Shrugging your shoulders, you let Reimu drag you away from the clamor.
The crowd of girls drifts after you, unaware that a decision has been made. Eventually, they catch on to the fact that the shrine maiden is daintily pinching your clothes as she makes for the village gates.
“Whoa, where’re you going Reimu?”
“Back home.” The soft words contain a tone of finality. For that, you’re thankful – the longer the attention is on you, the more chances there are for you to screw everything up.
“We’re heading to the shrine then? Excellent! I haven’t visited in so long,” Akyuu boldly steps forward before being lifted into the air. “H-Hey! Put me down this instant!”
Akyuu’s gaggle of female servants pays no heed to her. The ladies keep their heads politely bowed as they gracefully exit the plaza, screaming archivist clutched between them. “Keine, help!”
The teacher ignores her companion. “Ah, that’s right, we have meetings to attend. I guess we will have to speak at a later date. Please stop by again if you have the time.” Keine waves goodbye and departs with the other village inhabitants.
“You sure you don’t want some of this lotion? Maybe some dream pills? I think I’ve got a few cure-alls with me…” Reisen fishes a dozen different products out of her bag, waving them in front of your eyes as enticingly as she can.
You’ve never found the need for medicine ever since you learned to fix or ignore most ailments with magic. “Maybe later,” you conclude as diplomatically as you can.
“Argh, fine.” The bunny throws everything haphazardly back into her bag and looks down at her watch. “Crap, I’m behind because of this lunacy. If I miss my quota again…” Reisen’s bunny ears flop around as she wildly shakes her head.
Reisen points a commanding finger at you. “Come find me if you need something, you hear?” You watch the bunny girl turn around and run off into the village, waving a bottle over her head and shouting for attention.
With the group now thinned, you and Reimu begin to walk once more. Byakuren and Yoshika are following close behind, with Marisa striding alongside you.
“You aren’t leaving, too?” You ask the witch.
“Naw, not like I need to sell anything. I’d rather come play with Reimu!” Marisa jumps Reimu and hugs the shrine maiden around the neck. Despite the sudden encumbrance, Reimu shows no signs of slowing down in her march.
After passing through the village gate, Reimu lets go of your sleeve and floats into the air. Marisa shakes her broom and jumps aboard, and Byakuren also takes to the air.
Well, this sucks.
“Hey! I can’t fly, you know?” You shout up to the girls, the three of them glancing back down at you.
“Eh? Wanna ride on my broom? It’s a pretty fast ride; it’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had!” Marisa floats back down to you, making her offer while wiggling the stick between her legs.
“I think I’m a bit more than you can handle, Kid.”
“Kid? You aren’t much older than me, Buddy. C’mon, I know you wanna give it a whirl!”
“Yoshika, carry him.” Reimu calls down, apparently tired of waiting around as she flies on without you.
Well, that’s an option. You look to the zombie girl who is idly playing with her hair. “Hey, Yoshika?”
She jumps when you call her name and glances up at you.
Yoshika’s mouth opens, but barely any words come out. “Ah…is…?” The zombie swivels around, her gaze lingering on the witch floating nearby.
You clap your hands to regain the zombie’s attention. You don’t understand what’s going on in Yoshika’s mind to switch between nervous shuffling and overt displays of affection, but whatever is wrong, you at least know that Yoshika can carry you without difficulty. You gesture with your arms, encouraging the zombie out of whatever shyness she’s experiencing.
After taking one last second to watch Marisa, the zombie brightens and leaps towards you. “Okay~”
Yoshika easily scoops you up and takes to the air after Reimu. Being carried like this should be embarrassing, but you can’t bring yourself to care. It’s convenient and comfortable.
“Yoshika? Ain’t that the zombie that was guarding that mausoleum from before?” Marisa wonders aloud. She smiles slyly as she looks at you. “You look pretty cozy there.”
“I think I remember Seiga being pretty close to her zombie. Can’t be that you’re making a move so quickly, huh?”
“No idea what you’re talking about Marisa.”
“Okay, sure, sure, whatever you say bud.”
Looking at Gensokyo from above, you can appreciate the beauty of the landscape. You’ve always preferred rural areas to urban sprawl, and Gensokyo holds a certain mystique to it that reminds you of the faerie fields of Britain. Pleasant place, as long as you weren’t talking to anybody.
From the air, you can make out all the different areas that Byakuren was kind enough to highlight. The bounded territory is deceptively small; flying at a leisurely pace from one side of Gensokyo to another might only take an hour. Trying to hike through the rough and deadly terrain would be much more difficult, though.
The women chat amongst themselves during the flight, joking and taunting each other to various degrees. Despite Marisa’s brashness, her gregarious nature is evident. She even manages to pull Yoshika into the conversation, including everybody in the mid-afternoon chat.
You prefer to stay silent while being cradled by Yoshika. It’s not like you need to force yourself into every conversation. Besides, you can learn a lot just by listening.
With your attention towards the ground, you can see the Hakurei Shrine draw closer. Compared to the Myouren Temple and other shrines you’ve visited in the past, the place looks empty. Two small buildings and a large open courtyard doesn’t exactly scream a center for activity.
Touching down in the courtyard, you can appreciate the sparse design. Still, you wouldn’t want to live here alone and so far from anywhere else. You wonder if Reimu is fine with her arrangements.
Yoshika sets you down and allows you to walk on your own, happily clinging to your arm once more. You don’t get her at all.
Before you enter the main building, you pass by a figure lying on the ground. Child, long orange hair, large horns, and gourd of alcohol in hand – you ignore her and move on. She has to be trouble.
Unfortunately, the girl isn’t sleeping like you thought she was. You nearly fall flat on your face when a hand grabs your ankle and prevents you from moving forward.
“Wach-tis? Raymooo, brought me a new toy?” Well, that doesn’t sound good. With a grip like that, you’re wondering how long you’ll stay in one piece.
Your guardian shrine maiden lightly kicks the little girl’s hand. “No. Mine.” Yeah, that’s right, your Reimu’s- huh? You don’t like the sound of that either.
“Awwwwwww…” Reimu’s claim seems to repel the drunken girl, who fortunately releases you as she shakily rises to her feet.
“Suika Ibuki, an oni of unmatchable strength and love of alcohol. She is much more attentive than she appears, and like all oni has a particular emphasis on honesty.” Byakuren is such a nice lady, giving you all these helpful warnings. Not that you’re a compulsive liar, but it’s better to err on the side of caution in this crazy place.
“Raymoo never any fun. Won’t do any fun with you.” The diminutive oni sways as she makes her declaration, thrusting her gourd in the air and liberally downing alcohol.
“I dunno Suika, might be a bit different with this one! Maybe our ‘lil Reimu’ll put out for once?”
“Naaaaw. Raymoo no fuuuuuun! Hey Mister, come with Suika, better than Raymoo.”
“No.” Reimu plants herself right in front of you, daring the oni to try something. The two girls lock themselves into a minute long staring contest before Suika gives up.
“Not worth it. I find you later Mister, ‘kay?”
Really, you don’t like where any of theses conversations have gone. As the entire group walks into the shrine, you take comfort in Yoshika’s proximity as the only one you can trust…actually, who knows what your sister is feeding to the zombie…
Reimu brings tea for everybody seated around the table. It’s pleasantly quiet while everybody takes their first few sips, refreshing themselves after the short flight.
Then the peace disappears when a sheet of paper hits you.
“Hey!” You don’t really appreciate it when people randomly smack you in the face with religious seals.
“Huh.” Reimu peers at you before reaching across the table and removing the paper. Then, before withdrawing, she clocks you on the head with an amulet.
“Ow!” Is she just abusive or what? “What’d I do?”
“Nothing.” The shrine maiden gets up and walks around the table.
The little growl that emits from the zombie hanging off of you is worrying. You grip Yoshika’s hand underneath the table and urge her to wait quietly. It’s nice that she’s protective, but getting into a fight with Reimu does not seem intelligent.
Yoshika’s hostility doesn’t escape the shrine maiden’s notice, but Reimu doesn’t pay attention to the zombie. You spin in place to face Reimu, only to receive a poke to your cheek for your trouble. Reimu grips your skin with both of her hands, stretching it out and rolling it between her fingers. Eventually she lets go and grunts, crossing her arms and staring at you.
“Wise ones fashion speech with their thoughts, Reimu,” Byakuren intones from your side.
“Not the same as before.” Those are the only words the shrine maiden offers before slapping another seal against your skin.
Well, there was only one other time when those seals hit your skin. If Reimu is looking for a clear display of your magic, you aren’t giving it to her. You raise your palms to the air and try to look innocent, letting the shrine maiden frustrate herself.
“C’mon Reimu, stop whatever you’re trying to prove and sit your rump back down! Akyuu might not get her stories but I still wanna hear them!” Marisa tugs on Reimu’s hand to no avail.
Not getting what she wanted, Reimu tries a different tactic. She exits the room and returns with a pitcher of sand. She begins to carefully pour the grains on the floor, drawing intricate lines of all sorts.
Huh, the design looks familiar to you. It isn’t a common rune or pattern, but there’s something about the design that rings the remembrance bell. The collection of lines and shapes is distinctive, unique to the world. Even if only drawn in a sand mock-up, subtle power still radiates from the pattern. If only you could place it, then you would-
Reimu slams her first down on the design, throwing sand in every direction.
“Hey! How am I supposed to drink this tea now?”
You remember where you’ve seen the design now. You shouldn’t forget things like that, but then again you only examined it for a few minutes.
Of course, Reimu was watching you like a hawk while she went through her demonstration; she saw the glimmer of recognition in your eyes. The shrine maiden bears down on you again, intimidating in all her short glory. “You.”
Yeah, you. The thought of trying to misdirect the shrine maiden comes to mind, but you quash the idea immediately. She’s already caught you, and you aren’t ready to test how far the monstrous lie-detector off to the side cares about honesty.
Giving the shrine maiden your best sheepish grin, you admit to her accusation. “I wasn’t sure how else to get in. Sorry, did I cause you a lot of trouble?”
“…No.” Reimu sighs and taps you once on the forehead with her fingers. Then she returns to her seat and resumes sipping tea. She still looks a bit suspicious of you, but that’s normal as far as you’re concerned. “My shrine, gateway. Exit and entrance here. Yukari was pissed.”
Her advice is duly noted. Next time you won’t punch through Gensokyo’s barrier. Still, it’s a good thing Reimu isn’t too angry with you. You aren’t quite sure who this Yukari is; you recall the name from Byakuren’s list of youkai inhabiting Gensokyo, but nothing specific. Still, you’ve had a lot of people pissed off at you before. It can’t be as bad as a vengeful shrine maiden. Crisis averted.
“Awesome, now that Reimu got all the knots out of her panties, let’s hear those stories!” Everybody looks at you with expectation thanks to Marisa’s outburst.
“Stories, huh? I don’t really know too many good ones.”
“A well-traveled magician such as yourself must have met interesting persons on your journey, no? Something someone might have told you once?”
You nod your thanks to Byakuren. There are plenty of ways to spin a story; might as well indulge the girls. “Fine, fine. Let’s see. I met a knight once. A modern day paladin while on-duty, evil-doers quaked in their boots at the sight of her. Then you found her off-duty and she’d drink you under the table…”
The knight slammed into the cultist with her shoulder, throwing the man off balance. The dark-robed figure screamed in agony as he was bathed in light, holy weapon driven clean through his stomach and severing him in two.
“Amen.” The word was the only obsequy afforded to the man before the knight stormed off through the forest, smashing branches aside with her shield. Light grey hair and vestments twinkled under the moonlight, creating a stream of light amidst the darkness.
She crested a small hill and leapt, soaring through the air. With trained experience she landed harshly in the dirt, her shield driven into the ground and forming a meter high obstruction. Tracking her target like a hawk, the knight lashed out with her foot and brought her prey to the ground.
Yanking her shield out of the ground, the knight pointed her weapon down at her fallen enemy. “Repent, heretic, for the end is nigh. Last rites for the-” The knight stopped and leaned forward until she was forced to kneel on the ground. “You’re just a kid!”
The figure prone underneath the knight spat on the ground. “Nope, I’m the Faerie King. Better run now, church dog, or I’ll curse you!”
The knight narrowed her eyes at young man daring to mock her so. “Child, if you were innocent, you shouldn’t have run from us. We are His most holy crusaders, come to liberate you from the clutches of evil.”
“Innocent? Who the hell is innocent? You crazy woman, you just killed everybody!”
“Heretics and sinners that dared to meddle in His affairs and threaten the lives of others. It was a mercy that we gave unto them a quick and clean death as befits all, no matter how undeserved it was.”
“I was learning from them! What do you expect me to do now?”
“Learning? Poor child, there is nothing to be learned at the hands of the wicked,” the knight’s gaze softened as she set her weapon into the ground.
“Says the holy goody wreathed in the finest clothes money can provide. Choice is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
The grey-haired woman sighed and fingered her personal cross. “I understand how it is to be cast off and seeking any form of connection; mired in loneliness, hatred at the world for leaving you to scrounge about like a common animal. I was blessed to find His guidance to where I am in the world today.”
The teenager on the ground scoffed. “That’s great. So, are you going to kill me or what? Because if you can’t treat my leg soon I think I’m a goner anyway.”
“Your leg? What do you mean your leg?” The knight unfurled her hand, a holy glow lightening the forest. The fallen boy’s leg had been pierced by sanctified weaponry, almost shorn away by holy magic.
Snapping to attention, the knight began to work immediately. She focused her will and her talents, washing the injury in blessed light. She imagined the flesh and muscles as whole and together in His image once more. Matter yielded to mind, the boy’s shredded leg quickly mended in what many might call a miracle. Skin and bone righted themselves and grew, reformed in short order.
“What did you…How did you do that? I never could have done that!”
“Under His watchful eyes, restoring what is right in the world is my calling,” the knight smirked and brushed grey hair out of her eyes. “A strong understanding of human anatomy and a lesson or two in modern surgery helps.”
The boy fell silent, no smart comments issued from his mouth. In a quieter voice, he asked, “You aren’t going to kill me, are you?”
The knight laughed and shook her head. She held out a hand to the downtrodden teenager. “For your association with the wicked? I shall not. It is our duty to reform, above all. Come, let me bring you back into the light of His grace. And find you some new clothes, those rags you have on are awful.”
The daylight slowly fades to night, swept away by the currents of stories. Once you finish a few of your own tales, the girls promptly launched into their own dramatic recounts. The incidents of Gensokyo are many and vast, it seems, and none of the girls spare a chance to boast of their accomplishments.
“So then, Reimu lost! Ahahaha, she lost and lost her skirt, too. Oh man, when she took it off eeeeeverybody stopped about caring the game.” Marisa roars in laughter as she slams her cup back onto the table.
It’s a shame those epic tales slowly devolved into spilling every embarrassing moment they could remember. You aren’t even sure how it happened. You suspect that the oni spiked the tea with alcohol, and then just started to refill the teacup with her demon’s brew. By the time Suika was blatantly pouring alcohol into teacups, people were already downing the shots like it was nothing.
Sitting in a room full of drunken girls is amusing in its own way. You, of course, aren’t drunk because you cheated. You’ve won more drinking contests than you can count by messing around with your liver and digestive tract. Losing control of your inhibitions is not something you can afford. Still, you do your best to act drunk to play along with the atmosphere.
“Indecency is…the purest form of self-expression…that is absolutely not allowed…”
“Hey, heeeey, whoosh indecent? Raymoo? Naaaw, Raymoo smack you!”
“Eh? Reimu would never ever ever hurt me, I’m innocent! I think. Right Reimu?”
“See? Innocent, I say! I could just slip like this and Reimu wouldn’t hurt. Not lewd, innocent, see? See?” Would you stop them already?
Huh? Why would you do that? They aren’t a show. I doubt they want to make fools of themselves like this.
Maybe it’s normal for them? Who knows what kind of relationship they have? You’re still sober so take some responsibility!
“Maybe we should stop for the night?” You break into the conversation, stopping Marisa in her groping tracks. In the end, you agree with your sister. Reimu is kind of staring at you in her drunken lifelessness. If the witch and shrine maiden actually want to do those kinds of things, they can wait until you leave.
“Mister isn’t any fun either! How booooring.” Those are Suika’s last words before she falls backwards and lands dead asleep on the floor.
“Hey, you,” Marisa wobbles over to you, “need a place to stay? I’m still offering that ride, and my home is preeety cozy.”
“Isn’t drinking and flying dangerous?”
“No way, I can do it! See?” The witch lazily takes off inside the shrine, circling above your head and showing a modicum of control.
“Oh…oh…right. Lateness is…a singer’s greatest…asset?” Byakuren slaps herself lightly on the face before rising. Really, what kind of nun is she? You should take the cloth at this rate; a fine crusader for the Lord, you would make, in all your sober power. “Will you be…staying at the temple tonight?”
Movement attracts your attention, and you see Reimu groggily trundling about, a futon gripped in her hands. The shrine maiden looks at you with a questioning tilt to her head, almost tipping over when she slightly raises the bedding in offering.
Where are you sleeping tonight, anyway?
[ ] Hitch a ride with Marisa to her house
[ ] Head back to Myouren Temple with Byakuren
[ ] Crash at the Hakurei Shrine
[ ] Find a room in the village
[ ] <Write-in>
I’ll keep it in mind, but when you’re on the clock you’re on the clock. And if you happened to actually be brain-washed too? Well, tough luck there. >Metaknowledge
Pfh, go ahead and use it, I don’t care. It won’t save you in the end; mwahahahah!
Seriously though, it’s your prerogative to use what you know as you see fit. Just don’t expect your knowledge to work out as you might expect every single time (sometimes, it just might even work out excellently). >>163043
Better fix your radar, there’s an equal lack of plot in every direction. >>163050
Oh man, after a comment like that, I’m tempted to drive this story into the flames. Wait, who am I kidding? It was going there anyway! >>163060
Thanks, I try my best. Enjoy the story as much as you can!