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- Return to Fiction by Valesta
At an initial glance, everything appears simple, but behind all that, there is a much deeper meaning.
What is the true nature of “life?” What is the true nature of “death?” What is the true nature of “existence?”
Are we who we think we are? Do you know who you are?
Do the things we believe we see, hear, taste, feel, and smell truly are what we believe? Are they what we think they are? Is there a grander meaning behind all the things we take for granted?
What is the universe? What are the possibilities?
TOUHOU PROJECT Episode ?: CONCEALED THE CONCLUSION
I’m flying on my broomstick at roughly 45 miles per hour across a lake to an island; an island I have visited many times before, all for the same reason, save the very first time, and this time is no different.
My blonde hair blows in the wind and I keep my large black pointed hat from flying off by holding it down with my left hand.
My name is Marisa Kirisame, magician extraordinaire! The world I live in is known as Gensokyo. It is a land that was originally inhabited by youkai until humans started living in it as well. Youkai come in many forms. Most of them are unintelligent creatures that try to live by eating humans, but there are others that are very intelligent and sometimes can’t be told apart from humans in any easy sense. My best friend Reimu, a miko, and I used to live by hunting youkai that endanger human lives, but since then, we’ve befriended quite a few of the stronger youkai in Gensokyo.
I am on my way to Scarlet Devil Mansion, a castle-like building, which is the home of one of those said youkai, a vampire named Remilia Scarlet. Besides Remilia, however, there are also a number of other residents that live there: Aside from its staff of maids, composed purely of low-level youkai, there is Flandre Scarlet, Remilia’s younger sister, who is insane and can cause horrifying amounts of destruction when she gets angry or wants to have some sadistic fun. However, she is usually spoiled, and thus, docile. She also seems to have a crazed crush on me, much to my dismay. Another resident is Hong Meiling, who guards the mansion’s front gate, who is an expert martial artist and can control her chi. There is also Patchouli Knowledge, who lives in the mansion’s library and spends most of her time reading, which makes sense, considering she’s not in the best of health. She can cast powerful elemental spells, however. Lastly, there is Sakuya Izayoi, the sole human in Scarlet Devil Mansion, who works as the head maid. She’s good with knives and can control time to a degree. Even though she’s generally viewed as Remilia’s loyal dog, Reimu and I have a better relationship with her than anyone else in the mansion. Remilia once tried to cover Gensokyo in a red mist, blocking out the sun, which is fatal to vampires like her and Flandre. Of course, this caused crops to stop growing and everything to become cold. Reimu and I fought through the mansion and convinced Remilia to recall her mist. Later, Flandre escaped the mansion and attacked a village. After a rough battle, Reimu and I stopped her and brought her home. Since then, Sakuya had been an ally of ours in stopping subsequent disasters that befell Gensokyo.
While I’m on generally friendly terms with Scarlet Devil Mansion’s residents, Patchouli doesn’t like me stealing books from her library. She’s very protective of them, so it’s probably useless to ask to borrow them. Well, that’s what I plan to do. Sneak into the library and steal some books without getting caught. No big deal. After all, she’s a youkai and I’m a human, so between us, I’ll probably die first, at which point, no one is going to stop her from taking her things back… Of course, considering Patchouli’s resistance to diseases, or lack thereof, I just might outlast her, at which point, her books will be all mine!
The island shortly comes into sight, along with the mansion, which always surprises me by how big it is, even though I’ve been here many times before. Within minutes, I’m close to the front gate. Standing in front of it is a red-headed girl wearing a green Chinese dress, the door guard, Hong Meiling. She’s a youkai, even though she looks exactly like a human. In fact, there are quite a few youkai that are hard to tell from humans. Even though she’s pretty tough as youkai go, she’s pretty easy to get past. From a distance, I observe Meiling’s posture. She’s leaning against the wall next to the gate. I pause for a few seconds and I hear her snore. Bingo! She tends to take naps on the job, which makes things easier for me. I fly over the gate and slowly open the front door. I sneak across the vacant lobby, which is the closest location leading to the library. I made it this far. It would be bad if I get caught now…
“EEEK! You’re…!” A fairy maid comes out of one of the guest rooms to the side. Shit!
“Sorry,” I say as I extend my hand toward the maid and fire a small blast of magical energy from my hand, knocking the fairy out cold. I hope her scream didn’t alert others in the mansion. I run to the door leading down to the library.
After descending a long flight of spiral stairs, I’m in the mansion’s basement, where all the books are kept. It has a ton of tall bookcases, making the place feel like a maze. Without them, however, you could make an underground gymnasium out of the place. I tiptoe around, trying to remain silent. Patchouli rarely leaves this room, so she’s here… somewhere… I just have to get what I’m after and split. After a few minutes, I find what I’m looking for: a book entitled ‘Elemental Spells.’ I’ve wanted that one for a while, but it’s so deep in the library, that there’s a high risk of getting caught. I must be lucky today. I remove the book, which is about 1,638 pages thick, from the shelf, but suddenly, I hear a high pitched noise, which makes me flinch upon hearing it. Suddenly, all the bookshelves lower into the ground, completely blowing my cover. In front of me, beyond where the bookshelf was, there is a girl with long purple hair and pale skin, wearing something that looks like a nightgown: Patchouli Knowledge herself. Behind her, there is a red-haired girl with bat-like wings extending from her head, wearing a black dress: Patchouli’s assistant, Koakuma.
Aware of my situation, I mutter, “Oh fuck…”
Patchouli says, in her one-tone voice, “Marisa Kirisame. That alarm indicates one thing: you tried to steal my book on elemental spells.”
I shrug and say, “Yes. Why is there an alarm for that one?”
Patchouli’s eyes narrow, “I’m sure even you can figure out that book, which I read seventy years ago, taught me the magic I wield today. I take it you had the goal in mind to mimic my spells?”
I answer, “Well, yeah. That was kinda what I was planning…”
Patchouli says, “I may be a sickly girl who spends 95.8% of her time in this basement, but even I have pride in my abilities and I intend to be the only one in Gensokyo who wields elemental magic. I shall keep that book from entering the outside world… through force if needed. Koakuma.”
Koakuma steps up, “Yes, Miss Knowledge?”
“Understood,” Koakuma pulls a piece of paper with a complex character painted on it out of her pocket. It’s a spell card. Among Gensokyo’s higher-level residents, those are a common tool in combat. There is only so much someone can do on their own, so spell cards are used to extend that limit. They provide their users with extra energy, so they can cast high-level spells or techniques. They require a degree of the user’s energy too, however, so overusing them can be disastrous. “Cold Sign!” She makes her initial declaration. The spell card turns into blue energy, which fills Koakuma, which indicates that’s she can make the actual casting of her spell at any time. She extends her hand toward me, “Icicle Mist!” Several tiny blades of ice form around Koakuma out of thin air and fly toward me.
I jump back, throwing the book to the side and pulling out a spell card of my own, “Magic Sign!” My card turns into gold and violet energy, which flows into me. I feel more powerful and energized. The first time, it was the greatest sensation in the world, but it became a regular feeling every subsequent time. I extend my hand toward Koakuma, “Stardust Reverie!” The energy in my body converts into a flurry of blasts of magic in the shape of stars. I feel a split second of dizziness, but recover instantly, with only a slight decrease in my physical stamina. My stars intercept Koakuma’s icicles. I jump to the side, dodging the icy blades that got through my counterattack, but Koakuma isn’t as fast and she gets bombarded by my attack. She gets knocked off her feet and hits the floor back-first, defeated. Well, since I’ve been caught and I’m being fought by two librarians, I might as well enjoy this. I look at Patchouli, “C’mon, Patch! Are you gonna have your little bitch fight your battles for you?”
Patchouli responds, “I was merely trying to wear you down so I can defeat you easily.”
I grin, “Well it didn’t work very well. I’m good to go for several more rounds.”
“We shall see…” Patchouli draws a spell card, “Metal & Water Sign.” Gray and blue energy fills Patchouli, “Mercury Poison.” A terrible smell fills the room as a shiny green blob of liquid metal appears in front of the librarian. A spiked tentacle shoots out of the blob and toward me. I roll to the side and take to the air on my broomstick. It will be bad of that thing touches me! “There is no escape, Marisa.” Patchouli’s blob sends several tentacles lashing at me. I stay ahead of most of them, but one intercepts me, knocking my broomstick out from under me. I plummet down toward the blob.
Shit! Not good! Not good at all! In a ditch effort, I thrust my hand toward Patchouli’s face and fire a white laser. The librarian staggers back and her blob vanishes as I distracted her enough to break her focus on her spell. With the spell broken, I hit the wooden floor with a thud. “Owwww…” Damn! That still fucking hurt!
“Ahh! Marisa…” Patchouli covers her face with her hands, trying to regain her proper vision. I take advantage of her stunned state and draw another spell card.
“Love Sign!” Golden energy flows into me. I jump toward Patchouli and thrust my hand toward her at point-blank, “Master Spark!” I fire a large beam of magical energy, which sends Patchouli flying toward the back of the library.
“AHHHHHH!” She hits one of the large bookshelves on the edge of the room (those didn’t lower into the floor) and become buried in books.
“Miss Knowledge…” mutters the weakened Koakuma.
I grab my broomstick and Patchouli’s book, saying, “Well, I’m gonna get going now! Better luck next time, Patch!”
Patchouli’s voice, muffled from her burial under the books declares, “Metal Sign: Metal Fatigue.” A few metal blades shoot out of Patchouli’s pile and toward me. Luckily, there is enough distance between us for me to see them coming, so I turn my body and dodge them with ease.
With a victorious smile, I turn toward the exit. However, from my destination’s general direction, I hear a voice asking, “What is all the commotion down here?” Oh shit! That voice belongs to Sakuya! While we are generally friends, she doesn’t take kindly to uninvited visitors. I’m predicting one hell of an escape…
A girl with semi-long silver hair, braided down the side of her face, wearing a maid’s uniform arrives. As you probably figured, this is Sakuya. She is the head maid of the mansion and Remilia Scarlet’s closest servant, even though there had been some rivalry between them recently, “Marisa?”
Another figure enters the library beside Sakuya. She has semi-long light-blue hair and wears a pink dress and hat. Most noticeably, however, are the two bat-like wings extending out of her back, her blood-red eyes, and the fangs among her teeth. She is Remilia Scarlet, the mistress of this mansion. Remilia glares at me, “What the hell are YOU doing here uninvited?”
I take a couple steps backward, “Well…”
Behind me, Koakuma slowly gets back on her feet and Patchouli pushes some books out of her way and gets out from under the pile. Four against one. I don’t stand a chance. I close my eyes in defeat with the words ‘MISSION FAILED’ running through my mind (Reimu: “Marisa, are you there? This isn’t funny! Marisa? MARIIIIISAAA!”)
“Did someone say ‘Marisa?’” I hear a very cute voice coming from the upper floor and upon hearing it, the words in my mind change to ‘MARISA IS DEAD.’ Within seconds, another girl, with similar youkai attributes to Remilia’s, only with steel wings with prism-like shards dangling from them, blonde hair tied in a ponytail, wearing a red dress comes running toward me excitedly. She’s Remilia’s vampire sister, Flandre: the last person I wanted to run into here. My mission has officially become an utter failure… She leaps to hug me and probably suck the blood out of my arm, because that’s her twisted way of expressing affection.
“Shit…” I close my eyes, preparing for the impact… but I don’t feel anything. I open my eyes and look ahead, but Flandre isn’t there. I turn around and see her on the floor. Did she pass through me or something? Out of nowhere and for no reason I can figure out, her form starts to become transparent. "Huh?"
Apparently, Flandre realizes this and she looks toward Remilia fearfully, “Onee-sama? What’s going on? What’s happening to me?”
“Well…” As Remilia is trying to figure out Flandre’s predicament, she notices the same thing is happening to her.
“Remilia-sama? Remilia-sama! What is happening to you?” Sakuya tries to grab her mistress’ arm, but her hand passes through.
“I don’t know…” growls Remilia “… I’m fading… I can’t touch anything…”
I look at Koakuma, who is also fading, who asks Patchouli, “Miss Knowledge! What is happening?”
Beyond her, Patchouli is also fading, “I… I… I don’t know!” Okay… if Patchouli doesn’t know, then we are all completely stumped. She’s oftentimes had an answer to every question that’s arisen in the past.
I yell, “Just what the hell is happening to everyone?” I look at myself, but I’m as opaque as I always have been. I turn toward Sakuya, who is the only one in the room who isn’t crying out at the sudden and unknown occurrence. Sure enough, she isn’t disappearing either. What is happening all the sudden and why are Sakuya and I not affected by this?
Sakuya looks toward Patchouli intensely, “Are you sure you don’t know?”
Patchouli, now practically blending in with the background, says, looking like she’s about to cry, “I really don’t know… I’ve never heard of anything like this before… I’m scared… What’s happening to us? Why aren’t you or Marisa vanishing like the rest of us?”
“…” Neither of us have an answer for that question.
A terrifying minute passes as Remilia, Patchouli, Flandre, and Koakuma continue to cry out at their situation as they continue to fade more and more as Sakuya and I are helpless to do anything. Finally, they completely vanish, their voices gone with their bodies. “REMILIA-SAMA!” Sakuya and I are left with eerie silence, which makes sense. Neither of us knows what the hell just happened. Remilia and the others just disappeared. It’s like they don’t exist anymore. Sakuya breaks the silence, “Marisa… What_” FLASH! There is a sudden flash of white light. It didn’t seem to come from a particular source, but rather it came from everywhere. Both Sakuya and I cover our eyes to the unexpected happening. This whole situation is fucked up! As my eyes adjust, there are a couple more flashes, followed by shaking, like an earthquake. The ground shakes violently, especially since we are in a basement. I open one of my eyes, squinting as a result of the flashes, just in time to see an overhead beam of wood fall down toward Sakuya.
“SAKUYA!” Wasting no time, I toss the book to the side, as it is now a moot concern and hop on my broomstick, approaching the maid as quickly as it can take me. Within mere seconds, I reach her and tackle her out of the way of the beam.
There is a long pause and we both sigh with relief. “Thank you, Marisa,” says Sakuya gratefully.
I say, “We gotta get out of here! If the earthquake continues, we’ll be in big trouble.”
We both want to try to make heads or tails of why everyone disappeared and the sudden flashes, but it’s dangerous here. “Yes,” nods Sakuya in agreement.
We move to the spiral stairs as the earthquake continues. The quake had already knocked some steps from the staircase, so Sakuya and I fly up through the middle, dodging chunks falling from the ceiling. I can fly using my broomstick as a flight tool, but a lot of people in Gensokyo, like Sakuya, can fly using a basic form of magic to carry them.
Finally, we reach the top and enter the lobby. All around us, there are fairy maids in the process of vanishing, just like Remilia and the others had and chunks of rubble from the crumbling mansion. A chandelier (which is unlit. It’s just there for show) loses its grip on the ceiling high above and plunges toward one of the maids. I doubt it would harm her, as she’s vanishing, but it doesn’t feel right just to let it fall on her either. However a sudden blast shatters the chandelier to pieces, which fly everywhere, forcing me and Sakuya to shield ourselves with our arms. Meiling had fired a blast of chi, ‘saving’ the fairy maid. She too, is in the process of vanishing.
Sakuya rushes over to Meiling, “Meiling! You’re disappearing too!”
Meiling says, trying to make the situation seem less serious than it really is, “Looks that way. So are the fairy maids, but it looks like you and Marisa, however the heck she got in here past me, are alright.”
I point out, “Remilia, Flandre, Patch, and Koakuma have all disappeared.”
Meiling’s eyes widen, “All of them?”
“…” I nod without a word.
“I see…” mutters Meiling, her form becoming more transparent as the maids vanish completely. “I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but it looks like it’s not much longer for me, either…”
Sakuya slumps to her knees, “Meiling… not you too…”
Meiling instructs, “Get out of here. Both of you. I saw the mansion from the outside and it’s worse than it seems from here. The clock tower had completely crumbled and… I just have a bad feeling…”
“You have to escape with us!” Sakuya tires to grab Meiling’s arm, but, like with Remilia, her hand just passes through.
Meiling smiles nervously, “I don’t think I’ll be worth worrying about in a few seconds. Just escape. Please…” With that, Meiling’s form vanishes completely.
“Meiling…” Sakuya sobs.
The ground shakes again and several more chunks of debris fall from the ceiling. I tightly grab Sakuya’s arm, “Sakuya, we gotta get out of here NOW! If what Meiling said was true, there’s no telling when this whole building will become rubble!”
The two of us run out the front door and away from Scarlet Devil Mansion as fast as possible. Behind us, there are loud noises of the mansion’s foundations breaking. We run past the gate and to the outer wall, which is a far enough distance away. We turn around and see the mansion collapse to the ground, reduced to a massive pile of debris. Sakuya slumps to the ground, her eyes agape with disbelief. I can understand. Her mistress… her friends… her home… all in a matter of minutes, all those things disappeared from her life. Honestly, I feel like crying too. Scarlet Devil Mansion, the place where Reimu and I had so many adventures, is now destroyed, and the friends we made there, save Sakuya, have vanished mysteriously. Are they gone? Are they dead? Will we ever see them again? With these thoughts plaguing my mind, I slump to the ground as well. We stay this way for a half-hour. The earthquake stops, but the flashes become more consistent.
“Marisa! Sakuya!” A familiar voice comes from in front of us. A ‘portal’ opens and inside, there is a girl with golden hair, wearing a white and purple dress and a white hat with a red ribbon. She’s Yukari Yakumo, a youkai, also hard to tell apart from a human, with a WEIRD power. She has the ability to control boundaries. That means she can freely venture through the dimensional fabric of Gensokyo and other places. Thanks to her, we learned about parallel worlds that exist alongside this one. She once tried to trap Gensokyo in an eternal winter and revive her long-lost best friend. Don’t ask. It’s a long story. Anyway, my friends and I defeated her and she learned the folly of her ways. Now she’s a friend whose powers have come in very handy to us.
“…” Sakuya doesn’t respond.
I ask, “Hey, Yukari? Do you know what’s going on? There are these flashes… these earthquakes… and people are disappearing…”
“Disappearing… like this?” Yukari extends her arm to the outside of her portal and it starts to become transparent. I try to touch it, but, as expected, my hand just passes through, like it was nothing but air. She withdraws her hand back into her portal, where it solidifies once again.
“Yeah…” I answer, “It’s so weird… It all happened so fast, but… it’s almost like it’s the end of the world, or something…”
“It just might be…” says Yukari softly.
“Huh? Do you know what’s going on?” I ask.
Yukari closes her eyes, “I’m not 100% sure, but I might. Could the two of you do me a favor? Find Reimu.”
Sakuya breaks her silence, “Reimu? What might she have to do with this?”
Yukari says solemnly, “It’s possible she is a central figure in these occurrences.”
I demand, “What the hell are you talking about, Yukari? Why would Reimu do this? HOW would Reimu do this?”
Yukari answers, “If it’s what I think, then I’ll tell you. For now, I want the two of you to go to the Hakurei Shrine. I’m going to investigate something else that might be connected to this.”
I shrug and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I guess I’ll do it. What the hell?”
Yukari throws something at me, which I catch. It is something that looks like a blue ball. “This will open a portal to a ‘safe place’ for five seconds. Just drop it on the ground when you're ready.”
“What is the meaning of this?” I ask.
Yukari answers, “Gensokyo is becoming a dangerous place. I don’t know how much longer it will last, so if things get bad, escape to that ‘safe place.’ I’ll meet you there later.”
“Wait! Yukar_” Yukari disappears into her portal before I can ask any more questions.
Sakuya whispers, “The end of the world…?”
There are a few seconds of silence. I put a reassuring hand on Sakuya’s shoulder, “C’mon, Sakuya. Let’s go to Reimu’s. I don’t understand what’s happening, but maybe we can reverse this whole thing. Maybe we can stop what’s happening. Maybe we can get everyone back…”
Sakuya smiles slightly, “Yes, you may be right…”
We take to the sky and fly in the direction of Reimu’s shrine. Along the way, we see wild youkai disappearing and villages crumbled to the ground, along with cries from people who are vanishing. Both Sakuya and I are helpless to do anything, and along with the mysterious flashes and the sky that had suddenly turned dark and the temperature around us becoming uncomfortably cold, it feels like a horrible nightmare. It has that apocalyptic feeling in many ways I can imagine.
Along the way, Sakuya points out, “Yukari… when she reached out of her portal, her hand became transparent, but when she withdrew it, it became normal. Obviously, Yukari is subject to the things that are happening to everyone else, but perhaps it only affects things that are inside Gensokyo…”
“But why aren’t we disappearing?” I ask, “We’re still here, we aren’t fading, and I feel fine. Why the hell are we exempt from this?”
Sakuya points out, “Well, we are both human. Might that be it, perhaps?”
I sigh, “Maybe. This is weird…”
After a half-hour, we arrive at the stairs leading up to Reimu’s shrine and we dash up to its front walkway, hearing a very creepy laugh, “Tee hee hee!” Fucking laugh gives me the creeps!
We reach the top of the stairs and find out who that laugh belongs to: A girl with long black hair and brown eyes, wearing a red dress with white sleeves separate from the main portion of the outfit, and a red hair ribbon, namely, my long-time best friend, Reimu… or at least that’s what she LOOKS like. The thing is, she’s not acting like herself. She is skipping around, laughing that spine-chilling giggle. Normally, she is fairly unenergetic and lazy, despite being a talented miko. But here, she is the opposite from how I know her. She looks like she’s having the time of her life as Gensokyo is crumbling around her.
Nearby, Reimu’s student (more or less), a short girl with orange hair, with long horns extending out of her head, wearing a purple dress with chains, and carrying a large purple gourd around, Suika Ibuki, is disappearing, and seems to be just as surprised by Reimu’s behavior as Sakuya and I are. Suika is an oni, a top-level youkai, who LOVES having wild and drunken parties. Her gourd contains a limitless amount of sake, which she CONSTANTLY drinks out of. As a result, she is usually drunk. In spite of that, however, she is a powerful youkai, who can turn into mist, alter her size, and split into several smaller versions of herself. She once tried to make Gensokyo into a big endless party zone, but me, Reimu, and my friend-slash-neighbor, Alice Margatroid managed to stop her. Afterward, Reimu took her under her wing as a student.
Suika cries, in her drunkenly slurred voice, “Raymoo! Wye ar yoo aktin’ dat way? Whut’s hapnin’ ta Gensohkeeyoh?”
Reimu looks at the fading Suika with a smile you’d expect a pedophiliac rapist to have, “Silence, child! You are but a mere figment! Now begone to the fiction that you are!”
“RAYMOOooooo!” Suika vanishes from existence, just like so many before her.
“REIMU! Just what the hell is going on? What’s happened to you?” I yell, outraged.
Reimu laughs, “HahahahaHAHAHAHA! It’s happening at last, Marisa! It’s time! It’s time to leave!” She looks straight at me. Her eyes are void and empty, like she’s missing her soul.
“What are you talking about?” asks Sakuya.
“It’s time!” yells Reimu, “It’s almost here! Our goodbyes draw nigh!”
I run over to Reimu, grab her by the shoulders, and shake her, “What are you talking about? Snap out of it!” Suddenly, there are several flashes of light and a pulse erupts from Reimu’s body, knocking me back. When my eyes adjust, I see that Reimu’s clothes had transformed into a completely white outfit. The sight makes me depressed somehow.”
Reimu smiles creepily, “My friends and family await! Enjoy this while you still can! Teehehehehehehehe!” With that, Reimu vanishes into thin air.
Sakuya and I are left to the hell that surrounds us. Sakuya says, “Yukari was right! Reimu does seem to have some involvement in this…”
“But what?” I ask, “She wasn’t herself! She didn’t speak the slightest iota of sense!”
Sakuya sighs and says, “I hope Yukari can fill in the blanks. At least we now have a lead…”
I whisper, “Reimu… what’s happened to you? Why have you become so… deranged?” My train of thought is derailed by a loud noise right in front of me. I look at the Hakurei Shrine and realize it had just burst into flames. However, that is secondary to something else I’m seeing.
A figure materializes in front of the burning shrine. It’s a girl with long green hair and green eyes, wearing a blue dress and blue hat with blue ribbons, holding a staff with a shape that looks like a crescent moon at the end of it, “The time has arrived, it seems…”
I glare at the mystery girl, “Just who the hell are you? What’s going on?”
The girl answers, “My name is Mima. You can think of me as a harbinger of the mere thought that is Gensokyo is about to end.”
- Return to Fiction by Valesta