Title: The Seven-Colored Puppeteer in the Land of Fire
Summary: Stuck in an outside world unlike any she had heard of before, Alice Margatroid strives to return to Gensokyo. Just because she was a bit of a loner didn't mean she was ready to abandon her life in the Land of Fantasy. Meanwhile, an encounter with a blond orphan could change the fate of a boy and possibly the world. A crossover between "Naruto" and "Touhou."
Chapter 1: Unexpected Arrival
Alice was tempted to curse one Yukari Yakumo, not that it would have done any good. It was doubtful the gap youkai would even hear it. Even if she did, it wasn't like it would accomplish anything except maybe give Yukari a smug sense of satisfaction at Alice's vexation.
It had been an ordinary trip through the Forest of Magic on a day like any other. Alice had been walking to the Hakurei Shrine. She spent most of her time in her home in the forest researching magic in the form of her puppets, and it took something special to convince her to leave. In this particular case, it was a party Reimu was hosting.
Alice was dressed in one of the outfits that she typically wore. This party was just an ordinary party after all, not something big like a holiday party or a celebration of the resolution of an Incident. Alice wore a blue dress and white stole, both of which were accented by a large pink ribbon tied around her neck as well as another pink ribbon tied around her waist as a belt. Completing the look was the red hair band on her head which had the added benefit of keeping her hair out of her eyes. The overall effect was to give Alice a doll-like appearance and make her somewhat resemble the numerous puppets she crafted, despite her tallish size.
Parties, such as this one being held in the Hakurei Shrine, were part and parcel to life in Gensokyo. Life in the Land of Fantasy had the risk of becoming monotonously dull without the occasional spice of variety to liven things up, and the parties were a perfect way to do that. The parties and the danmaku battles. The parties and the danmaku battles and the Incidents. There were actually numerous things which prevented live in Gensokyo from getting too monotonous, and life there was usually anything but boring. However, among the categories of events which accented life there, the parties were the most fun. Usually.
Alice had been musing on whether or not she would give a donation at the Hakurei Shrine. It had been quite a while since she last had, and Reimu's perpetual lack of money was well known. The parties couldn't have been cheap to host, either.
Almost as punishment for the heresy of considering actually giving money to the constantly hungry donation box, Alice tripped. One second Alice was walking along the long familiar and worn path through the Forest of Magic to the Hakurei Shrine. The next second she was flying through the air.
It was a simple matter to catch herself. That Alice was flying through the air didn't mean she was uncontrollably falling to the ground. The ability to fly was a common ability in Gensokyo. Even some humans could do so, such as Reimu. It meant that despite Alice's trip, she was able to easily hover in place and keep herself well clear of the dirty ground below.
Shanghai faired even better than her mistress had. She had been floating just off of Alice's left shoulder, so she had been entirely unaffected by Alice's jinxed feet. There hadn't even been a chance for her black dress, her white apron, or her red hair ribbon to get dirty. Instead, she continued to float far above the dirt path below, irrespective Alice's stumble.
The puppet floated up, dusted Alice off, helped straighten her clothes and hair, and then patted her on the head. The semi-autonomous puppet was ultimately under the control of Alice, but in many ways Shanghai had a mind of her own as well.
Alice restored herself to more sure footing and looked around. She found that she was completely disoriented. She didn't recognize anything. She didn't have every tree memorized on the trip to the Hakurei Shrine, but she had gone there enough times to be quite familiar with the path. That was even ignoring the fact that not one minute prior she had been walking along it. Despite that, she didn't recognize anything around her. The layout of the trees was entirely different than what she expected. For that matter, the trees themselves were an entirely different species.
"Do you recognize anything?" Alice asked. There was always the chance that Shanghai had noticed something on her own between the occasional controlling commands Alice still had to give the semi-autonomous puppet. She turned to look as Shanghai shook her head back.
"Nothing to do for it. Let's find out where we are," Alice said as much to Shanghai as to herself.
Alice gathered herself and flew upward. She had to watch her head as she flew higher and higher, quickly reaching the forest canopy. She made her way through the treetops, and a few seconds later she was out and into the free and open air. She kept climbing, gaining height as well as a better view of the area as she did so.
The forest was massive. It was at least as big as the Forest of Magic. It was similar as well, albeit only superficially. The trees were all different, as was the terrain in general. She had flown above the Forest of Magic enough times to recognize the more distinctive hills and valleys, and none of them were present. She couldn't see anything like her home, or Marisa's home, or anything else familiar.
It was at that point that Alice was tempted to curse Yukari. And it was at that point that she held her frustration and her tongue to herself.
"We must have been gapped to the outside world," Alice mused out loud.
Shanghai shrugged back.
If it was the outside world, then it was odd. Alice would have assumed that she would have appeared at the Hakurei Shrine. The Hakurei Shrine in the outside world, of course, but the Hakurei Shrine nonetheless. That was clearly not the case. There was nothing resembling a building anywhere near her. There was nothing near her at all, except the numerous trees and the transformed path she had tripped over.
The most notable thing Alice saw was a large settlement off in the distance. It was a large, roughly circular city. It stood beneath a cliff face with four giant heads carved into it. That settled it. There was nothing at all like that in Gensokyo. She was definitely in the outside world. Once again Alice wanted to curse Yukari, and once again she held her tongue.
If Alice was going to find any answers, it would be at that city. Before she lowered herself back to the ground, though, she traced the numerous paths which led there. It seemed like everything in the area radiated from the settlement, including the dirt path she had previously been on. That made it easy. She could just follow the road and get to her destination.
Flying in to the city at full speed would be enough to startle any human. It even bothered the people in the Human Village back in Gensokyo, and they already knew who she was. She didn't want to start off on a bad foot with anybody here. It would make it take that much longer to learn anything. It was lucky that she had only recently become a magician and still maintained a close resemblance to being human. If somebody like Remilia Scarlet or Koakuma or one of the numerous other obviously inhuman youkai had been thrust in the same situation as Alice had been, she wasn't sure how they would hide their wings or other distinctive features. In the case of Remilia, she expected that The Scarlet Devil wouldn't have even bothered to try.
Alice flew back down to the ground. Once she was there, she began the long walk to the settlement she had spotted in the distance and to hopefully some answers.
The city was surrounded by a massive wall with some equally massive gates. They would have posed an imposing barrier to Alice if she hadn't been able to fly. And if they weren't wide open. There was a giant "n a" written on the interior of the two giant wooden doors. It was only so much nonsense to Alice. Maybe it was "a n" written backwards, in which case it could have meant a hermitage or a sanctuary if the letter order were ignored. Unfortunately, there was no gate guard to whom Alice could have asked what the writing was supposed to mean. However, that also meant that there was nobody to challenge her as she walked in.
The puzzle continued to distract Alice as she entered the city.
A glance around the city proper showed the outside world had changed a great deal since Alice had last seen it through a gap. The roads were primarily dirt rather than the various forms of rock she had seen. There was substantially more wood than she remembered, too, both in the form of fences and buildings as well in the form of the plethora of living trees which surrounded her. For that matter, the buildings themselves were much more short, much more round, and much more colorful than she had expected.
The first order or business was natural. It would have been natural for Patchouli Knowledge. It would have been natural for Marisa Kirisame. And it was natural for Alice herself. Every magician, even humans who were only magicians by profession like Marisa, knew all the best things could be found in a library. Found as well as taken, in the case of Marisa.
Alice had to visit a couple of inns, bars, and stores, but she was eventually directed to the city library. It was built into the same mountain which held the carvings of those four giant heads that Alice had seen from the air earlier. It made getting directions easy. Her inquiries had the added benefit of informing Alice of the city's name.
Alice wasn't sure who had named the city, but that person's judgment was extremely questionable. How could a settlement that large be called a village? How could it be considered hidden by the leaves when it was so visible from the air? The name was patently ridiculous. Most likely it had started as a smaller settlement and had subsequently literally outgrown its name.
The library itself was a healthy size, even excluding the numerous restricted sections within it. If Alice had been a certain Greedy Magician, then the segregation of those books and scrolls would have sorely tempted her, but that was Marisa's trademark rather than her own. Alice suppressed her temptations to steal far better than Marisa did. She had to. She suspected Patchouli would treat her indiscretions far more severely than the relatively short-lived Marisa, and Alice had no desire to be banned from the largest source of knowledge in Gensokyo. She suspected that the information she was searching for in this library wouldn't be restricted, either.
A map was easy to find, easy to read, and easy to get worried over. Alice poured over it in search of the Hakurei Shrine or anything else she had heard of in the outside world. However, she didn't see anything at all familiar on the map. Alice exchanged some concerned looks with Shanghai. The puppet couldn't talk, but it was easy for Alice to read her expressions and thoughts. After all, Alice had been the one who had originally made her, and ultimately Alice was the one who controlled her.
After several minutes of searching in vain, Alice gave up and took the large map over to a nearby woman behind a counter. She pulled it up and asked, "Have you ever heard of a place called the Hakurei Shrine? I'm trying to find it on this map but I don't see it anywhere."
"Uhh..." the librarian squinted her eyes in thought and search, "... no. Which country is it in?"
"Japan," Alice answered.
"No. Like is it in the Land of Lightning or the Land of Earth?"
"Uhh... Earth?" Alice asked back. She hadn't heard the planet referred to as a country before, but she was far from an expert on the outside world.
"Sorry. We aren't allowed to give out any more detailed maps of the Land of Earth to civilians, but I don't think I've heard of anything like a Hakurei Shrine or a Japan there."
"Have you heard of a place called Gensokyo?" Alice asked.
"I see," Alice said. One last try. "I don't suppose you know if anybody is living on the moon, do you?"
"The moon? No," the woman said. "Are you feeling alright? I can call a medic if you'd like."
"No, that's okay. Thank you. Here, you can put this back," Alice said. She handed the map back to the librarian and then left the library.
The warm glow of the sunset bathed Alice and Shanghai in an orange light. Alice breathed out an exasperated sigh. Shanghai did as well, or rather emoted a very similar pattern in sympathy.
"I don't think we're in the outside world," Alice said. The puppet shook her head back.
"You're right. We aren't in Gensokyo anymore, so I guess we must be in an outside world. Maybe it's a different outside world?" The puppet nodded this time.
"That means one of two things. This could be an Incident. That would mean Reimu and Marisa and whoever else must be on the case. Maybe we'll be back in Gensokyo tomorrow and everything will be back to normal." The puppet nodded enthusiastically.
"Either that or this is something Yukari, or Remilia, or somebody else did for whatever reason. That means we're stuck here until they decide to bring us back or until I can figure out a way to get back to Gensokyo on my own." Shanghai nodded again, this time much more hesitantly than before.
"Only one more thing to try, I guess," Alice said. Shanghai nodded in agreement.
"Yukari! Did you send me here? Where is this place?" Alice shouted out. Not in anger, or in frustration, or with any particular emotion. There was no point in feeling angry at the scheming gap youkai who connected places together whenever and however her capricious desires wanted. Alice shouted merely to be heard. It was a testament to her success that a couple of nearby people turned to stare at her.
There was no response.
"Remilia! Is this your doing? What strings of fate am I supposed to pull here?" Alice tried again. There was even less point in feeling angry at The Scarlet Devil who could control fate to her whims. It would have been nice if she could have been bothered to inform Alice of her designs first, though.
There was still no response.
The various people who had turned to look at Alice pointedly averted their gaze and hurried away. They probably thought she was crazy, but Alice didn't mind. What did humans know of the business of youkai?
Alice gave another sigh and turned back to Shanghai. In a more normal voice she said, "Well I don't know about you, but I don't plan on just sitting around and waiting for that Hakurei Shrine Maiden to come rescue me. I might actually need to give a donation to her shrine if she does." Shanghai floated up and patted Alice on the head.
"Let's see if we can find a place to sleep for the night. Maybe something to eat, too," Alice said. As part of the path to becoming a magician youkai, Alice had learned to abandon the need for both food and sleep. However, both were creature comforts she regularly indulged in. They were a throwback to when she had been human so recently, and moreover they were quite enjoyable.
Shanghai leaped up with an arm raised in excitement.
If it was an Incident, then Alice had every confidence that she would be back home within the week, or even back within the day if it was a small one. On the outside chance it was a particularly slow moving or large Incident, then it might take a couple of months, but it would still be rather soon.
If it wasn't an Incident, though, then it could take years before she could find her own way back. It was a long time, to be sure, but Alice could afford to be patient. With a lifespan measured in centuries, even a couple of years didn't signify that much.
Alice had had one longterm goal for as long as she had been a puppeteer. She wanted to make a fully autonomous puppet which could think and act on its own. A new longterm goal was now added to that one. She now wanted to return to Gensokyo as well. It was home, and everybody she knew was back there.
To this end there were several things Alice thought she would need to do. She figured she would need to:
1) Find somewhere to stay. It would need to be a place where she could conduct her research in privacy and comfort.
2) Secure the materials she needed for her research. And a source of food. And tea. Especially tea. Tea was good.
3) Locate Gensokyo.
4) Find a means to return to Gensokyo.
5) Take the means to return to Gensokyo.
Alice had with her only the couple of dozen puppets she had brought with her when she had set out in the morning. It was enough to handle any number of casual youkai who might try to prey on her, and it was enough for a couple of danmaku battles if it came to that. However, it was not nearly enough for any serious research.
It was a good thing that Konoha had so many trees. The plentiful wood around the city was an excellent raw resource for her. It would ensure that she had enough to build a house, enough to create as many puppets as she needed to, and enough to do any number of other things. That would take care of step 1 and help with step 2. She could work on steps 3-5 once she had the basics covered.
With that, Alice had a longterm destination set. However, she had no short term one. In some sense that was good. Every road was the same without a destination, so Alice had no qualms with picking a direction at random after she left the library and starting to walk. In short order she found an empty field.
"What do you think about here?" Alice asked Shanghai. The puppet nodded her approval back.
"Okay, let's go."
Alice pulled out about half of her puppets. She wanted to keep some in reserve in case she needed them for an unexpected emergency. She moved her puppets to surround the tree of her choice. It's said that many hands make light work, and the same applied even if they were puppet hands. With the expert choreography of a master puppeteer, it was easy to fell the tree and transform it into a collection of more uniform planks. She repeated the process a couple of times until she had enough for her immediate purposes. The next steps was to start the foundation of her house, followed by the walls, doors, windows, and ceiling. Coordinating all of the puppets' movements was difficult, but it was nothing compared to tracking the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of bullets in a serious danmaku battle. The hardest part was trying to stay focused and interested in the building process. A couple of times a puppet almost had her hand crushed by a misplaced plank when Alice allowed her attention to wander.
After a period of several hours of semi-serious concentration, the form of a house started to appear in that vacant lot. It was magic, albeit magic of an indirect variety.
It wasn't just any house, either. It was Alice's house. Not coincidentally, it was built almost identically to the house she lived in in Gensokyo. The building in front of Alice was still in the process of being constructed, and it lacked all of the amenities and possessions she had spent years collecting, but it was home.
Alice changed her focus once the inside had had the basic room frames set up and once the outer shell had been completed to a point that Alice was sure it wasn't going to fall over in a strong breeze. She focused her efforts and created a wooden bed. It was a hard piece of furniture, but it was still distinctly better than sleeping on the bare floor. She could find a more comfortable mattress or some other form of padding later.
"You're in charge here, Shanghai. You know what to do."
The puppet saluted back, and Alice took her leave to climb on to her newly created bed. 15 minutes later, she was asleep. A couple of puppets had been set up to patrol the area as a makeshift guard, but the substantial majority of active puppets were left in Shanghai's care to finish building as Alice slept.
The next morning, Shanghai took pride in taking her mistress on a mini-tour of the house. It was nearing completion. There were spots which needed more polish or reinforcement, but overall it was very livable. One point of fact did catch Alice's attention on the outside. Shanghai flew up to show off a feature Alice hadn't expected gracing the front of her house.
"What's with the sign?" Alice asked. She thought about it a bit more, "I guess it will make things easier if I start selling puppets. Good work."
"Good work, everybody," Alice addressed the assembled puppets all around her. She manipulated them all to give a cheer in response before resuming the finishing touches of the house and its added store component.
Alice pulled out Hourai, and said, "Hourai, finish up what you can here. I'm going to go shopping with Shanghai."
The puppet in a scarlet dress nodded back to Alice in acknowledgment. She was another one of Alice's more prominent semi-autonomous puppets. She was arguably stronger than Shanghai was, but she tended to be less active. It made it natural that Hourai would be more interested in staying home while Shanghai followed Alice back through Konoha in search of supplies and information.
Alice left the puppets under the direction of Hourai and took Shanghai with her into the city on a journey of shopping and exploration. There were several things she needed. The most immediate priorities were getting something a bit softer to sleep on, and getting some paint or something else to decorate her home. Konoha was a very colorful city, and she doubted her store would get very much attention as a pure wooden building. A bit less urgently, but just as nice, would be getting some tea and some food as well. Hopefully her money would work. If it didn't, then she could resort to bartering. Trading favors wasn't unheard of in Gensokyo. If neither of those worked, then she would just need figure out something more sophisticated.
Unlike in the Human Village, Alice didn't already know where everything was in the city. She had to resort to asking strangers where to find anything. Being surrounded by so many people was rather unusual. She was more accustomed to living on her own with only her puppets for company. She started reconsidering her choice of location. Maybe she should have built her home out in the forest, like how she lived back in Gensokyo. It wasn't too late to change.
Upon further consideration, Alice decided that staying in the city was for the best. After she had established a more reliably supply of food, tea, cloth, notebooks, knives, pens, and other necessities for her work, she could reconsider her choice of home. For now, though, being in a more trafficked area was more of a benefit than a drawback.
Alice was able to locate a paint store fairly quickly, but she found out much faster that her money was no good. Nobody recognized any of it. The store owner hadn't been very interested in trade, either. Alice had to locate two more paint stores, which took the greater part of the morning, before she was able to find a seller who was willing to barter with her. One last-minute birthday present for a niece later, Alice was the proud owner of several buckets of paint. It reduced her stock of puppets by a bit, but once Alice had become established she would be able to replace her and more.
She had much more luck finding lunch. It was easy to locate a restaurant willing to trade some tea and a long overdue meal for a puppet. On the other hand, her attempts at acquiring a mattress were much less successful. After trying four locations, Alice was forced to give up. She would need to sleep on hard wood for a bit until she had had a chance to start selling in earnest.
Despite her failures in locating several essential supplies, the afternoon wasn't a total loss. Some price checks gave Alice a rough idea of the costs of things in this outside world, and it allowed her to better establish how much she would be able to charge for her craftsmanship.
Alice returned home to see a couple of people standing outside of her newly constructed house. They were looking at it in confusion.
"Is something wrong?" Alice asked the nearest one. It would be good to meet some neighbors if she was going to be living there for any period of time
He pointed at her house and asked, "Was that house always there?"
"No. I built it last night," Alice said.
"So that's what that racket was," another man said. "Can't you be more considerate for us?"
"Sorry," Alice said.
"Last night? In one day?" the first man asked.
"Ninja. Don't ask," the second man said.
It made Alice wonder what he was talking about. She asked, "Ninja?" The first man asked the same question at the same time.
"Yeah. Who else would be able to make a house in a single day? And how else do you explain... that..." The second man pointed to Shanghai. The puppet was floating just off of Alice's shoulder.
The first man wasn't ready to give up. He asked, "If she's a ninja, then where's her forehead protector?"
"She's undercover. Obviously," the second man said. "Ninja. Don't ask."
"I see, I see. Nice to meet you. I'm Hiromoto Kurumada. Apparently I'm your new neighbor," the first man said.
"I'm Yasushi Kobayashi. I live just over there," the other man said, pointing to a nearby house.
"Uhh... nice to meet you. I'm Alice Margatroid," Alice answered back. She still wasn't sure exactly what was going on. At least her two neighbors seemed friendly enough.
Alice bid them farewell and went back over to the front of her house. Most of the minor details she had noticed in the morning had been fixed by Hourai and the other puppets while she and Shanghai had been out. There was only one last thing to do. Alice pulled out a spell card, took some paint, and cast, "Puppeteer Sign 'Maiden's Bunraku.'"
The patterns of lights and magic from the spell card she used were magnificent enough in their own right. That was the point of danmaku after all. The paint added even more color to the symphony flying through the air. It would have been impossible for even Reimu to dodge through it all, which was why it would never have been allowed in a danmaku battle. But that wasn't the point, and it didn't matter. Once the show had ended, the sign above her entrance proclaimed in seven bright, cheerful, inviting colors:
"The Seven-Colored Puppets"
Last Updated: January 29, 2020