~Hakurei Shrine~ > Patchouli's Scarlet Library

東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and Dark

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東方陰陽記 ~ Border of Light and DarkA 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
24 - Give and Take

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!

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!

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.
"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!"


"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?"


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.


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.

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."


"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.


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