Return to Fiction by Valesta
Stage 5: Netherworld
A seemingly endless amount of stairs: That’s what lay before Marisa and Sakuya after Reimu stayed behind to fend off the Prismriver Sisters and bypassing the barrier. Not that the amount of stairs mean anything to them, as they flying, but it would be easy to pity anyone who actually had to climb them. On the plus side, however, there temperature had risen by several degrees to what feels like spring-like weather, roughly 70 degrees: a definite positive sign.
Besides the seemingly endless amount of stairs, there have been quite a few ghostly assailants to slow them down. After an easily-won, yet time consuming battle, everything had become quiet… almost eerily so.
“Damn it…” moans Marisa, “This is endless! I’ve been seeing so many steps that I swear my vision is starting to weird me out! Who the hell built this anyway?”
In a simple tone of voice, Sakuya says, “If looking at it bothers you so much, don’t look at them.”
“But what else is there to look at?”
Sakuya understands what Marisa is getting at and doesn’t answer.
A few minute pass and Sakuya randomly mentions, “I wonder how Reimu is doing. Those… sisters seemed a bit on the unusual side, but they seemed confident in their ability to stop us…”
“Reimu has pulled through a number of situations,” says Marisa, “She may have been outnumbered, but she can certainly take care of them… At least I THINK she can. You should have some ideas, Sakuya. After all, she beat you before…”
Sakuya closes her eyes and says with clenched teeth, trying to hide her frustration, “Yes… you’re right… please don’t remind me of that again…”
“Sorry!” says Marisa with a chuckle.
After a few minutes, Sakuya asks, “Do you think there stairs have a destination? It looks the same going up and down…”
“Of course they do,” answers Marisa, “Lily said spring’s essence is here, and I see no other way to go! We’ll just have to see where they lead! There is no point in making stairs that don’t lead anywhere…”
“We should hurry, then…”
“Yes, we will pick up our pace… when Reimu catches up! We are not just ditching her!”
“And if she doesn’t catch up? If she was beaten back there?”
Marisa glares at Sakuya fiercely, “DON’T ever say that again! We have to have faith in our friend! If you are indeed right, then we’ll make it to the top EVENTUALLY! Have some damn patience!”
“’Our friend?’ Don’t you mean ‘YOUR friend?’ The two of you are just traveling companions with the same mission as me, nothing more, nothing less! I have no feelings for the two of you!”
“But… What about all we talked about at my house? Your willingness to let me duel Alice? I thought you respected us…”
“Simple conversation is no indication of friendship, Marisa. As for your duel, it slowed me down and almost forced me to abandon my quest altogether! I decided to write that off as a one time thing, but we are being slowed down AGAIN! I just can’t wait any longer! Unlike your simple motives, more is at stake with me than just the season. Farewell, Marisa!” She draws a spell card.
“Sakuya! Just what are you doing? What else is at stake besides winter? Tell me!”
Ignoring Marisa, Sakuya holds up the card, “Chrono Sign!” Silver energy swirls around Sakuya.
“You idiot! Why now? We can do th_”
“SILENCE ELONGATE!” All time in the area freezes and all colors turn monochrome. The creepy silence turns to absolute noiselessness and even Sakuya’s small breaths can echo for miles. This will give me a forty-five minute freeze in which to run ahead. I’d best make the most of it... Sakuya flies ahead as fast as she can.
About three minutes into her flight, Sakuya passes a girl, headed in the opposite direction. She has semi-long hair, a skirt, two sheathed words, one sheathe having a flower on it, and accompanied by an odd-looking wisp thing, like a spirit. Her expression looks serious and intense, though a lighter side can be detected as well. Sakuya thinks to herself, Hm? She is certainly different than the other beings here… Perhaps I should… Sakuya shakes her head, No, I won’t waste time! I’ll leave her to Marisa… Sakuya flies ahead, but a few seconds later, she looks back and thinks, I know I made the best decision. The longer I take, the better the chance Flandre will have of losing control… but why do I feel like I had made some sort of mistake…? Dammit! Whatever! I’ve made my decision and I’m not going back on it!
As Sakuya’s time expires, Marisa resumes talking in mid speech, “_is together! Huh?” She notices Sakuya had disappeared, “ARGH! God-dammit! Sakuya actually went through with it! Fine, you bitch! Let’s see just how well you can handle this alone…” Marisa takes a few breaths and calms down. Regaining control, but still aggravated, she mutters, “Damn you, Sakuya! Why did you have to turn now? I thought we would work together through all this…” With Marisa in the middle, with Reimu behind and Sakuya ahead, she decides to keep going as she was in hopes that Reimu would catch up, “Yeah… Reimu is much more reliable! I’ll put my faith in her being able to catch up!” Marisa keeps going at her decreased speed.
Marisa looks up and ahead, “It still seems so far, yet all the answers, and the solution, lay at the top! This is a frustrating circumstance…“
Within a few minutes, a figure appears not far ahead, yelling, “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, INTRUDER!”
“Hm? Who the heck?” Marisa takes a brief look at the owner of the voice: A short, young-looking girl with semi-long platinum hair, with a black ribbon, red eyes, wearing a green skirt, equipped with two sheathed swords, one longer than the other, and accompanied by a strange spirit hovering in midair several feet away.
Marisa’s eyes widen, “Wow! Finally someone here who LOOKS more or less normal!”
The girl says, “Normal? Ha! I’m much more than that! My name is Youmu Konpaku, Gardener of Hakugyokurou and loyal protector of Yuyuko Saigyouji, ghost princess of the Netherworld!” My gut feeling was right… It is an intruder! Could she be here for spring? Of course, why else would she come all this way? I don’t want to confront her, but my duty to Yuyuko-sama comes first and foremost. I will perform my duty, regardless of my will!
Marisa shrugs, “Wow… what an introduction! So, ‘gardener,’ what bring you here to talk with little old me?”
Youmu explains, “All the ghosts around here have been making a ruckus. I guess you maybe the reason: a LIVING human, inconceivable as it may be. Why are you here?” I know, but I will feign ignorance…
Marisa answers with her own question, “Why don’t you feel what it’s like here… then go OUTSIDE this realm, the way I came from? It’s DAMN COLD out there… but it shouldn’t be that way right now! Something happened to spring, and my search has led me here!”
Youmu explains, “I’m well aware of the situation. I was out there myself, not long ago, collecting the essence of spring for Yuyuko-sama’s grand plan.”
Marisa points her finger straight at Youmu, “So YOU’RE the one that had stolen the essence? Give it back right now!”
Youmu briefly closes her eyes and says, “That, I cannot do. The full blooming of the Saigyou Ayakashi depends on it.”
"The youkai sakura, our pride and joy. We are a step short of a full bloom…” Youmu points straight at Marisa, “For a full bloom, we need just a little more spring essence! Miss, you mentioned spring essence, so you know what it is. In fact, you might have some on you. If so, I demand that you hand it over unconditionally!”
Marisa smugly says, “You know what? I have an even better idea. How about I keep my spring, and you give me ALL of yours?”
Youmu unsheathes her larger sword and points it at Marisa, “Do know that I will use force, so make this easy on both of us! You can not match the acuteness of my blades and the extent of my training!”
Marisa smirks, “I dunno about your blades, but I’ve been studying magic all my life, partially so that no one, like you for example, gives me shit! Check it out!” Marisa points at Youmu and fires a small beam of light from her finger. She intentionally misses, the beam slightly grazing Youmu’s hair.
Youmu widens her eyes to the close attack, but quickly regains her composure, “Well, it seems you’ve got something going for you. Shouldn’t have expected anything less from someone who was able to cause such a commotion among the ghosts, but don’t think I’m on the same level as them!”
“Of course not,” says Marisa, “You look human, you’ve got a bitching sword, you certainly have more style out of everything else I’ve seen in this Land of the Dead. However, I have some specific instruction…” Marisa pulls a booklet out of her pocket, which she ‘borrowed’ from Patchouli, and opens it up, “Like, ‘How to Deal with Strange Silver-Haired Bitches…’”
“DON’T mock me!” Youmu rears back like she’s preparing to strike with her sword, albeit being several feet away from Marisa. Suddenly, all time in the area comes to a slowdown, then Youmu swings her sword.
The book is sliced into two halves. Marisa screams, “AH! Dammit! Patchouli’s gonna have my ass for this… but more importantly, what the fuck was THAT?” Time slowed down? Could she have the same powers as Sakuya? Well, she’s LIKE Sakuya in the sense that she’s someone’s loyal bitch, but seriously…Hm…I’ve read it takes concentration to perform such attacks. Could the slowdown indicate the extent of her focus?
“Consider that a warning shot! Now HAND OVER YOUR SPRING ESSENCE!”
Marisa sarcastically says, “Oh my god! You’re so strong! Whatever shall I do? I guess I should hand over my spring…” She reaches into her pocket… then pulls her hand out and directs it in Youmu’s direction, “NOT!” Marisa fires a green burst of magical energy at Youmu.
“Ah!” Youmu quickly reacts and cuts through the shot with her sword, “You had your chance! Now I will kill you for that essence! The things my blade, the Roukanken, can’t cut… are second to none!” She swings her sword around wildly. In the wake of her blade cutting through empty air, several white spheres of spiritual energy form. Finally, she stops swinging her sword and points her blade toward Marisa, as if commanding an army to attack… and it’s an accurate analogy. All the spheres shoot toward Marisa en masse.
“Tch. An interesting trick…” The spheres are plentiful, but don’t home in on their target. Marisa finds an opening in the swarm of energy balls and flies through it, “But not ‘interesting’ enough!” However, Youmu bolts toward Marisa from the other side and prepares to strike, “Oh shi…” Marisa maneuvers to the side, but hits a sphere doing so. The sphere bursts on contact, tossing her into another sphere… and another… and another. Marisa is finally tossed outside the swarm of spheres. Time comes to a sudden slowdown. “Damn! She’s up to something!” Marisa raises her arm in Youmu’s estimated direction and starts to fire a burst of energy.
Finally, Youmu flies in fast, but directly hits Marisa’s shot, to the torso, “ARGH!” Youmu grasps the place where she was hit, “Ow… You’re pretty clever…”
“’The things your sword can cut are second to none,’ huh? Not much, ‘cutting,’ it seems…”
Youmu says, “When wielded by one that can use spirit energy as a weapon, a sword is more than just a cutting weapon…”
“Regardless, I was just giving you a small taste of my ability! Now to up the ante!” Youmu draws a spell card, “Hell Realm Sword!” The card turns to red energy that flows into Youmu’s spirit companion. It wraps around the blade of Youmu’s Roukanken and the energy flows through that. The spirit separates from the sword and Youmu raises it high, “200 Yojana in One Slash!” Large red balls of spirit energy fly from Youmu’s sword to the sky. Youmu flies up after them and cuts through them in a single slash. Several smaller orbs of energy fly from the broken spheres and rain down toward Marisa.
Marisa smirks, “I’ll give you the same challenge!” she draws a spell card, “Magic Space!” The card glows with several different colors, “Asteroid Belt!” The card vanishes and several magical star-shaped projectiles materialize around Marisa and shoot up toward Youmu. Some projectiles collide and cancel each other out, but Marisa moves frantically to dodge Youmu’s falling rain and Youmu does the same to evade Marisa’s rising rain. Finally, once the effects of their cards had worn off, they both got grazed by some shots, but made it through okay.
“A neat trick,” says Youmu, “you put me in almost the same situation as yourself. May I ask your name?”
Marisa points at herself with her thumb, “My name is Marisa Kirisame, the most powerful damned witch in Gensokyo!”
“I see…” Youmu briefly closes her eyes, “Marisa Kirisame… I shall commit that name to memory. You certainly have interesting powers for a human…”
“How about you?” asks Marisa, “You sure look different than the other ghosts. What does that make you?”
“A half-ghost,” answers Youmu.
“Interesting…” Is she the product of a human and ghost that got freaky, or something…?
“You see my spirit, here?” asks Youmu, “It’s as much a part of me as my arms and legs. It, and myself are two halves of the same whole…” Suddenly, Youmu’s ghost-half starts to shape shift, “and you shall know its power as well!” Within seconds, it completely morphs into a transparent clone of Youmu, complete with the Roukanken. “It can morph into whatever form I desire, and…” Youmu’s ghost half charges at Marisa, who swiftly dodges, but gets nicked in the arm by the copy’s blade “… it certainly makes things more complicated for my opponents!” Youmu’s human half charges at Marisa as well, who counters by firing several blasts of magic, which she simply cuts through with the Roukanken.
“Grr…” Marisa flies toward Youmu at full speed, while starting to stand upright on her broom.
“Gotcha!” Youmu counter-slashes as Marisa approaches, but she jumps up, narrowly avoiding the sword, with the shaft of her broom slamming into Youmu’s upper torso. “ACK!” Youmu is knocked away, the sudden disruption in concentration causing her ghost half to revert to normal and fly back to the human-half's location.
With Youmu stunned, Marisa draws a spell card, “Get ready for some pain, bitch! Love Sign!” The card turns to golden energy, which then flows into Marisa’s body.
Youmu recovers and draws a spell card of her own, “Likewise… Life Terminating Sword!” Green energy flows into Youmu’s ghost-half and it merges with the Roukanken.
“SLASH OF PLUTONIC MUSE!”
Marisa fires her massive laser at Youmu, whose sword suddenly grows to an enormous length. Youmu swings her sword downward, into the Master Spark. “That’s very brave of you…” growls Marisa, thinking out loud, aware that Youmu won’t hear her over the noise of the clashing energy, “but overly arrogant!”
“YAAAAAA!” However, despite Marisa’s impression of Youmu’s actions, Youmu manages to start cutting through the middle of the Master Spark, albeit some of the magical energy caving in on her.
Marisa, seeing the situation at hand, yells, “Ah! Dammit!”
Youmu completely cuts through the Master Spark and releases a powerful blast of air pressure that blows Marisa back several feet. Youmu, breathing fast, in pain from the caved in magic, thinks to herself, Damn… That was something else… I’d better be careful about that trick from now on…
Marisa, with magic smoke rising from her hands, residue of the Spark she just fired, mutters, “Damn… I underestimated this chick… But she won’t stand a chance against THIS one!” Marisa draws another spell card, “Magica_” She hesitates in mid-speech, No… That’s purely a last resort measure… It hasn’t gotten that bad, and it could be a disaster using an experimental spell in the middle of an uncertain battle…
“What’s the matter?” taunts Youmu, “Changed your mind?”
“Yes,” as a matter of fact,” says Marisa, returning her spell card to her pocket, “I’m afraid of how badly that spell would waste your ass.”
Youmu frowns, “Don’t underestimate me, Marisa!”
“Nope, I think my estimations were right on track…”
“Hmph,” Youmu backs away a few feet and starts swinging her sword and creating more spheres of spirit energy which fly at Marisa.
“Old tricks won’t work twice, Youmu!” Marisa draws a spell card, “Ritualic Space!” The card splits into six fragments, which expand and take on the forms of multicolored orbs that orbit around Marisa, red, green, yellow, orange, blue, and purple, “Orreries Solar System!” The orbs glow with intense white light and fly toward the swarm of energy balls, cutting through them toward Youmu.
Youmu, watching the Orreries Solar System orbs approaching, draws a spell card, “Obsession Sword!” Blue energy flows into Youmu’s body, “Blood of Asura!” Youmu suddenly vanishes.
“Huh? Where did she go?” Marisa looks around. Suddenly, Marisa’s orbs of energy burst, “Over there?” Marisa turns in the direction where the orbs were and fires several magical blasts in that direction. Youmu, getting hit by the blasts, but ignoring the pain comes in fast, too fast for Marisa to dodge. SLASH! “ARGH!” Youmu passes Marisa cutting her with the Roukanken, but before the pain can completely set in Marisa gets slashed several more times with Youmu moving in various directions, SLASH! SLASH! SLASH! SLASH! “Ahhh…”
“Now then…” With Marisa stunned and wounded, Youmu’s ghost-half shape shifts again in the form of a copy of the human-half. It flies behind Marisa and restrains her. Youmu’s human-half flies sword-first at Marisa.
“Oh damn!” exclaims Marisa too weakened to break free. She closes her eyes, bracing herself to be run through, but Youmu stops inches short of her.
Marisa slowly opens her eyes and asks, “What’s wrong, Youmu? Aren’t you gonna do it?” She tries to sound brave, but that’s just a façade to hide her fear.
“Of… of course!” yells Youmu, “I will finish you off and take your essence! The Saigyou Ayakashi will finally bloom… finally bloom… but…”
“What the hell is with you, Youmu? You try to kill me, but you hesitate when the chance is right in front of you…?” Damn! Why did I say that?
Youmu grits her teeth, “Why are you provoking me? You are at my mercy! Your life will end no matter how long I hesitate!”
“Why are you hesitating at all, coward?”
“Grr! Damn it!” Youmu rears back to thrust the Roukanken through Marisa’s heart…
Tch. So this is it? Dammit! I sure would have enjoyed one last spring back home… but then again, it's spring where I am. I’m sure I’m more fortunate than some people. Still… I’m sorry, Reimu… As Marisa is about to resign herself to fate, several needles fly over Marisa’s left shoulder and into Youmu’s right shoulder. “AGH!” Youmu staggers back, clutching her wound with her right arm, still holding the Roukanken. She’s loses focus on her ghost-half and it reverts to normal, releasing Marisa.
Marisa’s eyes widen as she sees the needles, “Ah! Those belong to…”
A familiar voice yells, from behind Marisa, “Spirit Sign: Fantasy Orb!”
Five bright orbs fly toward Youmu. She cuts through the first one, but fails to counter the second and gets hit by the remaining four orbs.
“Oh man… You looked like you were in deep shit, Marisa! I’m glad I made it in time!” From behind Marisa, Reimu approaches.
Marisa lets out a deep sigh and says, “Yeah! Glad to see that you made it here alright, Reimu…”
“Looks like you had quite a battle,” says Reimu, commenting on Marisa’s wounds.
“Likewise,” responds Marisa, referring to the wounds Reimu got from the Prismriver Sisters.
“Yeah…” Reimu looks around and asks, “Huh? Where’s Sakuya? She was with you when you entered…”
Youmu recovers, slightly dazed, and asks, “Huh? ‘Sakuya?’ Marisa was the only one around when I saw here! Just who are you talking about?”
Reimu shrugs and says, “Well, we’ll worry about that later. We should worry more about the situation right in front of us!”
Youmu closes her eyes, sighs, and says, “You’re a lucky one, Marisa Kirisame…” She opens her eyes and turns to Reimu, “And you are…?”
“The miko, Reimu Hakurei,” answers Reimu, “So… what’s your name, little girl?”
As Youmu is about to answer Reimu’s question, pouting at the ‘little girl’ remark, Marisa cuts in saying, “She’s Youmu Konpaku!”
Youmu glares at Marisa, but says, “Yeah, that’s right… So you’re a companion of Marisa’s? In that case, I can’t let you pass either!”
“You can try,” says Reimu, “But simply SAYING it won’t make it happen…”
“True enough,” says Youmu with a smile, “I guess I should back it up…” She unsheathes her smaller sword, “With the Roukanken and Hakurouken used against you, your chances of confronting Yuyuko-sama are nil!”
“Two swords…” observes Marisa, “Now what?”
Youmu flies upward, tossing both swords into the air. As they spin above her, Youmu draws a spell card, “Celestial Star Sword!” Platinum energy flows into Youmu’s ghost-half. It splits into two smaller wisps and they fly up to the Roukanken and Hakurouken. Like before, they merge with the swords, enhancing them with intense spirit energy. Youmu catches the swords by the hilts on their way down and yells, “SILENT NIRVANA!” Youmu focuses, slowing time, then swings the swords in an X-shaped pattern and in the wake of the air they cut through, a large void opens up. Out of the void pours countless white bullets of spirit energy, looking reminiscent to a meteor shower! “This is one of my greatest attacks,” declares Youmu.
“Good for you!” yells Marisa sarcastically, then muttering, so only Reimu can hear, “And rightfully so. This attack is something else!”
Reimu pulls several ofuda out of her pockets, “Well we should defend ourselves!” Reimu tosses the ofuda in the path of the bullets, and they form barriers, which are soon mercilessly pounded upon by Youmu’s bullets and quickly begin to wear down.
Reimu, drawing more ofuda from her pockets and reinforcing the first barrier, says, “This will not last much longer, let’s counter it!”
Reimu draws a spell card, “Spirit Sign!” As the card vanishes, Reimu pulls more ofuda out of her pockets. White energy from the spell card flows into them.
Following Reimu’s lead, Marisa draws a card of her own, “Star Sign!” Golden energy swirls around her.
As her barricade wears down, Reimu flies up, tosses the ofuda in Youmu’s direction, and yells, “Fantasy Seal -Spread-!!” The ofuda split into smaller fragments and begin to glow with energy of various colors that shoot toward Youmu.
“Not good enough!” declares Youmu, altering the trajectory of her bullets to intercept Reimu’s.
With Youmu distracted, Marisa sends her golden energy directly above Youmu, where it builds up into a throbbing ball of energy, “Dragon Meteo!”
A magical beam, resembling the Master Spark, shoots down at Youmu. “WHAT? ARGH!” It slams into Youmu, shattering her concentration on the spell card’s power, causing the bullets to vanish before reaching Reimu, and sends her rocketing into the stone steps below. She crashes, forming a hole that collapses in on her.
Marisa and Reimu nod to each other, “Nice Combination!” says Marisa, with a thumbs-up.
Reimu tilts her head, “Y’know, I heard that somewhere… but anyways, I’m glad I made it on time. If I were any slower…”
“Yeah, that was lucky,” says Marisa, “By the way…” Marisa explains the things she had learned from Youmu, specifically the Saigyou Ayakashi and the reason Youmu gathered spring essence.
“It’s all to bloom a TREE?” asks Reimu, “THAT’S what they stole spring for?”
“It’s stupid,” says Marisa, “but apparently so…”
“Well, let’s not waste time in getting ahead…” Suddenly Reimu pauses and asks, “Oh! I almost forgot! What happened to Sakuya?”
Marisa answers, “I dunno what was going on with her mind! She seemed to be unsatisfied with the rate we were going, then she froze time, or something like that, and went ahead. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s confronting ‘Yuyuko,’ or whatever the mastermind’s name is, as we speak!”
“Then we should hu_”
“That’s what you meant?” Reimu is cut off by Youmu’s voice coming from the rubble. She pushes a large piece of debris out of her way, climbs out of the hole, and slowly rises to her feet, using the Roukanken as a support. She coughs out some blood, but it doesn’t interfere.
“Wow…” mutters Marisa, her eyes agape, “You’re hardier than you look, Youmu…”
Youmu, ignoring Marisa, says, in a somewhat strained voice, “This ‘Sakuya…’ You say she went ahead… past my notice?”
“Apparently so,” answers Reimu.
“Damn it…! Yuyuko-sama!” Youmu casts her gaze up the stair and draws a spell card, “I hope… I’m not too… late! Focused Motion!” Youmu’s body radiates a light green aura. Suddenly, time comes to a complete stop, only in this case, everyone involved is consciously aware of the freeze. “Yojana Journey!” There is a bright flash of light from Youmu’s location. When it clears, Youmu had completely vanished.
“Where’d she go?” asks Reimu.
Marisa says, “You probably noticed, but time comes to a slowdown whenever she focuses her energies. She probably… no… definitely went ahead to catch up with Sakuya…”
“Then let’s go!” exclaims Reimu, “Sakuya’s in trouble!”
“Why should I care?” asks Marisa with a casual expression on her face, “She left us behind. She didn’t consider us her friends at all, even after all that…”
Reimu looks up the stairs, “Even if that’s true, Marisa, I still can’t help but worry! Regardless, we should get to the top. That’s where our destination is…”
“At least I agree with you on that second point,” says Marisa, sliding forward on her broom, making room in the back, “Hop on, Reimu, you’re here and Sakuya’s ahead, so I don’t have to slow down for anyone right now!”
“Yeah!” responds Reimu with a nod. She hops on the back of the broom.
“Hang on tight. The G-force can be a doozy when riding this at full speed for the first time!”
“Ah!” Reimu tightens her grip on the broom’s shaft as it quickly accelerates. Within moments, it reaches such a speed that the stairs start to look like a big white blur.
Marisa reaches into her pocket and pulls out two spell cards, Dammit! I used too many fighting Youmu, now these are the only two left…
The two girls look forward, as their final destination lies at the top of the stairs.
Further ahead, Youmu, moving at an immeasurable speed, thinks to herself, We have some pretty tough invaders! One of them even got right past me… Despite her negative thoughts, Youmu smiles, an expression she soon notices, Huh? What’s this…? I’m happy…? Hmph. Perhaps it’s rightfully so. I can’t disobey Yuyuko-sama, in spite of the results she’s possibly ignorant of… Perhaps those girls are the hope she needs, but… on my honor, I won’t let them reach her so easily!
At the top of the stairs, Sakuya enters a large garden filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees. Around there, several humanoid ghosts play with each other, admiring the sights, talking amongst themselves, or simply flying around without a single care. A nearby ghost, a dark-haired woman in a kimono asks Sakuya, “Ah! Hello, miss! Are you new here to Hakugyokurou?”
Hakugyokurou? Is that the name of this place? Sakuya answers, “Yes, something of that nature. May I ask where the master of this place is?”
The woman blinks a couple times, “’Master?’ You must mean Yuyuko-sama! She resides over there..." She points straight ahead of Sakuya. In the distance, there is a large Japanese-style palace, but behind that, an even larger tree with blossoms almost at full bloom. “Yuyuko-sama is preparing a big flower-viewing event! You should see her and pay your respects!”
“Thank you…” says Sakuya. With a menacing smirk, she adds, “Indeed, I will ‘pay my respects…’”
As the woman gives her a confused glance, Sakuya flies ahead toward the palace. As she gets a little closer, she notices a pink glow coming from her pocket, “Hm?” Sakuya pulls her orbs of spring essence out. They slowly start to break down into the miniaturized petals and begin to fly in the direction of the distant giant tree as pink streaks. My spring essence is reacting to that… tree? Well then, it seems to be a positive sign… It’s time to get to the bottom of this! I hope I’m not too late… She glances back briefly, but just as quickly resumes looking forward and shakes her head, Hmph… Why am I thinking about those two? They were good companions when they weren’t slowing me down, but I’ve gotten this far ahead without them. Still…