Topic: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark  (Read 5755 times)

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東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« on: April 10, 2016, 05:21:44 am »
東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
A very Touhou-ish title for a very Touhou-ish incident.

Hello everyone! Here's something I've been wanting to do for a while. I've always wanted to do something for this incredibly unique community, and this is the first step in doing just that!

Before I continue I'd like to warn you that this fanfic contains coarse language, realistic depictions of character death, and dramatic scenes. If this were a movie it would be "R"-rated for violence and use of strong language. Bear that in mind as you continue.



List of Chapters

1 - Days Gone By
2 - Two Magicians
3 - The Enlightened
4 - Know Your Enemy
5 - Dark Dawn
6 - Desperation and Preparation
7 - Things Worth Protecting (Part 1)
8 - Things Worth Protecting (Part 2)
9 - The First Night
10 - What Lies Ahead
11 - A Brief Moment of Peace and Quiet
12 - Fatal Encounter
13 - Final Descent
14 - Lockdown
15 - A Bittersweet End
16 - Unforeseen Events that Change the World
17 - Exposed
18 - You Can't Run from Reality
19 - Atonement for a Victimless Crime
20 - A Failure to Communicate
21 - The Grimoire of Alice
22 - The Ultimate Magic
23 - Midnight Misery







« Last Edit: June 15, 2018, 04:19:08 pm by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2016, 05:24:49 am »
Chapter 1 - Days Gone By

"Why? Why are you doing this? Didn't I tell you to leave me alone?"

Tears rolled down the girl's eyes as she embraced the youkai in her arms.

"You don't deserve this. Not now, not ever. Nobody is going to die today... Rin."

"No, you don't deserve this. It's not your fault. You don't need to suffer for what I did. Just leave me here and promise me you'll never end up like me."

As much as she wanted to walk away, Marisa knew she couldn't do it. At least one of them would die, and she was going to spend their last moments together.

"Tell me, what's your most important desire?"

With a childish smile, the youkai girl responds "Ohh~, it's nothing big. Don't worry about it."

Marisa was on the verge of losing her patience. More than that, the kirin's ability to remain calm in the situation they were in astonished her to no end. While it was no surprise that youkai possessed abilities humans could never dream of, the level of emotional stability Rin displayed was more than enough proof that she was different from the ones Marisa met in Makai not too long ago.

"Please. Just tell me, I promise I won't-"

"Are you done yet? I don't have all day to listen to you two."

Her whisper was cut off by a shrine maiden she had met three years ago. A shrine maiden responsible for the death of Makai's goddess and the ordering of the complete destruction of her kingdom. She had single-handedly killed Shinki, and if it wasn't for Marisa's daring feat, her daughter would have met the same unfortunate fate. As those thoughts permeated her consciousness, Marisa Kirisame looked Reimu Hakurei in the eyes and spat out words of pure anger:

"Go to hell, you murderer."

The next thing Marisa knew was that she was pushed back by an intense force. As she came to her senses, Rin Satsuki was pinned against the wall by countless sealing needles, scarlet blood forming a pool on the wooden floor beneath her. Without a word, the girl in black and white grabbed her broom and dashed toward the girl in red and white, who rushed forward with steel needles clutched between her fingers, their eyes staring death into each other.

----------

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, ...

Marisa Kirisame woke up with her heart pounding and mind spinning.

"The hell was that?"

Before Marisa moved, she blinked a few times and gave a deep sigh. It had been several years since it happened, and to this day she still wish she hadn't lost her temper like that. Somewhere in the millions of impossibilities, she thought that she could have prevented it all from happening. With another sigh, she thought of Rin Satsuki's wish, and the last words the little kirin girl said to her:

"Promise me you'll never end up like me."

For some time, Marisa didn't know what to make of that. In the months leading up to the incident, Rin was a frequent face in the human village, something rather uncommon for a place with such a name. Unlike typical youkai, she was welcomed by most of the village residents for her sincere contributions as a nurse, the girl that brought deathly ill children to full health and extended the life of the elderly. However, her methods were unconventional and in many cases turned humans into youkai upon death.

In the weeks leading up to her death, there was a gathering of prominent figures of the village. This included Marisa's father, as he owned a store in the village and played a significant role in its fortification. He had convinced -- with great difficulty and effort -- Reimu as well as a sizeable amount of the attendees that Rin's "patients" be exterminated as youkai after they have lived their human life. This was thought to be the most fair, both for the humans that received the kirin's services and the ones that feared youkai above all else. For the first time in recorded history, it seemed that human and youkai could finally attain cooperation and trust. In the end, it wasn't the youkai that brought this foolish fantasy to an end, but the humans themselves that did. As they lost faith in the gods and turned to the Satsuki girl, the fear of death became overshadowed by degeneracy and crime. Shortly after, the Hakurei shrine maiden demanded that Rin Satsuki be exterminated on the account of several gods claiming that she will bring insanity to Gensokyo's human population. Along with what seemed to be developing, the village cooperated with her in "separating" Rin from the village. The rest was history, as they say, though all traces of Rin Satsuki's existence were erased from recorded history. With the death -- and subsequent extermination -- of the last remaining "patients", the kirin miracle-worker had become no more than a blurry memory in the minds of those that had come into contact with her.

Though it would still be some time before the sun would rise, Marisa got up out of bed and lit a lantern. Warm light flickered in her tiny house as she reached under her bed and retrieved a box.

Thump-thump, Thump-thump, ...

The Ordinary Human Magician clicked open the clasps on the front panel of the wooden container, revealing a strikingly small deck of Spell Cards. She took them into her hands and fanned them out, idly staring at the cryptic glyphs that adorned them.

"Promise me you'll never end up like me."

After the incident, Marisa was traumatized. Not only had she lost one of her best friends, she also developed a sense of inferiority. She had dedicated her life to become Gensokyo's most proficient magician, all to end up mere seconds away from becoming a human pincushion. In the days following Rin's extermination, Marisa vowed to avenge her demise. With great confidence and equally strong determination, she challenged Reimu to a deadly duel that ultimately ended in a stalemate. It was this duel that led to the creation of the "Spell Card Rules", a never-before-seen system of battle where no one would have to die.

Marisa focused her attention back to the Spell Cards in her hand, taking one last look at them before letting her mind drift to the origin of those cards.

"These cards, they aren't your typi- never mind, those cards you made are nothing compared to these..."

After losing her (and Gensokyo's) first Spell Card battle to its creator, the feelings of inferiority that kept Marisa up for nights following the Rin Satsuki incident came rushing back. It was during that time that Mima showed those cards to her. Naturally, with a name like hers attached to them, anything would be outright dangerous. In this specific case, the cards she held in her hands were Dark Spells, magical incantations with tremendous destructive ability.

"Promise me you'll never end up like me."

Marisa placed the cards back into the box, locked it up, and placed it back in the place it came from. From the day she was given them, she vowed to never use them. No, she vowed to treat them as the mere pieces of paper they were, not even thinking about deciphering them in the first place. She was a human, and she had finally understood Rin's wish.



She wanted her to stay a human.



STOP! I know what you're thinking. Now, don't jump to conclusions just yet, this is only the first chapter :V. The recent storyline in Wild and Horned Hermit and especially Forbidden Scrollery bring some big questions to the table. Do humans-turned-youkai really get the death penalty? What about Spell Card rules?

This is my first (actually planned out) fanfic, with a plot and everything prepared, so I'm going to put down some things that motivated me to get this thing going.

Rin Satsuki is a very interesting "character." I put that in quotes because people disagree with the extent to her being an character, and for this reason she's a special case in the Touhou series. From my perspective, she's a hybrid between "official" and "fan-made." On one hand she does exist, even if she's just three? fragments of code and an ambiguous image on ZUN's EoSD circle cut. On the other hand there are many theories about what she actually is, and I've decided to go with the most popular and well-backed theory that she is a kirin (read: youkai) who didn't make the cut because "reasons." To me, she's just as much of a character as the rest, simply because she made it as far as being "in" a game both in the code and in a certain character's dialogue.

Reimu and Marisa are also interesting, not just because they're the "faces" (literal in the sense of Marisa) of Touhou, but because they symbolize the two general "classes" of people from each individual person's point of view. According to popular Touhou lore, the former is the prodigious one that somehow does everything with little effort, the kid in class that gets an A+ on an exam after you clearly saw him/her doing anything other than hitting the books the past week. The latter is the one who gets the top grade, but only after spending countless hours studying over and over. To me, Marisa is the commoner, the one that everyone (typically) starts out as. Reimu is the rival, that kid who finishes the lap half a second faster than you, the first-place-but-not-by-much contestant you know you can beat with just that one more drop of sweat. But as we all know the curve is logarithmic, and that last drop of sweat may very well end up being several times more than all the work you did to get to where you are.

Finally, if you're familiar with the MegaMan Battle Network series -- especially the 4th and 5th games -- "Dark Spell" should have rang a klaxon loud and clear in your head. Will our ordinary human magician ever find a reason to touch them again? Stay tuned for the answer!
« Last Edit: July 31, 2016, 05:44:14 pm by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2016, 02:30:54 am »
Chapter 2 - Two Magicians

In one of the many shops that lined the busy street without a name, a man was scolding a young girl.

"Magic? You want to learn magic? Just what do you think will come of that?"

"I want to become the strongest magician in Gensokyo! I'll even surpass youkai with my magic!"

"Silence!" bellowed the man. "You know better than that! The Kirisame family would NEVER deal in magic!"

"Then I'll be the first to do it! They all say that I can't be this, I can't be that, I'll show them!"

"How? Just how will you show anybody? You can barely buy food for yourself, and you want to be a magician? You're ten years too early to even think about something like that!"

"Then I'll join the Gensokyo Defense Force and earn my own money!"

"Hah! You? The Defense Force? What are you going to do? Listen, I know you've got ambition, but those people fight demons and youkai put their lives at stake. One wrong move and you're dead!"

The girl left the shop in anger and frustration, enlisting in the Gensokyo Defense Force among some of the village's top hunters and warriors. The rest -- as the saying goes -- is history.

----------

Ten years later, the girl that ran away from her father opened the blinds and looked outside the window. In the moonlit landscape were spots of light emitted by several varieties of mushrooms waving side to side in the wind, flickering like the stars shining down on them. The wind had picked up in her sleep, and it seemed to be growing stronger even now. Marisa turned around and surveyed her one-room house. A single lantern on the bedstand provided a warm, fiery glow, casting shadows of all shapes and sizes against the wall. Books lay scattered on the floor and the lower half of her bed. Shelves containing more books interspersed between jars of colorful liquids lined one side of the room. On the opposite side stood a desk covered by more books, a small portion of which was taken up by a shikigami she rescued from Kourindou. Known in the outside world as a "computer," the otherworldly machine had the ability to show infinite amounts of information and even reproduce past events through its window. While she hoped to wake it up from its slumber one day, the only thing Marisa ever saw on the other side of the glass was a fine patterned grid.

A particularly strong gust of wind created a howl as it rushed through the cracks and crevices scattered throughout the forest, leaving a ghastly echo behind. Marisa's dream reminded her of the fact that she was nothing more than a ordinary human. Born into a well-off family, she left her parents behind to pursue her passion for magic. The more she practiced and trained, the more apparent her limitations became. She could only remember so many spells, and she could only react so fast. The girl who prided herself on being the "Ordinary Human Magician" was just that.

Marisa's house creaked as yet another gust of wind blew across the forest, causing the lantern to flicker irregularly as it swung. She thought about Alice Margatroid, the only other person she knew that lived in the forest. Grabbing an appropriate arsenal of Spell Cards and donning a jacket for the unusual weather, the magician took off to the skies on her trusty broom. From a sufficient distance above the forest, she could see waves of wind moving across the thick density of trees. To the east was the Human Village, its usual lighting marking its location. Beyond that was the Hakurei Shrine, where Marisa would have set off toward if it wasn't for the untimely dream she had no more than an hour ago. She aimed for the north and alternated between looking forward and down before descending into the northwestern portion of the forest.

The sound of insects were the only thing that could be heard from this area of the forest, and the edge of the horizon had just lit up when she knocked on the door of the dollmaker's house.

"Marisa, what are y-"

Taking a look at the magician, Alice was confused and slightly shocked. She had traded her black-and-white dress for a thick cowhide jacket enhanced with high-level protective spells. Cases full of Spell Cards were attached to her belt, and in her right arm she held her signature weapon, the mini-hakkero.

"I- is something wrong?"

Marisa didn't know what to say. She had made her way to Alice's in the darkness for several reasons, one of them being that the two were friends made as a result of the Mystic Square incident. At the time, the aspiring magician thought of it as an opportunity to put herself to the test and joined the fight against the Makai invasion. Near the end of the war Marisa realized the true intentions of the soldiers, as well as the fact that she couldn't do anything to stop it. From the moment she enlisted, she saw that the visitors from Makai were not acting with malicious intent. Perhaps this was the reason why the magician opted to knock them out with sufficiently effective yet harmless spells.

"My, my, what a weak attack," said the shrine maiden as she tossed an amulet that tore straight through the dazed man's body. "I expected more from Gensokyo's strongest magician." What started out as an operation to stop Makai's residents from harmless tourism had turned into a full-fledged genocide campaign. As the remains of Makai were reduced to ashes and cinders, Marisa snuck Shinki's daughter away to the Forest of Magic, using a portion of what she had earned from her enlistment to build her a new home for her. For the next four years they spent their time together, practically becoming sisters. She felt that it was her way of apologizing for the fact that she somehow indirectly caused the loss of so many innocent lives.

"Something's telling me a disaster is about to happen. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something doesn't seem right tonight."

"How? Did you see something?"

"Consider this: You wake up in the middle of the night after having a dream about something that happened almost nine years ago. The wind's blowing hard, and you can't get yourself to fall asleep no matter how hard you try. Something's wrong, and I know you know it too."

"What makes you think that? It could just be a period of strong winds. You're worrying a bit more than usual, Marisa. Seriously, what's gotten into you?"

Marisa looked around and walked further into the house. Alice followed her, severely confused at her friend's unwarranted worrying. In a quiet voice, Marisa spoke as if there were other people trying to listen to what she was about to say.

"Lately I've been thinking about the true intention of the Spell Card Rules. Are they really there to protect us, or are they just another part of Reimu's plan to maintain control over Gensokyo? I once believed that it was to protect humans from youkai, but recent happenings are starting to tell me otherwise. I mean, two weeks ago she killed four humans from the village because they tried to learn powerful spells. I'm telling you, Alice, the Rules are only there so humans and youkai would never gain enough influence and power. How many of your spells can actually kill? If two hours from now Reimu decided that you shouldn't be in Gensokyo anymore, how many of your spells can you use to defend yourself?"

A gust of wind howled as it blew through the forest. The Seven-Colored Puppeteer felt a chill run down her spine as Marisa's words repeated themselves in her mind. The girl that struggled to saved her from certain death looked like she was on good terms with the girl that would have effortlessly killed her. For this reason, Alice rarely left the Forest of Magic without Marisa by her side. After witnessing the death of her mother and the slaughter of Makai's residents, she could not ignore the fragility of life and the horrible things humans were capable of doing. Marisa was right; her spells were useless when it came to life-or-death situations. Ever since she was relocated to Gensokyo, Alice thought about such scenarios. She didn't want to admit it, but reality was looking straight her straight in the eyes and she could no longer ignore its menacing glare.

"So what are we going to do?" Alice was beginning to realize the gravity of the situation and like Marisa, she was beginning to feel uncomfortable. "We can't just start doing whatever on our own, can we? Who else knows about this?"

"So far you're the only one I've talked to about this. A couple of people in the village know too, and they have their own secret group with meetings and all. With the executions that happened there might be even more people who are thinking the same thing."

"Do you know anyone in the village who might be able to help?" The girl from Makai started panicking. "There has to be someone who can help us, right?"

"There's Keine, I'm sure she knew what happened. There's also Akyuu, though I'm not sure if she knows about anything beyond what the rest of the village knows. They do a lot of make sure she doesn't know what they don't want her to know. I can also ask my father, maybe he can tell us a bit about how things are going and what can be done."

The sound of birds chirping and fairies chattering signaled the beginning of another day in the sealed-off land of humans and youkai. Alice looked at Marisa, Marisa looked at Alice, and the two knew that there would be no time to spare. Avoiding stray fire from fairies unaware of their presence, the two magicians hovered in the air, speeding toward the village. Alice took care to admire the scenery from this altitude, something she rarely had the chance to do. Fields of green spread across the landscape, surrounded by rolling hills and expansive valleys. To the far north stood the Youkai Mountain, its peak hidden by the clouds. A void of dark grey slightly toward the west hinted at the location of the Misty Lake, home to the majority of Gensokyo's fairy population. As the sun continued to rise above the eastern mountains, Alice was reminded of the fact that she was not on a sightseeing trip, but to finally understand why it was best for her to stay hidden in the Forest of Magic. Marisa kept a Spell Card at the ready, prepared for any diversion that might take place. She was not only on a mission to uncover Gensokyo's darkest secret, but also with a particularly vulnerable person behind her. She could not afford to take any risks. As usual, she landed right in front of the village gate, where four guards were stationed.

"Ahh, it's the Kirisame girl. Good morning, what brings you here today?"

"And who is this?" one of them said, glancing at Alice with a smile. "It's been a while since you came to the village. Things haven't changed much, though there was a bit of a reorganizing of businesses and restaurants."

"We're here to visit some folks. Oh, and to do a bit of shopping."

The two girls walked past the guards and into the village which had just started its daily routine. Around them, storeowners hung their signs up and propped open their doors, ready for another day of business. Parents called to their children as they set off for school, they themselves getting ready for whatever it was they they planned to do. In this moment, it seemed as if nothing could go wrong, that everything was as normal as could be. A group of children pointed at Marisa as she walked by, telling tales to each other of her heroic deeds. Here, she felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing that her legend had spread to boys and girls of all ages.

A surprised look spread across Keine Kamishirasawa's face as Marisa approached the one-room schoolhouse, followed by Alice.

"Marisa? Alice? What brings you here today? And make it quick, school's about to start."

"Can we talk somewhere else without the children around?"

The were-hakutaku guardian of the Human Village was taken by surprise at Marisa's request. To the excitement of the growing crowd of children gathered in front of the schoolhouse, the teacher announced a slight delay to the beginning of the day's classes and headed into the building. The magician spared no time as she immediately began her questioning.

"What do you know about Akechi Morichida, Chihaya Morichida, Kaoru Shinohara, and Ichida Watanabe?"

"I see the news has traveled faster than I thought..."

"Why wouldn't it?" the dollmaker inquired. "Something like that tends to spread pretty quickly."

"I warned them, but they wouldn't listen. The Morichidas claimed that the village was too weak to defend itself and wanted to take matters into their own hands. Shinohara and Watanabe joined them later, convinced that they could become as strong as youkai magicians. To be honest, I didn't really pay too much attention to them until I noticed them practicing Dark Spells. They seemed so into it, as if the spell was taking control of them..."

Keine sighed and went on. Marisa thought about box under her bed and Rin Satsuki's parting words.

"It's quite frightening how merciless Reimu can be when she's angry. Akechi was stabbed nearly twenty times before he died."

Alice shuddered at the schoolteacher's report.

"My guess is that he would have met the same fate as the other three if he didn't confront her the way he did."

"I've seen worse, Alice. I've seen far worse."

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get that out of my mind before the children come in."

It took a moment for the two to fully understand what they had just been told. Marisa had never thought that anyone other than a select few would know about the existence of Dark Spells. Besides herself, the only other person she was sure of having access to them was Patchouli Knowledge, librarian of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Perhaps someone was out there spreading information about them, or even worse, creating them. The prospect of Dark Spells being spread throughout Gensokyo was horrifying, even more so than the copious amounts of blood that would spill once the shrine maiden took matters into her own hands. The two left through the back door as Keine let the students in, walking past men and women going about their day as if not a thing was of concern.

It was Alice that broke the silence between the two as they walked down the bustling street.

"Two of them weren't even twenty yet, and she just killed them like that... Why?" The reclusive girl stammered as she imagined the same thing happening to her. "It just seems unnecessary and wrong. For gods' sake, they're younger than her, they're younger than us!"

"I hate to say it, but I've got a feeling that there's a crisis that's unfolding as we speak. You heard what Keine said, right? The Dark Spells? How did they get them, and where did they get them from? It can't be the village, can it? There's no way they could've discovered them on their own."

"So you're saying someone's spreading them in the village? But who? Who would be able to do that? A youkai?"

"Well if I knew, we wouldn't be doing this in the first place, wouldn't we? But first and foremost we've got to find someone who knows exactly what's going on. The days of the Spell Card Rules are coming to an end, and I sure don't want to be without firepower when that happens."

In the midst of the shock that followed after Keine's presentation of the matter, the two completely forgot to get her opinion on the Rules. It was far too late to enter and disrupt her class, so the two magicians headed toward a familiar yet rarely-visited storehouse among the many buildings to their left.

"Ya there, pops?!" said Marisa as she entered the Kirisame-ya Second-Hand Shop. A man in his fifties stood up from his usual inventory-checking routine and greeted his only daughter.

"Well, well, if it isn't Marisa!" The head of the Kirisame family rushed forward to give twenty-two year old girl a hearty hug. "How's it been, dear?"

"Father, I came here to ask you something about the Spell Card Rules."

"So serious right from the get-go! That's my daughter!"

"No, really, I want to know how you feel about it, if the village has been better off since its implementation."

"I'm guessing it has to do with the incident this month, is that right?"

Marisa nodded.

"In that case, let me tell you what I know about it."

Alice positioned herself close to the father-daughter conversation.

"It started when Akechi Morichida and Chihaya Morichida had the idea that the Spell Card Rules were designed to support the power structure of Gensokyo rather than the protection of humans. I know this because they attended several village meetings and voiced their concern. For young men and women like the two of them to voice opinions like that in public was already quite bold, especially since they knew the consequences of breaking the Rules. Kaoru Shinohara and Ichida Watanabe had just become of age, but instead of joining the Defense Force they decided to tag along with the Morichidas. It was probably a result of them not being warned earlier, but they started to dabble in forbidden magic. I'm sure you know a lot more about that than I do, but what they did resulted in one of the most brutal executions this village has seen in years. For reasons I'd rather not explain in a time and place like this, Reimu came to the village on the account of something gone awry. Of course, the group of kids were pent-up with disgust at the rules she made so they got into a rather heated fight. I'm assuming both of you know what came of that, so I'll spare you the details. What I will tell you is that nearly half the village is now convinced that the Spell Card Rules are not what they thought they were for, and that there's a growing amount of people discontent with the way this place is being run. Most of them won't do anything about it though, especially after it all went down. But to be honest with you, I'm siding with the folks that think the Rules are there for a reason. It might not be the best way to keep peace, but I will say that even ten people dead is less of a problem than a riot swallowing up the entire village."

"Half of the village?" Alice spoke up for the first time since she stepped into the room. "You're telling me half the village thinks the Spell Card Rules are wrong?"

"Well, yes, maybe even more than that. Like I said, don't worry about that too much, it's not like anyone is going to try and pull off what those kids managed to. The village is still trying to put together the pieces and prevent something like that from happening again. Now you two seem well-behaved, you wouldn't do something like that, would you?"

The two girls nodded as the man studied them carefully.

"Well, I guess the two of you aren't here for anything, and I've got to get back to running this place. If there's anything else I can do for you, stop by any time!"

"Thank you, father."

"Thank you, Kirisame-san."

----------

"Half the village, huh? Half of the people here thinking what we're thinking."

"It's not all that surprising when you stop and think about all that's happened."

"It's just that I feel like things are actually starting to worry me. First Dark Spells, and now this. It's almost as if the village has become a different place."



With that, our magical girls are starting to believe that the law of the land is working against them.

There is little information about Marisa's father other than the fact that he lives in the Human Village, where he runs a shop. It is said that Marisa left to live on her own in official works, so at least that's in-line with canon. It's also canon that Marisa bought a computer from Kourindou, likely a PC-98 or pre-21st century IBM-compatible judging by the description and art.

As the village is swept up over paranoia regarding the very rules that hold Gensokyo together, what will happen next? What about the source of the Dark Spells? These questions and more, answered next time we meet!
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2016, 09:53:35 pm »
Chapter 3 - The Enlightened

As the sun rose to its highest point in the sky, the two magicians started to doubt that the village was the right place to be. They had come in search of someone who might be able reveal the details of a highly secretive organization that might be nothing more than a rumor, and half the day had already passed without much of a lead. Marisa was getting impatient, especially with the thought of Dark Spells being spread throughout the village. With each step she took, she saw different faces pass by. With each face that passed by, she imagined what it would be like if that was the face of the next victim of this forbidden magic. Some of them were elderly, some young. Some were worn out from days upon days of work, and some were smooth and polished like the innocent lives they led. Beyond a certain point there was no way to reverse the effects of the spells, and Marisa knew that there would be only one solution once that took place.

"Maybe it's always been this way, and that it's only now that things are starting to escalate. We need to find out where people are getting Dark Spells from. I don't care how long it will take, but I won't stop until I..."

"...kill each and every one of them."

Though Marisa was known for speed, the time it took for her to brandish her mini-hakkero and turn around would leave a certain tengu in awe.

"Come again?" she asked, aiming the weapon at point-blank range of Gensokyo's de facto judge, jury, and executioner. Without a word, Reimu Hakurei grabbed Marisa Kirisame by the arm, plunging her thumb into a pressure point that caused the magician to wince in pain as she let go of the glowing device in her hand. Just as her vision was starting to black out, the shrine maiden released her grip and walked toward Alice.

"I see you haven't changed at all, Margatroid."

"What's going on? Why are you doing this?"

"You already know what's happening, so stop wasting my time. Now, I'll politely ask the two of you to stay out of this before it's too late."

"Politely? YOU CALL THAT POLITE?!" Marisa yelled as she regained consciousness. "If you're asking for a fight you've got one!"

"I'm giving the two of you one last chance to leave. If you value your lives I suggest you take this chance and do as I say."

Alice made her way toward Marisa, still holding her right arm.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm okay. Oh, I'm okay, and in a few seconds someone's not going to be!"

Reimu swung her gohei wand through the air, nearly striking Alice's head.
 
"NOW!"
 
"Uh, okay?"

The two turned their backs and started walking away slowly before picking up their pace. Not once did they look back, mostly out of anger, along with a slight bit of fear.

"We've got to find the ones responsible for this. Anyone, someone, even a hint. We should go to the schoolhouse again. I'm sure Keine would understand. She seemed concerned when we talked to her earlier today. And what about Akyuu? Didn't you say she knows a bit about what's going on? Right, Marisa?"

"Right. Let's get out of this place first. Trust me, you do not wanna tick her off when she's pissed."

"Then what in the Gods' names did you do back there?!"

"What do ya think? I sure ain't gonna stand there and let her lecture me on the 'right' way to solve an incident! Besides, it wasn't like I was gonna fire that thing in the village."

"Excuse me," a voice behind them spoke. Marisa turned around to see a man at least five years younger than her father speaking to her.

"Are you Marisa Kirisame?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Pretty brave of ya to pull that off, ain't it? I've heard a lot about you from your ol' man; he tells me you enlisted in the Defense Force and solved some big incidents. And your friend there... You saved her, didn't you?"

"Who are you?"

"That's not important right now. Come, I've got several things to tell you two."

Marisa nodded in agreement, her instincts telling her to follow the man. Alice kept close, the hopelessness within her beginning to fade. The mysterious figure led the two away into the residential portion of the Human Village. Among the housing hidden behind the shops lining the bustling street, where people walked single-file through narrow alleys with shadows cast by hanging laundry, where the smell of fresh foods and dry wood permeated the air, the girls' attention was brought to a rather well-maintained house. The man reached into his right pocket and took out a keychain containing three keys, sticking the silver one into the lock. Opening the door with care, he stepped into the room. Marisa and Alice followed, placing their footwear in the corner where the man did. A click sounded as he locked the door from inside.

"Well, now. I guess I can begin," he spoke in a quiet yet confident tone. "I am Hiroaki Ichimura, husband and father of three. Just another person in this place we call the Village. I seem like a normal man, don't I?"

"I guess."

Alice nodded.

"Heheh, you young kids sure know how to lie. Tell me, why did you follow me, especially after what happened? What made you think I wasn't one of the informers for the Hakurei Shrine?"

"It's the way you approached us. You followed us until we were away from where it happened. You talked to us quietly. There's no way you're on her side."

"Your father told me you were special -- that you were bound to do good things. You still visit him, right?"

"I just talked to him today. You're with him, aren't you?"

"Well, yes, and no. I'm a regular patron of his shop, and I sometimes see him at the meetings held every few weeks. Nice man, I'd say. Always helpful."

"Sounds like him. So what did you bring us here for?"

Hiroaki looked at Marisa, then at Alice, then back at Marisa. He seemed to know what to say, it was just a matter of whether he was going to say it. Half a minute of silence passed before the man finally spoke:

"What I am about to tell you may change your lives forever. What you are about to hear may go against your deepest-held beliefs, ideologies, and thoughts. Your friends may become your enemies, and your enemies your friend. What I am about to say is for your knowledge and your knowledge only, for you two are the only ones that should be hearing this. The walls of this house are enchanted with a barrier that prevents anything from entering or leaving, so please feel comfort in knowing that anything you say in here will remain among the three of us."

Alice and Marisa looked at each other, and silently agreed to the man's request.

"Why does Gensokyo exist? What sustains its existence? What role do you think the village plays in that? What role do you play, and what role do we play?"

Marisa spoke first:

"Gensokyo exists because of the barrier, right?"

"Yes, the Great Hakurei Barrier. Do you understand why it's called what it's called?"

Both Marisa and Alice nodded.

"Then I'm sure both of you know what the duties of the Hakurei shrine maidens are. Is that correct?"

"Protect the barrier at all costs?"

"At what cost? If you were to, say, be a destructive force to the barrier, what would Reimu do?"

"She'd kill me," Marisa answered with trepidation.

"I see. Even though the two of you seem to know each other well?"

"You saw what she did today, right? She told me herself, it's her duty to treat everything and everyone equally."

"If that's the case, do you really know her well enough to tag along with her to solve incidents?"

"What are you trying to tell me?"

"As a human, you and I are nothing more than cattle, free to be slaughtered to maintain what she calls 'balance'. There are people who genuinely believe that this balance is necessary for the continued existence of Gensokyo. Truth is, they've been coerced into believing that for so long they now take it as reality. I, myself, am well aware of that, which is why I brought the two of you here. You see, I'm anything but normal."

Hiroaki began to make his way toward a large dresser in the far left corner of the house. With quite some force, the furniture slid to the right, revealing the side of a door panel.

"Marisa Kirisame, Alice Margatroid, below this door is a side of the Human Village you will see for the first time. A side of the village that proves to all of Gensokyo that humans can live without this broken system looming over them. If you're ready, I can take you there. Just let me warn you: you may never want to live the life you currently live after this."

"If it means solving this incident, if it means no more innocent lives lost, I'll go!"

"Right!"

"Very well. Put something on your feet, and follow my lead."

With one last push, the door was free to be accessed. Hiroaki opened it and gave a string hanging from it a single tug, followed by two quick tugs. A tug from the other side gave the signal to continue, and the girls began to descend. At the floor, Hiroaki triggered a mechanism that slid the drawer back to the position it stood, closing the door as it slid into position. Along the walls to either side of the narrow staircase were glass bulbs that cast light throughout the descent. At the bottom was a solid steel door with no lock, doorknob, or hinge. At the man's knock, a voice sounded from behind it:

"Who are they?"

"Visitors."

The door opened inward, revealing carpeted flooring, chatter, and what seemed to be a replica of the Human Village's main street. Glass bulbs hanging from wires strung across the "ceiling" provided strong, constant light. Houses stood neatly next to one another, filled with those that had sought refuge, those that escaped from certain death, and newborn children that had yet to become aware of the Gensokyo separated by half a kilometer of earth above them.

"They're magicians from the surface. I'm just taking them here on a tour."

----------

To say Reimu wasn't in a good mood would be a drastic understatement. After getting woken up by Yukari Yakumo in the middle of the night, the shrine maiden could not have expected good news. At the gap youkai's account of what was now happening, she set off to rid the village of anyone she regarded as suspicious. The fact that there were humans practicing dark magic removed every last bit of her restraint, and Yukari's sudden appearance meant that she had to deal with the situation swiftly. When Kosuzu Motoori, her prime suspect, did not provide any leads toward the origin of the Dark Spells, Marisa and Alice were the last ones she wanted to deal with. Given the former's sudden outburst, it was rather unexpected of her to simply immobilize her opponent. From this brief altercation, she knew that the two magicians were not prepared to work with her. With this in mind, she knocked on the door of the schoolhouse, revealing a slightly frustrated Keine Kamishirasawa.

"Hello, Reimu. What is it?"

"You know why I'm here, do you?"

Keine nodded.

"Then tell me, what do you know about Dark Spells?"

"Please, not in front of the children. Can we talk about this later t-"

Reimu pointed the gohei she held in her left hand at the schoolteacher's forehead, leaving no more than three centimeters of distance between the youkai and the purification rod.

"Either you tell me now, or I beat it out of you."

"Okay, okay."

While Keine was usually the one to ask questions in a place such as this, she started to speak, gradually raising her voice as she finished her response.

"You're right in believing that there are humans in this village with Dark Spells. Since you're so hell-bent on knowing why, I'll tell you here and now: It's because the Spell Card Rules, the ones you created, are nothing more than a tool you use to keep the village UNDER YOUR CONTROL!"

"I see. It's very unfortunate that you believe that."

The shrine maiden grabbed the were-hakutaku by the collar of her dress, pinning her against the wall of the building.

"Perhaps you could serve as an example for the rest of them."

Keine reflexively tilted her head to the side as Reimu thrust the gohei forward, stabbing straight through the wall. The schoolteacher gasped for air as she opened her eyes.

"Shrine Maiden of Gensokyo, is this how you serve the Gods?!"

The sound of splintering wood cracked again as a second hole was put through the wall.

"DO YOU THINK YOU'RE SETTING A GOOD- STOP! NO! NO!!!"

Horror contorted Keine's face as one of her students held out a Dark Spell. Letting go of the were-hakutaku, Reimu turned around to face the fifteen-year-old girl, now chanting the lines written on the piece of paper. Her eyes stared right into the shrine maiden's as she lunged toward the half-youkai girl, cutting across her torso. Blood splattered in all directions as the two halves of the body fell to the floor and started to burn, leaving behind charred flesh and bones.

"I'm disappointed, Keine. I wouldn't have expected jinyou at the school. Furthermore, I wouldn't have expected you to be so oblivious about that."

Keine took her sight away from the direction where Sayo Nakamura once stood and looked into the eyes of her students with hopelessness, pleading them to understand the situation and cooperate.

"I- I really didn't know. She never told me anything."

"Since you seem to be clueless about your own students, allow me to help you."

Pointing the bloodstained gohei at the group of children, Reimu spoke slowly and loudly:

"Line up against the wall and stay there. Do as I say and I'll make sure no human dies."

Twenty-six girls and boys reluctantly formed a line and stood in silence. Keine stood where she was, her heart pounding heavily. She avoided eye contact with the four students she knew would never return home, mentally preparing her report to the fathers and mothers of the village.

"Close your eyes and stand still," said the shrine maiden, placing her right hand against a boy's forehead. Keine swallowed as he made his way to his desk and sat down, burying his head in his arms. Three more children were ordered to do the same before Atsuko Nakamura, next in line, spoke up:

"What does it feel like to kill someone you don't even know the name of?"

Sayo's younger sister coughed up blood as the purification rod was driven into her stomach. Reimu lifted her arm up, the gohei cutting through the youkai like a red-hot knife through butter. Keine watched with wide-open eyes as blue flames engulfed the body to burn it beyond recognition.

----------

"How many people live here?"

"I'm not quite sure. If I were to put out a rough estimate I'd say we have a population of around two hundred."

"That's... That's nearly half as many people as there are living in the village!"

"With what's happening, we're all expecting that to increase. In fact, we recently started expanding outward, building more houses for the incoming people. Construction of the Underground started as early as year 102. It was originally a hidden portion of the village that could hold its entire population should a youkai attack take place. Most of the work was done by 110, and around that time more and more Outsiders began to appear in the village. At the time, discussion regarding expansion of the village to accomodate those people led to the opening of the Underground for those that wouldn't last over a month on the surface. While they seemed to know a lot about the technologically advanced society they came from, they couldn't help but tremble at the sight of Gensokyo's youkai and gods. It seems that the Outside World has eradicated all traces of youkai and the traditional religion that still make up the underpinning of our society. Eventually they came to understand that not all youkai were a threat to humans, with many turning toward youkaidom themselves. An instant death sentence under the rule of the shrine maiden and her youkai accomplice, but nothing more than a choice down here."

"You don't mean..."

"...Yukari Yakumo, the Youkai of Boundaries. Quite a cunning and ruthless woman, perhaps more so than Reimu Hakurei and her mother."

Passersby turned toward Hiroaki at his mention of the names, for they were typically mentioned following terrifying incidents that left the village paralyzed with fear for days on end.

"To the people here, youkaidom is the final step toward true enlightenment -- the removal of the shackles known as death. As long as the humans on the surface fear the unknown, those that have chosen that path will continue to exist. The power to see into the future and relive the past, the power to make the impossible possible, these are all within the reach of anyone but prohibited by the ones that hold power in Gensokyo. Without their influence over us, we're starting to reach the technological advancement of the Outside World with what I believe to be the only place in the entire world where the supernatural exist unhindered. I've met many people with genuine love for the world they live in, both in their previous life and the current one. This may be the only place they'll live their lives in. With that in mind, they've taken advantage of their situation and here we are now. We are perhaps the only human-friendly community within the barrier to understand and harness the power of electricity, which powers all these light bulbs you see. Five years ago we reconstructed what the Outside World calls a telephone network, and three years later the first message was sent through the Residential Intranet. Both of those things would never have been allowed to take place on the surface, where mere books on their workings were to be destroyed. Youkai technology? What a joke! I've got to admit, the Outside World did the right thing in moving toward a society free from the most irrational of restraints."

"Does anyone in the village know about this?"

"Your father knows. So does Keine Kamishirasawa, the were-hakutaku teacher of the village school. Other than that, not even Hieda no Akyuu is aware of the Underground. The extremities of this enclosure are enchanted with the same barrier that my house on the surface is, leaving even the gap youkai powerless against it. Some even claim that it even hides us from the eight million kami the shrine maiden gets her leads from. Simply put, it's as if we don't exist to the surface."

"How do humans become youkai?"

Marisa asked a question she was sure of the answer of. There was no doubt that Dark Spells were handled freely in the Underground, and she needed to make sure they weren't being used maliciously. Hiroaki was taken aback by the question, not sure of whether he should tell the two girls who had spent no longer than an hour here. With a bit of hesitation, he asked the question that had been on the tip of his tongue for a while since they entered:

"You're not planning on becoming one, are you?"

"Hiroaki, I made a promise to someone very important that I'd never become a youkai. I don't care that I'll eventually die, I don't care that I'll never be able to surpass the limits of a human body, but I'll never break my promise. Not after what happened."

"I see... A promise is a promise, and I'm sure you'll keep it. Most humans here became youkai through powerful spells, and some are born as one. I'm sure you know that's the case with the Kourindou shopkeeper. His is a special case, as he doesn't influence the village too much. In fact, the great majority of the village aren't even aware of his existence. Many of the things he keeps in his shop are forbidden in the village, making it a place the humans on the surface avoid. Besides, the path to Kourindou is far too dangerous for them to take. The youkai of the Underground are therefore responsible for bringing items from the shop to its residents, making trips once per week in the middle of the night. You must have seen the boxes piled up in front of there, right?"

Marisa nodded, remembering the day Rinnosuke Morichika told her about the television:

"In the Outside World, people use these things to see into another world. Each number on this dial takes them to a different place, though they can't be there themselves. Such a magical device, but useless within the Barrier. Their designs are incredibly intricate, and I've even come across a few containing additional machinery that allow them to revisit any world whenever they wish."

"It took five of the strongest men and women to bring one back, and everyone was fascinated by the black boxes that hold hours of moving pictures. The Outside World calls them video tapes, and it's unbelievable how many information they can contain. We've seen majestic descriptions of their history, fairytale stories come to life, and even detailed pictographic recipes for banquet-ready meals. There is an endless world beyond the Barrier, and we are not alone."

Metallic chimes rang out from horns sitting atop poles, performing the duties of a clock tower. A bell that did not exist was struck several times, the synthesized echo ending with a sharp click. Lights flickered as they dimmed, reminding Marisa and Alice of the sun that was beginning to recede behind the mountains.

"Six already? We've got to get going before it gets dark!"

"Of course... You've got homes to return to on the surface and things to attend to. Here, let's bring you back to the village."

The walk to the door took less time than they expected, as was the ascent up the staircase. The dusk sky painted the insides of the house red, leaving no more than half an hour before night fell upon Gensokyo.

"In no circumstances are you to tell anyone about the Underground. One slip of the tongue can and will cost us our lives. I brought you here because you trusted me, and we all pray that we can trust you two. Should any of you desire to return, visit me at noon in the village square where the Dragon God's statue stands. I'm sure my wife and children would be delighted to see you. Marisa, Alice, it's my pleasure to make you two the newest members of the Enlightened."



Whew... This one took quite some time to write, amidst things like the end of a semester, my summer job, and a whole bunch of things to do at home. Anyhow, the Underground. A place where the rules that govern the Gensokyo we all know and love don't exist. With the help and knowledge lent by a just a few Outsiders (read: people like you and me), the humans of the village are perfectly able to comprehend modern technology. Along with the impossibilities we call "magic," this combination can result in some very interesting outcomes. Are Dark Spells really as bad as everyone seems to think they are? As you'll see later, the real incident is about to start. It's not going to be subtle at all.

Trust me. I'm a writer.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2016, 04:48:51 pm »
Chapter 4 - Know Your Enemy

Marisa and Alice looked at each other as all uncertainties regarding a rumored hidden side of the Human Village were dispelled. Without a doubt, they had witnessed and confirmed the existence of what they had set out to find.

"Well, I guess this is it! I'll be sure to visit you and your family once I can."

Hiroaki waved at the girls as they quietly made their departure. He continued to stand where he was, looking outside the window at the world so many people would never see. While the residents of the Underground were in the safest location they could be, the thought of them having to live their lives without ever seeing the world above them was rather uncomfortable.

----------

Emerging from the alleyway, Marisa looked at down the paved road of the Human Village. The last sliver of the sun receded behind the distant mountains, painting the sky bright red. Flickering lights shined through the doors and windows of shops and restaurants, casting bright glows into the street. A crowd of at least forty people were gathered outside the schoolhouse, prompting the two to head toward the gathering.

"...somewhere in this vilage. You don't want anything to happen to her, do you?"

The magicians stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of Keine lying on the ground with several ofuda affixed to her forehead and chest. In the crimson light of nightfall, Marisa was able to make out the sealing needles Reimu held between her fingers. Unable to move or even speak, the schoolteacher could only stare helplessly at them.

"Oh, shit!"

Murmurs spread through the crowd of adults and children, most of whom knew perfectly well where the parents of the four victims lived.

"I'll give you all five minutes to tell me where they are. Remember that as humans of the Village, it is your duty to inform me of any threat to Gensokyo."

Passersby glanced at the scene as they walked by, not stopping or slowing their movement, not wanting to become a part of what was taking place.

"Three minutes."

Screams and gasps broke the silence as one of three needles shot into the were-hakutaku's arm.

"Stay here, and don't get seen."

Marisa made her way toward the crowd, staying low to hide herself. As she approached from behind, a woman noticed her and nodded.

"Quick. What's going on?"

"She's looking for the parents of the children she... killed."

Marisa's heart sunk as she realized that Reimu would truly stop at nothing to carry out her duties. At this very moment, she wondered if the shrine maiden was even human. A part of her wanted to believe that the girl she had known for many years was under the control of a malevolent god, but as she recalled the conversation she had with Hiroaki less than twelve hours ago, the magician realized that this was no time to ponder such meaningless matters.

"Tell her where they are."

"What?!"

"Tell me first, I'll get there before she does."

Studying Marisa intently, the mother of three nodded in agreement and spoke in a barely-audible voice:

"Nakamura Residence. Fifth house to the right behind the alley next to the Kazahito General Store. Do what you can do, but please don't attract attention to yourself."

"Got it."

Making her way to the front of the crowd, she presented her response to the surprise of many:

"I know where they live."

Gasps erupted within the crowd as the woman made clear her intentions.

"You do?"

"Yes, I do."

"Very well," said the shrine maiden, placing a barrier around the youkai beside her. "Take me there."

Head held high, she began to walk toward the home of the couple she warned not to leave, all her effort focused on staying calm and composed.

----------

"Alright. Follow them, and I'll do the rest."

Alice nodded as Marisa raced toward her destination. Past people, stores, and alleyways, the magician flew as fast as she could while keeping close to the ground for an immediate landing. A sharp right turn brought her into the designated alley, and another lurch landed her in front of the small house.

"I'm here to help you. Please."

A quiet click sounded as the doorknob turned, revealing a man with a similarly-aged woman behind him.

"I'm sorry about your children. I was too late to save them, but it looks like I got here early. We'll talk later, you two need to leave now."

The couple hastily got onto the broomstick as it lifted up off the ground, heading for none other than the Kirisame-ya Second-Hand Shop. The door flung open as they rushed in, the elderly man looking at his daughter with a crazed expression.

"You didn't just do what I think you did, did you?"

"Why wouldn't I, pops?!"

"Take care of 'em, I've got things to do."

Marisa grabbed the yellow potion tossed at her, ripping off the seal and ingesting it in a single gulp. Glass shattered as it hit the floor, and Marisa Kirisame took to the street as fast as she arrived, not stopping for even a second as she returned to the Nakamura house. Meanwhile, Alice kept her watch on Reimu and her guide, casting a cloaking spell as she followed them into the alley. Pointing at the door with her gohei, the shrine maiden prepared herself to throw the remaining needles into whoever answered the door. The woman swallowed hard as she gave the door three solid knocks. Under the effect of the freshly-casted spell, Alice made her way closer as the thin wooden door creaked open.

"I win."

A smug grin spread across Marisa's face as Alice tackled the woman to the ground just as Reimu swung the gohei where her head would have been. For ten whole seconds, the magician and shrine maiden stared daggers at each other, not a word exchanged between the two. Marisa's heart pumped as the concoction reached its peak strength, dodging a dense barrage of ofuda that shredded everything in its path.

"Give it up, Reimu! There's no such thing as Dark Spells! Only humans that have woken up and seen the truth!"

"SHUT UP!!!" the shrine maiden shrieked. "JOIN THEM, AND YOU'LL DIE WITH THEM!!!"

Blasting clean through a window with a comparatively weak shot from her mini-hakkero, Marisa zoomed through the opening into the night sky, a multitude of shining stars shooting out the back of the broomstick.

"Then you'll have to catch me first!"

With the potion in her system, the magician was practically untouchable. As Marisa dodged wave upon wave of needles and ofuda, Alice assured the dazed woman that she would be reunited with her family sooner than she would expect. As the two headed toward safety, the night sky exploded with bright lights and showers of flame. For the first time in a long time, Marisa felt exhilaration like never before. She no longer cared if she died in this duel, for she had proven to all of the Human Village -- and possibly Gensokyo -- that she had bested Reimu Hakurei with nothing but magic and determination. No matter what happened from here on out, word of what took place tonight would spread across the land. She had fulfilled one of the first wishes she made on the day she set out to become a magician, and in this state of ecstasy she felt truly alive. Weaving through attacks designed to kill gods many times over, Marisa remembered the reason she was here. Outpacing the burning red-and-white amulets, the magician came to a stop in front of Reimu, interrupting her incantation with a question that had been at the tip of her tongue since the exchange took place.

"Do you really think the balance of Gensokyo rests on the oppression of the Village?!"

"You still don't understand, do you? Or rather, you'll never understand. Humans fear youkai, and youkai depend on their fear to exist. Nothing more, nothing less. You probably think I'm taking innocent lives, so I'll tell you right now that people like the Nakamuras are anything but innocent. Throwing away their humanity for their selfish desires, thinking they can be above the most fundamental laws of Gensokyo. Let them live, and thousands of truly innocent lives will be lost. In fact, you could say I'm doing everyone a favor by removing them from existence. The least someone like you can do is stay out of such matters."

Holding a distance of a few hairs' width between her fingers, the shrine maiden spoke to the magician in a calm yet impatient tone:

"I'm this close to sending you to Sanzu, but as a fellow human I'll offer you a chance for redemption. Bring the Nakamuras to me, and I'll let Keine go. There's not much time left for her, and I don't want anyone to hurt themselves trying to get her out."

Shocked and angered, Marisa went over her limited options. The potion's effects were starting to decline, meaning it would become harder for her to survive another wave of projectiles. Just as she was about speak, the faces of the couple flashed into consciousness. Shaking them away, the girl took a deep breath.

"Okay. I'll do it. I'll do it if you promise to take care of it quickly and painlessly."

For a while, the two hovered in the sky, looking at the stars beyond each other. Immediately after their feet touched the ground, ten anti-magic seals were shot in Marisa's direction. Caught off-guard, the ofuda pelted her with enough force to leave cuts in her skin. Unable to attack or defend, she could only begin walking toward her family's shop. Not a word was said as she pushed open the door, smiling sheepishly at her father.

"Good evening, Kirisame-san. It seems that Marisa brought some guests here. You have a minute to bring them out from wherever they are."

The man eyes darted back and forth at her daughter and the bundle of youkai extermination seals in the Shinto priestess' hand.

"Good Gods, what did you do?! What's happening?"

"Stop asking questions and go, Father!"

Reading Marisa's sense of urgency off her face, the man hurried into the basement of the storehouse and returned with the Nakamura couple. He did not move one muscle as the man and woman beside him were engulfed in flames, leaving on the floor ashes of the paper that erased them from existence. It was only a minute after Reimu left did he rush toward his daughter, burying her face in his arms as she hiccuped from her tears. He had seen executions far more gruesome than that in his rather long lifetime, and something as clean as what he just witnessed did not elicit more than a sigh from him.

"I- I'm a failure. I th- I thought I could save them."

"Marisa. Look. You tried your best. Isn't that what counts?"

----------

"May mercy shine upon the souls lost today... Namuamidabutsu."

The Myouren Temple, having heard of the today's events, gathered in prayer for the ones that had their lives cut short. This was far from the beginning, nor would it be the end. While its residents rarely spent time in the Village, the recent events affected everyone as far as the Youkai Mountain and the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Mixed opinions meant that not a single group agreed with another on all fronts, making a team effort hard, if not impossible. Alice and Marisa left for the Forest of Magic after reuniting a mother with her family, reassuring the humans that they would be safe. Other than Keine, still trapped in the barrier, few remained at the schoolhouse.

Reimu grabbed the bloodstained needle sticking out of the were-hakutaku's arm, watching her wince in pain as she twisted it.

"This is for your willingness to treat those things like people and keep them under the same roof as humans."

A clink echoed in the vicinity as the steel fell to the ground.

"Know your place, youkai. Don't let there be a 'next time'."

Keine did not say a word as she headed toward the gate of the village, covering her wound with her uninjured hand. Now she had to get to the bottom of whatever was happening, for she knew Gensokyo would erupt in chaos if it was not taken care of. However, revealing it would certainly result in another mass execution taking place in the village. This time, she was uncertain about the reaction such bloodshed would bring. This time, anything that got out of hand would lead to the very real possibility of the Human Village breaking apart. She thought of the Underground that she played a role in creating, a safe haven for those that knew too much. Tomorrow she would take a trip down there to inform those who needed to prepare for the inevitable.

Reimu knew something wasn't right the moment she returned to her shrine. At such an elevation, the moonlight was particularly strong, and something about the shadows cast upon the ground seemed strange. Tightening her grip on her gohei, the girl spoke quietly to whatever was hiding in the darkness:

"Come out, I know you're hiding."

"Very well," said a voice from behind her. "It seems that you really are who they said you were."

Readying several ofuda, the shrine maiden turned toward the direction of the deep, strong voice.

"I said, COME. OUT."

"My, my, so belligerent. The guardian of the barrier shouldn't act in such ways."

Firey trails shot through the air, disappearing into the distance.

"Such basic attacks won't harm me at all, Hakurei."

From the shadow emerged a dimly glowing eye, followed by a dark silhouette. It resembled a human, but with no features other than the white ball that reflected the moonlight. The figure stood in place as Reimu swung her gohei straight through it, maintaining its ghastly stare.

"Who are you?"

"That does not matter. What does are your actions and its consequences. I'm merely a messenger, sent to warn you. Do you want to see this place you call Gensokyo fall apart before your eyes?"

The figure laughed heartily as several needles sailed right through it.

"If not, I suggest that you take a different approach to how you're dealing with progress and change."

"I don't take orders from cowards who hide in shadows."

"I'm not ordering you to do anything, miss. I'm merely guiding you toward the right direction. The choice is up to you..."

The pitch-black shape sucked itself into the crystalline ball, dropping onto the stone with a sharp clack. Giving it a cursory glance, the priestess stomped furiously, crushing what was left behind into shards that blew away in the wind.

"Good riddance."

----------

Marisa stepped into her house, lighting the lantern hanging next to the door. Howling wind blew through the forest as usual, making trees and luminescent mushrooms sway in the darkness. The sound of insects chirping and youkai howling interrupted the rustling of vegetation. In the forest magicians called their home, Marisa felt more uneasy than ever before. Though she had heard of such seals from Patchouli, the thought that Reimu could make them never crossed her mind. With the ofuda stuck to her, it was as if she never learned magic at all, as if the spells were erased from her memory. Staring at her face reflected against the glass screen of the otherworldly device, she realized just how terrified she was. Shifting her attention to a book on her desk, the magician picked it up and studied the exquisite patterns on its spine.

"Defensive Magic for Advanced Applications"

Written in a runic script known only by the book's intended audience, the embroidered shapes glowed in the warm light. Just as Marisa began to move the leather cover, a voice spoke to her from outside:

"Kirisame, is that you?"

Slowly setting the book back onto the desk, the girl stood up and made her way toward the door. Whoever was outside wasn't anyone she knew, but if they were able to make it to her house they must be somewhat powerful. Gathering herself, she turned the knob and opened the door to see a dark form staring at her through a single large eye.

"W-Who are you?"

Without a word the silhouette stepped into her house, confirming that it was in the right place.

"We are Shadows, lurking in the darkness, observing your every move. What you see is an avatar that allows us to communicate with you from afar, a form of... magic, if you may."

Following a brief pause, the Shadow explained its reason for visiting:

"We are arming the village with Dark Spells in order to defend them against the arrival of gods from the Outside World. As you already know, the Hakurei shrine maiden isn't too fond of that."

"Yeah, no kidding. But why are you doing this? Why are you turning humans into youkai? Is there no other choice?"

"Without such powerful spells, the Village would be their first target. By arming Gensokyo's weakest, the invaders would surely be caught off-guard, allowing us time to mount our counterattack. Today, you showed not only bravery, but also determination that surpasses anyone else I've seen. We hope you stay strong as the oncoming storm sweeps upon this land."

Before Marisa could ask the visitor it disappeared, leaving behind a small glass orb. Picking it up, the magician could not detect any trace of life within it, for it was merely a vessel the man that came to her prepared for just the occasion. Tossing the inert sphere into a box containing miscellaneous items, she thought about the invading gods the Shadow came to warn her of. She felt conflicted, knowing on one hand that the humans of the Village were indeed the weakest group in Gensokyo, at times falling prey to even fairies. On the other hand, she had to admit that Reimu was right about their relation to everything else. Forbidden to transcend beyond their intended role, they were nothing more than a side of the delicate equilibrium that must be kept in check.

Throwing a rag over her bed, the exhausted girl plopped onto it, putting out the lantern to leave only a faint glow of moonlight that shined through the window. She tried to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes the terrified faces of the ones she thought she had saved stared back at her. She didn't even know their names, and they had known her for no longer than twenty minutes before they met the same fate that many others did.

"Don't get attached to anyone in the Village. Caring about such transient lives will only get in the way of doing what needs to be done."

Letting out a quiet laugh, Marisa couldn't help but realize the incorrectness of such advice.

"I guess when you've been living in that youkai-infested shrine out in the middle of nowhere your entire life you really do miss out on the things that make you human."

Marisa was planning on heading to the Underground as soon as possible tomorrow. Now she had a new plan, and that was to pay her longtime rival a visit and put an end to the senseless killings that tear the Village apart with every drop of blood spilled. She may have magic-sealing amulets, but there was no way to seal the intense emotions fueled by the desire to bring an end to injustice. As she began to close her eyes once more, the night sky lit up with brightness as intense as that of the day. Like lightning, the flash left an afterimage in her eyes. The clap of thunder, however, never came, prompting the magician to stay wide awake. The sky lit up again, and she knew exactly what was going to happen. The wind blew, and the storm began to brew. What could she do, lying in bed at this time of the night? What could she do, knowing that a certain someone definitely saw it too?



...And so it begins, the storm that will rage on day after day to test the limits of friendship and rivalry. The storm that tears apart the boundary between light and dark has approached, and it'll be up to Gensokyo's greatest to combat it. Only through something that has been kept away from this land will its inhabitants emerge victorious. As everyone is about to see, that something will be much harder to obtain than the outcome it will lead to.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2018, 03:33:53 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2016, 05:43:10 pm »
Chapter 5 - Dark Dawn

"Sakuyaaaaaa~"

"Yes?"

"The skies are perfect today, I want to go on a walk!"

"Are you sure? We don't know what's going on. It's long past sunrise and yet it still looks like midnight."

"I don't caaaaaaaaare~! I want to go, I want to go!"

"I guess we can go. Perhaps we can even find the ones responsible for this."

The mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion jumped up and down gleefully to the dismay of the maid, who heaved a sigh at the obviously strange situation. Not too long after they stepped past the gates, a structure almost hidden in the distant fog caught their attention.

"What's that?"

"I'm not sure, but I've got a feeling that it has something to do with these clouds. Let's head there and take a look at what it is."

----------

"The sky! Dai, look at the sky!"

Cirno woke up to a dark sky, nearly falling asleep again before she noticed something was wrong. Though she did not know what was happening, she knew something was not right. The rather large fairy sleeping next to her fluttered her wings as she sat up, looking at the sky with the ice fairy beside her.

"Why isn't the sun in the sky?" she asked.

"How would I know?"

"Why don't we ask Rumia? Or Mystia? They can make things dark, right? They'd know what's going on!"

The two fairies flew away in search of the aforementioned youkai, unaware of the reason for the strange occurrence. They both saw the tall shadow in the distance, a mountain-like structure that rose above the rolling clouds.

----------

"So you're saying the daylight is blocked out by the clouds? It's an incident!"

"Of course it is. You wouldn't need me telling you that to know, right? What matters is that we alert the Youkai Mountain of this incident so that they don't cause unneeded trouble. We all know what's been going on in the Village, and I don't want that to spread beyond it."

"Do you know what's causing this?"

"I wish I did," said Suwako, sitting atop the roof. "What I do know is that there's a mountain in the distance that was never there before. It's hard to see, but it's there. The tengu tried to fly there, but no matter how much they tried they couldn't reach it. Do you know what that means?"

"It's beyond the barrier?"

"Perhaps. It could also mean that the barrier is weakening."

----------

"I've never seen it before, but it's definitely a form of high-level magic."

"Who was it?"

"If I knew I'd tell you. Are you sure that's what he said?"

"Whoever he was, he definitely has something to do with this. Otherwise he wouldn't show up like that."

"There's a reason why less than ten humans even think about showing up here. Speaking of humans, their population has decreased significantly."

"I've made sure that won't happen again. If yesterday didn't convince them nothing will."

"Oh, no, I'm not talking about that. It's unfortunate that this is happening, because I'd like you to figure out why more than fifty humans have practically disappeared from Gensokyo within the past month."

----------

Marisa looked out the window, then at the clock sitting atop the shelf. It was more than an hour past sunrise, yet it still looked like midnight. Clouds covered the sky, letting only a dim, grayish glow through. She could only imagine how dark it would be if they stayed past sunset, as well as whether they had already formed as of last night. Yesterday had been one of the most eventful days in recent times, and it was for that reason that she reached under her bed for something that she hoped to forget about. The five Dark Spells in her possession could easily grant her power several times beyond anything she could ever obtain as a human. She didn't want to admit it, but without them it would be impossible to have a fair fight with anyone outside the Village if the Spell Card Rules were broken. Marisa knew the truth -- the truth that she was only as strong as her humanity allowed. She knew that the day Makai was reduced to a graveyard, the day Rin Satsuki was killed, and the day she failed to stop the execution of innocent children and their parents. Placing the forbidden cards at the bottom of her deck of spells, Marisa exited her house and ascended toward the blackened sky. Cold winds blew at her face, sending shivers throughout her body. Thoughts swired around in her mind, some good, some bad, and others downright horrifying. Even with the Dark Spells in her arsenal she was scared. Those were her last resort, and she would do anything to avoid using them. As she neared the Hakurei Shrine something in the distance made her twitch as it registered in her vision. Beyond what looked like dense fog was a mountainous structure that had definitely not been there before. Its peak rose beyond the clouds, leaving a slightly brighter spot where it penetrated the darkness. On the paved stone ground in front of the shrine, Reimu stood in the center of a circle made by twelve sticks of incense, seemingly murmuring to herself. Resisting the urge to fire a Master Spark at the deceptively defenseless shrine maiden, Marisa watched as she held the gohei in her left hand nearly parallel to the ground and carefully turned in-place. The flaming tips of the incense formed a ring as she completed the circle and slowly raised the wand toward the sky. A golden column of light shot upward from the ring of fire, leaving an hole in the clouds. Sunlight shined through for less than five seconds before the hole closed up, completely undoing the effects of the ritual.

"Are you done? I need to tell you something."

"You aren't supposed to be here. You weren't supposed to see that."

"I- I'm sorry, I guess I should be leaving now?"

Reimu swung the gohei in front of her, creating thousands of amulets in its path.

"I'd like you to stay right where you are so I can finish you off once and for all."

Marisa gripped tightly onto the broom, accelerating herself toward the sky at twice that of gravity. The paper seals angled upward and left a bright trail in the air, completely missing their target. Her heart was pumping faster than it had ever did, and she only realized that she was panting heavily after she was three-fourths of the way to the Human Village. The last five minutes were nothing more than a blur in her memory, and she surprised even herself at how fast it took for her to be where she was. She had seen her fair share of homing amulets, but the ones flying toward her were clearly different than anything she had seen. They glowed with a reddish-purple flame around them, almost like a certain ghost princess' butterflies that invited any living thing it touched to instant death. The way she effortlessly conjured enough of them to kill all of Gensokyo many times over terrified her, leaving her shivering as she landed in the center of the Village. Though light shined out nearly every window, not a single soul walked the streets on this day where light never penetrated the dark.

"It's a good thing you came here. I told you I'd wait for you at noon, but I'll have to admit there's no way I'd do that given what's happening right now. Where's that other one?"

"She's not with me. I didn't want to put her in harm's way."

"I see... I told Momoka and the children you'd be visiting today, so let's head down there now that you're here."

Hiroaki began to move the dresser that stood on top of the hidden door. Marisa stared at the wall, mentally reliving the moment she dodged those amulets. If she had been any slower she would not be standing where she was.

"There. Let's go."

The two lowered themselves into the hidden opening, shifting the furniture over the door and beginning their descent toward a different side of the Human Village. Not a word was spoken until the two walked past the entrance and saw the door close.

"I assume you know what's going on up there?"

"Yeah. Someone told me that was going to happen last night. Said something about a storm and giving Dark Spells to the Village."

"Who was it?"

"If I knew I'd tell you. He called himself a Shadow. Do you know what those are?"

"Whoever used that spell must have had contact with someone from here at some point. He could even be from here. Whatever the reason is, I need to inform everyone as soon as I can before it's too late. If even a hint of what's happening spreads through the Village things can go very wrong."

Marisa hadn't been paying attention, but the two of them were now surrounded by nearly identical-looking buildings on either side.

"We're almost there. A lot of people get lost here, so look around and try to remember where we're headed. My house is on the seventh one down this street."

A girl slightly younger than Marisa opened the door and ran toward her father.

"It's been a while since you came, Dad."

Hiroaki ran his hand through his daughter's hair, speaking to her in a rather quiet voice.

"It's been a while since I've seen you too."

"Who's that?"

"This is Marisa, a human from the Surface. She's in a bit of trouble now so I offered her to stay here for a while... This is Chizuru, my oldest daughter. She's around your age, so maybe you two'll get along quite well."

"Marisa, right?"

"Yeah. Marisa Kirisame."

The girl looked at the deck of Spell Cards at Marisa's side, then at the black dress she wore.

"Are you a magician?"

"Maybe. I don't know yet. I don't know if I'll really become one."

Chizuru looked at Marisa for a moment before speaking again.

"What's it like in the Village? It's been so long since I lived there."

The interior of the Ichimura residence looked lived-in and inviting. A large table stood at one corner, surrounded by five chairs. Against the wall on the opposite side stood dressers, drawers, and shelves holding miscellaneous items, many of which she had never seen before. The remaining space was taken up by three beds. A girl no older than four sat in the larger of the three, playing with a toy. Her mother sat next to her, smiling at Marisa once they looked at each other. Surveying the room, she figured that the house was only a bit bigger than her own.

"When did you come to the Underground?"

"122. Two weeks after Reimu killed Rin, my father decided it was not worth living in the Village anymore. The ones in charge were clearly incompetent and everyone was fed up with what had happened. She wasn't supposed to die, not after what she did for everyone. Coming here was the next best thing after leaving Gensokyo for good."

"She was fourteen at the time," continued Momoka. "Rumors regarding the true purpose of the Human Village were well-known already, and she was close to the point where she would accept them as reality. That incident was the final push for her."

Hiroaki looked around before speaking to his wife.

"Tetsuro's at the library again, isn't he?"

"He left right after breakfast."

"In any case, I have some important things to attend to. I'll leave you and Marisa to talk about things."

"What is it?"

Hiroaki moved closer to Momoka and spoke in a barely-audible voice.

"This girl said she saw a Shadow on the Surface. I don't know how that happened, but I need to before things get out of hand. Until then, stay here and warn the others that there's an incident happening up there. I have to go now; I'll be back soon."

Chizuru spoke to Marisa as soon as Hiroaki left.

"You really saw a Shadow? Where?"

"In the Forest of Magic, right in front of my house. He told me about a storm, and right after he left there was lightning and now the sky's blocked out by thick clouds."

"I see."

"About the Village, you're absolutely right about leaving. Everyone there has either accepted their fate or too scared to do anything about it. All they can do is attend to whatever it is they're doing to forget about that. It's gotten worse since Reimu found out that there are Dark Spells in the Village a month ago. She goes there every week looking for people with them, people trying to find them, and more recently people trying to gain even a bit of power."

"So nothing's changed, hasn't it?"

"I guess not. Though I think it'll get ever worse, with what's happening. Today when I woke up I could barely see what it looked like outside. Clouds have blocked out the sunlight and if that continues past sunset Gensokyo will be plunged into darkness."

----------

Despite the many incidents that took place and were put to an end within Gensokyo, something about the blackened sky made Reimu feel more worried than usual. She considered it a last resort to request the help of Amaterasu, and when even that failed to do anything she finally understood what was happening. This was the reason she was headed toward a mountain in the distance. She did not remember seeing that before, and neither did Yukari, who gave her good reasons to believe it had to do with today's incident. Up until now the skies were completely devoid of life, as it should be. In this distance there appeared to be a rather large group of what seemed to be fairies. Their humanoid bodies hovered in the air, glowing wings sprouting from their back. Thirty archers gathered in five rows of six raised their bows in unison, preparing to release a barrage of arrows at the shrine maiden. Catching a glimpse of their weapons, she fired a stream of needles forward, watching as the archers in the first row fell toward the ground. A whistle sounded as twenty-four golden arrows were launched into the air. Had she not prepared a barrier less than half a minute ago, the arrows would have struck her in the blink of an eye.

"Who are you?"

At her question, the archers fired another salvo of arrows. Once again, they burned up as they came into contact with the barrier, creating a momentary flash of light.

"I'll ask you one last time. Who are you?"

The sound of tearing flesh broke the silence as the front row fell along with part of the second row. Aware of their inability to defend themselves or kill the woman in front of them, the remaining archers lowered their bows and backed off a bit.

"Please, no more."

"Pu-ri-su," muttered the shrine maiden, trying to recall what that meant. Through various encounters with people from the Outside World who found their way into Gensokyo, she unwillingly learned a bit of English, a foreign language frequently spoken on the other side of the Barrier. The same amulets she fired at Marisa surrounded the group, converging in around them. Their bodies shriveled and cracked as their life was sucked away by the seals, leaving behind bones that fell into the forest below. The fact that she couldn't even talk to or understand any of them troubled her. It would be a lot easier if they listened to her. Maybe they'd tell her where to go next. Even better, they might lead her right up to whoever was behind the incident.

Of course, none of that would happen.

They shot arrows at her, and she perforated them with needles. They came to kill, and she acted accordingly. Outsiders who did not care to listen to her or understand the rules that held Gensokyo together would be eliminated without hesitation. This was the way it had always been, and it was not going to change any time soon. Landing at the foot of the mountain, Reimu looked up at its peak hidden above the clouds. The sound of footsteps revealed an old man walking toward her. Though he was unarmed, something about him seemed off. He wore a white long-sleeved coat that complemented his thin gray hair which grew down to his beard. A pair of sandals were all that he stood on, making him seem rather harmless.

"Excuse me, this area is off-limits."

As if nothing had been said, she continued walking forward.

"I said this place is off-limits!"

The man grabbed her by the shoulder with considerable force.

"Those who wish to scale Olympus must have permission from the Gods. You must leave, now!"

A flash of light accompanied a sickening crack as she horizontally cut through his skull with surprisingly little resistance. Shaking the brain matter and fragments of bone off her gohei, she realized that the man was likely human. Whoever was responsible for the incident would have to have significant power if all they needed to guard the mountain was a mere human. Whoever waited for her at the top of the mountain would have to put up a spectacular show if they wanted even a chance to walk away alive.

----------

"First off, let's get you a better-looking dress. If you say you're not sure whether you're going to become a magician, you're going to need something more fitting before you start letting people see you for the first time."

Chizuru held up a black kimono with green trimming in front of her.

"Here, try this on. We won't look."

The girl sat next to her mother as they turned their backs on Marisa, leaving her to swap out what she had on with what she offered her. Removing the container in which she held her deck of Spell Cards, she quickly changed into the dress and began looking for a place to store them. If Hiroaki was indeed right about the Underground being sealed from even the Gods, she would't have a reason to carry them with her. Having witnessed on several occasions a side of Reimu she would never forget, she didn't feel comfortable without something to defend herself within her reach at all times.

"Chizuru, your father told me that this place is sealed from the rest of Gensokyo. Is that true?"

"What do you mean? What seal?"

Marisa could feel her heartbeat intensifying.

"He told me that the Underground was surrounded with a seal that would make it impossible for anyone to know of its existence."

She was getting very, very worried at what she had just heard.

"He really said that? That's just something he says to those who come down here for the first time. Believe it or not, this place has existed for over ten years without a single incident, so that might as well be true."

Momoka's response only did more to confirm her fear.

"Why would he say that? Why would he lie? Does he have any idea what would happen if Reimu found out about this place?!"

"She won't," replied the woman. "She won't, because if she does everything will be gone. Everything will be destroyed and everyone will be killed."

"THEN WHY?! WHAT MAKES YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO BE HERE?!"

Chizuru spoke after an unsettling silence:

"At least it's better than living in the Human Village."

As much as Marisa didn't want to accept that, she was right. Whether or not the Underground was sealed from the rest of Gensokyo didn't matter. After being the first test subject of anti-magic seals she lost every reason to believe that magic was a proper method to defend herself or anyone else from unspeakable acts of oppression and violence. For the past several years the Spell Card rules had almost led her to believe otherwise. As those rules were broken again and again by the one who created it, she came to realize that flashy magic wouldn't stand a chance against divine powers bestowed by eight million gods and goddesses at the beck and call of a girl who had proven many times that she would stop at nothing to ensure that nobody gained a chance at uncovering the truth.

The truth hurt, and the pain had become too much to bear.



Oh, boy. This is the darkest chapter I've written so far, no pun intended. The fact that the usual incident-solvers can't communicate with the perpetrators makes things rather interesting since there's not going to be an easy way in or out. The italicized speech is in Greek, and I can think of a magician, a bookstore owner, and an elusive youkai who can talk to and understand the invaders. For the rest it's kill or be killed, and things are going to get rather chaotic in the next chapter.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2016, 03:02:25 am »
Chapter 6 - Desperation and Preparation

Cirno and Daiyousei found Rumia first, flying above the Misty Lake. At the time, she was simply looking at the sky, enjoying the rather strange occurrence. When she told the fairies that she had nothing to do with what was happening they brought her along with them to find Mystia Lorelei. It just so happened that she had teamed up with Wriggle Nightbug to find the trio, so it didn't take long for them two groups to run into each other. Naturally, it was the ice fairy that spoke up first:

"See that mountain over there? That's the only place where there's light! Whoever's stealing the light must be there!"

Without much hesitation, Cirno flew straight toward the east, Daiyousei following her closely. The remaining three exchanged glances and began heading after them, noticing a clear lack of anyone else in the skies around them. Though the darkness was enough to keep most humans indoors at all times, the gang of youkai and fairies preferred it to broad daylight where they could be easily spotted. Taking advantage of that fact, they kept themselves at a rather low altitude, allowing them to observe what happened on the ground. Unsurprisingly, the Human Village was one of the only places that stood out, a somewhat visible patch of light among the darkness. Against the blackened sky, neither fairy nor youkai were visible to those who might have been looking up, making the only noticeable anomaly a slight breeze that passed by.

"They're all inside," said Mystia.

"Of course they'd be," replied Rumia. "Humans are naturally afraid of the dark, and in this moment where day and night are one and the same not a single human would wander in the darkness."

Without any warning or signal the sky lit up, temporarily blinding those who weren't hidden away within a suitable structure. This was followed by a deafening roar that left ears ringing for several seconds, surprising all but those who predicted it coming. The amplitude of the sound was so strong it shook the ground. Structures creaked as they vibrated, and rain began to pour from the clouds in worryingly large quantities. Within seconds anyone in the open found themselves soaked.

"Don't give up! Just a little longer and we'll get there!"

----------

While Sakuya only planned for Remilia to venture out with her, word that an incident was underway prompted Patchouli Knowledge to tag along with the two. Koakuma was given the duty of watching over the library, and Meiling was told to vigilant in securing the gate. The three had only made it into the Forest of Magic before the downpour completely drenched them.

"We can't go back now. There is definitely something going on, and I bet everyone else is trying to put an end to whatever's causing this."

"This rain seems unusual for sure. It's most certainly someone's creation. It can't be natural."

Another flash of white light caused them to brace for another crash of thunder, which took place as expected. The vibration could be felt in their chest as the rumbling echo let itself be heard far and wide. By now the amount of water falling from the sky had made it difficult to see beyond a short distance, prompting the three to stop and determine their location. Unable to do so, they had no choice but to take shelter within the forest beneath them.

"This isn't good. Forget what I said earlier, we should head back as soon as possible. At this rate Gensokyo will be flooded within hours."

The normally rigid ground become sticky and wet as a result of the sudden rainfall, making it hard to walk. Keeping themselves afloat, the group began navigating the forest in an attempt to find their way to the Misty Lake. Even that was difficult, as many parts of the forest were already flooded. Trees fell onto other trees, blocking the way and forcing them to make their way around it.

The rain kept falling, and it didn't seem like it would stop anytime soon.

----------

Like everyone else wandering out in the open, Reimu found herself soaked from head to toe. This only made her more desperate to make it to the top and sort out what was going on. Despite there being an opening through the clouds where light shined through, her surroundings seemed to get darker as she continued her ascent. By the time she could barely make out anything in the darkness, a peculiar sight caught her attention. Up until now, there was not a single road or even a place to stand on the side of the mountain. Strangely, in a place like this, there seemed to be a hole leading into the structure. Stopping to take a look at the odd entrance, the shrine maiden found herself in front of a door. The wooden panel fit tightly in the enclosure, and there didn't seem to be a handle of any sort. Knowing that whoever waited on the other side would almost certainly attack her right away, she readied herself to do the same and pushed it open.

Darkness.

Nothing but more darkness.

"Are you kidding me?"

As her voice echoed in the cavernous enclosure, she immediately realized that this was nothing more than a diversion set up to lengthen the amount of time she would take to find who she needed to find. With a sigh, she turned around and pushed the door, only to find out that it was now locked. A heavy kick put a large hole through it, allowing her to make her way out to a familiar location. The room was nothing more than a trap, leading her back to the foot of the mountain, undoing the last hour of effort. In the darkness she could clearly make out the body of the man lying on the ground, lying in a pool of dark red blood. Knowing that youkai would be attracted to the scent, she flung several amulets at the body and stood to watch as flesh and bones were consumed by flames to leave behind ashes that washed away in the rainwater. Exhausted and defeated, she headed back to her shrine in hopes that she could figure out a bit more about who she was up against.

----------

"A-are you okay?"

Chizuru couldn't help but notice Marisa had been staring into the distance for the past minute. The Underground had existed for more than twenty years, and in those twenty years all sorts of theories as to why nobody found out surfaced and disappeared. Among the most popular ones was the thought that since the Underground was somehat well-hidden from the rest of Gensokyo it would not affect the land in any significant way. Others added on to this by saying that the Gap Youkai frequently abducted humans from the Outside World, which counteracted the movement of humans from the Village to the Underground. Of course, the other popular guess was that those that could do harm simply hadn't heard about the Underground and it was just a matter of time before they did. Regardless, there are many ways the Underground could defend itself in the event it was discovered by the ones that held authority over Gensokyo, allowing her to feel at comfort.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just a little scared at what could happen. That's why I brought these."

Marisa reached for the five cards at the bottom of her collection of spells and held them up for Chizuru to see.

"Have you ever used them?"

"No. I keep them just in case I need to."

"Do you know how to use them?"

Marisa nodded.

"Then what's there to fear?"

"Right now I'm a human just like you. If I use a Dark Spell and lose that part of me there's no going back, and once that happens either I'll have to stop Reimu or she'll kill me like everyone else that tried to defend themselves."

Chizuru knew the same thing applied to herself, her mother, brother, sister, friends, and everyone living with her in the Underground. Ever since she relocated herself to the Underground every day was a miracle to her and she hoped that she would never have to use a Dark Spell or see one being used. They were weapons of defense, and to use them meant only the worst.

"If you want you can bring them with you. It's a safe place here and you don't have to worry, but I understand why you're concerned. I just want to take you to the library to meet my brother and some other people."

Unlike the Human Village at this particular time, the streets of the Underground were well-populated. Small children ran around and adults engaged in their usual discussion. To Chizuru, this was just another typical day. To Marisa, this was the sight of something she wanted to protect, something she wanted to make sure would last until the end of days.

"Uh, Chizuru, can I ask a question?"

"Sure. What is it?"

"What's it like living here?"

"Huh?"

"I mean, have you gotten used to it?"

"Of course I've gotten used to it. I've lived here for eight years already. This is the longest time I've lived in the same house."

"How do you get food and water?"

"People go up to get food and water on their own schedule. Humans, that is. There's several ways to get to the Village. There's ten locations within the Village that have stairwells leading to here."

"Have you ever gone up to the Village?"

"Not anymore. I used to buy things and bring them here, but I already have everything I need. Lately it's become dangerous to be in the Village, so I won't go there unless I really need to."

"When was the last time you went to the Village?"

"I don't really remember... Two? Three years ago? It was to buy a book."

"A book?"

"It's from the Outside World, and there only one copy in all of Gensokyo."

"One copy?"

"Yep. It's about medicine and ways to prepare them. I've always wanted to become a doctor, even when I lived in the Village. I want to help others when they are sick or if they get injured. Right now the only way to get help is to find Eientei. That's too far away and few people make it there."

"Aren't there doctors in the Village?"

"They don't know anything. They aren't allowed to know anything. They still think that there are only five elements."

"There's more than that, right?"

"How do you know?"

"There's a library in Gensokyo, too. It's got all kinds of books on everything there is to write books about."

"Really? Where?"

"It's hard to explain, and you probably can't go there even if I told you where it is."

"Is it a youkai library?"

"I guess you can call it that. I'm only able to go because I have special permission."

"Oh, I see... Anyhow, how many elements do you think there are?"

"Hundreds?"

"One hundred and twelve."

"So I was pretty close, huh?"

"Yeah. Scientists in the Outside World discovered one hundred and twelve elements, and that's not even all of them. There's several more that are theoretically possible, it's only that they haven't been discovered yet."

"Scientists?"

"In the Outside World people explain everything with science. They don't believe in magic anymore, and they only write stories about magic to look back on earlier times. I guess you can say that magic has become a fantasy to them."

In the last fifteen minutes Marisa realized exactly what the purpose of the Underground was. More than just a place hidden from the rest of Gensokyo, it was a sanctuary where strictly forbidden beliefs and ideas could be had and talked about freely. If there was a place as close to the Outside World as possible, it was probably where she was at this moment.

"I think it's wonderful that you want to be a doctor. Rin was a doctor, too."

"Except she's a youkai and I'm not."

Chizuru smiled as she proclaimed her humanity, reminding Marisa of herself. The self-proclaimed Ordinary Human Magician and the self-proclaimed Human Doctor soon found themselves in front of a building in traditional Japanese style much like the other structures within the Underground. After seeing the great Voile Library of the Scarlet Devil Mansion Marisa believed that nothing could rival it. This was confirmed as she walked into the unremarkably small room partitioned by columns of roomy bookshelves. All the books gathered together would fill less than half of the shelves, but it wasn't this room that gave this library its purpose. At the corner of the room was a door leading to a small staircase downward. An unmarked door with a dim light bulb hung above it gave off an eerie feeling. It was behind this door that Marisa became aware of what the machine that had been gathering dust in her house really did. In a corner of the room stood four desks. Tetsuro Ichimura sat in a wooden chair in front of one of the desks, staring at columns of characters displayed on a computer monitor. The rectangular box underneath the display unit hummed and clicked, as if it were breathing. In front of it was a keyboard, with its rows of buttons labeled with numbers, letters, and Katakana characters. Of all that could surprise her, it was what was inscribed against the glass that took her attention.

Marisa felt her heartbeat rise as she read the columns of flickering white characters. Four children. Two adults. Use of Dark Spells. The complete ban of any and all magic within the Human Village.

"Marisa?"

There was no doubt that technology from the Outside World surpassed that of Gensokyo several times over. The electric light bulb showed that they had learned to tame electricity -- a deadly force -- for their own benefit. Like many things that passed through the Barrier in recent years, the computer used electricity as its source of power. How it was able to know what happened so quickly was nothing short of breathtaking, but at the same time it was scary.

"Marisa?"

----------

"Hello, is anyone listening?"

The storm showed no signs of stopping or even weakening as the streets of the Human Village overflowed with chilling rainwater. Parents held the hands of children, in turn holding precious items. The majority of the northern portion had been evacuated, leaving hundreds gathered in a makeshift shelter within the headquarters of the Gensokyo Defense Force.

"Is anyone listening?"

An invisible and inaudible signal radiated in all directions from within a building in the western residential district, detectable by only a select few. Staring at the red-tipped needle of a signal meter, a father of four sat in his house, hands pressing against a headset. Behind him stood a woman, and behind her their sons and daughters.

The pointer swung to the right as a human voice came through the crackling static:

"Is that you, Kaneda? What is it?"

"Oh, thank the Gods you're there. The Village has flooded."

A waterfall-like roar sounded over the earpiece as lightning lit up the sky, followed by a earth-shaking boom that echoed for seconds afterward.

"Can you repeat yourself? I didn't get that last part."

"The Village has flooded! It's been raining for an entire day and the sky's dark like it's the middle of the night!"

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, but if this continues I'll have to evacuate."

"I see... If anything else happens alert us. Have you made contact with anyone else?"

"Yes, I've tried talking to Tamura on 12500. They haven't answered."

"Okay. Got it. We'll try to see if they're okay. What about Otsuka? Any word from them?"

"They're still in their house. Should be listening on their assigned frequency. Last conversation was sixteen minutes ago."

"Thanks for the information. I'll sound the alarm in a few minutes. Keep your radio on, I'll be monitoring your frequency every two minutes."

----------

Yukari Yakumo had been waiting in the Hakurei Shrine for just a bit over half an hour when Reimu walked in with a disappointed look on her face.

"Did you find them?"

"What do you think?"

"You haven't changed at all, Hakurei."

"Oh, please. Tell me something useful."

"I'm surprised you went there all by yourself. You probably know more about that place than I do, so why don't you tell me about your explorative journey?"

"They don't speak Japanese. They probably don't understand it either."

"That's because they're from Greece. Maybe if you read more books you'd find that out on your own. That mountain in the distance is known as Olympus, home to the twelve Gods of Greece."

"Twelve? That's it? No wonder they're so weak."

"You fought them?"

"No, but the humans they sent to defend them were pathetic. Even a group of fairies could kill them."

"How many were there?"

"I don't know. Twenty? Thirty? They fall like dust and in the end they even tried to talk their way through."

"Did they have any weapons?"

"They fired plain arrows. I guess they thought those were enough."

"They're enough to kill the humans, and perhaps the weaker youkai."

"What do they want? Why are they here?"

Yukari produced a folding fan and opened it in front of her face.

"I wouldn't know. Maybe the Outside World has let go of them and they've come to Gensokyo?"

"How did they break the Barrier?"

"They didn't. When the Outside World lets go of things they gain the ability to pass through the Barrier unhindered."

"Then we'll have stop them. This storm will flood Gensokyo if it continues."

"Yes. That's correct. I believe evacuations have taken place in several places. That includes the Village."

"Speaking of the Village, what did you mean by people disappearing?"

"Their population is declining. What else is there to say? Lately you've gone down hard on the Village, perhaps they're running away and getting eaten by youkai? Or maybe they've found a place to hide, or even found a place to settle?"

"They better not."

"And what if they did? You're not planning on doing anything to them, are you? I've gotten wind of several rumors that the Village is planning to rebel against us. Keep at what you're doing and even the children will turn against you."

"They already have."

"Really? They learn fast, don't they?"

"That's why it's better to get rid of them before they become an actual threat."

Yukari smiled devilishly.

"You've learned well. Now, as I heard, you had a little fight with Marisa yesterday?"

Reimu walked closer to Yukari, sitting down next to her.

"She's pushing her limits. Hard."

"Hmm?"

"She's starting to avoid me and she's spending all her time in the Village, talking to the people there. Simply put, she knows too much. Unless you or someone else can find a way to make her forget about all those things I think it's time for us to take care of her before we can no longer do so."

"Now, now, don't jump to conclusions too quickly. What makes you think she'll take the final step?"

"Yesterday, when she hid two humans-turned-youkai from me, she was in a youkai-like state herself. I'm beginning to think that she's become the rebels' role model. They all want to be like her, and they're using Dark Spells to do it."

"You tried to kill her. Of course she had to do something to defend herself."

"What if that involved usage of Dark Spells?"

"She never has, and she never will."

The shrine maiden looked at the youkai and spoke with a demanding tone:

"Why?"

The youkai looked at the shrine maiden and spoke with a smirk on her face:

"She's afraid of us."



This seems like a good place to end the chapter. While the rest of Gensokyo figures out what to do with the storm, Marisa is trying to figure out how news can travel at instantaneous speeds. Since Gensokyo is sealed within a barrier and it has been shown that radio signals don't travel across said barrier, it's got a very "quiet" airspace. Throw in a few radios and you've got coverage throughout what can potentially be the entire land. In the next chapter we'll find out what Marisa thinks of semi-modern technology and whether that's enough for her to become one of the Enlightened, taking up permanent residence in the Underground. We'll also see how the big-shots of Gensokyo plan on dealing with a real and serious threat to the stability of their land.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 07:04:38 pm by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2016, 04:42:05 am »
Chapter 7 - Things Worth Protecting (Part 1)

Marisa had just stepped out of the library when she heard a strange sound coming from above. The horns that served as clock bells now produced a smooth tone rising in pitch before going into silence, repeating its wail with a precise pattern. Lights blinked, alternating between full and dim evening-like brightness. Every person within the Underground stopped what they were doing in anticipation for what was to come next.

"Attention," a female voice spoke. "An incident is underway within Gensokyo. Affected areas include the Human Village. Residents are strongly advised to stay within the Underground until further notice. Guards, stand by for further instructions. An incident is underway within Gensokyo. Affected areas include the Human Village. Residents are strongly advised to stay within the Underground until further notice. Guards, stand by for further instructions."

A popping sound left a brief period of silence before the distinctive warning signal resumed. Was this the the invasion referred to by the mysterious visitor? What's happening? While a part of her wanted to see what was going on, today's close encounter with death made her reconsider the thought. Given everything that had happened, she decided it would be in her best interest to stay out of harm's way.

"What's going on up there?"

"I wish I knew," replied Chizuru. Like Marisa, she was just as curious about what kind of incident was taking place a significant distance above her. "She did say the Village is affected."

"I saw something about clouds blocking the sun," added Tetsuro. "Apparently it happened overnight."

She had just listened to Chizuru and Tetsuro's explanation of the news service, she found it quite amazing what the people of the Underground had done. Similar to the way it worked in the Outside World, reporters within the Human Village communicated with the Underground using radios. These devices allowed communication over long distances without any form of contact. Though communicating through telepathy and magic were commonplace among youkai, the fact that humans could do something exactly like it -- while staying human -- was something Marisa had never thought about until now.

----------

"I hope that is the case. It will certainly be easier to kill her as a human rather than whatever she turns herself into."

"That's true, but there are more important things to worry about right now. Given that it's the only place where there's natural light, don't you think there'd be a gathering of youkai around there? While I expected that at first, the absolute silence around that area seemed off so I went there myself. It seems that everything around the mountain is dying. If you had taken a closer look at the trees you'd notice that they're all dead. The youkai and fairies that inhabit the area have all died as well, as if their life was absorbed from them. I hate to tell you this, but the rain and clouds are the least of our problems."

"How long do we have before it reaches here?"

"Hmm, I'd say half a day. We don't have much time to sit here and talk, so let me tell you why I came here."

Yukari stood up and opened a gap in front of her. Eyes peered through, each one of them moving and blinking. Though they were nothing more than an illusion, Reimu couldn't help but feel slightly disgusted by them.

"I've already gathered a group to devise an attack plan. I thought it would be beneficial to invite you too. Just walk through whenever you're ready. I'll be waiting for you~"

Yukari disappeared into the gap, leaving it open. Reimu sighed and walked to the door of her shrine with a seal in her hand, affixing it to the edge before closing it. The interior plunged into darkness as she put out the lantern before walking into the dark violet opening, where a circular table stood in the center of a room without doors or windows. Among the leaders of various youkai factions, Yuyuko Saigyouji and Yuuka Kazami sat next to each other, leaving two empty seats for the remaining participants.

"Is that who I think it is?"

The okuri-inu clad in steel armor looked noticeably distressed at the shrine maiden's arrival, nudging the yamabiko next to him with his shoulder.

"Yeah, that's her. Took out nearly half of us last year."

"Consider yourself lucky I stopped at just half."

The youkai slammed his palms against the table as he stood up.

"YOU WANNA SAY THAT AGAIN, HUMAN?!"

"Do you want me to remind you how easily I can remove every last one of you from existence? Keep that up and I will make sure you die a slow and painful death."

"You had us by surprise. Don't think we'll let our defenses down this easily after what you've done."

"Stop it! Stop it this instant! We're not here to fight, so sit down and stop arguing!"

"Then why did you bring her here, Yakumo?! What were you thinking?"

"What was I thinking? Are you not aware that Gensokyo is facing a threat to its existence as we speak? Can you set aside your quarrels and pay attention to what's at hand here?"

Yukari turned to Reimu.

"That includes you as well. Forget about what they've done in the past. They're here to solve the incident, so save whatever it is you want to do with them until it's over."

"I assume you know who they are and what they'll do so I'll take your word for it."

"Very well. I hope you can cooperate with them, even if it's just this one time. Perhaps you'll even change your mind after this."

Turning to the participants gathered in a circle, the youkai of barriers began speaking:

"As you all know, an incident unlike anything that has happened is taking place. Specifically, the Twelve Gods of Olympus have entered Gensokyo, bringing with them darkness, a storm, and most importantly death. Surely you have all seen the sliver of light that marks their location, so I take it that you all know where the attack is to take place. However, what many of you are not yet aware of is that the area around the mountain is completely dead. Anything on the ground that can die has died, and anything that lives will die unless it moves away from this expanding field. At its current rate, this field will reach the eastern edge of Gensokyo within ten hours. It is our highest priority to stop that from happening. Does everyone understand that?"

Nods and affirmations spread throughout the room.

"Each and every one of you are here because I have deemed you capable of bringing a swift end to this invasion. Thanks to the help of the tengu, okuri-inu, yamabiko, and bakeneko, the foot of the mountain is now under our control. Our next step is to mount an attack against the gods that wish to cause unrest within our land. To do this we will split up into three groups and carry out a staged attack. This is also where I explain what each of you will do. I'd prefer it if I don't end up having to repeat this, so listen carefully. As the guardian of the Netherworld, Yuyuko Saigyouji will lead the spirits and phantoms of her domain to the peak of the mountain. Since she has enough subordinates under her control, she will work independently in carrying out this part of the attack. Yuuka Kazami will gather the sunlight that passes through the clouds and form a barrier using the flora downstream of the expanding field. I will coordinate and oversee the attack, so I will be handing my control over the youkai factions to Reimu Hakurei, who I have personally trained and trust with such a position. You will inform your subordinates of this as soon as possible, as well as follow her commands to the word. Do I make myself clear?"

The bakeneko stood up as soon as Yukari finished speaking, glaring at her with wide-open eyes.

"You're crazy, Yakumo. You really are."

"Now is not the time for complaints or disagreements. The sooner we can begin the sooner we can finish this operation."

"Do you have any idea what you're doing? Is this a joke? I know you know who she is and what she's done, so stop pretending you don't."

"You heard her, youkai. Do as I say if you don't want to die. It's really not that hard to understand."

"That's a promise, right?"

"Just do what I tell you to and I'll leave you alone."

"Is that a yes or a no?"

Reimu looked her straight in the eyes and replied without a hint of hesitation:

"No."

She knew that the woman was helpless against her. She knew that there was nothing she or her entire faction could do if she wanted to bring extinction to them. While she was willing to cooperate with these youkai in solving this incident, she wanted to make sure she had complete control over them. This was what Yukari had taught her from as far back as she could remember, that the way to maintain control over Gensokyo was through fear. Threats and violence were a part of that, but they meant nothing unless they left a lasting effect on those that were to be controlled. Unwilling to inquire further, the bakeneko sat down and stayed silent for the rest of the meeting.

"Now, as I've said, the foot of the mountain has been secured. Yuuka will prepare the barrier immediately. Once she returns the rest of us will start the attack. For now, why don't you spend some time getting to know each other?"

Stepping through the newly-opened gap, Yuuka returned to the mountain, floating in the air a short distance from the ground. It now stood in center of a pitch-black ring, within which not a single living thing could be found. This ring would grow thicker and thicker until it covered all of Gensokyo, and this was what she had been sent to stop the growth of. As if they were attracted toward her, the many plants in the path of the ring that have yet to be engulfed began growing, their branches, twigs, and vines forming a thick twisted mesh. Even though less than three minutes had passed, the dome was already beginning to take shape, rising above the clouds to seal Olympus beneath it. Tengu patrol groups stopped and flew inward as the living barrier took shape.

"So they've started... I guess I'll have to tell her about it before it's too late."

She disappeared into the darkness, anticipating what had yet to happen. Looking around, she saw that the person she was looking for was not there. The coldness surrounding her told her that this person hadn't been here for a significant amount of time, meaning she had to have gone somewhere else. Peering under the bed, she noticed that something was missing. Something that was only to go missing upon the most dangerous threat to its owner.

"Oh, Marisa, where can you possibly be at this time?"

----------

The alarm sounded for another ten minutes before it was silenced. Lights continued blinking, creating an eerie atmosphere when joined with the silence. The three didn't say a word until Momoka opened the door to let them in.

"You lied," said Marisa. "Why did you lie to me?"

"I wanted you to feel comfortable here. I wanted you to leave your worries behind, to enjoy the time you're spending here."

An expression of fear came over Hiroaki as he spoke slowly.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ever thought things would stay the way they are."

Chizuru yelped at her father's words.

"I think we haven't gotten to that point yet, but if it's indeed true that a Shadow Spell was casted on the Surface, perhaps Marisa wasn't the only one to have gotten a visit. We have a strong reason to believe that someone conjured a Shadow at the Hakurei Shrine. This person could be the same person that talked to Marisa, or even worse, a completely different person. Whatever the case is, it's clear that Reimu will scrutinize the Village, looking for those in possession of the spell. If all goes well they'll die without revealing anything, but there's always the possibility that they lead her to the Underground. No matter how slight the possibility of that happening, we now face the highest threat to our existence."

"Don't... Don't say that!!!"

"Oh Gods..."

An uneasy feeling set over all but Mayu, who cooed at the sudden silence. The children gathered around their mother, who started to reassure them that it was just a possibility.

"Where's the communications center? I need to talk to someone in the Human Village."

"What? Talk to the Village? What for?"

"If it's safe I'd like to return to the Surface. There's something I need to do before it's too late."

"You aren't planning to go after them, are you?"

"If she finds them she's..."

Marisa shivered at the thought. A chilling cold washed over her as she pictured the man being torn apart limb by limb, finally breaking and revealing the truth that would drown the Underground in blood.

"...going to make sure they tell her about the Underground. They're walking, talking, breathing liabilities and I have to make sure I get to them before she does. Chizuru, Tetsuro, everyone, it's been nice getting to know you all. If I don't return tomorrow don't worry about me. I'll be okay, I won't go that easily."

"Yeah. You're strong, you won't die that easily."

Back in her usual attire and double-checking for her mini-hakkero and deck of Spell Cards, Marisa followed Hiroaki away from the house.

"What exactly would she do?"

"She'd do anything. Unspeakable, terrifying things. She'd do anything to squeeze the truth out of them."

"And they say she's human... I can't even think of many youkai that would go to such lengths. What if they die before she finds out anything about us?"

"That's unlikely. She won't let them die unless they tell her. They might even tell her right away and hope she makes it painless."

Hiroaki took a deep breath as he picked up his pace. Marisa's selfless act gave him hope that there exist many others like her who would be willing to put their lives in danger to protect those who were less equipped to do so. She was perhaps the only one who could prevent a very real fate, and he wanted to give her as much support as she needed. As the hub of the Underground's technology, the communications center performed several roles. First and foremost, it housed a nuclear generator created with the help of the kappa and the Moriya Shrine. Since its delivery to the Underground, it provided a constant stream of seemingly unlimited electricity. This allowed those from the Outside World who had found refuge within the Underground to quickly establish technological supremacy over all of Gensokyo besides the kappa. Gradually, it grew into the hub of all communications-related activity, from radio communication to intranet control. The news Marisa saw on the computer as well as the alarm that was issued were all executed from within a room at the edge of the subterranean cavern where a single escape hatch led up to the Village. Thick wires in several bundles sprouted from its side, some connecting to lights and others to speakers. As she stepped up to the door she could already hear the sound of machinery coming from within, a steady deep hum that vibrated the ground. The man who opened the door looked at her with surprise, then at Hiroaki.

"This is Marisa Kirisame, the girl I talked to you about. She needs to contact the reporters right away. We need to get her on the radio."

Without a word the man tapped a woman on the shoulder, prompting her to finish speaking into the microphone before taking off her headset.

"No need to introduce yourself. I know who you are, what you've done, and what you can do. Take this and sit down, I'll get you set up right away."

Marisa immediately recognized the woman's voice, which came through the speakers following the alarm. Taking the microphone, she positioned herself in front of the radio, observing the array of gauges, numeric displays, knobs, and levers on the machine.

"Press this lever to talk. This green light means you're receiving. When you're talking it will go out and red one will light. Wait for three seconds of silence before transmitting. If you need them to repeat what they said tell them right away."

Marisa heard the crisp hiss of dead air as she placed the headset over her ears. Taking a deep breath, she pressed down on the lever.

"Hello, is anyone there?"

"Who are you?"

"Whew, this is neat... I'm actually talking with someone and I don't even know what he looks like or where he is!"

"I'm with you. I'm on your side, I'm with the Village. I need you to tell me what's going on."

"There's an incident. When I woke up, there was no light. Thick, heavy clouds covered up the entire sky, and now it's raining a sea. The Village has flooded along with many other places. There's a mountain in the distance that we believe to be directly related to this incident. Just fifteen minutes ago a barrier was erected around it. It's still raining and it doesn't look like it's going to stop."

"I have a question for you: Is the Village safe?"

"What do you mean by safe?"

"Has Reimu Hakurei been in the Human Village since the beginning of this incident?"

"No. In fact, the Village likely isn't important to her right now. She's going to be working with Gensokyo's elites to put an end to this incident, so if you want to come to the Village now is actually the best time to do so. Just be careful, people have already been evacuated because of the flood."

"Thanks. It's been great talking with you."

"Just who exactly are you?"

"The other person there last night."

"Kirisame?"

"In the flesh. Surprised?"

"Yes, somewhat. I didn't think you'd end up where you are. Anyhow, hurry up here before things get worse. You probably won't see me and I probably won't see you, but I'm certain you'll be safe."

----------

The tense atmosphere that filled the room after Yukari and Yuyuko left was one of stone-like petrification on the part of those that had been left with their natural enemy. Taking her time, the shrine maiden paced back and forth among commanders whose combined forces made up three-fourths of Gensokyo's youkai population. Reimu knew Yukari was testing her by placing her in this position, so she made it her goal to prove that she was up to the task. Coming to an abrupt stop, she pointed her gohei at the tanuki.

"You. What's your name?"

"A- Ayako."

"What have you done so far?"

"We- we've c-"

The shrine maiden lunged toward the youkai, grabbing her by the collar of her dress.

"Stop stuttering and speak up!"

"We've covered the mountain in troops! Please, we're here to help!"

Letting go of the trembling woman, she took a step back and looked into her eyes with an emotionless stare. Though it didn't seem like it, she was enjoying the moment to its fullest. No other human had the ability to talk to, let alone be near such youkai. If she was to be in charge of this large of an army, she would have to start by making sure not a single subordinate had even the thought of disagreement.

"Good... What about you? What are the yamabiko up to?"

"They're guarding the foot of the mountain to make sure nobody enters or leaves the area."

"And your name?"

"Ohtaka."

Each of the various factions' leaders were questioned in a similar fashion. Supposedly they had lead the preliminary phase of the attack and controlled troops ready to begin the offensive at any time.

"What I say is final, what I say I will not repeat, and what I say you will do. Is that understood?"

"Yes," the group replied in unison.

"You are all here because I trust you to solve this incident. Don't make me lose that trust. If you or anyone under your control do anything to interfere with the operation,"

Reimu swung her gohei through the air, creating a flash of blinding light that left red-white amulets in its path.

"...expect..."

Another line of amulets appeared as she swung it the opposite direction.

"...no..."

Silver needles materialized with the last swing.

"...mercy."

Each pair of eyes watched closely as the table and the chairs surrounding it were reduced to rubble and white smoke. Stepping past fragments of glass and marble, the youkai made their way toward the gap leading to the foot of Olympus, closing as their new commander walked into it. The room, along with what was left of the furniture contained within, disappeared into nonexistence.



They say the reason Gensokyo is separated from the Outside World is because of the lack of technology that leads humans to live in fear of the unknown. It exists because humans are mostly weaker and inferior to youkai, and for its continued existence that must remain the case. The radio brings Gensokyo one step closer to the Outside World, and for this reason it's of vital importance that its use does not spread beyond those it was intended to be used by. If certain people were to become aware of its existence, catastrophic events would unfold at an unstoppable pace. The Underground thrives because of secrecy, and utmost trust has been placed on those responsible for upholding those secrets.

As the storm rages on and death's shadow spreads across the land at a slow but steady pace, time is of the essence. For Marisa, this presents an opportunity to tie up some loose ends and hopefully disappear from the Surface forever. For Yukari and Reimu, there's not much time left and decisions need to be made quickly and intelligently. We'll see what happens in the second part of this chapter, when the things worth protecting are threatened.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2016, 04:47:43 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2016, 10:05:24 pm »
Chapter 8 - Things Worth Protecting (Part 2)

Marisa could hear the sound of heavy rainfall coming from above as she made her way to the door. She looked up at it and gave it a hard knock. Footsteps gave way to the sound of wood scraping against wood.

"You're gonna have to push that thing open yourself!"

The handle had been removed by the two men waiting above, who watched carefully as she poked her head out. Not a word was said as she hurried out the door and threw the invisibility cloak over herself. A torrential downpour of rain pelted the ground, and her footsteps were clearly visible in the water. Using one hand to secure the cloak and another to hold her broom, Marisa floated above the rooftops and looked down at the Human Village. Hundreds gathered themselves under whatever shelter they could find in the central district. Men and women carried flickering torches in the darkness, unaware that even a small group of youkai could wipe them out within minutes. Raging winds swept water off the ground, howling as they passed into and out of alleyways. She thought about talking to her father, but when she found the storehouse packed full with those seeking shelter from the storm she stopped her descent. She had to find the ones she was looking for without bringing attention to herself. More than a handful of those in the village were willing to do whatever they could to be of assistance to Reimu. Some did it out of fear, believing that refusal to help would lead to their demise. Others thought that helping her would rid them of suspicions should any incident arise in the future. Finally, there were those who believed that they would be blessed by helping the shrine maiden perform her duties. Whatever the reason, a sizable portion of the village had no problem with assisting in what would cause the death of hundreds of innocent humans. She was working against all odds, but she knew that no matter how small of a chance she would have it was better than waiting for the worst to come. The sky lit up as roaring thunder shook the ground, reminding her that the incident was still under way. Before it was over she had to accomplish what she came to do. Asking each person individually was out of the question, as was talking to the entire village. Had her father's store not been turned into a storm shelter, she would be in there right now. Only one other person who had enough knowledge of the Human Village. Only one other person could be trusted with what she had to say.

----------

When the regulars of the Scarlet Devil Mansion returned to the gate Meiling was nowhere to be found. Whether she was there or not didn't make a difference, for nobody would be out in the open at a time like this. Three drenched figures made their way past the entrance, disappointed at their failed attempt to get to the culprit behind this increasingly annoying incident. The ground was soaked and sticky, the garden had been blown out of shape, and steady waterfalls originated from rooftops.

"Patche, Sakuya, I want you to do something about this."

"Of course, milady."

"Indeed. It's gotten quite messy."

Patchouli Knowledge headed into the library of the mansion, her natural domain. Humans could spend their entire life among the books and die with less than half a percent its collection completed. As a magician, it was her pride and joy, containing literature from every corner of the world, banned texts on forbidden subjects, as well as her own hand-written books on magical research and usage. It was for this reason that Marisa Kirisame often intruded and "borrowed" books for herself. She floated toward the top of a shelf hidden in the corner, retrieving a sealed box. Returning to the ground, she placed it on her desk and placed her hands a certain distance over the top. Closing her eyes, she recited the spell silently, removing the lock that she had placed on it. In the center of the library, an elaborate mechanism stood under an opening in the ceiling. Lenses clicked into place as she placed the golden crystal into a holder. Taking a few steps back, the magician watched as rings of light began to oscillate around the crystal. Bright light shot out through prisms, up toward the ceiling, and out the roof.

Within seconds the Scarlet Devil Mansion came under the protection of an artificial sky. Invisible from the outside but like daylight from the inside, the dome that spread over the mansion gave off light that made it seem as if there wasn't a thing out of the ordinary.

----------

As Cirno and the rest of the group she had hastily gathered found themselves surrounded by a massive youkai army they began to realize the severity of the incident. Trapped within the impenetrable barrier of vines and leaves, the only chance to escape was through the top. Reports of a small unidentified group of youkai and fairies rapidly ascending toward the sky began to spread among the troops.

"They're following us!"

A handful of tengu sped toward the gang of five, the distance between them rapidly closing.

"Shoot, Cirno! Shoot!"

Mystia's song was the cue for Cirno to begin firing sharp icicles at their pursuers. The pouring rain provided an excellent source of water, and it didn't look like there was going to be a shortage of that anytime soon. With the threat temporarily out of the way they continued their ascension.

"Well that was easy~!"

A bright flash of light left everyone blinded for over a minute as their ears rang. By the time they regained their senses an unpleasant smell filled their vicinity, and that was when the realization that the ice fairy had been struck by lightning came over the remaining four. They stopped and hovered in the air for a moment before bursting into laughter. This laughter quickly turned into fear as the three youkai became aware that the tengu they had gotten rid of were the least of their worries. Fairies, being embodiments of nature, revived within minutes of dying. If the next strike hit any of the three of them that would be it. Without a word they plunged toward the ground, leaving Daiyousei floating in the middle of the rain. If Cirno getting struck by lightning meant escape from the barrier the same would happen to her. She, too, had been struck by lightning countless times. Every time that happened she would regain her consciousness in the general vicinity of the Misty Lake.

----------

Above the thick blanket of clouds Olympus revealed a winding road painted red by the setting sun. Marching in silence, the remains of what was once a thousand-strong youkai army prepared themselves for any attacks that might come, unsure of whether they'd last through it. During their ascension an opposing army of winged lions descended from the sky, taking out over three-forths of their forces. Though they outnumbered the beasts five-to-one, their armor was no match for razor-sharp claws. Only the tengu were fast enough to outrun them, resulting in the least amount of casualties among their kind. At the end of the road was an entrance into the mountain. Reimu looked up at the stone statues on either side of the opening, observing their strange design. After what she had witnessed in the last hour she had every reason to believe that they were more than mere statues.

"Divine Flames of Heaven, destroy at once those that stand in my way, returning them to that which does not harm."

Crimson fireballs shot down from above to vaporize the bird-like figures, black marks in the ground serving as the only proof that something once stood there. The army had been reduced to a fraction of its original size, and any more attacks would likely wipe them out.

"I don't know what is in there, but if anything is waiting for us they will certainly try to drive us away. Kill anything that looks suspicious on sight. No questions, no waiting for them to kill you first. This incident has dragged on for long enough and I want to see it end before midnight. If all of you work together we can finish this in less than an hour."

"That's enough," a voice said from behind. "I'll take it from here."

Reimu turned around to see Yukari walking out from the entrance.

"What?"

"Do you really think I'd let you head in there and do whatever you want with gods from the Outside World? You can't understand what they say, and they won't understand what you say to them."

"I don't care. It's not like I was planning on talking with them."

"That's where you're wrong. Do you really expect yourself to be able to kill these gods? I can easily send them back to the Outside World. I can make sure they don't come back. But before I do that I'd like to learn a bit about them. I think there are benefits in talking things out with them. They may be invaders, but if I can befriend these foreign gods or even convince them to leave us alone it will be much better than anything you have planned. Also, if I'm not mistaken, don't you have things to settle in the Human Village? I still need you to find out why so many humans are disappearing. Until then, good-bye~"

Before she could respond she was standing in her shrine, the rustle of heavy rainfall piercing through the howling wind. The lantern she put out before leaving had been lit by Yukari some time before her arrival for good measure, and the seal affixed to the door remained untouched. It was clear that the gap youkai wanted her to attend to the ongoing mystery regarding the decreasing human population, which became more noticeable as each day passed. Less than a week after sending thirty humans to the Human Village only nine remained. They were brought into Gensokyo by Yukari herself, abducted to make up for those that disappeared, those who willingly threw their lives away by falling victim to Dark Spells, and those that discovered things not meant to be known. Kneeling in front of a kotatsu in the center of the shrine, the priestess dipped the brush in her hand into a bowl of blood-red ink, turning stacks of blank paper into deadly weapons she planned to use at the slightest provocation from what she saw as an increasingly deviant human population. The balance that kept Gensokyo together was being threatened by an unknown force. Though she was certain that it operated by humans, her attempts to uncover information about it always ended in failure. Those she interrogated placed their secrets above all else, and those in line to die the same slow and painful death as their comrades often took their own lives before she could get to them. All this pointed toward a highly organized group of humans whose goal was to ensure the continued existence of what they had to protect, something that had to be eradicated and every last one of its members accounted for.

----------

"I'm okay, don't worry. I'll be more careful next time."

"I know. It's just that you shouldn't give her another chance. You really should've turned them away when you had the chance."

"But..."

"Please. I don't want to lose you. I'd go crazy if I lost you."

----------

When Marisa reached the entrance to the forest that surrounded Eientei she quickly realized how little time she had to find Keine. Beneath her was an expanse of darkness, countless stalks of bamboo forming an intricate maze. Enchanted by magic, its form constantly shifted, permanently trapping those who ventured in unprepared. Flying over the top, she looked for any sources of light, failing to do so. Firing a laser toward the sky would attract too many attention. An explosion would be mistaken for thunder. A shower of sparks that spread through the forest would be detectable only by those within it, providing a perfect signal that she was in its vicinity. It was only a matter of seconds before a flickering light that could only come from one source lit up below, barely visible under the canopy of leaves.

"Long time no see, Kirisame. I hear there's an incident taking place."

"There's two, actually. One that doesn't concern me much, and one that I need to make sure doesn't take place."

Mokou looked at Keine, confirming what Marisa said from the former schoolteacher's facial expression.

"Put out the fire, we won't be needing that anymore."

Their surroundings immediately plunged into pitch-black darkness.

"Keine, I need to talk to you in private."

"What is it?"

"Something only you and I know about."

Silence settled over the three for a moment. The absence of light meant nobody could see each other, making it impossible to tell what anyone was thinking.

"If it's about 'that place', Mokou's known about it for a while. You know what I'm referring to, right?"

"Yeah. I'm worried Reimu will find out about it. She's been asking around in the Village for quite a while now."

"If it wasn't for this incident I would've went down there to warn them. I could tell she's desperate from the way she killed those children yesterday. Just last week she came to the Village with thirty humans from the Outside World. They were absolutely terrified when I talked to them, and I had no choice but to talk to them one-by-one and send those I felt were helpless to the Underground where they could at least live their lives in relative safety. But now, more than ever, that safety is being threatened."

"Then we have to hurry before she returns to the Village. I heard she's busy putting an end to whatever's causing the rain and clouds, so now's all we have to find out who used a Shadow to talk to me last night."

"A Shadow?"

"Whoever talked to me said it himself. Is it true that Shadow Spells are only used in the Underground?"

"Yes, that was its original intention. However the Shadow you saw was most likely created from a weakened version of the spell that prevents the user from interacting with any objects. It's only intermediate-level magic, and anyone could've used it. Sure, it might be someone from the Underground, but it could just as well be someone from the Village. Do you remember what he said to you?"

"Not much. He just told me to prepare for a storm and that the Village was being armed with Dark Spells to protect themselves against invading gods from the Outside World."

"Then I'm almost certain that they are not from the Underground. That makes me slightly less worried, but that doesn't mean we can stay here forever."

"Are you sure it's safe for you to return? Something tells me you're fighting a battle you can't win."

"What makes you say that?"

As an immortal human who was "normal" in all other aspects, Mokou was known for her straightforward remarks. Death meant nothing to her, so she had no problem in telling others her opinions even if they weren't things they'd want to hear.

"You're a youkai and she's a shrine maiden. It's like a mouse trying to outrun a snake."

"That's easy for you to say! What about all the people that she'll kill without hesitation? I'm not going to sit back and watch them die."

"It's this mentality that almost got you killed yesterday. If that woman hadn't come forward you'd be dead! Are you not aware of that?!"

"Look. I'd rather die knowing hundreds of innocent humans will live than count their bodies, if there are any left."

"Then let me come with you. I'll protect you."

"Sure, I'm fine with that. You two ready to go?"

Marisa was beginning to lose her patience. She didn't know how long it would take before the rain stopped and the clouds disappeared. All she knew was that she had to return to the Underground before that happens. Mokou produced a small fireball from the tip of her finger, casting a dim light that revealed an opening through which the three ascended.

"So this is what it looks like without the moon and stars..."

Keine felt as if she was floating in the middle of nothing. She couldn't see Marisa, she couldn't see Mokou, and she couldn't even see her own hands as she waved them in front of herself. A patch of light in the distance marked the location of the Human Village. The Youkai Mountain in the opposite direction couldn't be identified, and the Forest of Magic's glowing mushrooms were completely obscured by the dense expanse of trees and leaves.

"Mokou, Marisa, hold my hand. Let's not get separated."

A barely-visible ember from the immortal girl's palm gave Marisa just enough time to grab Keine's right hand. It disappeared as her hand met with the were-hakutaku's free hand, returning the three to the safety of the darkness that surrounded them. They moved swiftly and with excellent coordination, as if they were one body. Rain soaked every last thread of their clothing, leaving them dripping wet as they landed a few minutes away from the western entrance. Hidden away near the side of the road, Marisa retrieved the invisibility cloak and held it beneath her waistline, revealing only the upper half of her body.

"We can't let anyone see us now. Especially you. They'll definitely think something's going on when they see you."

"Can't blame them. I've been here... once? Or twice?"

Shoulder-to-shoulder, the three huddled together under the cloak and floated above the wall surrounding the Human Village, looking down at the large crowds gathered with all kinds of light-producing objects in their hands.

"Over there, that's where we land."

"Yeah, I know."

One of the two men that Marisa saw as she left opened the door when he saw her through the window. The other man was not present, leaving him as the only person in charge of the entrance.

"Allow me to introduce her," said Keine, pointing to Mokou. "This is Mokou Fujiwara, who you probably recognize as the Hourai Immortal. She'll be guarding this entrance for the next few hours. I've got very important announcements to make and several misunderstandings to clear up, so let's head down there right now."

With little effort Keine lifted the solid wooden dresser up and moved it aside, gently setting it down on the floor. The handle on the recessed steel door had been removed, making it impossible to open from the outside. She unhooked the string hanging from a nail and gave it two rounds of four quick pulls followed by two separated pulls before hanging the loop back on the stem of the nail. Several minutes later someone would open the door from the inside, having heard the ringing of a bell that signaled her intent to enter.

----------

After making the last stroke on the last seal, Reimu found herself looking at one hundred magic-sealing amulets and five hundred exorcision amulets in stacks of roughly fifty. With what would be enough to take every life in the Human Village, she returned the brush and ink to its usual location and prepared the ritual to send them to the god that bore her name. Though she had never communicated with the god of her own shrine, she was always able to retrieve the amulets she made from the deity and sense noticeable change upon offering sacrifices. Holding a stick of incense up to the flame of the lantern gave rise to a dark purple flame that burned brightly to give off a distinctive scent. Kneeling down once more, she set fire to each stack of amulets, watching as bright violet flames consumed them with a huff. When the time comes, all she had to do was focus and they would materialize in her hand. With the amulets in the possession of the divine being she stood up and picked out a steel needle used in her youkai extermination rituals. While at least five were needed for even the weakest youkai, one was enough to kill a typical human and inflict extreme pain on those who refused to die after the first stab. With this in one hand and her gohei in the other hand the shrine maiden set off toward the Human Village. A flash of lightning and the subsequent roar of thunder reminded her that the incident was still underway. She thought about Yukari and the youkai army, whether they were talking things out, or whether they were engaged in a violent battle. She was beginning to lose her patience as she approached the eastern entrance, walking past ten guards in two rows on either side of the road.

"What's going on? Do you know what's causing the storm?"

"Of course I do. Yukari is working on that, and I am here to cleanse the Human Village of those who willingly break the fundamental laws of Gensokyo. I want all of you to make sure nobody leaves. Detain the ones that try to leave and make sure they stay alive."

"Yes! We'll get to that right away!"

The guards at the western entrance heard from her shortly. With the two exits blocked off there would be little chance of anyone escaping. Thanks to the flood nearly all of the residents were gathered in the central precinct like a herd of cattle surrounded from all sides by the remainder of the Gensokyo Defense Force.

"Is that everyone?"

"It should be. We've relocated the entirety of the Village to this street. Some of them are inside the stores and houses, but if the rain continues we may have to bring them elsewhere."

The commander of the Defense Force stepped aside as Reimu walked forward to address the crowd in front of her.

"I am sure you are all aware of the incident that started overnight. The Village has been flooded, and you are all here because you do not wish to perish in the cold, freezing water."

Multiple flashes of lightning above the village brightened the sky for several seconds as reverberating thunder shook the frame of buildings, complemented by the howl of winds from the east.

"The last month has been rather unfortunate for us all, with humans in this village choosing to throw away their lives by stepping out of the boundaries which the divine and heavenly have laid out for them. I have had to intervene more times than I can count, and with each visit to this place I realize just how hopeless you all are. Am I not doing enough for you? Do I not make sure you live in safety from youkai that are more than willing to tear your bodies apart and drag you across the ground as you draw your last breath in excruciating pain?"

For several seconds the sound of rainfall and shuffling were the only things that could be heard. Those who were innocent on the priestess' terms stood in silence while others did all they could to remain calm and prevent the worst from happening.

"I know many of you place your faith in me as the protector of Gensokyo and the guardian of this sanctuary. Many of you provide me offerings, and some of you have even received the Gods' blessings. Without your continued support Gensokyo would not be the way it has been for over a hundred years. If you do not already know of it, an organization of heretics has developed among the human population. They reside in the Village, they have been living among all of you for quite some time, and now they have grown to be a threat. I created the Spell Card Rules to ensure safety for the weak and equality among humans and youkai, yet this organization refuses to abide by them again and again. They insist on spreading, creating, and using forbidden spells that strip their humanity away. Tonight I will destroy this organization and put their members to eternal rest. I will uncover their secrets and rid every last trace of them from existence. If you want to gain my trust, you will assist me when needed with no exceptions. If you prefer a quick and painless death, please come forward and allow me to take the first step in restoring balance to Gensokyo."



The gates of the Human Village have been closed, and they will not open until Reimu accomplishes her goal. Soon, many will become aware of the reason the storm happened and the reason the Olympian Gods entered Gensokyo. Friendships will be torn apart and former rivals will join forces to protect those that matter to them. The Underground that has existed in peace and comfort for two decades will face its worst fear head-on, and those selected by the hand of fate will make life-changing decisions that reveal the extent of their faith and beliefs.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2016, 10:10:31 pm by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2017, 12:28:25 am »
Chapter 9 - The First Night

Hiroaki Ichimura arrived at the door just over twenty minutes after the signal. He knocked on it twice and waited for Keine to knock on it three times before pushing it open and propping it up with retractable metal poles. Without a word, the three descended into the opening and watched as the door slammed shut.

"The two of them should be able to move the dresser back where it's supposed to go. You can trust Mokou with the entrance. As long as I'm here she'll do everything she can to make sure I'm safe."

"Good, because with the flood up there things can get bad really quickly. So far we haven't gotten any reports worth worrying about beyond the fact that the residents of the Village have been relocated. Marisa went up to find people who she claims to have used Shadow Spells. Do you know anything about that?"

"Ah, yes. I was just about to mention that I have strong reasons to believe that whoever used the spell did not obtain it from the Underground or even knows about it. Shadow Spells are among the most basic possession spells, and from what Marisa told me it seems that the spells that were used were ones that did not allow the user to interact with objects. Had they been from the Underground that would not have been the case. Rest assured that you are not in as much danger as you might think you are in."

"Yeah. I must've overthought it. She's right about others knowing the spell or even figuring it out on their own."

"Let's not get too comfortable. I still have to tell you the reason I came here. You probably heard about what happened yesterday, right?"

"Yes. Though we don't even know their names, our hearts are with the ones who perished yesterday night. It's unfortunate that they had to go like that, but such is reality in Gensokyo. There's not much I can do about that."

"That storm won't last forever. Once it's over Reimu will shift her full attention to the Village, possibly going door to door until she finds out about the Underground."

"No... No, that can't be! Why would she think that?! How did she find out?!"

"She's been coming to the Village more and more often within the past month. Ever since the first group of humans decided to become magicians she's convinced that there's a secret group of humans responsible for spreading magic throughout the Village. Though they have nothing to do with the Underground, her scrutinization of the Village is likely going to reveal us. I know the majority of the Underground is human, but there certainly exists magicians and even a spell distribution center here. In addition, the technology you possess is strictly forbidden, and she'll likely kill anyone who's had contact or experience with the Outside World's technology. Then there's those who were brought in from the Outside World and have the knowledge necessary to build and operate those machines as well as teach others about them. The humans of the Underground know too much about the Outside World to stay in Gensokyo and too much about Gensokyo to be sent to the other side of the Barrier. They're too weak to defend themselves if she manages to force her way in. They'll be killed within an hour."

"Then what do you want us to do? What can we do to prevent that from happening?"

"Your best plan is to stay calm and maintain constant communication between each other. Pick out the strongest humans to defend the entrances. Gather the magicians and provide them with both offensive and defensive spells. If she finds an entrance to the Underground they'll need to block the entrance for as long as it takes for everyone to escape to the Village and disperse. They'll have little to no time to gather their most precious belongings, so it'll be wise for everyone to begin packing the possessions they want to take with them in a way such that they can easily escape with them. Provide each person with spells to store their belongings in a subatomic capsule. The Bamboo Forest of the Lost is a good place to evacuate to, as is the Forest of Magic. While we all hope she won't find out about us, we have to prepare for such a scenario if we are to keep the number of deaths to a minimum. This is why I'm here. There's no doubt that the great majority of the Underground will not take what I have to say well. That's especially true for the newcomers who are just starting to settle in to their new life and the children who are too young to understand the significance or meaning of what's going on. We'll need to take extra care in making sure they don't do anything that'll jeopardize their lives and the lives of others."

Marisa stayed silent thoughout the entire descent. Men, women, and children lived in absolute peace and harmony in the Underground. Why couldn't things stay that way? Why did everything that happened have to happen, and what would the future have in store for them? The sanctuary she once knew could turn into a sea of blood with broken bodies resting at its depths at any moment, and she felt hopeless just thinking about that.

"I'll kill you, Reimu. Draw as much as a drop of blood from anyone here and I'll kill you."

"Oh, that's right, dinner's almost ready. Would the two of you like to eat with us?"

"Sure!"

"That would be nice. Thank you in advance."

"Yeah, thanks!"

Chizuru wore a surprised expression when she saw Keine with her father at the door.

"Hello, Keine-sensei!"

"Please do not call me that from now on. An instructor who cannot ensure the safety of her own students is not worthy of such a title. From now on just call me Keine."

"O-Okay."

The girl nodded as a look of disappointment settled over her face.

"What was once a schoolhouse is now the resting place of four young children that had their lives taken away in the most cruel manner possible. Just when Gensokyo was beginning to forget the existence of such inhuman rituals, she proved that she would show no hesitation in performing barbaric acts like that not once, not twice, but four times. Unable to go to heaven or hell, they'll feel the pain of their death for eternity."

Chizuru and Tetsuro stood in silence, petrified by what they had just heard. Even Momoka stopped what she was doing, leaving the piece of meat sizzling on the pan. For Marisa, it was as if the world around her ceased to exist. Everything faded into white as Keine's words echoed in her consciousness. As a shrine maiden, Reimu was capable of performing a variety of rituals, the majority of which she would never realize the existence of. It was one thing to kill those who opposed her. Subjecting them to eternal pain was unthinkable. She had known her for several years, but only now did she realize how much of a danger she was to every human and youkai within her reach. Rin, Shinki, a great majority of Makai, and the several residents of the Human Village all met that fate. A vision of the future came to her, and in it she saw Alice screaming as flames consumed her body. She saw Chizuru sliced apart by innumerable amulets, she saw Hiroaki perforated by thousands of needles, and she saw her father's skull crushed and barely recognizable in a pool of blood. The possibility of everyone joining those that she once knew and loved was very real, and it was at this moment when she realized how limited her options were.

"I'm sorry I had to be the one to deliver such terrible news, but facts are facts and I feel it would be better for everyone if they know what they're up against. We shouldn't let fear get the best of us, so please make use of the time we have now to prepare for anything that might happen."

Momoka scraped off the charred meat and dropped it into the trash before bringing the last plate to the table. Everyone could tell she was shaking as she sat down with the four-year old girl in her lap. Too young to understand the situation at hand, Mayu could only wave her hand at her mother who tried her best to smile back.

"We may be in danger, but at least we can enjoy this moment of peace... Itadakimasu."

"Itadakimasu."

----------

"I will give you one last chance to save yourself. If you are in possession of Dark Spells, come forward and I may reconsider your punishment. You know who you are, and I will find you."

A woman stepped out from the crowd, trembling with fear as she held out two cards in her right hand. Reimu took them from her, frowning as she looked at the unintelligible symbols seared into the sheets. Lightning lit up the sky as she tore them in half, letting the scraps fall toward the ground. Thunder roared, and she lunged forward to grab her tightly by the arm.

"You are not human, are you?"

"Please, don't kill me! I've got a family! I promise I won't-"

She drove the needle through her arm and let go, waiting for a moment before pulling it through her hand with a quick motion. Blood sprayed through the air, and the youkai fell toward the ground.

"Of all the things not to do in Gensokyo, losing your humanity to become a youkai is the worst of them all."

A crack sounded as she stomped down on her uninjured hand, grinding it against the ground before dragging her foot toward herself to reveal a smear of torn flesh and crushed bones.

"It does not matter whether you are old or young. It does not matter whether you are male or female. I do not care what your reasons are. You are all the same, and you deserve nothing less than an eternity of pain."

Nearly two hundred pairs of eyes watched as the priestess swung her gohei through the air to create a path of amulets in its path. They shot forward, slicing into the woman's body like knives. A plume of white smoke rose upward as she let out a bloodcurdling scream that lasted for several seconds.

"If you are human and you do not wish to end up like her, you will tell me who and where the remaining ones who have Dark Spells are."

"What about the storm?!" said a man at the front of the crowd. "Why don't you fix that first, protector of Gensokyo?"

Those around the man flinched as she sprinted forward to cut his head in two with a violent swing of the wooden rod she held tightly in her left hand, pelting them with cranial matter.

"You. What do you know?"

Reimu had all but lost her restraint on exterminating the Human Village. Pointing the bloodstained gohei at a young boy's eyes, she expected nothing but what she asked from him. His mother, standing next to him, could only tighten her grip on his hand and hope for nothing short of a miracle.

Kozue Tamura looked out the window of her small third-story apartment. She took a deep breath and slowly pressed down on the transmit button, listening for the sharp click of a relay that gave rise to a steady low-pitched hum.

"Gods... She killed him."

Another click sounded as she let go, cold sweat running down her back. As a reporter it was her job to make sure the Underground knew of the latest events taking place within the Human Village. Her location in the central district made her one of the most dependable sources of information for over the two hundred humans and youkai living in isolation from the rest of Gensokyo. She knew full well what would happen if her role was revealed to the wrong people, and that was what she used to tell herself that she would fulfill her duty until her death.

"Have you seen Kaneda or Otsuka?"

"No. They are still okay, but things are not looking too good."

A woman's scream came to an abrupt end, leaving a chilling echo that ran through the streets and alleys.

"What do you mean?"

She looked at the scrap of paper affixed to the door behind her, then back at the bright fluorescent display of the radio. As a human she could only trust what the magicians told her, and as someone who spent her entire life in Gensokyo's Human Village she would never know how the device in front of her worked. Like the spell that sealed all sounds within the room, the transceiver worked by the same principles to her:

Magic.

----------

Asami Tsukimiya watched the reel of tape rotating, capturing every word of the conversation between her and Kozue.

"If nobody tells her who or where they are she'll kill everyone in the Village."

The former television news anchor remembered the night she found herself in Gensokyo, looking up at the dark sky scattered with more stars than she had ever seen as she stood on the grounds of the Hakurei Shrine.

"There is no way for you to return to where you came from, but rest assured that nothing bad will happen to you if you stay in the Human Village."

Four years ago, she would never have known that the person who escorted her to the Human Village would be the same person that was now sending innocent humans to their death.

"I think it should be okay," she replied. "Eventually someone will have to tell her what she is looking for."

To her right, Tomoya Sumiyoshi typed his report into a computer. His previous life was cut short when he stepped into the elevator of his apartment building for the last time, joining the expendable human population of Gensokyo. Within these thin wooden walls everyone had a story to tell, an account of the last thing they did in the world beyond the barrier that separated them from the living hell they woke up to each day. A certain youkai woman's voice only increased the tension in the room, as she only made an appearance when things above took a turn for the worse.

"There's something I need to let everyone know."

"What is it?"

"Something that they need to understand because it may affect them in the near future."

"Then would you like to make an announcement?"

"Yes, please."

Keine made her way to a rack of machinery standing against the wall and removed the microphone from the handle it rested on. Lights came on and flashed as she pressed down on a lever. Two chimes sounded over speakers within the Underground, and she began speaking in a urgent tone:

"Good evening, everyone. This is Keine Kamishirasawa, speaking from the communications center. As many of you already know, recent incidents have put all of Gensokyo on high alert. Starting with the proliferation of forbidden spells in the Human Village and the subsequent removal of youkai who were once human, the Spell Card Rules that were meant to lay out a non-lethal way of dealing with disagreements has come to an end. With that, I've decided to tell you one of Gensokyo's darkest secrets, something many of you do not know. In the time before the Spell Card Rules, magicians crafted deadly spells and youkai attacked humans without restraint. To combat against this, the Hakurei shrine maidens made use of a sealing ritual that ranks among the most cruelest forms of punishment to ever be practiced. When someone is simply killed, their spirit simply separates from their body, free to roam heaven or hell. A sealed soul cannot be reincarnated unless the seal is removed, and the sealing ritual practiced by ones like Reimu cannot be undone. Furthermore, it exposes its target to the pain they felt at the moment of their death. For eternity."

She paused for a moment, letting her words sink into the minds of those listening.

"It's a fate worse than death itself. Everyone here, myself included, will be in danger if she becomes aware of the Underground's existence. It doesn't matter whether you are human or youkai, because it's what you know that gives her a reason to seal you. Bear in mind that I am telling you this because I believe that everyone has a right to know exactly what kind of situation they are in. The reality is that the Underground has not affected the rest of Gensokyo in any way. An unrelated incident involving a rising interest in magic within the Human Village threatens us, and unless we plan ahead we will not be prepared for what may come. Before anyone asks, there does not exist a way to safely remove fragments of one's knowledge without causing permanent damage to the mind. It is also highly unsafe for everyone if anyone decides to return to the Human Village, for there exists the possibility that someone accidentally reveals who they are."

----------

Like everyone else, Marisa stood outside the Ichimura house to listen to what Keine had to say. Momoka held Mayu in her arms, Chizuru and Tetsuro stood next to their father, and down the entire street parents comforted their children.

"...I will be waiting outside if anyone has any questions. I recommend at least one person from each family come, as there may be information that directly benefits you."

Years of acting as the educator of Gensokyo's youth made itself evident as she concluded her announcement, sending people scrambling toward the communications center.

"Wait here with your mother, I'll go listen to what they have to say."

"I'll come too," said Marisa. "I'm going to see if it's okay to go to the Surface. I need to talk with my father."

A crowd formed around Keine as she stood outside the building. The door opened shortly after she knocked, and inside were the usual people.

"What's the situation in the Village?"

"See for yourself," muttered Tomoya, moving aside to let her see the computer screen.

130th year, 23rd day, 8th month (Late Night) - As the majority of the Human Village gathered in the central district to shelter themselves from the flood described in today's previous report, Reimu Hakurei came to them to demand that those in possession of forbidden "Dark" spells turn themselves in. According to our reporter a woman admitted to using such spells and was killed in front of the crowd of at least one hundred and fifty. A man was killed shortly afterward, followed by a child and his mother. With the exception of the woman, it is believed that those killed were human. As such, it is highly dangerous to leave the Underground. Please make preparations for any special orders.

This is a developing event, updates will be made as necessary. We will be keeping in close contact with reporters in the Human Village to ensure that the latest news is made available as soon as possible.


"I need to talk to my father. He's in his storehouse, in the central district where everything's happening. Is there anything you can do to warn him about what might happen to him?"

"No, we can't do anything, but the magicians can. They're the ones you should be asking for help from. All we do is gather information from our contacts in the Human Village and manage the phone and computer network for the Underground."

"Where can I find them?"

"Give me a moment, I'll take you to them after I publish this article."

The thirty-five year old man tapped on the keyboard and the screen went black. A yellow light flickered, and the catalog appeared a few seconds later with the latest entry at the top:

Human Village Off-Limits Until Further Notice

"We'll leave through the back door. There's too many people at the front."

The two of them left through a narrow door at the back corner. Immediately outside was the escape hatch, a vertically-oriented rope ladder that would take them to a one-way exit outside the Human Village. Tomoya explained the usage of that exit as they passed seemingly identical structures, turning into an alley to return to the main road.

"Most of the magicians here were once human. Now that shouldn't be too much of a surprise since almost everyone here is either from the Human Village or somewhere on the other side of the barrier."

"Where are you from?"

"Kumiyama City, Kyoto, Japan."

"So you're from the Outside World."

"Yeah, if that's what you want to call it. If I could I'd go back there this instant."

"That's what they all say."

"And that's what they all want. Nobody wanted to come here. Almost all of us were taken here against our will. Whenever youkai kill too many humans or when a disease wipes out a large portion of the Human Village, Yukari Yakumo bring humans from all over Japan into this backwater expanse of land separated from the rest of the world. They end up on the grounds of the Hakurei Shrine, and if they're smart they'll stay right where they are. They tell Reimu the truth, and from that moment on they'll never see the world beyond the barrier again."

"What truth?"

"They say there's an abandoned shrine in the mountains north of Kyoto. Many people have travelled there to confirm its existence, and what they see is exactly what people describe it as. Dust, cobwebs, leaves, and forest animals everywhere. They say it's the place where the barrier is the weakest, and if one stays there for too long they'll become lightheaded. They faint, and the next thing they know they're woken up by the shrine maiden. She asks them where they were before they fell asleep, and depending on what they tell her she either returns them to the other side of the barrier or tells them to take up a new life in the Human Village. If they tell her what I and many others told her there's no way out."

"How do you know this?"

"Many years ago the elders of the Human Village told something along those lines to people like me. As time went on they were told to stop spreading that information under the threat of death, so now it's only known within the Underground. The Human Village is meant to be stripped of all knowledge regarding how things work in Gensokyo because they exist only to provide youkai with what they need to survive. Some say that's what keeps the barrier intact, but others say that's just another lie that everyone believes as the truth. How do I know that? Just look at what's taking place right now. As we speak the so-called protector of Gensokyo is casually sealing away innocent humans who she knows can't do anything to fight back."

"That's because she doesn't see them as anything. She told me that herself, calling them disposable and insignificant. I don't need you to tell me what she thinks of others. I used to fight with her."

"What for?"

"It's a long story, and I don't really feel like telling that right now. How far are we from where I need to be?"

"Almost there. It shouldn't take longer than two minutes."

"Tomoya, right?"

The man nodded as she continued:

"Lately I've thinking about whether Reimu knows what the consequences of her actions are."

"She definitely knows. Her end goal is the same as Yukari's -- complete control over Gensokyo. It might not look like it, but anyone who they perceive as a threat to their power is at risk of death. Or worse. With the rise of several alternative religious factions and even a competitor she immediately put forth a show of force. If I were you I'd be careful around her, especially if you plan to become a magician."

The two came to a stop in front of a small single-story building among many similar structures.

"This is the center of the Underground's youkai district. As I said earlier many of them were once human who have ascended to youkaidom. Unlike native youkai they have no reason to harm humans, and at times they've even defended humans from becoming food. With that said, I have to return to the communications center. Asami can manage the radio and website on her own, but it's much more efficient if we split up our tasks. Goodbye, for now!"

"Goodbye to you too!"

Marisa watched as Tomoya ran off toward his workplace. A middle-aged man opened the door, revealing a room full of men and women that looked no different from her.

"What brings you here?"

"I'm Marisa Kirisame, a human magician."

"Is that so?" asked a young woman sitting at a table. "Why should I believe that?"

Marisa retrieved her deck of Spell Cards, taking out eight cards and fanning them out for all to see.

"Are those... Spell Cards?"

Again, laughter came from every direction. Gritting her teeth, she collected the cards she held in her hand and reached for the five cards at the very end of her deck. As she raised those forward the laughter stopped. Eyes stared at the spells she held in her right hand. Whispers gave way to exclamations as they found themselves looking at genuine youkai spells.

"If those are-"

"Yes! They're real!"

"Where the hell did she get those?!"

"Amazing..."

"Say no more, Kirisame. What you want we will provide you with."

Smiling, she dropped the cards into her left hand, flinging them back into her deck.

"I'm looking for my father."

"Is that all?" said a elderly man.

"Yes. For now."

"Show this kid who we are," said a young man who sat across from the elderly man, who stood up and walked to the back corner of the room. He retrieved a staff from beneath his robe and held it in his right hand. With his left hand, he reached into the right side of his uniform and slid out a single card, which he placed face-up on the ground in front of him. He held the staff at the bottom and pointed to it, shooting a beam of light straight at the piece of paper. A column of intense blue light radiated from within it, expanding to the height of the ceiling. It flashed white and disappeared, leaving a confused man sitting where the card once was. Confused, he looked around at those sitting and standing, then at his daughter, whose facial expression could only be described as dumbfounded.

"Marisa?"



Ahh, a teleporation spell, the most basic of magic! Marisa just experienced real magic right in front of her, and soon she'll be launched into a world she only read about in books. As the threat of death and destruction comes closer to the Underground than ever before, she'll have to experiment with things that she never thought were possible. With another part of the Underground revealed, she'll meet new people and come into contact with things that rattle her determination more than anything else she's come across. The culprit of the incident that thrust Gensokyo into darkness will be revealed to the surprise of all, and once that information is out there will be new things to worry about and alliances to be made.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2017, 12:31:00 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2017, 03:24:42 am »
Chapter 10 - What Lies Ahead

"If I tell you who has Dark Spells will you promise to keep me safe?"

"That depends. Can you bring them to me?"

"No, but the Defense Force can. They know everyone in the Village. Just make sure nobody harms me or my family. We're good people, we're willing to help you with whatever you want."

Noriyuki stood in place as Reimu took a few steps back and kneeled, placing her right hand on the ground. A golden circle emblazoned with runes at its outer edge spread outward, forming a glowing cylinder around them. She waited for a few seconds before standing up again, seemingly satisfied at the integrity of the barrier.

"Now then, what can you tell me about the use of Dark Spells within the Human Village?"

----------

"Hold on, I can explain," said Marisa before anyone else could speak. "There's only one reason I'd want you here and you know why."

"I heard everything from the people hiding in the shop. Regardless of what happens tonight Reimu will continue looking for you. She'll definitely come to me and likely even use me to draw you out of hiding. If she finds out I'm missing she'll have even more reasons to be suspicious. Especially since she's going to rid the Human Village of all spells."

"All?"

"Yes, all spells. This isn't going to come as a surprise to you, but the mere existence of magicians in the Human Village is something she won't tolerate."

Marisa shook her head in disgust.

"Look, father. You're here now, and I won't let you return. Stay with me. Please... I'm scared."

"SCARED OF WHAT?!" bellowed the man. "THAT'S NOT SOMETHING MY DAUGHTER WOULD SAY!"

"There he goes again," said a woman sitting in the corner. "So full of himself."

"Hey! I heard that! Now listen up, Marisa. As long as you believe in your potential there's nothing to be afraid of. I knew you had that potential when you joined the Defense Force, and from that day on I saw you as the true successor to our name."

"You still don't understand it, do you? You still don't understand what she's capable of doing. Do you remember what happened to the man and woman I left with you last night?"

"Why do you care so much about them?"

"They didn't die. They're still alive right now, as we speak, trapped in pain as they burn."

"Impossible..."

"That's what they want you to believe. Talk to Keine, she'll tell you all there is to know. She sealed them for eternity, just like they did before the Spell Card Rules. You thought she didn't know how to, but let me tell you right now: she's just like her mother."

"No... No, no, NO! WHY?!"

"Now that you know, are you still going to return to your shop? Are you still going to gamble your life away? If she seals you it's over. No way out. You'll be in pain forever, and she'll make sure it's painful. All so she can get rid of me."

"So what do I do? Live the rest of my life here?"

"If that's what it comes down to then yes. I've already lost people I care about to her and I won't lose any more."

The man sighed. Even he could not have thought of such a situation until Marisa told him that that was the case, and now he found his options incredibly limited. Abandoning everything he had to live in the Underground for the rest of his life suddenly didn't sound as bad as he had thought. He felt foolish for believing that the sealing ritual practiced by several generations of shrine maidens had come to its end, unaware that it was performed right in front of him not too long ago.

"You're right. It's not safe for me to stay in the Village anymore."

"I'm glad you understand, father."

Marisa turned to the magician.

"Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me."

"Ah, no problem. It's what we do. Are you leaving now?"

"I guess."

"Then come by any time. We're glad you're with us, especially in times like these."

They made their way to the front door and left without a word.

"So do you have a place to live down here?"

"Right... I was actually planning on doing that right now."

He looked around and couldn't help but admire the change that took place within the Underground. He had only heard of its creation and purpose, but his expectations were exceeded when he saw just what it had become. Rows and rows of neatly laid-out houses lined the streets. Glowing bulbs hung from wires stretched across the ceiling, and the air felt as fresh as it did anywhere else. Even with the tense atmosphere made up by everyone who heard Keine's announcement, the Underground looked better than anything he could imagine.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see."

Hiroaki was the first to notice the elder Kirisame walking toward him.

"Ahh, Kirisame, I thought I'd never see you down here in a thousand years!"

"Blame her. She's the one that asked for me to be brought here. For good reason, too."

"You should thank her if you haven't already. She's doing you a favor."

A young man in his early-to-mid 20s stood next to Chizuru. Though he was unmistakably human, his attire looked like nothing she had seen before. Rather than the typical white or black, they were orange, with thin long sleeves that covered his entire arm and a somewhat tight fit on his body. His pants were similarly tight, coming down all the way to his brown-and-black shoes. In his hands was a radio, a dark gray box with a long silver rod extending out the top. A short warbling tone sounded from it every two seconds, telling those tuned to the frequency that active communications were being carried out. He looked up at Marisa, clearly surprised at who he saw standing in front of him.

"Ah... Hello, Marisa. This is Akira Kurosaki, my fiancé."

"Nice to meet you... Marisa."

"Nice to meet you too."

Before anyone could say anything a crackling noise came out the radio, followed by a woman's voice:

"Oh Gods, there goes another one."

Her short outburst ended with another crackle, followed by a similar sound less than a second later.

"Don't worry. He's got everything under control."

The two conversed with each other, their exchanges separated by clicks and pops.

"Wha-"

"Shhh~"

Chizuru put a finger over her lips, signaling Marisa to stop talking.

Bleep

Bleep

Bleep

"Asami... I'm scared."

Bleep

Bleep

"It'll be okay. She should be done soon."

Seconds seemed like minutes as everyone stood in silence, listening to the conversation. Several seconds of nothing but the sound of the frequency marker passed by, and Chizuru finally spoke:

"What were you going to say?"

"Nothing."

Bleep

----------

Twenty minutes after she first became aware of what had happened, Asami Tsukimiya found herself still in a state of shock. Noriyuki Kaneda, a husband and father, revealed the names of more than thirty people who he knew dealt with magic. From within a barrier, all he could do was stand and look into the eyes of those he named, coughing out blood and falling to the ground in a state of unimaginable pain. She began to doubt if he would retain his sanity after it was over, whether he would return to his usual everyday life. She wondered if anyone graced with the opportunity to walk away from the scene of the execution would be able to sleep tonight, knowing that it would be hard for her to do so even though she sat several hundred meters below where it happened. At least it would be over soon and things would return to normal. Telephone operators worked frantically, connecting calls coming in from all over the Underground, repeating the same words over and over into handsets. She watched them insert and remove plugs on the switchboard, lights blinking in and out to form a mosaic of flashes.

"The storm stopped."

"What?"

"The rain just stopped, and the clouds are beginning to part. I can see the stars and sky now. It's happening really quickly. They've just completely disappeared."

Tomoya immediately began writing, preparing the latest entry on the news page.

"That's great. I'll make an announcement right away."

----------

Yukari Yakumo was not pleased. Her brief encounter with Zeus himself ended in complete disappointment as she realized that the entire incident was the result of someone summoning him and all of Olympus to Gensokyo. He didn't provide any details regarding the person who performed the ritual, leaving in the blink of an eye after saying his last words. The mountain lowered and merged with the ground, leaving not a single trace of its existence behind.

"Thank you for your assistance. You're all dismissed."

She waved behind her and a gap opened up, swallowing the army to drop them outside the barrier before disappearing herself. Her job was done, but she knew it would not be the last time something similar would happen. Only three youkai saw the impenetrable wall of vines burn away in a puff of flame, creating a loud boom that echoed for several seconds. They saw the land around them, devoid of all life, and decided that it would be in their best interest to leave immediately.

"It's over?"

"Looks like it."

"Where's Cirno and Daiyousei?"

"They burned up, remember?"

The group burst into laughter as they recalled the flash of light and strange smell preceding the disappearance of the two fairies, flying across soaked terrain under the moonlit sky. The only light in the distance came from the Human Village. Further in the distance was the Forest of Magic, followed by the Scarlet Devil Mansion.

"Well that was all for nothing, wasn't it?"

"I just want to sleep..."

"Yeah, me too."

"What happened?"

"I wish I knew. It just disappeared within seconds, like it was never there."

"At least nothing bad happened to us. We never should've followed Cirno. What a waste of time..."

They quietly descended into the Forest of Magic where glowing mushroom caps on the surface of the flooded ground lit up their surroundings. With the sudden stoppage of rain and wind the forest returned to its typical state, the sound of crickets and occasional chatter coming from unseen locations.

"That sure was a lot of rain," said Wriggle, noticing that the entirety of the forest was drenched with water.

"Hey, you there, did you hear about what's happening in the Human Village?"

All three turned to look at a crow youkai perched atop a tree, jumping up and taking flight once more.

"Huh?"

"Looks like Red-White's had it with humans playing with magic. She's over there killing them one after another."

He swung his arm back and forth through the air, imitating the way Reimu smashed a man's head again and again until it was completely split in two. Rumia quivered, having confronted her several times as a result of her questionable acts involving humans who wandered into the Forest of Magic without a companion.

"What about the Spell Card Rules," asked Mystia.

"Most of them have no Spell Cards with them, and even if they did there's no way she'd lose to them."

"Gods," said Wriggle. "Right when I thought everything would be back to normal..."

"Things won't return to normal for a long time, girls. If I were you I'd start by throwing away those Spell Cards of yours to remember what you truly are. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands."

----------

"Are there more?"

Noriyuki stared blankly at the remains of what were once living, breathing humans. Though the smell of burnt flesh filled the air he could no longer smell it. The fire crackled loudly, and the feeling of hopelessness and terror that overwhelmed him half an hour ago was nowhere to be found.

"I said, are... there... more?"

"N- No. That's everyone I know."

"What is your name?"

"Kaneda. Noriyuki Kaneda."

"Thank you, Kaneda-san."

Reimu flung an amulet to her side, shattering the barrier. Dust-like fragments flew upward and disappeared into the sky. He ran toward his wife, hugging her tightly.

"That should be everyone, right? Did I leave anyone out?"

"Kaneda's right. That's everyone."

"I will trust the rest of you to be proactive and inform me of any use of magic within the Human Village, as well as anything else that you find suspicious. Now that the storm has ended you can all return home as long as it is safe to do so. While I am here, I would also like to remind you all that the Autumn Reitaisai is next Sunday. It would be great if everyone who can attend comes. As always, travel in groups of ten or more. I look forward to seeing you there."

The crowd dispersed, some heading straight for their houses above the shops lining the central district. Others were stopped by members of the Gensokyo Defense Force, urging them to wait until the flooded areas dry up. The storm was finally over, and with that the incident finally came to an end. Finished with her job, Reimu walked into the first restaurant she could find, pulling open the door. The manager looked up from the book he was reading, eyes widening at what he saw. Her uniform was covered in blood, as was the gohei she held in her hand. She walked forward, looking at him with a complete lack of emotion.

"Good evening, Hakurei-san. What would you like tonight?"

She made her order and sat down at a table in the corner, placing her weapon on the ground. He sighed, knowing that he would have to have the table and chair replaced as a courtesy to his future patrons before walking into the kitchen.

"Bowl of rice, fish, and mushrooms. Make it quick."

Of the thirty-four humans she sealed, eighteen had become part-youkai as a result of their contact with Dark Spells. She made no distinction between those who used Dark Spells to become true magicians and those who simply possessed them, stabbing them multiple times and finishing them off by permanently sealing them in pain. Humans were separated from magicians based on their inability to use magic, and that was the way things needed to be. She recalled the way Marisa acted yesterday, directly interfering with her effort to seal the parents of the children who Keine harbored in the Village school. She told herself that this was the last time she would show mercy, that she would seal the were-hakutaku in the same manner as she did to everyone else.

"Enjoy," said the waitress as she placed her food atop the table, handing her a pair of chopsticks. Sparing no time, she finished her portion and stood up, leaving without a word. The fire in the central district had burned out, leaving behind ashes that washed away in the running water. As she made her way to the eastern gate she passed by the Kirisame-ya Second-Hand Shop. Flickering light and loud chatter came from within, suggesting that there were many people inside. As if someone cast a silencing spell, those inside the storehouse went silent when she opened the door, looking for the father of Marisa Kirisame as she slowly walked forward.

"Have you seen the owner of this store?" she asked.

People looked at each other, unsure of what to say.

"He was here when I came in. It was only me and few others at the time, and then more people came here to hide from the storm. He must've left for some reason."

"Did anyone see him leave?"

"Yeah, I saw him leave," said a boy in his late teens. "He rushed out the door in a hurry about half an hour ago."

"I see," muttered the priestess as she made her way toward the exit. "Thank you, and be sure to attend the Autumn Reitaisai if you are able to."

"Nice one!"

"I think we should get out of here. The storm's over and it looks like she's not going to come back in a while."

"Where did he go?"

"You think I'd know?"

----------

Marisa opened the door of her new house, walking to the center and pulling on a thin string coming out of a socket hanging from the ceiling. The bulb glowed, giving off bright yellowish light that illuminated the room. In the far-right corner was a wooden ladder that led to a deck where two bedframes sat next to each other with a four-compartment dresser at their side. On the ground below was a small table and three wooden chairs, and in the far-left corner a rudimentary kitchen with a sink and stove. A metal pipe came down from above, splitting into two. One went toward the sink, and another went across the wall toward a small bathtub behind the ladder. Both led to a tall metal cylinder which would be periodically filled with water. On the wall there hung a clock, the red second hand moving smoothly across its face. A black wire came out from its side, spliced together with the wire that the light bulb hung from. Finally, a telephone was mounted on the wall near the table, a pair of thin white wires running upward and out through the same corner of the ceiling as the thicker black wires. As she followed them she noticed one more splice leading to a wooden box near the floor, covered by a door and latch. Without the mess she kept in her slightly-smaller house in the Forest of Magic, this new place of residence looked gigantic with ample space for the two of them.

"So this is it?" asked her father. "Not even blankets?"

"I'm sure there's somewhere to buy them from."

Though she hadn't seen him for more than ten years, the one thing Marisa remembered about her father was that he always carried enough money with him to survive for a few days. Today was no exception, and he carried several coins and bills in his pocket with him when he was teleported into the Underground.

"I'll going to have to return to my store sometime soon if we are to stay down here. I need to get the rest of my savings."

"I'm sure they can teleport you back into the store."

"Exactly. Let's go to the commercial district, make this place a bit more livable, and call it a night. We'll talk about our plans in the morning tomorrow."

The interior of the single-room house darkened with another pull of the string, leaving dim light shining through plain black curtains that covered up five unopenable windows.

----------

The clock struck eleven. Lights dimmed further, reduced to an orange glow that allowed one to see the shape of the filament in each glass bulb.

"I'm leaving now," said Akira, heading for the door.

"Good night~"

All he could think about was the conversation he heard on the radio. Tonight was a close call, with the secrecy of the Underground in more danger than it had ever been.

"She's not human. There's no way a human could kill so many people so quickly... and without any remorse at all."

He made a turn, away from the block of family houses, toward the orphanage where he lived.

"What the fuck am I saying, this is Gensokyo after all. Up there, youkai tear apart perfectly healthy humans all the time. She's probably seen too much of that to care."

Footsteps came from behind, disappearing and reappearing for a moment as he changed the speed at which he walked.

"The elders were right. This place really is fucked up. Maybe I should become a magician, that way I'll at least be able to put up a fight. Tomorrow I'll buy some spells. I'll practice casting them, and I'll be able to defend my future family. Then, maybe I can move to the Forest of Magic with Chizuru and see the sky again. Breathe fresh air. All that good stuff. Maybe we can even return to Kyoto, away from this living hell."

The footsteps continued behind him.

"I wonder what my parents would do if they saw me. It's been five years. They probably think I'm dead for sure. There's also my younger sister. Did she forget about me, or does she-"

A heavy punch to the back of his head sent him falling forward onto the ground.

"You've been talking to Ichimura again, aren't you?"

"Fuck off, you creep!" he muttered under his breath. "She wouldn't talk to you even if you wanted her to!"

The boy threw another punch, which he dodged gracefully.

"Look, Kurosaki. You're an Outsider. A stranger to this land, and intended to be food for youkai. I don't even want to-"

Akira punched his assailant in the stomach, knocking the air out of him.

"Get the hell out of here before I kill you!"

"Kill me? Hah, you can't do shit!"

Ryuya Kanazawa jumped up ran toward him as fast as he could, chasing him down the street.

"Should I do it? There aren't many of these in Gensokyo."

He continued running, quickly looking back to evaluate the distance between them. Each time he did so it seemed like he was getting closer.

"Go to hell, Kanazawa!"

With all his might, he turned around and flung the radio on its strap like a mace. A loud crack sounded as it slammed into the side of his head, exploding into fragments of plastic and circuitry. Stopping for a few seconds to observe the unconscious boy lying on the ground, he sighed and continued toward his destination. Nearby residents looked out their window, having heard an unusual sound. The sight of a young man lying on the ground with blood coming out the side of his head prompted more than a few to walk out onto the street, aware that a fight had just taken place.

----------

"You WHAT?!"

"I had no choice! He runs faster that me!"

"You better hope they've got more at the communications center!"

"Alright. I'm sorry."

"This was all for what? Your girlfriend?"

"No... I mean, yes!"

"She's not even from the twenty-first century! She's probably got the mind of an elementary schooler, having lived what, half her life in this bubble where time has frozen?"

"Shut up, Akamatsu. She'd probably do better in biology than you'll ever be able to. What did you get again, a 71? And chemistry, don't you fuckin' forget that. You couldn't even recite the goddamn periodic table!"

"Fuck that! Does any of that shit matter? Do you think anything we learned is relevant here?"

"Yes, of course it is! Without us around this place wouldn't be the way it is. Who would've thought that there'd be nuclear power? Or phones? Or even the Internet?"

"That's a bit too far. That sure as hell isn't the Internet they've got here, and they've got actual operators taking calls. We're using shit from the 1970s thrown together with antique PCs they managed to find in a fuckin' youkai's shop!"

"Whoa, easy there. Morichika-san's a pretty chill dude."

"Doesn't matter. He's still a youkai."

"What's with you and youkai, Katsuya?" said the girl who was now sitting up on her bed. "It's not like you've ever been attacked by one."

"Go back to sleep, Ishihara."

"Don't 'go back to sleep' me. Ever since you came here you've been talking shit about youkai. It's been five years. Can't you just accept the fact that they exist? They're not the same."

"Not the same? Did you fall in love with a youkai?"

"Akamatsu, Ishihara, let's drop this. It's been a long day and we're all tired. Especially you, Katsuya. You're talking nonsense again."

"Ahhh, not you too!"

----------

"Not again..."

Reimu landed in front of her shrine, noticing that the interior was lit again.

"Damn it, Yukari. What is it this time?"

"First off, did you take care of business in the Village?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure?"

"Stop playing around. If you have something to say, say it now."

"I talked with the Olympian Gods."

"Then what?"

"They told me that they were summoned to Gensokyo."

"Huh?"

"That's right. Someone from inside Gensokyo led them here."

"Who?"

"I don't know. They disappeared right after they told me that."

"Was it a youkai?"

"Like I said, I know nothing beyond what they told me."

"Are you telling me this incident is not over?"

"The clouds are gone and tomorrow morning everything will return to normal. You've done what you had to do with the Village. I'll let you interpret my answer from that."

She disappeared into a gap as soon as she finished her response, leaving her in the sound of chirping crickets and rustling leaves.



To all readers: Thanks for following along! I don't see any comments, but if the view count is anything to go off of it seems that there's quite a few people stopping by. This chapter marks the end of the first third of the story where I lay the groundwork for what's to come. The next chapters will deal with Marisa's new life in the Underground, the things she learn in her time there, and what they lead her to do. As the rest of Gensokyo come to realize that the Spell Card Rules were broken countless times, an all-out war for survival and dominance will begin. Factions will form, strengths will be tested, and unimaginable things will be done. What's it like without rules that prohibit the slaughtering of one's opponents? You're about to find out in the next chapter!
« Last Edit: January 15, 2017, 03:37:42 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2017, 03:33:24 am »
Chapter 11 - A Brief Moment of Peace and Quiet

The year was Meiji 18. Some one hundred humans and youkai gathered to watch a bright column of light rise from the ground. The sky flashed erratically. The ground shook violently. Distant mountains disappeared from the horizon, warping into nonexistence as an invisible and impenetrable force spread across the land.

Time went on, and the humans began to realize what had happened. They spoke of the days before the Great Hakurei Barrier, the days before they allowed themselves to be sealed away from the rest of the world.

Time went on, and the humans began to question their decision. They spoke of the events leading up to the creation of the barrier, the reasons that caused them to go along with what had happened.

Time went on, and the humans began to forget. They spoke of the distant past, a time shrouded in darkness, unable to recall anything but the most essential.

They say ignorance is bliss, that sometimes the best way to live is to avoid contact with the things that make one uncomfortable. By the sixtieth year there was no one who remembered what it was like. Without any written account, the truth started to distort. Without anyone to verify, the stories of the past faded away and turned into a mere fantasy.

Some say that this so-called fantasy is in fact reality. Others say that it is merely a rumor, shaped by human desires to explore the unknown. There are those who deny it, having seen what becomes of those blinded by the unreal.

And then there are those who wish to preserve it.

Marisa looked away from the display and blinked several times in an attempt to return the colors she saw to normal. At first she felt nauseous, the unnatural blue glow and constant flicker interfering with her perception. Trying her best to ignore it, she read every character on the screen, made sense of it, and exposed herself to what Gensokyo was told to forget. Some of the things she came across were nothing out of the ordinary, others were strange and unknown, and a few were downright horrifying. She stood up, looked into the eyes of those who knew it all, and listened to what they had to say:

"You done?"

"Yeah."

"I know you must be surprised, at the least."

"Sort of. I'm gonna need some time to come to terms with it, that's all."

"We just thought that you needed to know. After all you're one of us now. You're going to find out about it one way or the other."

She gave a weak smile before looking back at the machine. With the click of a button the browser disappeared, leaving behind columns of icons on solid turquoise. The yellow disk access indicator flickered in sync with a grinding noise from within the gray plastic case, clearly audible over a high-pitched whine.

"If it's truly a fantasy none of this would exist."

The four of them left the library, headed toward their next destination. Though it was only a few minutes past nine, the makeshift streets of the Underground saw heavy traffic, men and women of all ages heading to the place they needed to be. Merchants set up their shops, waving bells as potential customers walked by. Boys carried buckets of water, girls carried baskets of fruit, speaking of things unknown to someone who had just began her first day in her new home.

"That youkai girl that came with you, Alice, will she be okay?"

"She should be okay. There's no reason she would harm her."

"Does she know where you live?"

"No, not really. She's asked about it a few times but I never bothered telling her. She didn't seem to care, though."

"I think you should at least tell her where you are. She must be worried about you being gone for so long."

Marisa could see why Chizuru was worried. Alice was by her side when they first met, and through a certain series of events they went in separate paths. She cursed herself for having made the decision to approach Reimu after willingly interfering with her intention to kill the entire Nakamura family. This was her weakness, her often hastily thought-up plans that often ended up getting her in trouble. The more she thought about it the more she regretted it, especially after reading the news of exactly what happened last night. Had Noriyuki not told her the names of those that possessed Dark Spells, she would have drowned the Human Village in blood. She couldn't help but think that this was because of what she did on that morning when the sun did not shine, when she looked at her as if nothing had happened, when she thought she could just brush aside the fact that she showed feelings toward what remained of a family that wanted nothing more than a way to protect themselves -- and likely others -- from what happened to countless humans at the hands of a tyrant who eliminated any source of opposition to her power. Of course, she herself had far surpassed those that lost their lives in terms of strength. Though the Spell Cards she used regularly had not even a tenth of the potential of even the weakest Dark Spell, they were powerful enough to level buildings and knock out most youkai. She had reached the limit of what a human could do with magic. Ascending to youkaidom wouldn't be more than a temporary inconvenience for her, and this was precisely the reason why she was now walking down a street in a well-protected space hundreds of meters below the Human Village. After what happened yesterday, Marisa had every reason to believe that Reimu would kill her on sight. The new question was whether she'd simply kill her and allow her to go through the usual process one goes through upon death or do something far, far worse.

"It'll be fine. I just need to spend some time away from Gensokyo."

The residents of the Underground preferred not to associate themselves with Gensokyo. This made sense, as they all shared a common goal: find shelter in a closed space where anyone can be killed at any time. Many shared the dream of returning to their lives on the other side of the barrier, and a select few made it their goal to experience the rest of the world if at all possible.

"If that's what you say..."

They were now in the Outer District, named for its high concentration of residents previously from the Outside World and its proximity to the escape hatch leading to the plains outside the Human Village. Furthermore, it was physically located in the outer extremities of the Underground, wooden walls covering the earth on the other side.

"This is it, the Outer District's flagship store."

Though Akira had his own reason for visiting the store, he took this time to show Marisa what life was like beyond Gensokyo, ready to answer any questions she might ask. Tools, gadgets, and trinkets lined the shelves of the Forgotten Treasures Used-Goods Store. In a corner there stood a stack of television sets and video monitors. Next to it was a wooden shelf with spaces for videocasettes, some with their original sleeves intact and others with their contents written on a sticker affixed to its side. A man sat behind a glass counter with shelves within, displaying the most expensive merchandise he offered. A bell attached to the door rang as it opened, causing him to put down the newspaper in his hands.

"Good morning, Akira. Oh, and is that Chizuru? Good morning to you too. And I see you brought your younger brother along as well."

"Good morning, Fukada-san," the three replied in unison.

"Now, you must be Marisa. I know all about you, so no need for any formalities. Practically everyone knows of your arrival."

Akira was already carefully observing the items on a shelf in the far-left corner. He took out a wallet from his pocket and picked out some coins, putting it away before picking up a small black box from the shelf.

"Do you have UM-3 batteries?"

"Just this radio, huh? I'll go see what I've got."

He took the radio and walked down a set of stairs.

"Big sister, look at this!"

Chizuru took her attention away from the bookshelf and made her way to where her brother was standing. Behind the glass display case was a thick gray box resembling a keyboard with a flat folding screen attached. In front of it was a card with a short overview of its features, sloppily written in ink:

¥6000
NEC PC9821NX/C7 portable computer
WIN95 100MHz DX4 23MB memory 720MB HD
Nuclear reactor power supply never needs charging!


Her excitement at what she saw was quickly extinguished when she saw the four-digit figure, a price that was all too typical for illegal imports made possible by those willing to risk their lives for the betterment of others.

"Here you go," said the storeowner as he returned, holding the receiver in his hand. A red light glowed brightly along with the hiss of static coming from the small speaker.

"How much for the batteries?"

"Twenty."

He placed another coin on the countertop and picked up the radio, sliding the band selector and turning a knob on the side of it. A green light lit up, and the static turned into silence interrupted by the warbling tone produced by the transmitter located within the communications center. The volume dial clicked and it went silent, both lights instantly extinguishing.

"Akira, look, it's a portable computer!"

"This one came in about a week ago. The battery was completely dead so we replaced it with a high-efficiency plutonium reactor. You can leave this thing on forever with how little power it uses. Connect a telecoupler and you've got access to the news and much more."

"How much money do you have? I've got around eight hundred."

The girl thought about what to say, unsure how her brother would react to her response. A typical day for her began with breakfast at half-past seven. By eight they went to work, returning home to have dinner when the clock showed eight again. For six days per week she had no more than three hours to spend with him, and on the one day where she didn't spend half a day at work she would read books in silence at the library. Like most of her peers, she had little to no free time. With a little under two thousand with her she was far from being able to purchase it. She thought about how to reveal this to Tetsuro, knowing how disappointed he would be when she told him she didn't have enough.

"I'll pay for it," said Akira, placing two banknotes on the countertop. Yasaharu Fukada picked up the five-thousand-yen note, observing both sides of it.

"Heisei 20," he muttered, placing it back on the glass. "I'm surprised you've held on to that for so long."

"I've never found a reason to use it until now. There aren't many places to spend money like this here."

He got up out of his chair and bent down, sliding the wooden panel open to retrieve the device.

"Enjoy it while you can, kid. Most people spend all they bring within the first month. After that it's work all day just to feed yourself."

"Go ahead. It's all yours."

"Thank you very much," said the former resident of the Human Village. To the humans on the other side of the barrier six thousand was a small amount. As someone who worked for just two yen an hour it equated to several years of work.

"I'll also get that," he said, pointing to a black box with a thick wire coming out its side. More than anything, he wanted Chizuru to be happy. He planned on proposing to her soon, and when they finally had a place to call home he wanted it to be as close as possible to 2015. Of course that would never happen, but anything was better than life in the Human Village.

"Fukada-san?" asked Marisa, speaking for the first time since they arrived.

"Yes?"

"How long have you been in Gensokyo?"

"Fifteen years. Fifteen long years. Fifteen years I'll never get back. Cherish your time, child. Make every second count and don't ever forget how precious those are."

"What was it like?"

"It was New Year's Eve. The turn of the century. The day my ex-girlfriend and I broke up. I had known her since high school, and we got along pretty well. She's from the city, and deep down inside I knew she wouldn't go for a country boy like me. I proposed to her in front of everyone, when the clock struck midnight, and she turned me down. Said her parents wouldn't let us marry. I spent the early hours of the day drinking. Alone. Until the bar closed. I just wanted to forget everything, make it all stop. There weren't any taxis, so I walked to the station, hoping I would catch the next train. On the way there I tripped and fell onto the ground, and the next thing I saw was the shrine. Now, I didn't believe in gods and all that at the time. I thought someone had played a trick on me and taken me there out of pity. I put a coin into the donation box, I got down on my knees, and I prayed. That was the first time I prayed in a long time, and it was the last time I'll ever pray. I looked up and she was there, standing behind me, staring at me in silence. She must've heard everything, because what she said next I remember to this day."

Toward the end of her life Reimu's predecessor became an sociopath, killing anyone who opposed her without the slightest hint of hesistation. Some believed she had become so desensitized to bloodshed that she no longer cared, while others claimed that she had fallen victim to a malevolent god's curse. Those who had lived through those years did anything they could to bury the accounts of executions she carried out in the deepest depths of their mind, often waking up and screaming when they manifested themselves in their dreams. In fact, a group of humans dedicated their time to devising an antidote that removed repressed memories. They were swiftly dealt with when their motives were discovered, adding another chapter to the dark side of Gensokyo's history.

"That's horrible..."

"I think it was the alcohol combined with the fact that I was tired, but at that time I didn't really do anything about what she said. Little did I know that that would be the reason I'm alive today."

He paused for a moment to cleared his throat before continuing:

"She took me straight to the Human Village, into the headquarters of the Defense Force, and had them add me to their records. I lived there for three years, spending every waking second in absolute fear until I relocated to the Underground. Things were a lot different back then, but it was still much better than the Village. Only a few places had electric light bulbs, and most people still relied on spells for light. They only last for around six hours, and they were three yen each, but they were still cheaper and safer than gas-burning lanterns. More people came, bringing priceless knowledge and skills with them, and the Underground became what it is now. In just fifteen years so many things happened out there, so many innovations and so many discoveries, yet we only receive what they throw out."

"That is, if Reimu doesn't find them first."

The man nodded.

"Make no mistake. She's just like her mother, and don't you dare think otherwise for even a single second. You're too young to remember what she was like, but you've been with her successor for quite some time now."

"I know what she's like. You must remember what things were like before the Spell Card Rules, right?"

"Exactly. You were there when she burned Makai to the ground. You saw the look on her face as thousands of seals cut Rin Satsuki's body to shreds. We were all fools for ever thinking that the Spell Card Rules would mark the end of our worries."

Marisa took deep breaths, a volcano of emotions tossing and turning within her.

"Yeah. It's never over. Not until she dies... Not until I kill her."

"I opened this store so I could remember what things used to be like. It's the closest thing I have to returning everything to the way they were before it all happened, before I fell into this living hell. People like you give me a reason to live, make me realize that are good people everywhere no matter how bad things seem."

"Without the bad there would be no good, and without there good there would be no bad," said Chizuru, reciting a phrase passed down for generations.

"We should get going. Marisa, is there anything you need before we head over to your place?"

"Some water would be nice. Also matches, some bowls and an alarm clock. Oh, and some extra clothes wouldn't hurt."

"Well I don't sell water here. I do have matches though. They should be on that shelf there. Four for a box. You'll be better off getting bowls and dishes from the stores in the shopping district, although I've got tons of silverware. As for alarm clocks I have a few for sale, but they're in the storage room. If you want I can take you down there to pick one out. If you live in the newer housing and have a telephone installed you can also request wake-up calls for free."

"Wake-up calls?"

"You tell the operators at the communications center your schedule in person or on the phone and they'll ring your phone when the time comes. Most people who don't have an alarm clock do that, and from what I hear they're mostly on-time. I've got some clothes in the basement, though I'm not sure if they're your style."

The basement of the store was a lot larger than the store itself, something Marisa had seen before with the library. She looked through the clothes, most of which were unlike anything she had seen, picking out some plain coats and wide-legged pants. The money she had was just enough for that along with two boxes of matches, a small knife, and two pairs of silver chopsticks. With the merchandise in her hands and three days' worth of attire over her shoulder she left the store for her house with the others in tow. Her father had left early in the morning to talk to the Elders, a group of people who founded the Underground and oversaw developments within it. They resembled the Village Council, tasked with making the final decision on matters affecting the entirety of their domain.

"It's so big!" exclaimed Tetsuro, looking around at the empty interior.

"Once she gets settled in it'll look a lot smaller."

Akira took a deep breath. "I just love that new-house smell. It's been a while since I've been in a place like this. I think you'll have a great time here. Did they show you around the house?"

"Not really. Although it's not that difficult to figure out what's what. Water goes up there, you can light the stove to heat it up, and it's pretty neat how the beds are on a deck on top of everything else."

"Do you know how to use the phone?"

Marisa shook her head.

"Alright then, I'll show you how it's done. First you pick up the receiver hold it up to your ear like this. Then you turn this crank and wait for the operator to answer. Here, try it yourself."

She took the receiver and placed it against her ear.

"Now turn the crank a few times."

A crackling sound came out of the earpiece as she turned it. Shortly afterward there was a sharp scratch, followed by a woman's voice:

"This is the operator speaking. Are you Marisa?"

"Yeah. How can you tell?"

"They already put your name on the switchboard. Everything's set up exactly the way it's supposed to be."

"So how do I call someone?"

"You just tell me their name and I'll connect you."

"What about wake-up calls?"

"You can receive calls on a schedule, and request special calls at any time."

"I'll talk to my father about it, see what he wants. In the meantime, can I call the Ichimuras?"

"Sure, just a moment..."

In the background she could hear others talking amidst the roar of machinery. There was another scratch, and the line went quiet. Hiroaki was pleasantly surprised when she heard Marisa's voice over the phone, telling her that she was indeed a fast learner and that she would have absolutely no problem spending the rest of her life in the Underground. She responded with doubt, saying that she still preferred life in the Forest of Magic and would return if things weren't the way they were.

----------

Reimu stood in the storehouse behind the Hakurei Shrine, Yukari's words repeating themselves in her mind.

"That's right. Someone from inside Gensokyo led them here."

"Damn it," she muttered. One week remained before the Autumn Reitaisai and the last thing she wanted was an incident to disrupt it. Yukari's cryptic hints meant nothing in times like these. She convinced herself that those she sealed yesterday were responsible for the strange occurrences that took place the past month, that they were the ones Yukari referred to. Then there was Marisa, who she saw as a growing threat.

It all started at the end of the seventh month. The two sat in front of the shrine, drinking tea as usual.

"So what did you end up doing with the girl?"

"She was beyond salvation. I had no choice but to kill her."

Marisa's reaction at the time was one of acceptance, as she knew exactly what the fate of those who disobeyed the most fundamental law of Gensokyo was. Marisa left after finishing her serving, not a word spoken between the end of the conversation and her departure. Later that day she would visit the parents of the girl and hear what they had to say. From that point on she began to reduce her visits to the shrine, instead spending entire days in her house hidden within the Forest of Magic. Reimu took note of that, confident that the couple told her things not meant to be known. When she went to the Village to interrogate them she realized that it was already too late. Their house was emptied out and the two were nowhere to be found. She asked around and discovered that they had left the Human Village in the middle of the night following their daughter's execution, a decision equivalent to suicide. When Marisa found out about that she came to her once more, asking questions about the meaning of being human.

"Are you human?"

"What kind of question is that? Of course I am."

"If your best friend became a youkai, what would you do?"

"I told you this already and I will tell you once more: I do not make exceptions when it comes to carrying out my duties. If you become a threat to Gensokyo I will do all I can to eliminate you."

Her response was exactly what she expected, and that was the last time they ever spoke to each other in a friendly manner. Even before everything happened she knew Marisa had thoughts of becoming a magician, transcending beyond the human she was. While she hoped the human who consistently visited her would stay a human, she had no reservations about sealing her should that end up not being the case. At the most she would make sure to inflict as little pain upon her as possible, perhaps using poison to numb her before proceeding with the immolation of her body.

Satisfied at the amount of ingredients necessary for next week's event, she locked the door shut and returned to her shrine, looking up at the clear sky on her way. Kneeling in front of the go-shintai, Reimu closed her eyes and spoke quietly:

"Great Gods of Heaven, I beg of you. Please lend me your powers and dispel all that threatens our land. Allow me to perform my sacred duties, just as my predecessors have done to maintain the balance between light and dark. Show those that are lost the way to peace, and destroy without hesitation those that seek to bring chaos and heresy into your sanctuary."

She opened her eyes and stood up, watching the bright burning tips of incense sticks. They glowed white, slowly turning into ash. Her first order of business would be to gather everyone she could to serve as her informers before Marisa got to them first. At the same time she would deal with anyone that showed resistance to that, greatly lowering the possibility of an opposition forming. Though the fairies living in the forest surrounding her shrine were individually weak, they were a force to be reckoned with in numbers. In addition, their status as pests among the rest of Gensokyo made them quite fitting for what she planned to do with them. Unfortunately for her, the fairies had already formed their own faction after hearing of what she had done in the Village, firing dense spheres of light directly at her. To the untrained eye -- or a newcomer -- they looked like harmless glowing pellets. Once they took a direct hit from one or two they would immediately begin running, assuming they weren't severely injured. Unlike the watered-down "Spell Card" variant the projectiles shot by the two unfortunate fairies now pinned to the trunk of a tree like insect specimens had enough potency to cause anything from bruises to death.

"What's your name?" asked the priestess in a childish manner.

"My- my name... NOOOOOO, DON'T!"

The tiny winged humanoid screamed as Reimu held a seal over her head.

"The more you move the more it will hurt." She turned to the other fairy, convulsing in pain from the needle shot straight through her stomach. Her tiny eyes widened as she pulled her away from the tree, dropping the body to the ground before descending. Forty-nine fairies watched as she raised her foot over her head. A spine-chilling crunch echoed within the vicinity, and the headless body decayed into dust that shimmered brightly.

"Come out, all of you. Three... Two... One..."

Forty-eight fairies shot out from the cover of leaves, floating in the air above her. In the blink of an eye they found themselves trapped between a two-layer barrier.

"Do not move. Touch it and you will die. Is that clear?"

Nods confirmed their understanding of the situation.

"Last time I checked the Spell Card Rules were still in effect."

Silence.

"Do you know what the consequences of breaking the Spell Card Rules are?"

Again, nods spread throughout the group.

"Okay. Now give me a reason not to kill each and every one of you right now."

A squeak came from behind her.

"Fairies can't be killed!"

She tightened the grip on her gohei, ready to turn around and slash through a random patch of them.

"Slowly. Painfully. Until it hurts to cry. Until you pray for the Gods to tell me to put you out of your misery."

"We're sorry! Please don't do that, we promise we won't do anything like that again!"

"What makes you think that is enough?"

"What do you want?"

"I want you and everyone else you can find to help me with something."

"Help you with what?"

"Help me find Marisa Kirisame."

"...Why?"

"I haven't seen her in a while and I'm worried about her. If you see her I would appreciate it if you tell me where she is. Do that for me and I will accept your apology."

"Yes, ma'am!"

The barrier shattered as she tapped her gohei to the ground. Wind shot out in all directions, and the fairies darted off toward the foot of the mountain. She set off toward the Scarlet Devil Mansion, expecting to be let in without any difficulties. Meiling saw her on her approach and congratulated her for solving yesterday's incident. She didn't respond, simply walking past the gate to open the front entrance. Fairy maids stopped what they were doing as she entered, watching her walk down the corridor before resuming their work.

"What are you doing here?" said a familiar voice. Above her stood Sakuya Izayoi, standing at the edge of the large staircase. She held three silver knives in her right hand, as if she expected uninvited guests to show themselves.

"I need to talk to all of you about something very important. I hope you will understand what I have to say."

"What is it?"

"Make yourself useful and bring me to Remilia?"

Her hand twitched, but she quickly restrained herself. Remilia was pleased to see Reimu, having heard of her effort in stopping yesterday's strange occurences. The four sat around a table on the balcony where the sun did not yet shine, drinking tea out of fine porcelain.

"I came here because I trust that you will help me with an important task. As you all know, Gensokyo exists because of a delicate balance between human and youkai. Anything that threatens to disrupt that balance must be eliminated, and there are no exceptions to this rule. Within the last month, Marisa Kirisame has shown me her willingness to interfere with my attempts to maintain balance and order. I have been observing her behavior, and I have good reasons to believe that she is attempting to ascend beyond her intended purpose."

"Let me get this straight: She's trying to turn into a youkai?"

The resident magician of the Scarlet Devil Mansion had several reasons to prevent that outcome. First and foremost Marisa's claim of returning her "borrowed" books upon death would be fully invalidated. In addition, she would have a much-harder time chasing her out of the library if she became a youkai magician. Sakuya also voiced her opinion on the matter, siding with Patchouli and Reimu. Remilia seemed indifferent toward the issue, so at the request of the others she agreed to be on the lookout for Marisa. There were no fights, no arguments, and no disagreements. They were only told that Marisa needed to be taken to the shrine if found, that there existed the possibility she would no longer be human when found. No questions regarding what would happen to her were asked. They knew exactly what would happen, and if it did happen it would be unavoidable. They knew that there was no use arguing against it, no use arguing against her. They knew what had happened to those that went down that path, those foolish enough to deserve the worst possible fate Gensokyo had to offer.

"If there are no questions I will leave you to do whatever it is that you do. I hope that you will all cooperate with me and be of assistance. The Autumn Reitaisai is approaching, and the last thing I want to worry about is this growing threat to us all."

Her next destination was the Human Village, and she wasted no time getting there. Passersby stared in her direction as she made her way toward the headquarters of the Gensokyo Defense Force. The past month was rather eventful for many, and only thing that they knew for sure was that the coming days would bring nothing less than what had been taking place.

----------

Chizuru placed the receiver into the cushioned grip and flipped the power switch. A row of red lights blinked on for a split-second, leaving one solidly-lit and another blinking. A high-pitched tone sounded through the muffled earpiece, turning into a warble that gave way to static. Indicators lit up, flickering unpredictably with varying intensities.

Connection established
Line quality: excellent
Mode: V.92


"That's it! Now try opening up the browser."

Marisa's heart skipped a beat as the latest headline appeared on the flat-panel display, bold characters against a plain white background. She stood in-place, her breath becoming more and more irregular with every passing second. Nobody said a word, and all she could hear was the static coming from the telephone punctuated by the clicking of something within the computer.

Her legs suddenly went limp. She staggered, and she fell toward the hard wooden floor.



Oh dear, this can't be good...
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2017, 05:34:18 am »
Chapter 12 - Fatal Encounter

For the first time in a long time Alice left her house with nothing but a grimoire. Kept sealed ever since the inception of the Spell Card Rules, it was a relic of the past, a time when magic was commonly used in its purest, strongest form. The sun was high in the sky and the sound of birds could be heard in the distance. Marisa's absence worried her, and if there hadn't been a storm that made it darker than night she would have set off toward her house yesterday.

"If two hours from now Reimu decided that you shouldn't be in Gensokyo anymore, how many of your spells can you use to defend yourself?"

She knew the answer, and that made her worry even more with each step she took. Perhaps it was a lack of confidence, nearly losing her life in her last encounter with the human who commanded the destruction of Makai. As she walked along the familiar path she noticed an unusually low number of fairies, leaving the surrounding trees occupied only by birds and various insects. Something wasn't right, and it wasn't until she came within view of Marisa's house did she realize what was taking place. The bodies of fairies were scattered everywhere, some right in front of the door, others on the path leading up to it, and many more around the small living space.

"There you are, Margatroid!"

From above her a figure materialized, someone she hadn't seen in several years. Her long green hair and dark blue dress blew slightly in the wind as she hovered in place, looking down at the magician with a smile.

"W- Where have you been?! What are you doing here?!"

"Have you seen Marisa?" asked the vengeful spirit nonchalantly.

"No. That's why I came here."

"Did she go off toward whatever caused the yesterday's incident?"

"I don't know, she might have. Two days ago she came to my house and told me about how-"

"About how Reimu wants to kill her?"

"So you know about that too..."

"She's been making her rounds across Gensokyo, telling everyone who sees her to detain her or at least report on her whereabouts."

"Gods... she's actually serious about this."

"Nothing less than what I'd expect. Even the fairies are going along with her."

"So you killed them."

"If I had killed them they would just spawn elsewhere in the forest after a while. Let's just say I paralyzed them instead."

Alice bent down and picked up a fairy by its body. Cold to the touch, it felt like a lifeless doll that had been abandoned and left to fade into nonexistence.

"Aren't you worried about her?"

"Not too much. She has what she needs to defend herself and if necessary, fight."

"No," said Alice. "She won't."

Mima moved closer to her, speaking in a rather soft voice:

"I'd know because I trained her."

----------

Gensokyo Defense Force captures Kirisame Shopkeeper

It felt surreal. Just moments ago she was talking to him, telling him to stay safe. Now she was sitting in front of the transceiver, talking to the man who first gave the report. Eight guards stood at the front door, armed with razor-sharp daggers. Two guards accompanied the shrine maiden, who declared that he would be unharmed if his daughter was brought to the storehouse within three hours. Fairies belonging to the Gensokyo Postal Service were dispatched to spread this message, and an anti-magic barrier was put up around the storehouse.

"Is it possible to take out the guards waiting outside?"

"Not unless they all go down at the same time without making a sound."

"If anything happens to me I want you to stay calm. Know that you are still young and that you have many years ahead of you. I'll try to return by noon."

This was the last thing he said before they parted ways. Both of them knew the risk associated with setting foot in the Human Village. Without the ability to use any magic she was at an extreme disadvantage, and doing anything to save her father would put her and anyone else involved in extreme danger.

"Is there anyone who can distract the guards?"

"Sure, if you asked yesterday. She killed just about everyone who would be willing to do such a thing. Nobody is going to pull anything like that off especially after seeing what happened."

"What about youkai from outside the Village?"

"Marisa, I hate to say this, but if you really want to see your father you will have to go to him yourself. Nobody is going to risk their lives at this point. I'm sorry, but it is what it is."

She didn't know why she was sad. She knew that it would be hard -- if not impossible -- for her to leave with her father once she set foot near the family storehouse. She didn't respond. She didn't say a thing. All she could do was leave the room to seek out one of the few she could trust at a time like this, someone with enough knowledge to guide her in the right direction, someone with enough knowledge to tell her exactly who she was going to confront.

Eight minutes later she walked up to the front of a house among many others that looked identical. A small placard atop the door told her that she was in the right place as she gave the wooden panel two knocks. The interior of Keine's house was rather empty, containing nothing but a bed, dresser, table, and chair. Sparing no time, she immediately broke the news about what had happened.

"Not surprised. Sounds just like something she'd do. You made the right decision coming to me, child. Had you run off to settle things on your own you would have accomplished nothing. To understand why that is you must first realize something that we have kept hidden from you for many, many years."

"What is it?"

"Marisa, what do you know about your mother?"

"Not much, just that she passed away when I was still young."

"What if I told you that what you know about her is a lie?" The were-hakutaku moved closer to the human and looked her in the eyes.

"I'd want to know the truth."

"A year or so after you were born there was an awakening of sorts among the Human Village. Gensokyo's human population, isolated to the Village at the time, devised a method to rule over themselves. They began modeling the Outside World's model of government, choosing those that had intellect, strength, talent, and success to make decisions regarding the future of the Village and its residents. That all took place without the knowledge or consent of the Hakurei shrine maiden, who as you might have guessed, didn't like one bit of it. At a time when the Spell Card Rules didn't exist, she went to the headquarters of the Village Council and quite literally dyed the floor red with the blood of those that happened to be there at the time. What she did later that day was more or less what her daughter did yesterday. Those who sided with the Village Council were sealed at their death, still in pain to this very day. Your mother... she was used as an example to the rest... for no reason other than the fact that she was the first one she looked at."

Her voice broke at the end of her sentence, a look of disbelief spreading over Marisa's face. It all took place at a time when she was too young to remember anything, a time when she was alive yet had no memory of what happened.

"Your father was with her at the time when she was killed," she continued. "From what he told me his initial reaction was one of complete silence. Just like the woman and boy that were questioned yesterday, she was killed right there in front of everyone else. It must've took him a while to realize what had happened. You were the reason he didn't kill himself afterward, his one and only daughter. When you told him you were going to learn magic, when you told him you were going to join the Gensokyo Defense Force, he reacted the way he did because he didn't want you to ever be in danger. Your mother died not too long after bringing you into this world, and because of that he treasures you like nothing else. You are her legacy, and he would do anything to see you live the life you deserve."

Marisa wasn't sad. She wasn't depressed. All she could feel was anger, raging inside her like a violent thunderstorm.

"Your father and I have kept the truth away from you for so long because you seemed to get along quite well with Reimu for these past years. When she killed Rin Satsuki, we were very close to telling you about your mother but decided not to because you were too young and inexperienced at the time. By the end of the Scarlet Mist incident, the first instance of the revolutionary Spell Card Rules being used to settle such a dispute, we were certain that you would not need to know about your mother's fate."

"Why are you telling me this now?"

"Because no matter what you do, she will kill your father now that his life is in her hands. If she left him alive after sealing you he'd go insane. If he takes his own life he would end up as a vengeful spirit, and if doesn't do that it's very likely that he will seek ascension to youkaidom, both of which she would rather not deal with."

Of course, Marisa knew exactly what Keine was trying to tell her. Even then she couldn't accept the fact that her father would be taken from her within a few hours.

"I have to do something. I won't let her kill him."

"In the end I can only give you suggestions. Your fate is ultimately in your hands, but I strongly suggest you fulfill your father's wishes."

"How can I stop her?"

"I'll be honest with you: that is a question I do not know the answer to."

A brief period of silence passed. Marisa had been resisting the urge break down in tears. Keine's words cut into her like a knife, and up until now all she could do was bear the pain. At long last, a surge of anger burst through her and the words came out:

"So... what you're saying... is that I should just let her kill him?"

"N-no, that's not it!"

"THEN WHAT?! WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?!"

A large teardrop fell from her eye and hit the wooden floor, creating a dark spot that expanded outward.

"Listen, Marisa. There is one possibility, though it's extremely risky and has a high chance of exposing the Underground."

"Wha- what is it?"

"Remember how a Shadow talked to you on two days ago?"

"Yes. Is that what you're suggesting?"

"Precisely. The Shadow that you saw was a severely limited variant that could not interact with anything in its surroundings. That's why I said it's not a problem, since those are among the most basic of spells. With a standard Shadow Spell you can do just about anything you can do without the risk of injury or death if anything happens to it. Problem is, they disappeared from use several years ago due to the things that one can do with them. Using one now would create massive chaos as all of Gensokyo springs to discover its origin. Additionally, they're renderred useless within anti-magic barriers like the one she set up."

"That doesn't matter. We can get rid of the guards outside."

"You do know what will happen if she finds out, right?"

Marisa looked up.

"At least it's better than both of us getting killed."

"The other thing is that they won't let you use it for something like this."

"Who?"

"The magicians that control the distribution of spells within the Underground and ensure that they are used safely. I'm almost certain you won't be allowed to use a shadow spell to kill Defense Force guards, let alone in front of Reimu herself."

The clock signal sounded, striking twelve times after its familiar opening chime. Time was running out, and she had to do something before it was too late.

"Then I'll ask them myself."

"I'll come with you."

"Why?"

"I'm sure your father wouldn't appreciate it if you approached him as a youkai."

Silence fell over the magicians when Marisa entered. After all, they were partially responsible for her father's safety, being the ones who transported him back to the storehouse. With the barrier in place there was now no way to bring him back to safety without putting more lives in danger.

"You want to use a Shadow in the Human Village?"

"Yes, just to take out the guards that are standing outside."

"And how will that help? You said two guards went in with her. You'll still be at a disadvantage, going in alone."

"Please. Time's running out... It's my only chance."

"Have you thought about what would happen if word got out that a Shadow was used to attack Defense Force guards? Have you thought of the possibility that Reimu will order a complete search of every room of every building within the Human Village? If she asks for that the Defense Force will carry that out."

"Don't waste my time. If you won't let me do this just say no."

"I'm just explaining things to you so you don't get the wrong idea. We want to help you, but we also need to ensure the safety of everyone else."

"Thanks. I'll be on my way now."

"Where?" asked Keine. "You aren't planning on going there on your own, are you?"

Marisa didn't respond. She was at her limits and nothing would stop her at this point. If using a Dark Spell meant making it back alive with her father she would gladly pay the price. She knew she could lose the last remnant of her family in the blink of an eye, and she would not let any more time pass by.

"I need an invisibility cloak."

"You are aware that they are useless within an anti-magic barrier, right?"

Marisa's heart sank, but she nodded anyway. She would use anything she had to do what she needed to do even if the odds were completely stacked against her. What she laid out for her was beyond unfair. It was a death trap, and with a single incantation she was able to nullify the effects of all magic. Her heartbeat rose as she passed by the path that would lead to the Ichimuras, electing to continue forward instead of stopping by for what seemed like a final goodbye. Every second his father spent in custody was a moment where he could be tortured and killed. For the first time ever, she climbed up the narrow stairwell, back toward the Human VIllage, back toward the Gensokyo she knew, a place that was now one against her. Twenty minutes had passed by the time she reached the one-way door, pushing it open to see a woman looking at her. With nothing more than a quick acknowledgement she donned the cloak, setting foot under the blue sky once more. Hovering on her trusty broom, she checked for the presence of the spells she brought in her front pocket before moving toward her destination. The eight guards stood in two columns of four on each side of the door, their weapons brandished and ready to be used at any moment. What she didn't know until now was that there were many more guards, perhaps twenty or more, surrounding the general area. Traffic had been diverted, leaving a wide space where nobody could set foot.

"You really thought of everything, did you?"

There was absolutely no way she could enter the storehouse without getting the guards' attention. If she killed one group the many other groups would immediately go after her. If she barged in through the door she would not make it out alive. So close, yet so far, all she could do was observe the scene and let time pass by. Magic wouldn't work, but a blade in the right hands could be a formidable weapon. One of the spells she carried was particularly useful for what she planned to do, and though she had never used it before she knew full well what its effects were. As one of the staples of any magician's arsenal, the Kinetic Multiplier -- better known by the street name "Speed Spell" -- provided its user with a momentary burst of energy while keeping vitals at perfectly normal levels.

"Just this one time," she thought to herself. "I won't use them ever again, and it won't be enough to leave any permanent effects."

Dyed in deep green, the parchment on which the spell was written glowed as sunlight hit it. Like all Dark Spells, the only thing on it that made sense was the short description written across the right edge. A double vertical line separating it from the spell, presented in katakana for ease of use by non-magicians. The golden calligraphy lit up on after another as she whispered, following her utterances. Her heartbeat rose, though it was not because of the spell, and she felt a tingling sensation spread from her hand to the rest of her body as if a million insects were crawling on her skin.

"It's time."

The guards that stood in front of the entrance were standing a such a way that each column had a complete view of what was in front, to the side, and behind them. Twenty steps left and right from them were two groups of five, and across from them were two more groups of five. The last group stood in front of the restaurant she hovered over, forming a complete perimeter around the storefront. Marisa descended behind the first group of guards at the corner and reached out for the silver blade in the man's hand. With one quick motion she lifted it by the handle, slashing through his throat instantly. Blood splattered onto the cloak as she moved forward, the dagger tearing through skin within fractions of a second. The guards on the side of the storehouse saw a streak of red across the necks of the fifteen men that stood across from them. Less than a second later they met the same fate, collapsing onto the ground in the order in which they were killed. The once-sharp blade was now dull, and the invisibility cloak was wet with blood. With two new daggers, one in each hand, she stepped inside her father's store to see the two guards standing by the entrance to the basement. They lunged toward her, heavy stomps sounding as she thrust her arms forward to stab them in the chest. Bodies hit the floor with a thud, and it was at that moment when she realized the effects of the spell had been nullified. Superimposed over the walls and ceiling was the anti-magic barrier, a glowing gold overlay inscribed with repeating patterns and unintelligible runic characters. The sound of footsteps up the staircase intensified, and she readied herself for an all-out attack.

Her father emerged first, followed by the successor to the woman who killed her mother in cold blood.

"Drop your weapons or he dies."

She tightened the grip on the handles.

"I SAID DROP THEM!!!"

Marisa jolted at the sudden outburst, though she kept holding the daggers. Her heart was pumping so fast that she could feel it in her chest and hear it in her ears.

"No matter what you do, she will kill your father."

She took a step back, her hands shaking with fear. A brief streak of white light flashed as a line of amulets shot forward, slicing vertically through the man's body from the left shoulder to the right abdomen. A sharp crash sounded as they smashed through various merchandise on the shelves, leaving an echo that resonanted for several seconds. They both stood still, eyes fixated on the two halves of the body as they fell forward and to the side, a pool of blood spreading outward.

"Just give up already. You and I will never be able to fight on equal terms, so know your place before I lose my patience."

Marisa sprang forward, positioning her arms for an attack. Holding any and all emotion back, all she wanted was to kill the tyrant standing before her, to end it all.

"Your mother died of an incurable sickness when you were still very young. She loved you very much, to the point that she'd stay up just to watch over you when I left the house."

Reimu stood in-place without a hint of disturbance on her face. She whispered to herself, barely moving her mouth, a long steel needle materializing in her hand. With a flick of the wrist she sent it flying toward Marisa, whistling as it sailed through the air and straight through her forearm. A dull thud sounding seconds later as the dagger dropped into the floor blade-down. The second blade fell with a clatter after another shot.

Marisa's vision went black, and she fell backward into the darkness that surrounded her, unable to feel anything but intense searing pain.



There. She did it. She used a performance-enhancing drug spell, but was the rush worth it? She made the choice, and now she's going to have to face the consequences of her decision.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2017, 11:25:47 pm »
Chapter 13 - Final Descent

"Maybe you should just go ahead and cast the spell on her."

"No, we should wait a bit longer, see if her condition improves by Friday evening."

"I'll be here whenever you're ready."

"Please, Marisa, do something..."

Marisa opened her eyes to see three figures standing to her right. Lanterns to either side of her bed were lit, orange flames within the glass capsule flickering to cast light within the room. Unable to improve her heavily-blurred vision after blinking several times, she rubbed her eyes, noting that her arms had healed as if nothing had happened to them.

"Hey," she said, looking straight into the eyes of someone she had to look at closely to confirm the existence of. If anyone could be with her at this moment, it would be her mentor and idol, the one who turned her into what she had become. "Thanks for saving me back there."

"No need for that. There's no way I'd let her have her way with you. Just don't try anything stupid like that ever again. If you're going to stop her we're going to have to do this together. And don't forget, even if you do succeed there's someone else you have to stop as well."

"How long has it been?"

She looked at the window to the side of the front door, then at the clock on her nightstand. It was just past eight, which meant the sun had set less than an hour ago.

"It's been a bit over three days," said Alice, helping her as she stood up.

"I'm fine, you don-"

"YOU IDIOT! WHERE WERE YOU?! AT LEAST YOU COULD'VE TOLD ME WHERE YOU WERE GOING!"

"Ehh, there was an emergency..."

Alice broke down into tears. "What if she killed you? What if we were too late? You can't die! Please, don't put yourself in danger like that again!"

She looked at Keine, who had been wearing the same worried expression as when she first regained consciousness not too long ago. Mokou stood behind her, having returned from guarding the house while everyone else waited inside. A section of the floor had been cleared out for makeshift beds made with rugs and blankets, a sign that the four had stayed ever since she was rescued from certain death.

"It's okay. I know you're worried, but I'm here right now. I'm alive, and I'll stay alive for you and everyone else."

It was only until Alice calmed down sufficiently did the were-hakutaku speak. She spoke of how she began communicating with reporters throughout the Human Village as soon as Marisa left, tracking her every move. When it was confirmed that she was rescued from the shop she left the Underground as soon as it was safe, making her way to her house in the middle of the night. Mokou followed her, having served her part in guarding the entrance, taking turns surveying the front porch of Marisa's house with everyone else that had come to see her recover.

"When I carried you out of there my first priority was to stop the blood loss. Your arms were completely torn apart and on several occasions you came very close to passing away. If Alice and I hadn't come upon the pile of dead bodies in front of the store entrance you would've met the same fate as your father."

"How did you do it?"

"I went in, grabbed you, and left as fast as I could. It was a gamble I was willing to take, even with the anti-magic barrier she had placed over the store. I'm sure you now realize what happens when you're inside one of those, right?"

"I had to," replied Marisa, knowing exactly what she was shifting the conversation toward. "You saw how many Defense Force guards there were. I couldn't have gotten rid of them without using the spell."

"Don't use those spells carelessly," Keine interjected. "Just from that one use your body has become primed for ascension."

A chill went down Marisa's spine, making her shiver with fear.

Mima was quick to defend her action. "She had no choice. You should have seen how many guards were-"

"I know how many there were. What I'm saying is that there were alternative ways of dealing with them."

"Like what? The girl's old enough to make her own decisions."

Keine grew visibly angered at Mima's response. "Do you realize what will happen if she turns into a youkai? Reimu will have all of Gensokyo looking for her."

"Are you saying that isn't already the case? What do you think all the fairies outside are for? She already has everyone looking for her, and both you and I know that there's no way she can take on all of them the way she is. I don't know what will happen if she runs into someone willing to turn her in, but one thing's for sure and it's that there won't be any Spell Card battles. She threatened entire factions of youkai and they're not going to hold anything back if it means they can be left alone."

"What do you have to gain from her ascension?"

"Nothing. I just want to let her know that she has options."

"Then why did you give her those spells?"

"Oh, please. That was before the Spell Card Rules were put into place. Would you really leave her with nothing to defend herself with after she saw what happened to that Satsuki girl?"

"Bringing her up again, are we?"

"What's the matter? Afraid to admit your loss?"

"SHUT IT! I don't care what your intentions are but I do not approve of Marisa Kirisame ascending to youkaidom, and you're not going to-"

"Calm down, miss. I can explain."

"Explain what? Haven't you been clear enough?"

"All I'm saying is that Marisa is free to do as she sees fit. It would be a shame if she died -- or worse -- because of your babysitting."

Keine clenched her fists. "AAARGGGH!"

"Hey! Let's not fight over this! I'll do whatever it takes, and if I can help it I'll never use a spell again."

"Fine. Just know that you have already been affected by youkai magic. That doesn't mean you'll become a youkai, but you're going to feel the effects of your human soul being destroyed if you keep using them. You might begin to feel as if you have less energy, feeling tired all the time or sleeping for longer than usual. You might feel stiff, as if your skin's become tighter. Some people start losing the ability to concentrate for long periods of time, others begin to feel significant changes in their emotional stability. These are all signs of the human soul weakening, and once it becomes weak enough you'll start using spells just to keep you alive."

"That's when you become a magician," said Alice.

"Correct."

Nothing but the ticking of the clock could be heard for several seconds. This silence was both unsettling and comforting, and for that reason nobody wanted to make a sound. Alice, the most worried of the five, wished this moment would last forever. Up until Marisa regained consciousness she only spoke when it seemed that Mima was about to reincarnate her as a youkai.

Worried, losing her patience, and now somewhat agitated, Keine picked up the subatomic capsule she had placed atop the desk. Knowing that Marisa hadn't been sealed, she arranged for her to be brought back to the Underground regardless of whether she lived or died. She would be telling Marisa to pack her belongings and return to her new home, but something made her hesitate every time she considered it. To become aware of the Underground's existence meant keeping it a secret until death. Most of the ones she introduced to this sanctuary knew that implicitly, those that did not quickly understood why after being told why that had to be the case. Though Mima cared for Marisa just as much as she did, she couldn't find it in herself to introduce the vengeful spirit to something as important as the only place in Gensokyo where humans could live comfortably.

"I'm overthinking things here," she thought to herself. "Those that fear her do so by virtue of her being a vengeful spirit, not because of what she's done. Besides, much of the evil in her has faded away and she's mostly harmless. If the Underground were to be exposed, she'd be able to defend it quite well."

She knew she wouldn't be safe the moment she stepped foot onto the path leading to Marisa's house. With every passing second it became clear that it wouldn't be long before Reimu walked down that same path, and once that happens there would be nothing anyone could do short of hoping for a miracle.

"Gather what you need, we need to leave this place as soon as we can."

The bed was pushed aside to a corner of the room, leaving a wide-open space for the container to be opened. Keine set the box no larger than a mid-sized book on the floor, placing her left pointer finger in its center. Five concentric rings of light spread outward, each inscribed with a series of symbols. Once they were in the correct orientation she let go, the rings disappearing into the box before spreading out on the floor to assume a rectangular overlay. On top of this surface was a teleportation tracer and a handheld radio which she retrieved. Though weak, a regularly-paced whistling tone could be heard over the static as she turned the volume up.

"This is Kamishirasawa, can you hear me?"

If it were possible Marisa would take everything she had with her. Emptying out her house would give anyone who came upon it reason to believe she had moved elsewhere with the intention of staying there, so instead she could only take the most important things with her.

"She's alive, isn't she."

The first thing she placed on the surface was her grimoire. This was followed by many other books and written material she had produced over several years -- the result of research, experimentation, and at times frustration.

"We're just about ready here."

Next, she threw in two extra sets of her usual clothing, ones that had been prepared by a man she'd likely never see again. In just a few minutes she would have no reason to set foot anywhere beyond the Underground.

"We're all set up here, just give us the go-ahead when you're finished."

All the books she took from Patchouli would stay where they were. She thought of this as a perfect cover-up, proof that she killed herself and lived up to her promise of returning them upon her death. Having gotten used to the ticking sound beside her at night, she took her alarm clock, another item she obtained from Kourindou. Mima, curious as to what was taking place, asked Marisa if she was planning on relocating to the Human Village. She gave a vague answer and continued gathering items, unwilling to reveal anything in an unsuitable location. The desk she had spent countless hours sitting at had to stay, as did the chair she had gotten very used to. Their absence would raise far too many questions regarding her whereabouts.

"You might begin to feel as if you have less energy... You might feel stiff, as if your skin's become tighter."

Staring back at her was her worried face on the convex glass display that took up the majority of the computer's front side. Perhaps this machine had sat in its present location for countless days could finally be taken out of its eternal slumber, brought back to life by powerful nuclear reactions that provided light to the Underground. With a deep breath she lifted the gray box away from the desk, setting it down on the floor along with everything else. This was confirmation that she hadn't been affected by her use of the spell in a tangible manner, that she was still who she was before it all happened. She took the keyboard, some remaining scraps of paper on which notes had been written, as well as a few jars of leaves and mushrooms native to the Forest of Magic. A pocketknife. Two pens. A stack of blank paper cards. The empty space was quickly covered, leaving only a foot's width worth of space along the edges of the surface.

"That's everything," she said, kneeling down in front of the box. The girl placed her right pointer finger on the indentation in its center, and in the blink of an eye everything in front of her disappeared. All that was left to do was return the interior to its usual messy condition, which involved nothing more than a few minutes worth of arranging miscellaneous items left behind. Papers covered the desk, books lay in all sorts of positions on the floor, and an extra set of clothes were haphazardly thrown over the bed, now back in its original position. Keine, in charge of some final preparations, put out the lanterns to plunge the room into darkness. Using the green backlit display of the radio, she made her way to the front door and handed the teleportation tracer to Marisa. Placing her free hand on the doorknob, she pressed the transmit button and spoke into the device:

"Prepare the spell."

"Prepared."

Keine turned the knob down as low as it could go, stopping right before the "off" position. Marisa followed her out the door, setting the crystal on the ground beneath the moonlit sky. Mima held it open for Alice and Mokou, waiting for everyone else before making her way toward the group. In the ethereal ambience of the night a soft click sounded, Keine's radio raised high in the air.

----------

The carrier wave radiated out in all directions from somewhere deep in the Forest of Magic. A few fairies sensed this disturbance, though they were too tired to consider it anything significant. It wasn't anything new to them, and for that reason they paid no attention to it for the short amount of time it took place. Only those that actively waited for its presence knew of its effects, for the needle of the signal strength meter swung to the right, slightly swaying back and forth in the range of what would unmistakably be interpreted as an intentional transmission.

"Now!"

The man pointed his staff at the scrap of paper in the center of the room as he did many times before, closing his eyes to shield them from the bright flash of light that painted his field of vision red.

Marisa noticed the expression on the man's face, one of surprise and curiosity. "They'll be staying with me for a while, at least until everyone thinks I'm dead."

The magician studied Mima carefully, his eyes fixated on her lower half -- if there was one.

"What are you looking at?"

He quickly looked aside, pretending nothing had happened.

"You're a magician, right?"

"Why do you ask?"

A subtle smile spread over her pale white face. "For how long?"

"Thirty years? I don't actually remember, it's been a while."

"And you live in the Human Village?"

"Who are you?"

Mima moved closer to the man, hovering directly in front of him. "Only the most powerful magician in all of Gensokyo."

"Prove it."

She turned around and pointed her staff at a well-built man, firing a bolt of bright yellow light from its top that hit him directly in the chest. He toppled backward and fell, his head cracking the wooden floor panel. The remaining magicians readied themselves to attack, only to be struck down in the same manner. She turned back to the man standing behind her, petrified at what took place in no more than five seconds.

"I'm not done yet."

Spinning the staff, she pointed it at the body of a female magician, slowly lifting it up. As she did so, the body was picked up by an invisible force, drooped downward like a ragdoll. She shook it side to side like a child playing with a toy, moving its arms up and down. She let the body fall from the ceiling's height, catching it right before it hit the floor, moving it to lean against the wall. With the staff still aimed at it, she focused a white ball of light in the center of the crescent at its tip. Once it got large enough it shot toward the woman's chest, immediately bringing her back to life. The rest were brought back to life in the same manner, left speechless by what they saw. Having seen only a fraction of her abilities, the man took a few steps back.

"Such power... Who do you work for?"

The spirit moved forward a bit, lowering herself such that she was looking directly into his eyes.

"I don't work for anyone."

"Teach me your ways," he stammered. "How can I gain that power?"

Mima smiled, for nobody had willingly asked her to teach them the art of dark magic in centuries. The opportunity to do so was right in front of her, and this time she figured that there would be nobody to stop her from doing it. Marisa would've been her first subject if her father hadn't disapproved of that so staunchly, at one point threatening to have the Hakurei shrine maiden seal her. She couldn't help but feel irony in the fact that he ended up being the one to be sealed instead. It must've hurt, and as much as she detested him for interfering with her motives it didn't feel right for the man to be subject to that kind of pain for eternity.

"Expand your horizons. You say you've been a magician for over thirty years, how many spells do you know? One? Ten? A hundred?"

The man opened his mouth to respond, but she gave him no time to make even a single utterance. "Of all the spells you know, how many are offensive? How many can turn the tide of a battle just by itself. Can you chain them to do things not possible with any individual spell?"

He shook his head. This was exactly what she expected, and from that she knew who her next trainee would be. "You have potential. Like a bird locked in a cage, you're limited not by your abilities, but by your environment. If I may ask, why do you choose to live in the Human Village?"

The magician knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time before she would ask that question. There was no use in hiding anything from her, for the truth was separated by nothing more than a thin wooden door. He was stressed, and she knew that before he even began speaking. His body temperature was slightly above normal, and his mind held his body back from saying what he said next:

"This isn't the Human Village."

"Then where are we?"

"We are in an isolated space underneath what you call the Human Village. We call it the Underground, and it's a place where we are free to do things that would never be possible anywhere else."

Mima puckered her lips in surprise. Magicians were among the weaker of youkai. For them to successfully create their own domain within Gensokyo was not an easy task. Knowing this made her even more interested in this group of magicians that had teleported her in front of them, so she made the effort to formally introduce herself. She had the spells, they had the place, and together everyone shared the same goal: sustain an environment free from the restraints elsewhere. Knowing she'd return soon, the elder magician sent them off, eager to experience dark magic for the first time. In just a few minutes she had convinced him that he could become as strong as her, overwhelmed by the excitement of such an outcome. Trapped between reality and fantasy, he couldn't help but work toward blurring that line and seeing its effects.

Marisa left without a word. Everything seemed different to her, as if she stepped foot into the Underground for the first time. For more than a decade never saw her father, not even when she went to the Human Village. Recent events made it necessary to see him, and while she felt uncomfortable being around him after so many years of separation she was still his daughter. He was taken away so abruptly, right when she started to form the bond that never existed between them. With every step she took she began to internalize what had happened, a feeling of hopelessness manifesting itself within her. She gave it her all, even going as far as using a youkai spell, all for what?

Nothing.

That was the answer she came to. Her father, a healthy man with many years still ahead of him, killed right in front of her. He would feel that pain past the end of time, his soul forever sealed by an irreversible curse. It wasn't fair, and this was reality. No matter how hard she tried she was still an ordinary human with all the limitations that come with an ordinary human. Having reached those limits she lost herself in a delusion, believing that she was on-par with Reimu in terms of offensive and defensive abilities. The Spell Card Rules had nearly made her forget what things were like before they became the standard for settling disputes, and without anyone to tell her what she was getting into she made several mistakes that led her to the present.

From the intersection she stood at she could see the Outer District ahead, its rows of houses lit with electric light bulbs that cast bright light onto the streets. To her left was the path leading to the orphanage at the edge of the neighborhood. She took a right, continuing right at the third intersection. Her house was the second one to the left, its interior dark and abandoned for several days. A lock materialized as she grabbed the handle, cobalt rings spreading outward. This particular lock had four concentric rings, its cells containing the characters zero to nine in a clockwise fashion. The ring glowed green once she dialed the last digit in, disappearing into the handle on which the spell was cast. With a solid click the light came on, shining brightly as it swayed from side to side. Keine placed the subatomic capsule against the wall, kneeling at its side to unlock it.

----------

"Who could it be at this time of day?"

The harsh ringing of the telephone bell came to a gradual stop as Momoka lifted the receiver off the handle.

"Hello, who am I speaking with?"

Chizuru's eyes widened as she heard the operator's voice come through the earpiece. Her mother looked at her with a similar expression of joy on her face, waiting for the call to be routed.

Click

The hissing sound disappeared briefly before returning with a slightly different noise. Due to the poorly shielded wiring it was possible to tell where the person at the other end was located from the sounds on an idle line, lending to the saying that the network had a spirit of its own. Marisa's voice had a clear element of sadness in it, and as a mother she couldn't help but show considerable sympathy toward a child who lost her parent.

"It's okay, at least this means I won't have a reason to leave the Underground from now on."

Marisa was worried for Hiroaki when she found out that he had returned to the Surface. Momoka reassured her that it was safer for everyone if he stayed there, for everyone who knew about the entrance he guarded were to be trusted. She didn't take that well as first, fully convinced that nobody was safe in the Human Village, only to calm down when the woman told her that things had been this way for decades. Chizuru took the handset, picking up the conversation as Momoka left to comfort Mayu.

"So you're really staying here this time?"

"Yes. I promise."

"We were worried sick. They said you died at first, but then they said someone rescued you, everyone was waiting for an update, and we all held our breath knowing that you might not have made it. I'm very glad you're okay, we're all glad that you're finally with us after all those days."

"I even brought some stuff from my old house. There's a, uh, music player, some books that might be interesting, even a computer."

"Cool. Does it work?"

"Not yet. I think it needs a way of getting electricity."

"So it's one of those big ones, huh? I'll get Akira to come over and take a look at it, he'll probably know what to do with it."

"Sure, hopefully it's not broken or anything."

"We'll see. Oh, I also wanted to tell you that I'm getting married on Saturday. It'll be at the plaza near the library, you should come join us!"

"I'll try my best to be there, then."

Throughout the entire conversation she could sense the discomfort in Marisa's voice. Every utterance, every syllable, carried a kind of sorrow that she couldn't even begin to imagine. She tried cheering her up to no effect, their conversation ending with a somber "goodnight." Many things were up in the air, but one thing was unmistakably certain:

Marisa Kirisame was no longer the person she met four days ago.



This chapter was fun to write, mainly because I got to present Mima's role in the story. If Keine's rooting for Marisa to be rational and remain human, she's the one that keeps urging Marisa to finish what she started. Dark magic is powerful, but it comes with a price. Though she lost what little remained of her family, Marisa still has a lot to lose and little to gain from throwing away her humanity to join the ranks of those who use the strongest of spells. There's still lots of uncertainties, and one by one paths will be chosen on this one-way road called fate.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2017, 04:23:31 am »
Chapter 14 - Lockdown

At long last, Reimu found herself in front of Marisa's house after nearly two hours of wandering around in circles. Besides being known for its deadly toxic mushrooms and ferocious youkai that attacked humans even during daytime, the multitude of dead ends and seemingly identical landmarks did a good job of keeping travelers away from the Forest of Magic. Those who inhabited it knew exactly what path to take to get to certain locations, and those that knew their way around the many traps kept to themselves. The decayed bodies of fairies strewn across the clearing had begun disintegrating, scattering dust that shimmered under the sunlight in all directions. It was truly a beautiful sight, and she would stay around to watch them all disappear into the distance if she wasn't preparing to finish what she set out to do. If Marisa cooperated she would end it quickly, sparing her as much pain as possible. Upon any act of resistance she would ensure that the girl be thoroughly perforated with needles before being put to her eternal rest. No matter what happens the result would be the same. After all, she had killed several members of the Gensokyo Defense Force, using youkai spells to accomplish the task.

Sharp knocks sounded as she tapped the locked door with her purification rod. In her other hand she held several magic-sealing amulets, ready to be thrown upon its opening. No response of any kind came as she struck the door four more times.

"WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!" she screamed, kicking a hole through the thin wooden door. After all this time searching through the forest the last thing she wanted was for her to have gone elsewhere. A second kick shattered the panel, sending a shower of splinters onto the floor. Of course, nobody was inside, making her efforts completely useless. Prominently left on the bed was a note, ink written on parchment:

You know what has happened, you know what is happening, and you know what will happen if I don't take things into my own hands. Rather than have the Hakurei shrine maiden force you to search for me all over Gensokyo under the threat of something far worse than death I've decided to spare you the trouble and remove myself from this world. It is my hope that this will bring whatever momentary peace it can to you, for she'll stop worrying about killing me after everything I've done to make myself what I am. If you don't know me that's fine, just know that my death will benefit you. If you know me, I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to say goodbye in a different way. I didn't have much time to make a decision. She killed my father, just as her mother killed my mother. If I waste any more time I will be next. News of my death will soon spread throughout Gensokyo. What effect that will have is yours to see.

Marisa Kirisame
27th day of the 8th month of year 130


----------

A click sounded as the speakers came on. The familiar chimes sounded, its melody echoing in the subterranean cavern. At nine on this Friday morning the Underground was as inviting as ever. The elderly made their way down the street, greeting those that waved at them. Men and women exchanged conversations with each other, boys and girls talked of recent happenings elsewhere, and younger children laughed and ran in their usual carefree manner. Amidst everything that took place beyond the solid metal doors and winding tunnels she was safe along with everyone she knew and loved. How long would this peace last? Would she live the rest of her life like this? It seemed too good to be true, and the more she thought about it the more worried she became.

"Unable to go to heaven or hell, they'll feel the pain of their death for eternity."

Chizuru hadn't felt this fearful in a long time. She recalled how she nearly fainted when Keine told her what happened, when she told her what it meant to be sealed. She was walking alone in the middle of the street, houses on either side. She was going to see Akira, to talk to him about something that had been on their minds quite some time. Neither of them wanted to mention it, for everyone knew it was impossible. There was a clear display of stress with every step she took, and perhaps it was for this reason that the boy who had been following her grabbed her arm. The girl let out a yelp as she turned around to look Ryuya Kanazawa in the eyes, her elevated heart rate falling back within the normal range.

"What is it, Ryuya?"

"After what happened on Sunday I've been thinking about getting out of here before it's too late. If we return to the Human Village and live like everyone else it'll be a lot safer. If Reimu finds us here we're done for."

Chizuru pulled her arm back. "No she won't!"

"All it takes is for her to find one of the reporters. If they spill the beans she'll have everyone here killed in less than a day. You still remember what happened in Makai, do you?"

"What about my family?"

"They can come with us. As long as we get out of here before she finds out we'll be okay."

"No."

"What?"

"I said NO!"

"Listen to me, Chizuru. I love you. I don't want anything bad to happen to you. I'm giving you a chance to make things right before anything goes wrong. I know you're scared. I'm just as scared as you are. If she kills you you'll be in pain forever, and if she finds you here she won't think twice about doing that."

"What makes you so sure they'll tell her about us?"

"Things have gotten really messy in the Village. It's only a matter of time before she finds someone who knows about this place."

"I'll think about it," she said, clearly annoyed.

A smile spread over the boy's face. "That's more like it."

Chizuru turned around and took a step forward.

"Why the rush? Can't we talk for a while?"

"Talk about what?" she asked, still walking forward. Ryuya reached forward and grabbed her dress, causing her to reflexively slap his hand away. "WHAT DO YOU WANT?!"

"I- I just want to talk with you about something that's been on my mind for quite some time."

"Okay, what is it?"

The boy took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for her answer. Her heart was with Akira Kurosaki, and his chances of changing that were growing slimmer with every passing day. He was nervous, and in his nervousness he couldn't find it in himself to ask her the question. Instead, all he could do was ask her if she had anything planned for the day.

"I have to help someone with something."

"Who?"

"It's none of your business."

Not once did she look back to talk to him, and now he was just silently following her. They were nearing the orphanage at the corner of the residential district. Chizuru stopped and sighed, turning around to look at Ryuya for the first time since they started walking.

"Take care, I'll see you later."

"Wait," he finally said. "Do you have some free time tonight? I've been wanting to invite you over to my place for dinner."

"Sorry, I've already got plans for tonight. Maybe another time?"

With that, the girl turned around and started walking away. The boy stood there, staring at her until she took a turn at the intersection.

----------

"She left to go to the orphanage about an hour ago. Is she not there?"

There wasn't a hint that anything had gone wrong in Momoka's voice. Marisa held the receiver up to her ear, listening to the buzzing sound changing in tone at random intervals. In the background she could her the woman talking to her son, the boy telling her that nothing seemed wrong with his sister.

"I don't know. I haven't called them yet."

"Then I'll call them now. She should have arrived half an hour ago."

A click came over the line, and Marisa placed the phone back onto the hook.

"I hope nothing happened to her," said Alice. "Did she tell you what she was doing today?"

"She knows people from the Outside World who know how to use those things. They're going to come over and see what's what."

The phone rang, its bell sounding a crisp ring that startled the two. Momoka spoke with a disappointed tone of voice:

"They say they haven't seen her at all today."

"Then where did she go? The library?"

"That's possible... You should go and see if she's there."

"Can you not call them?"

"I can, but there's only a single phone at the front desk. She could be on any of the floors."

"I see. I'll go right away."

----------

Reimu returned to the Hakurei Shrine to see Aya Shameimaru sitting atop the torii. The crow tengu landed on the ground as she walked past it, a mischievous smile on her face. Those unaware of her intentions would no doubt see it as a positive expression, but those who knew her even a bit understood what she meant by that.

"You've sure been busy, haven't you?"

The shrine maiden walked forward as if nothing had been said. Aya watched as she tightened the grip on her gohei, a sense of uncertainty manifesting itself within her.

"Did you actually kill Mari-?"

Before Aya could finish making her last utterance she found Reimu standing before her, holding a seal up to her mouth.

"She killed herself. Do I make myself clear?"

A chill ran down her spine as she nodded. "O- oh, I see. So I guess it's over now?"

The reporter took a few steps backward, keeping her focus on the human as she lowered her hand.

"Where are you going?"

Aya stopped as if a petrification spell had been cast. Reimu walked up to her again, looking her in the eyes with each step she took.

"Do you mind doing me a favor?"

Though she phrased her demand as a question anyone who spent more than a day in Gensokyo would not dare to refuse this request. The weapons she held in her hands were enough to cast aside any thought of retaliation, and the emotionless expression she wore on her face forced even the most resolute denier to reconsider their response.

"No, not at all. What do you want?"

----------

Marisa walked up to the library with Alice beside her.

"It's not much, isn't it?" she remarked. "On the outside it doesn't look like anything worth giving a second glance to, but once you go inside you'll know what I mean when I say the people here know their way around things."

They walked into the library, walking past bookshelves and looking down each aisle. At a time like this most of the patrons were of the extremes in terms of age, with young children and middle-aged men and women browsing the collection. At the corner was a staircase that led to the next floor beneath them, and at the opposite corner of this floor there was another staircase that led to an even deeper floor. As Marisa expected, Chizuru was nowhere to be found, something that only made her feel worse.

"Something's not right."

"Could she have gone elsewhere?"

"Well she's not here. What does that mean to you?"

"You said she was planning on bringing her boyfriend with her, right? What might he know about all this?"

"It's worth a shot," Marisa replied, heading toward the staircase to the upper floor. "If anything he knows more about her than either of us do."

"Just how safe is the Underground?" Alice asked shortly after they left the library.

Marisa, who had lost her father so suddenly, no longer had any reason to believe that she or anyone else would be truly safe from the same kind of horrific fate. She kept silent for a while, contemplating whether she should tell the truth to Alice, who she knew was emotionally unstable and largely unpredictable.

"It's not very safe at all. Everyone relies on the fact that it's well hidden and highly secretive, but that's about it. There's some magicians with questionable skills that might be able to keep the Defense Force out, but if Reimu or Yukari decide to come in and kill everyone there's not much anyone can do."

After seeing the last remnant of her family taken away with such ease in front of her she no longer had any faith in her skills. For things to go her way was now nothing short of a miracle, and though she lived in a place where miracles happened every day she couldn't even bring herself to rely on that. Alice knew this, and when she told Marisa how bad she felt for her all she could do was talk back at her.

"You still don't understand, do you?"

"What do you mean?"

"There's no way any of us could stop them. Not me, not you, nobody. Consider it lucky that we're here, and instead of worrying about whether they'll find us let's spend what time we have left to experience life for ourselves. Once she finds us there's no way out, and when she seals us at least we'll have had the opportunity of doing what few have done."

Alice didn't say a thing for the rest of the walk to the orphanage. There was nothing left to mention, nothing left to hear, and nothing left to worry about. Marisa was living a life she was no longer entitled to, and at this point it felt as if she no longer cared about having it taken away from her. The two of them walked past rows and rows of nearly-identical houses, stopping in front of a large two-story building. There, they entered through one of three doors, where a receptionist called the residents of room 2-4.

"It's Marisa," he said, waiting for a response. A click sounded as the door unlocked, a red light above it turning off while a green light beside it lit up. Judging by the tone of voice that answered the call, Marisa could tell that Chizuru wasn't with Akira before she even got to his room.

"Hey," Marisa said, taking her shoes off at the door. Alice smiled and waved at the boy and girl sitting on their beds, following Marisa as Akira closed and locked the door.

"Chizuru didn't come here today, did she?"

"No, I haven't seen her at all. Is something wrong?"

"I hope not. She told me she'd come to my house with you to look over some things I brought from my old house. I'm living in the Underground from now on."

Katsuya and Sayoko stayed quiet, for they knew who Marisa was as well as what happened to her father.

"Thanks for joining us," Akira replied after a moment of consideration. "Have your tried calling her?"

"She wasn't home. Her mother picked up. She told me to look for her at the library, we just checked, and she's not there."

The boy took a deep breath and looked into the distance. "These days have been very stressful for her."

"Yeah, at least that's how she sounded when I talked to her last night."

"When you left and didn't come back she spent two days living with us. Her father came by to pick her up yesterday, and she didn't look like she had gotten over it at the time. You said you talked to her last night, was that in person or on the phone?"

"On the phone. Why?"

Akira sighed again. "It's nothing. What matters is that you let her know you're okay. I don't want to do this, but I'm out of options at this point. It looks like I'll have to go to the communications center to make an announcement, or perhaps get them to make an announcement on my behalf."

"The speakers, right?"

He nodded. "Everyone will hear it, including people who I'd prefer didn't. But if you say she's gone missing, I'll have to find her before it's too late."

"Huh?"

"I'll tell you later if you want to come with me."

"Sure. We'll go with you."

----------

The sound of knuckles hitting steel startled Hiroaki. It came as two knocks, a short pause, two more knocks, another pause, then one knock. He knew what that specific pattern meant, and when he saw his daughter push open the door a wave of mixed emotions flooded into his mind.

"I'm scared," was the first thing the girl said. The man took her into his arms, taking a glance at the magical seal affixed to the door.

"What's the matter?"

Chizuru took no time in explaining her fear. "It's Ryuya," she said. "He's about to do something terrible."

Hiroaki's tone of voice immediately became one of seriousness. "What did he say to you?"

"He said it's only a matter of time before Reimu finds out about the Underground, so I should leave and live in the Human Village with him. He asked if I could get you and mother and the rest of us to come with him before it's too late. It's because I'm getting married soon, isn't it?"

"No... he wouldn't do such a thing, would he?"

The girl began to tremble. "I'm afraid he will. Please, no, I don't want that to happen... Please..."

"Don't cry. Crying won't do anything. You're twenty-two now, you can't act like you're twelve anymore. You need to relax, just like your mother said. Have you told anyone else about this?"

"No. I'm afraid that they'll mess things up. You and mother are the only people I trust with this stuff."

"Marisa still hasn't returned, hasn't she?"

"She came back last night. She's alive, but she's been traumatized. She saw her kill him, she was right there, and she... she couldn't do anything!"

The man sighed. "Such is life, dear. We try so hard to make our lives comfortable, and even as we do so we're reminded of where we are."

"Don't die, father. Please don't die. For me, for mother, for Tetsuro and Mayu... Why can't she leave us alone? What did we even do?"

Hiroaki ran his fingers through his daughter's long black hair. "We chose to live life our way. We chose to distance ourselves from Gensokyo as far as possible, and in doing that we became aware of things we shouldn't be aware of."

"But what if we stay there and never tell anyone else anything? It would be like we don't exist, right? Why would that affect anything?"

"I'm not the one you should be asking those questions to. If I knew I wouldn't fear for our lives every single day."

"What is everyone going to do about Ryuya? They've got to do something before he..."

"Truth be told, the Autumn Reitaisai is going to be held two days from now, which means the Underground will be put on lockdown until Tuesday. I was planning on coming home later in the afternoon, but since it's gonna happen later tonight I might as well head down with you now. Let's go."

He stood up and made his way to the hidden door, grabbing the string and pulling it several times. Minutes later, the door opened up and a duo of men emerged. Unlike the normal guards that watched over the entrance these men were magicians, armed with spells powerful enough to take down most unwanted visitors before they even figured out what was being guarded. Hiroaki and Chizuru were now on their way to the Underground, walking down the narrow corridor along their descent.

"Ten thousand volts," said the man. "Instant death for anyone who comes in contact."

The girl kept looking forward. "Yes, that's right. Instant death."

Their footsteps echoed in the silence until they reached the door. The light was lit, signaling that it was safe to knock.

"You head home now, and stay there until I return, got it?"

"Mmm," she affirmed.

The man watched her daughter enter the house and stood there for a while before setting off toward the communications center. It was there that he saw Marisa and Alice along with Akira, the latter of whom felt terrified at his arrival. The twenty-three year old took the man's arrival as a sign that something had happened to Chizuru, for why else would her father be here after an announcement that she was to come to the building immediately?

"She came to talk to me while I was on guard duty. It's about Kanazawa. More specifically, what he said to her earlier today."

"What did he say?!"

Hiroaki cleared his throat. "He gave her good reasons to believe that he would do the unthinkable."

The only sound that could be heard was the hissing of fans, the hum of power transformers, and the erratic clicking of computer disks. Relays clicked and lights lit up on the telephone switchboard, ignored by the four operators that had completely taken their attention off the machinery behind them. Some stood or sat in place, while others clenched their hands together. Others twiddled their fingers nervously, while others bit their lip with fear. Asami picked up the microphone and slid a lever before pressing a button that caused a chime to simultaneously play over the speakers and transmit on frequencies monitored by listeners in the Human Village. A red needle fell toward the zero position as the simulated echo gave way to silence, bouncing back and forth as she spoke in a clear, calm voice:

"Due to the upcoming Hakurei Shrine Autumn Reitaisai the Underground will be put on lockdown until Tuesday morning. Until then, all entrances and exits will be electrified with high voltage. We ask that residents unplug all electric appliances, excluding light bulbs, within the next five minutes. Once again, we ask that residents unplug all electric appliances, excluding light bulbs, within the next five minutes. Self-powered appliances may continue to be used. Upon hearing the signal, please be aware that coming into contact with any metal door will result in immediate death. Thank you for your cooperation. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you."

The sound of people running outside could be heard. Gauges on an operator's panel reacted to the sudden drop in load on the generator, readouts decreasing rapidly for over two minutes. This continued, albeit much slower, for the next minute. A few computers and the radio transceiver were transferred to backup power, and a lever was moved that shut off power to all but the lights in the building. The woman pressed another button, causing a loud dissonant tone to play over the speakers until the power was cut. One by one, levers were shifted into position, sparks flying into the air with each activation. Lights dimmed throughout the Underground, and a bright red lamp above each door glowed as the metal blocks hummed in resonance with the current flowing through them. Marisa and Alice stared at the control panel, watching as the steel door was locked shut over it. Though it was only half past noon, it felt as if it was already well into the evening. For the residents of the Underground, lockdowns were a natural part of life that took place at least twice per year. This time things were no different than before, Marisa and Alice followed Hiroaki as he returned home. Akira set off toward the orphanage, hoping his friends would come along with him to visit Marisa at her new house.

With an electric barrier guarding the population of over two hundred, Marisa finally felt at ease. This was how everyone felt, and this was how things were supposed to be. At this time nobody batted an eye at a printout dangling from a plotter, connected to one of many computers in the Underground's technological hub. It logged all instances of an entry or exit, a paper trail providing evidence of anyone moving between the Underground and the rest of Gensokyo. Anyone who cared to look at it would have noticed it right away.

08 2015-08-28 09:41:29
06 2015-08-28 10:55:31
06 2015-08-28 11:43:08




April's been a busy month for me. Most of this chapter was written in the first week of May. It was then left alone, only to be reopened and have several parts ripped out to make way for what you see here. I think it's quite obvious what happened this time, and how everyone deals with this horrible miscalculation will contribute to the ultimate outcome of the Underground. A society whose foundation lies in its secrecy is about to be threatened in ways nobody dared contemplate. Sacrifices will be made, and perhaps even that might not be enough to stop the inevitable.

What can they do? Who will fight with them? In a world where rules are rules and punishment is what it is, why would someone risk their life for those they'll never even see?
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2017, 08:39:49 pm »
Chapter 15 - A Bittersweet End

The year was 122. A seventeen year-old boy stood by his father, reassuring him that he would be cured from his sickness before the end of the day. The boy's mother stood by him as well, holding her husband's hand which had been gradually losing its warmth.

"You'll be okay, father. I promise."

Everything was going according to his plan, and only a select few would have guessed how that day would end.

"Where is she," the woman asked. "You told her to find us here, did you?"

The sun had started receding behind the distant mountains, bringing an end to a day the boy would remember forever.

"I'll go out and see. You wait here with father."

"I'll go. You should stay instead. He'd feel a lot better with you at his side."

The boy agreed, and the woman left his son and husband to wait as she searched for the one person that could bring her family together. She recalled the complaints voiced by a vocal minority regarding the kirin's influence on Gensokyo's human population, but in her anticipation she quickly brushed the thought aside.

"Just one more," she thought to herself. "Just give Mamoru his life back."

She walked out onto the wide street, strolling aimlessly in search of the youkai girl, smiling at those who made eye contact with her.

For whatever reason her attention focused toward a man's voice, prompting her to look in his direction. It was when she saw who he was talking to that she felt a sense of urgency that caused her stomach to turn inside-out.

"About half an hour ago," he said, a strong sense of certainty in his voice.

"Where did she go?"

"If I remember correctly it was the Inoue Residence."

"I see," she said quietly. "How unfortunate. I guess I will have to take care of them before she makes matters worse."

For the shrine maiden to come to the Human Village at a time like this something serious had to be taking place. Armed and ready to kill without a second thought, her response was completely devoid of sympathy. She followed her from a distance, eyes fixated on the long steel needles she held between her fingers. The lanterns were lit inside the house, and she showed no sign of hesitation as she kicked in the door. It happened so quickly she didn't even know what had exactly happened until it was all over. They met eyes as she walked out of the house, and that was when she saw what remained of the couple. Even more terrifying was the way the kirin had been exterminated, pinned against the wall by needles that pierced through her chest.

"You... killed... Mamoru..." she said. "YOU KILLED MY HUSBAND!"

The woman ran forward, screaming at the top of her lungs as tears blurred her vision. "HOW COULD YOU?! HOW COULD YOU DO SUCH A THING?! SHE COULD'VE SAVED HIM! YOU B-"

Before she could yell out her last word the priestess lunged forward to thrust her gohei through the woman's chest and pull it out from her back at breakneck speed. It all took less than a tenth of a second, and the only sign that something had happened was the blood she coughed up as she fell toward the ground. She took four steps back, tossing an amulet at the body to engulf it in a bright blue flame. The man gave his son's hand one last squeeze before going limp, and at last all was quiet. A knock on the door barely elicited any response from him, and when he finally opened it he saw not his mother, but the Ichimura girl with an expression of pure terror.

----------

Ryuya Kanazawa walked down the wide street that ran through the center of the Human Village, fresh air entering his lungs for the first time in years. A lot had changed, though several things resisted the flow of time. The rows of buildings on either side of the street cast long shadows onto the ground where peddlers set themselves up for the day. In this foreign yet familiar environment he felt lost, trying his best to uncover memories from long ago. A group of young children ran past him, causing him to shiver uncontrollably before stopping to look at them. It was only until he realized what had happened did he resume his aimless wandering, heading toward no place in particular with no destination in mind. Step after step, he found himself in the central plaza where the statue of the Dragon God stood. Its eyes glowed an ominous purple, commanding several glances from passersby who proceeded to discuss the cause with others. In its presence, few could ignore the presence of the divine. The boy was never into religion, opting to do what he thought would be best for himself without the help of others.

"Do you know what that means, child?" asked an elderly woman.

He shook his head.

"It means something's going to happen soon. Perhaps a storm, just like what happened not too long ago."

Ryuya stood where he was, staring at the figure of the dragon.

"Is something bothering you?"

"Why do you care?" he replied, still looking forward.

The woman placed her right hand on the boy's shoulder. He jerked his head toward her, their eyes locking for a moment.

"Because we're all human."

There was an undeniable display of sorrow from her. The frown on her wrinkled face and her drooping eyelids told pages. To be human was to help others in their times of need, and with that knowledge Ryuya felt a sense of relaxation for the first time since his encounter with Chizuru just hours ago.

"Come with me," she said. "It's too crowded here."

She held out her hand. He held onto her hand, and the two of them began walking down the street. At a certain point she made a turn into an alleyway, away from the plaza, continuing forward until they were in front of the stone walls surrounding the village. She turned around, looking at the last row of buildings, and let go of his hand.

"Look at them," she said, pointing to the distance ahead. "Do you know what it means to be a human here?"

The boy nodded.

"Then tell me, what is your purpose in Gensokyo?"

"Everything, and nothing. To be ignorant of things outside of the Human Village, to live a life like all others, to serve as an expendable resource for the continued existence of youkai."

"Are you scared?"

Without a doubt, the twenty-five year old was scared. After having lost both his parents in what seemed like the blink of an eye why wouldn't he be?

"No," he replied. "I've already lost everything there is to lose."

"But you still have your life."

"What good is that? What good is it living for nothing?"

The woman looked at the edge of the village. "Soon your kind will take our place. Born into this nonsense. Unaware of the past. Unable to fight for anything... Not even yourselves."

The two of them stood side by side, staring into the distance.

"You look like my son," she said. "He was just like you."

"What happened to him?"

----------

Six humans and two youkai gathered around the table in the corner of the small house. The shopkeeper took his gaze off the glass cylinder held tightly between two metal arms, looking up at the girl.

"It looks like there's nothing wrong with it, but without a power source I can't be certain."

Much of the machine's interior was taken up by a glass picture tube, leaving very little space for the rest of its components crammed in the space underneath. Wires of every color ran from place to place between layers of circuitry, something few within the barrier could even think of replicating. Yasaharu voiced his surprise at how well it had been maintained, remarking that it must have been a significant feat to have it land in Marisa's hands. Alice stayed far away, noting the labels suggesting severe injury or death plastered on the back panel.

"You said it's just a machine, right?"

"Yes. And you can trust me on that. No spirits or anything here."

"It's the same as the ones in the library. The Outside World stopped dealing with spirits and youkai many years ago."

"Sounds good to me."

Among the other items Marisa brought with her was a battery-powered lantern, a video camera, a laser pointer, a handheld television receiver, and a tape recorder, all of which the man offered to buy from her. Coming to the conclusion that all but the former were of no use to her, she exchanged them for enough money to pay for several months worth of food and water. Having had no experience with coins and bills in her previous life, she took lectures from her new acquaintances regarding the value of money within the Underground. They talked and talked, burying their worries with anecdotes they carried with them through time. In this closed space, life happened independent of what took place elsewhere. Threats came by and passed away just as quickly, though each and every person shared the same fears.

Chizuru stood up "There's something I've been wanting to say for a while now," she murmered.

Everyone gave her their attention.

"Earlier today Ryuya said something that made me very worried. He wanted to return to the Human Village with me because he doesn't feel safe here. He said it's only a matter of time before Reimu finds out about the Underground."

"No way..." muttered Akira.

"What did you tell him?" asked Keine, a sense of impending catastrophe tangible in her voice.

"I told him I wouldn't go with him. Nothing more, nothing less."

"And his response?"

"He kept on saying that she'd eventually find out and take action."

"That boy's been troubled," said the man of thirty-eight. "His father was sick, and when his mother found out what happened to the Satsuki girl she went insane."

Marisa felt her body tense up. The dreams kept coming back, pieced-together thoughts of the words spoken by residents of the Human Village shortly after Rin's sealing that marked the extinction of kirin within Gensokyo.

"What happened?"

"She made a death wish, confronting her in a state of complete disregard. I'll stop at that."

"He lost both his mother and father that night. I almost didn't want to tell him what had happened, but I figured that he'd take it in best if I told it to him before anyone else does so."

"Heavens," Alice whispered. To live in Gensokyo was to accept the fact that anyone who deviated even the slightest from the shrine maiden's rules would meet an unimaginably painful death. This applied to her, as well as everyone within the Underground, and it made her very worried for the few she could call her friend.

"I've got a bad feeling about this. I don't want to believe he'd do such a thing, but I still have to be vigilant. He's been emotionally unstable ever since that night, and I'm worried that that has consumed him."

Katsuya and Sayoko were speechless. Terrified, they could only listen to what the rest had to say.

"Do you know where he is?"

She shook her head.

"Have you seen him since you last met?"

"No!" she stammered, all facts seeming to pointing toward the inevitable.

"Then we have to hurry," said the were-hakutaku. "If he's no longer here he might already be on his way to the Hakurei Shrine."

"I'm sorry," she said, this time very quietly. "I- I didn't mean to..."

A teardrop fell onto the floor, making a noise that seemed to echo in the silence.

"It'll be okay." Akira stood up and hugged Chizuru, who went limp in his arms. "No matter what happens I'll always be at your side."

Time seemed to stop. In this moment, everyone wished it would actually stop, everyone wished things could remain the way they were for eternity.

"What are we going to do?" Marisa asked Keine.

"We do what we always do. We're not going down without a fight, and she knows that better than anyone else. That's why we have to think ahead and act before she does. If I'm not mistaken, a log of the opening of every door between here and the rest of Gensokyo is kept. Our first order of business is to look at that and make certain whether he's left the Underground. If he's still here we'll find him and bring him to comfort. If not, I'm afraid we'll have to find him before it's too late."

----------

"He said it was the only way to guarantee his safety. After all, she wouldn't harm those she depends on to silence us. After all those years I can't help but see that as being the case."

"What does he do?"

"Whatever the commander tells him to do. Or at least that's how it's supposed to be."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Though he's one of them, he does all he can to give others a chance. Sometimes he does things that violate the orders he's been given, but I know he does that because it's the right thing to do."

"So he's in it for the benefits?"

"He wouldn't hurt anyone unless he's forced to."

Her words repeated themselves in his mind. He, too, didn't want to hurt anyone. If becoming a member of the Defense Force meant he would be treated differently than a normal human he'd do it.

"What does it take to join them?"

"I wouldn't know. But I could take you to their recruitment office if you'd like."

"Please do."

"It should only take a few minutes from here."

The two of them walked along the outskirts of the Human Village, approaching it from one of many its many narrow alleyways. The smell of food and wet laundry soaked with fragrances filled the air, reminding the boy of the childhood that had been taken away from him long ago. It happened so suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, and at the time he was unable to do anything.

"Are you sure it's okay for her to do that?"

"Of course it is. It's not like she's turning him into a youkai. She's just going to cure him of his sickness."

"Then why are there people who attack her?"

"Those people? They're just unwilling to believe that youkai are capable of helping humans. Even when they see it for themselves they'll still think otherwise."


Not once did it cross his mind that this would be how it came to be. His father's death might have been unavoidable, but he would never forgive the shrine maiden for what she did to his mother. She was unarmed and incapable of hurting anyone, yet she suffered a fate worse than death. Given the chance he would kill her, and so did countless others who had their loved ones taken away from them. But the truth was out there for all to see, the truth that a plain human was no match for divine powers bestowed upon the girl from the moment of her birth. As such, he told himself that he would be satisfied if he died a well-deserved death, whether it be of natural causes, sickness, or even as a youkai's prey. Either way he'd be free from the world of the living, a world where anyone could face the threat of eternal pain.

"There it is," the woman said, pointing to the door in front of her. "This is as far as I'll take you."

----------

"Absolutely not! That's not a risk I'm willing to take!"

The man stood before the were-hakutaku. His wife stood beside him, shaking her head in silence. It was one thing to hear that the boy was in an unpredictable state of mind and no longer within the Underground. Keine's suggestion that Chizuru search for him as a Shadow was beyond all expectations, for he knew what it entailed. Though he had nothing against youkai, he stood firmly on the side that his family stay human under any and all circumstances. This included Akira as well, for he was practically wed to his daughter, just without the formalities that came with such a status.

"I understand. Sorry to bother you, I'll be on my way now."

She left promptly, quietly shutting the door. During her time as a teacher she came face to face with countless parents just like him, those who turned down anything having to do with dark magic. She respected this choice, for humanity was something precious to many. For some it was the only thing they had.

"What do we do?" he said to his wife. "What in the Gods' name do we do now?!"

----------

Marisa opened the door to see Keine once again, a defeated expression on her face.

"It's not good, isn't it?"

"He's gone."

"I thought so."

n alternative possibility came to her mind, but she quickly perished the thought when she realized how foolish it would be to take that path. Hiroaki's refusal to let his daughter or her fiancé search for him under the protection provided by a Shadow Spell meant that whoever was sent to find him would only know him from inaccurate descriptions. Finding the wrong person was a likely risk, not only making it clear that Shadow Spells were actively used but also giving the boy reasons to panic. She had been driven into a corner by the events unfolding before her, and the chances of her getting away were quickly diminishing.

Alice reached for Marisa's hand and held on tightly. "We need to stop him."

"No. It's too dangerous. Especially for you, Marisa. The moment Reimu knows of the truth is the moment all of Gensokyo hunts you down."

There seemed to be two equally disasterous outcomes. Through inactivity, Ryuya would eventually get in contact with someone who would accompany him to the Hakurei Shrine. The bi-annual Reitaisai was less than a day away, offering him the perfect opportunity to set off an uncontrollable and catastrophic event. Word of Marisa's presence in the Human Village would soon be known by those she was hiding from. Sooner or later, after relentlessly scouring the settlement -- perhaps costing many their lives -- the Underground would be revealed. It was a checkmate, a one-way path toward the end everyone knew of but couldn't accept.

"I don't care," she replied. "You said it yourself: We're not going down without a fight. If it's a fight she wants it's a fight she'll get." Marisa took a deep breath and spoke in a serious tone of voice neither of the two had ever heard from her.

"If sealing me is what it takes for her to leave everyone alone, I'll gladly let that happen."

"That's not how it works, Marisa. That's not how any of it works."

"So we let her come, turn this place into a graveyard, and leave?! Are you saying we let her take the lives of so many people who haven't even seen the world outside this place?!"

Marisa was right. A chance to change the fates of so many innocent lives, no matter how small, was a chance. That chance was something to be treasured, something so precious that Keine couldn't help but see.

"Alright," she said. "Only because I trust you with a task of this significance."

"Thanks. You go get some rest, I'll be fine this time, I promise."

Marisa's mind was spinning as she set the lock. This could very well be the last time she ever sees that door, the last time she walks on the soft floor, the last time she ever talks to the people she was looking for now. With any luck she would find the boy without getting in harm's way, returning him to the Underground and ensuring another moment of worryless life for the hundreds that she vowed to defend. Akira was still at the Ichimura residence when she and Alice arrived, telling them that he planned to stay with her from now until their death. The girl described the boy's features to the best of her ability, painting what she believed to be a clear picture of the person she had known for more than fifteen years in their mind's eye. Neither of them said a word to one another on their way to the house where the Underground's magicians gathered.

"Hello, Marisa," said the eldest of the spellcasters. "I take it you've fully recovered?"

Mima, hovering slightly above the ground in a corner, smiled at the two as they entered. "Of course she's recovered. After all, I tended to her wounds."

"We need to go to the Human Village," she said with haste. "There's this person who left the Underground after an argument and we have reason to believe that he might fall into the wrong hands."

"Oh?" said the former vengeful spirit. "And you want to find him?"

"Yes. And I won't back down from it. There's far too much to lose if we let him be."

Alice took the tracer and handed it to Marisa, turning on the radio she held in her left hand. The crackle of static came over the speaker, startling her before she engaged the silencer. Seconds later they found themselves in what was formerly the Kirisame-ya Second-Hand Shop, its boarded-up doors and windows letting very little light in. Much of the merchandise had been destroyed in the moments leading up to the merciless slaying of the shopkeeper for nothing more than his relation to his daughter. Salvageable items fell victim to looters looking to take advantage of another's misfortune, and in the corner the remains of a glass-walled counter were dyed red with blood, dark stains clearly visible on the wooden floor. If it weren't for the far-more important issue at hand, Marisa would have let emotion get the best of her sanity. What happened could never be changed. The future was still very malleable.

"My father used to keep things hidden in the basement. I want to see if there's anything useful that's still down there."

Alice whispered a spell and raised her right hand, a light shining from the tip of her finger. Together, the two descended down the creaky staircase, returning under the cover of an invisibility cloak as they rode aboard a broomstick untouched for decades. For now, they were back in the world they grew up in. A world they knew and loved dearly, a world they once believed they had a future in. Past tall buildings, wide buildings, and buildings both tall and wide, the human magician and the youkai magician set out in a race against time.

----------

"What do you mean by blessings?"

"The Gods that oversee Gensokyo will thank me for my help in providing them with your knowledge. I will be sure to pass that onto you, ensuring that you live a life free of ill omen."

Ryuya Kanazawa had just left the recruitment office, registration in hand, when he crossed paths with Reimu Hakurei. Not all hope was lost, however, for their conversation hadn't reached that certain point yet. She saw the documentation he carried and stopped him, congratulating him on taking his first step toward what she described as fighting for Gensokyo's future.

"If you have family I can extend that gratitude to them as well."

The boy twitched, for the very person that took his family away from him was now inquiring about it.

"Is something wrong?"

No. It's just that I have to be somewhere soon, I don't want to be late."

The girl grabbed his shoulder. "Where?"

He could hear his heart thumping, its fast marching beat felt throughout his entire body. From the moment she started talking to him she could feel the ambivalence in his voice. The way he walked out into the street showed that he was hiding something he knew he shouldn't speak of, and she took this chance to pry that out of him.

----------

It is said that sometimes good luck leads to bad luck. Other times it is said tha bad luck leads to good luck. Marisa and Alice couldn't determine which case it was when they spotted Reimu standing in front of the recruitment office of the Gensokyo Defense Force. Alice's eyes widened when she saw the person conversing with her, coming to a stop in the sky above them.

"Marisa, I think that's him!"

Marisa peeked out from Alice's left side, swallowing as she confirmed that the boy was indeed who they were out to find.

"Shit! We're too late!"

----------

"A friend's place. He's also a member of the Defense Force. I told him I'd see him once I've joined."

"Why are you lying to me? If you value your life you will tell me the truth and only the truth."

He was terrified, and it wasn't just the priestess who could tell.

"Leave him alone," said a uniformed man from behind the two.

The girl drew a needle from thin air as she turned around, slashing vertically across his face. "Get out of my sight."

At the sight of the blood-red line that appeared on his cheek, Ryuya sprinted down the street as fast as he could, heavy breaths cramping his chest and stomach. He didn't dare look back, for the sight just might cause him to trip. His vision started to fade as the human body reached its limits, but even at his limit he couldn't avoid the seal shot in his direction that affixed itself to the back of his head, causing him to lose all voluntary control of the limbs below his neck.

"No!" shouted Marisa.

Picking him up by his arm, Reimu asked him one last time: "What are you hiding from me?"

"Let them live, and thousands of truly innocent lives will be lost."

"Alice. I want you to do something I think is right. No matter what you might think of it, do as I say."

"What is it?"

"Kill him."

Alice gasped. As a youkai she could effortlessly kill a human like Ryuya. Though she hadn't done so in several years, magic attacks this basic were second nature to her. Though she wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone that threatened her, the boy was anything but harmful.

"What are you waiting for?! Kill him!"

The magician twitched. Having lost his parents at such a young age, he was like her in many ways. But he was unable to see past the events that had scarred him, the human mind unable to rid itself of the strongest of emotions.

"I said kill him! Please!"

She watched the two of them, the boy unable to move as long as the seal was attached to his body.

"You killed my parents," he finally said. "That night, when you killed Rin, you killed my mother. I bet you didn't even know who you killed. You had never seen her, you didn't even know who she was. Why? What did she do?"

Reimu let go, his frozen body falling back onto the ground, head hanging down. She knelt before him, raising her gohei above the back of his neck with both hands.

"ALICE!!!"

"Please forgive me, Kanazawa."

A dark violet bolt shot out from her fingertip, disappearing into the boy's head. He shivered, fell toward the side, and began convulsing. Alice reached into her pocket and retrieved the radio, pressing down on the transmitter key.

"We're done."



Everything has a bad (陰, ying) and good (陽, yang) quality. In the right hands, few things can truly cause harm. It was once Alice realized what her killing Ryuya meant that she finally did it, saving him from the worse of two fates. Either way the damage has already been done, and it's up to Reimu to figure out whether his is an isolated incident or something of a much larger scale.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2017, 04:22:50 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2017, 04:15:48 pm »
Chapter 16 - Unforeseen Events that Change the World

The commander of the Gensokyo Defense Force was a man in his mid-50s whose presence outside of the headquarters would not go unnoticed. Tall and well-built, Sumio Muramatsu was among the few humans able to defend themselves with nothing but their body. Standing behind a desk, the devout Buddhist looked down at his superior, a girl whose age was less than half of his.

"Do you know why I am here today?"

It didn't take long for Reimu to notice that someone or something allowed Ryuya's soul to leave his body moments before she performed the ritual that would permanently seal it away.

"We're doing the best we can. We have a presence throughout the Human Village and we've been closely monitoring the gates. If anything were to happen we'd let you know right away."

"Then why are youkai working with humans to interfere with what has to be done?"

"Please explain."

She placed the card she held in her right hand on the desk. He shivered when he saw it, looking up as his heart rate rose.

"He just wanted to leave his old life behind. Do something useful, forget the memories that held him back."

"Ryuya Kanazawa will never forget what happened. I know this because I just talked to him. He is not someone I trust to carry out the duties of the Defense Force."

"Where is he?"

"Someone took his life just as I was about to prepare a proper departure for him."

"I am deeply sorry. Had I known about such matters I would have dealt with them right away."

"I want you to find them. Go door to door, search every corner, and do not leave a single one of them behind."

The man nodded.

"If anything of that kind happens again I will hold you responsible. Am I understood?"

There was a great deal of irony in the fact that a follower of Buddhism took orders from a Shinto priestess. Though he had not killed a single person his honesty directly caused the death of countless men, women, and children. It was for this reason that she kept him alive, treating him as nothing more than a tool. He didn't fear death, and though death was not what she planned for him should the time come, he didn't know any better.

"Yes. We will begin the search as soon as possible."

----------

Alice was still coming to terms with the fact she killed a defenseless human when yet another request to leave the Underground was given to her.

"I can't. Every time I go there I feel like I won't be able to return. I'm sorry, but I'm not fit to do that."

"What if we provide you with Shadows? All you have to do is make sure everything goes as planned."

Marisa's eyes widened.

"Tell me more."

"Shadows are the result of years of research and experimentation with magic. They're extremely versatile, allowing you to do anything you would normally be able to without fear of getting hurt or killed. Combined with an invisibility cloak, you're practically undetectable."

"What if she finds it?"

"She won't, and we will make sure that is the case."

"Then I'll do it."

"What about you?"

Alice took a deep breath. "I'll watch."

"Huh?"

"I can see what you see as you're using it."

"There's a lot you still don't know about. My job is to make those known to you so that you have everything you need when the time comes."

Marisa swallowed. Though she didn't like the youkai's tone of voice, she knew that there wasn't much time before her sky came crashing down. The magician retrieved a small glass sphere and three amulets from a box, placing the sphere on the ground in front of them.

"The Shadow works by temporarily linking your senses with that of an artificial soul. While in control of a Shadow your movement and speech will be projected onto it. You can break the link at any time by simply thinking that thought. This is an emergency maneuver, for it immediately and irrevocably destroys the Shadow. Is that clear?"

"Yes."

"Place this amulet on your chest. Once you do so you will be in control of the Shadow. Feel free to move; you'll realize that it's natural and effortless."

The spell glowed green as soon as Marisa affixed it to her chest. Her vision went blank, and when it returned she was standing where the sphere once was. She looked behind her and twitched when she saw her own body, standing still in a state of partial paralysis.

"Whoa."

"Pretty neat, right?"

Marisa took a step forward, reaching for her body. The pitch-black blob came in contact with the girl's skin, and in an instant the Shadow disappeared. Her legs went limp for a fraction of a second, short enough for her to regain her balance. The amulet's glow disappeared along with the inscriptions, leaving behind a blank piece of paper that fell toward the floor.

"As you just saw, by coming into physical contact with your own body you nullify the effects of the spell. The Shadow can therefore be reused, be it by yourself or anyone else."

----------

It was just past four when Hiroaki heard a knock on the door. Upon opening it he saw Marisa and Alice, a look of determination on their faces.

"How did it go?"

Chizuru ran to her father's side, Akira following her. Momoka stood beside her daughter, holding her son's hand in anticipation for what they would say.

"He's in a better place now."

"Huh?"

"I put him out of his misery before it was too late."

"Reimu had him," Marisa continued. "She wasn't even a second away from sealing him the same way she sealed countless others. Had we not acted quickly enough he would join them."

"Wrong place, wrong time," said the man. "With the festival so soon she's bound to spend time in the Village, whether it's to gather food and supplies or make sure everything goes as she's planned."

"It didn't hurt one bit," said Alice. "He felt nothing at all."

"Thank you," the girl replied. "Now he can finally be free."

Akira placed his hands on Chizuru's shoulders. Taking deep breaths, he was once again reminded of the way things were above the thick layer of earth separating him from the world he lived in. Having heard of the boy's outcome, Hiroaki felt at ease knowing that this imminent threat was gone. All that had to happen was for the Autumn Reitaisai to be -- for lack of a better term -- uneventful. Twice per year the humans and youkai of Gensokyo gathered at the Hakurei Shrine to partake in a day of feasts, storytelling, and performances. Twice per year the gatekeeper of Gensokyo convinced those gathered before her that their way of living was what the Gods intended. Most believed it. Some doubted it. Others saw straight past her words, fortunate enough to see reality for themselves. No matter what, they attended, knowing that staying behind meant taking one step closer to them being seen as a threat to be dealt with.

"I guess I'll be on my way now. That banquet's still being held tomorrow, right?"

"Yup!"

Marisa placed her hand on the lock, moving the digits into place. The dim light bulb swung from side to side, shadows moving left and right as if alive. She looked up at her bed, beside it the bed that would have been her father's.

"Why? Why did you have to do it? What did he ever do to you?"

Alice noticed that Marisa's hands had clenched into fists.

"I'm sorry. If only I came e-"

"NO! DON'T SAY THAT! IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!"

Marisa knew that better than anyone. Reimu laid out a trap for her, and like a fool among fools she fell right into it. Had Alice and Mima not found her she would not be alive this very moment.

"Stop. You're not you when you're like this. This is what she wants, what everyone told you not to be."

"She cut him in half, Alice. SHE FUCKING CUT HIM IN HALF!"

Alice felt a sudden sense of anger explode within her. "GET YOURSELF TOGETHER! YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW?!" She grabbed Marisa by the shoulder. "SHE KILLED MY MOTHER! YOU THINK I'LL EVER FORGET THAT?!"

Marisa grabbed Alice's hands, her own hands shaking uncontrollably. "Of course I know. Except what happened to you happened years ago. What happened to me... feels like it just happened yesterday. So tell me, how did it feel for you, huh?"

"Marisa, why are you doing this? Why are you acting like this all of a sudden?"

"Because I can't take it. I- I can't."

The girl broke down in tears.

"Get yourself together. Would your father have let you end up like this?"

"WHAT DO YOU KNOW?!"

"I don't know much, but I do know your father wanted you to be strong, to help those who couldn't help themselves."

"How? How can I help, knowing that I couldn't even save him? I was so close, yet she took him away right in front of me. I can't even save the last person I could call family. How can I save anyone?"

Marisa's words left Alice speechless. There was no denying it -- the two of them were useless when it came to what they set out to do. They would perish in the same manner as everyone else, doing everything in their power like an ant beneath one's thumb.

Alice looked Marisa in the eyes, speaking with a tone of voice that she had never heard from her before:

"We train. Just as how she trained to kill us all, we'll train to stop her from hurting anyone ever again."

"How do you plan on doing that?"

The two stared at each other, the voice echoing in their minds. Keine stood in the doorway, her right hand still holding the handle.

"Sorry to intrude, but I just couldn't stand by and let emotion take over the two of you."

Closing the door behind her, she continued her words of advice:

"Reimu is able to do what she does because she puts her duties above even the most basic of emotions. Like all her predecessors, she'd take her own life if it meant prolonging the existence of Gensokyo. You have people you care about as well as people who care about you. She doesn't. You have a choice in how you want to live your life. She doesn't. You are not like her, and you do not want to be like her."

The light flickered, accompanied by a brief change in the low-pitched hum coming from somewhere in the distance.

----------

"Asami? Tomoya? Are you listening? It's me, Kaneda. The Defense Force is all over the place. I don't know what's going on, they're going door to door looking for something."

"Tamura here. It looks like Reimu wants to make sure everything goes well on Sunday. If they come to your place just act calm as always. It's not like this is the first time they've done this."

There was a low-pitched hum that could be heard no matter what the frequency counter showed. The beep of the channel marker fought to make itself heard, nearly trapped within the magnetic field produced by the energized slabs of steel.

"This is Tsukimiya. We are aware of the situation. Set your radio to auto-transmit at full power. If anything happens we will act accordingly."

A click came over their headsets.

"Otsuka, is that you?"

The sound of footsteps lost itself in the interference.

"If you're listening, please respond."

"I'm fine. Sorry to keep you waiting."

The plan of action for the three was something very simple yet highly effective. All it took was an invisibility cloak and a straight face to convince the unwanted visitors that nothing out of the ordinary was taking place. This worked again and again, to the point that nobody gave things a second thought. The three would wrap the device in a piece of the magical cloth, hide it underneath their bed in the corner of the room, and watch the inspectors leave shortly afterward. Had Reimu not threatened Sumio, this would have been how today's search ended. Convinced that he was in danger, the man requested a thorough inspection of the Human Village, ordering his forces to look through every drawer and container. Noriyuki Kaneda knew something was wrong when the men tasked with the inspection of his house seemed to take their time searching through the room. He held his breath as a young man in his late twenties lifted the bedsheet to look at the space beneath it, only to see nothing but the floor. A spider made its way across the floor, its large black abdomen catching his attention. The boy watched as it seemed to fly, crawling on an invisible incline for just a few seconds before moving back onto the wooden panel. He reached forward, placing his hand in the path the arachnid took.

Noriyuki felt his heart sink. He looked at his wife, her hands over her mouth, staring at the scene unfolding in front of them. The boy pulled the cloak toward him, revealing the device it hid.

"Come over here."

The two men stopped what they were doing and made their way to where he was, looking at the device underneath the bed.

"What is this?" one of them asked.

"It's just a machine," he replied. "Made by humans for the good of humans."

The boy picked up the invisibility cloak. "Why were you hiding it?"

"Because some of your kind don't know how to keep a secret. You and I, we're both human. We both have lives to live, and we all don't want to die. Let's just say that machine is one of the reasons I'm alive today."

One of the men stepped toward the door.

"Stop," said the woman. "Do not leave this house."

"It's not our choice. I don't want to do this either, but my life depends on me doing what I've been told to do."

"You're wrong. You do have a choice. We can help you if you cooperate and think things through. You do not want to leave this house, because you know full well what our outcome will be if the wrong people find out about this?"

"Just what is this thing?"

"You really want to know, huh? I'll show you, then."

The man picked up the radio and placed it atop the table.

"I use this to make weather forecasts. You see, when it's sunny, like it currently is outside, you hear this sound..."

He flipped a lever and turned a knob, knowing that the other parties would stay silent. If luck was on his side, similar things would not be taking place in his colleagues' homes. A humming sound played over the speaker before he dialed down the volume to silence it.

"If it's cloudy you'll hear something else, and when a storm's about to come you'll know right away."

There was a brief moment of silence as everyone surveyed the situation.

"Kaneda, is it? Earlier you said that we're both human, that we all don't want to die, right?"

"Yes."

"Well you see, we're here not by choice, but because the Hakurei shrine maiden's been looking for whoever's been using youkai magic in the Human Village. Now you know what she's like. Unpredictable, violent... inhumane. She'd believe that this machine you have here is a youkai tool, right?"

Noriyuki nodded.

"And nothing you say will convince her otherwise. She'd surely praise me if I told her about that, but I don't want to see you and your family suffer for what seems so harmless."

"What do you want?"

"Ten thousand. Ten thousand and we'll leave here without a word."

"You can't promise that."

"Huh?"

"I'll give you all I have, and when she threatens to seal you what the hell can money do?! I don't for one second believe you'll keep your mouth shut when she's moments from doing to you what she's done to so many others."

"Why would we be doing this for you if we won't live up to our part of the deal?"

"Given the choice to live or die, I'd pick to live. I'm sure you'd do the same."

The man reached into his pant pocket and took out a knife, adrenaline shooting throughout his body.

"If I kill you you'll have a chance at reincarnation. If she seals you you'll be in unimaginable pain for eternity. I don't want to do this but I have no choice. Three of you for the six of us is a worthy sacrifice."

He lunged at the man closest to the door, slitting his throat. The remaining two backed away as he locked the door, running forward to stab another in the chest. He fell toward the floor, Noriyuki kneeling down to do the same to him as he did with his first victim. At last was the youngest of the three, petrified with fear as the man approached him.

"Do you have any family," he asked.

The boy nodded. "My mother, my father, and a younger brother."

"Go," he said. "Spend the rest of your life with them. You have a life of your own to live, don't waste it in the gods-damned Defense Force!"

He opened the door and pointed outward.

"I SAID GO! GET OUT OF HERE BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND!"

The uniformed man ran out the door. Noriyuki made his way to the radio, dropping his weapon on the table beside it. With the blood of two innocent men on his hands he had only one option left.

"I can't stay here anymore. How do I get to the Underground?"

"There's two entrances in the northern area. One's in the Watanabe residence and the other is in the Fukuda residence. Bring your radio, and allow them to speak with me as soon as you arrive. I recommend you wait until late at night if possible. Bring only what you absolutely need, and set a fire next to the bodies before you leave."

"Got it."

"Be careful. I hope to see you soon."

----------

As the day came to an end Marisa found herself in need of food. Together with Alice and Keine, she stopped at the oldest establishment within the Underground, a tavern among the stores and eateries that made up the small commercial district across from the rows of housing. It was there that she came to know the group of humans who had only been in Gensokyo for twelve days.

"All I remember was that the bus fell off the bridge. I nearly drowned, and the next thing I know I wake up in a forest along with a few of us who were also on that bus."

"For a moment I thought it was a dream. Others asked if we were in heaven."

"Or hell."

"If it wasn't for her hell would be where we ended up."

"Who knew there'd be running water and electricity down here? For some sealed-off reenactment of nineteenth-century Japan I'm surprised that there's all this late-twentieth-century stuff."

"To be honest I'm also surprised," said Marisa. "I guess you people just can't stand having to live in a place that different from where you came from."

As always, she was curious about what life was like on the other side of the barrier, a world that she was only beginning to understand. Tonight she would forget about the things that took place elsewhere to enjoy her new life to its fullest. Full and mildly intoxicated, she returned home and slept soundly for the first time in weeks. Shops closed for the day, parents and children reunited as shifts ended, and a family of six found themselves in a place they couldn't even have dreamed of.



Just because the sun rose today does not mean it will rise tomorrow. You may say that it will because it has for the past however-many days, but that still does not mean it will rise tomorrow. Few things are certain, and even when it seems like one action will lead to an outcome things might not end up the way we predict. It's impossible to account for everything, but it is definitely possible to adapt to changes that throw off even the most accurate predictions.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 04:17:30 pm by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2017, 02:09:05 am »
Chapter 17 - Exposed

"...As the ninety-third graduating class of this prestigious institution, you have completed an education like none other. Whether you end up a scientist, an engineer, a medical professional, or perhaps start your own business, on behalf of all our staff I wish you great success in your endeavors."

The principal bowed to the sound of applause as the auditorium lit up with the flashes of cameras. Boys and girls, diploma in hand, gathered together as the Class of 2010 for one last time. It was a moment of celebration for many across the country, a step in the path to the fulfillment of their dreams.

"Have fun, but most of all stay safe~!" said Fuuko Kurosaki.

"Don't worry, I'll be home before midnight!"

With his classmates in the car, Akira waved to his parents before approaching the exit lane of the parking lot. The music faded, a chime sounded, and a voice played through the sound system:

"Traffic congestion in one and three-quarter kilometers... Estimated slowdown forty-seven minutes."

There was only one route to get to where they wanted to go, so he had no choice but to join the hundreds of cars stuck in the late-night commute.

"Turn left in five hundred meters."

"What?!"

Akira glanced at the display panel. Though the status line showed a left turn, there was no highlighted route on the map. Furthermore, he had never entered a destination into the navigation system, so why did it just tell him to make a turn?

"Must be a malfunction..."

"Turn left."

He came to a stop at the traffic light and tapped the display.

Disconnect?

A been sounded as he pressed on the button to disable the navigation system, the map disappearing to show the controls for the CD player. The traffic light turned green, and he stepped on the accelerator to continue forward.

What happened next he thought he knew. From his right a speeding car rushed toward him, clearly having ran the red light. He swerved to the left, the car barely missing his to continue forward as its engine roared. Stopping at the side of the road, the eighteen-year-old realized he had almost lost his life.

"You all okay?"

Coming to a stop after moving some distance, he looked behind him to see his friends shocked but seemingly uninjured.

"What was that?"

"Probably a drunk driver."

His mind was still spinning from what had happened when it dawned upon him. He looked at the display to his left, the track timer counting up.

"If I had turned left like it said this wouldn't have happened..."

Dismissing the events as pure coincidence, he continued forward once more. Though this was a street he had never been to he knew the city well enough to make it back to the road that would lead him to his destination even at night.

A cold chill like nothing he had ever felt settled in around him as his consciousness slipped away, his ears ringing ahd his vision fading. When he woke up he would still be in his car, the front wheels sunk deep into wet soil as they spun.

"What the hell's going on?"

----------

Akira Kurosaki reached for his cell phone atop the bedstand. It was just past seven in the morning, the time he usually woke up at. Behind the glass display panel were the smiling faces of his mother and father, the moment forever captured as a digitized photograph among the hundreds that reminded him of the world he longed to return to. Perhaps his parents had finally moved on. Or maybe they couldn't bear the loss of their child and left the family to break apart. He thought about the younger sister he left behind who would be starting her last year in high school, whether her academic performance had improved to the point that his parents would no longer berate her. A lot would change in five years, and he knew he could only make guesses as to what happened while he was gone.

"Good morning," said Chizuru Ichimura, sitting up next to him.

"Good morning."

The girl looked at the device in the boy's hand, turning her head toward his.

"I'm sure they'd want to see you."

The display timed out, filling the area around them with darkness.

"Right."

Though there were no rules prohibiting such an act, it was rare for a native of Gensokyo to allow the marriage of his daughter to a man from the other side of the Great Hakurei Barrier. Those that did often preferred outsiders to natives due to their supposed freedom in the outside world making them more human. Of course, this also meant that they knew a thing or two about society on the other side, knowledge that could land them in serious trouble should they choose to express it in certain ways.

"Up already?"

Momoka got up and made her way to the front window, pulling the blinds to the sides. The dim streetlights cast their orange glow into the room, and if one were to look at the bulbs from the corner of their vision they would notice it erratically brightening and darkening. She struck a match and lit the lantern hanging next to the door, taking it with her to the kitchenette. With the voltage running through the wires at less than half the normal amount the fluorescent lamp that hung from the ceiling would not light. By the time breakfast -- steamed rice and soup -- had been made the rest of the household had awakened from their sleep.

"Given the option, would you go with me to the place I'm from?"

"I'm not sure," Hiroaki answered. "I guess I would if the others did as well."

"I'd definitely go," said Tetsuro after swallowing his mouthful of soup. "It would be interesting to see what the modern world is like."

"A world made for humans is definitely going to be a lot different from this world that we share with youkai," Momoka added. "There are a lot of things they have outside, but at the same time it seems that there are a lot more problems they have to deal with on a daily basis. Sure, they aren't in mortal danger like us, but from what I've heard they possess weapons capable of bringing the entire world to an end."

Akira spoke quietly. "That's actually not too far from the truth. In the Outside World humans have separated themselves further than ever before. They've fought devestating wars where irresponsible parties utilized weapons that killed tens of thousands of innocent lives, and certain groups of people have made it their goal to wreak havoc and terrorize the world."

"It can't be worse than being sealed in a state of pain for eternity, right?"

"No," he said, looking into the woman's eyes. "Even the most devastating weapon they have can't be as bad as that. In fact you might not even feel anything should you be killed by something like that. Just a flash and you'd be gone, turned into the very elements that make you up and scattered toward every direction."

"An atom bomb," muttered Hiroaki. "The cause of the abundance of flowers in the sixtieth year. 1945, right? That was when it happened?"

Akira nodded.

"Though it may not seem like it the history books of Gensokyo hide from us the history of the world. It's thanks to people like you that we now understand how close we really are to the outside, that even though we are separated by an inpenetrable barrier we are not separated from what happens out there."

It was half past eight when they finished what remained of their meal in silence, the sound of utensils scraping on bowls the only significant sound. Hiroaki washed the dishes, Momoka changed out Mayu's apron, and Akira picked up the phone to confirm his reservation at the Underground's largest restaurant. The day was proceeding just the way it should, and nobody wanted anything different.

----------

Sumio stood before the charred remains of what was once the Kaneda residence. By the time the Defense Force was made aware of the fire it had already consumed the entire structure, taking over an hour to extinguish. The blaze destroyed every trace of evidence, turning the bodies into ashes and the knife into liquified metal that fused with the earth. Without a way to differentiate the ashes of bones with that of wood it could only be assumed that the Kanedas took their lives along with that of the three missing men. They had to be hiding something, and it was likely that the inspectors found whatever that was, necessitating that this secret be taken with them to the afterlife. He knew this much, and he concluded that there would be no harm in sending informants to the Hakurei Shrine. A woman observed his every action from behind the window of a tea house, walking out shortly after the men departed. By the time she returned home it would have been less than three minutes since they departed from the Human Village, giving responsible parties ample time to catch up to them.

"This is Tamura. The Defense Force just sent a group to the Hakurei Shrine."

"Got it," said Asami. "We'll be dispatching Shadows to intercept them."

There was no shortage of men and women willing to take a few minutes out of their day to contribute to the Underground's continued existence while having a chance at earning some momentary fame. One by one, they donned their invisibility cloak and stepped into the magic circle to enter the world above them. It didn't just seem unfair -- it was unfair -- but when the alternative was to sit back and be revealed to a human weapon with innumerable gods at her beck and call playing fair wasn't even a consideration.

In accordance with the standards of the Gensokyo Defense Force, the group sent to inform Reimu Hakurei of the latest incident to take place within the Human Village consisted of twenty, each equipped with a crossbow, twenty bolts forged from steel, and five youkai-sealing amulets prepared by the shrine maiden herself. Though this was more than enough to exterminate even an atypically large pack of youkai, they were no match for Shadows that remained under the control of their operator as long as their eye remained intact. Furthermore, their sense of pain was completely independent from that of the operator, allowing for not only the sustainment of severe injury but the exertion of strength magnitudes beyond the limits of the human body. It was a culmination of joint efforts between human and youkai, an amazing product of research in magic, biology, and physics alike, and it was being used to its fullest in an attempt to preserve their one-of-a-kind world that adhered to neither Gensokyo nor the one beyond its barrier. The two opposing groups met each other at a location less than five minutes from the foot of the stone steps leading to the shrine grounds, an advantageous position for the larger of them.

"I hope she's not gonna get too ticked off when we tell her what happened," said one of the men.

"I wouldn't count on that if I were you," said the woman in front of him. "In fact I'm worried about what she'd do to Sumio once she hears of it."

"What's the worst that could happen?" said another woman. "You do know she's just threatening him like she always does, right?"

The sound of bones breaking stopped the remaining nineteen in their tracks as one of the men in the back fell to the ground, his neck wrung by what was clearly superhuman strength. As they reached for the bolts they carried in a sack hanging from their shoulder there was another crack, yet another one of their own falling down. By the time they fired in the direction of the slain man the six Shadows were already behind them, taking this time to add one more to the body count. The last thing they saw before their soul detached from their body was a pair of hands grab onto their neck from above them, crushing and twisting it in their grip. With three down in less than a minute the remaining men and women huddled in groups of three or four, their backs turned toward each other in an attempt to gain the widest field of view.

"Somebody! Help!" yelled one of the men right as he died in the same manner as the two standing less than an arm's distance from him. This attracted a group of eleven youkai who took the desperate cry of help as a sign of weakness, surrounding the nine men and five women. The Shadows, now hovering above them, watched the fourteen easily overwhelm the beasts of the forest. The man that placed the seal he held in his hand on the last of them barely had a chance to walk away before he fell into its remains, blood mixing with blood. Whatever was killing them right in front of their eyes wasn't affiliated with the youkai that had appeared in any way.

"This must be the Gods' wrath," a man spoke to nobody in particular. "They realize the consequences of what we are about to do and now they're trying to stop us!"

Hearing that, the five tasked with making sure what happened in the Human Village stayed in the Human Village made a mental note to leave him alive, for he was the first to show signs of hesitation toward delivering their message.

"Gods, you say? Which Gods? Aren't we receiving their blessings by helping the shrine maiden?"

"That's a lie!" he said. "And I sure hope you don't actually believe in her lies!"

"What are you doing in the Defense Force?" asked a woman as she stepped toward him. Stopped in her tracks, she let out a muffled grunt as her neck was visibly crushed by an invisible force, her lifeless body slumping downward. At this moment the operators felt like gods, playing along with these men and women unfortunate enough to be a victim of false truths and dead ends. Two men ran forward in the direction of the shrine when their heads were grabbed by two pairs of invisible hands, thrown at each other with such high force that their faces were left bloody as their noses were pushed into their skull. In this moment the five tasked with stopping those men and women were having fun pretending that they were indeed a fictitious form of divine intervention created by those helpless enough to let their minds wander there. Among the five Shadows was a sixth, standing by to watch the one-sided battle unfold. Its operator was Tomoya Sumiyoshi, his job in many ways much less harmful on the mind than that of those sitting next to him. In one hand he held the teleportation tracer that would allow them to easily return to the Underground. In the other hand he held a radio-beacon, a simple device that sent a distinctive falling tone on a frequency monitored by the magicians that would initiate the teleportation upon its reception.

"Seriously, what are you doing in the Defense Force?"

The man flinched at Tomoya's voice, looking behind him to see the bodies of those he once walked side by side with.

"Who are you?!" he shouted, expecting a response. He angled his crossbow toward the sky and fired, sending the projectile flying forward into the air before dropping the weapon.

"Answer my question: What are you doing in the Defense Force?"

"It's the only way to guarantee that the Hakurei shrine maiden doesn't kill me."

"So you'd betray your fellow humans for an empty promise?"

"I've never killed anyone. Not before I joined, and not after I joined."

"But you would have told her about what happened in the Human Village?"

"I wasn't going to tell her anything. I was just following orders."

"Orders to put countless lives in danger?"

"I'm sorry, I really don't want to do this. I just want to go home. I haven't seen my mother in a while, and she's probably thinking about me right now."

"Don't move."

He picked the man up from under his arms through the invisibility cloak, lifting his feet up off the ground.

"What's your name? Where do you live?"

"GET OUT OF THE WAY, TOMOYA!"

Before he could react to the sudden outburst several steel needles shot through his Shadow, ripping through the stomach of the man he held. Blood sprayed onto the cloak, its magical properties erased by divine force to leave behind torn shreds of cloth that blew in the wind.

"My name," he said between wheezes, "is Kyukichi... Watanabe. Tell my mother to look for me in the afterlife."

Tomoya nodded, holding back tears that could only come from knowing that his soul would never see its rest.

"I will. Yes, I will."

A barrage of sealing amulets sailed through Kyukichi's body, setting it ablaze with a bright blue flame. The journalist looked into his eyes as they burned away to leave behind a pool of blood that vaporized before the earth could absorb it. Arms still outstretched, he dropped what he held in his hands and turned around to charge at the priestess. It was an action originating from pure rage, an innate response to having witnessed such injustice. An explosion of glass shards captured the remaining operators' attention as his Shadow's eye was shattered, the needle launched forward with such high speed that it pierced through the trunk of a tree to embed itself deeply within that of another one. Tomoya regained control of his body, toppling backward to fall out of his seat and onto the floor, the back of his hands covering his eyes. Cold sweat ran down his back, and his greatly-elevated heart rate made it hard to even breathe. Those still sitting next to him aborted, severing the magical link between them and their Shadow before she could do anything more. They looked at each other, convinced that today would be their last.

"It'll be okay," he thought to himself. "They've had over twenty years to find us. If they don't this time they'll never."

As foolish as that was, this was what he said when he returned to the communications center. As he desperately tried convincing the rest that there was nothing to be fearful of in an attempt to ease his own worries a green light on the plotter began to blink, the sound startling everyone who heard it. For just under ten seconds not a word was spoken, for nothing needed to be said. With a click the pen dropped into its holder and the paper advanced to reveal the truth that he had so desperately tried to ignore.

03 2015-08-29 14:29:52

----------

The banquet held for Akira and Chizuru's wedding took place in the Underground's go-to establishment for formal occasions. The dining hall allowed for sixty guests across ten tables, and a thermoelectric nuclear generator was connected to the building's power distribution terminal to provide it with the level of brightness that would usually light up its interior had a lockdown not been taking place. Speaking into a microphone wired to a portable stereo, the manager of the restaurant gave the speech he usually gave for events like these:

"Today we gather to celebrate the beginning of a new family, the beginning of an establishment between man and woman that lasts a lifetime. Akira Kurosaki, Chizuru Ichimura, may your future be one of happiness and prosperity, one of understanding and compassion!"

Flashes of cameras lit up, the red indicator light of a videocamera blinked, and the sound of applause filled the room as Akira placed the gold ring on Chizuru's finger. The two looked up and smiled as the lights outside went completely dark, turning on with its normal brightness five seconds later. A harsh buzzing sound tore through the air, three furious blasts with an intensity nobody had ever heard before. The voice of a terrified Asami Tsukimiya came through the speakers, shaky and filled with haste:

"The entrance to the Underground Tunnel has been breached. I repeat, the entrance to the Underground Tunnel has been breached. All residents immediately seek shelter. Secure the entrance if you are capable of doing so."

Their initial reaction was panic.

Then they realized what had happened, what was happening, and what would happen.

Their sky was falling, and they could only hope for a miracle to occur.



With the worst outcome of all mere minutes from becoming reality those whose lives are at stake will defend it by any means necessary. Boundaries will break, rules will be bent, and the most unlikely of alliances will be forged in preparation for a war that determines the fate of Gensokyo itself. Will Marisa prove once and for all that it is time to let go of the past and bring about the beginning of a new way of life, or will Reimu undo decades of change and return things to the way they once were?
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2017, 12:49:50 am »
Chapter 18 - You Can't Run from Reality

"Tell me everything you know."

Sanae stood in front of Aya, a copy of the Bunbunmaru in her right hand.

"She made me write it. I had no choice."

"Where's the note?"

"What note?"

"The suicide note?"

"I'm sorry, I don't know of anything like that."

The girl bit her lip, an intense feeling on uneasiness manifesting itself within.

"What happened? What did Reimu tell you?"

"I shouldn't have asked her," said the youkai. "I heard from the humans that she killed her father so I went to the shrine to ask her what that was all about. That was when she told me to write the article."

"That Marisa killed herself?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Huh?"

"Marisa would never do such a thing. She wouldn't kill herself just because of something like that!"

"She went to her house. She found a suicide note. That's all she told me."

"Thank you."

Sanae left quickly, her heart pounding.

"How could she kill herself?"

To lose a close family member was something everyone dealt with differently. When she made the choice to be taken into Gensokyo it was as if her family died, as if they were taken away from her. Knowing that they continued to live their lives made her feel better, but in effect she would never see them again. Did Marisa see her father's death with her own eyes? What exactly happened to her after that? These questions overwhelmed her as she made her way to the Forest of Magic, an attack from a group of fairies taking her by surprise. Startled, she fired a narrow line of amulets back, sending them tumbling toward the canopy.

----------

Though Marisa had never heard such a sound before she immediately knew what it meant, her heart skipping a beat when she heard the announcement that followed. What happened next happened so quickly that she could only follow in the footsteps of everyone else who hurried into the kitchen below the restaurant, more than seventy men and women gathered in the torch-lit enclosure.

"It'll be okay," Chizuru reassured Akira. "Everything will be okay."

The boy was genuinely scared for his life, a common feeling shared by everyone else around him. The boy that acted so confident in front of his friends ever since he found himself in the sealed world felt so hopeless that the words of the girl next to him failed to elicit any kind of response. For those who had spent just over a week away from the world they came from there was confusion that led to horror as they came to terms with the very likely possibility of becoming subject to a state of neither life nor death, something they would rather not think about but couldn't get out of their minds.

Keine was the last one to enter, closing the door behind her.

"Stay here," said Marisa, looking back to make sure Alice did as she was told.

"This is not good," said the were-hakutaku. "We need to get these people away from here before it's too late."

"Can't you hide them like you did during the Imperishable Night incident?"

"I can try, but I'm still recovering from what happened at the schoolhouse."

"Do it."

----------

If it weren't for the two men holding her by her shoulders Yukiko Watanabe would have tripped and fallen to her death long ago. More than halfway down the staircase, she began to feel a sense of betrayal to not just those beyond the door at the end of the descent, but to all of what could be considered living. Just yesterday she was telling a young boy what it meant to be human, what it meant to fight until the very end. But she had given up, allowing fear to give way to compliance. Here, several hundred meters below, there was nowhere to run. Here, in this narrow passageway, there was nowhere to hide. At the slightest hint of retaliation the girl in front of her could turn around and end her life. She thought about Kyukichi, what he would do upon hearing of what happened to her, for she knew she would be killed along with everyone else who lived in the hidden sanctuary. She only wished that they wouldn't hate her in the afterlife, that they would forgive her for being so weak and failing to fulfill her promise to them.

"What's going on? Why is it not here?"

At the bottom was a dead end, an empty space surrounded by earth, the only light coming from the torches carried by the two young men that had carried her down. Reimu turned around, a look of disbelief turning into one of frustration as she walked toward the woman.

"What are you doing?!"

"Nothing," she said, terrified at the shrine maiden's sudden outburst. "Please, I didn't do anything. I already told you, I'm human."

"You said that there is a door here, am I correct?"

"I know nothing of its disappearance. There are youkai there that may have cast a spell to hide it away, I didn't do anything!"

"Then why did you tell me that only humans live there?"

Yukiko couldn't respond. Of course youkai lived in the Underground, both those that were born as one and those that became one. She thought that by telling her that she would leave them alone, that she would not attempt to harm all the innocent souls seeking refuge from a world they were unfit to be a part of.

"WHY?!"

"You aren't going to kill them, are you?"

"What if I do? What are you going to do?"

A flash of light lit up the surroundings as a dense line of amulets shot forward, embedding themselves in the tightly-packed soil.

----------

Keine fell toward the ground, an intense chill running through her body.

"Keine!"

Marisa caught the half-youkai in her arms, her body abnormally cold to the touch.

"What's wrong?"

Behind her the thick slab of metal groaned, having taken another barrage of ofuda.

"If she breaks through... leave me here... and run."

"You know I can't do that."

Keine smiled, suddenly convulsing. The sound of metal tearing resonated as needles tore through the door, a crack beginning to form in its center.

"Marisa..."

The girl looked behind her, an army of ten magicians standing by with barrier spells. There was no guarantee that they would be able to defend against the priestess' attacks.

"Don't... let her... see you."

With those last words Keine went limp in her arms.

----------

"There it is."

Reimu slashed through the air in front of her to open a barrier from which a black-and-white orb emerged, striking it with the end of her gohei. The door gave, shattering from the force that followed the damage it took. Bright sparks lit up the interior of the generator room as relays clicked in response to the opening of the high-voltage circuit, restoring power to the Underground. An alarm sounded, its two-tone blare creating a ghostly echo.

"NOW!"

One after another spells were cast, the thin scraps of paper in the hands of the magicians glowing before they disappeared to give way to a flash before the opening. Still lying on the ground, Keine looked up at Reimu as she steadily walked forward, shattering the ten-layer barrier with a single slash of her purification rod.

"What did I say about letting something like this happen again?"

She walked past her, toward the magicians, drawing a bundle of needles in her right hand.

"Get away from them," Keine muttered, propping herself up with her two hands. "It's me you're after."

White smoke rose from their wounds as they fell, dying the carpeted ground in crimson.

"So this is what you've been hiding from me."

"Don't you dare, Hakurei. There are humans here who have lived here their entire life. Humans you forced to stay in Gensokyo, humans who had perfect lives in the outside world before you took that away from them!"

Reimu kicked Keine in her right arm, breaking it in the process.

"Listen, youkai. I will not allow anyone to disturb the delicate balance that holds Gensokyo together. When we last met I warned you not to let anything like this happen again. Was that not enough? When we last met I could have easily exterminated you but I let you go. So why must you, knowing full well what the consequences will be, keep up in your effort to corrupt that which I try so hard to maintain?"

"Isn't it ironic that a youkai like me cares more about the lives of humans than a human like you?"

A loud crack sounded as a needle pierced the hand she held herself up with, embedding itself in the ground. The were-hakutaku collapsed, her arm burning as smoke blurred her vision. The shrine maiden walked away, fading into the gray, leaving her to be consumed in an eternity of pain.

"In the end I am just a youkai, and not even a whole one at that. Is that why I feel emotion toward others? Is that why I devoted my life to protecting the weak? This is what I will be remembered for. This is what parents will tell their children, and this is what they'll tell their children. That I, Keine Kamishirasawa, lived as a youkai to protect them until the very end. Knowing this, the pain I feel means nothing, even if there is no end to it. Marisa, Alice, please do not die. Please do all you can to make sure those you care about, no matter who they are, find eternal happiness. Don't feel sad for me, don't let that stop you from doing what you can do."

----------

"So there really is no way to leave this place?"

"Why does a place like this even exist?"

"Can't they locate this place via satellite?"

"Maybe she'll understand things better if we tell her what our intentions actually are."

Marisa burst into the kitchen, panting heavily. All eyes looked in her direction as she took small steps forward, her legs shaking as if they could collapse any moment. Upon reaching Alice she grabbed the youkai's hands and held them tightly, her heart thumping in her chest.

"Keine... She's probably gone now."

"No," muttered Alice. "WHY?!"

"We've gotta get out of this place. Everyone. We've gotta get out of here before it's too late."

Still holding on to Alice with her right hand, she looked at Chizuru. The girl was no doubt scared, petrified as her parents sat next to her.

"C'mon. If you stay here she'll find you sooner or later. We need to get out of the Underground."

"Do you know where she is?" asked Hiroaki.

"Not far from here. Which is why we need to hurry."

Sweat was dripping down her forehead, for she had never felt this terrified her entire life. This wasn't the Human Village where she could fly away. She didn't even have her broomstick with her. If Reimu got even a glance of her she would relentlessly hunt her down in this closed space, sending anyone in her way to a fate worse than death. She felt sick to the stomach, as if she was going to faint, and even then she still opened the door to set out into what was slowly becoming a graveyard.

The escape hatch had already been opened when she got there.

"This exit leads to somewhere outside the Human Village, right?"

Hiroaki nodded, giving Marisa all she needed to continue forward. With all the men, women, and children unsure of whether they would live to see the next day behind her she climbed the narrow winding staircase, the only thing in her mind the light that would greet her at the end of the ascent.

"So this is really it, huh? Destroying almost thirty years of work within hours? Taking the lives of anyone who knows things she doesn't want them knowing? Sounds like something she would do."

It all felt like it happened before, so why was Marisa so scared. When she descended into Makai in Reimu's footsteps did she know who that girl was? Would she have known that this was what she was capable of? No matter where she took the few that made it out of the Underground they would not be safe for as long as they lived within the barrier separating them from the world they truly belonged in.

----------

"No, that can't be..."

Sanae gasped when she saw the girl standing in the field, looking down at person after person emerging from an opening beneath the ground. She wasn't in her usual attire, but there was no mistaking that girl.

"Marisa! Over here!"

The blonde-haired girl looked up at the sound of her name, staring at the direction from where it came. She ran forward, stopping in front of her midway between where they had been.

"Help" was the first word to come out of Marisa.

"What's going on over there?"

"Sanae, we need to get these people as far away from here as possible."

"What? Why?"

"I'll tell you later, but right now we need to get them away from here."

There was an element of haste in her voice, barely noticeable under the fear she exuded. Sanae knew what Reimu had been doing in the Human Village, so were these people running from her? That question was answered when Marisa pointed to the gohei in her right hand, telling her to put it away.

"Don't wanna give them the wrong idea."

"You're out of your mind."

"Maybe. Maybe I've already gone crazy. But no matter what these people need to be taken somewhere else."

There was also a sense of urgency in the girl's voice, something that she rarely had. The usually laid-back Marisa Kirisame was in a state she rarely ever saw her in and that made her feel as if something could happen to her as well.

"There's gotta be a hundred people here. Where can you take that many people?"

"I don't know," she responded. "I just don't want them to end up like my father."

Sanae's presence initially shocked many of those that stood in the wide open field. More than an handful stuck out like a sore thumb among the humans of Gensokyo, donning clothes obviously originating from the modern world.

"I'm actually not native to Gensokyo. Does Nagano sound familiar to any of you?"

----------

"These people... For how long have they lived here?"

Reimu walked past row after row of houses. A single anti-magic seal was all it took to nullify the spell holding it shut, revealing a couple and a girl no older than twenty. Though small, the dwelling was well-furnished and had obviously been properly maintained. Food lined a shelf next to a brick stove, and two beds sat on a deck propped up by wooden supports. A glass bulb hung from the ceiling, a glowing yellow coil suspended in its center lighting up the interior.

"Morita," she said, holding a bundle of six amulets to her left in preparation to be thrown forward. "Do as I say if you do not want to die."

"What do you want?" said the man, standing up with his arms held up around his head.

"I want you to tell me why you are here."

The woman answered after an uncomfortable three seconds of silence from her husband, coming to his defense at the sight of the priestess taking a step toward him.

"We just wanted the best for our child," she said quietly. "We wanted her to live without anything to be scared of."

"Scared of what?"

The words that came out of the woman's mouth would determine the fate of her and her family. There was not a single person left in the Human Village that would dare speak out against her, but there was no guaranteeing that those in this underground hideout would know the difference between a correct answer and one that would lead to their sealing.

"Every day we hear news of youkai eating humans, youkai causing deadly incidents, and even humans killing other humans. When the youkai want prey they come to the Human Village, and when they come someone is always taken away."

"Who told you that?"

"No one in particular. I just hear others talking about it."

"I want names. Who told you that?"

"You're going to kill everyone here, are you?"

"Don't do it," said the girl sitting next to her. "Please don't hurt my parents. They risked their lives to come here for me, because they wanted me to..."

Reimu saw the reflection in her eyes, turning around just in time to cleave the chair coming down at her. With the gohei still above her she slashed downward to send a line of amulets flying forward. An ear-piercing scream came from behind her as they cut through the man, sending his torn-apart body toward the wall with considerable force.

"You people are truly hopeless, thinking you can just do as you wish without regard for how it will affect the continued existence of everything I try so hard to preserve."

"We didn't do anything..." said the woman between deep breaths. "We lived here peacefully, until you came to take that away from us. Why must you do this? What did we ever do to you?"

"He tried to kill me. I was only defending myself. Tell me, what was going through your mind when you made the choice to come here?"

"I... I was hoping to avoid this day by coming here. I was hoping you'd be different, that you wouldn't carry on your wretch of a mother's legacy. But now I see you're no different from her. You're still so young, yet it seems that you have taken away just as many lives as she has. You sicken me, Hakurei shrine maiden. Gensokyo would be better off without someone like you. This world where human and youkai are starting to get along no longer needs you to separate them."

She raised the amulets in front of her face, the paper seals glowing before disappearing to give way to hundreds more behind her.

"Human and youkai getting along? Even if that were the case what are they going to do? Will they be able to defy the Gods as they are swept away in divine light?"

Looking the priestess in the eyes as she pointed her gohei toward her, the woman smiled and spoke as if there was nothing to be afraid of.

"Just wait and see, Hakurei. When that day comes you will remember my words and regret everything you've done."

"Get out of my sight and burn for eternity!"

Reimu channeled spiritual energy into a narrow column that engulfed the woman and child, whispering an all too familiar incantation to herself. Amulets dyed with blood-red inscriptions shot forward to shred the bodies beyond recognition, leaving behind mangled wood that revealed the earth underneath. The woman's words repeated themselves in her mind, the prospect of a combined human-youkai insurrection troubling her greatly. She stopped at nothing to make certain that it would not happen. It didn't matter whether it was a human or youkai. She couldn't care less whether she stood before an elderly woman or a boy who had just learned to call for his parents. Now was not the time to let anything slip by. Whatever this place was it had to be destroyed, its existence scrubbed from reality.

----------

A frantic knock on the reinforced locked door of the communications center went unanswered for thirty-seven long seconds before it was opened, a terrified man stammering to the woman who caught him in her arms.

"Tell everyone to evacuate," he said, cold sweat running down his back. "Before they all die."

Tomoya's heart began racing. This was no time to relax, for there was real and present danger to his life. He looked at Asami, her hands over her chest as if praying, her breath becoming erratic. She screamed upon him touching her hand in a display of pure terror, as if death itself touched her with its cold hands. Tomoya flinched, jerking his hand back and coming to his colleague's aid.

"I- I don't want to die!" she said between tears. In the thirty-one years since her birth Asami had never felt what she was feeling at this moment, a sense of helplessness and despair.

"You won't die as long as you don't let death find you. Right now there are hundreds of people that need to be told about the danger they face. I don't know about you, but I'm not about to let them spend the rest of time in pain."

"I can't do it," said the woman.

"Then I'll do it," he said, picking up the microphone. "I'll tell everyone to leave this place, and then we'll get the hell out of here."

Tomoya stopped the tape recorder, removing the reel of tape to unwind it. In less than half a minute's worth of time he made a looped tape, threading it into the reel and setting levers to prepare the last announcement that would go through the Underground's speakers.

"This is an urgent message to everyone who does not wish to die. The time has come to leave everything behind and move on. Proceed to the nearest exit and get as far away from here as you can. Do not look behind, just run forward. There is no time to spare, so gather what you can and leave this place because your life depends on it."

With a just a few seconds of tape left he yanked the plug from its socket, leaving the message repeating itself again and again.

"Let's go," he said, standing up and pushing the chair under the table for the last time. "It's the only thing we can do now."

"Wait."

"What is it?!"

"Th- there's something we can't leave here."

Asami stood up and walked toward a gray rectangular box on the long wooden desk in front of the telephone switchboard. Fear controlled her every muscle, her legs shaking as she caught her fall with her two hands.

"Not everyone will make it out of here alive, which is why we should at least preserve their words."

Tomoya grabbed a tool off the shelf in a corner of the room and walked to her. Inside the computer was a disk containing the entirety of the Underground's shared knowledge. This was where men and women, boys and girls, young and old left their thoughts, ideas, and observations. Each and every day multiple people dialed in, whether it be from the library or their own house, to post onto bulletin boards and personal pages alike. It contained irreplaceable memories, tens of thousands of words belonging to those who had already lost their lives and those who were losing their lives with every passing second.

"You're right. If a miracle brings us back to our world everyone who lived here will have their words preserved forever."

Tomoya watched the lights flicker and go dark, a lowering pitch coming to an abrupt stop. His heart pounded as he removed screw after screw, knowing that a girl in red and white could walk through the doorway at any moment to seal his fate.

"How long has it been?"

One after another the screws came off. He carefully slid the storage device out of its slot, holding the words of the lost in his hands.

"Here."

Asami took the disk and ran toward the door. Tomoya followed her, his eyes fixated on the crowd running into the stairwell. His voice reverberated in the air, heard by those on their way to safety, those unable to do anything to save themselves, and those listening to their radios in complete shock.

On this day, twenty-eight years after it got its name, the Underground had finally ceased to exist. Like cherry blossoms scattering in the wind those that once lived together in peace found themselves separated from one another, unsure of the fates of their loved ones, unsure of where fate would lead them toward. Is this what was meant to be all along? Could it have been avoided? The answer to these questions could never be certain. Perhaps in another world the event that led to this outcome would have never happened. Perhaps in a different time things would be different.



If there's anything you should remember from this chapter it's that Keine's desire to protect humans is something she took with her to her death. She's the kind of person who can't stand by while helpless humans lose their lives, which is why she, in a way, sacrificed herself to give Marisa (and perhaps others) whatever little time they had to escape. Marisa might not feel this way just yet, but as she stands in relative safety she has many more things to worry about. Where will she find a place for more than seventy confused, horrified, helpless souls? Where will she hide? In the likely chance that she crosses paths with Reimu what could she do to save herself?

Speaking of Reimu, her actions bring up an important question: Is there another way to maintain the balance between human and youkai? Must the two be separated to ensure the continued existence of Gensokyo? For youkai to exist humans must believe in them. Whether that belief is through fear or something else has yet to be answered. Could it really be possible for human and youkai to work together? As long as the former believes in the existence of the latter everything's good, right? Like brothers and sisters living under one roof there will always be inevitable conflict between the two, but when a common enemy is revealed they will have to join forces to overcome that enemy. Reimu sees this alliance as a threat to her role as the shrine maiden of Gensokyo, the mediator between human and youkai. When these groups come together to oppose her will she walk toward the light or will she stay in the dark?

An inevitable uprising is about to occur. Refusal to pick a side will not be an option. An incident like no other is taking shape, one that will reveal the ultimate truths of this sealed land.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2017, 05:52:51 am by aUsernameIsFineToo »
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #19 on: January 30, 2018, 08:41:17 pm »
Chapter 19 - Atonement for a Victimless Crime

Reimu turned around at the end of the path, looking at row after row of houses. She couldn't help but feel amazed at what she saw, the product of what seemed like decades of development. The fact that such a place existed made her extremely uncomfortable for it meant she had been far too careless in keeping the Human Village in check. Something like this would never have been possible during her mother's time.

"Better late than never."

The shrine maiden knelt down. Gripping her gohei tightly with both hands she closed her eyes and drove it into the ground, sending a column of bright golden light rising toward the ceiling to expand in all directions. Those caught in its path disappeared into it, the sensation of being set ablaze becoming the only thing they could feel. Within seconds the sound of footsteps and yelling subsided.

"...There is no time to spare, so gather what you can and leave this place because your life depends on it."

----------

Asami's heart was pounding when she crawled out from the opening at the top of the spiraling flight of stairs. Those around her quickly helped her onto the ground, with a single glance at the rolling mountains in the distance reminding her how helpless she was. In the isolated world known as Gensokyo there was only one way to pass the barrier that separated it from everywhere else, and that required paying a visit to the very person that was so effortlessly taking the lives of those just like her.

"We need to get away from here," she heard someone say. There was nothing more out of place than a group of people in an open field. If they didn't find shelter before sunset there would be significant complications.

"I heard there's youkai that prey on humans in that forest over there," said a man that didn't look like he had long to live.

"More like everywhere!" a young man next to him replied.

A woman in clothes clearly from outside of Gensokyo pointed toward the gated wall surrounding the Human Village, suggesting that everyone find a place to stay within its confinements. Others quickly voiced their doubts, causing her to break down in tears after someone mentioned that they would be methodically killed in a way similar to what happened just a few days ago.

For the first time since she left the world she grew up in behind Sanae began to question her place among everyone. All this time she had stayed in the safety provided by the Moriya Shrine's location atop the Youkai Mountain, a highly-protected region rejecting outsiders. Elsewhere, humans and youkai alike lived in fear, neither side having the chance to dominate over the other. This was the so-called "balance" Reimu established, a state of constant distrust and uncertainty. At any sign of cooperation that shouldn't happen there was bloodshed that tore it apart. Anyone who became aware of this truth was silenced for eternity. More terrifying than anything else was that she, a human, carried out these acts without hesitation.

"This can't go on. I need to do something about it."

As much as she didn't want to think about it there really was no place for nearly a hundred humans to settle without them facing mortal danger. Among all the options she thought of the Youkai Mountain was likely the best, but convincing the tengu and kappa to accept such an amount of humans was likely impossible. Even if they proved otherwise there would be occasional conflicts that would lead to something catastrophic. The more she considered the outcomes the more worried she became, for the only thing she was sure of was the regret that everyone would have from standing where they were until there was truly nowhere to escape to.

"Is this everyone?" asked Tomoya, still standing near the opening in the ground. His observation came as a shock to those who quickly realized what it meant, waves of panic spreading across the crowd. Parents gathered their children, friends huddled together, and those who didn't have someone to stand next to forced themselves near someone else. Though well over a hundred remained in the Underground not a single knock was heard coming from behind the one-way door. There was an uncomfortably high chance that the next person to return to the surface would be the priestess herself, and if nobody had moved to safety by then there was no guarantee that anyone would be left alive.

"How about we split up? There are at least three places we can stay at in the Human Village. If you read the news you'd know, there's three reporters who know who we are. If we ask around maybe we'll find more people willing to let us stay."

Asami looked like she was about to say something, taking a step forward before Tomoya placed his arm in her path. She stopped, taking a step backward to return to where she once was. The two looked at each other and silently agreed to leave the fate of the Kanedas to be discovered by those wishing to place themselves in great danger.

It took a great amount of courage for Sanae to say what she said next:

"You can come with me to the Youkai Mountain."

Marisa looked at her, not sure whether she knew what she was doing by involving herself in this incident.

"Sanae, there's no need to-"

"No need to what?"

"I appreciate the help, but now I can't afford to worry about any more people than I already am. I've already lost my father, I've already lost Keine, and if Reimu finds out about what you're about to do I'm afraid I'll lose you next."

"You're overreacting, Marisa."

Alice spoke for the first time since she left the Underground. She was genuinely worried for the sanity of her friend who was no doubt under great pressure from what happened and she wanted to help, but when Marisa responded it was with fear and impatience.

"Listen to me. We can't bring anyone else into this if we can help it."

"Do you really think the two of us can manage all these people by ourselves? There's got to be at least a hundred of them!"

"So? We'll find a way."

"You won't! And even if you do how will you keep them hidden? How will you make sure they don't get hurt or killed?"

Marisa fell to her knees, her hands trembling. Everything happened so quickly she didn't even have time to realize what had happened until now. In less than the span of a week she lost two people she would never be able to see again. Though she hadn't come into contact with her father for over a decade recent events brought the two closer than ever before. What little family she had left was taken away right in front of her by someone who wanted to see her suffer, someone who wanted her to lose control of herself before taking her life. She walked right into her trap, spending five days in a state of neither life nor death as her closest friends prayed for her recovery.

"I don't know, Alice. I really don't know."

Then there was Keine. Though she knew she couldn't stop Reimu from carrying out what she needed to she traded her life for the sake of everyone else, giving them a few extra seconds to get to safety. The humans of Gensokyo saw her as a saint, a knowledgeable woman who did everything in her power to assure the best for them. Her parting words to Marisa were in fact a mandate for the sake of the girl's life, filled with hope that she would abide by them.

"I just want them to not have to live in fear. Is that too much to ask?"

Nobody could have thought that this would be how a day like this would turn out. There was no warning, no sign that their perfectly normal day would turn into this living nightmare. Several began to gather in preparation for finding shelter in the Human Village, others approached Sanae to ask her if they could follow her to where she was headed, leaving the two lamenting the harsh reality that they faced. A handful stayed, realizing that returning to the Human Village meant a death sentence sooner or later and that there would be no place for them to stay in the long term at the Youkai Mountain.

"I know it's hard for you."

Marisa looked up to see Momoka before her. At this very moment she looked like a mother to her, a woman who treated her like her own.

"You aren't going to go with them?"

"No," she replied. "I can't leave you like this. I still remember what you were like when you were young, when you were still just a baby."

"Your father and I were practically brothers before things happened that forced us to leave." continued Hiroaki. "Your home is in the Forest of Magic, right?"

"Not anymore. I can't even go back there anymore."

"Why not?"

"I shouldn't even be alive. I told everyone I was going to kill myself, I wanted to leave everything behind and stay in the Underground, and then this happens."

"So you lied to everyone?"

"Yes, just like how you told me Reimu would never find out about the Underground, just like how I thought she would never set foot upon its grounds."

The man was silenced by the girl's words. He felt a sense of guilt from having made Marisa think that the world he had taken her into was actually going to last forever.

"We all make mistakes." said the woman. "It's part of life."

"So let's not make the mistake of staying here until Reimu finds us," said Alice.

"That's right, don't you also live in the Forest of Magic?"

The youkai nodded, drawing attention from the eighteen remaining humans that were now walking toward her. Many of them had spent less than a month in Gensokyo, the only thing they knew being that the so-called Human Village was more akin to a containment area than a place to live. They all had a common goal in mind -- to return to the outside world they belonged in -- and as such they gathered together in hope that they would see that happen one day.

"Don't touch anything that grows here," she said as they walked past large red-capped mushrooms. "Some of them are poisonous enough to kill you right away."

Compared to Marisa's, Alice's place of residence was a lot more suited for a situation such as this. The house was partitioned into five rooms of varying sizes, the largest of which easily held her guests.

"You don't lock the door?" asked a man as she opened the door to let him in.

"Locks are useless here," she replied without caring to look at him. "But I have other ways to make sure anyone who shouldn't be in my house gets in. So don't worry. Make yourselves at home."

As if reacting to her presence, the once-lifeless dolls sat up and floated toward her, continuing out the door to surround the house in a sphere-like formation. The magician closed the door and sighed before pulling the blinds shut.

"Is this where we'll be spending the night?" asked Tetsuro once he noticed the lack of a place that looked suitable for sleep.

"Doesn't look like we have any other choice," his mother replied.

"Can't we bring the stuff from our home in the Human Village here?"

"How will you do that?"

Others began to take notice of the fact that not only were there no beds, there weren't any blankets or even a place to lie down on other than the floor. They looked at Alice as she turned her back toward them, standing in front of the stove while dolls in white aprons gathered around her with plates and knives.

"How's she doing that?"

"Are they alive or something?"

"Is that girl even human?"

"Of course she's human! What do you think she is? A youkai in disguise?"

At the woman's words she turned around, staring at the humans before her.

"If you must know, I am a youkai. No, I won't eat you, no, I won't kill you, and yes, there are all kinds of youkai all over Gensokyo who will kill you on sight. Any questions?"

She waited for the clock to tick ten seconds before speaking again:

"Good. Now get used to it because you're going to be seeing a lot of youkai."

Alice turned around and lit the stove. She felt a bit of regret, obviously having scared them enough such that they stayed silent.

"They're going to find out one way or the other. Best to let them know now instead of later."

"Is she mad at us?"

Only the girl that spent all her life in the closed space could find it in herself to speak.

"No," Marisa finally said. "She's just mad at the world."

"I DON'T NEED YOU EXPLAINING MY FEELINGS!"

----------

"You have visitors~!"

The twenty-one-year-old girl found five humans at the entrance to the Hieda mansion.

"Can I help you with anything?"

"You are the Child of Miare, is that correct?"

Akyuu nodded. "What is it?"

"Something terrible has taken place and you're possibly the only person in this place we can trust, so can you please listen to what we all have to say?"

One by one they walked into the courtyard, gathering under a large cherry blossom tree.

"Are you aware of the recent events that took place within the Human Village?"

"Yes."

"Do you believe they were justified?"

The girl's eyes widened. What was she to say? Even though she wasn't in full support of what had happened the Hieda clan was on friendly terms with the Hakurei clan and she didn't want to be the one to tarnish this relationship. These visitors likely knew enough to catch the shrine maiden's attention, so did they come to use her as a means of defense?

"I am not in a position to speak my opinion on such matters," she replied. "That is something you'll have to discuss with the Hakurei shrine maiden in person. If it is urgent you may present yourselves at tomorrow's festival."

"Twenty years ago we separated ourselves from everyone else to live in a subterranean cavern beneath where we stand now. You were very young at that time so you might not have any recollection of what took place that made us do what we did. Now listen carefully because I'll only tell you this once."

"You don't have to. Keine told me what happened."

"She did?"

"Yes. All of it. It's their fault they didn't announce their plans beforehand."

"She definitely would not have let them go ahead with it."

"That might have been the case, but it certainly wouldn't have ended as such. The Human Village can't grow too strong."

"Why is that?"

"If humans grow strong enough to exterminate youkai on their own there will be nothing stopping them from waging an all-out war in order to expand the Village outward."

"So humans are deliberately kept weak?"

"Only until they can't defend themselves from youkai who wish to take over the Village."

"And you're okay with that?"

"As with humans they're not in a position to expand their rule or territory either. Besides, no youkai would dare attack the Village these days."

"We didn't seek power. We didn't disturb anyone. All we wanted was a place where we had control of our lives, a place where we didn't have to worry about anything beyond the walls we put around us. Today just happened to be the day when we learned the hard way that not even that was acceptable."

"We lost everything. Only a few of us were lucky enough to escape. That girl is no different from her mother, and if this past month's incidents don't tell you otherwise today's will."

"How many people lived with you?"

"More than two hundred."

"Are you all the only ones who left?"

"There's more of us. About a hundred in total. We were together when we heard she found an entrance so we left in a group."

"Keine was there, too. She might not have made it out."

"What?! Where?!"

"Did she tell you where she was going?"

"No, she didn't tell me anything! Are you sure she's there?"

"I saw her myself. She was with Marisa Kirisame and her friend. They left in a hurry and she didn't come back."

"Marisa?!"

"She was talking about her when we were waiting at the emergency exit."

"Where is she?"

"I don't know. We split up into three groups, and she didn't come with us."

"What did Reimu do to Keine?"

Akyuu grew increasingly worried as she began to realize what had taken place. People had been mysteriously disappearing from the Human Village over the years. Only now did she hear an explanation for that, something she never would have found out on her own. Keine likely knew about it, but why did she go there especially after what happened at the schoolhouse? Was she looking for someone? And what about Marisa? Did she fake her death to live among the others below the Human Village after what happened to her father?

"You're not going to like what I'm going to tell you, but-"

The girl's eyes widened as the gate was thrown open behind them.

"There's no need to explain anything."

"Where's Keine?! What did you do to her?!"

Reimu didn't say a word as she walked toward Akyuu, stopping in front of her at an arm's distance.

"If you tell anyone what you just heard I'll kill you."

Akyuu nodded. The priestess turned toward the three women and two men staring at her in shock, a blank expression on her face.

"Come with me and don't do anything stupid."

Not a word was said as they walked down the street, the only thing on their minds being what would happen to them. If Reimu had been listening to what they were telling Akyuu they would have spelled the fate of everyone who remained. Others glanced at them as they were forced to walk forward, avoiding eye contact as they quickly passed by. It wasn't until they were several minutes to the east of the Human Village did she finally stop them.

"Where is Marisa Kirisame?"

Everyone was thinking the same thing. Either someone answered or she would seal them one after another.

"Don't make this harder than it is. Where is she?"

Reimu sighed and raised the hand with which she held her gohei up to her chest, prompting a middle-aged woman in plain clothes to speak up for her as well as everyone else's sake.

"Where does Marisa live? She probably went there because that's the only place she could go."

"Who else followed her?"

"There was a yellow-haired girl slightly taller than her in blue and white."

"Is that all?"

"There were a few others that went with them as well."

"How many?"

"No more than twenty."

"What about the rest of you?"

"Some of us also went to the Human Village. They said they'd find places to stay."

"Where?"

"They didn't tell me."

If it wasn't for the fact that this woman told her exactly where Marisa could be she wouldn't trust her with what she just said. She was scared, and she would likely do exactly as she said.

"I want the five of you to find them for me. Tell them to come to shrine tomorrow and that I'll consider giving them a chance to make up for what's happened. Every last one of them."

The woman nodded.

"Is that clear?"

"Yes," they replied in unison.

"Good. I'll be expecting you all so don't disappoint me."

----------

"That's an old phone you've got."

A woman noticed Akira's cell phone as he took it out of his pocket to check the time.

"This was the high-end model back when I got it."

"When was that?"

"2007."

"Oh. How long have you been here?"

"Since 2010."

"I've only been here for a bit over a week."

"It all still seems surreal, doesn't it? Like something out of a movie?"

"This isn't a joke, is it?"

"At one point I didn't know that youkai existed, that magic spells could be learned, or that shrine maidens could actually seal souls. But this is as real is it gets, and I guess we're really stuck in this bizzare place that came right out of the history books."

"How did we end up here?"

"You were spirited away. Chosen by the youkai of boundaries who goes by Yukari Yakumo. Gensokyo is in need of humans to replace the ones lost for whatever reason and she happened to decide you were a good fit. At least that's what they keep telling me."

"Don't worry, we'll find a way to get you home," said Marisa. "The sooner you do the less trouble it will be."

"There's a way out?"

"Possibly. There's a barrier that separates this place from the outside world. Only Reimu and Yukari can go through it but neither of them will let you leave."

"Is it because they don't want us to tell everyone else about this place?"

"That might be one of the reasons. But even if you do let others know there's really nothing they can do to stop what happened to you from happening to them. It'll only make things worse for them."

The sky was turning orange with a fiery glow as the sun receded behind distant mountains. For many it would be their first night surrounded by darkness and the unknown in a forest unintended for human settlement. Alice entered the room with blankets she had just made, distributing them among her guests that would be staying for an undetermined amount of time.

"You don't have to do this," said Hiroaki.

"I can't have you catch a cold with everyone here," the youkai replied. "It's the least I can do."

"Well I appreciate your care."

"I guess not all youkai are a threat to humans."

"Didn't she say she used to be human?"

Marisa looked at Alice as she made her way to everyone. She had become a youkai by removing her reliance on food and rest in order to exchange the time she would have spent partaking in such activities for extra hours researching and practicing magical spells, writing her findings in a series of books not even she could understand. The magician could have just as easily detached herself from her emotions especially after what happened to her mother, but for whatever reason she didn't make that decision. Though youkai blood ran through her veins she was just as human as anyone else in this room, her human emotions and thoughts sharing a common space with her knowledge that could only be gained from completing the transition into a magician.

"If it really is that easy why shouldn't I just go ahead and become a magician myself? If Reimu's gonna kill me no matter what why not fight her with all I have?"

"Marisa?"

"Huh?"

Alice was standing in front of her with one more of her blankets.

"You're still worried, aren't you."

"Of course I am. There's just so many people here and if anything happens how will we make sure they stay safe?"

"Do you think Reimu will come here?"

"She already found where my house is. If she really wanted to come here she'd do it."

"If she did we'd find out before she finds us."

"And then what?"

Marisa's worrying was validated by the fact that she didn't have the means to defend herself or anyone else. Her army of dolls was perhaps enough to defend against one attack. Once they were gone she would be left wide open. She didn't have much of a chance with the Spell Card Rules in effect, and without them she would be sealed in a matter of minutes.

"I'll figure something out."

For years she carried with her a spellbook given to her by her mother when she was a child. With little experience at the time she unleashed its full power in her fight to defend her homeland, unable to use it to her advantage. Taken over by the grimoire itself, she entered a trancelike state of unconsciousness as the book took on a life of its own. Had Marisa not stepped in it would have fully consumed her soul. After all these years she was still afraid of its power, reluctant to call upon it even in moments of great desperation.

Would things be different this time?



It's been a while. With a part-time job I won't have as much free time to write.

Alice's grimoire is an interesting topic. If it contains so many powerful spells why doesn't she use it after Mystic Square? In this Gensokyo it's because she isn't sure whether she can control its power or be overwhelmed by it. As a magician she'll soon figure out how to use her combined shield and sword to its full potential. Marisa, meanwhile, will struggle with several important decisions related to both herself and those she cares about. Will she choose to remain human or will what she see push her over the edge?
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2018, 05:28:26 am »
Chapter 20 - A Failure to Communicate

Though less than a day had passed since news of Marisa's death was disseminated most of Gensokyo was on high alert, left wondering what would happen next. Some youkai factions saw the sudden event as an opportunity to take advantage of the fact that the humans had lost one of their most skilled while others increased their offensive and defensive capabilities in response to what was clearly a success on Reimu's part in getting rid of one of the few who could pose a threat toward her. The residents of the Human Village reacted in many different ways, some ignoring it while others believed that her suicide was a public announcement of defeat. Parents spent the night trying to explain to their children that it was now mandatory to attend the Hakurei Shrine's Autumn Reitaisai without revealing the reason why. Working men and women parted out their savings to produce sizeable offerings. Storeowners gathered supplies to set up their booths. It was in everyone's best interest to be their best self at tomorrow's festival whether they knew the truth or lived in ignorance, for what had happened was undeniably real.

Kozue Tamura couldn't find it in herself to do as the woman told her.

"I can't, Misaki. I can't go there."

"Not even if it means she'll give us a second chance?"

"What makes you think she won't kill us while we're all there? What did she say to you?"

"She wanted me to bring everyone who escaped. She said she'd consider giving us a chance?"

"Consider. She said she'd consider it. That means nothing."

"There's no way she could kill all of us in front of everyone."

"Just like there's no way she could kill a perfectly innocent child in front of the entire Human Village?"

Silence fell over the one-room house. For some six seconds not a word was said as each and every person thought about the situation they were in.

"We can't go."

----------

"Who could it be at a time like this?"

The knock was quiet, as if whoever was at the other side of the door didn't want anyone other than him hearing it.

"It's probably Reimu. Or maybe Alice."

Rinnosuke Morichika opened the door to see a young boy no older than twenty-five. He looked human at first glance, and his clothing were not too different from those he saw in various literature and advertisements popular in the world on the other side of the Great Hakurei Barrier.

"Can I help you?"

"I heard that you have things from the Outside World here."

"Yes. I do. Come inside, isn't it a bit cold?"

The boy walked into the storehouse, glancing at the items on its shelves.

"Is there anything you're looking for specifically?"

"A radio transceiver. Or even just a separate transmitter and receiver."

"I might have something like that. But what for? Who else has such equipment?"

"The people I need to talk to."

"And you know how to operate one?"

"Yes."

The youkai's eyes widened. Did he find his store after wandering around in the Forest of Magic? Did he even know where he was, or what kind of danger he would face once he left? What if he had just been spirited away into Gensokyo and was looking for a way to contact those from the outside world?

"What's your name? Where are you from?"

The boy turned his head to the side, looking straight at him.

"My name's Akira. I'm from the Human Village."

The fact that this boy knew about the Human Village meant he had spent at least some time in Gensokyo. If he wasn't lying about knowing how to use a radio then he must have come from the other side.

"You weren't born in Gensokyo, were you?"

"Marisa told me he's trustworthy. She told me not to act too suspicious of him, so here goes..."

"No," he replied. "I guess you aren't either?"

Marisa had also made it absolutely clear that he not mention her to him. The last thing she wanted was for someone as helpless as him to become the shrine maiden's next target.

Rinnosuke shook his head.

"Then how did you know what I was talking about?"

"I collect things from the Outside World. I might not look like it but I'm not human. When I see something made through artificial means I am able to immediately know its name and function."

"So you're a youkai?"

"Unfortunately this is all I can do. I can't figure out how to use such things, so in many ways I'm just as helpless as anyone else when it comes to things such as a television set or a personal computer."

The man pointed at such a machine sitting atop a desk, their reflection staring back at the two.

"You need a source of stable electricity," said Akira. "Then you'd need to connect everything to the correct sockets and power it on."

"And?"

Akira walked up to the desk.

"You type commands to start programs on the keyboard and their output is displayed on the screen. There's a pointer that you can move around with the mouse, and you press these buttons to select what's under the pointer."

Rinnosuke was awestruck by the boy's knowledge that could only come from years of having lived in the outside world. The personal computer had become ubiquitous beyond the barrier in the last decade, and only now did he come upon someone who seemingly used one his entire life up until he found his way into this closed space.

"Why stop now?" he thought to himself.

"Do you know how such a machine is made?"

"Like an animal with multiple organs, computers and most machines in general are made up of several components working together. In the case of the computer there's something called the central processing unit, and it's like the brain..."

In less than ten minutes Rinnosuke learned more than he would ever know about the computer. Their conversation then went into the usage of a radio transceiver, along with a crash course on signal propagation.

"Does everyone know this in the Outside World?"

"No. In fact only a small amount of people do."

"What did you do before coming to Gensokyo?"

"I was a student. My father is an electrical engineer and he'd always tell me how things worked. I guess I was curious too, because I always asked him questions like that when I was still young."

"A student, huh? So it's true everyone goes to school?"

"The first nine years are required, but most people go on to spend at least three more years in higher education."

"Doesn't that make everyone an expert at something?"

"I guess. Everyone wants to get a job and nobody wants to be jobless."

"If only things were like that in Gensokyo."

"Yeah."

"Of course if that were the case there would be significant redistribution of power."

"Redistribution of power?"

"It's best if you don't worry too much. The rules are set such that it will never happen."

He was quick to change the subject. After all, Akira showed great potential as an assistant. Making him aware of the dark truth behind Gensokyo would expose him to danger just from knowing about them. Whether he took action against it was a completely different question, but why seek an answer to that?

"What was it about a radio?"

With every passing second Marisa felt the fear within her increase in strength. This was her home -- the Forest of Magic -- yet she didn't feel safe at all. She felt relief at the fact that her name had not been engraved on a sign and affixed to her house in the Underground, for Reimu would be furious if she found out what she tried to pull off. But she left her magician's clothes in there, so the possibility that she saw them was still enough for her to worry. Then there was everyone else. Everyone who believed she was dead. Many would tell her the truth, and those that didn't would certainly not be able to keep it to themselves for even a few days.

"This looks like it might work, but I'd need batteries."

----------

"I'm sorry for what happened earlier when you all first came."

"It's okay. We all overreact when we're scared."

"Honestly I didn't think you were a youkai until you told us."

"I used to be human. Like many others I made the choice to become a youkai because of several reasons. Maybe some of you will do the same one day, or maybe you'll find no compelling reason to do as I did."

"What about Marisa? She's a magician, right?"

"Only as a human. As long as she's a human she'll never be able to use high-level magic."

"Like Dark Magic?"

"Youkai Magic," she corrected. "It can save lives and it can just as easily take lives."

"How difficult is it to become a youkai magician?"

"It's easy to become one but hard to become a good one. You see, when you turn yourself into a youkai you play by their rules. As magicians we are already weak in terms of physical strength so that's made up in terms of our mental and spiritual abilities. If you're weak and word of that gets out you'll easily become target practice for everyone else."

"You need patience, right?"

"And knowledge?"

"Patience -- yes, knowledge -- not exactly. You only need to know one or two spells. Everything after that comes from experimentation, figuring out your own abilities, and most importantly perfecting them until you're certain you can reveal them to others."

"What if I want to leave Gensokyo? If I become a magician could I make a spell to do that?"

"If it were that easy I wouldn't be here and you would all have died in the Underground. It's been more than twenty years since I became a magician. It took me just five months before I gave up and in those five months I learned more about the barrier than most of you ever will. It was impossible back then. It's even harder now."

The sound of the front door opening caught everyone's attention as Alice left to see Marisa and Akira unharmed.

"Did you find what we needed?"

"Yeah, except we need a way to power it?"

"Power it?"

----------

"I know you're here."

The youkai stepped out from the shadow cast against the ground, her face partially obscured by the parasol she held.

"How observant of you," she said with a neutral tone of voice. "You remind me so much of your mother now that you've grown up."

"Spare me the compliments, will you?"

"Fine, then. How are preparations for tomorrow?"

"Everything's ready."

"I take it you've been busy today?"

Reimu nodded. "Quite busy."

"That's good."

"Did you know about it? An underground 'Human Village'?"

"Tell me about it."

"It's at least as big as the Village itself, with a population of more than two hundred."

"So it's safe to assume that's why so many humans have disappeared?"

"Today a group of people tried to stop the Defense Force from coming here. They had Shadow Spells and invisibility cloaks, neither of which could be found in the Human Village, especially after I thought I got rid of everyone who could make or procure such things. I looked through every house until I found one of the entrances in an old woman's house."

"And how long has this been going on for?"

"About twenty years."

Yukari thought to herself for a moment. How could she have been so careless that something like this could take so long to be discovered? Who -- and what -- was responsible for keeping it hidden so well?

"About a hundred made it out before I could seal them."

"Keep a few of them alive, I want to know more about how they did it."

"I asked them to come here tomorrow. Hopefully they do as I told them to."

"You know where they are?"

"They thought Akyuu could help them and went to see her right after they returned to the Village."

"Did they tell her anything?"

"Enough that I would have to get involved if she tells anyone."

"She knows better than that."

"That's what I want to believe, but if she refuses to comply I'll have to do what must be done."

The youkai took a deep breath. If it really came to that she would have no objections toward her sealing. The girl knew things that would land anyone else in just as much trouble, but she saw her differently. She trusted her with such knowledge. Keeping it to herself was of utmost importance. Akyuu had no reason to share it with anyone else, and as of now there was nothing that could change her mind regarding that.

"They also told her about Marisa. About how she faked her death and how she and Alice took some of them to the Forest of Magic."

"Alice Margatroid?"

"Those two seem to have gotten along quite well."

"I see. Even more so than before?"

"If Marisa didn't interfere I would have sealed her years ago in Makai. Someone as weak as her wouldn't have stood a chance back then."

"Make Marisa your priority. That girl has more potential than you think. Sealing Alice now will only make her more dangerous."

"Understood."

Leaves of surrounding trees rustled as a brief gust of wind blew from the north.

"It's getting quite late now. I could use some rest, and so could you. And keep on the lookout for ten or so humans around here tomorrow. I've been eyeing them for a while now and I think tomorrow's festivities would be a great way to introduce them to Gensokyo."

Before Reimu could respond Yukari took a few steps back to fade into the shadows, leaving the priestess standing alone under the moonlit sky.

"You're not getting away this time, Marisa."

----------

"It's not gonna work."

"This is all we have."

"The moment you get on the air this thing's going to go flat."

A brief moment of excitement was quickly taken over by disappointment when nearly twenty minutes of anticipation revealed a dim blinking indicator on the screen. Cups and bowls filled with salt water were lined up in the center of the room. Metals of all kinds were placed in them to connect one to the next, replicating the design of a primitive battery.

"It's no use."

With each press of a button the screen grew dimmer until there was nothing to be seen against the silver background. What was once the soft crackle and hiss of static gave way to silence, leaving only the sound of wind blowing through the forest.

"At least we tried, right?"

"You really couldn't find anything else there?"

"This was all I could find. If there was anything else we could use I would have brought it here."

Everyone could tell that those around them were scared. Getting the radio working wouldn't have made things any better, but at least it would give them comfort knowing what was going on in the Human Village. As everyone worried about what would happen in the coming days Alice returned to her room.

"What did I get myself into?"

Without knowing what it was she let Marisa into her house that morning, when she had no idea what she was going to tell her. She wasn't one to leave the confines of her home unless forced to do so, so why did she follow Marisa to the Human Village afterward?

"I was just curious."

Things happened quickly, and before she knew it she was at the center of an incident like no other, something that threatened the existence of everything she cared about. For too long she had been comforting herself with the assumption that she wouldn't have to fight. What happened today was too much even for someone like her who refused to accept the truth for so long. The blinds were closed, and as she reached for them a strange feeling came over her as if she was afraid to see what was outside. Sensing no disturbances, she carefully lifted a corner and peeked through the window.

The sound of footsteps behind her caused her to let go and turn around in a near-instantaneous manner.

"Is everyone okay?"

Marisa walked in, nodding her head in response.

"I thought about it and I think you should go to the shrine tomorrow."

"Huh?"

"It's for your own good. Reimu's expecting you there, so if you don't show up she'll definitely take action."

Alice sighed.

"I'm not sure if I can keep myself together."

"You have to. She's going to be keeping a close eye on you. If you give her any reason to harm you she will."

"You're not helping, Marisa."

"Just pretend nothing happened and everything will be okay."

"And you?"

"I'll stay here with everyone. Don't worry about me."

"Become a magician."

"What?"

Alice grabbed Marisa's shoulders.

"Become a magician. Otherwise I'm not leaving."

The youkai trembled with fear, her mind wandering to places suggesting the worst of the worst having taken place.

"You know I-"

"DO IT! I'M BEGGING YOU, STOP LIVING IN YOUR CHILDISH FANTASIES AND BECOME A MAGICIAN!"

Marisa was shocked to see her friend act in such a way.

"O-okay?"

"Please. It's the only way. The only way you can save yourself, the only way we can save everyone and prevent what happened today from taking place ever again."

"Do you really think the two of us can win a fight against someone who exterminates youkai for a living as youkai?!"

"You still don't get it, do you? Your so-called 'magic' is nothing. NOTHING!"

She tightened her grip on the girl's shoulders, causing her to twist her face in pain. Marisa grabbed her hands in an attempt to free herself, unable to affect her in any way.

"I've known it from the start, ever since you set foot into Makai. I observed your every action, your failures, your continued attempt to become the magician you've always wanted to be while willingly holding yourself back. Why? Why must you be so stupid? Why do you call yourself a magician yet limit yourself even when your life is this close to being taken?"

"Alice, stop, you don't have to do this."

"Yes I do. I want you to open your eyes for once and see this world for yourself. See how dumb you are for not taking the opportunity at every chance you had and then crying to yourself about how helpless you were. I hate to say it but Keine died because of you. She believed your lies, thinking you could defend her while she helped hide the Underground. When Reimu saw through her illusion and went for her what did you do? You ran away because you knew you were defenseless, you ran away because you knew your pathetic self couldn't do anything once she sends hundreds upon hundreds of seals and needles toward you."

"That's not true! She told me to get away!"

"So she knew you were too weak to do anything! She knew you would be the first to die if Reimu saw you so she told you to get away and you ran like the coward you were. You could only hide while she had her way with everyone you said you'd protect. If everyone she killed could think about anything other than the pain they're now in do you know what they'd be thinking?"

Marisa opened her mouth to say something right as Alice continued.

"They'd be thinking about your lie!"

"Stop, I can explain!"

"What is there to explain? I was there when she took your father's life, when she nearly took yours as well. I stood by you for days, never sleeping for even a second, and do know how I felt? You could have saved your father had you become a magician. You could have blocked her attack and relocated yourself and your father in the time it took for her to realize what happened. But since you were only a human you couldn't do a thing as you watched with your own eyes what she did to him. You heard his scream, and you smelled the blood. Was that not enough to convince you how weak you were? You told him you were going to become a magician yet you failed to defend him, because in all those years you left the Village you didn't come close to becoming one. I'm giving you one last chance to save yourself. If Reimu kills you she'll make it hurt and she'll make it last. If I kill you now the shinigami will take your soul to a better place where you can rest until everything's over."

Alice was worried. Mostly about Marisa's foolishness in believing that she could fight on equal terms with Reimu as a human, but also about what she told her regarding attendance of the Autumn Reitaisai. The girl was right about youkai being completely helpless should the shrine maiden choose to seal them. If she didn't put herself in such danger she'd put everyone else at danger simply because of her relation to Marisa as one of her closest friends. If she went she would certainly be scrutinized until the priestess saw through her facade, at which point she would be begging for her life. Confused, terrified, and having backed herself into a seemingly inescapable corner, the youkai placed her right hand on the human's chest and muttered a spell. Marisa's eyes rolled back and her body went limp as she carried her to the corner of the room to sit her down.



This chapter was very easy to write. From start to finish it took slightly under six hours. This time the title sums up quite well everything that led to what ultimately happened. One of the worst things that can happen in moments of panic is lack of information because it lets people think about things they normally wouldn't think about. Had the radio worked everyone would have been made aware of the fact that they were not as safe as they thought they were. Everyone was stressed and nobody stepped forward to truly calm others down, so when Marisa told Alice that she needed to go to the Hakurei Shrine she dropped the metaphorical match into the barrel of gasoline that igniting the anger built up inside her youkai friend as a result of everything they went through. There's still hope, though that depends on whether Alice is willing to take risks and face one of her biggest fears.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2018, 03:50:06 am »
Chapter 21 - The Grimoire of Alice

Alone in a large house, a fifteen year-old girl stood in the shadows cast by curtains covering every window. Underneath a rope fastened to the ceiling was a chair on top of which she stood.

"I'm coming to see you, mother. You won't have to wait any longer."

The faces of hundreds of dolls stared at her, their smiles unchanging.

"It'll be quick, less than a second before it's done"

The girl placed the rope around her neck, taking her left foot up away from the chair. She swung it forward and closed her eyes, stopping once it was well in front of her right foot.

"Alice, are you home?!"

She opened her eyes.

"You there?!"

There was a series of knocks on the door, followed by another inquiry from the only friend she had made in the three years since it happened.

"Wait a moment! I'll be there real soon!"

----------

Alice sat at the small desk in her room, the sealed grimoire she carried with her at all times in front of her. Memories belonging to a different time filled her mind, recollections of the moment when a young magician became the victim of the power she sought to harness. She knew that things would be different after all those years, that perhaps she now had the ability to tame the book and use it to her advantage. There was never a time when being able to use magic of such strength meant the difference between life and death as what was taking place now, and for the sake of everyone she placed her hands on the lock, one on top of the other.

The chains holding the tome shut burst open upon the uttering of the last word, flying in all directions as they turned into sand-like particles that disappeared into the air. The grimoire flung itself open, its pages turning rapidly enough to blow her hair back. She reached forward to catch it in mid-air, a feeling of lightheadedness threatening to take her consciousness.

"Don't... give... in..."

The magician focused all her energy toward keeping herself awake, her arms becoming considerably warm as energy shot through them. She looked down at her weapon, characters that once meant nothing to her now as intelligible as those she read and wrote on a day-to-day basis. The book wanted to lift itself up toward the ceiling, and the youkai wanted to hold it in place. A burst of energy came forth and she pushed it down toward the wooden surface, its turning pages coming to a stop to reveal a spell written in Makai script.

"Hereafter lies a resting soul, a troubled and desperate life in stasis. The one to return it to life is the one that knows it best, the one that believes in what can never be forgotten. Look in your heart and find this soul. Look in your mind and find those thoughts. Once you have made certain that it is this soul, find the vessel that suits it best. Focus your mind, your heart, your body and soul, then turn this page to the recipient. Once you have done these well, release the restraints one by one. Start with the mind, that which gives this soul life. Then give thought to the life, followed by its basic needs. Give it freedom, give it comfort, and give it the will to live. Make it feel comfort just as much as pain, let it see the world once more. Let it hear the voice of its savior, let it feel the touch of its own."

What followed was an incantation to awaken the sealed soul. It continued onto the next page, the one after that, and yet another page more until it came to an abrupt stop. A gust of wind blew through the forest to force itself through the cracks between the wall and window. The curtain lifted itself and the lantern's flame shook, nearly extinguishing itself as its light flickered wildly.

"Feel the touch of its own"

This last line of the preamble stood out to her. Whereas everything before seemed to suggest otherwise, this ending statement could only mean one thing, an infinitesimally small speck of light among the blinding darkness that was the world she found herself forced into. Though it sounded too good to be true that thought was not in even the deepest corner of her consciousness as she stood up to walk to the corner of her room where a tall dresser stood. The bottom fifth of this piece of furniture was unlike the rest, framed glass doors replaced by solid wooden ones. She opened it, retrieving the container occupying that entire space to place her hand over the lock she had sealed it with many years before. Until now she had no reason to open it, no reason to give herself the emotional bout she would from seeing what was inside of it. More than a magician, Alice was known by others as Gensokyo's dollmaker. She made dolls for children, for adults, for herself, for utility, and for fun. At one point it was not a rare sight to see her in the Human Village selling dolls, neither was seeing her put on a magic-fueled performance at gatherings of either human or youkai. She made many kinds of dolls, all of which could be said to be mass-produced, but there was one out of the thousands she made that meant more than anything to her. Not a single person knew about it, and if someone were to see her with it they would see who she truly was. It took her three months to make, every detail as meticulous as she could possibly have made it be. This doll, made in the form of her mother, was the one way she could see her face again. Using a small portion of her own flesh and blood, she hoped to give it a life of its own. Though it felt as real as could be it was still just an inanimate object able to move in response to her commands, a complete failure by her standards.

The doll was preserved exceptionally well as a result of the spell that had been cast on it. Alice lifted it out of the box in the way a mother carried her child, sitting it on top of the desk. Her memories of her mother had certainly decayed, but if she could at least remember what she was like it would be enough. Characters on the page glowed with energy as she whispered the spell. Her heart was thumping, and perhaps this was what made her lose focus, for the brightly-lit page went dark as she stuttered to leave an afterimage in her eyes. Though she hadn't moved one bit in her seat she was sweating, the spell clearly taking a toll on her feeble body. She tried again, this time getting close to the end of the first page. Upon lighting up the last symbol the page turned itself with a loud cracking sound, startling the magician once more. Before it could finish turning it fell downward, the light fading away within seconds.

Alice felt a chill run down her back. Even after containing the power held inside her grimoire she still couldn't recite more than a few spells from it before feeling deathly ill. But she had to do it. She didn't want to give up and admit failure. Stopping now was not an option!

She took a deep breath.

She cleared her mind of everything that had been bothering her.

She turned the page back to where it started, and with every last bit of what she had left in her she recited the spell. The page turned, and she continued onward. The book freed itself from the pull of gravity to hover in front of her. At the end of this first sequence of spells the color with which the characters glowed changed their color, subsequent symbols glowing blue to leave the red as-is. Blue gave way to green, green gave way to purple, and as she came close to the end they all turned gold. Just two characters away from the point where they ended something happened that would startle even the most dedicated magician. Pure white flashes of light burned the next symbol into the page with every utterance that came from the girl's mouth, the book appearing to write itself. One after the next, less than a second after she read the last, they appeared to continue the incantation until there was none left. The magician breathed heavily, her heart skipping a beat as an intense bright burst of light seared in at once the afterword:

"And thus at last, mother and daughter reunite once again. Let it be known from this day on that I will never let you suffer again, Alice."

The girl could hardly believe what she saw. A stream of light so bright it lit up the entire room forced her to look away as it engulfed her immediate surroundings. Out of fear that it would permanently blind her she closed her eyes. After what seemed like half a minute the glow faded, leaving the book on the desk with the doll by its side. She felt its presence just as it felt hers, the two looking at each other as if neither expected to see what they saw.

"Come closer, dear."

At the sound of Shinki's voice tears fell from Alice's eyes. She had nearly forgotten that voice, having been unable to hear it even in her dreams. To call what had happened a miracle was a huge understatement. Years of facing the harsh reality of the world she was forced into had taught her many things, one of them the fact that her mother was gone forever. Out of all the improbabilities in her life the unthinkable took place, and though she was not with her in person she had been given a second chance at life.

She picked up the doll, holding it carefully between her hands.

"Mother's missed you."

"I've missed you too. There wasn't one day that I didn't think about you."

The woman looked up at the girl's face through her new eyes. If she could make tears come out of them they would have already soaked the girl's hands.

"You were so young when I left you. I never would have thought you'd grow up to become such a beautiful and skilled magician."

The doll looked down at his hands, touching her face with its fingers.

"You made this?"

Alice nodded.

"I was still young back then. I didn't want to forget about you so I made a doll to remember you by."

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you what I needed to. I'm sorry I made you worry for all that time. When you fought that girl I tried to fuse my soul with yours, but you were far too weak at the time. But if didn't do it you'd be killed just like everyone else. I know how frightened you must have felt, and I'm sorry for making you suffer."

"It's okay, mother. I never would have thought you were with me this entire time, right in that book. I was afraid of using it so I kept it sealed."

"I don't mind. It was honestly quite peaceful sleeping in there, knowing you'd never let go of it. I'll admit that I was using your emotions to my advantage back then because it was much easier for me to take control of your body when you were in that state. It was only because of that that I was able to drive the shrine maiden away and give you time to escape."

The girl was speechless. She spent years in depression, believing that her mother had perished along with the place she grew up in. With only a few friends by her side she often found herself questioning her will to continue living, her hope dwindling steadily.

"She was still weak at the time," Shinki continued. "If it had been her mother I might not have been able to pull it off."

She looked at Marisa, sitting against the wall in a state of unconsciousness.

"Isn't that the girl who broke up our fight?"

"Yes. That's her."

"She lives with you?"

"It's a long story, but no, she lived by herself until just a few days ago."

"Then what's she doing here?"

The youkai girl sighed.

"Her name is Marisa Kirisame. It all started when she had a dream about something that happened between her and Reimu Hakurei. She came all the way here in the middle of the night to talk to me about it and I listened to her. She told me about how I wouldn't be able to defend myself, about how all the magic I've been practicing wasn't enough. We went to the Human Village that day and ran into someone that showed us a place where humans and youkai were hiding. That evening Marisa got into a fight with Reimu over two humans who gave their children youkai spells. I don't know what happened between them in the following days but Reimu ended up killing her father, and if I hadn't been near where it happened she would have killed her too. She spent three days recovering from her injuries. When she woke up she told me she would fake her suicide and live the rest of her life in that place we were shown."

"Did she do it?"

"That was just two days ago. We thought it would be over, but today Reimu found out about that place."

"And that's why she's here?"

"She's only a human, yet she thinks she's on the same level as a magician. After what happened in Makai a set of rules regarding how battles would be fought were enacted. They're called the Spell Card Rules, and with them Marisa could at least compete with Reimu on equal grounds. But even then they're just rules. Rules she has no problem breaking even though she was the one who mandated it. When Marisa came here that night she told me she was worried that few people could fight like they used to and that they couldn't even defend themselves anymore. She convinced everyone that she would protect them, she killed everyone who used to be part of the Human Village Defense Committee, and in its place is the Gensokyo Defense Force that can't do anything but beg her not to kill them in exchange for selling out their own kind. It's disgusting, it's not right, and unless something's done it's going to keep happening. Marisa understands all this yet she stubbornly refuses to become a real magician. I don't know if it's her pride or if it's a family thing, but even though she lost several of her friends and even her father she still refuses to come to terms with the fact that she's reached the limits of what she can do as a human."

"What was going through your mind when you became a magician?"

Alice thought for a moment before responding. Why did she do it? Was it for power? Or was it for her own sake? She dug through her memories, a blur of sorrowful experiences that she could only deal with because of what she had just accomplished.

"I... wanted to protect myself. After what Reimu did to the Defense Committee I was terrified of what would happen if I tried to follow in their footsteps. I decided that if I became a magician I could at least use the Spell Card Rules to my advantage."

"You became a youkai even though you knew what the punishment for that was?"

"She didn't know. When I fought her a few years later she didn't even recognize me."

"That was still very dangerous. She could have just as easily recognized you and killed you on the spot. And when it comes to killing someone like you who was once human-"

"She seals them in pain for eternity."

Shinki looked at Alice.

"Yes. How did you know?"

"Someone told me. Someone who she sealed away just today. Someone who like Marisa and me... and probably many others wanted to undo everything she's done for the past decade. She told everyone what kind of danger they faced and she stood up for the children of humans who became youkai to defend themselves and their loved ones. Her name was Keine Kamishirasawa, and s-"

"Keine? She sealed Keine?"

Alice nodded.

"Does she even know who Keine is?"

"Yes. That's why she did it. She was just looking for an excuse to do it, and today she finally found it. Marisa could have saved her if she had become a magician."

"I wouldn't be so sure about that. I'm sure you know that magicians are among the weaker of youkai. Defeating someone like the Hakurei shrine maiden isn't something a magician can do alone. That's the reality you face, and nothing will change that. The best you can do is gather all the youkai you can and stage an all-out attack, but even that isn't a guaranteed victory. As spiritual beings gods and youkai alike are at the mercy of priests and priestesses who can extinguish our existence as they see fit. No matter how difficult it might be for the humans we need to lay low and avoid trouble as much as we can."

"I understand, mother. But there's just one thing I- we need to do."

----------

"I told you she couldn't be trusted."

Everyone was certain that Alice had killed Marisa. Few could imagine what went through her mind as the youkai said what she said, forcing her to come to terms with the reality that she was powerless as a human. There was nowhere to run -- the magician would be made aware of the fact as soon as anyone opened the door. Furthermore, in the dark of the night not a single human wanted to risk their life in an environment where they were at a clear disadvantage. The girl may have killed a human, but at least she showed hospitality unlike most other youkai.

"She shouldn't have made her go."

The majority of those were oblivious to the situation they were in, failing to understand the importance of Alice's presence among those at tomorrow's festival. Only those native to Gensokyo understood the necessity of such an act, managing to convince only a few others that the youkai's choice would directly affect them.

"If she found Marisa's house she'll definitely find us. And if she got desperate she'd destroy this entire forest to find her."

"So why don't you try talking to her about it? Or are you afraid she's going to kill you too?"

Akira sat against the wall in silence. Katsuya and Sayoko, whom he had a heated argument with last night, refused to attend the wedding party. If he ever made it back home, to the world that he was slowly forgetting, he would never be able to find it in himself to tell their parents what happened to them. He felt sick at one point from thinking about the way they could have been killed, telling himself that it was fate that chose him to live while letting his friends perish in such horrendous ways. He felt guilty knowing that his actions led him to cast them aside for a girl that he felt wasn't for him. Even a day like today which was supposed to be a joyous and cheerful one ended up turning into another living nightmare, fleeting moments of happiness giving way to disappointment in the blink of an eye.

The sound of footsteps approaching brought silence into the room as those talking stopped one after another. Alice opened the door, a single doll in her left hand.

"Take a good look at these people, mother. They're the ones who escaped with nothing but their lives. The ones I want to protect."

Shinki turned her head, looking at the group of humans in front of her. Their puzzled expressions were exactly what she expected from them.

"Shall I explain things to them?"

"Please do."

"I am Shinki, Alice Margatroid's mother. Some time ago I ruled over Makai, and during that time I mistakenly allowed my kingdom to come under attack. The one who led the invasion was the Hakurei shrine maiden, who according to my daughter is the one who threatens to harm all of you. At the time I understated her abilities, allowing her to bring an end to everything I built. In a foolish effort to save what little I had left I challenged her to a fight which I lost. Moments away from death I sealed myself in the spellbook Alice carried with her at the time, only to give her a major scare when she was panicking after seeing what she thought happened to me. I took control of her soul and body, forcing her to safety, and since then she's kept that book sealed. It was only now did she finally see a reason to remove that seal, giving a form to my soul once more."

For most of them this was their first encounter with what seemed like plain nonsense. Even after seeing dolls move on their own -- which Marisa later revealed as ones being controlled by Alice through strings of magic -- seeing a doll talk and explain what they just heard was shocking in more than one way.

"Might you be referring to the Mystic Square incident?"

"Yes. Mystic Square was the name of the tourism group that arranged visits to Gensokyo. Contrary to what you may have heard they didn't harm anyone. They may have said certain things, but there was absolutely no reason for them to do things that could be seen as acts of aggression."

Of those that were in the room only Hiroaki and Momoka knew what Shinki had brought up. Within the Human Village the incident was largely seen as a success on the part of then newly-created Gensokyo Defense Force. Though many details were deliberately kept in secrecy many knew the reason why a simple matter of unchecked travel between the two spheres turned into a war. The people of Makai, noting the lamentations of those in the Village, spoke of their lives in what seemed like a much better place. This was enough to convince more than a few to leave Gensokyo altogether, seeking a new life in Makai the same way hundreds of humans disappeared into the Underground. Just as there were those who believed their entire life would be spent in the Village there were those who jumped on the first chance to leave that place behind. Rumors of tourists from Makai abducting humans spread quickly enough to become a fact by the time Reimu heard if it, prompting her to order an immediate stop to such activities. Within a few days the incident was deemed to be resolved, the specifics of what happened quickly lost to time.

"I heard it was terribly one-sided."

"We didn't expect her to involve herself."

Just like how nobody expected the day to come to an end like this.

"There was no warning, nothing that would suggest such an invasion. They poured in and seemed like they didn't care about their own lives. Up until then I've never seen humans like that."

The clock in the dining room rang a low chime twice, followed by a high chime. For those that barely spent any time in Gensokyo this was be their first night away from the Underground, their first night away from the Human Village.

"Who exactly is the Hakurei shrine maiden? Why does she want to kill us?"

A man in his mid-thirties made an attempt to end the awkward silence. Everyone looked at Alice, just about to respond to his question when an exceptionally strong gust of wind blew against the house. Its wooden frame groaned several times, cracking sounds heard as panels shifted slightly.

"You know too much. If you had stayed in the Human Village and kept quiet this wouldn't have happened. But it's too late to think about that, and now that you're here there's no way you can go there without getting in serious trouble."

"Surely she'll understand things better if we talk it out, right?"

The girl shook her head.

"That's practically asking to be killed. To her you're all a threat to Gensokyo. She'll seal you right away."

"We've only been here for a few days. What can we do that she sees as a threat?"

She wasn't sure whether to say what she wanted to say next. There was a good chance a lot of the people in front of her did not know the unfortunate truth regarding Gensokyo's human population. Them knowing it would only make their lives worse, causing fear and paranoia that would hasten their demise.

"I don't know," she replied. "It just seems that she kills anyone who finds out about certain things."

"Like what?"

"I said I don't know."

She replied with a slight hint of frustration, enough to stop the man from inquiring further.

"I can explain."

Alice glared at Hiroaki.

"Please don't."

"Where's that other girl you were with?" asked a woman sitting against the wall in a corner of the room.

"She's sleeping. I suggest you all do the same as well." She paused for a moment. "I'll make sure nothing happens while you're all here, so don't worry and get some rest."

Almost everyone could tell that the magician was preoccupied with something.

"Thank you," a young man said quietly. This was followed by similar words from the others. The fact that they were talking to a youkai girl who revived her mother in the form of a doll meant that she had access to all kinds of spells. Putting someone to sleep certainly wasn't beyond her abilities, and what she just said put them at ease knowing that she genuinely cared for their well-being.

"Have a good night."

She closed the door as she left, the doll floating in mid-air to her left.



In a bizarre twist of fate Alice overcomes her fear of the book she's been carrying around since forever and comes face to face with someone she thought she would never see again. Having made irreversible decisions and lived through years of uncertainty her life suddenly took a turn for the better just as things were looking to be hopeless. With Shinki by her side again she has witnessed just one of the many powers bestowed upon her. She's ready to take on the world now, yet with her mother reborn into her world she now has another thing to worry about. With just a little over six hours before sunrise she's got several things to settle, preparing for a day that would remain with her for eternity. This is her final chance to make things right!
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #22 on: March 30, 2018, 09:50:16 pm »
Chapter 22 - The Ultimate Magic

"Is this for real?"

"What kind of god does she serve?"

"Of course it's real! Why would you have any reason to think otherwise?"

"What makes you think I'd know?

"She can't possibly kill us all herself, can she?"

"I don't think we'll last for long here."

"Well I hope everything's been a lie up to this point."

"So do you think there's a better place for us to stay?"

Everyone was thinking the same thing and asking the same questions. To those that had no idea what kind of danger they faced as well as the ones who knew exactly what was happening it was all the same: pure confusion and utter chaos. Only the Ichimuras stayed quiet, but that didn't last for long as the others quickly realized that they were not like them. The fact that the man felt the need to join the conversation regarding what it was that put them in danger meant he knew something no one else knew. But before he could say anything else the youkai girl stopped him, making things all the more mysterious.

"My name's Kenji Arakawa. I don't believe we've met before."

The man spoke as if he was next in line to be executed. Without a doubt this was how a lot of others felt, some unable to even speak their feelings.

"I'm Hiroaki Ichimura. I don't believe any of us have been together before."

"I'm sorry for what happened today. Your daughter must be traumatized by what happened."

The girl didn't respond. Filled with anxiety, she could barely sleep as she lay on the ground. She had several reasons to believe she would never wake up if she closed her eyes, several reasons to believe that her world would end if she let her guard down. For hundreds of others their world had ended far too quickly. Reality had finally caught up to her fantasy and she felt that she could no longer accept it. Aside from her family remaining intact everything was lost in an instant.

"Nobody predicted that this would happen."

"Few things are impossible just as few things are certain. It hasn't been more than twenty days since I woke up in this... Gensokyo. I still don't know what's real and not real, and then this happens."

"Well I can tell you that what happened today is as real as it gets. Cases like yours happen all the time, groups of humans are abducted and taken here to serve as bearers of youkai existence. It's how they stay alive, and in the end that's all we're good for. They don't care who we are, as long as we stay within the boundaries of what's allowed from us we're left alone. But once anyone moves even a hair beyond those boundaries we're noticed. Once we're noticed it's only a matter of time before we get silenced. Like Keine Kamishirasawa said, the only way they can make sure of that is if we don't even get a chance at the afterlife."

"I just don't believe a human could do all that. That girl, the Hakurei shrine maiden, how can she do what she does to humans just like her without a second thought?"

"The same reason humans can declare war on entire nations and carelessly destroy what they've worked so hard to build."

"Are you native to Gensokyo?"

----------

Alice hovered slightly above the ground as she made her way through the Forest of Magic, luminescent mushrooms providing ample light to guide the way. Several fairies flew out of the way as she passed by, not wanting to be seen but clearly having broken what little cover they had. Other youkai watched from the shadows, hesitant to attack the magician in an environment advantageous to her. The sounds they made didn't bother her one bit, and she felt comfort knowing that she could easily defeat them should they choose to confront her. Without knowing it she came upon Marisa's house, stopping to observe the abandoned structure. She kept her distance from the fragments of wood and shattered glass as she made her way inside, avoiding the sharp pieces still attached to the hinges. Aside from this everything seemed to be left untouched, an open book still on the desk. She collected as much as she could before leaving, stuffing them into one of many sacks lying around. The extra weight meant nothing to her. What mattered was that she could finally demonstrate her true power and turn an acquaintance into something much more.

As she got closer to the northeastern extremity of the forest the temperature began to decrease noticeably. Further toward that direction was a cloud of fog so dense it looked like a solid cloud lit up by the moonlight, enough to turn back most humans and even some youkai. Having done so countless times, the magician flew toward it at a steady pace, chilling wind blasting at her face as her surroundings brightened. Beneath her was the lake that surrounded the barely-visible Scarlet Devil Mansion, a dark expanse of water cold enough to seize the body of anyone unfortunate enough to fall into it. At a time like this the unfiltered light shining down at the mist made it especially hard for her to make out her destination, forcing her to rely on experiences of previous trips. With some difficulty she finally sighted the land on which it stood, landing carefully in an attempt to be as silent as possible.

"I've come to return Patchouli's books," she said to Hong Meiling as the youkai gatekeeper locked eyes with her. The red-haired girl nodded and made way for her entrance, at which point she headed for the side door which provided a direct path to the underground library. Projectiles shot at her from magic circles at fixed points in the air, a rather basic defense mechanism she easily defeated. As if expecting her, the resident magician stood at the open space in the center of the library and watched her with a blank expression on her face. Alice landed, walking toward her with the bag of books held in front of her.

"I believe these are yours."

Patchouli Knowledge took it with both hands, setting it down on the floor next to a round table surrounded by three chairs.

"She's finally gone."

"I came her tonight to do more than just this. I have no doubt regarding your skillfulness in magic, so I've come in this moment of uncertainty to hear your opinions on a matter that affects all of us."

"There's no need to state the obvious. In fact, what worries you is certainly what also worries me. But why come to me rather than wait for me to come to you? Are you not aware of the difference in power between you and I?"

"Oh, I'm aware, and that's why I came here tonight."

"What do you mean?"

Alice presented her grimoire, opening its cover with a quick motion.

"Observe."

Bright light blanketed the two of them, completely overwhelming the once dim yellow light cast upon them by floating balls of flame. Patchouli felt a presence she had never felt before, a form of magic that she had never had the opportunity to come into such close contact with. Magicians lived to perfect the art of magic, whether through research or through experimentation. The magic that came from such processes were always predictably similar, nothing worth mentioning around those of her caliber. What Alice Margatroid possessed was different. It was common knowledge among only the most adept magicians that the possibility of converting one's soul into magic power. Few attempted to go into that territory for the dangers of doing such outweighed the benefits that came from it. But here, in front of her, stood a formerly human magician wielding a form of magic that drew its power from her very essence of being. Did she even know what she was dealing with? Was she aware of the risk she faced just by invoking it? As a magician herself Patchouli found it necessary to tell Alice what she likely did not know of. The girl she saw as an amateur who treated magic as nothing more than a toy to play around with had become someone she never could have thought of.

"Not bad."

If anything, she was less interested in the person Alice was and more in the skills she possessed. She thought that before telling her what she didn't know it would be in her interest to see this unrestrained power for herself.

"I'm impressed," she said as she stepped backward. With a flick of her arm a protective barrier came forth to cover row after row of bookshelves in a translucent purple. "Let's see if you're for real."

Patchouli knew the answer to that question. If Alice wanted to kill her she could do so without much difficulty. But the girl wasn't here to kill. She was here to seek assistance, and it was in her best interest that she not cause harm to one of the few that could provide that to her.

"Five spells. Ninety seconds. Don't hold back because I won't."

She tossed her visitor a pocketwatch. The girl caught it as it flew through the air, not a part of her body moving aside from her arm and hand. Her eyes wide open, it felt as if she was a different person.

-- Fire Sign "Agni Shine" --

Alice jumped into the air as several concentric spirals of flame raced toward her. Widening through their trajectory, spinning fireballs shot out in all directions. This spell was basic, one that left its victim to chance alone. There was little thought put into it, no control of where the flames would land. She took advantgage of this, slipping in and out of wide-open spaces between each ring, occasionally darting straight through their centers. In the last thirty seconds they increased in number though the challenge was the same. With little difficulty she timed out the spell.

-- Wood & Fire Sign "Forest Blaze" --

Rather than let the flames that had been set go to waste, Patchouli concentrated the flames in a dense ball through which leaves were shot through. They flew toward the ceiling, raining down as they burned with bright yellow light. Like the spell before the attack wasn't meant to hit a target. What was different was the lack of a location that could serve as a shelter from the downpour of fire. The spell was designed such that no single place was left safe for more than half a second, forcing the opponent to be observant and responsive throughout its duration. Alice timed it out as expected, allowing her to cast the next spell. The open air above the library returned to its dim glow that left an afterimage in the eyes of both magicians.

-- Metal Sign "Metal Fatigue" --

Patchouli's next attack concentrated on her moving target. Metal projectiles shot toward Alice, splitting apart to give rise to two which in turn gave rise to four, eight, and sixteen. Rather than have her dodge them -- which was physically impossible -- she watched with attentiveness as she charged forward into a cluster of bullets. An arc of light within arm's length seemed to give the impression of speed, but to the trained eye it was anything but that. As the magician propelled herself forward a barrier of pure energy collided with the oncoming projectiles. The result was akin to metal falling into plasma, an audible fizzle given off as the fragments of metal vaporized in fractions of a second. This continued for another fifty seconds before the spell timed out, leaving a strong scent of metallic vapor in the air.

-- Earth & Metal Sign "Emerald Megalith" --

A wall of magic circles from which grimoires emerged made it clear that getting too close would yield only loss. From those circles came projectiles made of clay, a tail of mud left behind as they shot through the air to reveal shining stones. It was as beautiful as it was deadly, a strike to particularly vulnerable areas from the alternating green and turquoise jewels leaving the victim unconscious at the very least. They gathered around a ring, shimmering brightly enough to temporarily blind anyone who looked directly at them while dizzying those given the eyes to admire the expanding circles that turned in opposite directions from one to the next. Stones shot forward in a straight line from the outermost ring as the pattern expanded to make way in its center for newly-formed jewels, an almost straight path aimed directly at the target.

"What the hell is she doing?"

Alice hovered in place, looking straight at the pellets shooting toward her. The magician raised her right arm, her hand gripping an invisible yet solid spherical object.

"If she doesn't do something she'll..."

The crystals shattered like glass, reducing them to fine shards of sand that revealed the shape of the barrier spread in front of her. Patchouli reacted to this by taking a detour from the usual method of operation, breaking apart the ring of stones to form a sphere she sent at Alice. It came down toward her at an angle, cut apart by a thick beam made apparent by the way the fragments swirled around it. The remaining crystals collided with the barrier to explode into sand, raining down in a spectacular show of light.

"Let's see how you dodge this."

-- Moon Sign "Silent Selene" --

By now it was clear as the sky that physical attacks were of no use. Patchouli's last spell drew upon the power of the moon on this otherwise uneventful night. Beams of white light emerged from four magic circles, each of them aimed into a funnel at their center while a magic circle appeared above her to expand outward and cover the ceiling. Clearly-defined beams of light shot downward, forcing Alice to move as the space she occupied brightened. She flew at a constant speed in a straight line, leaving herself wide open for a sudden blockage in front of her path. Knowing this to be the case, she made an erratic turn to her left just as a beam of light shot down to hit her exactly where she would have been had she continued forward.

"I can't do this forever."

How long had it been? Alice was given the impossible task of outpacing light itself. As each beam of light appeared it stayed where it was, reducing the space she had to move around in bit by bit. Then there was the fact that Patchouli could decide where the next beam struck by observing her path through this limited area that was getting smaller with every passing second. It almost seemed unfair, and Patchouli knew this as she watched Alice make her way around the obstacles she put out for her.

"What's she doing now?"

Beyond all expectations Alice was no longer navigating the still-dark portions of the library. She was charging toward her, eyes focused on nothing but her target. In one hand she held her grimoire, her other hand at her waist. What happened next was nothing more than a blur in Patchouli's conscious mind. From between the magician's pointer and middle finger came a bolt of blue-green light in the shape of what most closely resembled an arrowhead. It hurtled toward her chest at a speed far too fast for her to avoid, a bullet whose intent was to kill. Overcome with terror, she lost control over the magical circuits powering the lightbeam amplifier, causing it to collapse along with the barrier below her and let out a powerful bang that threatened to interrupt the natural rhythm of her heart.

"STOP!!!"

A blinding flash of light lit up in the small area less than the width of a finger between her and the tip of the bullet, the two cancelling each other out to leave her free falling toward the hard wooden floor. Alice swooped down to catch her, suspending the dazed magician in a floating ball of light once it became clear she wouldn't make it in time.

It was only after she landed did the fatigue catch up with her. Her vision was blurry and her ears were ringing, though this might also have just come from the flashes and bangs that came with such a duel. What she couldn't deny was the fact that slightly more than seven minutes of sustained fighting could bring her to this state. Patchouli collapsed upon coming into contact with the floor, but for a different reason. She laid there thinking about how close to death she had come, how frightened she felt when she experimented with the unknown for the first time. It was one thing for Alice to have shot the bullet. Blocking that same bullet in less than the time it took to blink was a different feat altogether. Koakuma and Sakuya Izayoi approached the two magicians with caution, at the same time knowing that they were in no shape to let through a surprise attack. They had been watching the fight a little under two minutes after it began, concealing their presence behind a bookshelf as neutral spectators.

Patchouli looked up toward the ceiling.

"You've greatly exceeded my expectations."

Alice looked up toward the ceiling, perhaps at the same location.

"You said it yourself: Don't hold back."

Patchouli smiled.

"You still have a lot to learn... magician."

"How in the world could the great Patchouli Knowledge lose to someone like that?!" cried Koakuma. "How?!"

"I, too, have a lot to learn."

For the first time in her relatively short life Patchouli deviated from the boastful self she was when it came to magic. As much of a student as she was a practitioner, seeing someone who wielded such dangerous powers while maintaining an overwhelmingly high level of composure captivated her.

"Do you know why Marisa did it?"

There was no need to say anything else. It was obvious what had happened, but more importantly it was of no benefit to let anyone know of the truth regarding her.

"Yes," she said with a sigh. "It's unfortunate that this is the way things are, but who are we to stand up against it?"

"There's always a 'first'. Maybe we'll come out on top, maybe we'll disappear forever, but at least we tried. I know this because I went through that myself... and I came out on top."

"Do you know why you were able to defeat me tonight?"

"Yes, I did."

Patchouli cast a spell placing her and Alice in a dome that blocked their conversation from being heard by those outside.

"Then tell me. Why were you able to defeat me even though I broke the Spell Card Rules?"

"I used youkai magic. Breaking the Spell Card Rules as well."

"Have you ever thought of what could happen if the Hakurei shrine maiden found out?"

"If she threatens to harm me I'll defend myself by any means necessary."

"And you'll die."

Alice sat up.

"She won't even know what hit her."

"Why do you think we're having this conversation in private? If I didn't mind letting the others hear what we have to say why would I go through the trouble of putting up this barrier? When I tell you you will die I mean it. I don't know where and when you learned to use the spells you used or who taught it to you, but I'm inclined to believe that this is the first time you've used them. Regardless of whether that is the case, there's something you absolutely must keep in mind: You're a youkai, and you are vulnerable to spiritual attacks that target your soul. The reason you were able to avoid my attacks was because you converted a portion your soul into spiritual magic. You didn't need to physically recite your spells because reciting them in your mind was enough to have the same effect. Just thinking about the spell was enough, so you were able to cast them faster than any magician could. The kind of magic you use is therefore much powerful than traditional magic will ever be, but that also comes with serious drawbacks. You must have felt it when our duel ended, right?"

"Yes. We hadn't even kept at it for more than ten minutes. Yet I almost fainted."

"You see, spiritual magic draws its power from your soul. The stronger your soul is the stronger your attacks and defenses are."

Alice began to realize what Patchouli was getting at. If it were true she by definition would not stand a chance against Reimu.

"It follows that your attacks and defenses are an extension of your soul. You were able to destroy the projectiles I shot at you because they were merely created from the elements with no attachment to anything. Had they also come from spiritual magic it would have been a battle of strength between the two combatants that decides whose offensive or defensive measures destroy the other's. Likewise, if your opponent is able to use strong spiritual attacks they can cause fatal harm to you simply by targeting the projectiles you send at them or the barriers you protect yourself with. If the Hakurei shrine maiden wanted to exterminate you in a battle she wouldn't even need to touch you, but the result will be no different than if she drove a purification rod through your chest."

The girl felt a chill several times colder than the wind that blew against her on her way to the mansion, paralyzing her as she thought about the facts. In any battle making oneself inaccessible to the enemy gave a tremendous advantage. Using the same tactics she used against Patchouli in a fight with Reimu was akin to running toward her empty-handed from all directions.

"Then I'll be more careful. Thanks for letting me know."

"No problem. Truth be told, it would be a waste if someone like you were killed so easily. You are the first magician I've come across who could use spiritual magic with such expertise. If it's okay with you I'd like to learn more about your techniques."

"I'll see what I can do. In all honesty I'm still just a novice so don't hold such high expectations."

She looked at the timepiece Patchouli gave her. It was eighteen minutes until an hour past midnight.

"Are you going to the Autumn Reitaisai?" asked Patchouli in response to Alice handing it to her. "If you have reasons to do otherwise I unders-"

"Yes."

"Does Marisa mean that much to you?"

Patchouli was quick to pick out what she knew was the topic of the conversation Alice had come to have with her. Though she didn't have particularly positive sentiments toward the girl she was a human being after all. Her tortured soul taken far beyond its limits, she took her life to escape from the clutches of fate itself. All youkai believed that humans were weak in this way. She was no exception.

"If it wasn't for her I would have died long ago."

"I certainly won't stop you from attending, but I will do everything I can to make sure nothing happens to you."

This was what Alice wanted to hear. If she was to set foot upon the grounds of the Hakurei Shrine she wanted the protection that came with having allies by her side, hidden among the others and ready to defend her should the need arise. Everyone wished that time wouldn't come, but it was never wrong to be careful.

"Then I'll see you and the rest there."

"You're leaving?"

"I've... got someone else I need to see."

"Who?"

"You'll see soon. She's just a human, but she can definitely lend us a hand when that time comes."

Alice walked out of the barrier as if nothing was there. Patchouli stood where she was and stared toward her. The girl was in a hurry but she didn't look like it from the way she walked, slow and steady steps made it clear she was preoccupied with the conversation that just took place.

"Don't be too reckless out there," she said as the magician leapt up off the ground. "You have yet to prove to me your true strength."

Her words were met with no response.

"Of course I wouldn't go all-out with someone like you. But you seem to have already realized that, so take it for what it is."



A forest blaze that burns indiscriminately is without a doubt described as strong. A raging wave that levels an entire village is something to be remembered because of its potent destructive force. To anyone with the ability to use those elements in their attacks and defenses such examples would be seen as anything but powerful, for true power goes hand in hand with the ability to see the right moment for the invocation of one's abilities. In Touhou canon Alice never fights with full strength and always seems to be holding back even if it means losing. It's not stated why she does that but a common interpretation is that she isn't willing to reveal her true power to her opponent. Knowledge is power, and blindsiding the enemy with never-before-seen skills is something left to only those with confidence and preparedness. Will Alice find a reason to use spiritual magic again? How far is she willing to go?

Daytime belongs to humans. Nighttime belongs to youkai. From now until the break of dawn every second must be spent wisely if there is to be a chance at accomplishing what must never be attempted.
Re: 東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark
« Reply #23 on: June 15, 2018, 04:18:32 pm »
Chapter 23 - Midnight Misery

If there was one thing Mokou could wish for it would be to return to the moment before she gave in to her selfish desires. What started out as a burning desire to get back at Kaguya Houraisan for what she did to her father became a night of high tension when the contents of the jar the men were planning on throwing into the volcanic crater were revealed. She had followed them to steal it, a young girl who only wanted revenge against the princess. The goddess of the mountain -- Konohana no Sakuyahime -- was quick to stop them from doing so, in the process changing the girl's life forever. That night not a single person dared let anyone else off their watch for the prospect of eternal life was irresistable. In the end only she and another man remained, the rest silently killed as they slept.

"My sister, Iwanagahime, who holds power over that which does not change will surely assist you in disposing of it."

It was only as they were heading down the mountain did she realize how close she was to fulfilling one of humankind's greatest fantasies. An ageless body, eternal youth, the ability to transcend death itself. All of that was suddenly within her reach. It took just one kick to send the man who helped her up the mountain tumbling to his death. That night, the young and immature girl who set out to steal the jar without knowing its contents found herself alone in the forest with none other than the Hourai Elixir. Centuries later she would begin to regret her decision, the countless regrets and sorrows of year after year tormenting her to no end. She wanted to die, but death had become a foreign concept to her. Time after time she felt the many pains of death, only to lie still and pass out before waking up as if nothing had happened.

Others saw her as inhuman, shunning the emotionally-torn girl to the point she vowed to never interact with a human being again. In the next three centuries she found comfort in challenging and obliterating youkai weak and strong, the rush of battle clearing away all else. In time even that bored her, leading to a period of rest during which she lost count of time itself. The world changed but she remained the same, forgotten by all that had ever lived as another three hundred years passed her by. It was during that time that she settled in what was now Gensokyo, stumbling upon Eientei where she would discover the fate of the woman she sought revenge upon. Fighting her, killing her, getting killed by her, killing her again, and reliving those moments day after day had finally rekindled the flame which had died out within her so long ago.

----------

It had been well over a millenium since it happened. During that time she had forgotten all but the most memorable events, together worth nothing more than a few hours worth of conversation. Here, in the Bamboo Forest of the Lost, she began to see others more often. Humans who came to the forest in search of food or the renowned doctor of Eientei would seek guidance from her, forging a mutual relationship she never had before.

"The moon looks so bright tonight. I wonder how Keine's doing."

Of all the people Mokou met after finding a new life in Gensokyo Keine was more valuable to her than anything. Perhaps it was because she was the only person who truly understood her, a caring and knowledgeable half-youkai who immediately took an interest in her. Though wholly insignificant in comparison to everything she went through the time she spent with her ended up being some of the most memorable moments in her never-ending life, times when the woman let her see things in ways she never thought possible. She knew she would perish someday, no matter how long that might be, so she made an effort to cherish every moment she had and would have with her.

The sound of footsteps took her attention away from her reminiscing.

"Who's there?"

Mokou turned her head toward the direction where the sound came from. No more than twenty steps away from her was a girl about her height. Her hair was a similar shade of gold to Marisa's, and like her she dressed in Western attire. Even to her who barely spent any time with others she could tell something was wrong.

"W- What are you doing here, Alice?"

As she read the expression off the youkai's face she grew tense with uncertainty. For her to show up unannounced in the middle of the night could mean anything up to and including the worst.

"Not here," she whispered as she walked closer. "I want to talk to you someplace where it will be comfortable for you."

Neither of the two exchanged a word Mokou led Alice into her house deep within the forest. A single lantern was already lit, covering every corner of the small wooden hut in orange light. Though the magician had passed by this place before on a few occasions this was the first time she had been let inside. Compared to her house the place Mokou lived in was barely bigger than a single room, containing just enough to shelter her from the elements. The immortal girl didn't need much to get by and the interior of her living space proved to be well in-line with who she was. Here, the wind was largely dissipated among the tall bamboo thickets that blocked out even the sky. It made for a rather quiet environment compared to the Forest of Magic and was the perfect place to hold the conversation they would be having.

"I regret to be the one to tell it to you, but Keine's no longer with us."

"What?!"

It was inevitable. Like everyone she met Keine would eventually pass away. But why now? How could someone like her leave without even a goodbye?

"Tell me! What happened?!"

Alice found it hard to force what she had to say out of her mouth.

"There's a place... underneath the Human Village where..."

"The Underground? Keine took me there a few days ago."

"Yes... the Under... ground... where Reimu..."

Mokou felt her heart pumping in a way she didn't even feel in the heat of battle between her and Kaguya.

"...sealed... her."

The youkai choked on her last word, taking a deep breath after finishing what she had to say. The two looked at each other, silent for several seconds.

And then Mokou screamed.

Louder than any scream Alice had ever heard, it was a shrill cry that chilled her to the bone. It was like the sound a mother made when her beloved child was torn in half by a youkai, beyond even the cry one made when a feral beast sunk its teeth deep into their flesh. She fell on her knees, pounding the floor again and again until the splinters of wood bloodied her fists, the soil beneath crumbling with every attempt to come to terms with the fact that someone this close to her had suffered such a terrible fate.

"WHY?!"

In all her life Mokou had never felt the mix of emotions she was feeling in this moment. It was a feeling of sadness more than that which she felt when she discovered that the world had pushed her away from everyone else, a feeling of regret more than that which came from her decision that fateful night when she succumbed to her selfish desire that turned her into who she had become.

"WHAT DID SHE DO?!"

More than anything Keine cared for the well-being of humans. This was wholly evident in the way she cared for her, becoming one of the very few things that brought joy and happiness to her otherwise meaningless life. She taught her how to live, how to interact with others, and most importantly gave her a reason to get out of bed each day. She was like a mother to her, the woman in her life that picked out all the wrongs in her to correct them.

"WHAT DID SHE DO TO HER?!"

Keine sided with humans so much that she often came into direct conflict with the shrine maiden, having been threatened with extermination several times in the past. It was through this that Mokou became aware of things that permeated every aspect of life in Gensokyo, that humans were faced with the threat of being taken away at any moment because of what they could do to disturb the delicate balance that held everything together. Time and time again she'd warn her to not involve herself in things that could lead to the worst. But even with the knowledge of what punishment she would be dealt for continuing to do what she did she couldn't resist helping others at the risk of eternal suffering.

"I... I don't know. I wasn't th-"

With a particularly hard hit against the floor the lantern fell and shattered on the ground beneath it. Alice reacted to the flames that spread, casting a spell that contained the fire in a bright white ball. Her heart pounding, she recalled the moment when she saw her mother disappear as thousands upon thousands of seals shot toward her. It wasn't until Reimu was driven away did she look upon the remains of what was once her home and realize what had happened.

Mokou let out another cry, this time ending in gasps for air. Part of attaining eternal life was accepting the fact that one's closest friends and family would depart to leave them behind. It wasn't about when they would die but rather how they died. Keine's tortured soul would never find peace, forever subjected to the pain of being burned alive. Alice waited for her to come back to her senses before speaking again.

"She died trying to protect whoever she could. Because of her sacrifice countless others made it out alive and well. Her final wish was to have them sent to the Outside World where they were taken from and if she were still alive she'd definitely ask you to help her make that happen."

"Where are they?" she finally asked. As much as Keine's death upset her she knew there was no use in what she was doing. Nothing would change what had happened and there was no way of going back to prevent it from happening.

"Some of them went to the Human Village, others to the Moriya Shrine, and the rest are at my house. There's no more than a hundred in total."

"What will it take to fulfill Keine's wish?"

"I'm not sure. Only Reimu can send others to the other side of the Barrier and there's no way she'll ever do that with all of them."

"We'll see about that after she's moments away from dying."

Alice tried not to smile but she couldn't hold her excitement back. This was exactly what she wanted from her and she didn't even need to ask for it. Fueled by the death of her closest friend she would hold nothing back.

"The Autumn Reitaisai will be held at her shrine today. It's time we fight back when she least expects it. You, I, and everyone else will show her she's wrong. We'll make sure Keine's death doesn't go to waste and we'll have everyone know that Gensokyo belongs to all of us."

----------

Marisa opened her eyes to see Mima next to a doll resembling a vaguely familiar person.

"Has she regained consciousness?"

"I believe so."

Mima produced a pellet of light from her fingertip, flinging it toward Marisa's forehead. She reflexively tilted her head before it disappeared.

"Alice... Where's Alice?"

Her shoulders were still throbbing with a dull pain from when the youkai grabbed her with tremendous force. As she recalled the final moments of their conversation an intense feeling of regret overwhelmed her, tears quickly blurring her vision to obscure the forms of the two hovering before her.

"She went to find someone."

The voice that responded to her was quiet and childlike in a way not too different from that of a fairy's. If Alice was gone and a doll was talking it could only mean one thing.

"Did she actually do it?"

"Who are you?"

The clock chimed three times. Shinki waited for the sound to subside before answering.

"I am Alice's mother, Shinki. It's been a while since I last saw you back in Makai."

Marisa's heart skipped a beat.

"H- How? Didn't Reimu seal you?"

"It sure looked like that was what happened, did it? I just wanted to end the battle so I separated my soul from my body and left it for her to deal with. Do you remember what happened with Alice after that?"

Marisa nodded.

"I took over her body in an attempt to combine our souls. After all she's my daughter, which made her body quite compatible."

"So your soul was in her body this entire time?!"

"No. She was still very weak at the time and if I let that happen I would have caused her soul to leave her body. When we drove the shrine maiden away I sealed myself in her grimoire hoping she would release me one day. Apparently she was traumatized by what I did to her so she kept that book sealed until now."

It took her a while to take all of that in. Shinki was alive, and that was what mattered right now. How she did it was far too complicated for her to ever understand but those finer details were things left to be discussed at a more suitable time.

"The people that made it to the Human Village are safe and sound. The magicians also escaped, as did a few others."

"Thank you for saving her, Marisa. Without your help I might have been doomed to stay in that book forever."

The girl looked at her mentor.

"I'm so weak, yet this entire time I told lies to everyone and even myself so I could feel better. I'm no magician, I'm just a human. A normal human who couldn't do anything when it mattered the most. I told everyone I would protect them, and when they gathered around me in times where they relied on me I could only stand there and watch them die."

"That's not how it is!"

Mima was quick to come to Marisa's defense. In the span of just a week she lost a very close friend and was turned into an orphan. Together with everything else she witnessed and went through they had taken an incredible toll on her well-being, so it was surprising that she still maintained even a bit of sanity.

"Alice was right, I should have become a magician long ago when things were still within my control."

"Is that what she told you?" asked Shinki. "Is that why she put you to sleep?"

"She's scared. Very, very, very scared."

"I could tell. She told me about how she felt when you almost died. She might have said things you didn't want to hear but deep inside she really cares about you. You're like a sister to her. Irreplaceable."

"So why did you wait this long before thinking about it? What was stopping you from becoming a real magician?"

"A friend. Someone who used her powers to do good and died because of it."

"Rin?"

"SHE JUST WANTED TO HELP!"

Marisa broke into a sob at the mention of her name.

"She didn't need to but she did all she could to provide for the Village. Why did Reimu have to kill her?"

"You stayed human because you knew you could help others and not end up like she did. That's far more noble than turning yourself into a youkai, don't you think?"

"If I was a magician I could've saved my father. I could've saved Keine... and everyone else."

The sound of voices and footsteps coming from outside the room grew louder. Alice opened the door to a bawling Marisa next to Mima and her mother. Mokou stood beside her, fully aware of what was going on. Marisa caught a glimpse of the two before finding herself in a state of intense guilt. Had it not been for mistake after mistake Keine would still be perfectly well, saving the cursed human an eternity of regret on her own part. Everyone wanted to do something but nobody seemed to want to take the initiative out of fear that their attempts at comforting her would end up having the opposite effect.

It was only after nearly half a minute did Alice make her way toward Marisa.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "After everything you did for me I shouldn't have treated you like that."

Upon hearing her voice Marisa opened her eyes to find herself face to face with the magician. There was something about the emotion Alice wore on her face that made her feel at comfort, knowing that she truly felt sorry for what had happened between them. As someone who distanced herself from the Human Village at such a young age she didn't realize what the act would entail until it was too late. Humans ignored her as she grew closer in resemblance to youkai. Youkai despised her for becoming a formidible opponent. Anyone who befriended her along the way was someone to be treasured, someone able to set differences aside in a society where the different was feared.

"It's okay. I know it's not your fault. If anything it's my fault for hanging on to the past as if it would change anything."

"We hold on to the past because of what we can learn from it, so we can change the future. It's the reason my mother is no longer sealed within this book, the reason I went to see Patchouli, and the reason I asked Mokou to come here. There are people that desperately need our help and it's our duty to provide them with everything they need."

Mokou stared at the corner of the ceiling with a blank expression on her face. It was easy for Marisa to say what she said for her life was finite. In time she -- along with everyone around her -- would disappear from her world and be replaced by others in a never-ending cycle.

"It's time we stop running away from the inevitable. No one is leaving Gensokyo unless Reimu sends them to the other side so we're going do whatever it takes to convince her to do so."

Marisa shook her head.

"So would you rather wait for her to find us? There's going to be a fight either way and I'd rather be the one to make the first move."

"You won't stand a chance. She's got anti-magic seals."

She recalled the moment when Reimu rendered her unable to cast any spells with nothing more than a few scraps of paper. For Alice it meant a slow and incredibly painful death as a youkai that depended on magic itself to live.

The magician gasped in horror. There was no arguing with the fact that no matter how powerful she was the shrine maiden could effortlessly take her life. With just a few words Marisa reminded her who she was, leaving her taking deep trembling breaths.

"Then I'll do it."

Mokou could no longer stay silent. She didn't come to watch Marisa talk Alice into backing down. If the two weren't up for it she would lead the way for them to finish what Keine started. All eyes were on her as she explained herself.

"Immortality? How so?"

Shinki took an immediate interest in Mokou upon hearing those words. Such a state of being was out of reach from all but the strongest gods. For a human to obtain immortality was beyond all belief.

"It's a long story. In short it's because of the Hourai Elixir. But it's true I can't die even if I wanted to. Trust me, I've tried and it's never worked."

"She's telling the truth," said Alice after it seemed that she was still in disbelief.

"Be careful." Mima was the only one among the four that considered the risk Mokou faced. "Reimu can't kill you but she can still send you across the Barrier."

"I'd like to see her try."

Regardless of what happened Mokou knew success wasn't guaranteed. She had an advantage over everyone else but her goal was to help those who ranked among the weakest of the weak, humans who might not even know the dangers they faced.

"Relax. We don't even know if it'll come to that."

"And what if it does? Do you have something planned out for when that happens?"

Marisa had no reason to believe anything would go according to Alice's plans. All she could do was tell her otherwise despite her not knowing what it would yield.

"It's all a mistake," the voice in her head told her. "If everyone had been sealed none of this would be happening right now. I shouldn't have followed that man, I shouldn't have went to the Underground, I shouldn't have met everyone down there."

It was a selfish thought that she couldn't believe was on her mind. Perhaps it was time she stopped caring for once and leave things to fate. Even if it meant letting lives be taken as if they were worthless, even if it meant knowing a perfectly well-off family like the one she never had was broken up in an instant, she had no motivation left in her to change anything.

To everyone's surprise the girl stood up and walked toward the door, opening it to step out into the hallway in silence.

"Leave me alone," she said as Alice caught up to her. "Just leave me alone for a while."

There was no use in raising her voice. No use in getting in her way. Alice stood at the front door, staring into the forestry with disbelief. Marisa had finally accepted death and death was more than glad to take her away in the middle of this eventful night.

"IDIOT!!!"

A single crow standing atop the fence flew away in a hurry at the sound of her voice. Unseen and unheard, it disappeared into the darkness from where it came.

----------

Akira woke up with a jolt.

"Was that Alice?"

"Mmm," Chizuru muttered under her breath.

Not a single person was left sleeping as one after another sat up in confusion and uncertainty. Voices and murmers spread throughout the room until the youkai returned with a blank look on her face.

"What's going on?"

"Is something wrong? What's happening?!"

"Listen to me and stay calm or else I won't be able to guarantee your safety. I'll try my best to help but there's a very unlikely chance any of you will be able to return to the Outside World so be prepared to spend the rest of your lives in Gensokyo. In a few hours the night will end. I've made arrangements for the Hakurei Shrine's Autumn Reitaisai which will take place today and if things go wrong all your lives will be in extreme danger. I know what I'm about to do is risky but it's a gamble I have to take for the sake of all of you. So prepare yourseves for the worst because there's a good chance it might happen."

Alice carefully considered what she was going to say next.

"If it helps I can prepare poison you can use if the time comes. If Reimu finds her way here I want you to take it rather than be sealed by her. That way you'll die without any pain and your soul will be taken care of."

She received mixed responses to what was clearly an emergency plan. The Ichimuras found it a reasonable way to react. Some found it very difficult to accept the fact that they would be committing suicide until others reminded them what it meant to be sealed.

"What about you?" asked Momoka. "You're a youkai, aren't you afraid of Reimu sealing you?"

"I'll kill myself if I have to. I apologize if this bothers you but I can't think of a way to have you taken to the Outside World without fighting her."

There was very little to gain from what seemed like a suicide mission, but through inaction even the slightest chance of success would be left behind.

"She's right. We really have no other choice in the matter. Otherwise we can blend in with the humans heading to the shrine today and find somewhere to live in the Village."

Upon hearing her father's words Chizuru's heart sank. Everything was coming to an end and all she could do was hope for the best even if that meant taking her own life to prevent something far worse. With just a few words her dream of leaving Gensokyo was turned into an unattainable fantasy, and as she turned toward Akira all she could see was a boy struck with the realization that nothing could change the sickening truth.

"It's okay. We can still live together in the Human Village."

He didn't respond. All he could think about were the friends he left behind to suffer a kind of torture he never thought was possible, his parents and sister who were still mourning their loss, and the incredibly bleak future in front of him. Having lost his last will to keep himself together he succumbed to the tears that fell from his eyes, the girl coming to his assistance as he fell into her arms.

"They're just children. Harmless, helpless humans who can't do a thing. Why the fuck would you ever want to do such a thing to them? What would it take to convince you otherwise? They don't deserve any of this, they're broken enough, and if you still want to seal them without giving them a second chance I sure as hell won't go easy on you."

Alice's face contorted in anger as she watched the two in their misery. Having seen Marisa finally pushed beyond her limit she felt as if she found it hard to believe that she had any control of herself. On this day of celebration and enjoyment she would fight to her death to see Keine's wish fulfilled. On this thirtieth day of the eighth month of year 130 she no longer had any reason to show mercy toward her enemy.

"So what if she's the Hakurei shrine maiden? So what if I'm a youkai?"

Against all odds and even common sense itself she would see to it.
 

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