- Return to Fiction by Valesta
Meanwhile, at the same time as all other events unfold, Alice and Sakuya emerge from the other side of the portal they fell into during the battle with Tenshi. On the other side, they are surrounded by snow and icy mountains, but the temperature is surprisingly lukewarm.
“Is this…?” Sakuya feels a slight sense of familiarity regarding the place.
However, Alice remembers it immediately, “We’re in Makai!”
“Just as I thought…” Sakuya had only previously spent a few minutes in Makai, but with Alice’s revelation, it all comes back to her.
Alice yells, “Marisa! Reimu! Youmu! They were still fighting! We must find a way back!”
“Do you happen to know a way?” asks Sakuya.
Alice says, “Shinki… You are there, aren’t you?”
Out of thin air, Shinki materializes in front of Alice and Sakuya, “My dearest Alice, I am relieved beyond words to see you unharmed. It looks like I acted in time. Words fail to express my happiness.”
Alice smiles, “It’s nice to see you again, Shinki. I appreciate that you saved us. Otherwise we would have been dead for sure.”
Shinki responds, “Do not forget, Alice, that I see you as a daughter, despite the fact that you were not born from me. I always do everything in my power to see to it that my children remain unharmed.”
Alice bows with gratitude, “I thank you… from the bottom of my heart. May I please ask that you please return us to where you retrieved us from? Our friends are battling a strong opponent. They need us.”
Shinki slowly shakes her head, “That, I cannot do.”
“Why?” demands Sakuya.
Shinki gazes at Alice with a serious expression, “Alice, you did receive my warning about events I foresaw, did you not?”
Alice nods, “Yes. You sent Yuki to relay that message to me.”
“Who is Yuki?” asks Sakuya, “When did that happen?”
“You saw her,” says Alice, “It was soon after we arrived in Japan. We were on the bench with Marisa waiting for Reimu and Youmu. She walked by and I followed her.”
Sakuya vaguely recalls the event, “Oh yes…”
Shinki says to Alice, “Surely you are aware, then, that if the threat of death threatened you, I would try to save you.”
“And you did,” responds Alice, “That disaster was prevented. I am not in danger anymore. Please send us back.”
Shinki shakes her head, “No. While it is true your life had been saved, the prophecy still remains. If you go back there, sooner or later, you will surely die. Your death can only be prevented if you remain here. I will not let you go back to meet your unfortunate fate.”
“Then what about our friends?” yells Alice, “What if they die because we weren’t there to do something to save them?”
“…” Shinki stands in silence, and then chuckles, “Hmhmhm…”
“What’s so funny?” asks Sakuya.
Shinki smiles warmly, “You’ve changed, Alice. Before, you would care not about such matters. You would keep to yourself and disregard the world around you. This is indeed a startling change in attitude. You’ve most certainly grown up.”
“Then you understand me?” asks Alice, “Please, send Sakuya and I back to where we were! I’ll be careful, I promise.”
Shinki closes her eyes and shakes her head, “I am afraid that changes nothing, however. I cannot permit it.”
“Please!” yells Alice desperately.
“Your friends may live, or they may not,” says Shinki, “But your death is a certainty if you choose to persist along that path. I know it’s difficult, but leave all your worldly troubles behind and live your life with us again. I will also welcome your companion as one among the sisterhood.”
“There are things I must do too,” says Sakuya, “I will not turn away from them.”
Shinki pauses “… … … I see. Perhaps you need some time to yourselves to grasp the situation. She points in the distance, toward a castle that looks small from where they are, but would be immense up close. It has several towers and spires protruding from it, “I will await your arrival there. Please take your time and sort out whatever issues you may have. I bid you farewell for now.” Shinki opens a black gap and disappears into it.
“Wait!” cries Alice.
“She’s gone,” says Sakuya.
“So what do you propose we do?” asks the maid, “Shall we meet her again at that castle?”
With one fist clenched, Alice says, “The others are still fighting as we speak. With the way things are, we won’t make it back in time…”
“Don’t talk like they will be doomed without us,” says Sakuya, “We’ll just have to hope they find a way. It wouldn’t be the first time…”
Sakuya takes a couple steps in the castle’s direction, “Our destination is rather obvious. If we want to go back, we must talk to Shinki again, correct? We might as well do that.”
“Yes…” Alice follows the maid.
In the city area, Cirno finds Mokou sitting on the edge of the supermarket’s roof, looking out at the sunset.
Mokou glances back over her shoulder at the ice fairy, “Oh. Fairy girl.”
“The sunset is cool, isn’t it?”
Mokou shrugs, “Whatever. What’s the point in pointing it out? You’re acting like you’ve never seen a sunset before.”
“But… Isn’t there anything that you like, no matter how many times you’ve seen it?”
Mokou leans back, “Dunno. Seeing how Princess ends up after I give her a good ass-kicking? Lightens my mood every time.”
“By ‘Princess,’ you mean Kaguya?”
“No shit. What other princesses are there?”
“Why do you have to talk like that?” asks Cirno, “You’re so mean! I just wanted to talk to you!”
Mokou sighs and responds, “Sorry. It’s just my personality, I guess. No wonder I don’t have a lot of friends… Heh…” Mokou pats the ledge next to her, “Come here. Sit next to me.”
Mokou does her best to smile, “I’m not upset with you, okay? Let’s just sit and talk. I don’t bite.”
“Okay…” Cirno sits next to Mokou. Their legs dangle over the edge of the roof and they gaze at the sunset together.
Mokou pulls a box out of her pocket, which happens to be a pack of cigarettes. She pulls a cigarette out of the pack, ignites one of her fingers, and lights it. She holds the pack out to Cirno, “Want one?”
“Okay!” Cirno pulls a cigarette out and puts it in her mouth. Mokou lights it.
Cirno observes the way Mokou smokes, then inhales, “ACK!” and then gags, causing her to drop the cigarette.
Mokou chuckles, “Hmhm… Not your thing, huh?”
“Wait…” Cirno examines the pack, “Ah!” She pulls the cigarette out of Mokou’s mouth and throws it over the side of the building.
“Aw, what the hell?”
Cirno exclaims, “I just remembered! Reisen taught me about these earlier! She said they can cause ‘lung cancer.’ I have no idea what that is, but it sounds bad.”
Mokou leans back, “Good advice.”
“Why are you using those?”
“Dunno. Felt like it.”
“Do you know what ‘lung cancer’ is?”
Mokou gives her best possible explanation, “I just heard about it somewhere. Basically, it makes someone’s lungs all shitty, and kills them.”
“You knew that? It could have happened to you?” Cirno realizes something else, “Ah! It could have happened to me! You just tried to kill me, didn’t you?”
“Relax,” says Mokou, “One won’t do that. Besides, it’s not like I have a reason to care what it does to me.”
“You know damn well why. Because I’m immortal. I can just die and come back, damage 100% repaired.”
Cirno sighs with relief, “Whew. You’re really lucky…”
“No I’m not,” says Mokou, “YOU’RE the lucky one.”
“Why?” asks the ice fairy, “You can’t die, but I can...”
“It’s BECAUSE you can die that you’re lucky.”
Mokou focuses her gaze on the sunset, “It means you can appreciate your existence. You can only do a finite amount of things in your lifetime, and that is what makes it precious. You make friends and form relationships, and someday, you can look back on all that, say you’ve loved life, and go out with a smile. Life is one’s story, and everyone hopes it has an exciting middle and a happy ending…” Mokou sighs and directs her melancholy expression toward the ruined cityscape “… but not me. There is a beginning and an eternal middle, but no ending… And I can’t say that I’m proud of what I’ve done so far.”
“B-but…” Cirno stutters, “Um… er… That doesn’t mean you can’t… y’know, fix things. Also, you can do things you like and remember them.”
“Remember them?” Mokou scoffs, “Yeah right. Getting trapped in Reimu’s mind? Learning Gensokyo was a dream? Fighting constantly with an alien princess? Hell, the conversation I’m having with you right now? It may be thousands of years, but eventually, I’ll forget everything. That’s what the flow of time does. It makes you forget. The longer you live, the more blurry and distant the things you’ve done become, until that memory becomes nothing but inexistence. Most of the time, I forget why I’m fighting with Kaguya. Her very existence reminds me, but who knows how long it’s going to be until I lose my memory and motivation to do so? After that, then what? I just keep on living! THAT’S why you’re lucky, fairy girl. You can go out with those memories. You don’t keep going and lose what’s important!”
“Then why do you care?” asks Cirno.
“You came along with us, and you’re helping us. You talk as if you shouldn’t care about anything, because you’re afraid you’ll forget, but you are here… I don’t get it…”
“Ah!” To Mokou’s surprise, Cirno’s comment caught her off guard, “I… don’t know… I’m trying to rescue Kaguya… I know I want to… but why? What’s the point…?” Mokou shakes her head, “Dammit! I wish I had an answer, fairy girl…”
Back in Makai, Alice and Sakuya fly over the fields of snow, gradually getting closer to the castle.
Along the way, Sakuya asks, “Alice, what exactly is your relation to Shinki? I’m aware you have something like that of a daughter and mother, but how, may I ask, did you come to know her?”
Alice responds, “She is the reason I became a youkai…”
“Well, I used to be human. A powerful human mage, disgusted with fellow humans. As an outcast, I traveled, and was eventually found by Shinki. She made me a youkai… a demon to be exact, so I could become distant from the humans I used to hate so much…”
“I see. It’s no wonder she was so surprised to find out that you wanted to go back to help our friends… humans…”
Alice smiles, “Yes, it is quite ironic, now that I think about it…”
“But she said that you’ll die if you do. Are you sure? I mean, I could go back alone, and you could remain here, where she claims you’ll be safe. I think she’d agree to that.”
“I imagine she would,” says Alice, quickening her pace to keep up with Sakuya, “But… despite my past, I will return to help those I’ve come to care about. Whatever is supposed to kill me, I’ll be careful. I know about it, so I won’t be done in so easily! If you leave here, you won’t be alone.”
“Something tells me Shinki won’t have that…”
“We’ll just have to be more persuasive…”
“I can do that,” says Sakuya, “If my words can’t convince her, my knives will!”
“Ah!” Alice zooms ahead so she can run in front of the maid and look her in the eye, “That is ABSOLUTELY out of the question! Shinki is immensely powerful.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had a powerful opponent…”
“The answer is still no! Yukari… Yuka… Suika… Yuyuko… Kanako… I imagine even Yumei when she fused Yukari’s powers with her own… Shinki is more powerful than ANY of them!”
Sakuya’s eyes widen, “She’s that strong? What makes you say that?”
Alice looks out at the landscape, “Shinki is the sole being responsible for all of this. She created Makai and everyone who lives here. It was all her doing. Unlike Yumei, she created it from nothing.”
“Unreal…” says Sakuya.
“We’ll just have to find some other way to convince her…”
They continue walking. A half-hour slowly goes by.
“A demon…” Sakuya recalls Alice’s previous words, “So that’s the kind of youkai you are?”
“It isn’t much different from most kinds of youkai.
“Well, I can understand why you weren’t specific about the type of youaki you were. If I recall correctly, based on something Patchouli told me some time ago, demons are generally viewed as terrible things in Gensokyo.”
“You are right…” Alice says one more thing under her breath “It’s appropriate for someone like me, though…”
“Did you say something?”
Sakuya looks ahead toward the castle, which is now very close, “It appeared that Shinki is capable of manipulating boundaries.”
“She can,” says Alice, “However, she is bound to Makai, so she can’t leave. She can send others to and from, though. However, she doesn’t have that ability naturally, so it requires a lot of her power to link this realm to another. She can use it pretty freely within Makai’s boundary, though...”
“I see…” says Sakuya, “Yet, she used it to help us. She really loves you if she’s willing to go that far…”
Alice sighs, “Yes, she views me like a daughter. She’s a mother in every sense of the word…”
Sakuya’s eyes narrow, “I see. This is going to be difficult…”
They finally reach the castle. They enter an entryway where they are greeted by two girls, one of whom being Yuki, the girl Alice had a brief encounter with in Japan. The other girl has light blue eyes and hair, and wears a white dress and hair ribbon.
Yuki gives a cheerful wave, “Alice! We meet again! Welcome back to Makai, dear sister!”
The other girl glances at Sakuya, and then Alice, giving the latter a very brief dirty look “…”
“Hm?” Sakuya is the only one who notices the other girl’s passing expression.
“It’s… good to see you again, Yuki,” Alice returns the greeting. She looks at the other girl, “And you too, Mai.”
“…” The girl, identified as Mai, stands silently.
Yuki looks at Sakuya, “Hey! I remember you! Your hair was a little longer and you were dressed differently, but you were with Alice when I went to visit her. What’s your name?”
“Sakuya,” answers the maid.
Yuki slowly approaches Sakuya, “It’s nice to meet you, Sakuya!” She quickly hugs the maid and kisses her on the cheek.
Sakuya pushes Yuki off her, blushing heavily, “Wh…”
Alice shakes her head with a wry smile, “Don’t let it get to you. That’s how she greets everyone…” She becomes serious again, “At any rate, we can’t talk for long. We must see Shinki.”
“Sure thing!” says Yuki, “Just follow us, ‘kay? We’ll take you to Mother.” She turns and walks down a corridor behind her.
“…” Mai does the same as Yuki.
Alice and Sakuya follow the two girls. The castle, while warm like most interiors, gives off a beautiful, yet chilling atmosphere. The tiles on the floor are silver, while the walls and ceiling are blue. Overall, it doesn’t feel much different from the snowy terrain outside.
As they walk, Sakuya whispers to Alice, so Yuki and Mai can’t hear, “That Yuki seems friendly and energetic, but the other one, Mai… I don’t know. She doesn’t seem to like you…”
“I’m aware of that,” Alice whispers back, “I don’t know why, though…”
Yuki and Mai lead them through the castle’s maze-like complex of corridors. Finally, they enter a large room, big enough to be a ball room, with a dome-like ceiling. Shinki stands in the middle of the room, with a subtle smile.
“We’re here!” announces Yuki.
“…” Mai says the same thing as Yuki in body language.
“Thank you, Yuki,” says Shinki, turning her attention toward Alice and Sakuya, “Welcome. I take it I provided adequate time for the two of you to decide on what to do?”
“Our answer remains the same, Shinki” says Alice, “Please send us back.”
Shinki looks at Alice questioningly, “I told you that death awaits you if you do so… They… must mean quite a lot to you.”
“…” Alice nods silently.
“No! I don’t want you to die!” cries Yuki.
“Silence, Yuki,” commands Shinki.
Yuki kneels respectfully, “Sorry, Mother…”
Shinki says, “Still, I cannot allow it. If I send the two of you back, I will lack the power to control the boundary outside of Makai for quite some time, thus when the time comes, I won’t be able to save you again.”
“Then send me back alone!” exclaims Sakuya, “You don’t have a problem with that, do you, Shinki? Alice will be safe.”
“No,” says Alice, “I already told you that if you go back, I will too.” She looks at Shinki, “Just tell me what is supposed to kill me! If I know, then maybe I can avoid it!”
“It is fate,” says Shinki, “It cannot be evaded. I’m sorry about your friends, Alice, but this is for your own good.”
“I have no choice, then…” Sakuya quickly draws a knife and tosses it at Shinki. The weapon bounces off an invisible wall in front of Makai’s creator.
“Ah! What are you doing?” screams Yuki.
“…” Mai dashes over to Sakuya and a sword of ice appears in her hand, which she positions inches away from the maid’s neck. However, Sakuya just stands, composed, and awaits Shinki’s reaction.
Shinki pauses for a few seconds, and then smiles, “You would challenge me? Hahaha!” She laughs a little.
“…” Mai looks at Shinki questioningly.
Alice stammers, “I-I’m sorry about my friend, Shinki! I told her before that fighting you is futile!”
“So you did?” asks Shinki, “And yet she still chose to attack me? You really wish to go back that badly?”
“I do,” answers Sakuya, “There are things in Gensokyo I must do and a life I wish to return to. I can’t just stay here. Also, Alice made a choice…”
“Sakuya,” says Alice, wide-eyed.
“I insist you respect that choice. She’s aware of the risks, has she not shown that? You would still interfere?”
“I see,” says Makai’s creator, “Perhaps you can show me your words are not just show? You see, in this demon world, strength is what expresses resolve. I shall arrange an opponent for you. Should you win, I will understand the power of your words and take them under serious consideration. Do you accept?”
“I accept your challenge,” responds Sakuya.
“Very well, then,” says Shinki with a smile, “I have a very special opponent arranged for you. Yumeko!”
A girl appears from thin air. She has long wavy blonde hair and golden eyes. She is dressed as a maid, in almost the same way Sakuya is, only her clothes have a red and white color scheme as opposed to Sakuya’s blue and white, “You called, Mother?”
“Yumeko,” says Alice.
The other maid, Yumeko, glances at Alice, “Welcome back, Alice. It has been some time.”
Shinki says, as she, Alice, Yuki, and Mai move to a far wall, “That maid is your opponent. Fight to your fullest.”
“Another maid?” notes Sakuya.
Yumeko smiles tauntingly, “It’s been awhile since I last fought. Do go easy on me.”
Sakuya draws a knife, “Don’t count on it. I trust you are prepared to feel the pain of my knives?”
Yumeko draws a knife, “You are quite interesting. Don’t let me down…”
Inside the supermarket, now dimly lit by the sunset’s light through the holes in the ceiling, Reisen finds Yuyuko in one of the aisles, eating out of a cereal box.
“That stuff tastes better with milk,” Reisen informs Yuyuko as she approaches.
“With milk?” Yuyuko smiles, “Capital idea! I should try that!”
Reisen sits across from the ghost, “Are you sure you did the right thing?”
Yuyuko stops eating and asks through a mouthful of cereal, “Hm? Right thing about what, now?”
“About Youmu. I mean, she IS your servant, and it’s only natural she’d want to be by your side. However, you sent her off with the others. I know that the splitting up conflicted that, but even though I chose this side, I would have gone with the others and let Youmu go with you, you know?”
Yuyuko smiles, albeit a sad smile, “You have a kind heart, Reisen. However, Youmu is better off spending time with her friends than with me…”
“Why? You are her mistress, I mean, why would she want to be with anyone else?”
Yuyuko leans back, “Trust me… I know…”
Youmu yells, “How the hell could I possibly LIKE that? How could you even imply that I liked my mistress being dishonored in the way you just did?”
“Well, didn’t you?” asks the other Youmu.
“There you go again,” says the other Youmu, gesturing an indication that she knew the answer she was going to hear, “Lying to yourself again. Not that I blame you. After all, it’s what you do best.”
“’To myself?’” explodes Youmu, “You may LOOK like me, but you and I aren’t the same person at all! There is no way… No possible way that you and I are the same. You are just an illusion trying to trick me! It’s not going to work…” Youmu takes a couple deep breaths, “You hear me, Satori! This cheap trick is not going to work!”
Youmu hears Satori’s voice come from an unspecified location, “So you believe that is an illusion? Hmhmhm… You are welcome to go ahead and think that…”
“So you are there! Show yourself, you three-eyed freak!”
“Satori…” says the other Youmu, “We share a mutual adversary. It’s a shame I have to rely on a fake like you to confront her rather than do it myself!”
“Why are you calling me a fake?”
“Because you are me…” says the other Youmu, “You and I are one of the same, sister. The only difference is that you go around masking yourself with lies. ‘I will fight to the death for Yuyuko-sama!’ ‘Yuyuko-sama is my reason for living.’ You know, lies like those. If you want a truth, then here’s one: You HATE that bitch, Yuyuko.”
“Ridiculous!” yells Youmu, “You’re just trying to fool me! I would never think that! How dare you say such a thing about Yuyuko-sama, and say that you are me…” Youmu draws the Hakurouken, “Enough talking. I am not going to lose to an imposter like you!”
The other Youmu strikes a defensive stance, “Go ahead and try.”
“Yaaaa!” Youmu leaps up and swings the Hakurouken down at her other self. Their swords clash.
“Ah!” Youmu’s eyes widen. As the Hakurouken is made to cut through confusion, it had cut through illusions with no effort, but as it had not cut through the other Youmu’s blade, Youmu realizes something is not right.
The other Youmu kicks Youmu away, then draws a spellcard, “Recollection: Slash of Present!” She disappears with a blur, and then appears in front of Youmu, delivering a fast and powerful slash.
“Ugh!” Youmu staggers back. Strangely, no blood was drawn, but she does feel the pain, “Ah! Damn it!”
The other Youmu sheathes her sword, “Just what I’d expect from a fake…”
“Here is something we can agree on, ‘me’: Our father, Youki Konpaku was… or should I say, is, a truly great man. Powerful, wise, clever, handsome, devoted, kind… Truly a man amongst men. Sure, he had that little weakness to beautiful women, but if you put that aside, he’s perfect…”
“So why the hell should he serve someone like Yuyuko? Someone who doesn’t come close to matching his supremacy? It’s a question that has been on your… or should I say, OUR, mind. After all, all that ghost ever did was constantly nag him for food, to tell her stories, to investigate things that sparked her curiosity… and he did as he was told without question. That kinda pissed us off.”
“One day, we asked him why he serves her, and spoke badly of her, saying that you wished she would just disappear. At that moment… he slapped us. That’s right, the one and only time he ever did something like that outside of training. Let’s just say that didn’t help much with Yuyuko’s credibility in our eyes.”
“Of course, father just HAD to leave that fateful night… to join the Lunarians, apparently, and left us to fill his role. Now how can someone who despises Yuyuko be a loyal servant? We couldn’t just run away, and father did trust us with that duty, and we respected him enough not to disobey. That’s when YOU were born… and I ceased to exist. In your mind, you created another self that mirrored father’s devotion to Yuyuko, and assumed that identity to cope with the situation. I don’t blame you. After all, if you didn’t, you just might have gone insane. You became a new person who was totally devoted to Yuyuko, and it got to the point where it took over your identity entirely. That’s why I had said those things. You are not your own person… not anymore. You are just a character you created and assumed. That’s why you are a fake!”
“I…” Youmu can no longer find the will to object to her other self’s words. She wants to continue writing off her words as lies, but cannot as part of her realizes the truth in them, “AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!”
I slowly make my way through the tunnels of the underground maze. There are some glowing crystals that provide just enough illumination for me to see, but the path had branched off many times, so I’ve just had to trust my instincts on where to go. If I ended up at some place after entering that circle, then Reimu and Youmu must also be down here somewhere… but I don’t know if I’m getting warmer or colder on the trail to finding them…
I had recovered a bit of my strength since that power struggle with Miss Meltdown, so I’m no longer using my broom to stay upright, but I sure s hell can’t run as I am, and I can’t take another fight…
Also, now that I have a chance, I wonder what happened to Alice and Sakuya. They vanished into a dark gap and vanished. I can’t have been Yukari. I mean… she’s dead, and her gaps don’t look like that. Could it have been Yumei…? Nah! Still, if a gap did appear, I assume it was to save them, so I guess I shouldn’t worry too much. I wonder if they’ll make it back here…
Of course, just as I think about my current predicament, a gap opens and that Yumei/Yukari hybrid, who Cirno called ‘Yukarumei,’ emerges, “Hello there, Marisa! Good job winning that battle…” She reverts to Yumei’s form.
Dammit! I can’t very well fight her with the stamina I have right now, “What the hell do you want, Yumei? You have some nerve showing up after what you did…”
“Oh, I’m only here to talk,” says the damn rabbit, “I want to make you an offer…”
I force a smug look, “What could YOU offer me? We’re well past the point of talking this shit over…”
Yumei grins, “Even if I could make you the most powerful woman in the universe?”
“What are you TALKING about?”
“My goal,” says Yumei, “is to use Gensokyo to defeat the Lunarian Empire. However, defeating it is my only goal. Once that is done, I’d be happy with giving you the throne. Think about it! I can make you empress! I did have to live in your mind, and you were pretty nice to me.”
“That was because I thought you could bring Gensokyo back… not like this. As for your offer, the answer is hell no.”
“Why not?” asks Yumei, “Together, we can find a way to kill the immortal empress! All her power can be yours! Does that not interest you?”
I shake my head, “All I wanted was friends. Whether I’d be saving Gensokyo or going to school with them, it doesn’t matter because I was with them. That’s all I want. You can worry about that stupid empire by yourself.”
Yumei takes a step back, “Damn… I don’t understand. How could you pick something so trivial over obtaining all the power someone could possibly desire?”
“Because I DO understand, that’s why.”
“I see. In that case…” Yumei turns back into Yukarumei and opens a gap and turns to enter it.
I blurt out, “So are you going to finish me?”
She looks back at me, “Finish you?”
“Yeah, I thought it was pretty obvious! I’m weak from that battle with Utsuho; I can only use about two Master Sparks, though the second one would probably be pretty weak. My only chance of winning is to use a Last Word, but that would kill me. You’re skipping out on a great opportunity!” You may think I’m crazy for saying this, but I’m visibly weakened and I know Yumei isn’t that stupid.
Yukarumei responds, “That would be too easy. I’d rather test my… minions against you.”
“Yes. Gensokyo’s denizens are no longer a part of me. Instead, they live around this world and serve my desires. I’ll leave it to them.”
“So you are just going to leave me be? You do know I’ll make damn sure this comes back to bite you in the ass later, right?”
“Hmph. You’re on, Marisa.”
“Also, I’ll tell you where your friends are. Go to the end of this tunnel and where it forks off, go right. In that tunnel, take the second left, and Youmu is in the fifth room to the right. Reimu is pretty close to that location, so she’ll be there before you. Ciao.” She enters the portal.
“…” I stand there, stunned. Yumei just… HELPED me? Damn, I don’t get her at all! She might be lying, but for all I know at the moment, it’s just as good a lead as any, so I proceed to follow her directions.
“AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!” A scream echoes through the underground tunnels. It catches Reimu off guard.
The miko takes a second to recall the voice, “That was… Youmu! It wasn’t far from here!” She heads in the general direction the scream came from and it isn’t long before she finds the room where Youmu and Satori are. Youmu is slumped on the ground with her eyes blank and lifeless.
“Youmu!” yells Reimu.
Satori looks at Reimu, “You… It seems my servant was unable to stop you.”
“Who are you?” demands Reimu, “What have you done to Youmu? Did you just…?”
Satori shakes her head, “No. Your friend is undergoing a trial… and trial that requires a strong heart to overcome. Failure to do so results in the destruction of one’s mind. Her heart is very weak…”
“Youmu!” yells Reimu, “Can you hear me? Youmu!”
“Youmu! Can you hear me? Youmu!”
Within Youmu’s subconscious, Youmu hears Reimu’s voice from the outside, “Re… i… mu?”
“Re… i… mu?” Youmu’s words are relayed through her body.
Reimu finds the nature of the response unusual, but she knows she got through to wherever Youmu’s consciousness is, “Yes! It’s me, Reimu! What’s going on?”
Even though Youmu’s body’s face has a blank expression, she speaks with the emotion she is feeling within, “I’m… so sorry, Reimu…”
“…” Satori watches the exchange between Reimu and Youmu silently.
“What are you sorry for?” asks the miko.
Youmu answers, “I’ve lied to you… I’ve lied to everyone, including myself! All I’ve done… is lie. I’m not the person you think I am, Reimu. I’m not the real Youmu. I’m just a personality made from a necessity…”
“What have you DONE to her?” demands Reimu to Satori.
Satori plainly answers, “I have done nothing. This girl cannot face the truth of her own being.”
“Stop this now!” Reimu tosses a handful of needles at Satori, who dodges them with little effort, and then charges in, swinging her gohei, which Satori leaps away from, well before the attack can connect.
“It’s useless,” says Satori, “You can keep trying, but your attacks will never hit me.”
“Besides, since Youmu had started undergoing her trial, nothing can stop it now. Not even me. I’d advise you not to waste your time, Reimu.”
“How did you know my…?” Reimu shakes her head and shifts her attention toward the more important matter at hand. She kneels and looks straight at Youmu blank face, “So there is some truth you had been keeping from everyone?”
“I’m sorry…” Despite the unchanging expression, Youmu’s eyes well up and tears start to flow.
“You have secrets, right? We all do. In fact, I’d be worried if you didn’t,” says Reimu, “I’m sure it’s something that’s hard to accept, and really, I don’t want to know what that secret is, but regardless, you are still Youmu, right? I don’t care what you had been hiding. The fact remains that we had been on many adventures together and we had even lived together. THAT was no lie, and can you say that our friendship is a lie too?”
“No matter what, you are Youmu, and nothing can change that!”
“No matter what, you are Youmu, and nothing can change that!” Reimu’s words echo from above.
Inspired, Youmu looks her other self in the eye, “You… You’re right… about everything.”
“I did find it hard to accept, but it’s true what you said. I had felt angry at Yuyuko-sama because I felt she had enervated father’s greatness. I’ll admit… that I was you at one point, and that we are the same. I recall something. That time, when you said that father hit you…us… do you remember what he said, afterward?”
The other Youmu’s eyes widen, “What?”
“He said that we half-ghosts are not accepted by worlds of the living, nor the dead; That we are cursed beings. However, Yuyuko-sama was benevolent enough to give us a home, even if it meant our servitude to her. Isn’t that the real reason we didn’t run away? Not just because father told us to?”
The other Youmu is taken aback, “I see… good point, other me…”
Youmu approaches her other self, “Regardless of how I really feel, my honor can’t allow me to reject that kindness, and I don’t think you were able to do that either. I’m no fake self. Aren’t we both the same person?”
The other Youmu closes her eyes and smiles, “I was meaning to teach you, but in the end, you taught me. Well played…”
Youmu shakes her head, “Oh no. I think we both learned more about me. It’s funny how little we both knew about ourselves...”
“So what will you do?”
“Do you need to ask? I will keep living as I have been. Hopefully someday, I’ll meet father again and we can be a family. Until then, however, I will fulfill the duty he entrusted with me… with us.”
The other Youmu starts to shine brightly and Youmu begins to white out…
… and she finds herself back where she was fighting Satori with Reimu kneeling in front of her, “Reimu!”
Reimu’s face lights up, “Youmu! You’re back!”
Satori’s eyes narrow, “That girl’s words… They gave her courage; strengthened what was such a weak heart. Fascinating…”
Reimu and Youmu rise and glare at Satori. “Shall we get back at who did that to you?” asks Reimu.
“Be careful,” says Youmu, “This girl, Satori, can read our minds. Maybe if we attack her together…”
“There is no need,” Satori cuts in.
“My powers do have a limit,” says Satori, “I can only read one mind at a time. I can’t read another when I’m reading one. Also, my combative powers are insufficient for fighting multiple opponents and I am not one to fight a battle I no longer have any hope of winning. Therefore, I admit defeat.”
Reimu shrugs, “Fine. Sure. I wish they would all know when to give up…”
“…” Youmu picks up the Roukanken, which she had previously dropped.
Satori says to Reimu, “So you’re the one who fought against Rin. Seeing your memories of that battle, she’s still alive. Very good.”
“Yeah,” says Reimu, “She did mention someone named Satori. So you’re that person, huh?”
“Yes,” answers Satori, “Rin is like a pet to me. Hm… I wonder about my other pet…”
Following Yumei’s directions, I arrive in a room illuminated by light shining through stained glass windows. There, I find Reimu, Youmu, and some purple-haired chick I don’t know, “Reimu! Youmu! You’re alright!”
“Marisa!” call out Reimu and Youmu.
The purple-haired chick looks at me, “Well, speak of the devil. It seems Utsuho is still alive too.”
I glare at the purple girl, “Utsuho? What relationship do you have with Miss Meltdown?”
The girl puts her hand over her mouth to hold back a laugh, “’Miss Meltdown?’ Good nickname. You’re a funny girl Marisa Kirisame… or should I say, Starr. Anyway, to answer your question, she’s my pet.”
“Well then, you should keep your ‘pet’ on a frickin’ leash… Huh? Wait a minute! When the hell did I tell you my name?”
“There’s no need to,” says Youmu, “It’s her power.”
I blink a couple times, “What? What power? Can she read my mind or something?”
The girl looks straight at me, “Good guess.” Ugh… Figures.
Reimu says, “’Miss Meltdown?’ What exactly did you FIGHT, Marisa?”
“I’ll leave that to your imagination. How about you?”
“A cat that can raise the dead…”
Shutter… She didn’t get it that much better… “I see. What were you up to, Youmu?”
Youmu answers, “I was the first to meet Satori, here. In fact, we were fighting her until about a minute ago.”
I draw a spellcard, “So she’s our enemy?”
“Don’t worry,” says Reimu, “She admitted her defeat to us.”
I raise an eyebrow and look at ‘Satori,’ “’Admitted defeat?’ Your damn pet should learn to take after you, then…”
Satori nods, “Yes, Utsuho has always been a problem…”
“I take it your opponent didn’t know when to give up?” asks Youmu.
“Well, ain’t THAT the understatement,” I respond. I bring up another point, “Oh, by the way, guess who I ran into on my way here.”
“It was Yumei,” says Satori.
“YOU shut up.”
“What?” say Reimu and Youmu at the same time.
“Yeah,” I say, “But something was weird. I was feeling like shit from fighting Satori’s radioactive canary and she showed up, but all she did was give me directions to find this room and a stupid offer I turned down. If she was seriously trying to kill us, that would have been the perfect chance. In fact, she has Yukari’s powers, so she could come and pick us off anytime she wants! Something doesn’t add up here…”
“Weird,” says Reimu, “Did she say anything else?”
“Yeah. She said she’d leave it to her minions…” an idea crosses my mind. I look at Satori, “YOU are one such minion, right?”
“I am,” says Satori, “In this Gensokyo under Yumei’s control, all denizens directly born of it must follow her commands. We were told to deal with the outsiders…”
Youmu offers a guess, “Maybe she just wants to sit back and watch our struggles? Maybe she like a good challenge and wants us to fight through her Gensokyo and become stronger and then challenge her? That’s how I would do it…”
“Yeah, that’s how YOU would do it,” I say to Youmu, “But she said her aim is to defeat the Lunarians using this Gensokyo, not to mention I heard her express her distaste for ‘honor’ to you before. We are an obstacle for her. Frankly, I’d want to get rid of interferences without delay, but if she really is as arrogant as you described, Youmu, well then, more power to us…”
“Sounds to me like it’s a game to her…” notes Reimu, “Either that, or we’re missing something here. Maybe her intentions are more complex than we thought?”
“Maybe…” I turn my attention to Satori, “How about you?” I ask, “Have you ever met her before? Could you read her mind?”
Satori responds, “If we are defeated, we are allowed to let you go, but we can never disclose anything that would work against Yumei. Ever. It’s like a new sixth sense to us. Plus, I’ve never met her before, personally, so I couldn’t say anyway.”
“I see,” I acknowledge, “Well, we might as well keep going. If we meet her again, shit SHOULD start to come together…”
Reimu says to Satori, “Well, we beat you, and you said you’d let us go. I’m wondering if you could_”
“To get back to the surface,” interrupts Satori, “take a right from this chamber, and then another right when the corridor branches off. Keep going straight and you will eventually make it back to the surface. It will go on for several miles, though.”
“Okay! Thanks.” Reimu, Youmu, and I turn to leave the chamber.
“Wait!” shouts Satori.
We turn around. “What is it?” asks Reimu.
Satori says, “Reimu and Marisa… I sense a great confusion in the two of you. Before the end of your journey, that confusion may obstruct the path you travel. When that happens, please look to me for guidance. This underground complex extends all over Gensokyo and I will follow your progress. When you are ready to see me… please dig a hole to come here.”
I turn and continue walking, “Thank you for your abstract advice. Didn’t you say you weren’t allowed to work against Yumei.”
“Yumei has nothing to do with this,” says Satori.
“We’ll keep it in mind,” says Reimu.
The three of us leave Satori’s chamber and begin to follow her directions out of the complex.
- Return to Fiction by Valesta