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Part Seven: A New Battle Begins

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Lunarian capital, Tsuki no Miyako…

The Imperial Lunarian Academy, a massive institute of many dome-shaped buildings, dedicated to passing on the near-limitless knowledge the Lunarians had gained over their many-millennia history and discoveries. Inside one of the domes, a class is being held. The students, almost seventy in number, sit in ring-shaped balconies that circle around the building’s higher ground, and listen to their professor at the ground level, a girl appearing to be an older teen, though she had lived for hundreds of years. She has dark red hair and red eyes, and wears a red dress over a white shirt. She is Yumemi Okazaki, one of the Lunarian’s top researchers, and also, little to her knowledge, was the one behind the experiment that resulted in the existence of Gensokyo. “… and that is the result of mixing the sub atomic composition of mysterium with mithril. Next, class, I will tell you_”

“PROFESSOR!” A girl, fifteen years old in appearance, frantically rushes into the building. She has brown eyes and blonde hair tied into two small ponytails and wears a white sailor uniform.

Yumemi leers at the girl, expressing her discontent at having her class interrupted, “Whatever you have to tell me, Chiyuri, can it wait another twenty minutes? I’m trying to teach a class!”

“But professor…” says the girl, Chiyuri, “We just found out about something incredible!”

“’Incredible,’ hm? Do tell, and be quick about it!”

“Okay, well… um… how can I put this?”

“Just tell me.”

“Um… you know about Earthly Realm #0756: Gensokyo and how it disappeared, right?”

“Yes. Quite strange. Well, if that is what this is about, then you have my interest, Chiyuri. Tell me more.”

“Well, you see, just a few minutes ago, Earthly Realm #0578: Terra had stopped emitting its… um… ‘energies,’ and started giving off Gensokyo’s… er… ‘signature.’”

Yumemi finds the information very interesting, “I see. Well, then, do show me…”

“Okay!”

Yumemi addresses her class, “Class, for the last twenty minutes, I want you to review chapters 14 through 24. There will be a quiz on them. Study hard.” She leaves the building with Chiyuri.

Minutes later, they arrive at an establishment dedicated to monitoring the status of Earth’s boundaries. It’s a dark building, only lit by the monitors of many computers. Yumemi looks at one of the monitors, and, as Chiyuri had claimed, the energy signature of our realm had been replaced by that of Gensokyo.

The professor is intrigued by the latest discovery, “Most curious. This is quite a find, Chiyuri. This hadn’t happened in over 800 years!”

“What might have caused this?” asks Chiyuri.

Yumemi takes a few seconds to think, “A shift in boundaries, but… where could Gensokyo have been during the period between its disappearance and reappearance? That is an answer I don’t know, but as a scientist, I simply cannot let these reasons go undiscovered. We will monitor this newly-established boundary. We might even go down to Earth if need be.”

Chiyuri shutters, “You mean actually SET FOOT of Earth’s soil? How can you even consider doing something so… disgraceful?”

Yumemi smirks at Chiyuri, “Sometimes, scientific prowess requires sacrifices, don’t you think so, my dear assistant?”

“Perhaps…”

Yumemi glances at a monitor, showing the moon’s current phase: first quarter, “Still, we have to wait for a little while…”

==

Three days have passed since escaping to Hakugyokurou, and along with that, Yukari’s death. Since then, it has been the most depressing downward spiral of emotion I’ve ever experienced from everyone else. I, for one, say we go back, find Yumei, and avenge Yukari, along with our world, but it seems I’m one of the only ones moving forward. If it’s not Yukari, it’s something else.

Yuyuko, ever since hearing of what happened to Yukari, has holed herself up in her palace and not come out, Reimu is moping around for the same reason, Youmu is trying to figure out how to make Yuyuko happy, Reisen seems to be ready to go like, me, but she’s been in her own world, more and more, Mokou, now revived… well, who knows what she’s thinking, Sakuya seems to have stuff on her mind as well, Alice seems to be avoiding me for some reason, and Cirno is just plain depressed. It seems we have some things to sort out before we go after Yumei…

==

Youmu leaves the palace, and into the gardens, after another attempt at trying to cheer up Yuyuko, which failed, “Dammit… I’ve never seen Yuyuko-sama like this. I can protect her from any threat, but not her own emotions. Even with my swords and skill, I’m powerless to fight it…”

She spends several hours aimlessly wandering the gardens of Hakugyokurou, eventually finding Reisen, “Reisen…”

Reisen glances at Youmu, “Oh. Youmu. Hi.” She is still concerned about Eirin and Kaguya.

However, for that moment, Youmu recalls her unfinished business with Reisen. She unsheathes the Roukanken, which she had recently regained her possession of after returning to the Netherworld, “Reisen, you won’t escape this time! You will tell me about my father!”

Reisen says, “Give it up, Youmu! You won’t overcome my illusion before I make my escape. Besides, I don’t feel like dealing with you!”

Youmu says, “Eirin and Kaguya, right? They’ll be fine. They are immortal, after all. You don’t need to worry about them as much as you have to worry about me!”

“Just leave me alone!” yells Reisen. Her eyes glow red and she looks into Youmu’s eyes. Youmu begins to see a large group of illusory Reisens. A couple Reisens run toward her. The gardener attempts to attack them with her sword, but the Roukanken just passes through them.

“You can’t beat this technique, no matter how many times you try!” taunts Reisen, “Just leave me be!”

Youmu’s eyes narrow, “Is that it? I’ve been waiting for you to do that, Reisen! I figured out a way to overcome it!”

“What?”

Youmu runs toward the group of Reisens as her ghost-half radiates an intense light. Reisen reacts and covers her eyes in reflex, while her illusions are unaffected. Youmu, having found the real Reisen, positions her sword inches away from the Lunarian rabbit’s neck, “I win, Reisen.”

“Not bad…” Reisen’s illusions vanish.

“Talk!” orders Youmu, “Why have you been keeping this a secret from me? More importantly, where is my father now?”

Reisen, instead of giving a straight answer, says, “Can you move your sword? You’re making me uncomfortable.”

“Fine.” Youmu returns her blade to its sheathe.

Reisen explains, “It’s not like I didn’t want to tell you, Youmu, it’s just… I was told not to.”

“By who?”

“Who else? Master Konpaku, of course.”

“’Master’ Konpaku?”

“Your father. Duh! Where I come from, he is referred to as ‘Master.’”

“’Where you come from?’ You can’t mean…”

“It’s exactly what you think, Youmu. Your father is an honorary Lunarian.”

Youmu steps away from Reisen in disbelief, “I… I can’t believe it… You’re lying!”

Reisen shrugs, “It figures. Master Konpaku knew you couldn’t handle the truth, so that’s why he wanted me to keep it a secret.”

Youmu says, “Okay, assuming you are telling the truth, what exactly is your relationship to my father?”

Reisen pauses and answers “… He’s my father too…”

Youmu jumps away from Reisen, “Wh-WHAT? You’re… my half-sister, then? That’s ridiculous!” Youmu thinks again, “Or is it? He always has been a ladies’ man…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” calls out Reisen, “I didn’t mean it like he’s my actual father. It’s just that I’ve thought of him as the dad I’ve never had.”

“Huh?”

Reisen leans against a cherry blossom tree and slumps down, “We moon rabbits… compared to Lunarian humans, we have very few rights. Our ability to telepathically communicate, our vision in the dark… we are seen as naturally born scouts. As a result, we are given military training from a young age, and expected to serve the empire. I was no exception… and I had always been at the bottom of my class. No matter what I did, all my classmates had done better. As a result, I was an outcast. One day, I was kicked out of a self-defense class. That’s when I first met him. At this point, he had risen through the ranks, and had become the leader of the royal guard. I was intimidated by someone of such a rank, but he was very kind. He didn’t look down on me as an inferior moon rabbit. He treated me as an equal, and… in fact, he seemed particularly sympathetic toward us. He told me that one day, if he had anything to say about it, moon rabbits would have the rights of humans. We became close, like father and daughter, and he always encouraged me and took care of me. However, that fateful full moon night came when I, and hundreds of other rabbits, were dispatched across Earth’s boundaries to find Eirin-sama, and possibly Kaguya. I was worried, but he came to me with his final words of comfort: To not worry about anything, and use this chance to live as I want, not worrying about the Lunarians’ rules. Needless to say, I was sent to Gensokyo, where I did find the targets, but never parted with the truth. I was living as the Master told me, and I couldn’t have been happier.”

Youmu responds, “I see. Is that the last you saw of him?”

Reisen shakes her head, “No. I met Master Konpaku one last time. He found out where I was sent, found me, and appeared before me. He told me Gensokyo was connected to this realm… his old home, and that he had a daughter. He told me that if I ever met her, not to tell her anything about him.”

Youmu sits on the grass, “I see. You were just honoring my father’s wishes…”

“Yes…”

“Well, I now know what became of him. That is all I need to know. There is just one last thing…”

“What?”

“Reisen, do you know why he joined the Lunarians? He just disappeared with some woman the last time I saw him, telling me that serving Yuyuko-sama was now my responsibility. He must have had a big reason for doing what he did.”

Reisen says, “Perhaps that’s true, but not even I know. I’m sorry, Youmu.”

“I see…” Youmu rises to her feet.

“Now that you know, what are you gonna do?” asks Reisen.

Youmu answers, “I’ll address that issue someday, but right now, I need to find a way to cheer up Yuyuko-sama, and I also want to help Reimu and the others get back at Yumei. I may not have been very friendly with Yukari, but I won’t let what happened to her go unanswered.”

Reisen also rises to her feet, “I see. Well, there are some things I need to take care of too.” With that, she walks away.

==

I sit on the stairs leading up to the palace, wondering what the new Gensokyo is like. Something tells me it’s not going to be the bright and beautiful place it once was. As much as I hate Yumei right now, I guess I have to give her credit for delaying my decision, because right now, between Gensokyo and our world, I have neither to choose from, and I sure as hell can’t live here, surrounded by the dead.

“Oh! Hello, Marisa! It’s been a long time!” my thoughts are interrupted by a male voice. Walking up the stairs, with a friendly smile is Rinnosuke Morichika, or as I affectionately nickname him, Kourin, after his store, Kourindou.

“Huh? Kourin? Is that you? I thought you disappeared with Gensokyo!”

Kourin rubs the back of his head, “I guess I would have if Yukari didn’t take some time to rescue me… and I just heard from Reimu that she unintentionally saved me again, when I requested she send me here just as a vacation from my house in the middle of nowhere. You’re all here because that ‘Yumei’ character destroyed your world, right?”

“That’s right… and now, Yukari is dead.”

Crestfallen, Kourin turns his eyes away from me, “Yes, I heard too. I can’t believe it… Yukari is the strongest youkai I know…”

“She died saving all of us…”

There is a long pause between us. Finally, Kourin says, “Reimu is at a bench on a cliff, not far to the west of here, looking out at acres of sakura trees. She’s very depressed. Maybe you can cheer her up?”

I rise to my feet, “Maybe I will, Kourin.”

==

Elsewhere in the expansive gardens, Cirno wanders around, thinking of the past events. Ahead, she sees Mokou lying on her back at the base of a tree, grabbing a petal out of the air and incinerating it.

Cirno rushes over to Mokou, “Hello!”

“…”

“What was your name again? Fuzzy-wora no Mocha?”

Mokou glares at Cirno, “It’s ‘Fujiwara no Mokou.’ So, who the hell are you?”

Cirno gladly introduces herself, “I am the great ice fairy, Cirno! Next to Alice, I am the strongest remaining youkai from Gensokyo!”

“Like I give a shit.”

“But you asked for my name!”

“Shut the hell up!”

“No, YOU shut up!”

Mokou smirks, “Hmph. You’re pretty brave, considering I can reduce you to ashes with little trouble…”

“Try it!” challenges Cirno.

“Nah. Don’t feel like it…” Mokou takes a breath, “So, what did you want with me?”

Cirno takes a few seconds to find the right words, “Well… um… Aren’t you from the world Reimu and Marisa come from?”

“That’s right,” says Mokou, “What about it?”

“You… know that it disappeared, right?”

“Yeah,” says Mokou, her confrontational demeanor weakening, “Alice told me.”

“Well, if that was your home, why did only Reimu and Marisa start to disappear? Only people that are born there disappear, right? But you didn’t fade at all!”

“Wh… what?”

“You were just like us, not fading away, but if that was where you came from…”

Mokou says, “I don’t know. My earliest memory was being found and adopted by a nobleman. I knew I wasn’t his biological daughter, and that my ability to create flames wasn’t considered natural… but now I find out that I’m not even from within that boundary? Damn! Just what the hell am I?” Mokou focuses her gaze on the sky, “Of course, ‘Fujiwara no Mokou’ isn’t my real name. It was just the name dad gave me…”

“Mokou…”

Mokou looks at Cirno’s sympathetic expression, “Don’t give me that look, fairy girl. All that shit I just said, it doesn’t matter anyway. With all that’s happened, that’s the least of my worries.”

“Um… okay…” Cirno turns to walk away.

“Hey.”

“Um… yes?”

Mokou gives Cirno a reassuring smile, “Thanks for listening. You know, you’re not half bad, fairy girl.”

“Yay!” Cirno walks away, feeling better.

Mokou continues laying back, her mood improving since she had a rare chance to talk about herself to someone.

“… Kaguya…”

Not long after Cirno left, Mokou receives another visitor, Reisen, “Oh! Mokou! You’re back! Are you feeling better?”

Sarcastically, Mokou answers, “Oh yeah, I totally am! Especially after spending 14 months of hanging with Kaguya 24/7 and occasionally Reimu, and getting shot in the head by you. It was nice.”

Reisen says, “Mokou… Why did you and Kaguya attack me and Eirin-sama. You realize you could have spent an eternity there rather than just 14 months?”

“That’s just it,” says Mokou, “we WOULDN’T have spent an eternity there.”

“What are you talking about?” asks Reisen.

“Okay…” Mokou explains, “After princess and I fell into the void, we were we encountered by Yumei. She told us a whole bunch of crazy shit, like how she was going to erase that world I used to live in, and that if Reimu died while we were still there, we would be phased out of existence. Do you get it? REAL death! Not even immortality can stop that!”

“What the hell?” says Reisen, “You want to die?”

“Why not?” says Mokou, “I’ve lived for hundreds of years, burdened with an unending desire to kill Kaguya, and having to live as an outsider. With all that, you start to get a little tired of living, yet you know you can’t. Anyway, even though that world was a part of our lives that princess and I left behind, we sure as hell wouldn’t let that psycho, Yumei erase it, along with the things that represent our dearest memories. You see, the presence of outsiders like me and princess in the remains of Reimu’s dream caused an interference that prevented Yumei from leaving. That’s the reason why she couldn’t leave while we were there. We would save the world and perish for good. It was all too good to be true. However, before Yumei was separated from us to join with Marisa, she did… something. It might have had something to do with the fact that we couldn’t clearly communicate with Reimu all those times we told her to not free us, or the reason you and your egghead doctor couldn’t hear us.”

“I see… So, Mokou… What are you going to do now? Kaguya was captured by Yumei.”

“…” Mokou gives Reisen a ‘why should I care?’ look.

“A-anyway… I just thought you should know…” Reisen walks away.

“…”

==

Partway through the gardens, on my way to finding Reimu, I happen across Alice. Instinctively, I call out to my friend, “Heeeey~ Alice!”

“…” Alice glances at me, but suddenly turns her head away, “Hmph!”

She starts to walk away. Seriously, what the hell is her problem? She started being pissed off at me again ever since we got here. Well, I found her, so why not get to the bottom of things while the chance presents itself? I chase after her, “Hey! Alice! Stop! What’s the matter with you?” I catch up to her and grab her arm. She struggles to break free of my grip, but I hold on tightly. Finally, she stops and turns toward me. I let go of her. “C’mon, Alice…”

SLAP!

I feel a sudden impact across my face. Alice slapped me… again. This is the second time since all this crazy shit started that I got slapped by Alice. I knew I deserved the first one, but what the heck did I do this time?

“Wh-what the hell, Alice? What was that for?”

Alice glares at me, “So the truth comes out, Marisa?”

“What are you talking about?”

“About what you said to Yumei? About ‘not giving a shit about Gensokyo?’”

“Erk!” Yeah, I said that didn’t I?

“Hmph. It must be very nice to just live in your own world and not care about the plight of anyone else.”

“What?”

“Marisa, you said before that you would be happy just going to school with us and not worrying about Gensokyo… but the rest of us don’t want that! We want to go home!”

I can’t exactly say that Alice’s reasoning put me in a good, or even a humble mood, “Yeah, go home and leave me behind! I can’t just say goodbye to my old life and join you! As great as Gensokyo sounds, I can’t just leave the people that raised me, even if my day-to-day life was putting up with those stupid elitist hussies!”

“Marisa…”

“All I wanted when I got into that accident was friends… Thanks to Gensokyo, I made friends that followed me back to my normal life… and now you want to go back, and leave me alone? I don’t want to lose any of you, but I love my family and can’t stand the thought of just abandoning them. Don’t you get it, Alice? I can’t just pick a place to live out my life in! No matter which I choose, I will be miserable because of what I had left behind! To me, it’s better for there just to be one choice! Don’t you DARE treat me like I’m the bad guy here!”

“Marisa… I…”

“I’ll admit, what I said back there was stupid and selfish, but don’t pretend to know me, because you don’t! What we all want is to be happy, but with the way things were, that’s impossible! Someone is gonna get hurt! Can you blame me if I’m someone who doesn’t wanna deal with that kinda pain?”

Alice takes my point, “I see. I’m sorry, Marisa. You’re right, I thought what you said was truly insensitive, but I never considered your side of the whole ordeal…”

“Just as long as you know that…”

“…”

I look toward the sky, “Besides… None of that is an issue anymore. Now it’s Yumei’s Gensokyo, built on the ruins of my home and family. I will not let Yumei get away with that!”

Alice looks at me sympathetically, “I will help you, Marisa.”

I start to walk away, “You don’t have to. It’s not your fight.”

“What do you mean it’s not?” asks Alice, “Yumei is using Gensokyo for her own ends, and I’m not going to let the land that I loved be used like that! Don’t think you’re alone here, Marisa!”

“Yeah… sorry, Alice. We’re in this together…”

==

In a washroom inside the palace, Sakuya cuts her hair short again with a knife, braids the two longer strands extending from the sides of her face, and finally, changes back into her old maid outfit, which she left in Yuyuko’s care, muttering to herself, “Vacation is over. Gensokyo has returned… just not in the way I’d have thought…” She thinks about what Yumei had said, “Gensokyo… the mistress… Patchouli… Meiling… Flandre… They were all a result of a Lunarian experiment? And… I am a Lunarian…” Sakuya laughs for a few seconds, “A Lunarian serving a product of a Lunarian experiment. How ironic! Still…” She walks toward the washroom door, “I most certainly can’t let Yumei get away with Yukari’s death or using Gensokyo… and my mistress, as she pleases.”


Meanwhile, behind the palace, at the base of the Saigyou Ayakashi, Yuyuko looks blankly up at the tree, “Yukari… Yuko…”

Youmu approaches Yuyuko, not knowing how to react to her mistress’s unusual mood, “Um… Yuyuko-sama? I prepared a five-course meal for you!”

Yuyuko blankly responds, “Give it to someone else. I’m not hungry.”

Youmu says, “I know that Yukari’s death was a hard thing for you, but you will see her again, right? This is the Netherworld, after all! This is where the dead go! Plus, she’ll be a ghost like you!”

Yuyuko says, “I never told you this, Youmu, but this is not THE Netherworld, it’s A Netherworld.”

“What?”

“There are as many Netherworlds as there are Yama, and unfortunately, the souls from the world you were in are not assigned to come here. Yukari is going to go to another Netherworld.”

“Oh…”

“This… is an eternal parting…”

“Yuyuko-sama…”

“Youmu… Did Yukari say anything about me before…?”

Youmu answers, “She said she wished she was the judge of character you are so she could know of Yumei’s true motives…”

Despite finding out, however, Yuyuko feels even worse, “I could have been there!” Tears rapidly emerge from her eyes, “If I were there, Yukari wouldn’t have… If not for my position here, I could have…” Her gaze fixes on the Saigyou Ayakashi, “I’m sorry, Yuko… I failed to take care of Yukari…”

Youmu tries to find some comforting words for her mistress, “Yuyuko-sama… um…”

Staring at the ground, Yuyuko tells Youmu, “Please… just leave me alone, Youmu. I want to be alone…”

“…” Youmu walks away, takes a brief glance back at her anguished mistress, and then keeps walking.

==

I finally find Reimu in the place Kourin told me she was, sitting on the edge of a cliff, looking over acres of a beautiful sea of pink petals and green grass. Of course, that sight is a paradox to the mood hanging over us all.

“Hey! Reimu!”

Reimu glances back at me, saying unenergetically, “Oh. Hello, Marisa.”

I want to ask how she’s doing, but I already know the answer to that question, so I pick another topic, “Well, that was pretty strange, huh? Having a dream, which was used in some alien experiment. Pretty unusual stuff, doncha think?”

“Marisa…” says Reimu, “Shut up! Don’t you get it? It was BECAUSE of our dream that our world had been destroyed!”

“Then what could have been done about it, Reimu? Avoid getting into that accident? We don’t know where and when shit like that happens. Hell, we could be dead five minutes from now! We had a dream, we had many adventures is Gensokyo, it happened. It was a good dream, but sooner or later, we had to wake up, and we did. We had some friends trapped in your head, so we had to get them out. What were we gonna do instead? Ignore them? We had the means to help them, and so we did. So it led to the destruction of our world. That sucks, but did we know it was gonna happen? No.”

“What’s your point, Marisa?”

“It was inevitable, Reimu. It happened, and right now, you’re here, wondering what we could have done, lamenting something you had no control over.”

“…”

“Reimu, instead of thinking about how our dream may have been part of what destroyed the world, think of all the good things! If not for it, we never would have met, we learned things about the universe most people never would have learned, we made friends that even I would take a blast for if I had to, we went on exciting adventures, and this… could just be another one. We’ve always found a way to pull through, right? Let’s keep doing that.”

My little pep talk seems to have brightened Reimu’s mood a little, “So, how do you think we can pull through this time?”

I grin, “Just join us for dinner, alright? I’ll talk about everything, then.”

==

Lunarian Imperial Palace, throne room…

The throne room is a large chamber, though, like the rest of the building, its floor, walls, and ceiling are all made of wood. Sitting on the throne is a woman who appears to be in her mid to late twenties, though in actuality, she is older than any other Lunarian alive. She has long flowing shiny black hair and dark red eyes, and wears a silver robe over several layers of regal clothing, and a silver tiara.

Another person enters the room. She has the appearance of a mid to older teen, has light-blue hair tied into a ponytail with a yellow ribbon, brown eyes, and wears a red dress and white blouse. She stops short or stairs leading up to the woman, and kneels respectfully, “Mother, I have a report.”

The woman says, resting her head against her hand, “Yorihime, how many times have I told you not to refer to me as ‘mother’ when you are conducting official business?”

“But, mothe… Your Imperial Majesty Lunariya… We are alone.”

“Third Princess, Watatsuki no Yorihime… As a leader of the defense corps, you must set an example by composing yourself properly, no matter what the situation.”

“I understand.”

“Your report…”

“Yes. We received word recently from the Science Division, specifically Professor Yumemi, that the Earthly Realm, Terra, had vanished, and was replaced by a realm that had mysteriously vanished over a year past.”

Lunariya looks at Yorihime with a stern expression, “What does this have to do with the war with Earth?”

Yorihime responds, “Nothing, Your Majesty, but if knowledge serves, that was the realm where you exiled First Princess Kaguya. Of course, my sister and I weren’t adopted by you yet, but I do believe it was there. Are you not worried about her? She is your only biological daughter, out of her, my sister, Toyohime, Kotohime, and myself, after all.”

Lunariya coldly responds, “She broke our laws, and she received her punishment accordingly.”

“But… that law is no longer in effect, and what about my mentor, Eirin Yagokoro?”

“Yes, that was rather unfortunate. I’m honestly surprised she evaded us for as long as she has, but these things happen. After all, we did suspect that they somehow escaped to another boundary, did we not? It’s too early to assume that they are gone.”

“Understood. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” Yorihime turns to exit the chamber.

“Do not waste my time again.”

==

Inside the palace, we meet up in the dining hall: Me, Alice, Reimu, Sakuya, Youmu, and Reisen. Yuyuko’s not here, surprisingly, neither is Mokou, unsurprisingly, but Cirno just came briefly and left with some food. Hell, if I know what that was about.

We all look at the food spread across the table, stuff from all food groups and the aroma fills the air. Reimu and Reisen are awed by all the food. Reimu asks, “Youmu, did you cook all this?”

“Half of it,” answers Youmu, “Sakuya did the rest. The share I made was all originally meant for Yuyuko-sama.”

HALF? That’s still too much for one person, but I was already aware of Yuyuko’s monstrous eating habits, so there’s no point in acting surprised. Anyway, we sit down and chow down.

As we eat, Reimu says, “So, Marisa, what did you want to share with us?”

“Yeah…” I stop eating so I can talk to everyone, “Right, so… uh… It’s been three days since all that depressing shit happened. How long are we gonna mope around?”

“It’s about time someone said that,” says Reisen, “I want to save the princess and Eirin-sama as soon as possible, but I can’t do it alone.”

Sakuya adds, “I’ve honestly wanted to see the new Gensokyo for myself. I… have some fears that I want to confirm…”

“But what’s the point?” asks Reimu, “Even if we get back at Yumei, it won’t change the fact that our world is gone.”

“Or will it?” I ask.

“What do you mean?” asks Alice, “What are you thinking?”

“Think about it,” I say, “Yumei did that by erasing the boundary between dreams and reality. Well, what would happen if it was put back up? Do you think it might reverse what happened? I don’t know if the result will bring everything back to the way they were, but it’s worth the try, right? Besides, we know that she has the power to make Gensokyo its own boundary again.”

“Indeed,” says Sakuya, “At the cost of her life. Honestly, I doubt she would be willing to do that.”

“Well, it’s not like I thought of everything, so we’ll cross that proverbial bridge when we come to it.”

“…” Silence in the anticipation of what I’m going to add.

“Look, I had some time to think things over. I’m not the kind to give into despair for long, you know. We have to look ahead, right? The issue here is not whether or not we get back at Yumei for what she did, but to convince her somehow to undo what she had done,” I turn to Alice, “What do you think, Alice? You’re the smart one here.”

“Fair enough,” says Alice, “We’d might as well. It’s not like anything is getting accomplished, neither for the sake of Gensokyo nor of your world, if we just stay here.”

“Well, there you have it,” I say, “I say we savor this moment, because this will be our last decent meal in awhile, get a good night’s sleep, and finally, head out tomorrow morning. How does that sound?”

“I’d say you have a decent idea,” says Reimu, “Count me in.”

“I most certainly have a desire to,” answers Sakuya.

“I gave my answer,” says Reisen.

“I’ll go along,” says Alice, “I can’t call this place my home, can I? At least not yet.”

Youmu pauses on her response, “Um… We’ll see. I’ll have my answer by the time you have to go.”

“Okay,” I respond, “That thing Yukari gave us is a one-way ticket. There’s no turning back after we use it, so think carefully.”

“I will.” With our next course of action confirmed, we eat the rest of our dinner.

==

In the gardens, Cirno finds Mokou lying in the same place she was at before, still staring blankly at the evening sky.

Mokou is broken out of her trance at Cirno’s words, “Hey!”

Mokou sits up and looks at the ice fairy, “Hello again, fairy girl. What’s up?”

Cirno holds out a small tray of food from the palace’s dining hall, “I brought you some food! I didn’t see you at the palace, so I thought you may be hungry.” She places the tray next to Mokou.

The immortal eats a handful of wasabi peas. Completely unaffected by the intensity of the spicy flavor, she says, “You didn’t have to go through all that trouble for me. Even if I starve to death, I’ll wake up, feeling like I had a four-course meal.”

Cirno protests, “But… food! What about tasting good stuff?”

Mokou takes another handful of peas, “Well, I can’t argue with you there.”

They eat until the tray is completely cleared.

Cirno pats her gut, “I’m sooooo full!”

Mokou sighs, “You should have brought more, fairy girl. It’s not often I get to eat decent homemade goodness.”

“You don’t eat often?” asks Cirno, “Or do you do that ‘starve and come back full’ thing?”

“Both,” answers Mokou, “I lived in some remote area of the bamboo forest, hunting for youkai.”

Cirno flinches, “EEK!”

“Not like you. Unintelligent, un-humanoid youkai. Sometimes I eat with an… acquaintance from the Human Village, but her cooking sucks.”

“That sounds horrible,” says Cirno.

“Nah,” responds Mokou, “It wasn’t so bad… at least compared to being inside Reimu’s subconscious. No food at all. Kaguya and I died from starvation and regenerated more times than I can count. Believe me, dying from no food… is not very pleasant.”

Cirno changes the subject, “We’ll probably have to go to Yumei’s Gensokyo, and stop her.”

“Tell me,” says Mokou, “Do YOU want to go and risk your life? You’re not like me. When you die, that’s it.”

Cirno says, “Well… um… I liked Marisa’s home. It was a great place. Sure, some people were really mean, but I don’t want Yumei to just get away with what she did to it. Um… what about you? I mean, you said you weren’t… well, born there, but it’s where you lived, right?”

Mokou responds, “What should I care? That’s a part of my life I left behind a LONG time ago.”

“Okay… just wondering… So… are you gonna stay here?”

“Why not? This is the Netherworld, the home I’ll never have, after all.”

Cirno begins to walk away, “Okay… Marisa seemed ready to go back… and I’m gonna go with everyone. I won’t see you again for a while…”

“…” Mokou looks blankly at Cirno.


At the Saigyou Ayakashi, Yuyuko is also unmoved from her spot. Youmu approaches her, “Yuyuko-sama… Reimu and the others are going to return tomorrow. I was wondering if I could have your permission to accompany them. I’ll understand if you want me to remain by your side. I don’t know when, or even if, I will be able to return…”

“…”

“Yuyuko-sama?”

“… … … Do as you wish, Youmu.”

“… Understood. I wish you well.” Youmu leaves.

Despite her outwardly underwhelming reaction, Yuyuko’s contemplation takes another path, “Hm…”

A few minutes later, Mima approaches, “Yuyuko, are you feeling better?”

Yuyuko says, “Mima, I have a job for you…”

==

Well, it was a long night, and it’s a good thing too, as I doubt I’m gonna sleep that well for a while. After breakfast, me, Alice, Reimu, Sakuya, Youmu, and Reisen meet up at the foot of the Saigyou Ayakashi.

“Are we ready?” I ask, “There’s no turning back after this. Reimu, you have the ball, right?”

Reimu pulls Yukari’s gap-ball out of her pocket, “Right here.”

“Youmu?” I ask, “Are you sure you want to do this? What about Yuyuko?”

Youmu responds, “Yuyuko-sama gave me permission. It’s alright.”

“Let us go, then,” says Sakuya.

“It’s about time,” says Reisen.

“We might as well get this over with,” adds Alice.

“Okay,” I say, “Throw it, Rei_”

“WAIIIIIIIIIT!” A high-pitched yell comes from above. Cirno flies down.

“Cirno!”

Cirno complains, “You’re mean! I wanted to come too!”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “It could be dangerous.”

“Are you saying I’m weak?”

“No. No. Welcome aboard.”

We hear another voice approach, “Well, if she’s going, I’ll go to. I’d feel bad if she didn’t have someone like me backing her up.” Mokou comes into sight.

Cirno asks, “Mokou, you’re coming too?”

“I didn’t expect that,” says Reisen, “Are you sure that you want to help rescue Kaguya?”

“Better me than anyone else,” says Mokou, “If anything, she’ll be embarrassed that I, of all people, came to rescue her.”

“Well, whatever,” says Reisen, “glad to see you’re with us.”

“Do you have room for one more?” Another volunteering voice comes from above.

“Yuyuko-sama? You want to come too?” Youmu asks her mistress, who just volunteered.

“Well, it’s not like I’m helping much by just moping around, am I?” remarks Yuyuko, “Besides, I wasn’t there for Yukari when I could have saved her. The least I can do is seeing this through.”

“But what about the Netherworld?” asks Reimu.

“That has been taken care of,” says Yuyuko, “Shall we go?”

“Okay!” Reimu tosses the ball. Halfway through midair, it turns into a gap. The nine of us proceed to enter it.

LET’S GO!



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