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- Return to Fiction by Valesta
Spring Break is right around the corner, and it’s a good thing too, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be on the other side of the world. Of course, I tell my mom that I’m going on a camping trip with Alice and Cirno, which she was all too happy to hear about. You see, before coming to my new school, I didn’t have a lot of friends, so when Alice and Cirno came into the picture, my mom was overjoyed that I finally have someone to hang out with. I feel bad about lying to her, but I think she’d probably freak if she found out I was attacked by a vampire… and that’s IF she believes me, which she won’t, but no matter how she looks at it, a trip to Japan is not bullshit, so she’d likely get on my case if she knew. Sorry, mom.
I’ve never left this country… at least not in a way I remember, so being able to experience a whole new culture sounds both intimidating and exciting. Of course, Spring Break isn’t here yet, and when you are anticipating something, days go by much more slowly.
Finally, after a couple slow weeks, it’s Friday, with the weekend coming up, followed by Spring Break! Tomorrow is the big day! For now, though, I’m at school, and at the lunch table with Alice and Cirno once again. After another small lunch, Alice beats me again in a swift and sound game of chess.
As Alice picks up the chess set, Cirno mentions, “Um… Maybe you should have moved that horse-piece instead of that castle-piece?”
“What good would that have done?” ask me and Alice at the same time.
“I dunno,” says Cirno with a shrug.
After a few minutes, I ask, “Hey… what was I like in Gensokyo? Was I any different than I am now?”
Alice says, “As Marisa Kirisame, you were quite into books. So much so, that you constantly raided Gensokyo’s largest archive.”
“Really?” Seriously, I can’t picture myself doing that. I don’t even read that much…
“So I was a bookworm? Did I know all kinds of stuff? A walking, talking encyclopedia?”
“You absolutely weren’t,” answers Alice, “You were only interested in books about magic, and I occasionally saw books laying around your home about staff fighting. In other words, anything that could make you more powerful. Despite what that tendency may imply, you were a seeker of strength.”
“Other than that area, Marisa, your intelligence was pretty average. You acted pretty much the same way you do now. You had a rivalry going with Reimu since your childhood, and you were often the one left behind.”
“I see…” I think of another aspect within the topic at hand, “Did I have a lot of friends?”
Alice hesitates a little, “Not for a while… Reimu was your only friend for most of your life. When you were little, you wanted to be friends with me, but at the time, I didn’t want anything to do with anyone, other than my dolls. It took me some time to realize that I really did care. Ultimately, though, we did become friends, and went on a number of journeys together. You accompanied Reimu on a number of quests, and who were once your enemies became acquaintances to you, like Cirno here.”
“Mm hm!” responds Cirno with a jolly smile.
“You didn’t really have a lot of people you had a particularly strong friendship with, outside of mere acquaintanceship. Just four, to the best of my knowledge: Reimu, of course, me, though what we used to have was a love-hate rivalry, Sakuya, who was a maid of one of your earliest adversaries, and another girl named Youmu Konpaku, who, like Sakuya, was a servant of a former enemy.”
I lean over the edge of the table, saying softly and dreamily, “I see… Sounds nice…”
Cirno glances at me. I guess it’s so obvious that I was deeply touched that even she can tell, “Marisa?”
Alice also looks curious, so I figured I might as well tell them, “I’m no good with people. I know I can be a hardass sometimes, and I hardly ever pick the most peaceful solution to a problem, but I never could help it. It was like a part of who I am… and I never could fit in because of it…”
“Marisa…” says Alice.
“Thanks to my personality and other things, no one wanted me close to them. It’s been that way all my life. I know I’ve had trouble expressing it, but I was touched to know that you two wanted to be my friends. It seems I didn’t have a lot of friends in my other life, according to you, but even with just a few… it sounds great. I… want to know what it was like. Maybe I will if I meet that Reimu and regain my memories like I was told…”
Cirno looks at me sympathetically, “You didn’t have any friends before coming to Gensokyo?”
“No. I wonder… if I was a happier person in that life than I am here…”
“I think you were,” says Alice, “You’ve always been rough around the edges, whether it were here or there, but even if you never showed it, I’m sure you were happy whenever we were together, no matter what happened.”
“Alice, you said you used to not have any friends?”
“I guess we’re pretty much the same, then. Friendship is not a concept that comes easily to us, and it’s the most valuable thing we can have.”
Cirno changes the subject, “Well, tomorrow we go to Japan!”
I say to Alice, “You said someone can get us there instantly? How is that possible?”
“You’ll see, Marisa. She is capable of much more than that.” Dammit, Alice! Stop beating around the bush!
Well, it’s nighttime. When I wake up, the big day will arrive! As with times of anticipation, it takes me awhile to get to sleep, but it eventually does happen.
I find myself in a classroom; a kindergarten classroom to be exact. The walls are painted a bright yellow, the alphabet is lined up just below the ceiling, there a few desks and some juvenile toys laying around, and most of the floor is covered with a carpet with a picture of a simplified map of the US of A, which I happen to be sitting on… as a high-schooler… in my nightclothes. Right in front of me, Yumei is sitting on a chair with a hard-cover book in her hand, “Good morning, class (‘class’ being just me). Today I’m going to read you a story.”
I roll my eyes, “Did you really have to go for this set-up?”
Yumei says smugly, “You’re the one who’s dreaming it, not me, so you only have yourself to blame. Anyways, ‘class,’ I’m going to read an ages-old oriental classic known as the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter.”
“I know this story,” I say, “I was told it in 8th grade lit.”
“Well now, you are going to hear it again.”
“AHEM!” Yumei clears her throat, “Once upon a time, in a bamboo forest, lived a bamboo cutter and his wife. They were poor and weren’t blessed with children… or cursed. They probably didn’t know how good they had it…” Okay… Yumei is looking in her book, but it’s obvious she’s telling this story in her own words “… ANYways, one day, the cutter found this teenage girl named Kaguya Houraisan lying unconscious in the forest, so he brought her home…”
I raise my hand, “Um… wasn’t Kaguya an infant at that time…? And I don’t think she had a last name.”
“Shut up and let me tell the fucking story.”
“She was brought home and she said she didn’t have any parents, so she became their daughter, and the three of them lived happily. Apparently, people thought she was super-hot and, eventually, five young nobles wanted to marry her. Well, she wasn’t ready for marriage… or didn’t WANT to, and decide to have them prove their worth by giving them requests; IMPOSSIBLE requests. They were all asked to find and bring back a bunch of shit that didn’t exist. Some of them knew damn well that the items in question were nonsense, and tried to forge bogus replicas, trying to pass them off as the real thing. Kaguya didn’t fall for it. One of them made an honest effort and traveled to a faraway land, where he lost his life. Nice guys finish last, it seems. To sum it up, they fucked up. Moving on, Kaguya turns out to be the princess of them moon, and she was exiled for drinking an immortality elixir, thus she didn’t age at all while her foster folks withered more and more. Finally, for some reason, they, the moon that is, wanted her back and sent some emissaries down to pick her up. She loved her home, so much though, that she didn’t want to go back…”
I cut in, “She was taken back anyway and the emperor was given the immortality elixir, which he burned, right?”
“WRONG! I’m continuing into Tale of the Bamboo Cutter: Based on a True Story.”
“What the hell?”
“She wasn’t taken back to the moon. One of the emissaries, an old friend of hers, named Eirin Yagokoro, honored her wishes and killed the others.”
“However, the other Lunarians… or moon people if you will, got wind of this and went to hunt them down. They ran away and made it to another world, where they hid. Kaguya loved this new world very much. However, the moon’s forces wanted to invade it, so she trie to counter it, but to no avail. Luckily, they never came before the dreamers responsible for the new world woke up, and our poor heroine got stuck inside the cranium of one of them… Now, Marisa, the legend continues, and YOU determine the fate of Kaguya!”
I get it, “That world was Gensokyo, wasn’t it?”
“Correct. It was thanks to your dream, that this old story got its alternate ending. You’re indirectly responsible for altering a story passed down through generations. Good job.”
“Well… um… wow!” Really, this information has me speechless. I had learned before that the history of the dream world extended back alongside the histories of other realms, but Yumei’s words put a new type of significance on it. My dream had that much power? Enough to change history?
Yumei slams the book shut, “Well, I just thought I’d let you know about that. In a couple days, you will help in freeing Kaguya, and in turn, me.”
I rise to my feet, “Then you will help bring back Gensokyo back, right?”
Yumei smiles, almost menacingly, “Absolutely.”
“Hey… might I… be able to live in it?”
“If you want to. It’s your choice. It will be my reward to you for helping free me.”
“Okay! Hey Yumei?”
“Thank you. I don’t say this often, but thanks to you, I’ve been able to recall a few things about a past I’ve forgotten and have grown closer to my… friends.”
“It’s not a problem, Marisa. I want to help you so you can help me. A new day is about to begin and, if you want to be dramatic about it, your… no… OUR destiny awaits…” The classroom starts to fade around us, “Class dismissed!”
I wake up with my encounter with Yumei clear in the back of my mind. I look around my room to the window and see daylight shining in. I look at a clock on the wall, which says it is 9:45AM. No sooner do I notice that when I hear my mom calling up from downstairs, “Marisa! Are you up? Alice and Cirno are here!”
“Y-yeah… Just give me a few! I’ll be right down!” I leap from bed, only feeling half like shit from waking up after only about five hours of genuine sleep. I change out of my PJs and into a plain yellow long sleeved t-shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers, give my hair a quick brushing, then thunder downstairs, where my mom is waiting in the living room with Alice and Cirno.
“Good morning!” greets my friends at the same time.
Mom holds up a plate with a couple pancakes, “I made some breakfast for your friends. Would you like some before your big day?”
“No need to ask.” I accept breakfast and am left in the living room with my friends.
“So… what are we going to do now?” I ask before I take a bite from one of my patties.
Alice answers, “Our friend is going to come here shortly and pick us up. From there… you’ll see!” Shit. Alice seems to enjoy provoking my curiosity. Well, when I meet this Reimu chick and supposedly remember everything, there will probably be little left to shock me about, so I guess I can’t complain much about a few extra surprises…
I finish eating my breakfast and ask, “What is Reimu like exactly?”
Alice answers, “She’s usually a pleasant person, but she’s pretty laid-back, though she is excitable. She’s the kind of person who is quick to forgive, probably because it’s simply unpleasant to be always harboring a grudge… though there has been one exception to that, but that’s generally how she is…”
“I see. She sounds nice.”
“You’ll see her yourself soon enough.”
Just as Alice speaks, however, the doorbell rings. “Could it be her?” asks Cirno.
We get up, but before we reach the door, my mom answers it. We hear a female voice, not belonging to Sakuya, who I was expecting, ask, “Hello, might this be the Starr residence?”
“… … Um… It is.” Huh? It’s not like mom to make such a hesitant greeting…
“I have come to pick up Marisa, Alice, and Cirno for their… camping trip.”
We reach the door. Standing on the front mat is a girl who totally stands out! Besides having purple eyes, saying her hair is blonde would be an understatement! It’s outright golden! Her clothes are even more surprising! It’s a dress, which looks like its maker couldn’t decide whether it should be Chinese-style or European-style, so she went for both. It has a purple strip down the front, with some vague oriental designs, but the rest of it is white and many layers of frilly edges. All in all, she’s an outrageous sight. No wonder my mom hesitated when she greeted our ‘guest.’
“I see. I… like your clothes. They’re so… unique. May I ask who you are?”
The weird girl glances toward Alice, “I’m Alice’s Aunt Yukari. Isn’t that right, my dearest niece?” ‘Yukari’ reaches over and playfully runs her hand through Alice’s hair. Judging by her reaction, Alice is less than happy.
Yukari says, “We have all the camping supplies we need in my car, so you don’t need to worry.” She points toward a car parked along the side of the road: A red convertible that looks like it’s fresh out of the car dealership. Overall, it’s a damn nice car and I’m surprised. Judging by Alice and Cirno’s reactions upon seeing it, I’m not alone on this. “Well, we shall be off!”
“Okay,” says mom, “Have fun on your camping trip!”
“Will do!” respond me, Alice, and Cirno in unison.
Yukari walks in the direction of the car. Alice notices this too and mutters, only I nearby am able to hear it, “Is she seriously…?”
Well, Alice’s inquiry is answered as Yukari open the driver’s door and scoots behind the wheel, “Hop in!”
“Okay!” Cirno runs ahead of Alice and me, and around to the other side of the car so she can claim the front passenger’s seat, not that I care. Alice and I just walk over and get in the back and we all buckle our seat belts.
Yukari inserts the key into the ignition and starts the car, “Well, let us be off!”
“Goodbye, Marisa!” calls out mom.
I hold up my hand and wave goodbye, “Goodbye, m_” I’m cut off by a sudden burst of G-force pressing me back against my seat. Along with squealing tires, the car takes off with a blast of speed.
I only catch a momentary glimpse of my mom’s shocked expression before all the other houses in the neighborhood start to blur by. Yukari makes a violent turn off my street and onto the main road, saying, “It’s nice to see you again, Marisa. You have a good mother.”
“Whatever! Why are you driving like this?”
“I always wanted to drive one of these. I know it’s my first time, but you don’t need to be like that.”
“Just open a gap!” yells Alice, “It’s faster!”
“And boring. First, we are going to pick up Sakuya, and then we will make a brief detour before heading to Japan.”
Not a lot of traffic comes through this part of town, so there aren’t a lot of cars. However, it isn’t long before Yukari heads onto the highway. She dodges around a car, and ends up in the left lane, where the opposing traffic approaches. “Yukari, or whatever your name is, you can’t be on this side!”
Yukari calmly asks, looking back toward me, “Really? It’s quite the opposite in Japan.”
“It’s different in this country… AND DON’T LOOK AT ME! WATCH THE ROAD!”
Cirno screams, “AHHHHHHH! INCOMING!” Right ahead of us, there is a large truck approaching. We’re going too fast and that truck is too big to corner worth a shit! No way around it, we’re going to crash! The truck’s driver honks repeatedly.
“We’re gonna die!” I yell. My body is shaking, my stomach feels weird, my heart is racing, and I’m tense all over!
Suddenly, Yukari holds her hand in front of her and a large purple ‘hole’ opens right in front of us. We drive in, and in the next instant, we’re driving on the highway again, no trucks, alive and well. I look around, and behind us, there is that truck getting smaller and smaller.
I ask the very words that are on my mind, “What the hell was THAT?” Seriously, it’s like there was some kind of rip that suddenly appeared in the time-space in front of us. A two-dimensional hole!
“My power. Pretty nifty, no? Fufufu~” Yukari giggles. What a weird laugh… She swerves back to the right lane, “There. Are you satisfied?” At that moment, however, we caught the attention of a police car, which chases after us. We’re going too fast, even for the highway!
“Um… You have to pull over…”
“Because bad things will happen if you don’t.”
Alice puts her hand on my shoulder, “Don’t worry, Marisa. With Yukari’s powers, everything is under control… I think…” Oh, gee whiz. Thanks, Alice…
I really want to ask what Yukari did back when we were going to crash into that truck, but right now, I’m worried about other things… like getting arrested…
Despite what I told Yukari, we’re not slowing down and stopping for the police. Instead, we keep going faster. We’re about 20-30MPH over the limit, and dodging around all the other cars, which go by fast. Alice and I duck down because the wind is starting to get too strong. After about three minutes of this, two more police cars joined the pursuit. Yukari is unfazed, despite the constant reminders from the cops’ loudspeakers to “pull over.” After a while, I guess they decided to say fuck it, and moved on to, “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!”
I slump down. Oh god, I can’t believe this is my life…
Finally, Yukari swerves off to the next exit, the road winding down, and the centrifugal force reminding me all too well of that. We enter the downtown area, and Yukari slows down a little, but still nowhere within reason. The roads are now narrower and the area is more densely filled with cars, so our situation just turned worse. All the while, the police, now up to about seven cars, are after us, sirens blaring. Once again, Yukari uses that weird ‘hole’ thing to go ‘through’ vehicles that she can’t avoid. Suddenly, I feel a lot better about the situation. We reach a major traffic backup, due to an accident ahead. Yukari simply opens a ‘hole’ and completely bypasses it, losing the cops in the process. Well, I’m sure we just made a whole bunch of days for people... At least I’m pretty sure no one saw my face, though I’m sure mom will have some questions…
We turn into a side road, and approach the apartment complex where Cirno and Sakuya live. In the road ahead, with no cars, other than ours, Sakuya is standing as we blast forward at an unbelievable speed.
“Slow down!” I yell, “Sakuya’s ahead!”
Yukari, still unfazed, says, “She’ll be fine. Relax, Marisa.”
Sakuya runs toward us, and… she’s moving almost as fast as the car. It’s difficult to follow her movement, but I do somehow. She arcs around to my side of the car, jumps up, over me, twists in midair so she’s facing the same direction as all of us, and lands in the middle back passenger seat, between Alice and me.
“Good morning,” greets Sakuya calmly.
“Heeey~” yells Cirno.
“Holy shit, you’re fast,” I compliment.
Sakuya shakes her head in objection, “No. It was because you were slow. I was as fast as I normally am…”
“Well, in your eyes, I’m sure the contrary applies… Whew…” Sakuya lets out a fatigued sigh, sweating a little.
“Are you feeling okay?” asks Alice.
“I’m fine. It’s just that the technique I used is excruciatingly tiring, just like any time manipulation technique I use without a spellcard…”
“Hm? Alice and Cirno didn’t tell you?”
“No,” respond Alice and Cirno at the same time.
Yukari slams on the brakes, bringing us to a violent and noisy stop, “Well, THAT was fun! Don’t you think?”
Since I’m in the back, I can’t tell how Cirno responded, Alice just sits there, as does Sakuya, and I nod slowly. No joke. It was just like that battle with Yumei/Remilia: once you get over that feeling of dread and impending death, there really is an element of excitement to be found in the aftermath.
There is a long moment of silence between us. Echoing in the distance, there are police sirens. I don’t know how many there are going in unison, but it’s probably more than fifteen… Out in force and they are getting closer, not that I’m surprised, with the shit Yukari pulled…
Yukari sighs, “More of those annoying sirens. Honestly, can’t the authorities of this world announce their presence in a more subtle manner? Well, we mustn’t stay here; otherwise there could be some problems…”
There is a slight vibration from under the car. I look over the edge and see another one of those 2D ‘holes’ open below the car. Within seconds, it becomes wide enough and we drop in, “Ahh!”
… … … The drop was a lot shorter than I thought it was going to be, but more importantly, where the hell are we? We’re at the foot of a grassy hill with stone stairs, lined at the sides with trees with pink petals raining from them, leading up to a Japanese style palace. My guess would be that this was Japan, except there are a bunch of white wisps flying around. Looking out, there are miles of field with more of those pink trees spread all around, the petals carried all over the place by a gentle breeze. It’s really quite a beautiful place…
“Where is this?” I ask, “Is this… Japan?”
Yukari answers, “You’re close… but no. Where we are is Hakugyokurou, the garden of the Netherworld.”
“The land of the dead,” interprets Alice flatly.
My heart sinks, “The land of the dead? Why are we here? Don’t tell me we were actually found by the police and went down in a shower of gunfire, and I just imagined we fell into a hole to come here…”
Sakuya smiles in amusement, “Interesting imagination, but no. We are perfectly alive, yet we are here. This place used to be connected to Gensokyo.”
We step out of the car. A group of wisps come down and gather to form a figure: a girl with ruby-red eyes and semi-long pink hair, wearing traditional blue Japanese clothing and a strange-looking hat with a red swirl on it. She bows at me respectfully, which really doesn’t make me feel good. It makes me feel like I’ve been put on a pedestal I shouldn’t be on, “It’s been a long time, Marisa.”
“Um… Yeah. So like, who are you, exactly?”
The girl awkwardly smiles, “I guess it really is true. You don’t remember me… or anyone. You are Marisa, but at the same time, you’re a completely different person, aren’t you?”
“Something like that… When I meet Reimu, maybe I’ll remember you too…”
“I hope so. However, I will reintroduce myself. I am Yuyuko Saigyouji, ghost princess of the Netherworld.”
“Ghost?’” I try to touch her arm. Much to my surprise, she’s as solid as anyone.
However, Yuyuko didn’t even look at me funny when I touched her. She just tells me, “Real ghosts are very different than your image of them, Marisa.” What the hell? She totally has me figured out. She doesn’t LOOK smart, but… Well, pardoning the cliché, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Still, I can’t say I’m scared. For a ghost, she seems human enough…
Yuyuko looks over my shoulder at Yukari, “You said you’d bring me back a present from Marisa and Reimu’s world. What is it?”
Yukari taps the car’s hood, “This. It’s something people use to get around.”
Yuyuko’s face lights up, “Really? Something that beautiful? Do they get used a lot?”
Yukari nods, “They do. In any significantly populated area, you are sure to see these things a lot.”
“Wow! It must be a gorgeous place! These things all over the place? I wonder what everything else looks like…”
I take back the good things I said about her intellect, “She’s just sugar-coating it. It’s not that great.”
Yukari says, “Well, we need to be on our way. See you later, Yuyuko.”
“See you…” I turn to leave.
“Wait,” Yuyuko calls out.
Yuyuko’s face turns completely solemn, “I’m sure you’ll remember soon, and that would be the more opportune time to tell you this, but I’ve wanted to say it for a long time now, so here it goes… I’m sorry…”
“Back when Gensokyo was ending as a result of Reimu’s awakening, you wanted to do anything it took to stop it; to preserve Gensokyo.”
“You didn’t have any knowledge of you as you are now… as Marisa Starr. In the dream, the only identity you were aware of… or rather, could comprehend, was that of Marisa Kirisame. I… took Reimu’s side and tried to stop you, buying her time to recover. Ultimately, Reimu awakened, and so did you, in part because of me. I was part of the reason Gensokyo disappeared, so that’s what I apologize for.”
“…” I turn away from Yuyuko and walk away, “I have no memory of that, so I have no choice but to forgive you. There was once a time when I couldn’t comprehend being Marisa Starr? Well, now I can’t comprehend being Marisa Kirisame. If the right Marisa comes back to you somehow, give her that apology, not me.”
I walk back over to Alice, Cirno, Sakuya, and Yukari, who opens another ‘hole,’ “Are we set? Beyond this gap awaits Japan!”
Alice says after a short pause, “Well, that was an… interesting distraction, but it looks like we’re on our way now!”
Cirno says cheerfully, “I get to see Reimu and the others again!”
“Let’s go,” I say, “Time to resolve this, free your friends, and get Gensokyo back for you!”
With that, we enter the gap.
In Japan, Saturday morning rolls in. For both Reimu and Youmu, there are no classes for either of them on this day. However, for Reimu, there are more important things than education that await her.
Youmu rises out of bed and gets dressed into her mid-length skirt and green sweater. However, Reimu is less that diligent in that regard and continues to sleep.
Youmu nudges Reimu’s shoulder, “Wake up.”
“Gghhh… Go away, Youmu…”
“But today is the day you meet Marisa. She should be in this city right now…”
“She’ll still be there later. Lemmie sleep…”
“Kaguya and Mokou are waiting!”
“And they can wait a couple more hours…”
“C’mon, Reimu! Rise and shine!”
Youmu turns away from Reimu’s bed, “Oh… kay… We’ll be waiting in the park. Be there later, okay?”
“Sigh… I’ll take it you heard me. Don’t forget, alright?” Youmu leaves the dorm room.
Reimu drifts off into another dream…
“LAST WORD!” White wings sprout out of Reimu’s back and black wings sprout from the faceless Marisa’s. They take to the sky. Their gohei and broom clash repeatedly before breaking. Afterward, they exchange blasts of energy.
Finally, Reimu yells, “This is it, Marisa! Time to end this battle… and this dream! FANTASY HEAVEN!” Many orbs of holy energy appear around Reimu, which bombard Marisa… leaving her hurt, “Can you perform your move… after that?”
Reimu can’t see Marisa’s face, but her voice indicates that she’s under pressure, “Of course… I can! APLOCALYPSE SPARK!”
“Wh…?” Reimu is surrounded by large magic circles, which bombard her with many large magical lasers, followed by a coup de grace beam from Marisa herself. After that, the world around them begins to fade and the injuries they both had taken disappear. Despite the intensity, no enmity is remaining between them.
Smiling cheerfully, Reimu says, “That was really fun, Marisa! I guess in the end, one of us couldn’t surpass the other.”
Marisa chuckles, “That’s the way it should be. I’m sure neither of us wanted a defeat that would last forever.”
“You have a point… So this is it, huh, Marisa? The end of the dream?”
“It’s no dream. Gensokyo was an actual dimension. Some that were born of imagination became reality. In the end, it’s not just another fleeting fantasy.”
“True. So… will we meet again?”
Reimu wakes up from a brief vision, her sense of curiosity and urgency returning, “... Ugh... Maybe I should get to the bottom of this after all..."
Well, this had been an interesting development. We entered Japan… only to find out that it was the dead of night on this side of the world, and we shouldn’t do anything until Reimu is awake, so Yukari warped us back to Sakuya and Cirno’s apartment, where I got some extra sleep. Finally, night falls in the US, which means morning in Japan, so we were taken back. Alice was right. That whole car trip was just a meaningless waste of time. At least it made for a believable image to my mom that I’m going out camping. She is probably thinking I’m sitting around a campfire and roasting marshmallows right now.
I had just been sitting in a park the whole time, on a bench, at the foot of another one of those pink petal trees, like the ones in the Netherworld, with Alice and Sakuya, watching a stone walkway in front of us. Yukari and Cirno went off to do their own thing. Honestly, I’m nervous about going out and about. I knew what to expect, but when it’s time to actually face it, DAMN! Anyone walking by in the park notices that I’m different in appearance, not to mention that I can’t speak Japanese, so I typically get an unusual gaze. Not that I blame them. Whenever I see someone of a different race walk by in the states, I tend to look at them, so it’s the reverse situation here. Luckily, Alice and Sakuya look out of the norm as well, so I can share the being-put-on-the-spot-ness. I was told that Reimu was going to come to this park later, which is why we are just sitting idle.
To make the time go by, I decide to make a little small-talk, “Hey, Sakuya? What was that thing you did back there? The thing where you were moving really fast?”
Sakuya answers, “As I said, Time Manipulation. I have a… degree of control over the flow of time.”
I’m sure it sounds normal to my ‘other self,’ but right now, “That’s really cool! I mean, really! You’re totally awesome, Sakuya!”
Sakuya blushes to my comment, “Um… Much thanks. I’ve never received a compliment like that before…”
Alice strikes me a jealous gaze, “What did you think of my Doll Manipulation?”
“Oh… um… That was really great too…”
Dammit, she’s getting angry. I decide to elaborate a little, “It was a real surprise when I saw it, I mean. They just appeared out of nowhere and could do all kinds of things, like shoot… er… energy… show up with candles… that kind of thing. There’s a lot you can do with that power, right? How many do you have? Dolls, I mean…”
Alice looks content from my feedback. Phew. “I have hundreds of dolls of varying designs and operations existing in my space…”
I raise an eyebrow, “Your ‘space?’”
Sakuya answers, “Each of us have a certain… magic where we can store objects in a… ‘personal subspace,’ if you will. We can summon those objects at any time with a miniscule amount of stamina and they appear near us. That is where my knives come from, as well as Alice’s dolls.”
“I see…” Well, that explains that weird materialization concept, though I still don’t quite get it.
Alice continues, “I can only summon five dolls at max without a spellcard. With a spellcard, I can summon an entire squad... more with a greater deal of energy.”
Sakuya says, “It’s a similar case with my Time Manipulation, “Without a spellcard, I can only freeze time for about three seconds tops, or slow it for seven. However, it puts a great deal of strain on me either way, so I can’t abuse that power…”
“And with a spellcard?”
“I can extend the limit and it doesn’t have quite as much of an effect, though it is still more taxing than summoning a storm of knives…”
“I see. Haha! I’d think you were invincible with a power like that, but Remilia did seem to be a challenge for you, so I didn’t know what was up with that. That explains it…”
Suddenly, another out-of-the-ordinary-like-us girl walks by in front of us. She has short yellow hair, golden eyes, wears a black dress, and a little on the diminutive side, though she’s not quite a midget. She looks at us, smiles, and then continues walking.
“Who was that?” I ask, “Strange girl…”
Alice stares in her direction, “Was that…?”
Alice rises from the bench, “I’ll be right back…” She walks away in the direction that weird girl went.
“Do you know what that was just about?” I ask Sakuya.
Sakuya seems perplexed as well, “I don’t know. That’s the first I’ve seen of that girl…”
I slouch back a little, “Well, whatever. By the way, when I mentioned Remilia, you said mistress. Also she… I mean Yumei, asked you before if you would attack your own mistress. I heard that you used to be a maid. Does that mean…?”
“Yes, it’s what you think,” answers Sakuya, “Remilia Scarlet was my mistress back in Gensokyo and I was her loyal servant.”
“I see. It’s a little hard for me to believe right now, but I have no memory of that time, and the only time since was seeing the two of you fighting.”
“I suppose from your point of view, that would most certainly be the case.”
I mention, “I saw some… visions during that battle. You were in a lot of them and dressed like a maid. I always though you’d made the cut with you cooking and cleaning skills, so that was one case where I was not surprised.”
“Really? I thought I was passing as a normal person fairly well.”
“You may be a lot of things, Sakuya, but I wouldn’t say ‘normal’ counts among them.”
We both laugh. For a while, I only thought of her as Cirno’s mom, but now we’re sitting around and talking like best friends.
After I finish giggling, I mention what just crossed my mind, “Sakuya… you’re… not Cirno’s mother, right?”
Sakuya asks, “Was it that apparent?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. What are you? Twenty-something? I’d say, based on appearance, that Cirno is twelve, which means, if you WERE her mom, you’d have to be eight or something when you had her. Of course, that’s bullshit if you ask me.”
Sakuya bends forward, resting her arms on her legs, “I suppose we didn’t make a good cover story for that. Oh well, it’s beside the point now…”
“How old are you, exactly?”
“I don’t know.”
“A long time ago, I was given an elixir which gave me eternal life. I haven’t aged or anything.”
I pause and ask, “Something like that elixir Kaguya drank?”
“Yumei told me some things in a dream last night.”
Sakuya glances at me, “Yumei… What did she have to say?”
“She said that she would help us regain Gensokyo. She says she’s trapped there because Kaguya and another girl are, so I guess that’s how she’ll repay us.”
“I see… Do you trust her, Marisa?”
“Well, Yumei comes off as irritable and rough around the edges, but she seems okay.”
“I hope so.”
Meanwhile, behind a large tree in the park, out of everyone’s sight, Alice catches up with the mysterious blonde haired girl, who happily greets Alice by jumping up and roughly hugging her, “Alice! I’m happy to see you again, sister!”
Alice forces the girl off her and says, “I’m not your sister. At any rate, it’s been a long time, Yuki.”
Yuki pouts, “It has! I heard a year ago, you visited Makai, but didn’t even pay me or my sisters a visit! That was mean!”
Alice’s eyes turn to the side, “Sorry… I had some other things going on…”
“…” Yuki is not yet satisfied with Alice’s apology.
“I really am sorry. How are Mai and Yumeko doing?”
“They’re fine. They are as unhappy as I am that you haven’t paid us a visit in five years! Sure, you’re not really one of Mother’s children, but we still consider you part of our sisterhood, so you should be like a sister every now and then, okay?”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Well, what brings you all the way from Makai to the human world, Yuki? I doubt Shinki would go through the trouble of using her powers to open a boundary here, just so you can catch up with the good times.”
“That’s right…” Yuki stares at Alice solemnly, “Alice, Mother wants you to return to Makai with me.”
“Mother… she said that she has had a bad premonition and it involves you. She tends to foresee the misfortune of those she loves, and she’s usually been right. She wants you to live in Makai again and avoid that fate.”
“Just what happened? Did Shinki tell you?”
“She just had a bad feeling and said it was about you. That something terrible would happen. That is all. She doesn’t want the premonition to become worse and then come true.”
Alice responds, “I have things I want to take care of here. Tell me when things become more specific. Maybe she’s just having some kind of mood.”
Yuki sighs, “Well, Mother told me not to force you if you said no, so I’ll leave you be… but we might have to get forceful if she keeps having those feelings.”
“Fair enough. Tell Shinki, Yumeko, and Mai I said ‘hi,’ okay?”
“Will do. Here’s hoping you’re not making a mistake, Alice.” With that, a portal, not unlike one of Yukari’s, except pitch black in color, opens below Yuki and she drops in.
Alice returns, saying, “Sorry about that.”
“Who was that?” asks Sakuya.
“Just… someone,” answers Alice “… It seems Reimu still hasn’t come yet. I wonder what’s keeping her…”
“She decided to sleep in. We might be waiting a little while…” A new voice came from the walkway in front of us, belonging to a girl in a green hooded sweater, carrying a blue gym bag and a long object wrapped in blue cloth. She has blue eyes and short platinum hair, and is short, though not as short as that girl Alice went after. She smiles, “Alice, Sakuya… and you, Marisa. It’s been a long time!”
I’ve seen her before in those visions I got during that battle, though she was dressed differently. Alice had told me about four friends I had the strongest bond with, that appeared in the visions. She isn’t Alice or Sakuya, of course, and she isn’t that Reimu chick (body doesn’t match up), so I recall the last name I was given, “… … Youmu… right?”
The girl’s eyes widen, “Marisa… You remembered me?”
“Wh…?” Alice and Sakuya also look surprised.
“No. Not really. I just made a lucky guess based on what I was told.”
I stand up from the bench, “Well, hopefully, assuming all the stuff I’ve been told wasn’t bullshit, I will remember everything.”
Youmu lets out a small laugh, “Haha! Well, you may be a different Marisa, but you still sound the same as always!”
“I’ll take your word of it.”
Alice sighs, “Reimu’s sleeping in, huh? Looks like Marisa’s not the only one who hasn’t changed…”
Youmu says, “Well, we might be waiting awhile for my roommate. Have you eaten breakfast yet?”
Still operating on the time on the other side of the world ‘breakfast’ here would mean ‘dinner’ there, but regardless, I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast one. Practically responding to Youmu’s question, my stomach growls, “… … Um… no…”
Alice and Sakuya respond the same way.
Youmu nods in understanding, “I see. Shall we head to the restaurant across the street? My treat.”
“Okay,” we respond.
We head to a shop across the street from the park. The place is mostly empty. We look up at the menu’s selection, but I sure as hell can’t read what it says, so I just tell Youmu to get me whatever the heck they’d think I’d like. After Alice, Sakuya, and Youmu order up their meals, and mine, in Japanese, we sit at a booth next to a large window looking out in the parks direction, just in case Reimu arrives while we’re eating. They got me a cup of noodles, which is just as well. Despite the amount of time since I last ate, I don’t really feel like food anyway.
I decide to ask everyone some questions, not that there is a point, since I’ll regain my memories before long anyway, but I figured I’d might as well make the most of my final moments of curiosity. After all, it won’t be so much fun anymore when there is nothing left to surprise me, “How do all of you know Japanese?”
Alice says, “It might be more appropriate to ask how we know English. Japanese is our first language.”
Youmu says, “In Gensokyo and close-by realms, Japanese is the norm. My mistress, Lady Yuyuko made me learn English a while ago, so that’s how I learned it.”
“Yuyuko is your mistress?”
Youmu raises an eyebrow, “You met her already?”
Her perplex is understandable as I did go through the Netherworld to meet her, “Yukari took us by… what was the name…? Hakugyokurou, on our way here, and that’s how I met her. So you’re her servant?”
“I am,” says Youmu.
Sakuya mentions to me, “You know, Marisa, in Gensokyo, as Kirisame, Japanese was your language too.”
“It’s true,” says Alice, “Maybe you’ll recall Japanese as well as other things when you meet Reimu.”
“Er… Oooookay…” Before I let this topic get any weirder, I decide to change it, “So… um… Youmu… Have you been watching over Reimu like Alice, Sakuya, and Cirno had been watching me?”
Youmu slurps up some noodles of her own, “Yes, I have. So have Reisen and Eirin.”
“Eirin… I heard that name somewhere…”
Youmu says, “She’s a servant of Kaguya, one of those girls you have to rescue.”
We finish up breakfast and return to waiting in the park.
I bend down as I sit on the bench and stare at the ground as I try to organize all that had happened. Will simply seeing some girl’s face really cause me to recall my memories? Yumei said so, but I wonder…
We hear a new voice, “Youmu…? Youmu…?” The rest of her words are in Japanese, but it seems like whoever is talking is looking for Youmu.
Youmu responds to the words with some Japanese of her own.
From behind a small group of people a girl runs toward us. She has long black hair and brown eyes, and is wearing a red t-shirt and a white mid-length skirt. She looks at me, then Sakuya, and finally Alice, “Who… are you?”
Something snaps in my mind. I just understood this girl’s words! She’s speaking Japanese, but I understood her as if she were speaking English! I look at her face for a long time and she looks at mine, and another thing snaps! That blurred face becomes clearer! Reimu! And, with that, a chain reaction I can’t even describe happens. Many buried memories become uncovered! I clutch my head as everything comes back to me in waves. The same thing appears to be happening to Reimu.
Alice, Sakuya, and Youmu watch as we react strangely to one another. It also grabs the attention of a few passersby.
“Reimu, ze? How come you are always better, ze?”
“Just you wait, ze! I’ll work hard and become better than you, ze!”
“Alice, ze? Do you want to be friends, ze?”
“I won’t let you hurt her, ze! MASTER SPARK!”
“It’s over Scarlet!”
“I will destroy that thing along with the damned tree! FINAL SPARK!”
“Screw talent! I’ve worked hard and studied hard and I’m not going to be beaten by something that just ‘came’ to someone! RRRRAAAGGGHHHH!”
Reimu Hakurei, Hakurei Shrine, Alice Margatroid, Forest of Magic, Magic, Youkai, Spellcard, Kourindou, Rinnosuke Morichika, Sakuya Izayoi, Remilia Scarlet, Patchouli Knowledge, Hong Meiling, Flandre Scarlet, Scarlet Devil Mansion, Youmu Konpaku, Yuyuko Saigyouji, Yukari Yakumo, Boundary, Ran Yakumo, Chen, Netherworld, Hakugyokurou, Saigyou Ayakashi, Spring Essence, Lunasa Prismriver, Merlin Prismriver, Lyrica Prismriver, Suika Ibuki, Cirno, Rumia, Wriggle Nightbug, Mysita Lorelei, Kaguya Horaisan, Fujiwara no Mokou, Reisen Udongein Inaba, Eirin Yagokoro, Hourai Elixir, Immortality, Tei Inaba, Eientei, Keine Kamishirasawa, Imperishable Night, Human Village, Moon, Lunarian, Bamboo Forest, Suzuran, Medicine Mealancholy, Nameless Hill, Yuka Kazami, Komachi Onozuka, Sikieiki Yamaxanadu, Higan, Aya Shameimaru, Bunbunmaru Newspaper, Tengu Mountain, Momizi Inubashiri, Youkai Mountain, Mountain of Faith, Kanako Yasaka, Suwako Moriya, Iku Nagae, Nitori Kawashiro, Sanae Kotiya, Tenshi Hinanai, God, Deity, the world is round, Faith, Dream, Mima, Thought’s End, Awakening, Shinki, Makai, Demon… … … GENSOKYO!
I want… excitement.
I want… friends.
Dozens of things rush by in my mind at a time. Everything begins to come together to the point where it’s like it happened yesterday. Finally, the countless memories establish themselves and my head clears. I look at Reimu, “Reimu…”
Reimu looks back at me, “Marisa…”
Finally, both of us announce at the same time, “I REMEMBER!”
I recount events that had transpired in the life I had forgotten, “When we first met, Reimu, our practice, our sparring matches, that time I protected you from a boar youkai, when I first went to live in the forest of magic, my speech I had as a little girl! I can recall everything!”
Reimu recalls our adventures, “Remilia using her red mist to block the sun and revive the vampire race, Flandre escaping, Yukari’s revenge on Gensokyo, Suika’s parties, Kaguya’s mind controlling moon to battle the Lunarians, Mokou and Keine trying to erase the moon to prevent an invasion, Yuka covering Gensokyo with suzuran, Kanako looking for enough love and faith from everyone to become powerful enough to influence everyone into creating her utopia… I know all of it!”
Reimu says with a half-tearful smile, “Marisa… I know I’m just starting to remember you, but… I missed you.”
“Reimu… Me too, strange as it feels…” It felt a little weird to talk just then. It’s like English and Japanese had just blended together. In fact, I had a little trouble figuring out what language I just used, but since Reimu seemed to understand what I said, I guess I just spoke Japanese, the language that I didn’t know a word of one minute ago.
Sakuya observes, “They know each other’s name without an introduction, Marisa’s speaking our language now… I’d say they have their memories back, strange as it turned out…”
The crowd that was watching our mild mind-attacks turns and walks away, some probably intending to inform the nearest mental institution that Reimu and I are on the loose. I turn to Alice, Sakuya, and Youmu, “Could the three of you leave Reimu and me alone for a bit?”
Reimu seems to agree, “Yes, could you?”
Youmu says, “I’d say you have some things to catch up on. Sure.” Alice, Sakuya, and Youmu walk away.
Reimu and I walk through the park, side by side. It hasn’t even been five minutes since our reunion, and yet, we feel so familiar with one another. Yumei wasn’t kidding when she said my memories would return upon seeing Reimu’s face, because… well… they did. She was my childhood friend in my ‘dream life,’ but this the first time I’ve met her outside of it. I start the conversation with a typical starting line, “It’s been a long time, Reimu…”
“Yeah, it has…”
“Honestly, if everyone hadn’t told me as much as they did about Gensokyo, I’d have been skeptical as to whether or not you actually existed… but here you are.”
“Heh… I felt the same way, Marisa. Still, I’ve seen memories of my Gensokyo days in my dreams. In a way, I’d never forgotten, although only now does it all make sense.”
“It’s better than me. I forgot completely! I had to see an out-of-this-world battle to come closer to grips with what was my other life. I was told that you’ve seen Kaguya and Mokou in your dreams.”
“Yeah. It was the strangest thing back when I didn’t know much. Now I know them completely... and of their predicament.”
“I’m sure Yukari told you that she could help get them out.”
“She did. It sounds pretty good too. They have been waiting a long time. I was told there is… someone else inside you head.”
“Yes. Someone named Yumei. But it’s a little strange. I’ve never seen her during my time in Gensokyo. She has straight rabbit ears, just like Reisen, so… maybe she’s a Lunarian, now that I can recall these kinds of things.”
Reimu’s eyes widen, “A Lunarian? That’s… strange. Might she have something to do with the Lunarians planning to invade Gensokyo?”
“I seriously doubt it. She’s as trapped in my mind as Kaguya and Mokou are in yours and she says freeing them would be freeing her. What’s more, she KNOWS a way of how we can recover Gensokyo!”
“Are you serious?”
“She said so and she says she’d help when she’s out.”
Reimu says, “A couple days ago, Yukari visited me and said that not even she knows what caused our dream to become a realm in itself. Perhaps this ‘Yumei’ has an idea?”
I respond, “She seems to know what she’s talking about, so I doubt her claims are bullshit. If we free her, we just might know for sure about the nature of Gensokyo as a separate realm.”
“Regaining Gensokyo… that would be nice…” whispers Reimu.
I stop walking, “Reimu… something that’s now bothering me… if we get Gensokyo back, where would you live?”
“Well, it’s either here or there, right? Well, you did seem rather eager to return to this side, so I guess I know your answer.”
“I don’t know.”
“My biggest desire when I was put into my coma was excitement. I wanted a life that was not redundant. Something with action… interest… not just to be another person who was being prepped for the real world. Gensokyo gave me that kind of life, so it seems more appealing… but I do have a family here, and I couldn’t leave them behind, so I don’t know…”
“What about when the dream was ending? What the hell was that about, Reimu?”
Reimu turns her head to the side, “I’m not quite sure myself. I guess I was disillusioned to find out that the life I knew was just a fantasy, so I lashed out. At that point, my memories of this life were returning, and I found what was real to be far more interesting… You have to understand that I was curious of a life that existed beyond what I understood as Reimu Hakurei, so I just couldn’t appreciate a false life as I was… but things are different. Both this life and the other may become a reality… and Gensokyo appeals to me more. Marisa, what do you want?”
Her question causes me to contemplate my own feelings regarding the matter. This choice could very well influence the rest of my life… whether my existence would be that of Marisa Starr… or Marisa Kirisame. As I am now, I’m both, “Well, I’m not sure myself… Before Gensokyo, I had no friends. During my time there, I had you, Alice, Sakuya, and Youmu… and I don’t want to lose any of you. Youmu would return to the Netherworld when all this is over, and Sakuya would most likely return to Scarlet Devil Mansion… but you and Alice… Even so, I also have a family I’d miss…”
“…” This situation is hopeless. It’s an impossible decision to make.
I try to reassure Reimu, “Well… it’s not like we’ll have to make our choice right away, even when Gensokyo is back, we’ll still have Yukari, right?”
Reimu smiles, “True enough.”
“Well, should we return to everyone? We shouldn’t keep Kaguya and Mokou… and Yumei… and Gensokyo waiting, right?”
Reimu nods in agreement, “Of course not. Let’s go!”
- Return to Fiction by Valesta