine. “This is Yume.”

I stood up and bowed, “H-hello. I’m Yume, it’s nice to meet you?” I approached this like I was meeting potential parents. Still as awkward as usual.

“Your clothes…” she shoots a glare to Yukari. “Did you start kidnapping kids?!”

“Nothing of the sort,” she shrugged. “I merely gave her what she desired.”

“What she desired? Being gnabbed by a hag?” she scoffed. “Come on, I’ll take you back across the border.”

“You remember the talk we had, don’t you, Reimu?”

“No,” Reimu took my hand while walking toward the front gate. “Not happening. We’re not dragging some Outsider kid into this.”

“You’re not getting any younger, and there’s no one else for the job.”

“Shut up,” Reimu turned back toward Yukari. “I’m fine doing it by myself. And besides, there’s no way this kid is-”

“They are.”

“So this wasn’t just some random kid, you picked them out. That makes this worse, you know?”

“How so? That’s how these things usually work.”

“WHAT usually works?”

“An orphanage. You pick a kid to take home with you, right?”

“I think things are a tad more complicated than that,” she sighed. “So if I do take her back, you’ll just bring her back over.”

“You got it~!”

“No offense, uh, your name was Yume, right?” she crouched down so she could be at eye level. “You got caught up in one of Yukari’s schemes here.”

“She didn’t seem very angry about the arrangement. Did you, Yume?”

[_] "I'm fine as long as I'm needed."
[_] "I'm scared, but it's fine."
[_] "I think I do want to go back..."
[_] Custom
[x] "I'm fine as long as I'm needed."
>>38965
[x] "I'm fine as long as I'm needed."
[X] "I'm fine as long as I'm needed."
File 145091760887.jpg - (142.86KB, 1000x1000, 646546464.jpg) [iqdb]
38969
“I’m…” I thought about what to say. I was a child, but I still felt like this was an important decision. “I’m fine, as long as I’m needed,” Yukari smiled with that response.

“See? Now there’s no problems.”

“Don’t just blow it off like that,” Reimu bit her lip. Now that I had a close up of her, I could see the fatigue in her eyes. It looked like Yukari caught her when she was trying to sleep. The added stress of the situation just made her look worse than usual. “This is important. I don’t like the idea of shoving this job on someone else. You know that, Yukari.”

“But it’s a necessity,” Yukari took a step past the two of us. Now she stood under the Torii with a closed umbrella in her hands. “You won’t live forever, Reimu.”

“Ever heard of ‘crossing a bridge when you get to it’?”

“If you don’t get a little push, you’ll just start swimming over the river.”

“Couldn’t this have at least waited? I mean, right now? In the middle of the night? It’s cold out here.”

“Yume doesn’t seem bothered by it.”

She was right. I didn’t feel cold anymore.

“And no, it couldn’t have. I showed up just in time~”

I nodded, “She saved me.”

Reimu scratched the back of her head, “I’m not sure that’s really how it went, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to discuss this.” She took my hand again while walking back toward the shrine, “You can stay here for tonight. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“Take care of her,” I looked back to see Yukari vanish into thin air.

“Wow…”

“Not that impressive, now come on.”

I picked up the pace. I walked into the room after Reimu opened up the screen door. There was a simple room with a table, a futon, and some bare necessities lying about. “There’s another futon in the closet over there,” she immediately went back to bed.

I did as she instructed. I walked over, fumbled through the closet, and set the futon down on the other side of the room. I lied there without covering up because I didn’t see the need. I just stared up at the ceiling. I looked down at my buttoned up shirt. It was fine, no tears in it. My skirt was okay too.

The only thing really damaged was the sock on my right leg. It had a little blood on it from my fall earlier.

But whatever wound I had from the fall was gone. Fully healed up.

“Again…?” I leaned forward to check it. There was nothing there. I remembered the times I’d always fall or the kids would always pick on me. Whenever they hurt me, I’d be completely fine the next day. Was one of the reasons I was called a ‘freak’.

When I began to rethink my decision, I realized that I made the right one. Whatever was in store for me here wasn’t any worse that could have happened back home. If I’m needed here, then everything will be fine.
___________________

People are fickle creatures.
I’m not any different.
Neither was Reimu.

“So you got a kid?”

“No.”

“Then who’s that? A servant girl? She’s sweeping for you.”

“That’s because she wanted to.”

“...”

“Hey, I’m not lying.”

“Uh huh.”

“Ask her yourself then.”

“Ah, okay, hey there! Girl!” Marisa Kirisame, Reimu’s best friend, visited that day. I remember because she kept calling me ‘girl’ over and over. I had to keep correcting her.

“I’m Yume,” I shot her a gaze while sweeping the fall leaves off the pathway leading to the donation box. “And I wanted to do this.”

“Ahhh,” she looked off into the forest. “You’re from the outside, right?”

I still wasn’t sure on what that meant at the time. I looked at Reimu for the answer. “Yes, she is. Yukari dumped her off on me last night.”

“Oh? I mean she’s made some poor decisions in the past, but this is a bit much.”

“I had nothing to do with it,” Reimu furrowed her brow. “So what are you even doing here?”

“Came to hang out. Got bored,” Marisa shrugged while taking a seat on the porch. “And Alice didn’t have any new books.”

“Karma’s going to come back and bite you.”

“Yeah, right,” Marisa laughed like she was above consequences. “It hasn’t yet so it never will.”

While they talked, I finished sweeping. I move into the shrine. I rolled up the futon that I used to sleep in last night and set it into the closet. Afterward I looked down to see some strange, black and white orbs in the side of the closet.

[_] They're out of place. Put them back where they belong.
[_] Better not touch them. Don't want to get into any trouble.
[_] Custom
[X] They're out of place. Put them back where they belong.
[x] They're out of place. Put them back where they belong.

Gotta help Reimu-momma until she loves us.
[x] Touch the balls

What can possibli go wrong?
[x] They're out of place. Put them back where they belong.
[X] Better not touch them. Don't want to get into any trouble.
File 145092686395.png - (885.23KB, 1000x1200, 1344767020705.png) [iqdb]
38976
I did what I normally would do. It was out of place so I tried to put them away. At least that was the original plan. When my hands made contact, the orbs started to move on their own. I doubled back and fell on my butt. “Ah-!” then they started floating toward me. I got on my hands and knees to crawl away as fast as I could.

“Yume?”

I stopped my retreat. I turned to look at Reimu, “I-I’m sorry,” my hands went over my head. “I was just trying to clean up. I’ll… get back to it,” I got back to my feet.

“... She was right. Man, I thought she was just pulling my leg!”

I winced, “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, you didn’t,” Reimu bit her lip while ruffling her own hair. “Damn that Yukari.”

“Yoooo, am I missing something?” Marisa walked in with her broom hoisted on her shoulders. “Oh hey, the orbs are floating. How’d you do that?”

“I touched them…?”

“Thought only you could do that?” Marisa prodded Reimu with her foot.

“Apparently not,” Reimu let out a huff. “People of the Hakurei line can. At least that’s how I was told.”

“That mean she’s related to you?”

“That’s why Yukari… gghh,” I heard Reimu keep repeating that under her breath like she still didn’t believe it. Regardless, I still had no clue why this was important. I continued on with the chores for the day with the strange orbs following me around wherever I went. Reimu was frustrated for the rest of the day, and Marisa left before she got hit with Reimu’s ire.
___________________

One week passed.

That’s when I learned a little about the world I was in. I learned that this realm, Gensokyo, is sealed off from what others call the Outside World. There are a lot of different people and creatures that live here. This place was sealed off over a hundred years ago. Since I have the ability to manipulate these things called the Ying-Yang Orbs - that means I share Reimu’s blood. The Hakurei Clan, which might not exist anymore, were integral to safeguarding the fantasy that was Gensokyo.

The job that I accepted when Yukari saved me was to become the next shrine maiden under the tutelage of Reimu Hakurei.

There are constant threats that seek to break the balance of this isolated world called ‘incidents’.

Even with all this, Reimu wasn’t accepting of the entire idea. Looking back, could anyone really blame her? This was forced on her.But it’s not the same for me. I accepted it because it gave my life meaning.

It was something I felt like I had to do.

Regardless, my life continued like it had the first morning I woke up at the Hakurei Shrine. I started with sweeping leaves, making breakfast, making tea. I got more accustomed to moving around. I had some other clothes with me with the food I brought, so I wasn’t stuck wearing the same stuff.

“Lunch is ready, Miss Reimu,” I put the bowl of rice down while pouring another cup of black tea.

“Where did you learn to do this again?”

“The orphanage. They would always ask for help since we’re usually short-handed.”

“That so…?” Reimu had a habit of talking while she ate. I was never allowed that luxury since I would always get reprimanded. “It’s good.”

“Thanks.”

And after that, there wasn’t another peep between the two of us. I finished eating my own share of breakfast.

[_] “Will you teach me?”
[_] “Can I got to the village today? I’ve… been wanting to for a little while now.”
[_] “Can you tell me a bit more about youkai? We talked about it before, but not in depth.”
[_] Custom
[X] “Can you tell me a bit more about youkai? We talked about it before, but not in depth.”

This is an area where ignorance can lead to dangerous mistakes.
>>38977
Dangerous or hilarious_

[x] “Will you teach me?”
[x] “Will you teach me?”
[x] “Can I got to the village today? I’ve… been wanting to for a little while now.”
File 145094148423.jpg - (144.33KB, 680x680, tokiko.jpg) [iqdb]
38982
“Will you teach me?”

“Hmmm…”

“I’m completely willing to do whatever you ask of me,” I leaned forward and had both hands on the table. “I’ll do anything. We’re of the same blood, right? So please-”

“Settle down.”

“Please-”

“I said SETTLE!” I sat back down. “We don’t have to rush this,” she took a sip of her tea. “You’re really throwing it all away. You sure you want to do that?” I nod. “You’re still young. I mean, I can understand wanting to leave the Outside World. You sound like you had it hard, so I’m not just going to turn my back on you,” Reimu set the tea down then started scarfing down the rice. The bowl hit the table’s surface just a second later. “But why don’t we find you a nice family in the village? It doesn’t have to be me. You don’t have to be a shrine maiden. Regardless of what that GAP HAG forced you to do, it’s still your choice.”

“...”

“Are you still set on this?”

“I am.”

“I’m not convinced,” Reimu leaned back. “I’m still here, so is there really a need for me to start teaching you? I can keep going til I’m bones, after all.”

“I’m not going to give up.”

“Alright,” Reimu stood up, stretching her arms into the air. “Then let’s get going.”

“Going?”

“If you want the job so bad, I’m going to show you how it’s done.”
___________________________

Even now, I’m not sure what Reimu was trying to show me. That bullying fairies was within her right or this is the sort of struggle that a Hakurei Shrine maiden endures. I saw energy bullets and fairies running away screaming. I think she ran them out of their home?

“See?”

“You’re… a bully?”

“What? No.”

That was definitely something a bully would do.

“Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best example. Come on!”
___________________________

Reimu went on a sort of tirade on our way toward what I thought was the pathway to the human village. It calmed down by the time we got near civilization.

“I-is that what the job is about?” I thought she may have been making it look ‘bad’ just to dissuade me.

“Yep! Youkai extermination, protecting the border and the village. It might just be a little much for you, Yume.”

“I-it really just looks like you’re a bully.”

“Hey,” she turned toward me, her hands on her hips. “This is what I do. If you really do want this job, you’re going to have to get it through your head.”

“I don’t know,” I stopped walking. “What’s wrong?” I turned toward Reimu.

“You see that youkai over there?” I saw where she was pointing. A girl with wings, sitting on a rock reading a book. It had multi-colored blue hair and wore a simple dress. “If you want to be a shrine maiden, you’re going to have to deal with it.”

I still wasn’t sure about this.

[_] Approach and talk to her.
[_] Do it like Reimu would?
[_] Refuse, this test is stupid.
[_] Custom
[X] Custom
-[X] "What would you do?"
-[X] "Have you met her before?"
[X] Approach and talk to her.
Pacifist option go!
[X] Approach and talk to her.
[X] Custom
-[X] "What would you do?"
-[X] "Have you met her before?"
[x] Approach and talk to her

True pacifist!
[X] Approach and talk to her.
[X] Approach and talk to her.
Pacifist run go!
[x] Approach and talk to her.
File 145100652986.png - (763.03KB, 900x1300, 654654654.png) [iqdb]
38997
“What.. would you do?” Reimu gave me a look that said ‘you already know the answer to that’. “Do you know them?” No response. She wanted me to go into this with my own judgement. I knew that, but it could still would have been helpful information. Reimu pushed me out from behind the bush we had been apparently hiding in. The reading youkai didn’t pay any mind to the disturbance. I had to compose myself before even stepping forward. A few deep breaths, a slap to the cheeks, and I started my approach. “What are you reading?” I had my hands tucked behind my back. I did my best not to look nervous. Doubt it was working as I intended it to.

The youkai looked up from the book, “A book. Can you leave me alone?”

So the youkai wasn’t hurting anyone. It just wanted to read its book. “Can I see?”

“... Didn’t I just tell you to leave?”

“Yes, you did, but I’m still curious…”

“A peak. That’s it,” the book tilted toward me. I walked forward to take a look. To my surprise, it was a poem anthology. I wasn’t sure on the age of the book. All I knew is that it must have been rebound recently. The black cover was worn from age and use.

“You like poems?”

They shook their head, “I only really like haikus. They’re short and easy to understand. What about you?”

“I don’t know much about them. I never really had a chance to go to school.”

“School? You mean that place people go to learn?”

“Exactly.”

“I didn’t either.” That was probably because she was a youkai. “I had to teach myself to read. Would be further along if that stupid red girl didn’t take my books.”

“Red girl?”

“Yeah, the annoying shrine maiden.”

“... She really is a bully.”

“Did you say something?”

“Uh, listen to me. That shrine maiden is looking to beat you up again,” I shot a glance back to Reimu. I had to think of a reason that Reimu wanted me to deal with the youkai in front of me. The only thing that made sense at the time was that they were ‘reading’? “I’m… really sorry about this, but could you give me that book?”

“What?” she perked up. “No way.”

“P-please,” I bowed. “How about I get you another anthology? One that doesn’t look like it’s about to fall apart. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

The girl scrutinized me with a furrowed brow. “Hmm, you seem like a nice kid. What’s your name?”

“Yume.”

“Tokiko,” Tokiko handed the book to me while getting up from the rock. “Thanks for the heads up.”

“Anytime. I’m… so sorry about this.”

“Not your fault,” Tokiko shot a gaze through me and to Reimu. To say it was discontent was an understatement. “If you get that book, you know where to find me.”

“I will,” I hugged the book while seeing Tokiko off. Once that was finished, I walked back toward my ‘teacher’ with the book out. “Mission success?”

“Didn’t expect you to- Good job!”

She took the book and we continued on our way to the village.
___________________________

We finally made it. When I looked around, it felt like I went back in time. I was used to buildings heading straight off into the sky. The usual you’d see out in the middle of the city. The culture shock caused me to stop in my tracks.

“Hey, keep going. You’ll get lost,” Reimu said that while walking past me. I nodded and just followed her without saying much else.

“If you wanted to see the village, here it is.”

“This isn’t really what I expected.”

“You hear ‘village’ and this isn’t what you expected?”

“No, I mean, well, yes…”

“Aren’t kids supposed to be more sure of themselves?”

I sighed. This was when it started getting hard to talk to her. I found myself getting frustrated with how she did her job as a shrine maiden. Not being one myself, I wasn’t sure I could even criticize beyond what I’ve already said. I sort of felt lost. “Do I have to hold your hand or something?”

“No!” I relented, fumbling back. “No, you don’t. I’m fine.”

“Don’t look like it,” she had a cocky smile on her face.

I walked past her while closing my eyes. As a child, I thought that was a clever way of getting past the fact that looking at her face got me frustrated.

Then I realized my mistake when I ran into someone.

“Ahh!” I yelped.

“O-oh!” I heard another voice. I found myself sitting on the ground, my head throbbing and the world spinning. “I should have watched where I was going. I’m sorry about that.”

“She was the one with her eyes closed,” Reimu bent down to pick up some of the groceries the other lady dropped. “You okay, Keine?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you for the help,” Keine got up from the ground while placing her groceries back into the bag. “Wait,” she looked between the two of us. “Who’s this?”

[_] “I’m Yume, Reimu’s apprentice.”
[_] “I’m a kid Reimu abducted.”
[_] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”
[_] Custom
[X] “I’m a kid Reimu abducted.”
[x] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”
We haven't earned the title... yet
^Good point
[X] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”
[x] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”
[x] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”
[x] “I’m Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine. It’s nice to meet you!”

Need to get Reimu to approve of us first
[x] “I’m a kid Reimu abducted.”
File 145103736075.jpg - (953.67KB, 1440x900, 5489684654.jpg) [iqdb]
39006
“I’m the one who should be apologizing,” I bowed. “My name is Yume. I’m staying at the Hakurei Shrine for now. It’s really nice to meet you.”

“Staying at the Hakurei Shrine?” Keine blinked a few times. She stared at me, my clothes, then at Reimu. “Is she from outside the barrier?”

“I am,” I found it hard to explain the circumstances of me being here in Gensokyo. Keine was really the first person to ask about it, so it was just as awkward for me was it was for Reimu.

“Then… why haven’t you guided her out?” the conversation went back to Reimu.

“I tried. Yukari wouldn’t allow it,” she shrugged. “Plus the kid doesn’t want to go back.”

“Why not?” Keine frowned.

“My life’s already better here,” I did my best to smile. “Miss Reimu already treats me better than anyone else back home.”

“You poor child!” Keine dropped the groceries and hugged me. Tight.

“Hey, what’s with that reaction?” Reimu didn’t seem very fazed.

I was confused. She let go of me and grabbed her bags again. “I’m sorry again… a-anyway my name is Keine Kamishirasawa. I teach History here in the Human Village.”

“There’s a school here?” Keine nodded. “Oh! Miss Reimu, can I go?”

“Why are you asking me?” Reimu’s head obviously wasn’t in the game. That is until Keine slapped her across the forehead. “Hey, was that necessary!?”

“If you’re taking care of a child, you have to be the one to make these kinds of decisions,” she let out a huff. “I’m questioning the gap youkai’s motives already. You’re definitely not fit to take care of a child.”

“I’m not sure how long she’s going to be staying at the shrine,” Reimu nursed the red mark on her forehead. “And you’re right, I’m not. It’s not like I wanted another mouth to feed. The kid was just sprung on me.”

“Then why?”

“Because apparently there’s no one else for the job.”

“There are plenty of other families here in the village who would be more than willing to look after her.”

“Not what I meant,” Reimu let out a heavy sigh. “The girl might be the next Hakurei Shrine Maiden. Yukari thinks I’m not going to be around til I’m old and gray-... hey, Keine? You listening?”

I’ll never forget the look Keine had that day. Her face went pale. She looked like she wanted to say something but her words died in her throat. “I see. That seems like quite the job. You asked her about this, right?”

“I want to do it,” I interjected into the conversation. “Miss Reimu has been showing me how it’s done.”

“I’m afraid to ask how, but I have a general idea,” Keine didn’t seem very happy with whatever answer she thought up.

“Don’t talk like that when I’m standing right here,” my teacher made a pouting face. That was right around the time that another girl walked up to Keine. She looked to be around my age. Her orange hair was tied up into twin-tails. You would expect younger kids to wear that kind of hair. Though that brought another question to mind. Did Gensokyo have those kinds of fads?

“Teacher,” her voice was low, “Why are you running late? The other kids sent me to get you.”

“Oh, I got caught up in a conversation. I’ll be right there.”

“... And Teacher.”

“Yes?”

“The magic book. You said you would find me one.”

“I did?” Keine paused. “Right, I did. I’ve just been having trouble…”

“You said that last time.” Whatever Keine was tried to do failed. “Maybe I can ask that blonde witch who comes into town…”

“No, no, I’ll get you your book!” Keine sighed. “I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Yume. Have a good day, Reimu!” she walked off with the twin-tailed girl.

“Was she talking about Miss Marisa?”

Reimu nodded, “Whatever, that has nothing to do with us.”

“Miss Reimu.”

“Yeah?”

“Why did we come to the village?”

Reimu pivoted around, putting a hand to her chin. She seemed as though she was deep in thought. Every experience today, recalled perfectly in that moment. Then her mouth opened - “I have no idea.”

I took hold of the book that she still had in her arms. “This?”

“Oh, right, that. I didn’t forget,” she took it back. “You wait there!” after that she took off into the air, leaving me by myself. I didn’t take any risks so I just sat down to wait for her.
___________________________

When Reimu returned, she told me that she sold the book to a friend of hers. We started on our way back to the shrine. “Miss Reimu,” I walked behind her so she could lead the way. If something did show up, she could be the first to react to it.

“You can just call me Reimu.”

“T-then Reimu,” I felt nervous. I wasn’t really sure how to approach the topic. “How did… you become friends with Miss Marisa? I mean, the reaction that Miss Keine gave just from mentioning her didn’t seem good.”

“We’re just friends,” she shrugged. “Her magic teacher was going to use me for the Yin-Yang Orbs, so I beat her up. Marisa started bugging me for ‘training’ right after.”

“Did you beat her up too?”

“Yep.”

It was there I understood. Starting and resolving fights must be how people befriended each other in this closed off world. It was strange, but I didn’t have a whole lot of experience communicating with others outside of the children and the family’s I would meet on a day to day basis. Part of me felt like it was a strange custom. “Hmm,” I looked back down the stone staircase we just finished walking on. “Is that how things work here?” If I wanted to take the job as a shrine maiden, I had to throw away what I understood in the outside world as ‘normal’. If that’s what Reimu wanted to teach me that day then lesson learned. “I guess-”

I stopped. I found myself staring straight up at the darkening sky. It was the same darkness I experienced before Yukari had saved me that cold night.

“Heyyy~ I found dinner!”

“Really? Now?” Reimu, as expected, was nonchalant about the ordeal. “Yume, get close to me.”

She didn’t have to say anything. I already moved to her back the moment I heard that devil’s voice.

“What are you doing~?”

“What does it look like?”

“Give me my dinner!”

“That’s not happening.”

“I’m hungry~”

“Then go somewhere else.”

“If I win, I get lunch!”

“Lunch or dinner, pick one!”

“How about neither? I’m not food!” I blurted out, but neither paid much attention. Instead Reimu gave me a side glance.

“This is another part of the job. Watch closely!” Reimu raised her hand, clasping three paper charms between each of her fingers.

“I’m going to end this quickly!”

I had a few questions going through my head. What was going on? This was another custom? Of course I didn’t have a lot of time to ask. Reimu dashed straight at the hungry youkai so fast that I had a hard time following her. The ‘enemy’ threw itself back to avoid Reimu’s assault. She threw out the charms one after another in a rapid fire.

They all missed.

“Night Sign: Midnight Bird!”

She shouted ‘something’. The next thing I knew is that there were brilliant green lights taking up the entirety of the evening sky. Each and every sparkle fell to the ground haphazardly. I found myself less scared and more infatuated by the display. They all came from the same source - the youkai girl.

Reimu weaved, twirled, and spun in the air. She dodged each and every bullet while making sure to throw her own.

It was less a fight and more of a game. No, a dance? I didn’t see any of the ‘bully Reimu’ that I saw earlier. This was something completely different. “Might want to watch out!” Reimu warned me while still keeping her head in the fight. I took a few steps back while still keeping my eyes focused on the dogfight overhead.

“None hit? Okay, let’s try something else~!” she held up a card that blasted with light. “Moon Sign: Moonlight RAY!”

The green lights changed to blue. An aura of power built up. Two beams of light joined together, becoming one as they swarmed after Reimu.

“That’s a little new,” she dropped down low to the ground, flying over the steps until she got the to peak of the staircase. “But I think you’ve had your fun,” she pulled out her own card. “Dream Sign,” her body blasted with radiant light that completely destroyed the twin-beam that was just chasing her. “Fantasy Seal!”

The sky exploded in a prism of color. I watched as the contest of power ended. The youkai that wanted me for food was sent spiraling straight down to the ground with an audible thud. Her clothes were burnt from head to toe. There were some char marks on her skin, too, but not lasting injuries. Her eyes were dazed, but she still seemed like she was conscious. “And it’s over,” Reimu landed just a few feet away from the downed youkai. She grabbed her by the nape of the neck and moved her off the pathway to the shrine.

“What was that? That was beautiful!”

“That?” Reimu stretched her hands into the air. “Thaaaaat was a spell card duel.”

“A spell card duel?”

“It’s part of how we do things over here. Primarily so that youkai have a fighting chance,” Reimu cracked her neck as she started walking up the steps. I followed after her, still in awe.
___________________________

Night rolled in just after we finished eating dinner. Just like the week before, I found myself staring up at the ceiling without much of a need for sleep.

The lights from the spell card duel still played back in my mind. It was obvious I wasn’t going to be able to simply close my eyes. I had to do something, so I…

[_] Started practicing. Those orbs should be in the closet, right?
[_] Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?
[_] Woke Reimu up and told her my worries.
[_] Try to sleep through it.
[_] Custom
>“You said that last time.” Whatever Keine tried to do failed. “Maybe I can ask that blonde witch who comes into town…”
An aspiring magician? Is that a mini Marisa in the making?

[x] Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?
Messing with the Yin-Yang Orbs and waking up Reimu seem like good ways to get on her bad side.
[x] Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?

Holy bleeping hell, you are fast. I can't keep up, but I'm loving every minute of it.
[X]Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?

You're swift. I like that.
[vz]Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?

You're fast, Revvie.
[X]Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?

I would have thought Keine would be trying to stop Kosuzu getting any more magical books, not helping her. Still, I guess it's understandable that she thinks Marisa would be a bad influence.
[X] Walked outside and sat on the porch. Maybe Yukari would show up?

Wow this updates quick.
>>39011
To be fair, Kosuzu is an adult and with all the trouble SHE gets into (youkai book or not), I can see why Keine would want to keep a child from those books.
[x] Started practicing. Those orbs should be in the closet, right?
[X] Started practicing. Those orbs should be in the closet, right?
[X] Started practicing. Those orbs should be in the closet, right?
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39018
The past week I’ve been getting used to sleeping in the shrine. I’m not sure if I had it in me to call it home yet, but I felt safe. After the haphazard day that I had and seeing Reimu’s spell card duel, I felt more at ease. Still found it hard to sleep because of the excitement. “I’m going to get some fresh air,” I got up from the futon while making a sneaky exit. Reimu’s snoring was still audible even after I closed the screen door. I walked out to the front where the donation box was. I found a good place beside it to take a seat. My elbows relaxed on my knees while I placed my chin in the palms of my hands.

The day went by faster than I thought it would. I was waking up earlier than usual than I would back on the other side. The work load was different. I only had to clean and cook for one person instead of a group. I didn’t have to run around everywhere with no one saying ‘thank you’. Even if she didn’t say it a lot, I could tell that Reimu appreciated what I was doing - even if just a little.

Just one week was enough to alleviate any sort of homesickness I might have… no, I don’t think I had any at the start. It was more fear of the unknown than wanting to go back. I was so quick to jump on the idea of being needed that it was enough for me.

“Up late again?”

“Oh, Miss Yukari!” I felt like she was going to show up, but it was so soon that she caught me by surprise.

“How are you liking things over here?” she was still standing in one of her strange ‘gaps’. It looked like I was talking to someone who was missing their legs. Still hard to get used to.

“Good. Miss Rei-... I-I mean Reimu is doing a good job.”

“How so?”

“She was showing me a little of her job today. That was fun.”

“What else?”

“A spell card duel. It was really pretty! Like…” I pointed to the sky. “Like the stars up there.”

“The night sky, hm?” she looked up. “It certainly is pretty when it wants to be.”

I smiled, “Back home you can’t really see it, even in the middle of the night. So it’s new to me.”

“You want to learn?”

The question caught me off guard. “How did…”

“Kids are easy to read,” she pulled out her umbrella. A light manifested on the tip of it. It was a mesmerizing blue color. I met her gaze. Looked like she wanted me to touch it, so I reached out. She pulled the umbrella back so that the light rested in my hands.

“Uh,” I was more than lost. I moved my cupped hands all around. The stationary bullet never once lost track when I was trying to ‘lose’ it. “Can I learn how to do this?”

“I imagine if you’re willing to learn.”

“I am! Are you going to teach me, Miss Yukari?”

She shook her head, “That’s not my job. I’m just giving you a little push in the right direction~” I was bummed. It felt like Yukari would be a much better teacher than Reimu. Though at the same time it didn’t feel like it fit her character. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Reimu is capable of amazing things when she wants to be.”

“When she wants to be?” I stared on as the blue light fizzled into nothing. “Can you at-” I turned back. Yukari was gone. “Aaaah,” I hung my head. “I’ll ask her tomorrow. Definitely.”
___________________________

“No.”

The response I expected. I threatened to go see Miss Marisa about teaching me, and she didn’t save much after that. I didn’t want to get on her nerves more than I already had, so I just went about my daily chores.. When I finished cleaning the porch, though - she came out with the four Yin-Yang Orbs floating behind her. “What changed your mind?”

“You.”

“R-really?” I thought this was going to be the first heartwarming moment between teacher and student.

“Uh huh. Let’s get to it!”

I was mistaken.
___________________________

I hit the lake’s surface with another splash. The cold water stopped bothering me around the tenth time. “Come on, haven’t you ever heard of ‘sink or swim teaching’ before? Get back over here, I’ll throw you in again.”

“W-why are we doing this!?” I started wearing my bathing suit after I knew what to expect.

“It’s pointless to teach you danmaku if you can’t even fly. So that’s the first lesson!” I walked back up to Reimu where she promptly threw me in again.

Splash.

“I think you got some hang time there.”

Splash.

“Stop waving your arms. That’s not how this works.”

Splash.

“A bit better!”

Splash.

“I’m beginning to think you’re hopeless.”

Splash.

“Reimu, I think there’s a better way to- AAAaah!”

“No back talk!”

Splash.

I got out again, and Reimu walked down to prepare to throw me. Again. So I…

[_] Showed her how cold the water was. She’s going for a swim.
[_] Clung to her and pressed my hands against her face. It’s cold! Let’s see how she likes it!
[_] Keep going along with it. Maybe she’s onto something?
[_] Custom
>>39012
>>39009
>>39008
I've been trying to be. And glad you folks seem to be liking what I'm putting out so far!
[X] Showed her how cold the water was. She’s going for a swim.
Wet miko

I have to ask, is there a specific reason you don't tag sentences with identifiers when two characters are talking a lot? It's kinda hard to keep track of who's speaking, especially when my attention is taken away from the story every so often.

When I say "tagging with identifiers" I refer to "she said", "she asked" "she exclaimed" and so on. Just so we're on the same page.
>>39020
Usually because when two characters are speaking, as long as you make an identifier like Yume saying "Reimu" in a sentence, it should be obvious to who's speaking.
>>39020
Should add, though, that I'll make it easier to identify who's speaking from now on if it's that much of a bother. I want to make this an easy read for people, not a challenge.
[X] Keep going along with it. Maybe she’s onto something?
[X] Showed her how cold the water was. She’s going for a swim.

Amazingly fast update speed.
[x] Showed her how cold the water was. She’s going for a swim.

I haven't had any problems following your dialog.
>>39021

Not to say that >>39020 doesn't have a point, but I was actually admiring how good your dialog was. I can follow who's talking just by their manner of speech, which in my books is the mark of a great author.

That and your update speed are totally making me paruparu.
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39028
This is the start on my path to mischief. I got tired of Reimu throwing me into the water with nothing happening, so I did what any person would do in my position.

Got a little revenge.

I clasped my hands around Reimu before she had a chance to throw me in. “How about you go in with me, Reimu?”

“Not interested,” it was obvious that my pull wasn’t doing anything. I tried to heave her into the lake with all my strength.

Still failed.

Then I found myself floating above the lake with my arms gripped around my teacher’s waist. “Huh?”

“For that, we’re going a little higher up,” she unfastened my hands from behind her. I felt the air assault my body on the way down.

Then when I thought I was going to hit the water again. I hit a hard surface. “Ouch,” I gripped my head. I was delirious for a second.

“What’s goin’ on out here?” the voice was definitely that of an old man.

“Morning, Genjii,” Reimu descended until she hovered just above the lake’s surface. “Did she wake you?” she put all the blame on me. I shook my head while standing upright on the turtle’s back.

“I’m sorry, Mister Genjii,” I probably should have been a bit shocked by the fact a turtle was talking. Wasn’t all that fazed since I was so focused on learning how to fly.

“You’re not botherin’ me, kid,” the old turtle let out a yawn. “Go back to doin’ whatever. I’m just goin’ back to sleep,” he did as he said he would. He went back below.

“You have a pet turtle? A pet talking turtle?” Reimu picked me up before I was pulled back into the water by the submerging turtle.

“Could call him that,” then she showed no care to gently put me on the ground. Just dropped me on my butt.

“Ow,” I rubbed my rear. “What is he doing here? Does he just live in the lake?”

She nodded, “He used to help me resolve incidents.”

“How?”

“Back when I couldn’t fly on my own. Now he just sleeps all day.”

“He can fly?” I smiled. “Could he help me fly? I mean, like you used him before.”

She shook her head, “He’s getting old… er. There are days when he won’t wake up at all. He hardly shows up, so I forget he even lives here,” she scratched the back of her head.

“Isn’t that why Miss Yukari brought me here? Because you’re-”

Flick.

I cringed from the pain.

“Don’t start!”

“I-I’m sorry, but… if you had help when you learned to fly, couldn’t you try teaching me that way?”

“I sort of just went with the flow,” Reimu walked back up the hill and toward the shrine.

“So what was throwing me in the lake trying to do?”

“Said it before, didn’t I? Sink or swim. You sunk,” she turned to me, frowning. “A whole lot.”

“You didn’t exactly teach me anything before!” I took a few steps toward her. “Are you just making fun of me? Is this all a joke to you!?”

“Sorta?”

“What? How can you just say that when you haven’t even started teaching me anything seriously! Yukari told me you were the only one that could!”

“That hag also kidnapped you and thought it was a great idea to dump you on me. We’re both victims here.”

“But I agreed to-”

“After you didn’t have much of a choice.”

“B-but… I said I would. I SAID I WOULD!”

“Want to go for a dip again?” the words scolded me. I know Reimu. She actually meant those words. She was asking if I wanted to practice ‘flying’. We both knew how that would end. I would keep failing, keep hitting the water, and keep getting disappointed that I couldn’t fly. This must have been her way of sparing my feelings. It took me a long time to realize that.

“W-why are you doing this?” tears welled up. “I said I’d do my best. I…”

“There’s more to being the Hakurei Shrine maiden then sweeping the grounds and making breakfast. I showed you that yesterday.”

“And that’s why I want to learn. That just pushed me more! Just give me more time. I can prove myself, I know I can!”

“I don’t want toooooo,” she let out an extended yawned. “Oh, sorry. But yeah, I don’t want to. I’ve made up my mind on what you can do, though.”

“What?”

“You can live at the shrine for as long as you want. You’re a great help, that much is evident. But beyond that? Don’t expect much.”

I felt anger brewing. I couldn’t stand it. I had to…

[_] … yell at her. Why is she being so careless? Don’t my feelings mean anything?
[_] … accept what she’s saying. Who was I kidding? This was all too much.
[_] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.
[_] Custom
[X] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.

The other options don't seem likely to lead to progress.
[X] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.
[X] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.
[ ]...refuse to believe that I'm nothing more than a machine.

Seriously tho
[X] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.
2fast4me.
[X] … reject what she’s saying. The only person who knows what I can do is me.
[x] Yell at her: don't my feelings mean anything?

These updates man... Faster than my sex life, but actually good.
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39037
“No,” I said it. I was the only person who had any say on what I could and couldn’t do. “I don’t care what you made up your mind about. I can do it. I know I can do it. I don’t care how many times I fail, I’m going to learn how to fly. Then I’m going to learn how use spell cards! I’ll… do it, just watch me!” The circumstances behind the choice I made don’t matter. There were options in front of me, and this is what I chose to do. I was going to see it through to the end.

“Huff,” Reimu exhaled. “Do what you want. Just don’t hurt yourself,” she raised a hand, waving as she went back to the front of the shrine.

I chose not to follow her. I reached for my bag and grabbed a set of dry clothes. A white T-shirt and shorts were good enough. When I finished dressing, I slung the pack over my back and made my way up the hill. I stopped when I heard a splash on the lake’s surface. I looked back and saw Genjii’s head poking out of the water. “Are you okay, kid?”

“I am,” I went back down to the bank to pat Genjii on the head. “Weren’t you going back to sleep?” I imagine it was our fault for talking that woke him up.

“Couldn’t really sleep,” he shook his head while climbing on out of the lake. He’s bigger than any tortoise that I’ve ever seen in any picture book. Wrinkled legs and a fracture in the shell going all the way up his back. His age really showed. “You heading back to the shrine?”

“No. I was going to go to the village.”

“The path is dangerous for a little girl like you.”

“I’ll… manage,” I wasn’t even sure why I was thinking of walking there myself. Was probably just me being a stubborn youth.

“I can give you a ride. Could help to flex these old muscle o’ mine.”

“Reimu said you were too old to fly. I don’t want to push you.”

“Thanks for considerin’ me. And maybe she’s right, I ain’t as fast as I used to be… but a trip to the village is easy enough.”

He wanted to go. I could see it in his eyes. I wanted to say no for the sake of his health, but I imagine he’s adamant about the decision. I got on his back. Not sure what to expect so I grabbed both sides while making sure my bag was tied over my shoulder. Genjii tucked his legs into the shell. The force of the ascent pushed me face first into his shell. I even remember the wind being knocked out of me.

“Seems like age hadn’t slowed me down a bit! Ahahaha!” Genjii laughed heartily while I was desperately grasping for breath. “You okay back there?”

“I’m fine!” I looked down. “Wow,” like the night before with Yukari, I found myself staring at the world below rather than the world above. The staircase leading down from the shrine, into the dead forest, and then into the human village on the horizon. There were some trees with some colored leaves that the Fall of the year hadn’t taken away. There was a mountain off into the distance that climbed high into the sky beyond the clouds. “This is Gensokyo?”

“You’ll get used to it, so take it in while you can!”

“I will, thank you.”

“Where we goin’?”

“The village. I was going to grab a book for a friend.”

“A book? What kind you lookin’ for?”

“A poem book. Something from the Outside World, I’d think.”

“Book from outside? You’d probably have some luck in Kourindou, kid.”

“Kourindou?”

“A shop that Ryuunosuke runs.”

“Ryuunosuke?”

“Somethin’ like that. Can’t expect this old turtle’s memory to be that good,” here he was just saying that old age wasn’t slowing him down. He was quick to forget that too.
___________________________

We ended up going past the Human Village to get to Kourindou. It was apparently an assorted goods store located between the village and the place called the Forest of Magic. It was a store with all sorts of stickers and labels slapped on that you would find across the border. There were TVs of all kinds stacked to the left of the shop entrance. Then there was a large tanuki statue that had creepy eyes. Still creeps me out, but regardless - Genjii made good on the trip. Whatever energy he used to fly me here waned. The turtle was at his limit. “Can you make it back to the shrine?”

“I’ll be fun, just gonna close my eyes for a bit. Get some rest, you know?”

“Take as long as you need,” I left him to rest in the grass while I went straight into the store. I opened up the door and there was a nice ring like you’d hear in a convenient store. It was from a real bell rather than an electronic one.

The inside of the store seemed dusty. There were bookshelves lined with dusty tomes from all sorts of places. There were some with languages that I didn’t even recognize. I kept walking, looking left and right til I could actually find what I was looking for. I soon realized that wandering aimlessly wasn’t going to help, so I looked for the store owner.

In front of the store, behind a desk, sat a man with silver-hair and focused eyes. His glasses were partway down his nose like he was agitated with something. I followed his line of sight to see a familiar face. “The answer’s no. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“Come on, Kourin. Cut me a deal here. These are genuine books, grimoires, even!”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I care for my own safety.”

“What do you mean? I’m not gonna hurt you.”

“Not you, that maid. The answer’s no.”

“Sakuya can be scary when she wants to be, but I don’t really care about your well being that much. Well, not as much as I care about that shelf over there.”

“Marisa, I swear to-”

“Hello?” I poked my head out from behind a bookshelf. “Are you Ryuunosuke?”

“Do I look like a serial killer?” the shopkeeper said, tilting his head down at me.

“From this angle you do look like you wanna kill someone,” Marisa chimed in as she moved out from behind the counter. “Hey there Nikki, what brings you here?” she looked behind me and back to the entrance. “Where’s Reimu?”

“Yume,” I correct her again. “I’m looking for a poem anthology. One new, full of haikus?”

“Eeeeeeh, you’re asking the wrong person,” Marisa looked back at the owner. “People. The wrong people.”

“Really?” I slacked my shoulders. “There’s nothing like that here?”

“There might be, but I’m not into that sort of stuff.”

“Actually,” ‘Ryuunosuke’ stepped out from behind the counter, holding the book that Tokiko had. “Are you looking for something like this?”

“Yes, I am. Well something a bit newer. If it’s a poem anthology, I’ll take it,” things were starting to look up. I was going to be able to fulfill my promise to Tokiko after all.

“Give me a sec. Marisa, stay with her for a second while I check in the back.”

“Can do!” Marisa walked over to put her hand on my shoulder “So how are things with Reimu?”

“She thinks you’re a bad influence.”

“She’s not any better,” the witch sat on the counter, crossing her legs and arms. “She’s the biggest bum I know. Only really moves when someone kicks her in the tush or when things go to hell in a handbasket.”

“I’m seeing that now. I tried to get her to teach me to fly, and it didn’t go over so well.”

“Don’t mean to crush your dreams, Yume, but don’t expect a lot from her,” she gave me a toothy grin. “I can tell you mean well, but… hm, how do I say this?”

“Say what?”

“Reimu’s gifted. A lot of what she’s got, she got there naturally. I mean her own ability is ‘to fly’,” she shrugged. “Never had anyone else to teach her. She doesn’t really know… I’m bad at this,” she scratched the back of her head. “I’m just trying to say that there’s probably a chance you won’t get what you want. At least from Reimu,” when Marisa finished, I put together a different image of Reimu. Someone who was able to do anything simply because they had the ability to. Completely different from me. I wasn’t sure how I was going to measure up to the ‘gifted Hakurei Shrine Maiden’. I could at least try.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” ‘Kourin’ said, coming back with a newly bound edition of what seemed to be a new edition of some poem anthology from outside. Couldn’t have been more than a few years old.

“Yes! That’s exactly it!” I was happy. Genjii’s energy and my time weren’t wasted.

“Alright, so how are you going to pay?”

Then I realized my fatal mistake. I came to a store without money. I was looking forward to seeing this promise through from Tokiko that I totally forgot that I needed money to pay for the books. “Miss Marisa, I don’t have any money. I don’t want to ask this, but could you help me out?”

“Oh, sure. Kourin, I’ll trade these books of mine for those two and that entire shelf.”

“NO!” the keeper yelled, I sheltered my ears.

“Eh, sorry, Yume, I tried,” Marisa said that, shrugged, and grabbed the books off the countertop. That was around the time a mobile stack of books moved along from the front of the store. There were tiny legs moving them, so it wasn’t autonomous. The living tome stack hit the front counter and a few books on the top tumbled onto its surface. That’s when I recognized the girl from the village the day before.

“You were the girl looking for magic books yesterda- what happened to your forehead?” I said, walking forward to examine her.

“Teacher. Headbutts. Not important,” she struggled to put the rest of the stack up there, so I assisted her. “You’re that girl who was with the worthless shrine maiden.”

“Worthless might be pushing it,” I said while looking away. “But yes, I am. I’m Yume. What’s your name?”

“Riku Kotoyama,” she tilted her head. “What’s your last name?”

“I don’t-” I started talking then...

“It’s Hakurei,” Marisa interrupted me.

“That’s the same as the shrine maiden,” Riku scanned me up and down. “You do look similar.”

“I know, weird, isn’t it? Can only mean Reimu had a kid. She’s still looking for her father. It’s a real pity. Whoever he is, he’s probably a deadbeat”

“I- w-what?”

“Poor thing,” Riku’s voice was deadpan. She forked over what I figured was enough money to pay for my two books. “Take it. You deserve it.”

“No, I don’t. What is this?” I had no clue what was going on.

“She appreciates it,” Marisa said, her head tilted down and her hat over her heart. For some reason I wanted to run away. Really really fast. I thought it best to play along. I nodded my head to Riku as she paid for the rest of her books.

“Oh, you’re that witch that comes into town.”

“Yep, Marisa Kirisame, at your service!” she placed her hat back on her head while wearing a devilish smile.

“Teach me magic. Now.”

“What?” Maria seemed caught off guard. I didn’t want to admit it, but it was kind of nice seeing her on the receiving end of what I was just put through.

“Now,” Riku stepped forward.

“Hey, kid, calm down.”

“N O W.”

“What? No way,” she frowned. “Well, got what I came for so I guess I’ll see you around Kourin.”

“Yeah, whatever, don’t rush back,” ‘Kourin’ went back to counting out the money the Riku handed over to him. “Hey kid, you want a job here? Got a pest proble-” he looked up to see Riku walking after Marisa.

“Didn’t you hear me the first time?!” I heard Marisa a grunt then a blast off into the air.

“She’ll give in eventually,” Riku mumbled that before exiting the store.

I thanked the shopkeeper. Before I left, though, he corrected Genjii’s mistake of with his name. It was Rinnosuke, not Ryuunosuke. Anyone could have made that mistake.
___________________________

“Here you go,” I presented Tokiko with her old book and the new one I promised.

“You got them?”

“I promised, didn’t I?”

“Wow,” Tokiko’s genuine surprise had me questioning the good will of the residents of Gensokyo. Of course, now I know why, but it was still something I wondered about. “Thank you!”

“No problem. If there’s anything else you want, feel free to tell me.”

“Well, not anything that I want… but is there something you want?”

“No.”

“You sure about that?”

“I’m...,” I thought back on what Marisa said. I wasn’t going to get anything from Reimu that I expected. In order to make any progress, I was going to have to go elsewhere for help. “Actually, you can fly, right?” Tokiko looked back at their wings and nodded to me. “Could you teach me?”

“Huh?”

“I’m trying to learn how to fly. I want to participate in spell card duels and shoot danmaku, so to do that, I need to learn to fly.”

“You okay?” Tokiko put a hand to my forehead.

“I don’t have a fever,” I fell to the ground, sitting in a nice patch of grass. “I’m just a little frustrated with Reimu.”

“I know the feeling.”

“I asked her to teach me danmaku, she throws me in a lake.”

“I fail to see how those two are related.”

“She tried the ‘sink or swim’ method of teaching.”

“To do what? Fly?” Tokiko kind of laughed as she said that. I found myself pouting rather than laughing with her. “Don’t know what to tell you short of sprouting wings. Or you could ask another shrine maiden for help.”

“Another shrine maiden?” I perked up.

“Lives on top of Youkai Mountain,” I immediately linked the ‘mountain’ with that sky piercing structure I saw earlier.

“That place sounds dangerous.”

“For you, yeah. A lot of tengu live there. And youkai. Not a place for a human like you.”

“... I’ll go. If there’s a chance I can learn from that shrine maiden, I’ll definitely go.”

“It’s a bit of a flight,” Tokiko said while looking at Genjii who already fell asleep again. “I could take you there. Least I could do for the books.”

“Genjii?” I nodded at Tokiko while bending down to pet him. “You can head home. If Reimu asks, I went to go see the other shrine maiden.”

“Mmmm, you’re goin’ to Youkai Mountain?” he mumbled as he spoke. “Okay, kid. Becareful…” he moved sluggishly as he pushed himself into the air.

Reimu was right. Genjii was much too old to fly. I apologized under my breath before leaving with Tokiko.
___________________________

We managed to make it to the Moriya Shrine without much of an incident. I flew on Tokiko’s back where they didn’t seem too bothered by the trip. Youkai are way stronger than they looked. Upon arrival, Tokiko took the books and likely headed back down to the village. Now I was left with the choice of how to approach this. Obviously, I…

[_] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.
[_] … prostrated myself. I wanted their help no matter what.
[_] … hid while getting closer. I wanted a feel for the situation before doing anything.
[_] Custom
[X] ...hid while getting closer.
[x] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.

Being honest has worked well so far.
[x] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.
[x] Genuflect

NO MATTER WHAT

LET THE GAMES BEGIN

NO MATTER WHAT

MAY THE BEST MIKO WIN
[x] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.
[x] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.
[x] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.
[X] … walked up and asked them. I don’t want a misunderstanding.

Time to exploit this one-sided rivalry.
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There was no reason to hide. I had to approach this with my head held high. I walked under the wooden Torii at the foot of the hill. Afterward I walked up the carved staircase to the top of the shrine. When I finally got a glimpse of the shrine, I was struck by the differences. This one had a huge knotted rope hoisted over its entrance and the donation box. "Hello?" I was intimidated. Who wouldn’t be? I was going to ask people I didn’t know for a problem that doesn’t even concern them. Even then I pressed on while hoping for the best.

“Yes?” a head popped out from the side of the building. “Are you here for prayer?” a girl with green-hair and a frog ornament stepped out. She had a broom in her hand and a dustpan in the other. I found myself looking at the dustpan since the only things I saw from the ‘outside’ here were back at Kourindou. Well, there and my own clothes.

“No, I’m here to ask a favor of you,” I went straight ahead to my objective. I took a step back, looked down, then bowed. “Ah! I’m sorry, I mean, my name is Yume. I’m an outsider, and I just learned that your shrine existed. I came to ask a favor if that’s not too much trouble?”

“Ah, then in that case, I’m Sanae Kochiya, wind priestess of the Moriya Shrine. And an outsider?” she put a hand on her chin. “Shouldn’t you have gone to the Hakurei Shrine?”

“I’m living at the Hakurei Shrine. At least for now.”

Sanae’s face went pale, “Living with Reimu?” I nodded. “I don’t mean to offend, but can I ask why?”

“I’m going to be the next shrine maiden. Miss Yukari brought me here for that reason.”

“Brought you here? You mean kidnapped?” Sanae’s eyes went wide. “If that’s why you came here, I’ll do anything that I can to help!”

“N-no, no, nothing like that,” I said, waving my hands frantically. “I want to learn how to fly. Reimu started to teach me, and it didn’t go well.”

“Reimu can teach?” she repeated the words, quirking a brow and tilting her head to the side. Must have been a combination of words she didn’t expect to hear.

“She threw me in the lake behind the shrine. A lot.”

“It’s the middle of autumn. Why would she do that? A kid like you can get sick.”

“I’m used to it. The cold doesn’t bother me.”

“You’re used to being thrown into a lake?”

“No,” I stopped. “I mean yes?” No matter how anyone said that it still sounds terrible. I had to move this along. “Anyway, it’s fine, please, don’t worry about it!” I found myself waving my arms again. “I really just wanted to ask if you could teach me how to fly.“

Sanae narrowed her eyes. She obviously wasn’t happy that I wanted to forget Reimu’s teaching methods. She let out a sigh and knocked a knuckle against her head, “Does Reimu know you’re up here?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Don’t you think you should have told her? Youkai Mountain is really dangerous, especially if you’re alone.”

“It’s not like Reimu would care.”

“I don’t think that’s true! If Reimu was willing to put you up for a week, there has to be something there!” Sanae made it sound like I was the nuisance and not Reimu. I let it slide since pursuing that wouldn’t have helped me in the long run. “Don’t you think you should give her another chance? Maybe Reimu just needs a little more time. I’m sure she’ll come through for you!”

[_] “Maybe you’re right. I could give her another chance.”
[_] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”
[_] “Okay, I will, but could you come with me?”
[_] Custom
[x] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”
[x] “Maybe you’re right. I could give her another chance.”
-[x] "But do visit in a week, to see how we're doing."

If Reimu is currently trying to improve her teaching, it'll break her heart to find that we don't need it anymore. But if she doesn't improve in a week, we need a backup plan.
[x] “Maybe you’re right. I could give her another chance.”

Stay faithful to Reimu-mama.
[X] “Maybe you’re right. I could give her another chance.”
[X] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”

Even if she wanted to Reimu wouldn't be able to teach us. When things come naturally to people they are often very bad at teaching others how to do it.
[x] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”

Reimu pretty much straight-up said that she only cares about Yume's sweeping.
[x] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”
[x] “Maybe you’re right. I could give her another chance.”
>>39059

Don't know if you meant to vote twice, but I'm deleting your last vote.
Voting is now over! Was already writing the post for the "Please Miss Sanae!" choice. Will be doing this from now on to quell any confusion that might arise. Writing now.
x] “I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”
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“I can’t see her again until I learn how to fly. Please, Miss Sanae!”

“Okay,” she started walking toward the front of the shrine. “We can talk about this inside. Shouldn’t stay out in the cold longer than we have to,” I didn’t object to what Sanae suggested. It was better than pleading out here and not getting anywhere. “Make yourself at home!” I kicked my shoes off while stepping inside. The inside wasn’t too different from the Hakurei Shrine. That’s where similarities ended. Just the inside. There were modern appliances strewn about the place. I saw a stack of comic books depicting all sorts of robots and people with strange hair. By that, I meant strange even by the standards of Gensokyo.

“You’re from the outside?”

“Yes, I am,” Sanae said as she set the broom and dustpan in one corner of the room. She walked back to take a seat. “We came here a long while ago.”

“I came here just last week,” I sat across from her.

“How are you enjoying Gensokyo so far? Is it to your liking?”

I nodded.

“That’s good to hear! I had a … little trouble when I first came over here. Things are fine now, though!”

“I’ve been having trouble sleeping, but it’s only been a week.”

“Things like that get easier with time. You just have to get used to it.”

“Heyyy, Sanae!” I turned toward the new voice. A sliding door opened up from the back of the shrine and out popped a new visitor. A short girl with saggy clothes and a hat with googly eyes? She was definitely shorter than me. I found myself staring at the hat. “New visitor?”

“Yes,” Sanae said, pointing to me. “This is Yume. Yume, this is Lady Suwako.”

“Nice to meet’cha,” Suwako said, grinning. She sat down next to Sanae, “What brings you all the way up here?”

“Yume asked me to teach her how to fly since Reimu hasn’t really been doing a good job of it,” Sanae looked between Suwako then at me. “I’m not so sure.”

“Fly? Oh, wait, are you that new shrine maiden? Heard something about the Hakurei girl taking on a student,” Suwako stretched themselves out on the table, their baggy clothing covering its surface.

“I didn’t hear anything about this,” Sanae looked at Suwako with a frown. The hat girl just responded with a cheeky smile.

I shook my head, “No. That’s what I want to do, but Reimu won’t teach me anything. Today was the ‘first lesson’ and I failed.”

“What’d she do, throw you in a lake?” Suwako said while pointing their eyes at me. Both pairs.

“Yes.”

“Oh, well, uh, sorry?” Suwako blinked a few times. “So Reimu’s bad at this and you came to Sanae for help?”

“Yes, Lady Suwako, as far as I can tell.”

“Then teach her, Sanae. Kanako and I will help.”

“Huh?” Sanae lost her breath. “But what about Reimu?”

“What about Reimu?” Suwako stretched some more before standing up. “If she’s letting this girl go, why don’t we scoop her up? Not a lot I hate more than lost potential. Plus the kid has guts if they were willing to come all the way up here.”

“I don’t think it’s our business to interfere with-” Sanae is cut off mid-sentence by a slamming door.

“I heard someone say GUTS!” A busty woman barged into the room. She had short dark hair and determined red eyes.

“Lady Kanako, why are you wearing a tracksuit!?”

“I was going to spring a surprise training day on you, Sanae, but this works too!”

“S-surprise training day? Why? It’s the middle of autumn!”

“Even better!” the crazed lady walked forward to grab Sanae by the shoulder.

“Ah! Wait, what about Yume?”

“You two go have fun. I’ll watch her,” Suwako looked at me with a lazy smile.

“She can participate too!” Kanako looked at me. “You want to learn how to fly?”

Suwako moved their mouth. I couldn’t exactly make it out then, but I know they mouthed the words “run while you can”. Being ignorant of the fact at the time, there was no way I could heed the warning. I accepted their offer because I thought it would help me.
___________________________

“So what do you know about Shintoism?” Kanako asked while raising another hand into the air. Sanae was off sprinting in the distance and every few moments Kanako would throw a torrent of danmaku at her. Sanae would do her best to dodge it, then be forced to run faster. I knew she was making rounds around the shrine and the steps, but how long was she going to be pushed?

“I know there are a lot of gods,” I put a hand to my chin. “That’s really it.”

“That’s it? And you want to be a shrine maiden?” Kanako shook her head. “That’s not going to work. You’ve got to know what you’re dealing with before we even tackle how you’re going to fly,” she looked back at Sanae. “Do you know what Sanae does?”

“No,” I shook my head. “We just met.”

“She channels our will and strength through her body, and in return she serves as our shrine maiden.”

“You mean that frog girl too?” I mumbled. Then I realized that the two of them were gods. Should have it me a bit earlier, but it just never clicked. “O-oh! I’m so sorry!” I threw myself down into a bow.

“Well, not what I was going for, but close enough.”

“Huh?” I looked up.

“Reverence and worship. It’s your job to bring forth the will of your god to- SANAE, NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” she screamed out, throwing another ferocious wave at the poor girl. “Anyway, where was I? Yeah, you use your body as a conduit.”

“I’m not sure I can do that,” I looked at my own two hands. “Reimu said I didn’t have what it took.

“You sure about that?”

I nodded.

“Have you ever heard voices before when no one was around? Maybe when you were on the outside?”

I didn’t want to admit anything, even to someone I just met that was trying to help me. Being ostracized was already enough of a pain back across the border. It was hard enough being the outsider, but when I was alone - when it was dark, I heard voices. Laments and wishes of people that have already passed. I shut it out, covered up, and didn’t want to hear any of it. Everyone else just thought I was paranoid or crazy, which just gave them more ammunition to torture me with.

The voices.
The insults.
The children.

It was too much then, it’s still too much now.

But I didn’t know what it meant. What did hearing voices have to do with being a shrine maiden?

Regardless, I had to brave through it. If I wanted to prove Reimu wrong, reject what she said, I had to own up. I could tell this was a crucial step in whatever training Kanako was going to put me through.

“Y-yes, I did. I haven’t heard them since I came to Gensokyo.”

“Then this is going to be easier than I thought!”

“Huh?”

“You’re going to channel me!”

“Maybe this was a bad idea-!” I tried to walk past her. She grabbed me by the nape of the shirt.

“Calm down,” Kanako huffed. “Get your head out of the gutter. Being serious here. Ever heard of … what were those called? Seances?”

I moved back to where I was standing before, but I was hesitant.

“Okay, so I want you to empty your head.”

I did as she instructed. I took in a deep breath. Any thoughts of Reimu, the Outside World, and anger left me.

“Now you want- SANAE, ARE YOU INSULTING ME? I’M DOING THIS FOR YOU!”

I heard danmaku shots.

My eyes flew open. My concentration went out the window. I saw a large crater and a crisp shrine maiden face down on the ground. The gym clothes she wore were now charred black. “N-no more, L-lady Kanako.”

“No more? Okay, fine, five minute break,” she clapped her hands. “Now, concentrate. Empty your head.”

I filtered out negative emotion. The only thing on my mind was cleansing it.

“Second step. Think of what you want to do with the power I’ll give you.”

I wanted to fly. I wanted to lift off the ground.

I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the spell card duel had with Rumia. The colors, the grace of her movements, the power she demonstrated. I thought of the ride with Genjii, overlooking the small isolated world that I’d want to call my new home.

Another deep breath. I opened my eyes. I was looking at Kanako upside down. Then she was slightly skewed to the right. “Huh?”

“Needs some work on the control, but good first attempt. Now take five.” Kanako walked off to check on Sanae. I was wondering if that was the lesson.

“A-ah,” I tried to correct myself in the air. I flapped my arms like wings, then I heard “Stop waving your arms! That’s not how this works!” ring in my head. Gravity took me by the hand and forced me straight down to the ground. It hurt, but I had to get better at it. I followed through with the lesson that Kanako gave me. Emptied my head, focused on the intent, channeled the invisible power. I pushed off the ground again while trying my best to control it. I thought about all the times that I collided with the lake’s surface.

Moving freely through the air was sort of like swimming. I didn’t try to throw my arms out or move my legs violently. I pushed the ‘power’ that I gathered in my body out of my back.

“Oh! I’m moving! Miss Kanako, I got it!”

“<GOOD JOB!>” Kanako gave me a thumbs up while placing Sanae on her back. “Now comes the hard part.”

“Hard part?”

“Getting ice.”
___________________________

“It looks like we’re down one member of this evening’s training session!” Kanako said that like it totally wasn’t her fault. “Oh well, these things happen,” I looked over at Sanae. She had her head on Suwako’s lap.

“I’m sorry, Lady Kanako,” Sanae mumbled that in her sleep. It was at this exact moment that I started feeling pity for her.

“It’s okay, Sanae, Kanako’s just nuts,” Suwako said while lovingly dabbing an icepack on Sanae's forehead.

Kanako cleared her throat, “Well, Yume.”

“Yes?”

“You need more appropriate clothing for the next part of the training session.”

I looked down at myself, “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

“It’s not traditional. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right,” Kanako said with a smile.

In the next moment, I found myself wearing something like Sanae. A blue and white shrine maiden outfit with exposed sleeves and a blue skirt. “I-it’s nice, but why?”

“So you can-”

The screen door caved in. I saw a red-garbed girl bring a foot straight down on Kanako’s head, sending her falling forward. Another crash echoed as her face met the floor. “Reimu?!”

“Not happening,” Reimu tapped her foot on the back of Kanako’s head. “Come on, Yume, we’re going home.”

“You came to get me?” I couldn’t help but smile.

“Yeah,” she looked outside. “It’s getting dark, isn’t it?”

“Y-yes,” the lost respect I had for her slowly returned.

I heard her stomach growl. “Which means dinner.”

Then immediately left, “Right.” I slipped out of the shrine maiden outfit that Kanako gave me and back into my old clothes. “Thank you for the lesson, Miss Kanako.”

“Mmmm,” I didn’t understand Kanako’s muffled speech. I apologized while bidding farewell to Suwako, Sanae and Kanako.

“Take this as a lesson, Sanae. If karma doesn't hit you, a crazed shrine maiden will,” Suwako said, looking at Kanako’s trying to pull her face up from the floor.
___________________________

The two of us walked down the steps from the shrine. Reimu walked ahead as she usually does. “Why aren’t we flying?”

“We?” Reimu looked back. “So that’s why you came up here.”

“Yes,” It wasn’t hard to look her in the eye anymore. “If you weren’t going to teach me, I had to find someone who would.”

“Who told you about the Moriya Shrine?”

“A friend.”

“So you can fly now?”

“I can levitate?” Reimu narrowed her eyes then shrugged. After that she slowly lifted off into the air while looking down at me. I recreated the steps in my head - empty the mind, focus, channel. I rose up off the ground while desperately looking for my balance. “See? I can do it!”

“Get back on the ground,” she sighed.

“What? Why?”

“You’re channeling that sky god. Get back on the ground.”

“Is that wrong?”

“They were just trying to use you, so yeah,” Reimu flew down and gripped me by the ankle. A light tug and I was already making contact with the dirt.

“I don’t care if they were using me. At least they tried to help me and didn’t throw me into a lake!”

“Still mad about that?”

“Why wouldn’t I be? You were making fun of me, you … humiliated me,” I choked. It felt like something cracked. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stop tears from flowing down my face. “I just wanted to have a reason to stay. Everyone would always push me away, make fun of me, I was always alone. For the first time, I felt like I was needed… for the first time in my life I thought I could make a difference! I just didn’t want you to throw me away! Not again!”

Reimu sighed. That was the reaction I expected, “You’re really annoying.”

I sniffled.

“But I guess that’s a given, you’re a kid,” Reimu held my hand. I slowly looked up. She had a smile on her face. It wasn’t that dismissive staredown she gave me earlier today. There was warmth to it. “And dinner really isn’t the time to be bawling. You’ll get tears in the rice. No one wants that.”

The cut through my worries with just that? It felt like it was natural for her. I looked away while wiping my face with my free hand. “We’re having… rice again?”

“What else is there to eat? Unless you want to fix something else.”

“No, rice is fine… but Reimu.”

“What?” I hugged her at the waist. I grabbed her as tightly as I could, “H-hey! What are you doing?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome?”

“But,” I met her eyes. “If I can’t channel Miss Kanako’s power, then how will I learn to fly?”

“You learned how to channel, didn’t you?”

“A little bit. The basics.”

“Then it should come to you, shouldn’t it? Come on.”

There she was thinking that I was like her again. “W-wait! I- ah!” my grip loosened. I fell back to the ground. Reimu caught me by the hand before I hit the ground. She heaved me up into the air, and we left Youkai Mountain to go back home.
___________________________

From that day on, my experiences in Gensokyo were a bit different. I spent my days the same as usual, doing chores, talking to people that occasionally came to the shrine. Reimu finally accepted me living there. Even if she wasn’t the best teacher in the world, I know that she was trying. She begrudgingly taught me the rules of the spell card system and how to fire danmaku. This was all while I desperately tried to figure out how the channel the power of the god within the shrine. It was like trying to tune in on a radio frequency. I spent hours everyday trying to ‘find it’. After a month or so of hard focus, I managed it!

“I did it Master!”

“Stop calling me that. Go back to bed!”

Of course, I didn’t stop calling her that. She gave up on trying to dissuade me. After I turned ten, things started happening around the shrine. I built up a reputation in the Human Village as the ‘apprentice shrine maiden’, but nothing more beyond that. There were other rumors regarding me as the ‘illegitimate daughter of Hakurei’. I tried to get people to come to the shrine more often by offering them ‘protection’ on the pathway up. Of course, that wasn’t enough to get people making the trek up to the shrine.

It was one of those days. The sky was clear, and it was warm for the fall of the year.

I stood there at the base of the entrance wearing now what was the usual for me. A sarashi around my breasts, and the white-red outfit you’d normally associate with a miko. It was harder to move in than what I was used to, but it didn’t bother me much anymore.

When no one came by, I stretched my arms up into the air. Since no one came by, I…

[_] … continued waiting. This was something I offered to do.
[_] … went back up to the shrine. This was a waste.
[_] … headed into town. I wanted to pick up some groceries.
[_] … went to the Moriya Shrine. I haven’t seen those guys in a while.
[_] … went to Kourindou. Have to wonder what they’ve been up to.
[_] Custom
[x] … continued waiting. This was something I offered to do.
[X] … continued waiting. This was something I offered to do.
[X] … continued waiting. This was something I offered to do.
[x] … went to the Moriya Shrine. I haven’t seen those guys in a while.

Let's show 'em how we've improved!
[X] … continued waiting. This was something I offered to do.
[x] … headed into town. I wanted to pick up some groceries.

Look for random encounters!
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This was a job that I offered to do. No one was forcing me to do it, but even then - I had to show that I was determined to protect those that came to worship. I waited around for the better part of an hour before something actually happened. Something good? No. Nothing good ever really happened when I waited around.

The air shifted and a shadow passed overhead. I put a hand over my eyes to block out the sun so I could see what it was. “Damn that kid!” I heard Marisa from overhead. I shrugged, sighed, then sat back down on the steps to wait for any villager that came this way. “Hey, Yume!”

I ignored her.

“Aren’t you supposed to respond when someone talks to ya?” I continued feigning indifference. She performed a flip in the air on her broom, ending her maneuver right in front of me. “Earth to Yume, hey!”

I couldn’t keep it up, “What is it, Miss Marisa?”

“You seen that brat around?”

I quirked a brow, “Who?”

“You know who I’m talking about! That shrimp!”

“Do you mean Miss Riku?”

“Who else?” she grit her teeth. “Has she been around here?”

“I haven’t seen her.”

“She was headed this way. So that must mean-” the grip on her broom tightened. “It was a distraction!”

“Distraction from what? I’m confused.”

“She took some of my books and ran off with them! In a bag, too!”

There was so much irony in that statement that I had to reel back. “Miss Riku stole from you? I believe that’s called ‘karma’.”

“Karma nothin’!” Marisa took hold of my hand. “We’re going to get her!”

“We? Wait, no, I’m work-aaah!”

“I don’t see anyone!” the broom moved against my will. I tried to get off the broom during the trip, but the speed of the flight prevented me from keeping focus. We zipped up into the air and away from the shrine.
___________________________

Emotion and illness swirled while the impromptu flight came to an end. Nausea from all the twisting and turning that Marisa chose to sprinkle in on what may have been a simple trip. Frustration on being brought on this journey that had nothing to do with me. And finally, confusion on why Riku would want to steal from Marisa in the first place. She struggled so hard to get Marisa to cave to be her ‘teacher’. Now that she had, and after only a few months, she’d choose to put an end to the relationship?

Marisa threw me off the broom right in front of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. “Search the ground floor!”

“W-why would she-”

“Just do it!” Marisa then sped off into the air, not giving me anytime to catch her.

“I-” I reached a hand up at open air. I put a hand to my forehead while facing the main gate. The usual gatekeeper was standing there. A youkai by the name of Hong Meiling. To this day I’m still not sure what kind of youkai she is. I sighed while approaching her. “Hello, Miss Meiling, is there anyway that I can get inside?”

“Oh!” Meiling seemed to be preoccupied with staring off into space before I called her name. “You’re …”

“Yume.”

“Yume, right! What are you doing here?” Meiling said, placing her lopsided hat back onto her head.

“Can I go inside?”

“What? No, you can’t. If I let you in, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a gatekeeper.”

There were only going to be a few options here…

[_] Challenge her to a spell card duel.
[_] Talk it out.
[_] Didn’t have a reason to go in. Just talk to Meiling for a bit before heading back.
[_] Custom
[X] Talk it out.

Explain what you know, mention that you don't know if Riku is there at all, or even whether she intends to steal more books or return them to the original owner(she might be doing that in return for lessons, right?).
[X] Talk it out.
[x] Didn’t have a reason to go in. Just talk to Meiling for a bit before heading back.

Stay out of the blast radius and chat with the friendly gatekeeper.
[x] Talk it out.
[x] Talk it out.
[X] Talk it out.
[X] Didn’t have a reason to go in. Just talk to Meiling for a bit before heading back.
[X] Talk it out.

Seems to be the most IC option.
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Marisa is the one who dragged me into this. Not a single reason as to why I should help her since she may have been lying to me to begin with. I was wise to her ‘tendencies’ like compulsive lying. What other stuff did she usually get up to? “Miss Meiling, Marisa is looking for Riku because she said she stole some of her books. Is this true? Do you know anything about this?”

“Miss Riku? Stealing? I don’t believe that,” the gatekeeper put a hand to her chin. “She’s returned Patchouli’s books before. That doesn’t sound like her at all.”

“Returned?” I cringed. My head hurt. “So Miss Riku is returning the books that Marisa stole?”

“Seems like it,” Meiling laughed to herself. “That Marisa had it coming with all the stuff she steals from Patchouli.”

“Is Riku still here?”

“I haven’t seen her leave,” Meiling shrugged. “But what are you doing here? Did you just come here to talk about that?” she said with an inquisitive tilt of her head.

“No, Marisa dragged me here against my will,” I tried to put any bad thoughts about Marisa out of my head. I had to do my best to not let my emotions cloud my judgement. If I went in there ‘guns-a-blazing’, I would have immediately regretted it. “I was just staying at the foot of the path toward the Hakurei Shrine.”

“Why?”

“To protect people that wanted to come worship,” I scratched the back of my head while casting a glance toward my conversation partner. “I was lead to believe that the reason why people didn’t come to worship was because of youkai,” I walked to Meiling’s side to lean against the wall near entrance gate. “But I don’t think that’s it. I haven’t had a single person show up… that was human,” I remembered that fairies often like playing around on the steps to the shrine. And there were a lot of youkai - but none that I couldn’t handle on my own.

“Shouldn’t you be heading into town to preach and stuff? Isn’t that what normally brings people in?”

“I thought about doing that, but I wouldn’t be any good at it. I get nervous when there are too many people around.”

“Didn’t take you for the shy type.”

I cracked a wry smile, “Really now?”

“You seem good enough when talking to one person. Should be the same for a crowd.”

“It… really isn’t. I mean you have to speak to all of them and get their attention. I don’t have it in me.”

“Bah,” Meiling clenched her palm. “You can’t say that! I mean, you have to at least TRY to do it.”

I swallowed, “I-I really don’t. Plus, if anyone should do it, it should be Master. I’m just an apprentice,” if you could even call me that at the time. The relationship between Reimu and myself was already complicated. Even after spending a year together we still treated each other the same.

“That shrine maiden doesn’t have it in her to be a ‘people person’. But I think you can do it! In fact, I can help you! I mean, Miss Sakuya can help you,” Meiling’s voice petered off. “I’m not… very good at this kind of thing.”

“But you’re giving me advice?” I had to giggle at that.

“Don’t laugh,” she made a pouting face. I straightened up then bowed in apology. “Just trying to help.”

“I appreciate it. Thank you for the advic-”

The ground shook.
Then a crash sounded.

“W-what was...?” Meiling bolted to the gate. She threw a hand out to open it up. Then she realized it was locked when the gate pushed back. After fiddling with the door for a good ten seconds, she finally managed to get it open. “That sounds like it came from the library!”

When Meiling resumed her panic, I just found myself lamenting whatever came next. “I’ll go with you.”

“Shouldn’t you be heading back home?”

“It’s probably Marisa,” I threw out a hand with three ofuda appearing. “She’s not a devil, but she’s best treated like one,” Riku did a good deed. There was no way that Marisa had any right to punish her for it.

“Harsh,” Meiling frowned. “Alright then, let’s go!” Meiling sprinted to the door with me following right behind her.
___________________________

The inside of the Scarlet Devil Mansion continues to confuse me even at present. Without proper guidance, I’d get lost in its winding halls and massive corridors. Luckily Meiling took the lead so we’d be able to find the library. At least that’s what I wanted to think but she got lost once or twice before we even found the entrance. There explosions sounding off inside sent shockwaves through the rest of the mansion. I honestly didn’t want to see what was happening to Patchouli’s library. It was undeserved considering Riku was only trying to do the right thing. Meiling looked at me. I nodded, wiping some nervous sweat off my brow. The two of us stormed into the room.

We got greeted by a brilliant yellow light.

“Hit the DECK!” Meiling tackled me to the ground.

“Ah! Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, but the door…” she looked back. The door was sent out into the hallway, pressed into the next wall over by the beam of light.

“Whoops, my bad!” I heard Marisa give a mock apology. I got up from the ground with my ofuda ready. Meiling got into what I thought looked like a kung-fu stance?

“You have a lot of nerve coming here, thief!”

“Thief? Hey, I’m a magician, get the class right,” the witch girl smiled while tilting her hat down. “Oh hey, you brought a cleric.”

I ignored Marisa’s quip and spoke, “We won’t let you get away with this, Marisa.”

“Get away with what?” she blinked. “Thought I brought you here to help me, not to- whoa!” a multi-colored ray of light shot down from the sky. Marisa just stepped a few inches to the side. “Almost got me there, brat!” she looked up into the sky. There was Riku in the air, standing on a broom with her hand held down. She wore a white glove with magic runes decorating the fabric. There was a witch hat there, too, but it was on the back of her neck held by a thin rope. “How long can you keep this up? You’re starting to look exhausted!”

“Don’t mock me,” Riku didn’t sound tired. Her raised hand burst with light, “Magic Sign,” the energy in her hand extended outward. “Meteoric Shower!” Stars shot forward from her palm. They were multi-colored like the beam that followed before. They spun and danced as they descended upon their target.

“Hey, what are you doing?! That’s mine!” Marisa sat on her broom, weaving through the onslaught of colorful stars. That was all I had to see to tell this fight was one-sided. The beam that blew the door down was meant for Riku. She dodged straight up into the air to avoid it then countered with her own assault.

“Ironic coming from you, Marisa,” another person entered the fight. The new girl had bags under their eyes and a look of contempt. It didn’t help that she wore pajamas. That was Patchouli Knowledge, the librarian of the Scarlet Devil Mansion.

“You wanna go too?” Marisa smiled.

“Why? The pitiable child up there can fight the battle for me,” Patchouli said while looking up at Riku. “Water Sign,” bubbles formed a chain from her hand all the way up to Riku. “Jelly Princess,” the spell card formed a spherical barrier around Riku. “That’s all I need to do.”

“You’re putting too much confidence in the kid,” Riku’s teacher continued smiling.

“We’ll see.”

Marisa frowned as Patchouli flew back to watch the battle continue, “You’ll give her a big head if you talk like that.”

“Not as big as yours, surely.”

“I’ll get you for that comment, when I’m done here,” Marisa locked eyes with Riku. “Come on down! Stop playing and get your spanking like a good girl!”

“I’m not into that kind of thing, Master Marisa,” Riku said, electricity building up in her right hand.

“Alright, show me what you’ve got. You get one more move then I’m ending this!” Marisa replied while dashing straight up into the air, riding her broom like a board.

“Luminous Sign,” the lightning arced out around her body. “A FLASH IN THE STORM!” her body became a streak. Riku flew straight down with blue stars flying off her body in every direction. They split off into smaller projectiles that fell to the ground like rain. Marisa didn’t show any fear. She plowed straight through while not even bothering to ready an attack of her own. Riku gunned straight for Marisa with her hand out. She just angled slightly to the left to avoid her student’s wrath. The secondary projectiles were easy enough to dodge with simple twists and turns.

“Not bad!”

“I’m not DONE!” Riku flipped, kicked off ground, causing a shockwave that threw me back into Meiling’s arms.

“O-oh, I’m sorry!”

“No biggie,” Meiling set me back down on my feet. “But who do you think's going to win this?”

“If Riku loses, then we’re just going to have to carry on the fight.”

“Hmmm,” Meiling probably wanted to ask why we weren’t stopping it now. Probably because it was Riku’s fight to have. Those two spend a lot of time together so it wasn’t my business to intervene. Not yet.

“I know you have it in you to try just a bit hard-AAAH!!” Marisa taunted just as Riku passed right by her nose. The teacher barely had time to respond. “Almos- WHOOOA!”

“LOVE SIGN,” Riku shouted as a large volume of magical energy surged into her hand. “MASTER-!”

“Wait, what! I didn’t teach you that yet!” Marisa said, raising her mini-Hakkero in preparation for the attack.

Riku grinned, “SPARK!” she threw the energy back. It threw her forward in a blur.

Marisa paled, “You sneaky-!” She reacted too late. Riku’s fist collided with her jaw. The force of the blow sent her spiraling to the ground. “Ghh,” she flipped in the air, screeching to a halt before she hit the floor. “Alright, I’ll fight seriously, I get it,” Marisa wiped the blood from her busted lip. “Don’t cry to me if you lose. Remember, you asked for this!”

Riku’s breathing turned ragged. Despite that she managed to speak, “I also asked for something other than mushrooms to eat, but you don’t deliver on your promises.”

“Then you’re not going to like what’s on the menu tonight!” Marisa raised the mini-Hakkero again. “And I’ll throw in a little present for your tenacity. I’ll show you how the real thing looks from the receiving end! Love Sign!” it was the moment of truth. Riku seemed intent on taking the blow. I clenched my hands in anticipation.

“MASTER SPARK!”

The building shook. The beam was larger than anything Riku put out. It was a deadly spiral of prismatic color. I wasn’t as amazed with it as I was with Reimu’s display. While Reimu’s spell cards carried a beauty to them, Marisa’s display was one of raw, uncontested power. It fit her blunt personality. Completely overtake whatever is in the way and move on.

“Refraction,” Riku threw something into the air. It spun in the air as it came down to meet the Master Spark’s full charge. “MIRROR FORCE!” She threw a mirror with eight tags tagged on each end. The tags started to emit light as they extended out from the rim of the mirror. The Master Spark curved inward toward the mirror’s surface as if it was being sucked in. Once the object was stressed enough, it broke. The attack was dispersed into eight smaller rays that curved straight back toward Marisa. The central beam dispersed with the shards of glass.

“WHOA, WHAT!” Marisa screamed at her student while maneuvering through the eight beams of light. They drilled through the floor before exploding in a grand spectacle. “WHO TAUGHT YOU THAT?”

“Riku,” Patchouli looked up. “You are wasted on this woman.”


“Shut up, you!”

[_] If Riku’s not able to carry on the fight, then I’ll do it for her.
[_] It seems like Riku’s tired. If she falls off the broom, that could hurt.
[_] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.
[_] Custom
[X] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.

Before we interfere it might be better to know more about what's been happening.
[X] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.

CHA build go time.
[X] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.
[X] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.
[x] Talk to Patchouli about all of this. I want the full story.
[x] If Riku can't carry on I will

WE won't get stronger staying at the sidelines. Besides, she should be the star of the new generation!
[x] If Riku’s not able to carry on the fight, then I’ll do it for her.

Isn't the CHA build overdone on THP?
I consider talking first a WIS build choice, something that's not done nearly as often as CHA.
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I had an idea of what was going on here since I heard it from Meiling. However that was still only a part of it. “Miss Patchouli,” I approached her like looking up at Riku to make sure she was okay. “Can I ask what happened?”

“Oh, it’s the illegitimate daughter,” Patchouli looked over my shoulder to Meiling. “What are you doing here?” I still wasn’t used to being called that. Still not. Instead of dignifying the title with a response, I just answered her question with a point to Marisa.

“Another victim,” the librarian gave me an apologetic bow.

“It’s not your fault, really,” I waved my hands. “C-can you tell me what happened here? I want the full story since I doubt Marisa’s capable of telling the truth.”

“Perceptive,” still no idea if that was sarcasm or praise. Patchouli took another glance at Marisa then looked back at me. What she told me next was a story about a break in, Marisa, and Riku. The story began a few months ago. It was a usual day at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Patchouli was doing research as per the usual. Then there was the usual explosion accompanied by Marisa breaking into the library unannounced.

“Usual… explosion? This happens a lot?”

Patchouli nodded, “You get used to them.”

Marisa entered the room, swooped down and started picking out what she wanted from the high shelves of the library. Meanwhile Riku was wandering the spacious store of knowledge without any idea of what she was doing. The girl started grabbing books and reading them off the shelves that she could reach. Riku sat down and meticulously studied them until she thought it was going to be time for them to go.

“Marisa left her there,” Patchouli said while closing a book she picked up.

“I didn’t think she was that forgetful,” I frowned.

“More like self-centered.”

Patchouli said she happened upon Riku around that time. It was a new face, so her curiosity about the girl outweighed any concern for the explosion. Apparently this was just the distraction that Marisa needed to get out of the library. Riku started asking questions to Patchouli who answered them without a second thought. The discussion grew into an exchange of ideas between a magician and an apprentice.

“You’re friends?”

Patchouli shrugged, “Colleagues, but even that may be pushing it. Her education was lacking despite being under Marisa’s tutelage.”

“I see,” I nodded. “So you say that, but did you do anything about it? You don’t have to respond since I don’t feel this is any of my-”

“I tutored her when I could,” Patchouli floated upward, placing the book in hand back on the shelf. “It could have been thanks for her returning what was rightfully mine, but I suppose I was more motivated by pity than anything else.”

“Pity, huh?” I took a look at Marisa.

“How!? You were just this obsessive KID!” Marisa said. By this point Riku had sat down on top of the book shelf, looking down at Marisa with a coy smile. “Get down here! We’ve got some talking to do!”

“No,” Riku said flatly.

“Don’t make me come up there!”

Riku pat the open spot next to her, “Come on, then.” Marisa growled, got on her broom and flew straight up into the air. The cocky student leaped out of sight, bursting away on her own broom.

With that the incident between Master and student blossomed into full-blown war. I didn’t want any hand in it so I asked Meiling to lead me out of the mansion.
___________________________

The next day seemed to be way colder than the last. I woke up early in the morning to go to the foot of the steps to meet anyone who would come to worship. Of course, before I could leave, Reimu stopped me because I forgot to prepare breakfast. I managed to make a nice omelet for the two of us from what meager groceries we had. I talked to Reimu about maybe starting a farm since the land near the shrine was fertile enough. She dismissed the idea because youkai might just wander on in to cause trouble. I just said that youkai would cause trouble regardless if we had a food patch or not. Even then she still vehemently denied the idea. I gave up trying to convince her otherwise.

Now the two of us are sitting under the kotatsu.

“I wonder if I could borrow that bird,” Reimu said, her arms put out like she’s crucified.

“What bird?” I knew I was going to get lost in the conversation.

“The hell bird.”

“What are you even talking about?”

“Use her as one of those things. What are they called? A hotter?”

“A heater.”

“Yeah, a heater,” Reimu perked up. “I mean it’s too cold in here, right?”

“I’m not bothered by it at all,” in fact the only reason I was sitting under the kotatsu was because Reimu was.

“That’s because you’re a freak.”

I sighed, “What do you want me to do about it? Unless you want me to build a fireplace?” I couldn’t even think of where to put one.

“Good plan,” my teacher fell back to the ground, using her hands as a pillow. “Try to get it done tonight.”

“Master,” I slid up from under the covers of the table and slid my sandals on. “I’ll build a fire outside. Is there an ax I can use to chop wood?”

“Uh…”

“What did you do with the one I borrowed from Rinnosuke?”

“It’s around here. Somewhere,” she shrugged. “Maybe the shed?”

“Maybe?” I walked outside. I moved from the entrance of the shrine to the shed in the back. After a little searching I found the hand ax. I was surprised that Reimu remembered where she put it. After that I moved outside to start searching for some dry wood. I made quick work of collecting twigs from all the dead trees near the lake behind the shrine.

“Hey! Reimu’s kid! Want a drink!?” My nostrils flared. I had to wince because of the strong scent of sake. I turned on my heel, seeing a short horned girl with a large gourd.

“Suika?” I huffed. “What are you doing here?”

“To party. What other reason is there?”

“I’m sort of busy. Can you go bother Master at the shrine?”

“Bother?” she leaned in close. I curved backward so she didn’t get straight up in my face. “Come on, we’re friends, aren’t we?”

“Y-yes, we are, but you’re really-” I began to lose my balance. I reached up to grab a branch of the tree to steady myself. The branch broke. I tumbled to the ground.

“Then drink up!” she held the gourd out toward me.

I reached out to the gourd to take a swig. The burning sensation died down as soon as it made contact with my tongue. Suika took hold of the gourd and started forcing it down. I had to struggle not to choke. “Gghk,” I coughed when she pulled it back. “The same as ever, aghh.”

“Still don’t like it?” Suika said while pulling it back.

“It’s not that I don’t like it,” I stood up while grabbing the ax again. “It’s just that it doesn’t do a whole lot for me.”

“Still haven’t gotten drunk?”

“No.”

“Do we need another session?”

“No, definitely not. Please, no!” I thought back to the first time that I met Suika. I originally thought she was just a strange horned girl that liked to drink a lot. Little did I know that she was a rambunctious demon who had an obsession with parties. I experienced it first hand when she tried to get me to drink. When she realized that I had a hard time even getting close to drunk, she ‘scheduled’ a surprise party for me during my first flower viewing festival. It was more of an experiment to get me off my rocker. It failed miserably, but everyone had a good time. Except me.

She shrugged when I said no, “One of these days, Yume. One of these days.”

I felt a chill run up my spine. I eventually shooed Suika way to the shrine while I finished gathering the wood for the fire. I walked back to see Reimu out on the porch having sake with Suika. It was nearing the end of the day and the sun had already went down, so this was per the usual at the Hakurei Shrine. “So Master, do you still want that fire?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” she tilted her head to the side. “Get to it! My feet are freezing.”

I grabbed a fire bowl from nearby and set it on the porch. It wasn’t really a ‘fire bowl’, but it was repurposed as one. I started rubbing the sticks together to start a flame. Took long enough but I managed to ignite it. I threw some grass and leaves on it to get the fire going. Suika walked over to pour some sake on the fire. I managed to stop her by consenting to another party. I’d rather go through that than watch my own home burn to the ground.

The rest of the night rolled on as you would expect. Suika slept on the front porch. Reimu slept near the fire-pit all snuggled up. I found myself staring off into space. The moment I began to drift off, though…

“PSssst!” I was thrown awake by a new voice.

“What?” I mumbled. I got up from the ground, making sure not to wake Reimu or Suika up, and headed in the direction of the voice. “Riku?” Sure enough, she was there wearing her witch hat and holding her broom to the side. Though the thing that stood out the most was the bag full of books slung over her back. “What are you doing here?”

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

“A favor?” I felt like I knew where this was going to go. Something about returning books to Patchouli or some other third party. This would normally be a good deed that I supported, but Reimu was best friends with Marisa. Whatever I did could come back to haunt me. “What is it?”

“Teacher has eyes.”

“I, uh,” I scratched the back of my head. “Eyes? Come again?”

“She’s wise to me now.”

“You’re… I mean, you returning books to people? Of course she’d be after that fight yesterday.”

“I need your help, child of Hakurei.”

“I’m not my Master’s kid. How many times do I have to tell you?”

Riku ignored me. Her reality was more appealing to her, “I need to return these books to Alice Margatroid in the Forest of Magic. I snuck out from Teacher’s grip tonight to seek your aid. Will you help me?”

“I…” I looked toward the shrine then back to Riku. I heaved a heavy sigh, and said…

[_] “... sure, I’ll help you.”
[_] “... this isn’t my problem, Riku.”
[_] “... it depends, what are you going to have me do?”
[_] Custom
[X] “... it depends, what are you going to have me do?”

The obvious answer to this is carrying books, but I want to ask anyways.
[x] “... sure, I’ll help you.”
[x] “... sure, I’ll help you.”
-[x] "Do try to leave a donation one of these days though, would you?"

Helping is what a Priestess should do, right?
[X] “... it depends, what are you going to have me do?”

If it is something simple like carry the books then yes. If it is something more risky then maybe no.
[X] “... it depends, what are you going to have me do?”
[x] “... sure, I’ll help you.”
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“Sure, I’ll help you,” I couldn’t turn Riku away after seeing how Marisa treated her, so I lent a hand. “But could you drop by and leave a donation every once in awhile? Not for me, but for my Master,” I let out a heavy breath.

“The shrine maiden is pretty pathetic.”

I laughed in self-derision, “A bit… but she does her job well enough.”

Riku squinted.

“As well as she can. Anyway, what exactly do you want me to do?”

“Return these books to Alice Margatroid while I distract Teacher.”

“It’s the middle of the night. Are you sure Miss Alice will be awake?”

“She’s expecting me. Just say I sent for you, she’ll accept them.”

Something told me that it wasn’t going to be that simple. Even if I was hesitant, I still accepted the mission Riku gave me. After one last check on Reimu and Suika, the two of us departed to the Forest of Magic.
___________________________

The Forest of Magic was a place I could never get used to visiting. Even after getting used to the fumes and toxins, it still has that foreboding feel to it. My paranoia had me thinking the trees could come to life and start chasing me or the mushrooms could sprout legs and latch themselves onto my face. I’m still not sure how Riku and Marisa can find it comfortable to live there. Riku once told me that it’s the best place in Gensokyo to go if you ever wanted to be a magician. I understand that.

I’m probably complaining so much because I remember sitting in a bush waiting for Riku to commence her plan. A twig was pressed straight up against my butt and it made it hard to keep quiet. I had to suffer through it for the better part of half-an-hour before I heard Marisa and Riku blast off into the air after a shouting match.

“They’re gone,” I stood up from the bush while breaking off the offending twig. “Okay,” I breathed in while floating off toward Alice’s house. It was a fair distance away from Marisa’s own, but you could still call them neighbors. I cleaned myself up before knocking on her door. It opened as soon as I lifted my knuckle from the door.

“Rik-” Alice stopped midsentence. “You’re Reimu’s apprentice. Yume?”

Should make a note, Alice was one of the few people who didn’t buy into the rumors that Marisa spread around. I reacted as you’d expect when she said that. “Y-yes! I’m not Master’s child! Thank you!”

“Why are you thanking me?” the dollmaker placed a hand on her forehead. “Who would even believe something stupid like that?”

“Most people I know,” I sulked. “But that’s not why I’m here!” I pulled myself back up. “Riku asked me to return these books to you,” I held out the bag toward Alice. She gave the bag a once over before taking them from me.

“Why didn’t Riku bring them?”

“Marisa caught her returning books to Patchouli yesterday. She dragged me along to help look for her because Marisa thought she went missing, but I wasn’t really needed...”

Alice pulled her hand down to pinch the bridge of her nose, “So Riku’s being punished because her teacher’s a moron.”

“It seems like it.”

Alice set the books down inside then leaped off into the night sky. I knew she was going after Marisa to administer her own brand of ‘justice’. I instinctively followed after her since I was curious on how this was going to go. I was here because of my own decision this time, not because I was forced on a topsy-turvy broom ride. Best to see it through to the end.
___________________________

The stars in the sky mixed with the color of danmaku. The teacher-student pair weren’t too far away from Alice’s house since we were able to see their frenzied fight off in the distance. Alice moved with purpose, leaving me gawking at the light show. I snapped out of my trance and followed after Alice.

“Maybe I should’ve spanked you a bit harder!” Marisa yelled at Riku who didn’t seem very fazed.

“Teacher is a deviant,” Riku sighed. “Pushing your fetishes on me. How low.” This was just a repeat of the fight back at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, down to the banter. I thought about throwing myself into the mix just to end it fast.

“That’s enough,” luckily Alice did it before I did. “This farce is over. Riku, come with me.”

“Alice?” Riku tried to look toward Alice, but Marisa took that as a sign to charge forward. That would be the case if there weren’t dolls surrounding her with sharpened spears.

“W-whoa! Hey! Alice! What gives?” Marisa said, turning toward the perpetrator.

“Did you not hear me, Marisa?” Alice pulled back on the string wrapped between her fingers. The dolls moved closer. Marisa had to lean back to avoid getting her face skewered. “I don’t like repeating myself.”

“Loud and clear! Loud AND clear!” Marisa did her best to keep her cool. She had a smile on her face, but there was sweat forming on her brow. “Just pull your dolls back!” The dolls didn’t move despite the witch’s plea.

“I didn’t need your help, Alice. I can handle Teacher myself.” Riku said while looking Alice in the eye.

“I didn’t ask for backtalk. I asked you to get behind me,” Alice said with her eyes still on Marisa. “If you want to fight your student because she returned what you ‘borrowed’, then I’ll take have to take her place.”

“Aaaaaah,” Marisa regained her composure the best she could. “Why are you even getting involved?” the blades moved another inch closer. “Hey! You know what I mean! Why does this matter to you?”

“Your student had to seek outside help to even grasp the basics of magic theory. You are more than capable of teaching her, so why aren’t you?”

“I didn’t think she seriously wanted to learn! I thought she was just this kid looking for a new trick,” Marisa’s words caused Riku to bite her lip.

“That’s what you think of me, Teacher?”

“Well, yeah, I mean, I know I’m wrong now, but you followed me around just screaming ‘teach me magic’. What was I supposed to think?”

“You were the only one I could ask.”

“Huh?”

“Everyone else just looked down on me. It was just a joke,” Riku closed her eyes. “I looked everywhere. When I found you, Teacher, I thought my worries were over.”

“Why me? I mean, there are-”

“Because I heard you were like me,” Riku couldn’t keep it in. Tears started down her cheeks. “You looked for a teacher when you were a kid. You wanted to learn, but you were turned away at every opportunity. You left the village behind to pursue your dream,” she shook her head. “You must have been happy when you finally found that someone. I felt the same when I found you, Teacher. I felt like the world opened up.”

“Hey,” Marisa maneuvered through Alice’s barrier to get to Riku. “Magician’s don’t cry. It’s embarrassing,” Riku sniffled. Marisa scratched the back of her head, “You are still a kid. Guess I’m asking for a bit too much,” she sighed. “I’m sorry. I have some learning to do myself. Alright, kid, from this day forward… we’re going to do this seriously. I’ll be your teacher and you’ll be the student. I don’t want you running off so you can pick up bad habits from Alice and Patches. SO that means no running away again! Got that?” Marisa ruffled Riku’s hair.

Riku managed to dry her tears. She nodded.

“So that means I won’t be getting my book’s back?” Alice said, pulling her dolls back.

“You will when I die!” Marisa said, putting an arm around Riku’s shoulder.

Alice shrugged, “I suppose that’s fine. We have all the time in the world.”

I smiled at the happy turn out, “I should get going.” I started flying back toward the shrine. I closed the book on the warring student and teacher so I could get some sleep. I returned to the shrine to see Reimu and Suika still lying about. I laughed then lied down in the futon to sleep.

“Where’d you run off to?” Reimu spoke up while I finally started to relax.

“A friend wanted me for something.”

“This late?” she poked her head up then went back down. “Should’ve just told them no.”

“Couldn’t bring myself to do that,” I closed my eyes.

“Huh. If you say soooo,” Reimu’s voice died down till she fell back asleep.

“Hey, Yume,” I opened my eyes to an unwelcome sight. Suika stood over me with her gourd. “It’s time to party!”

I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.
___________________________

The night was a slog to get through. Between Suika and my own inability to relax, it was just unpleasant. “Ugh,” I woke later than usual. Suika thought it was a good idea to use my stomach as a pillow. I had to carefully push her head off of my waist or I risked puncturing my intestines. I moved to the front of the shrine. I found myself walking over to the donation box, sneaking a pick inside.

“What the…”

There were a few yen coins inside. A shadow crossed overhead. I was too slow to see who they were. I still found myself smiling as they vanished off into the horizon toward the Forest of Magic. I poked my head back into the room where Reimu slept.

“Hey Master, someone donated!”
___________________________

The autumn passed. And once spring, my training with Master kicked up a notch.

And by training, I meant trying to beat her in a spell card duel. The spell card that I once thought was beautiful filled me with nothing but dread.

“Fantasy Seal!”

“Ah!” I looked up. The colored orbs spiraled in on me.

Every time I leaped to the side, they hit me.
Every time I flew up, they hit me.
No matter what I did, they hit me.

This scenario played out day in and day out. My clothes end up burned to a crisp, I’m covered in bruises, and frustrated. Reimu was relentless when it came to ‘helping me improve’. I got better little by little, but never enough to deal with Fantasy Seal.

“Can we try something easier, Master?”

“Oh, sure,” she smiled.

I looked back at her, “Thank yo-”

“Dream Sign!”

“Wait, that’s not-!”

“Evil-Sealing Circle!”

The paper charms went out, creating a spherical barrier that covered every possible exit sighed since I knew how it would end.

More explosions.
More pain.
More anger.

“If you don’t like it, do something about it,” she said to me while finishing off a rice ball.

I grit my teeth. What could I even do? Adapt. So I tried that. Dodging, weaving, grazing through. I got further, but it still wasn’t enough.

I seen the same spell cards over and over, so I tried emulating them.

“Dream Sign,” I threw out the paper charms. They created the same sphere that Reimu did. “Evil-Sealing CIRCLE!” I ended up causing the charms to explode rather than firing bullets like I was meant to.

This was quickly followed by a Fantasy Seal to the face.

This all continued until one day…

“Heeyyy, Reimu!” Marisa said that just as it was time for another slaughter session. “Do you ever get tired of a stationary target?” she flew overhead and descended just in front of the shrine.

Reimu looked at her with a tilt of the head, “What are you doing here?”

“Came to propose something.”

“You worded that weird,” she frowned. “But what is it?”

“Our students will duke it out!”

“Yours wins,” Reimu said that while casting a glance toward me. I had just finished cleaning the front of the shrine before we were going to start our ‘training session’ for the day.

“She’s got no faith in you, Yume!” Marisa said something that I already sort of knew. “But what do you say, Reimu?”

“Sure, whatever, gives me time to finish eating,” Reimu pulled out shrimp she had been eating earlier. No idea where she kept that.

“Where’s Riku?” I asked the obvious. “Did she agree to this?”

“I did,” Riku walked up the steps of the shrine. I assumed she didn’t want to ride here with Marisa. “I want to see how your training is coming along,” if this was consensual, then I suppose I have to...

[_] … accept.
[_] … refuse.
[_] … talk about how I haven’t received training, just beat downs.
[_] Custom
[X] … accept.
and
[X] … talk about how I haven’t received training, just beat downs.

Try not to be too harsh about it, it's obviously because Reimu has no idea how to teach. Just don't pretend everything is going fine.
[x] … accept.
[x] … talk about how I haven’t received training, just beat downs.

Come on Reimu, spamming Fantasy Seal at a beginner is just mean.
[X] … accept.
[x] … accept.
[x] … talk about how I haven’t received training, just beat downs.
[x] Accept
[x] Talk about beatdowns

Once (if) we get crushed into the dust, I guess we'll have a reason to convince Reimu to change her methods.

I wonder if the 'training' is a way to hone reflexes and spiritual power or just Reimu's way to convince her to give up.
It doesn't seem orthodox, but Shrine Maidens are 88% natural talent. I bet she received the same training when she was young.
[x] … accept.
[x] … talk about how I haven’t received training, just beat downs.
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Riku made the decision to test her powers against me. The only thing I could do is respond in kind. “Okay,” I grinned. “I’m not sure how I’ll do, but I’ll at least try,” I slid a glance toward Reimu as I walked forward. “Can’t be much worse than the ‘training’ I’ve been receiving. Isn’t that right, Master?”

“Uh huh,” Reimu already had the stick in her mouth as she took a seat on the shrine’s porch.

“It looked more like a beat down,” Riku flew up into the air.

“It was,” I matched Riku’s altitude. “But who knows? Maybe it did me some good.”

“You sound like an abuse victim,” Riku said. “Do you want more time to prepare? Are you okay with doing this now?”

“I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” I said while taking in a deep breath. The fight was going to go the same way no matter how much time I had to prepare. My own ‘powers’ weren’t the same sort that Riku’s were. Where she depended on materials and components, I used paper charms and danmaku shots. Our innate abilities were going to decide the victor of the fight. To be honest, I was nervous. I felt completely mismatched when compared to Riku’s own powers. I’ve seen her fights with Marisa before. She was fast on her feet, a prodigy, and she’s capable of even having a small chance against her own teacher. I was lucky enough to even last a second against my own.

“Start when this pebble hits the ground!” Marisa said while tossing a small rock into the air. Riku and I watched it carefully. We sprung into action once the pebble echoed off the cobblestone path. She opened up with a series of spreading yellow stars while approaching from the ground. I flew higher into the air, making sure to keep my eyes on her. Dodging was easy enough since there were large openings between the shots. Riku narrowed her eyes and swung her arm out. The yellow stars mixed with smaller blue ones. Dodging became more of a hassle, but it was doable. I kept pressing higher into the air so I had more room to dodge between the colorful onslaught.

“Not bad,” Riku said while tightening her gloves. “Magic Sign!” she balanced herself on her broom. “Meteoric SHOWER!” prismatic stars burst from her hand. They spun fast while homing in on me. Even increasing my speed wasn’t enough to get away. I tried to lose the stars by juking to the right and left. They didn’t show any signs of slowing down. I floored it again. I started firing off my own charms at Riku who was perceptive enough to dodge. The fight just started it and things were already difficult.

“Tch,” I closed my eyes. Using a spell card on the defensive was like admitting defeat. “Dream Sign!” I let loose a wave of paper charms that sliced through the entirety of Riku’s star shower. The charms fell into position, forming a perfect sphere around Riku. “Evil-Sealing CIRCLE!”

I screwed it up.
Again.

The charms all exploded without unleashing the projectiles they were meant to. I used this opportunity to throw out more charms while putting more distance between us.

“Luminous Sign!” Riku shouted. “A FLASH IN THE STORM!” She became lightning. I descended toward the ground as she went right over me. Smaller bullets flew off of Riku’s glimmering body as she passed overhead. I thought it was difficult to deal with the first wave of attacks. This spell card was something else. Riku’s darting body came in and out in an aerial figure eight. Blue particles swayed through the air while carried by a light wind. There were thousands of them. I had been so used to seeing the bullet hell that Reimu threw at me that I was more focused on dodging than gawking. I angled myself down then grazed through some of the bullets. I dove straight for the tree line below. Riku’s spell card wore out so she was forced to chase after me while firing off her usual danmaku bullets.

I drifted through the dying forest, letting the trees absorb the problematic projectiles. If it were someone else fighting Riku, there were plenty of options that’d be available. Overwhelming firepower, setting traps, dodging through everything to land a good hit. None of those were things I was capable of. So, considering the matter at hand, I...

[_] … charged straight on while trying to get a hit in.
[_] … kept running through the forest. I’ll have a better time dodging in here.
[_] … find somewhere to hide and sneak attack.
[_] … gave up. No point in continuing.
[x] … charged straight on while trying to get a hit in.

Let's get this over with.
[X] … kept running through the forest. I’ll have a better time dodging in here.
[x] … charged straight on while trying to get a hit in.
[x] … find somewhere to hide and sneak attack.

Marisa loves to not play by the rules, true... But she wouldn't use tricks against a weaker opponent. Besides, even if Riku is, somehow, used to tricks like this, it is the only option that can succeed: attacking head on when you were just forced to use trees for cover is ridiculous and just running away without attacking won't do. Specially when Yume's spellcards have, uh, such a limited range.
[x] … find somewhere to hide and sneak attack.
[x] … find somewhere to hide and sneak attack.
Sorry folks, have been having internet issues this past Sunday and today. Will get back to posting hopefully soon.
Update! We're back on for posting. Should be one on later tonight.
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Fighting up front was just a death sentence. I was forced to find cover which meant that just running straight at Riku for a lucky blow was suicide. I thought back to what little training I had in dealing with an up close opponent. There was one move that came to mind. “Where did you run to?” Riku mumbled to herself while still searching for me. I kept high in the air while making sure to stay behind the thicker trees that were further away from the shrine pathway. Where was she going to go? I knew at the time that Riku was fast. She excelled in getting close to deliver a hard finish. Me? I was good at absolutely nothing. My reactions were still poor. Whatever sixth sense a Hakurei Shrine maiden was supposed to have was lost on me. I had my brain. That was all. I flew deeper into the forest while taking note of Riku’s location. The witch girl looked around, tracing the tree line for any sign that I’d passed through.

I chose to move higher up into a tree nearby. I waited til the right moment to jump out. I threw myself down with my leg out. “Divine Arts!” I shouted the name of the maneuver as per the spell card rules. “Wind God Kick!” energy gathered in my leg as I swung down in an arc. My foot made contact with Riku’s face.

I managed to hit her. It was underhanded, yes, and I regret it now - but the fact was that I managed to hit an opponent that was far stronger than I was. I even botched the technique since I knew it was a combination of four aerial kicks that finished with a powerful stomp. It wasn’t bad for just an imitation and performing under pressure. Least that’s how I rationalized it so I wouldn’t beat myself up about it later.

Riku’s body arced into the air and off her broom. She hit the ground with leaves crunching under her body. “That was a bit underhanded,” she got up while wiping a little blood from her chin.

I remained in the air after finishing the failed Wind God Kick. I pressed my advantage. I began by throwing off a barrage of paper charms. She dove to the side to avoid them. Her hand reached out as the broom made its way back around, back into her hand. I kicked off the tree behind me to close the distance. She took off into the air so I ended up grabbing the broom by the bristles. I placed a paper charm on the back while letting go. The second she flew off, the moment it exploded. Riku twirled in the air while desperately trying to regain her balance.

This was another chance.

[_] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.
[_] Get back to setting up another trap. This time something different.
[_] Let her regain balance, this is a bit much.
[_] Custom
>>39113
[_] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.
[x] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.

May as well keep pushing as long as she's off balance.
[x] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.
[x] Press on

Another sneak attack is useless now that she's aware and letting go would be the right choice only in a real fight. Here, it is pointless.
[X] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.
[X] Get back to setting up another trap. This time something different.

We're not strong. We don't have talent. We're weak. Our skills are pretty poor. We even managed to screw up the Kick.

But we're crafty, and capable of thinking ahead a bit. We aren't any good in a straight fight, so we'll refuse to make it one.
[X] Press on the attack. Take no prisoners. Go all out.

We have to keep up the momentum. Backing out now means handing over the initiative.
Guess this one died
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39270
Hakurei Apprentice will continue now that my semester of college has ended!

Expect a post tomorrow afternoon.
>>39270
Hooray!
>>39270
Neat, but could you give some warning next time you decide to stop existing?
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39279
I had to press on the attack. Despite the guilt of having to resort to tricks, what little pride I had pushed me forward. There had to be an attack I could use. Something potent with enough force to lay Riku out onto the ground. The image of the orbs entered my mind. The first time I came to Gensokyo and met Reimu. The orbs that responded to my touch. For some reason, the image kept showing up in my mind. I subconsciously channeled their power as I drew closer to Riku.

A blue sphere started spinning in hand, growing larger each passing moment. “Holy Relic!” I said the name, causing the sphere to grow even bigger. “Ying-Yang ORB!”

Riku got her balance back on the broom, but it was too late to run away. She reached for her mini-Hakkero. She threw it up between herself and the advancing Ying-Yang Orb. “Luminous Sign,” magical energy filtered into the center of the eight-sided focus. “BURST SPARK!” the yellow light was expelled as fast as it was absorbed. It wasn’t like Marisa’s Master Spark - a straight prismatic beam that burned through everything in its path. It was a fizzling attack that was made as a point-blank shattering blow than a ranged attack. If I didn’t know any better, I would assume she just came up with it on the spot.

The orb and the burst collided. Riku flew back into a tree with her broom swirling in the air after her. I slid on the ground, doing my best to keep my footing. I hit a twig and fell straight onto my rear. “Aaaah,” I shook my head while trying to stand up. Keyword ‘trying’ since I fell forward. My arms went out to keep me balanced. A trail of blood went from my leg down to my feet. “Not a-again,” I fell forward. I tried to stand tall, but the burning pain in my leg wouldn’t let me.

I heard the air shift, marking Riku’s approach. I did my best to hide my bleeding leg by forcing myself into the air via flight. “T-that was some quick thinking. Good reflexes, Riku,” I offered my compliment with a strained smile. Apparently Riku wasn't having any of my deceit. Her eyes went straight to my red leg.

“Why is there a stick through your leg?”

“What?” I looked down to wheres he was pointing. Yes, she was right, there was a twig penetrating my calf. Straight through the middle, in fact. “Oh,” I landed on the ground then bent down to grab both ends of the stick. I applied pressure going up do a clean break. Then I tore some of my shrine maiden uniform off to fasten a bandage. I made sure to wrap it tight so it didn’t bleed. When I got finished, I looked up at Riku. Her face was pale and it looked like she wanted to vomit. “What’s wrong?”

“...”

“Riku? Miss Riku?” I said while limping over. “Are you okay?” I waved my hand in front of her face.

“Does… this happen a lot?”

“On occasion,” I nodded. “Why?”

“... Do you know what a barrier is?”

“Yeah, I have one up now.”

“You… are joking, right?” Riku tilted her head to the side. “Then that shouldn’t happen.”

“Y-yeah,” I scratched the back of my head. I was embarrassed. No matter what I did to Riku in that fight, the only lasting damage I managed to do was a kick to the face. Through physical contact, not through my own danmaku bullets. I sighed while looking down at the ground. “Well you win, Riku. I’m the one who got injured so that means you win.”

“Your master is buffoon. Find another teacher.”

I froze up. She was right, my teacher was really bad in how she taught me. Not explicitly in how she treats me now. I mean, it felt like she was actually putting a little effort into it as of late. “I’ve tried,” my shoulders sagged. “Master either shuts it down after coming to get me, or nobody is willing to take me on. There isn’t another Hakurei shrine maiden to learn from. I’m sort of alone in this.”

Riku sighed, “Is that how you feel?”

“...” I stayed quiet.

“You have a mouth, so use it. Say words.”

“I don’t really have a whole lot to say,” I smiled.

“Not to me,” Riku said while pointing off at the shrine. “But to Reimu?”

“She doesn’t listen to anything I say. It’s a whole lot of wasted breath.”

“Have you tried talking to someone else?”

“... N-no, not really.”

“Then try.”

“Who do I ask?”

“People,” Riku said that with her usual dry tone. I figured that was all the help she was going to give me. A guiding hand in the right direction. “The first person that comes to mind is probably the right answer.”

I instantly thought about the person who brought me to Gensokyo. Yukari Yakumo, the person responsible for my being here and the creation of the Border itself. “... Okay, I will.”

No use arguing against her because she was right. If Reimu wasn’t doing her job as well as she should, I had to find an alternative. There had to be someone else who was capable of teaching me.
_________________________________________

The two of us went back to the shrine grounds. I made sure to remove the bandage before we headed back. Riku looked at my healed leg with a quirked brow, but she didn’t say anything. The two of us got back, and Marisa began gloating that her student beat Reimu’s. I didn’t say much of anything and neither did Riku. I sat on the front porch of the shrine, looking down at the freshly swept front walkway.

“You coming inside?” Reimu put her head out of the sliding door. “You’ll get cold.”

“I’m fine.”

“Oh, right,” she frowned for a second. “Don’t stay up too late.”

“I won’t,” I said while putting on a smile. The truth was I never felt tired even after long days like this. Though the fact that she was worried about me made me happy. The sun started setting over the horizon. The sky got darker and my breath became visible. I thought about the days back home., feigning to be ‘cold’ just so others wouldn’t think of me as strange. It never worked. People would always find something to criticize.

I found myself nodding off as time went by. I eventually slump over onto … someone’s lap. I turned my head up to see the smiling gap youkai. “You seem to be having a hard time.”

“... Mmhmm,” I don’t bother getting up. I just stare up at the shrine pavilion while the night lulls me to sleep.

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” Yukari’s voice felt comforting. Not sure why, since she only dropped by once every blue moon. It was different from the haphazard chaos that made up my daily life in Gensokyo. This was the closest thing I could relate the word ‘motherly’ too. A soft, caring touch. Of course, most of that came down to what I ‘wanted’ to think of it as, and not what it actually was.

[_] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.
[_] Keep the problem to yourself.
[_] Custom
[x] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.
[X] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher
[X] Keep the problem to yourself.
[x] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.

Reimu may mean well, but she sucks as a teacher. No doubt about it.
[x] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.
[X] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.

One of my favourite ongoing stories is back, yes!
And I agree with >>39285. Sorry Reimu, but your methods are not the best.
[X] Tell Yukari about wanting to find another teacher.
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I couldn’t keep it bottled up inside. I knew that I had to do something about this. I had to get better as a shrine maiden. “Miss Yukari, I don’t think…” I searched for the right words to say. I wanted to put it delicately. Reimu was being more considerate than before, actually putting in a tinge of effort to teach me. It wasn’t wrong of me to criticize her, but part of me was indebted to her. I wouldn’t have a home if it wasn’t for her. “I don’t think Master’s doing a good job. I mean, I appreciate everything she’s doing for me… it’s just-”

“She expects you to be her.”

“Huh?”

“She expects you to be a natural. Obviously, that isn’t the case, correct?” Yukari said while twirling her fingers through my hair.

“Y-yeah,” I nodded. “She expects everything to be done the first time in. It’s like she doesn’t know what it means to ‘teach’.”

“What does it mean to teach?”

Did I know the answer to that? I only ever went to the elementary school near the orphanage. The teachers there were usually kind and willing to help a struggling student. Reimu didn’t emulate that in the slightest. She was always blunt, never offering any words of help or encouragement beyond ‘get up, do it again’. “Helping someone learn,” I closed my eyes. “That’s it, right?”

“Yes. That’s the issue,” Yukari said with a frown. “Reimu expects you to ‘know’ everything already. As it came to her when she was a child, she expects much of the same from you.”

“Did you think this would happen when you… first brought me here?”

“I had more faith in her back then,” a lamenting sigh. “But I suppose that means we just have to find someone who can nudge Reimu in the right direction.”

“D-does someone like that exist?”

Yukari smiled.
_________________________________________

The next morning began with me preparing breakfast. I made the usual morning breakfast of rice. Afterward I went out to begin sweeping the grounds before Reimu woke up. A strong breeze passed over the shrine grounds. It was powerful enough to make my clothes flutter about. Next a large shadow flew overhead. The first instinct was to think it was Marisa since this is how she visits the shrine all the time. That theory went out the window with the sound of beating wings.

I found myself staring at the large eagle descending on the stone path. Whatever words I was going to say died in my throat. A figure leaped from the top of the bird onto the ground. “Where’s Reimu?”

“In the shrine…?” I pointed. The mysterious figure nodded to me in thanks before walking straight past me. They were dressed in a purple sweater and short green skirt. The fashion was ‘modern’, but I could tell this person was from Gensokyo. “C-can I ask what you’re doing here?” I tried not to be rude to them. The entrance was sudden, but I was just as much of a resident here as Reimu was. An intrusion like this was sort of uncalled for. The thing I noticed more as they walked past was their black gloved hand.

As I continued staring, their image distorted. They were there one second, gone the next. It was so fast that I couldn’t track it with what little experience I had. To this day I’m still wondering how that person was able to do that. Anyway, I started straight for the shrine’s porch. “Master!” I called out. “Are you okay? There’s someone here to-” I pushed the screen door aside. “... Huh?”

“Owwwww,” my master, Reimu, fidgeted with her chopsticks hovering over the bowl of rice. “Aren’t you supposed to be in the outside world? Why are you- owww! I’m trying to eeeeat!” Reimu’s ear was twisted by the mysterious bird rider.

“When I hear ‘child abuse’ and your name in the same sentence, I’m going to come running straight back!”

“Abuff?” some rice spilled out onto the table from Reimu’s mouth.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full. And stop eating,” the stranger pinched her nose while taking a seat across the table. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” the girl looked back at me with a frown.

“Huh?”

“You had to deal with Reimu as a teacher for a year. That’s enough for anyone’s pity,” she said that while looking at Reimu. Of course, she was still eating like the conversation didn’t concern her. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“The rice is pretty good. Thanks, Yume.”

“Oh, thank you. I prepared it the same as I usually do.”

“Don’t ignore me!” she slid a glance to me then to my Master.

“May I ask who you are?” I said while taking a seat on the far edge of the table.

“Someone who should be leaving,” Reimu set bowl down on the table before sliding it to me.

“My name is Kasen Ibaraki. I’m an old friend of Reimu’s,” the way Kasen said that made me think that there was something more to their relationship. Of course, I didn't’ ask at the time since that seemed like prying.

“Why are you here, Kasen?”

“Listen to me when I’m talking to you next time,” she shook her head. “To steer you in the right direction. I came to sit in on one of your training sessions… or is that too much trouble?”

“Do what you want,” Reimu shrugged. “After breakfast though. Oh, and sweeping.”

“I should get back to it,” Kasen’s sudden appearance threw me off since everything happened so fast. I got up from the table then went on outside to finish the rest of my morning chores. I started sweeping back and forth, making sure that the newly fallen leaves were at the sides of the walkway. I gathered the leaves up into a bunch then started the fire to burn them. I sat in front of the shrine near the fire to keep an eye on it. “It’s not burning as I’d like it to,” I mumbled to no one in particular.

“Maybe you should throw more on the fire?”

I perked up after hearing Kasen’s voice, “Miss Kasen? Can I help you with something?”

“Why are you asking me that? It seems like you’re the one who needs help.”

“W-well,” I scratched the back of my head. “Yes. I need to get stronger. I’m… far behind a friend of mine. I can’t even keep a barrier up.”

“There’s more to being a shrine maiden than fighting.”

“But if I can’t even do that, then what good am I? Just one fight and I get a stick stabbed in the leg.”

“Really? Can I see?” she bent down to get a better look at my leg.

“This one,” I tapped my right leg. Kasen bent down to apply pressure to the healed leg.

“No wounds or scarring.”

“My body heals fast. It always has,” I directed my attention back at the burning pile. I tossed more dried leaves onto the pyre as per Kasen’s suggestion.

“Why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know. If you listen to the kid’s back home, it’s because I’m a freak.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then… um, oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to unload this on you. We hardly know each other.”

“It’s fine. If something is bothering you, you can talk to me,” the earnest smile that Kasen gave me made my heart skip a beat. “I’m here to learn more about your situation.”

“Thank you.”

“No thanks needed,” she took a seat on the porch to watch me tend to the flaming stack. “I’ll help in anyway I can.”

The way she carried herself means that she had a past with Reimu. I didn’t want to ask about her relationship with my master due to personal reasons. Now that she’s offering to help me, I thought that I should know a bit more about her. So I…

[_] Asked about her relationship with Reimu.
[_] Asked about why she was in the outside world.
[_] Asked about the gloved hand.
[_] Custom
[X] Asked about the gloved hand.
[X] Asked about why she was in the outside world.
[X] Asked about her relationship with Reimu.
[x] Asked about why she was in the outside world.
[X] Asked about her relationship with Reimu.
[x] Asked about why she was in the outside world.
[x] Asked about the gloved hand.

Curious much?
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“Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“What were you doing in the outside world? I mean, Master seemed surprised that you came back,” I looked away from Kasen incase the subject was an awkward one. “If it’s personal, t-then you don’t really have to answer.”

“Oh, I was looking for something important to me,” after I turned back to look at Kasen, she was the one facing away. “Something I lost a long time ago.”

I wondered if it was a lover or some object. I didn’t want to step on Kasen’s toes any further than my question already had. “I wish you luck in finding what you lost.”

“A nice girl like you is wasted on Reimu,” I immediately thought of Patchouli’s remark about Riku.

“No, I’m not talented enough for her.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I imagine Master is actually trying. She’s just expecting too much,” The ashes from the pile blow up into the air and into my face. I put my head down to avoid getting them into my eyes. “I’m not her.”

“Obviously,” Kasen said while placing a hand on my head. “You’re different. No two people are the same. Unless you’re a kappa, then there’s some trouble.”

“Kappas?” I met her eyes.

“Forget about it,” she shook her head. “It’s not important. What’s important is that you treasure what makes you ‘you’.”

I never really heard that said to me before that moment. Being ‘different’ wasn’t a virtue that you upheld, it was something you did your best to fix. ‘The nail that sticks out is the one that’s beaten down’. This was Gensokyo where that ideal was definitely absent. Everyone seemed to shine because they were different. But because everyone was so different, I felt even more ostracized. Where was my place in the grand scheme of things? If I wasn’t learning anything because I wasn’t like Reimu, then what point was there to my being here? I was here to replace Reimu as the Hakurei shrine maiden. That, in itself, meant I had to be ‘like’ Reimu.

“Treasure what makes me me?”

“Mmhmm,” her gloved hand pointed to the nape of my neck. “I didn’t stutter, did I?”

“N-no you didn’t.”

“You listen, too,” Kasen placed a hand on the bridge of her nose. After a heavy sigh, she looked back toward the sliding door as Reimu walked out. The three of us moved into the front part of the shrine where there was more room. The two of us flew above the ground, evenly spaced out from one another. I had three ofuda tucked between each of my fingers. They were more for show than anything since I’ve never been able to land a single hit on Reimu. My master was completely nonchalant, looking more bored than anything.

“We’re going to tackle the same lesson as always! Dodge everything! Remember to keep your barrier up!”

“Y-yes, Master!” I heard her loud and clear. My eyes wandered down to Kasen who already had her head in her palm.

“What’s your problem?” Reimu noticed just after I did. “The training session hasn’t even started yet.”

“I have one question.”

“What?” my master seemed more impatient than usual. Was having Kasen there enough to put that much pressure on her?

“Does Yume know how to make a barrier?”

“Of course she does!” Reimu puffed her chest out. “Here, I’ll prove it!” the Ying-Yang Orb appeared in her hand. It began to spin, blasting with blue energy. It was definitely the move I used against Riku. “Here it comes, Yume! Show Kasen what you’ve got!”

The Ying-Yang Orb drilled through the air straight at me. I didn’t have time to think. I placed both of my hands into the air, drawing on whatever reserve of power I had within me. A transparent blue screen appeared in front of me. There were slight cracks all around it - but it was solid enough to take a few shots. The Ying-Yang Orb itself was another story. The closer the sphere came, the more my body tensed up.

The orb shattered the field on contact. I winced from the sudden feedback. I closed my eyes, bracing for pain.

Of course, it never came. I slowly opened my eyes to see Kasen standing in front of me with her hand out. The orb kept spinning as if it hadn’t hit anything. Kasen lifted the orb up into the air. Her eyes were locked onto Reimu who flew in place on the other side of the shrine grounds. “So she learned how to use a barrier, huh?”

Reimu shrugged, “She made a barrier, didn’t sh-”

The air broke. My ears popped. I found myself reeling back from the shriek of violent wind. I heard the familiar sound of a barrier breaking and imploding. The orb drilled some unlucky soul into the ground. It took me a moment to realize that Reimu had been throttled by her own attack. “Master! Are you okay?!”

“What the hell was that for!?” Reimu screamed up into the air while picking herself up from the ground.

Kasen shook her head, “You don’t know how to restrain yourself. You were going to hurt your student. What good would that do?”

“What does that matter? She heals up the next day anyway.”

“Don’t try to justify yourself. It was obvious that spell card was too much for her.”

“In Master’s defense,” I said while trying to protect what was left of my master’s dignity. “She usually uses Fantasy Seal on me as an opening exercise.”
____________________________________

Reimu sat with her legs tucked under her body. There was a board with cinderblocks stacked on her knees. Her face had turned red from pain.

“Miss Kasen, I-I think this is too much. Master doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment.”

“She’s been through worse, Yume. You don’t have to protect her.”

I still felt bad because in my trying to protect Reimu, I just made the entire situation worse. I still feel like I should do something. So I…

[_] … plead with Kasen to give Reimu another chance.
[_] … take Kasen’s word for it and see where this goes.
[_] Custom
[X] … take Kasen’s word for it and see where this goes.

Of the three of them, I trust Kasen's judgement the most when it comes to this sort of thing.
[x] … plead with Kasen to give Reimu another chance.

Holy shit it's back and I've missed two votes already.
[X] … plead with Kasen to give Reimu another chance.
[x] … take Kasen’s word for it and see where this goes.
[x] … take Kasen’s word for it and see where this goes.

You reap what you sow Reimu.
[x] … plead with Kasen to give Reimu another chance.

That's just like her
[X] … plead with Kasen to give Reimu another chance.


aw yeah missing multiple votes. Seriously though I just don't see Yume being cool with this kinda punishment, justified or not
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Some part of me felt as though Reimu deserved this. The rest was screaming at me to say something. It was wrong. “Miss Kasen, I-I feel like this is too much. There has to be another way.”

“Nothing really sticks with Reimu.”

“I’m… aware,” I sighed while shaking my head. “But this just seems cruel.”

“What Yume said,” Reimu piped up to join the conversation. “My legs are cramped. Come ooooon,” what Kasen said was completely correct. My master wasn’t concerned with the consequences of her actions. She was more concerned with what was ‘directly’ affecting her.

“Alright,” it seemed as though my words got through to her. Kasen sighed while moving over to remove the blocks locking down Reimu’s legs. “But you won’t be eating, napping, or whatever it is you think you’ll do to get out of this.”

“Mmmm,” Reimu made a pouty expression. “You’re definitely a hermit.”

It seemed like Kasen lost whatever cool she had there for a second. She coughed into her hand and puffed out her chest, “Anyway, I’ll pick up where Reimu likely never started. You seem to know how to form a barrier, Yume. How did you learn?”

“It just sort of came to me,” I should note it did ‘come’ to me after getting pummeled hundreds of times over by nonstop bullet barrage.

“Can you strengthen it?”

I placed my hands out to form a transparent, fractured sheet of blue. Kasen just tapped it with the back of her gloved hand. It wasn’t enough force to push me back, but it was enough to cause an even bigger crack to form in the barrier. A second later it exploded into fragments. I formed up a second barrier only for the same thing to happen. Three times. Four. Five. Six.

It kept happening the same every time.

“Barriers are supposed to be a specialty of the Hakurei,” Kasen directed a glance toward Reimu. “So it makes sense for the power to create a barrier to come instinctively… let’s run this again. Keep making them and try to outlast the taps, okay?”

I nodded. I forged each barrier to last the low power attack that Kasen kept repeating. Each time it took more than just two strikes to break them down. Though sadly they couldn’t endure more than that. I tried to reinforce the barrier so that it didn’t just explode from being lightly tapped. Despite all this, I still didn’t feel as though I was making any progress.

“I’m not sure if I’m doing this right.”

“You’re doing well,” Kasen patted me lightly on the back. “Keep at it. Just remember that maintaining the barrier is just as important as strengthening it.”

I was more surprised at the genuine encouragement than the guidance. I could only do as she told me. I focused on keeping up the barrier and strengthening it at the same time. Kasen’s strikes gradually increased in power so I had to do my best to keep up. The hits that would have shattered my barrier before now only caused them to bend backward. Her light taps turned into more direct palm strikes. The next one forced the barrier to bend so much that it snapped in half at the center.

“Gghh,” I winced from the blow back. I didn’t let it dissuade me.I put more energy into it. The snapped halves reformed into a whole. Kasen nodded in affirmation then delivered another blow. My eyes widened. The reformed barrier dissipated into thin air. I took a step back from the display of raw power.

Was I going to have to get this strong? Even when fighting against Reimu, I didn’t feel like there was hope of victory. It was mostly a struggle to survive more than it was to land a glancing blow against her. Just getting my barriers destroyed from Kasen’s light blows made me realize that the more time I spent here - the more I was out of my league. There was only so much time and practice could mend the gap. Eventually there was going to be a point when I reach my peak. I worried that, right now, was this it? Could I ever contend with the likes of Kasen, Reimu, and Marisa? These wandering thoughts interfered more with my training.

“Are you okay, Yume?” Kasen tilted her head to the side.

“Yes, I-I’m fine,” I lied.

“Hmm, okay,” she nodded while taking another look at my conjured barrier to make sure it was sturdy. “Brace yourself, Yume.”

“She’s lying,” Reimu spoke up from the side. Her chin was propped on her chin and she had this disinterested look on her face. “She stutters when she’s nervous.”

“Really?” Kasen quirked her brow. “If you overexert yourself too much, then there’s no way you can keep training. We can take a break if you need it.”

“No, I can keep going. Just something on my mind.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Kasen frowned. I shook my head. I knew it wasn’t going to do much good to talk about it. It was my own fears that were getting in the way. I assured her it was fine and that we could keep going.

We entered into another sort of training. Instead of taking blows, it was time for me to keep the barrier up. This training was much less eventful than Kasen’s repeated punches. I just had to keep the barrier visible while Kasen and Reimu watched from the shrine’s porch. The two talked about something that I couldn’t make out. I was too preoccupied with my training to pay attention to what they were talking about. I did my best to keep at it until a powerful gust of wind killed my concentration. I threw my hands up to guard my eyes against chilling gale. When I looked up I expected to see giant eagle. What I got were two familiar faces descending from the sky onto the shrine walkway.

“Hello. How are you two doing?” I was the first to walk over to greet them. Marisa seemed more occupied with staring at Kasen.

“What’s she doing here?” Marisa said while pointing to Kasen. Despite the fact that wasn’t really polite, I didn’t say anything about it. Marisa had the same problem as my master - she never listened to what anyone had to say.

“Who is that?” Riku tilted her head to the side.

“That’s Miss Kasen. She appeared earlier this morning to help with my training. Or that’s what she said,” I placed a hand on my chin. I had no reason to doubt the reason why Kasen said she was here. Yukari had something to do with it since she listened to my complaints the night before. I made a note to thank her the next time I saw her.

“Progress is good,” Riku said with a nod. “Don’t you agree Tea-”

“Ahahaha!” Marisa’s laugh echoed on over from the shrine porch.

Riku stopped. Marisa already went to talk with the guest. Riku’s brow furrowed and she sighed. “I miss Patchouli.”

“What’s that?” I was confused.

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “Listen, I was going to head to the village today to talk to Keine.”

“Is that… why you came today?”

“I wanted to hang out, so yeah.”

“O-oh,” I blushed a little while turning away. “I’ll, um.”

“Why are you making that face?”

“I’m not making a face. I’m just … happy?”

“Uh huh,” Riku scratched her head. “So you going to come along? My Teacher is going to be a while. She’s probably going to get wasted.”

[_] Go with Riku to town. Could use a break.
[_] Stick around with Kasen. Training is important.
[_] Custom
[X] Go with Riku to town. Could use a break.
It seems it is one sided... doesn't Riku care about friends?

[x] Stick around with Kasen. Training is important.

First real training in her entire life, she has to take advantage of this for as long as it gets. And she needs to address and get over that all-too-common fear of reaching her plateau sooner rather than later.
[x] Go with Riku to town. Could use a break.
[x] Stick around with Kasen. Training is important.
[x] Training is important

Riku will understand the value of having a good teacher for once
[X] Stick around with Kasen. Training is important.
[X] Go with Riku to town. Could use a break.
We're still a child and while training is important, so are the friendships we make. I feel like Kasen would want us to hang out with friends and simply be a kid for as long as we can. There will be plenty of time for training.
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I thought about going with Riku. Part of me wanted to go off with her to have fun in the village. But I had something that I needed to do. I shook my head, “Sorry, Riku. I think I’m going to spend some more time with Miss Kasen,” I wanted to take full advantage of Kasen coming to help me. I didn’t know when she would just up and vanish. If I spent the first day of my training leaving halfway through the day, then I don’t think that was a good use of my time.

“I can sympathize,” Riku said with grin. “I wish you luck,” after that she plopped onto her broom and sped off toward the sky. I waved to her while I walked back toward the shrine.

“You shot her down?” Marisa quirked her brow while she sipped some sake from a dish. I imagined that Kasen poured it for her.

“Shot her down?” I pondered for a moment. “I need to spend my time training today,” I realized my mistake a second after saying that. Did I hurt Riku by saying no? “D-did I do something I shouldn’t have?”

“Nah, you’re fine,” Marisa eased my worries with a wave of the hand. “She wanted to hang out with you today. Pretty bad timing considering…” the ordinary magician looked toward my new red-headed tutor.

“Huh?” Kasen, of course, didn’t have any clue what Marisa was talking about. “Did I do something?”

“N-no, at least I don’t think so?” the confusion just took over any train of thought I had. Back home I never really experienced this before. I only ever dealt with myself and the disembodied voices that haunted me. I referred to Riku as a ‘friend’ since that’s the word that came to mind to describe her. Would acquaintance be a better description? The more I thought about it, the more anxious I got.

“Don’t worry about it,” Marisa laughed heartily. “Just bad luck and skewed priorities.”

“Skewed priorities?” I said while trying to wrap my head around what Marisa meant. Of course, I was never sure if she was talking about Riku or myself. “A-anyway, I should apologize. Riku came all this way to ask me to spend time with her. I have training to get done, but I-I should have let her go a bit more softly. O-or maybe I should have went? Umm...”

“I’m not sure you did anything worth apologizing for,” Kasen placed a hand to her chin. “Balance and moderation are important. That applies to anything, with friends and with training.”

“I don’t really know how to… do that.”

“It’s something that you get accustomed to. There’s no real way to teach it,” it took some time after the conversation for me to actually understand what Kasen meant. I feigned understanding with a nod of the head. “This is something that comes naturally as you get older.”

“Just do what Reimu and I do!” Marisa pulled Reimu in with a smile. “Wait around til something happens!”

“Who let you two have kids?” Kasen sighed.

“Yukari,” Reimu answered with her usual tone. “Also not mine.”

“Of course,” now my ‘mentor’ had her hand on her nose again. “What about that little witch? What’s the situation with her?”

“She won’t leave me alone,” the blonde took another drink from her dish. “And I don’t even know who her parents are,” when those words left Marisa’s mouth, it seemed as though Kasen lost a little more hope in humanity.

The day went on as I expected it to. Marisa loitered around the shrine while Kasen tended to more of my training. It was the same exercises as before. The goal was to strengthen the barrier and keep it up for as long as I could without breaking it. This continued on for a few more hours until it was time for a break. I was told that the next step in my training was going to be a bit more complicated. I went to bed that night, looking forward to the coming days.


___________________________________

My training progressed in a week with Kasen much more than it had in a month with Reimu.

“Alright, one more time!” Kasen threw out a punch toward my shield. It fractured slightly, sending me backward. I kept my balance. “Good job, Yume!”

I smiled. I was happy to keep going.

“Here,” Reimu approached me with a cup of water. It was just after the punch so I just gave her an appraised look. “Water. You’re thirsty, right?”

“U-uh, yes. Thank you,” I wasn’t really thirsty, but I was happy to see my Master involved.

“And you should probably put more force behind the punch,” Reimu went back to sitting on the porch. “Keeping it the same won’t teach her how to strengthen it.”

Kasen nodded. The suggestion was taken into account and the barrier broke. I was back to square one, but I kept on trying. This was the norm for the next few days. I could eventually take a full punch from Kasen without getting thrown back. After that, we moved onto something a bit more complicated…

“My power?” I remember staring at the members of the impromptu conference. Reimu was there, of course, as well as Kasen. Marisa and Riku dropped by out of curiosity. The people I was most shocked to see had to be Lady Kanako and Sanae. They were there to help me with Shinto or something? That seemed like something that Reimu would get furious about, yet she was calm the entire time. “What’s this about? I thought it was being a shrine maiden?”

“Not quite,” Kanako spoke up with her arms crossed. “It’s like how Sanae can cause miracles, or how Reimu can fly.”

“I thought everyone in Gensokyo could fly?” I felt like I was being let in on a secret. “Is my ability to fly too?”

“I doubt it, after I had to teach you how,” Kanako’s remark stung. I frowned.

“W-what does this have to do with anything?” I didn’t like having all these eyes on me. It just put me back home all over again.

“Spellcards. Or, rather, spell card duels. You emulate what you see Reimu do, don’t you?” Marisa started talking just as Kanako finished.

“Yes. Am I… not supposed to do that?”
“I mean, if you’re going to be the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, I guess. But you’re not really ‘emulating’ Reimu. You’re just doing what you see her do,” Marisa didn’t clear up what she just said. I blinked a few times. “You KNOW what I mean, like, you’re not feeling it… you’re not, uh, help me out here, Kasen.”

“Can you finish your own thoughts?” Kasen shook her head in disappointment. “She means you’re not putting yourself into your spell cards. If spell card duels are a display of the ‘self’, then you can’t just copy someone else.”

Marisa started uncontrollably laughing. The entire ‘conference’ turned toward her. “Yeah, I’ve never stolen anyone else’s work. Nope, never. 100% Marisa Quality!”

“That’s what magician’s do. Steal, innovate, and create,” Riku said, probably doing her best to form flowery words about thievery.

“That’s who you are, Marisa, so it doesn’t contradict what I said,” Kasen replied with a smile on her face.

“Hahaha- heyyy, I’m not some petty thief!” Marisa fooled no one.

“Anyway, understand what I’m saying, Yume?”

“I think?” again, I did my best to fake it. “Does everyone have a ‘power’?”

“Well, not everyone,” Kanako chose to chime in. “Normal humans in the village don’t unless there are special circumstances. Being related to youkai or having a special lineage like the Hieda family.”

“I see. So why do you think I have a power?”

“You don’t get drunk,” my master offered the best example that came to mind. She acted like she had some grand revelation. Her eyes went wide, she had a smile on her face as she pointed straight at me. “That makes her a counter to Suika! Your power is the bane of parties! You’re a party pooper!” I didn’t know, but it appeared that my master helped herself to a generous amount of alcohol before the meeting.

“Who invited Reimu?” Kanako felt the need to ask the question that was on everyone’s mind.

“This is her shrine,” Marisa said with a shrug.

“The twig in your leg,” Riku took it upon herself to redirect the discussion. “It went straight through. You didn’t even notice it was there until I mentioned it.”

“Y-yeah. Now that you mention it, I have a hard time feeling pain. Is that really a power?”

“I’m not sure I would be calling congenital insensitivity a power,” Sanae apparently helped herself to the kitchen to prepare snacks. I gave her permission, of course, since the first in command was intoxicated. “The snacks are ready!” she set a tray down on the porch of the shrine.

“Partypoo- Oh, food! Your power really is miracles,” Reimu continued showing the dignity of the Hakurei.

“T-thanks?” Sanae tilted her head to the side. “Um, anyway, healing seems to be part of it. I can’t explain the insensitivity to pain, though.”

“She has a hard time sleeping and temperatures don’t really bother her,” Kasen talked about general observations she made of me in her time staying here.

“Oh! Your power is homeostasis!” Sanae clapped her hands together.

“In a language we understand?” Marisa quirked a brow.

“It means her body rapidly changes to accommodate the changes in her environment. If she doesn’t get drunk as Reimu said, that means her body digests the alcohol so fast that… when did she get drunk?” Sanae locked eyes with my master.

“Suika,” I answered with a red face. “S-she called it a session. My master wasn’t really wrong in calling me a ‘party pooper’.”

“Kanako, are you sure we can’t arrange for an adoption?” Kasen placed a hand on my shoulder.

Kanako laughed, “I learned my lesson already. Let me tell you, our floor doesn’t taste as good as it looks.”

“Reimu’s crimes as a parent aside,” Riku interjected by stepping up to me. “I believe things are a bit more complicated than that. When I fought you, it seemed as though your cards were fighting against you.”

I perked up, “What do you mean?”

“Your Evil-Sealing Circle didn’t do what it was supposed to.”

“That’s probably because I didn’t really know what I was doing.”

“The way I see it, there are a few ways we can interpret your ‘power’,” Marisa chewed on one of Sanae’s snacks as she spoke. It was a carrot since we couldn’t exactly afford anything extravagant. “If we go with what Sanae said, it seems something in line with ‘going back to a previous state’.”

So that means my power is…

[_] What Marisa just said.
[_] To maintain or keep order.
[_] To prevent change.
[_] To stagnate.
[_] Custom
[X] What Marisa just said.

She doesn't have any particular resistance to injury, but instead feels little pain and heals really quickly. Yume's not really preventing change, but changing back instead. It shouldn't be too hard to try testing Marisa's description of her power by seeing if she can restore things other than herself to an earlier state.
[X] What Marisa just said.

Yay, reversion. Stagnation would be interesting, but reversion seems far more likely.
[x] What Marisa just said.

We Jojo now. ~Shrine Maiden is Unbreakable~
[x] Stagnatio

Wow this sounds depressing
>>39336
Nah, stagnation would no reaction to anything. Wounds would take longer to heal, she'd adapt slowly to anything, and things along those lines.

[x] What Marisa just said.

Let's go Crazy Diamond for a little while, and see how that works.
>>39337
Stagnate works pretty well going by definition, with a little creative interpretation.

The lack of pain and high alcohol tolerance absolutely works in regards to not reacting, as you posted.
And using google's definition ("(of water or air) cease to flow or move; become stagnant."), if we make the comparison to water, it is stagnant when it is still and even if disturbed will eventually become still again. We could connect this to Yume's rapid healing if we assume that her normal, healthy form is considered 'stagnant' by her powers.

I only vaguely know what I'm talking about.
[x] What Marisa just said.

Crazy Diamond!

But seriously this could be interesting.
[X] To stagnate.
[x] What Marisa just said.
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39388
Been a few weeks. Should be back to post either tomorrow or the day after!
Hooray!
Rad.
Great.
[X] To maintain or keep order.
Explains the not getting cold.
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39395
I agreed with Marisa. It made sense combined with Riku’s analysis. If my spell cards were ‘going back to a previous’ state, that meant that they weren’t going to explode like I wanted them to.

If I was going to get anywhere, I had to understand what my power was. I tried thinking of ways to make use of it. First thing that comes to mind is trying to control the rate at which I healed. That involved getting hurt, so of course I wasn’t going to do that. There had to be some other way to test my power.

Just when I was thinking about how to demonstrate my power…

Crash.

All of us looked in Reimu’s direction.

Her sake dish fell to the ground. Reimu’s face was straight down in the ground. “Oh, hey, I found you a good guinea pig!” Marisa walked over to poke Reimu with her broom. “Fix this thing!”

“Ggghhhh,” Reimu gurgled, probably trying to say something.

I sighed. Marisa was right, though, I could try and heal her. “Master, I’m not sure how this is going to work, but… p-please work with me,” I placed my hands out on her back.

I closed my eyes. I focused on the same feeling I get when I’m hurt, when it’s cold outside and I feel nothing, when my body clears itself of impurities.

I tried to channel it through my hands. I never actually even thought of using it on others. It helped that I had experience in spell card duels so I could ‘feel’ energy leaving my body.

“I’m not sure this was a good idea for a test run,” I felt Kasen looking over my shoulder. She was probably there to make sure everything was okay.

“What harm could it do?,” Marisa said with a laugh. I had to admit that it was a little distracting.



“How do you feel?”

Reimu tensed up. She pushed herself off the ground with her hands then shook her head. “My head hurts,” she scratched at her forehead.

“You kind of just fell over,” Marisa crossed her arms with her broom sitting lopsided between them. “Of course your head is gonna hurt… well, not sure about now. Feel any different?”

“Why would I?... What are you guys doing here?” Reimu winced at the small conference group. It seemed like she forgot why everyone was there.

“Wait,” Kasen stepped between Reimu and Marisa. “Are you drunk, Reimu?”

Reimu blinked a few times. Her eyes drifted between me, Kasen, and Sanae. “Uh, I don’t think so? I think I’d know if I was.”

“It worked…?” I looked down at my own hands. It felt good to actually help someone, but somehow, deep down inside… it didn’t feel right. “It’s just as Marisa said! I can heal people!”

“Good job, Yume,” Riku placed a hand on my shoulder. “Though now we need to figure out how to weave this into your spell cards.”

“Putting things back to a previous state, huh?” Kanako reached down to grab the fractured sake dish. “Try it on this too. More practice never hurts!”

At the word ‘practice’, Sanae cringed. I sympathized.

“Try it,” Riku encouraged me. I walked over to the dish. I cupped my hands so that Kanako could drop them gently into place.

I went through the same steps as before. Emulating the same process as I did for Reimu. This time I didn’t close my eyes. I had to see the restoration for myself.

The cracks in the dish began to recede. The pieces began to form back together. There were distinct clinks as the porcelain reformed.

“I did it,” it was different actually seeing the power at work. I used the power on Reimu a second before, but now it set in. This was actually something I could do. A power to restore things to how they were before. “I did it!”

“What are you so excited for?” Reimu had one hand on her head. I think I might’ve been a little bit too loud for her liking.

“I’m surprised you aren’t,” Marisa lightly jabbed her friend in the side.

“Why would I be? It’s good Yume’s learning, but… what for?”

“You’re clearly not using your brain,” Marisa had a mischievous grin on her face. She moved in closer and began whispering. The two of them walked around the corner of the shrine. They weren’t very good at keeping whatever they talked about a secret.

Reimu’s frown quickly turned upside down.

“Hey Sanae, I think it’s time we left,” Kanako said while placing a hand on Sanae’s shoulder.

“W-what? Why, Lady Kanako?” Sanae asked. Like Marisa, Kanako whispered something into Sanae’s ears. “No, we can’t let them do that. That’s just taking advantage of-”

“I’ll handle it,” Kasen walked over with a hand on her waist. “You two can get going.”

[_] Have Sanae and Kanako stay.
[_] Let Kasen handle it herself.
[_] Go ask Riku what’s going on.
[_] Custom
[X] Let Kasen handle it herself

Mischievous girls are planning.
[X] Let Kasen handle it herself.

If it doesn't feel right, it's probably an incomplete description of her power. Still, knowing she can do that kind of thing is definitely good.
[x] Ask Riku what is going on
[ze] Let Kasen handle it herself.

She knows what to do.
[X] Let Kasen handle it herself.
[X] Let Kasen handle it herself.
>a power to restore things to how they were before

>“Why would I?... What are you guys doing here?” Reimu winced at the small conference group. It seemed like she forgot why everyone was there.

D-did we rewind Reimu's memory back to a previous state?

[X] Let Kasen handle it herself.
[x] Go ask Riku what is going on
[x] Let Kasen handle it herself.

Kasen seems to be the voice of reason around here anyway.

Also yay, it's back!
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39406
Alright guys, this arc is drawing to a close. I want to ask you guys what direction you'd like me to take this. Would you like to have something focusing on Riku and her misadventures with Marisa, or would you guys like to continue down the road of Reimu Parental Neglect (TM)?
>>39406
Riku n' co.
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39408
I didn’t see much point in getting Sanae and Kanako involved. They went out of their way to help me so much already. “It’s okay, Sanae. I’ll be fine. I appreciate your help today.”

Kanako grinned, “Anytime. Well, maybe not ‘anytime’, but you get the idea.”

“I don’t like it, but okay. I trust Kasen more than anyone to handle those two … Good luck, Yume!” Sanae followed after Kanako she ascended into the sky.

“Thank you!” I shouted to make sure they heard me. When I turned around, I saw Marisa and Reimu looking around the room. They didn’t want to look the hermit in the eye. It felt like an interrogation was about to start.

“Are you going to tell me what you two were talking about?” Kasen had her eyes narrowed at the two.

“Nothing strange! I mean, it’d be beneficial, right, Reimu?” Marisa jabbed her friend in the side.

“Yeah, yeah, it’d make me rich! I think I’ll actually do it,” my master found a nice seat on the floor.

“Hehehe, glad you see it my way. Of course, I’m expecting a cut,” the witch was the same as always.

“A cut of what? What’s this ‘idea’?”

“A clinic at the shrine! We’d advertise it in the Human Village,” Marisa joined Reimu in her bout of laziness. She plopped her rear down on the ground beside her. “We could get that tengu to write an article about it. After that, I could fly all around dropping the paper in the streets. They’d all come flooding in.”

“You know,” Kasen blinked. “That doesn’t sound like a bad- wait, no, you two don’t have any medical training!” she stomped the ground. “Where are you going to get--” she looked at me then to the two miscreants. “NO!”

“Ah, come on! She’ll agree to it! Right, Yume?” Marisa tried to drag me into the conversation.

“I-”

“Yume, we’re going!,” Riku said while gripping my hand. She pulled me onto her broom and shot us straight up into the sky.

“Hey, don’t just-” I heard Marisa get up.

Then I immediately heard her getting slapped back down.

I winced from the bombarding winds, but even they weren’t enough to quell the sounds of Kasen’s lecture.

“You reap what you sow, Master,” I sighed while placing my hands around Riku’s waist. “I… should thank you, right?”

“No, you probably would’ve done the same for me,” Riku looked ahead as she climbed higher into the sky.

“Y-yeah,” I looked to the ground below. The shrine’s pathway lead straight through the forest and down a long walk to the Human Village. It made me actually considering the ‘clinic’ idea, but that was only for a moment.

“If you want to get people to believe and come up here, tricking them isn’t the way.”

“Should I steal something and have a villager come worship to retrieve it?”

“Nice impression of my Teacher,” Riku laughed. “But seriously, don’t do that.”

“I wasn’t actually considering it,” I frowned.

“You’re a strange kid.”

My eyes widened, “W-why are you telling that to me? You’re weird too.”

“Of course I am. Magician’s aren’t exactly normal people, you know?”

“I… don’t, really. The only one’s I’ve met are Marisa, Patchouli, and Alice.”

“See? That just proves my point.”

“You have a lot of people to look up to, huh?”

“Not sure that’s the right word,” Riku quirked a brow, placing a hand on her chin. “More like ‘observe’? I learn mostly by watching them. I don’t have them on a pedestal or anything,” Riku spit down to the ground. “Especially not my own Teacher.”

“I see,” my grip on Riku’s waist slackened.

“Not sure if you do. It seems like you give Reimu more respect than she deserves.”

“I-I admire her, I think? It’s not like with you and Marisa.”

“Question.”

“Huh?”

“What’s there to admire?”

“There’s, uh…”

“How she got drunk at the meeting down there, or how she bullies youkai without provocation?”

“She’s stronger than me?”

“So is Marisa, so you admire her too?”

“I admire her work ethic…?”

“Marisa’s or Reimu’s?”

“My Master doesn’t have one.”

“Yeah, she does, it’s called ‘get Yume to do it’.”

“Doing chores and cooking aren’t-”

“If you make her life convenient, she’s going to take advantage of you. You have to stop seeing her as something she’s not.”

“I don’t-”

“Then explain why you put up with her.”

“Because-”

“She’s the only thing you have here?”

“Ah,” I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I was shocked because she was absolutely right. I had nothing else here.

“I know about the entire situation with the gap youkai, Yume. My Teacher shot her mouth off when telling… not like she’s good at keeping secrets,” Riku shrugged. “I’m not really good at being soft, so sorry.”

“I understand. And y-you’re right, I don’t have much else here. I didn’t have anything back home either.”

“So just like me,” she shook her head.

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t have anything in the village. Being alone because I took an interest in something no one else did,” Riku looked out at the Human Village off in the horizon. The sun had started setting, so it cast a faint glow over the forest and mountains. “You’re probably the first real friend I’ve ever had.”

“W-w-what?! I-I am?” my face heated up. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to think or do.

“You didn’t know?” she sighed heavily. “Time to spell it out. Reimu’s not the only thing that you have here,” she took her hat off and placed it on her lap. Riku’s light-orange hair shined, causing me to wince at her brilliant form. “You’ve got me too!”

“I-I-I-I, uh, I’m, uh, it’s… uhhhAAAAH!”

The world turned over. Everything started spinning. The ground became the sky. I thought I was going to fall straight down, but --

“Didn’t you learn to fly?” Riku gripped my hand tight.

“I can’t focus when you’re making me feel like this!”

“Feel like what?”

“All hot! And… uh, bothered.”

“Poor choice of words.”

“Shut up!” I couldn’t look at her. My eyes were at the ground.

“I can let go, you know.”

“Don’t!”

Riku pulled me back up onto the broom. “I haven’t seen you that flustered before. It’s kind of funny,” she laughed at me. Of course, I was already embarrassed, so there wasn’t much else I could do to remedy the situation. “I mean you stutter some of the time, but I didn’t expect that.”

“I don’t know how to handle myself a lot of the time,” I got off the broom to fly alongside her. Riku went along at a moderate pace, so it was easy to keep up with her. “I don’t regret it.”

“Regret what?”

“Coming to Gensokyo. I mean, at first I thought I would,” I’ve met a lot of people here. Some helpful, some not - but ultimately I’ve learned from each experience. “Now that’s not the case. I feel like there’s a lot for me here.”

Riku leaned back on her broom while placing her hat over her face, “I think you’ll be fine if Kasen sticks around for a while. It seems like you’re learning more from her then you have from Reimu,” what Riku said was definitely true, but I’d continue to see Reimu as my ‘master’ even as I continued to train.

The day when Kasen showed up and I discovered my ability is the day my training really started. Everything that happened up until then was just the beginning. The beginning of my life in Gensokyo!
_____________________________________


… …
… … …

I finish up my tale of introduction to the masses that decided to attend the flower viewing. I’m fifteen now, so it’s been four years since the start of the tale. Of course, there were only a few people that actually bothered to listen to me.

“What did you think?”

“That was so romantic! That’s how you and Ms.Riku got together!” Reisen has her hands on her cheeks and she’s blushing.

Typical.

“We’re NOT together!” I shout.

“Sounds like you’re in denial, kid,” the bamboo girl, Mokou, is leaning against a tree with her hands in her pockets.

“But I’m… ugh, whatever,” I sigh. No point in actually trying to fight against it.

I catch sight of Riku out of the corner of my eye. She has a flask in her hand and she’s walking over here with a limp. Marisa must’ve given it to her. “We’re not WHAT?” her arm goes out.

I lean down to avoid it. Turns out that was too slow since she got around me anyway, “We’re not whaaaat, Yumeeee?”

“This isn’t the kind of drunk I expected you to be,” I slap my hand into her face and lightly set her down on the ground. A faint glimmer radiates from my palm as color returns to Riku’s face.

“Huh?” she blinks. “What? I was just drunk. Yume, what’d you do?”

“Nothing,” I pull back my hand. “You’re being delusional.”

“Riku, there you are!” Keine walks over with a furrowing brow. I can take a wild guess as to why she’s angry. “Why are you drinking so much? You’re--”

“I’m not drinking,” Riku tosses the empty bottle over to me. It wasn’t very accurate so it just falls straight to my feet.

“Smooth,” Mokou laughs.

“Still romantic,” Reisen offers her unneeded commentary.

“Even if you aren’t my student anymore, I still don’t want to see you drinking irresponsibly!” Keine flairs up and starts a lecture. I sit back down on the picnic blanket.

“I’m not. See? I’m not hungover.”

“That’s because of Yume. You can’t lie to me,” the school teacher is pretty scary when she’s like this. “Thank you, Yume.”

“No problem,” I give Keine a nod. She grabs Riku by the ear and starts heading back toward the shrine.

“Ouch, ouch, that hurts, Ms.Keine!” my friend complains about it the entire way back.

“Heh,” I laugh while looking down at the still-full sake dish. “... Hey, Reisen, you want this?”

“Oh, sure!” the moon rabbit scoops the dish up. I get up from the ground while nodding farewell to Mokou. I walk through the flower viewing festival, taking in all the sights. There are people that I know and people that I don’t. The one that sticks out the most is Suika who seems to be hassling Kasen about something. Lately she hasn’t tried to get me drunk since, by now, it’s a completely lost cause.

“Master?” I take a step past the donation box to see my master watching everything from afar.

“Yume? I thought you were blabbering to Mokou about something,” she has a rice ball in her mouth. It’s all over her cheeks.

I grab a rag from nearby and wipe her face, “Watch how you eat.”

“Don’t treat me like your girlfriend.”

“I wonder if it’s in our genes,” I sit down beside her.

“Uh,” Reimu’s eyes go wide.

“If I got a witch, doesn’t that mean you have one too?”

“Shut up, moron.”

“Hah,” I laugh. “Harsh.”

“Don’t say stupid things and I won’t be.”

The two of us don’t say anything else. We sit here in silence while the commotion of the party picks up. Fairies scream and play. A vampire sits under a parasol while a maid fans her mistress. Riku continues suffering the wrath of her school teacher. And here I am, sitting with someone I never thought I would have ever met.

“Thanks,” I throw a hand up to my mouth.

That was something I really didn’t mean to say.

“What are you thanking me for?”

“U-uh.”

Master quirks a brow, “I thought you stopped stuttering? I guess kids really don’t grow up.”

“You gave me a place to live, so I’m thanking you for that.”

“Whatever.”

My days in Gensokyo have been like this ever since that day. Experiencing new things and talking to new people. Of course, my relationship with Reimu has grown into more of an unstable friendship than that of ‘student and Master’. She’s gotten a little better with Kasen’s guidance, but none of her lessons ever stick. Marisa and Riku are better off than the two of us are, but they get into their own fair share of trouble.

There’s more to it than that, but those are stories for another day. Right now I’m just going to sit down with Master and enjoy the rest of the festival.
>>39406

I want to see more of Yume and Reimu. Or just Yume and ctrl-z hijinks, really.
>>39406
Are we gonna go back to Yume after doing a Riku story or would that just be it? If we will get more Yume later, then I'd be interested spending some time seeing things from Riku and Marisa's side.
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39411
>>39410
We would get back to Yume, of course.
>>39409
Me too. But Riku is fine too.
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39413
So it seems like people want to see the Riku Arc next. Alright, I'll see what I can do. Unless people want to see Yume more, then things get awkward.

Question: Do I change locations to the Forest of Magic, or do I just stick around here on this board?
>>39413
Make the jump if you'd like.
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39426
>>39414
Alright, I'll make the jump. I'll link back to this thread for people who haven't read the work or something. Thanks for the input!
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