Within the land of Gensokyo exits a place referred by most as the Forest of Magic. This appellation was given to it a long time ago and most people have forgotten everything about its origins, satisfying themselves with its redundant name. Magic is omnipresent in Gensokyo, one who was to deny this axiom, this unavoidable truth, would be a fool sentenced to mockery and shame.
Amidst the forest live numerous Youkais, demon-like creatures revealing themselves under a just as wide range of appearances and kinds. Humans also decided to inhabit the hostile forest but such behavior was considered foolish by the Many as mere humans could not survive alone in such an environment. Must it be praised or laughed at; humans have an innate ability at disregarding danger, thus leading to the end of most of those who tempted their fate. However, a few humans succeeded and still live here as of today.
Yet, none of them realize the nature of the land they chose to live in. Or should I say, all but one. Most already know of the doll-maker’s workshop, the bizarre item boutique and the magic shop. Those three… Actually only one of those three persons is actually completely human… Those three persons aside, there is but one fourth dweller who settled upon this land years ago. In his house, objects and products are not sold. Words of wisdom are freely handed to any who come seeking assistance or answers. Built upon the Nexus of mystical energy that spits tremendous amounts of power and named the forest is the house of a lone man. This man concealed the Nexus and acts as it’s Guardian, keeping its existence as secret as possible while helping whoever knock at his door. He was dubbed half-assedly “The Sage in the Forest” by humans since very few know his name.
This man is I.
I have been keeping watch on this land for a while now. However, I have rarely taken actions by myself. Incidents are usually conveniently brought to an end by others who also wish to end such disturbance. I cannot complain, if I was to use my own power, I would probably attract unwanted attention.
I have witnessed several of those incidents and simply guiding the noble souls of the protagonists in the right direction was enough.
Then why is it that I feel the need to do more?
Over the last days, an ominous feeling has started to harass me. A great force outside is acting up and its influence is spreading cunningly. Black roots are growing in every direction, their presence becoming mightier, entangling unaware preys. Yet since they only grow below the ground, nobody notice them and they are allowed to grow as they please. Nobody will cut the tree if they don’t realize how much of a monster it is.
*Knock knock knock*
I cast aside my thoughts and stand up, making my way to the front door of my isolated house. Once opened, I am met with the presence of a known figure within the village.
-“Miss Kamishirasawa, it is rare for you to come see me. Is it about your small lunar problem?”
-“I wish it was that simple” she replies without energy. It feels as if she would rather be somewhere else and could vanish at any instant.
-“Please enter, Whatever it is you have on your mind is obviously weighing heavily.”
-“Do I look that bad?”
I nod honestly. People should be allowed to know the true impression they give and correct it.
-“I will be making some tea, please try to make yourself comfortable in my modest housing.”
I motion for her to enter and leave for the kitchen, putting some water to boil. I can hear Keine’s tired footsteps behind me. She remains silent as I brew the tea and remain motionless by the table until I bring her the drink. She takes a small sip and leans back, as if she hadn’t been able to enjoy the smallest break in days.
-“It is rare to see you in such a bad condition, Keine, something very important must have happened, please allow me to share your burden a little.”
She simply smiles weakly, putting down the cup of tea. She seems to be completely worn out. Sleepiness is easily read on her face and her clothing is in a just as bad condition. Even her token hat is slightly off.
-“I…don’t really know how to say this… but I’m starting to think I’m not worthy of my title anymore.” Her voice is shaky and her words are said without emotion, almost whispered. This is truly the first time I ever see her so down.
-“You can tell me, Keine, what has happened to the village?” I curse myself once the words leave my mouth, I should not press this woman on a subject that is definitely very hard for her.
-“That’s… that’s the whole problem… I don’t know… I don’t know… I have no idea what is going one!” she shouts the last part, then look down, her eyes filled with tears. “People venturing out of the village are being killed by… something… or someone… I don’t know….”
-“There” I walk up next to Keine and replace her hat, then put my left hand on her shoulder” We both are very knowledgeable people, if it’s a mystic beast we should be able to identify it and find a way to defeat it.”
-“That’s…” Keine looks up then lowers her head, staring at the warm liquid in her cup. “It’s attacking humans and Youkai indiscriminately, day and night…*sob* There are more victims with each sunrise… *sob* No matter what I do it just won’t stop and more and more people get killed! I feel… I feel so...”
Keine can’t finish her sentence as she breaks, crying openly and deeply. I sit behind her and embrace her softly, resting my head on her shoulder and waiting for her to calm down. I, for one, know how much this woman cares for the people of the village, each person who died must without exception be someone she knew and mourned. Even the most troublesome inhabitants of the village were people she couldn’t bring herself to hate. Although being half-youkai herself, Keine Kamishirasawa always made it her duty to protect the inhabitants of the human village. It was never imposed on her, it was something she had to heart and as such, I wouldn’t dare say I could comprehend the pain she feel right now. All that I can do is offering her a little bit of human warmth.
I tighten the embrace a little and she startles a little between two sobs. We don’t know each other that well so I will keep it at that. It’s more than enough.
-“You have done your job admirably up to now. I see no reason for this to stop. You will be able to solve this. Don’t ever forget that you have people who have faith on you and people you can have faith in. If the burden is too heavy, if the enemy is too strong, then muster the help of those who care.” I say softly in her ear.
We remain like this for some time. Once Keine stops crying, I loosen my embrace and stand up, sitting back on my own cushion. I respect her will and stay silent until she feels ready to go on.
-“I… searched for the source of the killing for days… As if not finding the source itself wasn’t enough, there isn’t any clue… Besides, I don’t think it’s a mystic beast.”
I raise an eyebrow, this answer intriguing me.
-“What makes you say so, miss Kamishirasawa? If you have something that proves otherwise, then it will scalp it down to a quite smaller list of possible culprits.”
Keine takes another sip of tea and close her eyes for a moment, probably trying to restore her usual calm.
She opens her eyes and look into mine.
-“The wounds on all the corpses, humans and youkais alike, are too clean. It’s as if weapons were used, not fangs, claws, or even magic. On top of that, Danmaku-users that can inflict that kind of wounds are very rare.”
-“I can see your point. However, there is something I can’t understand myself…Did no one else attempt to take care of the problem? Usually this kind of incidents would quickly attract the attention of that one magician or of the local shrine maiden, if not someone else.”
-“No…” Keine’s reply is cold. “Nobody moved a finger. It’s been two weeks already.”
If the previous affair was bad, this one is unprecedented, a quite serious affair indeed. Up to now, incidents would solve themselves within a few days. In the very least, people would start taking actions and gathering clues. The very fact that none of the usual “heroes” is attempting to solve this crisis is probably the biggest one Gensokyo went through in itself.
-“It seems I can no longer stay idle… can I?” I whisper to myself.
I close the door and walk toward the window, gazing at the peaceful sky. I have been able to make Miss Kamishirasawa a little better despite how big of a problem this was. I am glad that I released most of her tension, but the sorrows and regrets will remain until and after the incident is solved. A person’s heart is so fragile, isn’t it?
-“Now, where shall I begin my investigation? This incident is mine to solve…”
------ [ ] The trails near the village, it’s where everything started and making the villagers safe is the most important priority for now. [ ] The Hakurei Shrine, I should start by paying a visit to the girls who aren’t doing their job. [ ] The Scarlet Devil Mansion, one of those rare Danmaku-users live there. [ ] Mayohiga, just which incident was she not involved in to a certain degree?
Although the situation at the village looks awful, the most worrisome problem is somewhere else. What could be holding back those two? I should start by talking with them. Bringing anything would be useless, my magic will be sufficient. Without the burden of an inventory, I walk out and lock the door. For the first time in years, those who come in need of assistance will be met by silence and only more questions will arise.
I swiftly take off and head toward the Hakurei Shrine. For a brief moment, I catch myself thinking how useful the Lady of Mayohiga’s ability to travel instantly from a place to another would be. Even though I didn’t fly for a long time, I am still quite able. The wind screeches in complaint as I pierce through the sky with a quite respectable speed. My eyes scan the forest downward, keeping watch for unexpected events.
Before long, I reach the shrine and hurl myself downward. A blur is shot from the sky as my body cleaves into the air, splitting it in two before me. I stop myself without any difficulty at a few meters above the ground and hover calmly until my feet meet the stone pathway leading to the shrine. The Priestess of Hakurei is quite an enigma to me. Despite all she’s been through, she has never been to my house even once. I will probably never be able to understand her at this rate; the soul of a human being is not supposed to be able to support so much strain.
Unlike Keine, the Priestess of Hakurei is expected by everyone else to take care of everything for them. If the former is taking actions because of what she holds dear, the latter cannot be given the same noble intentions. This fact is a burden of its own and each crisis should weight more upon her because of it but yet she is still there crisis after crisis, answering the Pleas of the Many. Or should I say, was until now. Definitely, this girl is odd in my eyes. Is it that she simply loves to fight? I couldn’t say, this will be our first meeting as we only both know the other in name only.
Or should I say, this was supposed to be our first meeting. As I walk forward on the path of stones, the scenery unfolding in front of me seems out of place. The sun slowly sets, a red light bathing the shrine and giving it an unpleasant, dreadful look.
I walk up the few steps leading to the front door only to be met with a locked door. It is ironic for both of us to do this at the same time. Those in search of guidance will be completely left to themselves. But more importantly, where is she. If the Priestess of Hakurei isn’t home, then is it that she finally decided to take action? I wish I could speak with her but finding her now would take a little bit of time, something I am not eager to waste.
It was inevitable. I shall now head to the other one’s residence: the Kirisame magic shop.
As I turn around, an ominous feeling invades me. For some reason, having my back turned at this shrine is more than simply unpleasant. I feel awfully vulnerable at the moment and a chill goes up my spine. The ominous feeling I had earlier comes back without a warning and imposes itself with a renewed might. Yes, very close is the source of a great power I can’t recognize. Since I settled upon the Nexus, I gained the ability to comprehend the essence of magic. However, the one I feel right now is nothing to be excited by. It is a very ancient magic, forgotten by most to the same title as the Nexus itself. It has its roots deep within old mystic secrets. But what stands out the most is the darkness emanating from it. No matter who wield it, nothing good will come out of it.
I try in vain to locate its source. While I know it is nearby, I can’t say if it comes from the shrine itself or from somewhere in the mountains. Searching for it would probably be even more hazardous and unlikely to succeed than running after the Priestess. Besides, I don’t feel at ease at all right now, the sooner I will be gone, the better. It is foolish to simply rush in without any idea of what is causing this turmoil. Fortunately enough, only those who like me can comprehend magic will be able to realize how strong this omen is. Additionally, Even I didn’t detect it before I arrived, therefore, it shouldn’t make every power-hungry being in Gensokyo rush toward it.
Without a single glance back, I take off toward the Forest of Magic. I will be fated to return there later on; it is as obvious as the setting sun on the edge of the horizon.
After landing next to the magic shop, I make my way to the front door but before I am able to knock, the action is rendered useless. A few meters to my left, the one I was here to see arrives as well. I take a few steps back and greet her with in my usual way.
-“Well whaddya’know?” she says as she hops off her broom. “What’ll be the third?”
The blonde witch walks up to me with a busy expression. With a quick glance, I notice that she didn’t bring anything back from whatever she was doing. Isn’t that the usual hour she collects those mushroom I told her about? Unlike the Priestess of Hakurei, I met Marisa Kirisame a few times already. The first one was when she heard another human lived in the forest. She considered me as a neighbor before anything else ever since. We talked quite a few times but she never came to me seeking assistance.
-“Ah, Miss Klrisame, I was hoping I could have a word with you.”
-“Okay first, ‘nless you want me to call’ya Crazy Ermit, it’s just ‘Marisa’” she answers with an annoyed expression “Second, granted. If you’ve come all the way here it hafta be somethin’ important” she crosses her arms on her chest and ponders for a few seconds before heading inside. “An’ hurry up, it’s gettin’ dark outside.”
I follow her inside without paying much attention to her spikes; she’s always been like that. One day it will backfire at her, I told her once but she just brushed it off saying there was no one that could beat her even if she got people mad beyond recognition. I didn’t insist, it is not my place to try to change people’s nature.
The Magic shop, which doubles as Marisa’s house, is one of the few western-styled buildings in Gensokyo. It isn’t nearly as luxurious as the Scarlet Devil Mansion, but it holds its own heritage and is perfect like that, although a bit messy. This has to be expected seeing the owner, I suppose. As we enter the living room, Marisa takes a chair and turns it around before sitting on it. She is leaning slightly forward and her arms resting on the chair’s backrest. I take a seat as well, glancing at the fire under the chimney. Magic probably.
-“So, what’s the big deal?” She asks, eager to get it over with.
-“Before this, I would like you to tell me what you were doing for the past days” I ask firmly.
-“Huh?” Marisa is slightly surprised. “Ain’t like you to be the one doing the questionnin’.” She lowers het large hat as a sign of compliance and go on “Right. To tell’ya the truth, I was searching for Alice. A week ago I dropped by to talk’ta her but she wasn’t there. I looked for’her at the Village but she wasn’t there either. Nob’dy saw her since that day and’ven I couldn’t find her ‘nywhere. ”
So it appears Alice as disappeared? The mystery is becoming thicker with each place I visit.
-“If you’ve been busy finding out the whereabouts of Alice I assume you aren’t aware of the crisis at the human village.”
Marisa tilts her head quizzically. It would appears she truly had no idea.
---- [ ]I should Explain everything that has happened to her, she has the right to know ---[ ] Ask her if she wants to come along ---[ ] Don’t ask her
[ ] I should excuse myself and leave, time is against me. ---[ ] The trails near the Human Village ---[ ] The Scarlet Devil Mansion ---[ ] Mayohiga
[X]I should explain everything that has happened to her, she has the right to know. ----[X] Ask her if she wants to come along.
I cannot truly tell if I should be relieved that her lack of initiative was due to her ignoring the facts or anxious about this very fact. More importantly, the Doll-maker’s disappearance is also problematic. She always had a lone personality, but it wasn’t because she was seeking solitude. Besides, even if she isn’t one of the liveliest persons I had the chance to meet, she certainly seemed like a reasonable person to me and would not do such a thing as suddenly leaving without giving word to her closest friend.
Well, regardless of Alice’s whereabouts, it is something that will eventually be dealt with later one, right now I should focus on what I can do immediately: informing Marisa of the current situation. Whether she was to involve herself or not, she still has the right to know.
-“Don’t leave me hangin’ darnit.” Marisa doesn’t even give me the time to reply and urge me to go on.
-“I was about to tell you about it, Marisa, please refrain from interrupting me if it isn’t relevant.” I request calmly.
-“Fine” Marisa complies rather easily, normally she would argue about my request but she seem pretty eager to hear what happened. Regardless, I truly dislike being interrupted for nothing.
-“As of two weeks ago, residents of the Human village venturing away begun to be attacked and killed more often than usual, onward, the number of victims has been increasing dramatically over the said two weeks.” My voice is calm as I state everything with professionalism. I spoke slightly faster than I wanted and should slow down to make it easier to grasp for Marisa.
-“R’ya sure it ‘sn’t just an increase in Youkai attacks’, Hermit? ” Marisa interrupts me nearly instantly. “Happens ‘vry once in a’while, though it ‘sn’t usually as dramatic as ya’re makin’ it sound.” She supports her words with a circular hand gesture.
-“No, Youkais have been listed amongst the victims as well; Humans and Youkais alike are being killed increasingly.”
-“No…” instead of replying noisily, Marisa remains silent and lean backward, pondering. For some reason she seems much more reliable than her usual self. But unfortunately it doesn’t last long as she leans forward once again. “Mystic B--”
“Nay” I cut her instantly. She I slightly frustrated but remain silent. Could it be that she actually realized she should actually listen to what I say seriously for a change? Nah… “This affair was first brought to me by Miss Kamishirasawa from the the village. It was her hypothesis that it was not a mystic beast because the wounds were clean, as if human-like weapons were used.”
-“Twelve arms.” Marisa declares something I don’t immediately understand. “Granted, that one ain’t a beast but it’s still a Mystic.” I blink at her words and frown trying to recall the creature she is talking about. When did this girl ever gain knowledge in this field? “A golden statue, t’was a Buddhist or Hindu deity or somethin’ the likes.”
Finally, I understand what she is talking about and a picture pops in my head. The humanoid statue of pure gold stands clear now. One of its hands hold a mirror, another one holds something similar to the Christian Holy Grail and the ten others wield ten different and fearsome weapons of legends. All of those, made of pure gold.
-“No motive, it would not just randomly slaughter any living being in the area. Besides it shouldn’t have possibly been brought here, there is no summoner in Gensokyo for this creature.” A tempting culprit, but easy answers are rarely the best ones. “Even taking her into consideration. Now please let me finish.”
Marisa stays silent. She traded her busy expression of earlier for a worried one. It is only natural, in a world where Danmaku is the common way of solving problems, such slaughter is rare, human weapons are rarely used by beings of higher power. Before I can place a word, she breaks the silence again.
-“I guess I ain’t gonna be able to do th’usual. Ya’know, just goin’ around an’ kickin’ everybody’s ass ‘til ‘vrythin’s back to normal like Reimu does.” Her voice is light and even if her carefree attitude is still present, it appears she understands the situation and that it is no ordinary incident.
-“One more thing Marisa” I apostrophize her, diving my eyes into hers “The most important thing. Nobody has taken actions against it before today, nobody. This is why I came here and also went to the Hakurei Shrine. The said shrine was found locked down and the maiden was nowhere to be found.”
-“Welp, Maybe Reimu’s already at it.” Marisa suggest without much worries, as if the comment was completely irrelevant.
Suddenly, the fire goes out and only the moon lights the room. Neither of Marisa or myself move.
-“’T’looks like we’ve got some unwanted guests…”
I can feel them as well, several presences are moving around the household, about twenty of them. I focus and attempt to read their magic. Unfortunately, I am unable to identify them, this is odd. There is no creature in Gensokyo whose magic signature I don’t know… Could it be that I was wrong?
Marisa motions for me to stand up as she does the same. She walks calmly toward the front door but her eyes betray her surprise. I follow her silently, perfectly aware of the reason of her uneasiness. Youkais don’t attack her house, ever.
As we reach the front doors, cheerful voices reach us from outside. Marisa opens the door calmly and step outside. I follow her with the same silence. At first glance, what awaited us outside is merely a bunch of fairies dancing around and singing, but something is wrong, in fact, many things are wrong. First, fairies are sneaky prankers, yet those behave like a bunch of Onis. But this is nowhere as important as the fact that their presence is... different from regular fairies. If I was asked to label their magic signature, I could not say that the creatures before me are fairies…
As they spot us, they change their song and dance patterns, as if performing for us…
“Seventeen little fairies Dancing in a field of berries Those are no fruit, stupid! Don’t steal our prize, cupid!
Aaah~! Life tastes so good at night.
Seventeen little fairies dance as a couple pray Innocent little fairies just wanting to play It is a game of life and Death It is a game that lost He of Nazareth
Aaah~! Life tastes so good at night.
Those are no fruit, stupid! Don’t you see it’s her heart we shaped into lovely little balls? Don’t steal our prize, Cupid! Those are ours to play with; don’t you have any shame at all?
Seventeen little fairies sing in unison, Won’t your insides be a nice addition? Why don’t you start your own collection? No, sisters, they don’t even pay attention!
Aaaaaaah~! So warm, so red! Life tastes so good at midnight.
As their morbid song ends, one of the fairies flies between me and Marisa, bearing a cheerful grin revealing bloodstained teeth and fingers. Her dress and her face, however, are immaculate.
The others disperse and vanish into the night, quickly followed by the last one. A wicked laughter can be heard all around the household.
-“Two stupid monkeys And seventeen little fairies How long ‘till they give up? Hurry, hurry humans it’s kill or be killed.”
As the night become silent again, Marisa turns to me. Her expression is one of annoyance but I don’t think she is oblivious to the fairies’ odd behavior. She looks at me directly and break the silence.
-“Think’ya should go back inside now. Things’ll prob’ly get ugly real soon. ”
------ [ ] I should try to talk with the fairies, perhaps I can get some clues by playing their little game [ ] I should let Marisa deal with them, she is more than able to do this and I won’t have to reveal my powers. [ ] I should help Marisa take them out. Immediately. I got a bad feeling about all this.
------ DURRR 70 characters over the limit. As for asking Marisa, It's stored in the database, don't worry about it.