Guest - You know, I actually agree with you. There was a lot of untapped potential in regards to actually crossing over Touhou and Undertale in this story. In a sense, I got so caught up in Reimu being in the Underground to begin with that this story didn't have much of an opportunity to showcase those sorts of aspects. It was really because the entire point was the what-if scenario, and if I make a story with theme X but then continue on to Y, it'll feel kind of unnatural. But maybe that's just me. I mean, in a way, there is more to what you saw in Chapter 15 (which is what Chapter 16 is for), so I can't say your hypothesis is wrong ^^ Whatever the case, thank you very much for reviewing!
Since I wasn't able to say it in the last chapter because of Flowey, since Chapter 15's release, the story had gotten 2 favorites and 8 followers; and since this chapter, the story got 4 favorites and 1 follower. Anyway, this is it, huh? I won't say much here. Everything I needed to say is probably in the Author's Notes, anyway.
Whatever the case, enjoy!
Chapter 16: What Begins From the Unsubstantial in the Land of Fantasy
The Dream World.
As a sea of all dreams, it stretches out infinitely, filled with the spatial wonders of the depths of every subconscious. At present, its starry, fantastical scenery remains ever so peaceful and serene, but such had not been the case four days ago.
Simply thinking about this has Doremy Sweet sigh. Truly, a most unexpected, troublesome incident had occurred in the Dream World, and she had been assigned to not only investigate, but report the extent of the damage caused by the sudden rampage. She hadn't been the only one, that she also knew well, but the workload was still unwelcome, and she would have much preferred the current peace she is gazing upon.
Even now, she is unaware of the purpose of the incident. Regardless, she reminisces on a conversation with one of the victims involved, a baku just like herself:
"... They were no ordinary youkai," she told Doremy in an ominous fashion, as if attempting to garner fear from her in the same way she had suffered while subjected to the rampage. "At first, I thought the vines weren't real since this is the Dream World. I mean, anyone could've just taken advantage of how the Dream World works to shoot them out, right? But they were physical vines. It's like they were made real somehow!"
"Well, you did say one of them was a flower," Doremy responded, pensive. The way she had frowned upon her fellow baku's testimony only served to indicate the skepticism she felt in regards to her claims. "Perhaps he had the power to conjure vines to begin with, who knows? I'll ask this again, but are you sure that was the flower's physical body?"
"I've no doubt about it: that was the flower's physical body!" the baku exclaimed as if she, too, found the information hard to believe and needed to assert it. "The other youkai was dreaming, but it's like something was connecting the flower to the Dream World. There were these strange eyes under him, and it looked like the other youkai was controlling them. They were both crazy strong! Before I knew it, I had vines wrapped around me and couldn't move!"
Doremy only grimaces at the memory. "Really, a flower...?" she wryly mutters. Regardless, she notes, that baku appeared rather distressed even a day after the incident; it must have been quite the experience. Doremy can only consider herself lucky she had been busier with other matters that day, or else she would have been one of the few who had to face the perpetrators directly. Apparently, the two youkai in charge of the attack were strong enough to face off against the youkai of the Dream World in their natural environment and win, to the point where they even captured and forced one to act according to their wishes. When Doremy attempted to interrogate this baku, she had only been able to tell her that they had forced her to tamper with the dreams of two people.
The dreams of people currently in Gensokyo. While Doremy is familiar with those of Gensokyo and, in fact, manages many of the dreams of that area, she had never considered anyone from their population to plan something as dangerous as manipulating dream souls and forcing a dream on someone; she had never believed they would directly involve themselves with the Dream World to begin with, at least willingly. "How truly troublesome and dangerous..." she remarks, though, despite her words, the extent of the danger that the incident implies brings out a crooked smile from her, as if she is still reconsidering the validity of the events she had not participated in.
In light of the descriptions provided by the victims, Doremy had a solid notion of the perpetrators, or at least one of them; no matter how much she attempted to search for him, the referenced flower entity had no traces of a dream soul. Conversely, after the slightest research into the dreams of varying residents of Gensokyo, she had quickly ascertained whose dreams had been tampered with. In fact, Doremy had even taken to re-arranging them this very day, as she was unscathed in comparison to her other colleagues. However, as much as she knows every party involved, she scarcely knows or wishes to know the reasons behind this disturbing incident.
Narrowing her eyes, Doremy finds herself only genuinely wishing no more disturbances befall the Dream World.
. . .
"By the way, do you suppose the feast will start today?"
Yet again, Youmu hears this carefree question from Yuyuko in the morning. Ever since Reimu's retrieval, Yuyuko had seemed to get the impression that a feast would be held in order to celebrate Reimu's safety. At least, that was what Yuyuko felt like experiencing. Youmu shakes her head. "I don't think so. I haven't heard any news on Reimu's end."
Elegantly sat by a table of her residence, clasping a cup of tea with both hands, Yuyuko's cheerful smile contrasts with the lack of liveliness supposedly inherent of the Netherworld. "Oh my, what a shame." Despite her words, her smile remains bright. "At least, the fact that she isn't yet here proves she's still alive, so the feast will likely start soon."
"Well, the Oni did plan for one, after all," Youmu vacantly responds, unsure of what else to say. After having this conversation three times already, she struggles to come up with anything else. She wonders if Yuyuko has simply been forgetting the conversations and thinking this is the first time.
"It will be quite rowdy, won't it? I'm looking forward to it," Yuyuko remarks in a carefree fashion before humming in a seemingly pensive manner. "Still..." Yuyuko narrows her eyes. "Putting aside Reimu's condition, everything went very smoothly, wouldn't you think so?"
Confused, Youmu's frown deepens. "I'm not sure, Lady Yuyuko. What exactly do you mean with that?" This is new, Youmu notes. Before, Yuyuko would simply speak of what food and drinks to expect or tease Youmu for her behavior in feasts. Now, however, Yuyuko has posed a question she does not quite comprehend. This, too, isn't something Youmu wouldn't put past Yuyuko, but it is still unexpected due to the repeating topic.
"You don't know? I told you Yukari was the one who sent you out," Yuyuko says as she lets the empty cup of tea rest on top of the table.
"Oh." Youmu slowly nods the more she thinks of Yuyuko's words. "So you mean the mountain incident? As you said, everything did go smoothly since I never had to interfere. Though, admittedly enough, I didn't figure this would be a concern of yours now."
"You don't figure that because even you know I'm not referring to the mountain," Yuyuko softly retorts, seemingly without any particular negativity towards Youmu. "If you think about it, why did Yukari even request me to send you out to begin with?"
Youmu awkwardly scratches her head while pensively looking to the side. "Uh, to solve the incident?"
"You are partially right," Yuyuko says, "but you're not quite there yet. Didn't she request something else out of you as well?"
Youmu blinks in confusion. "Something else?" In the midst of reminiscing, Youmu becomes silent for a few moments. "If anything, I had also needed to report anything I found, but isn't that also related to the incident?"
"Well, that's why you're only partially right, Youmu; because you're seeing it wrong," Yuyuko explains, "You're thinking about the incident as if it were the central point of the request when the report is the actual focus. Your mission was only to solve the incident if necessary, remember?"
Youmu crosses her arms, still deep in thought. When Yuyuko begins to pose these sorts of questions and logic, it tends to be because she wants Youmu to learn something. As such, Youmu sees to it to make an effort to understand Yuyuko. However, the roundabout way in which she exposes her wisdom is ever so tricky to process for Youmu and, despite her best efforts, she never seems to see her mistress' point as quickly as she would have wanted. "I remember that, but I thought that was because Reimu was expected to solve it. Since she was actually missing, I assumed I was sent out as a replacement of sorts. Was that actually not the case?"
At the seemingly innocent question, Yuyuko elegantly chuckles. "You were never meant to replace anyone, Youmu," Yuyuko states, "You had a very important role. After all, the true center is the report, not the incident. If I remember it right, you didn't just go into the mountain to investigate, did you?"
"Of course not," Youmu assertively responds, feeling some pride in the practical effort she had exercised that day. "While I did ask around the people of the mountain, I also questioned other youkai near the mountain and on it and found myself at the Moriya Shrine to speak about the incident. I did all I could to get an intricate report of what had transpired on the mountain, or anything else related to it."
Yuyuko's smile widens in amusement. "And you performed very well, rest assured. At the time, you, too, found it strange that Reimu hadn't been the one to solve the incident, right? Then, if you think about it, everyone you ended up talking to would've found this just as strange, especially if you also told them you were sent out by Yukari's shikigami. The other youkai that you spoke to were just as perplexed as you, and word of mouth spread the very question you were posing... In essence, you were watering the planted seed."
"Ah," Youmu suddenly utters in realization. "Now that you mention it, the Oni did say something about hearing rumors."
"Which is because everything went splendidly for Yukari," Yuyuko cheerfully adds almost as though that would conclude any and all doubts, but Youmu remains just as confused after hearing it. "We should be glad for that. After all, there will be a feast at the shrine over this. Feasts like this unify people, did you know that? Youkai, too, are no different."
"I see..." Youmu absent-mindedly mutters, distracted with other matters. Despite Yuyuko's words, nothing had truly been specified for Youmu, and she knows this is on purpose; that she is supposed to connect the dots herself. However, what exactly is so important about rumors that they prevail over the mountain incident? More importantly, what sort of plan did Yukari even have in mind to begin with if it's to greatly involve something as vague as rumors?
For a while, Youmu figures, she will have to sort out what Yuyuko has laid out for her...
. . .
While Seiga Kaku wandered about, a certain piece of news had reached her ears: it seems that Reimu Hakurei has been found and retrieved. Similarly, she figured, Miko's investigation must have ended, and all chaos must have died down along with it. As such, Seiga decided to head for the Mausoleum in order to speak with Miko, merely out of curiosity. It simply would've been a shame if someone like Reimu were to disappear, and now that she has been found, she can only wonder what sort of force had caused her to go missing to begin with. When it comes to Miko, Seiga knows she has gathered solid results.
With this in mind, without any sort of care or hesitation, a hole is being formed in the wall between a hallway and the room Miko is presently in, only for Seiga to hear Miko say, "If you're going to appear, at least enter through the door, Seiga." As expected of the Crown Prince; her ears are sharp. With a low, soft chuckle, Seiga gives up on her hole, fixing it, and heads for the door.
"Just for you, Lady Toyosatomimi," Seiga playfully says while opening the door, knowing Miko would have also heard that. "Well then, do excuse me." Seiga bows ever so slightly with a sly smile on her face, one Miko could not help but frown upon. "Judging by what I've heard, I suppose my report was helpful?"
"Yes, your eavesdropping did serve me well, for once," Miko replied before crossing her arms. "And I assume you came to hear about the origin behind Reimu's disappearance?"
"It's only natural that I want information in exchange for information." Seiga shrugs in a carefree fashion. "So, in the end, what was behind Reimu's disappearance?"
For a moment, Miko remains silent, thoughtful. Then, she sighs. "I don't know yet," Miko plainly and calmly responds, though in a clearly more unmotivated fashion than usual.
"Oh my," Seiga utters in genuine, albeit faint surprise and curiosity. Her chin rests on her fisted right hand as she ponders. "What sort of formidable mastermind could ever outsmart you? Now this is unexpected."
"I simply have no further leads," Miko says while grimacing. "The perpetrator did a remarkable job of pointing me in the wrong direction, and I have yet to gather evidence indicative of the truth."
"How sinister indeed," Seiga remarks, though she shows no signs of being truly distraught. Rather, her amused smile remains in place. "Well, even if you don't know the true mastermind, I would like to hear more about your investigation, if you would."
Miko narrows her eyes, reminiscing. "After thoroughly inspecting the Hakurei Shrine, I found traces of sleeping powder in Reimu's tea storage. However, the way it had been left there seemed too obvious and deliberate: a small bag of it lay right before your eyes the moment you enter the room, almost as if the culprit meant to let you know of it; needless to say it garnered suspicion. When I interrogated the three fairies, who confessed to attempting to play a prank on Reimu, they claimed they were given a powder capable of turning someone's tongue blue."
"Then, would that individual who gave them the powder not be the mastermind?" Seiga plainly questions. "It seems quite straightforward to me."
Miko slowly shakes her head. "Your way of thinking is too simple-minded. To begin with, the fairies claimed to have happened upon a bag with the powder by their residence; they never saw the perpetrator. Furthermore, they said the bag was of a different color than the one with sleeping powder found at the shrine."
Seiga smirks. "Now it just seems like they're provoking you," she remarks, thoroughly amused. It's not every day someone poses a challenge so bold to Miko, and it certainly is not every day she sees Miko struggling to overcome it.
At Seiga's words, Miko can't help but wryly smile, sourly so. "And they've done well at it, as you can notice. Even I have no choice but to admire the way the perpetrator has so impeccably driven me to a wall. I honestly would love to meet this mastermind for myself at least once in my life, as I'd likely have much to learn from them." Miko then casually shrugs, as if that could somehow dismiss her self-disappointment in regards to her failure. "For now, I can only conclude that the sleeping powder ordeal itself was a red herring. The fairies tested the powder they had received before applying it to their prank, confirming that they had not received sleeping powder or placed it themselves. Rather, when they placed their own powder, someone switched it for sleeping powder. Logically, one would assume this was responsible for Reimu's collapse and disappearance, but evidence actually debunks the hypothesis."
"How so?" Seiga asks, exceedingly curious.
"I retrieved the bag with sleeping powder from the shrine and scrutinized it myself," Miko responds, "Not only is the powder meant to take little time to affect the body, but its effects are also remarkably weak; it would require a very high dosage of it to put someone asleep for hours on end. Most of all, however, if put into tea, you can clearly notice the difference in flavor. Though further proof after the analysis wasn't necessary, Futo volunteered to test the effects of this powder directly by slipping an unnoticeable amount into her own tea, and immediately pointed out the flavor before falling asleep in no more than five minutes. After half an hour, she awoke without issue."
Seiga frowns as she finds herself genuinely invested in solving this mystery, now truly deep in thought about the matter. "That does contradict everything that Reimu experienced, according to the Tengu newspaper I read. Was she not deeply asleep for the entire day? Otherwise, she would not have gone missing."
"It's as you said: Reimu was asleep for the entire day. Furthermore, Reimu was found in the Forest of Magic, far away from the shrine," Miko elaborates, "This implies that Reimu only fell asleep while on her way to the mountain, which was after the entire early morning."
"And she would've naturally noticed the different flavor if she drank the tea, right?"
"Exactly," Miko assertively responds. "A testimony from someone residing in the shrine who saw Reimu before her disappearance describes Reimu as uncharacteristically drowsy, but nothing was ever stated about the tea itself. She hadn't even considered the tea at all while she was speaking. If we compare all facts with the sleeping powder placed in the shrine, it simply isn't conceivable that Reimu drank tea mixed in with this sleeping powder, no matter how we see this case. As such, we can only conclude Reimu drank normal tea, and was forced into sleep through an alternate method."
Seiga pensively hums in a manner far too dramatic for one to think she would truly be giving Miko's words any actual consideration, but she is still, in fact, looking to get to the bottom of the issue. "Is there no way the powder the fairies received have a different effect on humans? It might have turned their tongues blue when they tested it, but the same can't be said for a different species."
"I considered something similar and retrieved the remaining powder the fairies possessed to analyze it," Miko answers faster than Seiga had expected, almost as if she had expected her question and prepared the response beforehand. "Nothing about it seemed to be able to put someone to sleep. It's wiser to assume there was no powder responsible for Reimu's disappearance to begin with, and that the whole scheme was merely meant to distract us from the perpetrator's true method."
"But, in the end, it wasn't necessary at all," Seiga says, "After all, this distraction wouldn't have erased the evidence of this true method, whatever it may have been. If it's already a method so strange and difficult to grasp that us hermits can barely fathom what it could be, it didn't need to be covered up by something as easy to debunk as this." Seiga deviously smiles, unable to contain the wry nature of her thoughts. "In other words, the perpetrator was just toying with us, knowing we would never discover their identity to begin with." Seiga momentarily feigns fear and distress with a frantic shake of her head and a far too lighthearted startled expression. "My, my, how ominous!"
Reminding herself of her complete failure in solving Reimu's disappearance, especially due to the way Seiga phrased the nature of what the culprit laid out before her, Miko grimaces once more, showcasing only some of her actual frustration. For the sake of both herself and Seiga, Miko deliberately refrains from directly responding to her theatrical remark. "Moreover, Reimu's disappearance in and of itself has no clear motive."
"Maybe it was a prank," Seiga suggests, "but planned out by someone much smarter than a fairy."
Though she would have at first denied the proposition thinking that this incident was most likely orchestrated with some higher purpose in mind, now that she had been subjected to this degree of humiliation by the very perpetrator, Miko cannot help but nod. "Perhaps it was," Miko simply responds, surprising even Seiga, who hadn't truly believed Miko would consider a suggestion so simple. "At this point, I can expect anything out of the perpetrator. Regardless, even if the odds are against me, I'll continue to work on this case with the help of a fellow hermit for the time being. As much as it may be unnecessary now that Reimu is safe at the shrine, I want to keep pursuing this case for personal reasons and get ahold of the truth behind Reimu's disappearance." Miko then smirks for once in the conversation, genuinely amused. "Admittedly, I am rather curious about who exactly this perpetrator is."
"Dazzled, are we? Well, so am I, so do tell me about everything you find afterwards; you owe me, after all. Now, as interesting as this conversation has been, I don't think there's much more I can take out of it, and I surely wouldn't want to get in your way any further, so I'll take my leave for now." Seemingly satisfied, Seiga bows and turns around with a smile on her face. "Farewell; I'll stop by at another time. Don't go missing me now!" she teases, though she knows more than well that this has no effect on Miko, who is used to her personality. Regardless, as she exits the room, she finds herself pondering on the mastermind.
Similarly, Miko, too, ends up thinking of the culprit behind Reimu's sudden collapse in her current solitude. Truly, only someone formidable could have orchestrated this entire case, but for what purpose? How had they done it? No matter how much her prodigious mind reiterates all of her gathered facts, Miko cannot reach a solid conclusion. Her smirk becomes but a wry smile originated from growing feelings of resignation. Truly, she has been bested. She has been in such a way toyed with, in fact, that it continues to generate disbelief within Miko and, furthermore, a sense of dread that forces her naturally assertive nature to simmer in light of a more cautious thought process.
Miko can only bitterly chuckle at her complete defeat, even if the war, in her eyes, is not finished yet. If this culprit is a youkai, Miko amusedly notes, they have certainly been able to fulfill their innate purpose in life, as they managed to unsettle even her.
. . .
Though the tension had been almost palpable in the Human Village before, now, after four days, the people seem to have come to terms with the mountain's appearance and see it as but an additional piece of scenery, provided the new youkai will not trouble them. However, the dangers of youkai were a concern of the humans even without the mountain, so this is not a factor that remains with them now. Besides, rather than the mountain or even the flying tools, the most unsettling event to occur was that parade of youkai in the sky, which even now some villagers would remark on.
As she takes extra care in hearing these remaining voices of amazement and dread, Mamizou can't contain her smirk. Walking about the village in a human form, Mamizou has finally been able to relish in at least the marvelous work she had done in unsettling the general human populace, compensating somewhat from the crushing defeat she suffered at the hands of Marisa's own search party. As much as she tried not to remember it, it surfaces once more, and now she can't contain a grimace. And there I had myself thinking I'd gotten all nuisances right out of the way with that search party idea. Well, it had to end at some point with how showy we were being, Mamizou thinks as she surveys the area for any conversations, all the while she watches out for a certain building. It's more shocking that shrine maiden didn't wake up just to shut our mouths, but we can't have everything working out in our favor now, can we? Nobody can get two birds with one stone all the time.
Mamizou's train of thought stops when she spots Suzunaan, her main goal for the day. The book-renting shop rests along with the various ominous presences any youkai could easily sense oozing off of the many books Kosuzu has been collecting. Mamizou, too, knows of these youkai-made books, and has developed a great interest in them. However, not all plans can be led to fruition in a day, and Mamizou likes thinking she is a rather patient Tanuki; she will attain her results when the time is right, surely.
Though Mamizou can't quite tell if the shop is currently open, she does not particularly care as she heads for the entrance. Seeing as the doors are open, Mamizou simply helps herself to entering the building, immediately coming upon a focused Kosuzu, sat on a chair reading. "Mornin' there," Mamizou greets so as to get her attention, and succeeds to great effect as Kosuzu flinches, startled; she hadn't expected customers this early in the morning.
"Oh!" When she looks up and sees Mamizou, she reflexively smiles. "Good morning!" She sets the book down on the table serving as the counter and stands up. "Is there anything you need from me? If so, I'd be happy to provide!" Kosuzu says with genuine cheer and brightness, things Mamizou is not exactly associating with her own mood. However, after finally getting a good look at Mamizou, Kosuzu gives her a look of pure concern and slight unease. "Um... Are you okay?"
Currently, Mamizou is bandaged in various parts of her body, though Kosuzu could only spot a few as the rest is covered up in her dense clothing. Mamizou waves her hand in dismissal, ignoring the pain in her wrist. "Just had a little tumble on the way back home," Mamizou lightly responds, "Nothing you need to worry yourself about, that's for sure." At least I ended up getting back at them for it, Mamizou thinks, hoping that would bring her away from any negativity. However, her mind does not truly obey. Well, except for the Oni, that is. And yeesh, did the hermit really need to burn my tail? Mamizou focuses on Kosuzu once again with an ever so slightly curious expression. "Anyway, I'd be more worried about myself than some lady visitor in your shoes. It's been rowdy lately, and I'm sure even you've heard of Reimu going missing."
Naturally, this is a lie, as the Human Village stands as one of the few locations unaware of Reimu's disappearance. Kosuzu's eyes widen in shock. "Wait, what?! Ms. Reimu is missing?!" she exclaims, incredulous at this piece of information. "I didn't know of this at all!"
"Well, she's been found already, so it's not like she's still missing," Mamizou says as if this could actually reassure her, albeit that is not truly her intention to begin with.
Regardless, Kosuzu breathes out in relief. "Thank goodness..."
"But the whole time she was gone, everyone was fretting over it," Mamizou adds, paying no mind to Kosuzu's interjection. "I'm surprised you didn't hear."
Kosuzu frowns, disappointed in herself. "I really didn't," she insists, "I never even thought that could happen to someone like her. Do you know anything more about it?"
Mamizou absent-mindedly looks to the side as if pensive, but gives almost no thought at all to the question as she had been expecting it from the very beginning. "Well, I'm not too big on all the teensy details, but she was apparently found passed out in the Forest of Magic. Scary, right?"
"No kidding..." Kosuzu mutters, somewhat distraught. Reimu is supposed to be strong, and yet she suddenly goes missing? The notion admittedly brought her considerable discomfort, especially as she is supposed to be the shrine maiden in charge of protecting Gensokyo.
"Not to mention all those youkai in the sky," Mamizou says, turning the conversation precisely to the topic she had been hoping for. "When I saw them, I got so startled I was tumbling down the path before I knew it!"
"Ah, you mean that mound of youkai flying around four days ago?" Kosuzu questions. "I was really surprised, too! I mean, I didn't fall down or anything..." Kosuzu awkwardly glances to the side, realizing the lack of tact far too late. "But it did put me nervous. A lot of people were going to the Myouren Temple over the mountain, but the moment that was on the sky, they all seemed to come right back. I suppose they wouldn't want to stay in a temple with youkai with something like that happening."
Mamizou nods in pure pride, unable to resist the urge to do so. "Right? It was some rampage, in my eyes. It looked like the youkai were just doing whatever they wanted while the shrine maiden was gone."
"Oh, so Ms. Reimu went missing four days ago?" Unnerved, Kosuzu frowns. "That's also the day the mountain showed up..."
Mamizou's smile only widens, especially as she finds herself recalling previous events. "It sure was. A lot happened that day, didn't it? But just when you'd think a mountain doesn't compare to a youkai parade, the spotlight goes right onto the youkai. I didn't even think about the mountain back then with all the news about the missing shrine maiden piling up with the parade."
"Now that I look back at it, I didn't have much time to think about the mountain either," Kosuzu says, pensive. Tired of standing, Kosuzu takes to sitting down again. "It was a big deal the first time I saw it, but since nothing really happened until the whole youkai mound showed up, I barely focused on it. Were those youkai from that mountain?"
"With the way everybody left the temple when it started getting showy, I wouldn't think so," Mamizou responds, "If anything, it was because some of them were from the temple that the villagers went away. I was there at the time, so I got a little glimpse."
"Well, I guess that makes sense. For a bunch of youkai that summoned a mountain all the way over here, they sure are keeping quiet," Kosuzu comments, curious about why this would be. "But why were the youkai from here doing something like this, then? Was it because of Ms. Reimu, or the mountain?"
There is the million dollar question, Mamizou triumphantly notes; truly, patience is a virtue. "As far as I know, all sorts of places ended up in Gensokyo, but it's the first time the shrine maiden goes missing. Like I said, the youkai were probably taking advantage of it." That does add up, Kosuzu thinks while nodding. However, Mamizou's gaze suddenly becomes sharp and something akin to a smirk adorns her ever so slightly battered features. "But then again, it might've been the other way around."
"The other way around?" Kosuzu questions, now fully confused.
"Maybe all the youkai gathered together and went wild because they thought the shrine maiden would show up that way. After all, she wouldn't miss something that suspicious," Mamizou deviously responds, not even trying to hold back on her ominous presence. Fortunately for her, Kosuzu's admiration for her is such that she can let such moments slip by.
Surprised, Kosuzu attempts to give thought to what Mamizou has told her, figuring she was being told something like this precisely so she can think it through herself. Kosuzu frowns. "It's an interesting suggestion, but why would the youkai want Ms. Reimu back?"
"Because maybe some like being fussed over by a violent shrine maiden," Mamizou lightly responds, "who knows? Youkai are all shades of strange. It might've even been for both reasons: a party and an incident at the same time. I sure wouldn't put it past them." Mamizou had been expecting Kosuzu's ignorance, though even Mamizou had a time she didn't particularly know of the weight behind the Hakurei Shrine Maiden title. Still, she finds amusement in how Kosuzu has no clue of the inner workings of Gensokyo, and decides it may as well be kept that way; ignorance is bliss. Besides, Mamizou didn't lie in her response. In essence, those were the main reasons behind her plan. "Anyway, I came over here because I was worried about you, but you seem just fine to me. I guess I was worrying over nothing at all. Well, I also found a book or two you might just be interested in, but..." Mamizou deliberately pauses while reaching out for what she had been keeping underneath some of her layers, expectant of Kosuzu's reaction.
Brimming with excitement, Kosuzu practically jumps from the chair and stares straight at Mamizou. "Really?! Thank you, thank you! You didn't need to go that far for me!" she cheerfully exclaims.
Mamizou shakes her head ever so slightly, ignoring the pain in her neck. "Oh, this much is nothing. Besides, someone like you'd put more care into them than I ever would. I mean..." Naturally, the two books she has were readied by Mamizou as an excuse to come into the shop with some form of business, and their worth is definitely not as high as the many other books Mamizou has set her eyes on in the establishment. Regardless, even despite the way it ended, the parade was at least a good way to let loose, Mamizou reasons. After all, the tensions on the day the mountain appeared were more than worrying. While Mamizou herself isn't one to see all youkai as friends, even she knew better than to needlessly spread the fire. Rather, she sought to splash water.
And what a better way to release tensions than a good old fashioned party? In the situation Gensokyo was at the time, Reimu's disappearance seemed almost like a God-Send to Mamizou, as it opened up so many opportunities for the youkai. Rumors spread among the youkai; the event rattled them; and, in turn, the youkai rattled the humans, just as things should be. As Mamizou vacantly brings her conversation with Kosuzu to a conclusion, no longer seeing any more purpose to it, she smiles one last time in Suzunaan before waving at Kosuzu in a friendly manner. "I'll see you around!"
Faintly, she hears Kosuzu shout, "Goodbye!" Despite this, it enters one ear and leaves through the other as Mamizou puts something rather crucial into consideration, something she had not truly pondered on while still hurt from Marisa's search party and preparing for her visit to Suzunaan. She could almost laugh at how a matter so important slipped her mind, even if she had lightly questioned herself on it a few times before. Now, it comes back to her in full force:
Why and how had Reimu gone missing to begin with? Tengu newspapers claimed that she was found on the Forest of Magic, and despite the initial excuse of gathering youkai to find Reimu, no one in the parade was truly looking for her, so she didn't find it too strange that she was actually there. What instead bothered her was the fact that she was passed out to begin with, supposedly put to sleep. Clearly, there is a perpetrator, even if no one truly knows their identity. I'd have to be an idiot to think it was a coincidence. Furthermore, Reimu went missing on the day the mountain appeared. Anybody would normally assume it was to incriminate the people of the mountain, but... That might've just been exactly what they wanted everybody to think.
Really, what if it's the other way around all along? It's just a theory for now, but if by any chance somebody had temporarily offed Reimu to get everybody's eyes away from the mountain, knowing this is the sort of thing that was going to happen... As if she had no other choice but to do so, Mamizou smiles, slight disbelief evident along with it.
It seems as though Mamizou may have been but a single pawn dancing on someone's palm; the realization further sinks in on her. "Heh..." We'd all be dealing with one scary youkai, that's for sure! Gives me the creeps just imagining what kind of youkai it'd be to think up something like that! "Heh heh heh..." My imagination could definitely use an off-switch, if I do say so myself!
. . .
The Forest of Magic, humid, dark and dangerous, does not exactly constitute as the kind of location Futo is most fond of. In fact, she scarcely would like to come to such a location again. Unfortunately, it was on the outskirts of this forest that Reimu was found, rendering her with no other choice.
Ultimately, she figured, she may be able to find clues that would aid her Crown Prince in her investigation. As such, Futo now stands before the area Marisa had supposedly retrieved Reimu from, marvelling at how much brighter it is in comparison to the rest of the forest. Due to the streak of battles she involved herself with four days ago, Futo sustained a quantity of minor injuries too high to go exploring, much like the rest of the party facing myriads of youkai. Futo in particular has a black eye from the Tanuki she had faced off with, figuring immediately she was the boss of the parade from Marisa's words. Though she did end up winning against her, it was a close battle, or so Futo reminisces.
Upon closer inspection, someone else is in the area. Furthermore, this figure is more than familiar to her. "Lady Alice?" Futo questions as she approaches, greatly curious. "'Tis quite the coincidence!"
Slightly surprised, Alice looks up at Futo, seemingly disturbed. "Oh, hello there," Alice greets, still unsure of how to perceive this meeting. Regardless, she politely smiles. "Futo, right? Are you here to search for clues?"
Futo confidently nods. "An astute guess! Naturally, I'm here to aid the Crown Prince in her investigation."
Alice's smile grows into a smirk. "Though you definitely should be home resting, instead. Surely you've looked yourself through already." Alice rests a hand on her hip, looking down at what she perceives to be Futo's recklessness.
Meanwhile, Futo scratches her head in a sheepish manner, wearing an apprehensive smile on her face. "I scarcely see the need for concern," Futo counters, "After all, nothing I'm doing is particularly straining. I appreciate thy worries, but feel free to refrain from them as I'm perfectly fine!" Futo then smirks and puffs up her chest in pride. "In fact, I couldn't possibly be better! And even if I happened to be gravely wounded, which I am not, I would never waste the chance to aid the Crown Prince."
Vacantly, Alice frowns. "Is that so? Well, unfortunately for you and that energy of yours, I'm already finished looking through the area." She sighs. "As expected, there was nothing in particular over here. It looks like Reimu just happened to pass out here by accident."
Futo's smile vanishes, and her stance becomes considerably serious as she finds herself thinking about the case of Reimu's disappearance. "Impliest thou that the mastermind hath no intentional location to leave Lady Reimu in?" Futo questions, admittedly skeptical.
"A place like this one does seem rather random to me," Alice responds while glancing about. "There no traces of magic that shouldn't be here or anything of the sort, so it's safe to assume whoever was behind this didn't really care about where Reimu would pass out."
Futo narrows her eyes. "Is not that bizarre, however? A miscreant intent on causing the disappearance of Lady Reimu would surely possess a plan more elaborate than this." The more she thinks about it, the deeper her frown becomes: for a case as sinister as the disappearance of Reimu, all details found were as random as can be, almost as if that were of no importance. "That is, if causing her disappearance was their plan to begin with."
"Which it may just not be, from the way this whole case has been laid out," Alice says, crossing her arms in mild displeasure. "Rather, I can't help but feel it ties to the mountain, somehow."
"The mountain, huh... 'Twould certainly not be out of the question." Futo tilts her head to the side ever so slightly, without even noticing it. "Though the Crown Prince concluded the mountain's youkai have no direct involvement, there may still be an indirect tie to its appearance."
"It'd just be stranger if there weren't," Alice insists, grimacing. "But, if anyone wanted to incriminate the people of the mountain with Reimu's disappearance, wouldn't they do a better job out of it than this?"
"Indeed. 'Tis far too odd that the mastermind created not a single piece of false evidence to solidify the mountain's connection with Lady Reimu's condition, or any such tactics. If conflict is their aim, wherefore would not they fan the fire of suspicion the mountain's way?" As she further tilts to the side, pensively humming, Futo ends up wincing in pain from her back and immediately straightens herself, ever so slightly startled at the sudden event, noting that she had been that deep in thought. In the midst of her shock, however, something emerges in her thoughts; Futo's eyes widen. "Unless...!" It dawns on Futo, and her Crown Prince immediately flashes to mind: is Miko aware of what she has just discovered?
"Unless what? Don't just shout all of a sudden," Alice reprimands despite her growing curiosity regarding Futo's sudden actions. Even so, for now, Alice does not want to appear overly interested, just in case.
"Say the mastermind's goal lies not on Lady Reimu's disappearance or the mountain," Futo agitatedly explains, as if in a hurry, "but on something by which these two can serve as distractions: is not Lady Reimu's disappearance a perfect decoy...?!"
"A decoy?" Alice questions, skeptical. "You mean that the culprit used the mountain and even Reimu as distractions? She's the Hakurei Shrine Maiden."
"That I know as well, but considering they've caused her disappearance to begin with, this scoundrel likely hath not any scruples," Futo ominously states, scowling in pure frustration. "They must've simply wanted a distraction and staged this farce in order to hide their true purposes, and now the Crown Prince has been led astray by a mere decoy...! Oh, this, I shan't forgive!"
"Wait, calm down, Futo," Alice utters, figuring that Futo may just leave before telling her crucial, solid information. "Just what exactly do you think is going on?"
"Thou art ill-informed, but I've joined with the Crown Prince's investigation and know of the finer details pertaining the case. The entirety of the evidence found was left there on purpose, as if to incite the Crown Prince; this is no coincidence. The mastermind clearly intended to fool us, but I hadn't thought to assume these were only a means to prolong the true decoy's effect even after Lady Reimu's retrieval." Futo casts her eyes to the ground. "I was naive; I'd only falsely assumed that evidence itself was the decoy. As the false evidence is a distraction from the purpose of Lady Reimu's disappearance, Lady Reimu's disappearance itself is but another distraction. Considering this coincides with the mountain's appearance..."
Completely perplexed, Alice raises her eyebrows and grimaces Futo's way. "What, are you saying that Reimu going missing is just a decoy meant to divert our eyes from the mountain? That can't possibly be true. What sense would it make?"
"I'm not yet sure of that, but Lady Reimu's disappearance must be a distraction. Its clear lack of a motive only dictates so," Futo states, exasperated at the thought of having been tricked by any particularly vile youkai. Finally, she looks up at Alice again, seemingly resolute. "In any case, though the Crown Prince probably concluded this herself, I can't help but worry regardless. Rather than waste my time on this location, I'll return to her at once."
At first, Alice glares at Futo, frowning upon her actions. However, she then shrugs, unmotivated. "If you think a theory like that will somehow help her, suit yourself. I've finished my business here, so I'll leave as well."
"Be it as it may, I wouldn't want to take any risks when it comes to the Crown Prince," Futo asserts, even now bitterly thinking of the mastermind who was so daringly distracting her Crown Prince. Even despite this, for Alice's sake, Futo manages a friendly smile, wanting to leave a pleasant last impression. "This is farewell for now. If there comes a time for thee to show interest in religion, thou art more than welcome to join the way of Tao. My religion refuseth not even youkai."
"That's great and all, but I'll pass on that offer," Alice immediately responds, now more than willing to leave. "I suppose I'll see you around, then." Roundabout as it was, Alice uttered her goodbyes in a neutral fashion before waving at Futo in an equally impersonal manner as she turns around and steps away.
"Farewell, Lady Alice!" Meanwhile, Futo's parting words are more energetic in general, as Futo begins to float in the air. "In the event thy mind changes, our Dojo shall always welcome thee!" she shouts in a particularly loud voice to make sure Alice heard her, but Alice provides her with no visual or verbal response. Futo pensively frowns. "Was mine approach too bold, I wonder..."
However, at the resurfacing notion of the nature of Reimu's disappearance, Futo's recovering mood deteriorates into her previous resentful, exasperated one. Miko is currently investigating why Reimu had gone missing; a pointless effort. Naturally, since Miko had been the one to decide on it, Futo respected the decision, but, regardless, especially as she recalls Miko in low spirits, Futo feels the need to tell her. Perhaps then, Miko may be able to complete her theory and regain the tiniest radiance she had ever so slightly lost from the vile youkai's misleading schemes; Futo would not put it past her Crown Prince. For now, however, she could not help but wryly note on the prowess of the mastermind's scheme, originated only by a few simplistic moves.
Whatever their true objectives may be, Futo knows she must at least guarantee Miko's superiority over the mastermind, and make them realize the Crown Prince is no fool who they can toy with.
Though, she hurriedly adds in her mind, it isn't like the Crown Prince could not overcome this by herself.
. . .
"... And that's basically it from me," Suika casually says before drinking directly from her gourd. Nodding along, Aya writes something on her notebook that Suika hardly has any curiosity over. She already knows it's a summary of the youkai parade she stopped. "Been busy lately, haven't ya?"
Aya looks up at Suika with a small smile on her face. "Oh, this much is only natural for a reporter, rest assured. If anything, you've put yourself in a much more dangerous situation than I have with this youkai parade incident," Aya politely responds, facing the short, horned figure leaning on a tree with slight caution. Though Aya herself is a prideful Tengu, she stands before an Oni, one of the former rulers of the mountain, and she hardly wishes to be on her bad side. Conversely, the pleasantries are hardly Suika's preferred pastime, so she isn't particularly pleased with Aya's answer. "Though, I suppose one such as yourself would find that a thrilling challenge of sorts."
"If it were actually challenging," Suika retorts, frowning as she reminisces. "A lot of them just ran the moment they saw me swinging my fists around; bunch of cowards."
Amused, Aya's smile widens. "Well, I certainly wouldn't blame them," she lightly remarks.
Suika then crosses her arms and pouts, seemingly peeved. "And then there's still no way to get the party started in the shrine when it's been four days," Suika complains as if she hadn't heard Aya at all, only to groan in moderate exasperation. "What a huge mood-killer. If she was gonna do something to Reimu, she could've at least made it so she'd be okay the next day." Suika absent-mindedly looks towards the sky, not exactly aware of what she has even said anymore.
Meanwhile, Aya shows herself surprised. "'She'?"
Suika grimaces. "Not worth talking about," Suika dismissively counters, shooting down any chance for Aya to ask for an explanation. Had someone much weaker been acting this way, Aya would have pressed on, but, unfortunately, this happens to be Suika, who she would not like to deal with in such a manner. "I've read your article about Reimu going missing, by the way. Seriously, 'The Hakurei Shrine Maiden Disappearance Conspiracy'?"
"Sinister, isn't it? It appears none of the evidence in the scene coincides with the way she went missing, and the culprit has yet to reveal themself to the public. The motive is unknown to the point where you could question yourself if there was even a motive to begin with," Aya ominously elaborates, almost as if to dramatize the ordeal, "And, most of all, it occurs precisely on the same day that mountain appears. Anyone can bring their theories to the table in regards to a case like this. Is this not a conspiracy of its own?"
"Just looked like an exaggeration to me," Suika casually responds with a shrug, contrasting immensely with Aya's previous words. "But then again, everyone's been reading it, so I bet you're proud of this one." Suika faintly smiles. "I saw even that mountain's people getting their hands on it, after all. Guess your shady ways do work out for you somehow."
"Shady? It's only the truth," Aya proudly states, "Besides, with an incident this intriguing, it's only natural that more people than usual are reading the newspaper: they've heard the rumors, and want to know more; they want to know more, and my article swiftly provides." Aya chuckles. "Truly, this season has been keeping me busy in the best of possible ways. The flying tools, the mountain, the shrine maiden, and now the parade... Maybe by the time that party of yours finally starts, you'll be seeing that article around, too. Though, I seriously doubt it will have as much popularity as the shrine maiden's disappearance."
"Even now, that's the only thing the youkai are going on and on about," Suika adds as she crosses her arm behind her head, resting it on them. "Never mind the time everyone was focusing on the mountain showing up all of a sudden. Welp, gossip's the same no matter what you are; fickle as always."
"I, for one, am glad for it in this case," Aya says as she stores her notebook, noting she will likely no longer need it for the conversation she is currently having with Suika. "You cannot possibly imagine how we Tengu were reacting to that mountain at the time; it was a rather troublesome tension for us, as you can understand. With the shrine maiden's disappearance cutting into everyone's minds, things are much more lax now. Regardless, if you had to point at any youkai still talking about that mountain, it would be a Tengu. I suppose we just can't help it."
"Heh, I bet it scared ya good, having another mountain tower in," Suika amusedly remarks, more to herself than to Aya. "You're lucky they're all a bunch of wimps."
Aya chuckles. "Rather, they're lucky they happen to be so inconsequential to the youkai," she sharply retorts, treating the exceedingly serious conversation topic as if it were but a joke, a mildly intriguing occurrence. Suika, too, is treating this lightly, but she is a unique existence in the panorama of the youkai. Aya, however, has a very clear view into the hierarchies and struggles between the species while Suika has long but abandoned them. With this in mind, Aya narrows her eyes thinking of these implications. "If they know what's good for them, they're likely to stay as quiet as they've been so far."
"That right?" Suika questions. "I dunno about you, but I'd at least wanna see them joining up for the party and getting rowdy there." Suika then smirks, almost as if holding back the urge to snicker (though, if she had, she would've snickered right away as she has no such thing as reservations). "Maybe they'll actually try to have a drinking competition with me, unlike you all."
Meanwhile, Aya herself fails to resist the urge to laugh yet again. "Oh my, I can already feel for them..."
. . .
The Myouren Temple had gone through a time of great uproar, but now, four days later, the members of the temple can hardly believe it ever occurred to begin with in light of the general peace that has now settled. While that naturally pleased Byakuren, Nue, somewhat battered, is not as satisfied. Laid down on the outskirts of the Myouren Temple watching visitors go up and down the stairs, Nue feels it absolutely appropriate to claim that she is in such a way bored she may as well die.
She faintly groans before shifting her position ever so slightly. However, finding that it pained her bruised right elbow, she shifts yet again. Noting her more than unfortunate situation, Nue lets out a long and loud sigh. "That Oni sure did a number on me..." Nue bitterly mutters, unwilling to even recall it. "Of all people, I didn't expect an Oni to want to stop the parade..." Today, and for the past days, Nue has sighted no human visitors to the temple, and she finds herself always inwardly remarking on this as she observes the area; it's one of the few things that cheer her up about the situation. In the end, the humans ended up so frightened of that parade they aren't even coming here. What's more, they don't even know what caused it; its origins remain unknown! At least in that, Nue has succeeded: she had managed to plant into the humans of the village a great fear of something they cannot even comprehend the origin of. Even if we didn't find the shrine maiden, it was at least fun while it lasted. Though, now that I think about it...
Nue rolls to the side in order to grasp a nearby newspaper. She reads the title aloud: "'The Hakurei Shrine Maiden Disappearance Conspiracy'..." Nue had only found the newspaper lying on the ground by sheer coincidence, but the article itself is especially intriguing to her. Nue snickers. "Who did it, indeed..." Our parade was nothing in comparison to this. This case is practically a work of art. When she had first heard about Reimu's disappearance, she hadn't given thought to the details behind it; she figured they didn't matter. To Nue, the event was supposed to only be the trigger to her own plans, along with Mamizou's. However, after reading the article and being filled in on the context of incident, Nue had cursed herself for that attitude as she had almost remained ignorant to one of the most interesting incidents she had ever witnessed. The shrine maiden found eerily without a hassle, the mismatching sleeping powder, the fake culprits, the victim's mysterious slumber... All of it is just perfect. Nue can only longingly sigh thinking about it. "Oh, if only I'd come up with something so utterly sinister, so utterly impossible to grasp...!" Nue raises the newspaper high, only to wince from the speed she'd done so, as her right arm was not yet fully healed. "Just what kind of youkai can be this brilliant...?"
Nue only wished she'd know that, but, naturally, said brilliant youkai had left no traces of their identity while setting up Reimu's disappearance, which is what was so flawless to Nue in the first place. That feeling of dread settling in ignorant minds who fail to uncover that which is indefinable; it's so greatly encapsulated here. If this had spread to the humans, it would've been even more of a masterpiece. However, to her surprise, it seems as though only youkai are truly aware of this incident, as the humans focused on the youkai parade. And while I'd be more than happy to help a case this great reach the humans, I also wouldn't want them to stop talking about the parade just yet. Nue smirks as she skims through a few paragraphs of the article, if only to rekindle that feeling of wonder she had experienced for the very first time; it isn't like Nue has much more to do anyway. Well, maybe I'll manage something when that starts simmering down...
Chuckling to herself, Nue sets down the newspaper beside her and takes to watching the temple stairs and entrance again, her mood recovered... For now. While she does so, she sets her eyes on a few oddities lurking in the temple lately.
Clearly, they are not human. However, their presence is unlike that of a youkai. They don't exude mystery or malice, not even a trace of fear. In fact, much to Nue's confusion, these creatures let out a spiritual presence more reminiscent of goodwill and clarity. Though Byakuren seems to welcome their presence, Nue does not see them as fondly. They are unlike youkai, fundamentally different from the essence of human fear that all youkai consist of.
Regardless, if they are not human, but not youkai, what are they? Gods without need for faith? Animals with human intellect and magical abilities?
... An unknown?
"Hah..." Ultimately, Nue ends up unable to fully resent them despite their opposing nature. At least, for now. Amused, Nue intently stares at one of them: the article encouraged theories about the heart of Reimu's disappearance, and suspicions apparently pointed to the mountain's people. However, Nue knows better than to see a tiny, frog-like creature like the one she is currently staring at as capable of a scheme so inherently ominous. The more she continues staring, feeling the seconds pass, the more boredom begins to settle in on her.
Similarly to what she had done in the previous three days, Nue takes to planning a prank to 'greet' these new entities with in order to avoid boredom.
Surely Byakuren will accept that excuse, Nue optimistically reasons.
. . .
The mistress has been in a bad mood lately. It almost makes Sakuya regret having Marisa take her along, as she spread the news of Reimu's disappearance to Remilia and rose her expectations tremendously. However, unable to see these expectations come to fruition for four days now, Remilia is much more irritable than usual. Beyond that, Sakuya finds herself increasingly troubled by the bandages she's had to apply to herself so far.
In hindsight, attacking a huge mound of youkai was likely a bad idea, even if she happened to be accompanied by significantly strong people. Still, she now has to deal with the consequences of her actions... Along with the mistress. "Is she awake now?" Remilia immediately asks upon sensing Sakuya's return, already grimacing as if she knew Sakuya's response beforehand; perhaps she did.
Sakuya calmly shakes her head. "She still seems to be asleep, though the hermit told me she will probably be awake by the next day," she reports with an expression of slight concern, though not enough to be substantial.
"It's been four already," Remilia bitterly counters, "and it's not even like she's sick. Just what is wrong with her?" Remilia taps her fingers on the table she is currently sitting by, impatiently so. She almost feels like rushing to the shrine herself and force her awake, but even she knows that will yield no results... Though, that thought process will probably not stop her for long.
"While no one is truly certain, the Tengu newspaper did theorize the cause to be the toxic gases of the Forest of Magic," Sakuya responds, though she herself doesn't believe it and only mentioned it for the sake of possessing some sort of answer for Remilia to go off of.
Remilia indignantly huffs. "That's just a bunch of drivel. Do you expect me to believe something like that? When I went to see Reimu yesterday, she was just sleeping, not sick. Besides, a few fumes wouldn't stop her." Remilia sips from her tea before setting it on the table with perhaps more force than necessary. "There's clearly something else at play here."
"I do agree with you, but there are still no clear answers, unfortunately. At the very least, the hermit theorizes the cause to be mental rather than physical since she is perfectly stable." Pensively, Sakuya casts her eyes to the floor. "Now if only she were wide awake to humor the mistress..."
"This is what happens when you decide to play around with youkai rather than actually finding Reimu," Remilia reprimands, ever so slightly resentful of Sakuya for that. After all, it's rather troublesome having the most competent worker in the entire mansion be the one in the worst shape.
Sakuya awkwardly glances to the side as a sheepish smile grows on her. "Do forgive me for that, mistress."
Remilia crosses her arms, seemingly disdainful. "Maybe if you get Reimu to wake up once and for all, I'll consider it."
"I'd say perhaps you have better chances of it than myself," Sakuya interjects, thinking back to the times Remilia went to the shrine to visit Reimu. At these memories, she can't help but genuinely smile. "With the way you were shaking her the first time you visited, I almost thought she'd opened her eyes."
Faintly, Remilia, too, smiles. "If Marisa didn't stop me midway, maybe she would have."
"Shall I restrain Marisa and the hermit so you can give it another try?" Sakuya playfully questions.
"What about the midget?"
"I figured you wouldn't want to know the gruesome details."
"You're underestimating me, Sakuya," Remilia counters before yawning and neutrally frowning afterwards, as if exceedingly bored. "Well, I'll forgive you for now." After one last sip of her tea, Remilia stands up. "Just go get the parasol ready. We're heading for the shrine."
As expected, Sakuya notes. With a content smile, Sakuya elegantly nods. "Right away, mistress."
. . .
The Hakurei Shrine.
Home to only a faint Autumn breeze, an inchling and a sleeping shrine maiden, one would think the premises remain as quiet and peaceful as always. However, for the past four days, the shrine has been receiving regular visitors, particularly youkai. Though unbefitting of a shrine to have the presence of youkai, the turmoil caused by the shrine maiden's disappearance had a peculiar reaction, and many had come to check on her condition, determined to theorize what exactly had caused it.
Even so, in these early morning hours, equally unbefitting of youkai activity, only the especially regular visitors remain in the shrine. If not for Kasen's continuous aid, an unpleasant amount of dried leaves would have piled up by the shrine grounds, but the surroundings are remarkably clean considering its usual state. Meanwhile, Marisa stays near the futon Reimu is currently sleeping in, watching out for any changes in her condition along with Shinmyoumaru, who had sworn to protect her from 'all these fishy youkai coming in all of a sudden'. Now, Shinmyoumaru is asleep on Marisa's hat, still far too drowsy to be in awake in these hours.
As for Marisa, she is only at the shrine now because she stayed the night. Kasen leaves at dawn and returns in the early morning, before Marisa even awakes, but Marisa has taken to staying in the shrine with Shinmyoumaru, though she hardly shows the amount of concern she is feeling for Reimu. Naturally, Marisa believes that Reimu will recover. However, for Reimu to be like this to begin with is unprecedented, and it surely isn't healthy to sleep for four days straight; Reimu seems pale already. Sometimes, in the boredom of watching Reimu while Shinmyoumaru sleeps, Marisa muses that maybe her soul decided to float away from reality; maybe she'd finally gotten sick of beating up youkai and shooting things down.
... Or not; that would never happen. As Marisa yawns, finding that she surely had been waking up earlier than usual all because of Kasen suddenly startling her the first time around, she briefly glances at Reimu, already expecting her to still be asleep. Marisa sighs. "Figures..." Then, she looks over at Shinmyoumaru, who is sound asleep. "Sure wish I were that carefree..." she mutters before casually and lightly poking Shinmyoumaru; Shinmyoumaru only shifts ever so slightly. As if involuntarily, Marisa wryly smiles. "My hat's not your house, ya know?" Marisa scratches her head, seemingly troubled. Despite that, Marisa does not attempt to wake Shinmyoumaru up any further and instead groggily lifts herself from her spot and stretches, noting her sore neck and arms. Shouldn't have slept on the floor, huh... Marisa then glances at Shinmyoumaru again.
She just can't bring herself to remove Shinmyoumaru and stop her from sleeping; she looks far too adorable like that for Marisa not to want to keep her that way. One time, Marisa tried to wear her hat with Shinmyoumaru resting on it, but the results were disastrous, as Shinmyoumaru had found herself almost falling to the floor: Marisa had then spent about one hour listening to Shinmyoumaru complain and ramble about whatever came to mind. Along the days she had spent in the shrine, especially in the evenings, Shinmyoumaru has truly been good company, as she would rapidly erase her boredom. Overall, they have really started getting along, Marisa notes.
It isn't as though Marisa has only been to the shrine for the past days: she has also gone to Alice's house, to the Myouren Temple, to the Human Village, among other locations hoping to get some sense of closure for the case of Reimu's disappearance. However, nothing entirely conclusive reached Marisa's ears. Youkai were just gossiping about Reimu being gone, and humans were focused on the youkai parade; Mamizou herself did not seem to have gathered much clues (not that she expected much from her after what she did, Marisa begrudgingly notes). No one truly knew what happened to Reimu, and even despite Kasen and Miko's best efforts, they, too had been driven to a corner. Ultimately, Marisa figured the matter would stay a mystery and eventually gave up. After all, Marisa is no detective. Besides, without Reimu awake, no one will ever get to the bottom of anything.
Though it was only Marisa's opinion, Reimu probably knew something about what had caused her own disappearance. With the way Reimu is so deeply slumbering right now, barely anyone had believed her when she told them she had briefly awoken when Marisa found her in the Forest of Magic, but Marisa still remembers it clearly. When she'd opened her eyes, they were hazy, hollow, as if reality were not what she had reflected on her gaze; as if she were seeing something else entirely. She'd blink repeatedly, her eyelids heavy, and a grimace of utter confusion adorned her usually easygoing features; Marisa hadn't quite seen Reimu like this in the time she'd known her. At least, not without knowing why. The way Reimu called out to her, perplexed at the fact that she was even there to begin with still looms in Marisa's mind, even if, at the time, Marisa thought she was only sleep-talking without any rhyme or reason. Now, Marisa thinks there may have been something more to her behavior than that.
Regardless, Marisa has no choice but to wait for her awakening. Kasen has been taking good care of Reimu, but it's clear her current problem is not physical. Even so, Marisa can only wonder what could mentally affect Reimu to the point where she would sleep for four days straight. She'd only rarely seen Reimu sick; the last time she's ever seen Reimu greatly distraught was when her shrine was destroyed after having been built again, which was years ago. Knowing thinking about it now won't get her anywhere, Marisa dismisses the train of thought and decides she may as well check on Kasen while not helping her with the shrine (hearing Kasen nag her about it was still better than cleaning).
"My, slacking off now, are we, Reimu?" Marisa flinches at the sudden voice coming from behind her and turns around with wide eyes, clearly startled. She's experienced this before so, when she sees a very familiar youkai coming out of one of her gaps, Marisa immediately shoots her a blank look, already exasperated at her entrance.
"Do you always have to sneak into places like that? Can't ya use a door?" Marisa crosses her arms, frowning. Many youkai had come to the shrine, but Yukari hadn't appeared at all, and no signs of her presence had been felt by anyone. After four days, what could bring someone so ominous to the shrine? Marisa can only find her suspicious, as always.
"How rude," Yukari lightly remarks, clearly not offended. "What sort of way is that to welcome a visitor concerned for Reimu's health?" Yukari steps closer to Reimu's sleeping form, staring down at her with an indescribable sort of conviction: while not particularly serious or alarmed, Yukari is far from casual and apathetic, as well. "I'd been wondering if she was alright."
"Says the one youkai that wasn't there for Reimu when I really needed you to be," Marisa counters while following Yukari, as if to make sure she isn't doing or thinking anything too sinister. "Which is pretty suspicious, the more I think about it. Aren't you gonna tell me why you weren't around to search for Reimu? I mean, if you're that concerned and all."
Yukari smiles and looks to her side, towards Marisa. She does seem slightly irritated, but only because Yukari's presence always seems to rub her the wrong way. However, also being familiar with it, what is most bringing Marisa negativity is Reimu, Yukari notes; the concern is evident in her gaze. "I was asleep, of course. Daytime is hardly a time for a youkai to be active."
Marisa can only sigh at this response. "Like I said, I sure wish I were that carefree..." she mutters, as if already tired despite having just woken up. Even so, something occurs to her, and Marisa shows herself more invested in the conversation afterwards. "And aren't you sometimes up and about in the morning? Youmu told me your shikigami was in the Netherworld four days ago."
"And why would that be strange? Humans also like playing around at night sometimes," Yukari responds, "Youkai are no different, in this case. Naturally, Ran covered for me and obeyed my orders."
Yukari's reasoning is clean and assertive, leaving little space for argument. While it does add up in Marisa's mind, she still can't help but doubt Yukari in all of her ominous existence. It isn't like Yukari never acts on whims; she's certainly entered her house at random moments without much reason for it. However, Marisa doesn't see that as the usual Yukari: she must have some sort of purpose to her visit; the fact that it's always unclear whether Yukari even has a motive or not only makes her more and more suspicious in her eyes. Perhaps, that's precisely what she wants. "And why'd you send Youmu to the mountain? Don't you normally get Reimu to do these things?"
"I don't recall ever telling Reimu to give me a report," Yukari responds, seemingly amused at Marisa's question. "Are you perhaps so suspicious of me that you've started imagining things by yourself? I might just be more concerned with your health than Reimu's now."
Marisa grimaces, somewhat offended but unwilling to go as far as showing herself angered by Yukari, knowing she would enjoy that. "Well, I've never seen ya ask for something like that either. Why'd you do it, then? Why would you go that far for the mountain? Doesn't look so threatening to me that you'd bother."
Yukari only ever so slightly narrows her eyes, and her smile widens just as faintly. "You're certainly full of questions today, Marisa," Yukari remarks. "I suppose it's good to be so energetic in the morning, though that description hardly fits me, admittedly enough. Speaking of, I didn't think it would fit you; I can only imagine the hermit is doing wonders on your usual schedule." Marisa's eyebrows only furrow at what seems to be Yukari's way of avoiding the topic. "Regardless, I may not really look like it, but I do get busy from time to time to the point where I can't be on top of every single situation by myself. So, what do you believe friends are for, in these situations?"
"So you were too busy sleeping?" Marisa blankly questions, clearly doubtful. She had actually thought Yukari would simply not answer her, but even the answer itself is unsatisfying.
At the inquiry, Yukari elegantly chuckles, momentarily covering her mouth with her fan as she does so. "As a matter of fact, I was. Are you interested in knowing how?"
"Looks like I'm not the only one full of questions today," Marisa dryly retorts, getting somewhat impatient at Yukari's roundabout ways. Marisa, being so straightforward, only wishes Yukari would simply state her business clearly and go through with whatever it is said business happens to be.
"I must be especially well-rested now," Yukari says, almost dismissively so. "Though my nap four days ago was not particularly good for resting, I did feel refreshed, in a way. Did you know? I had quite the dream while Reimu was missing. I'd truly not rampaged like that in a long time; it proved rather satisfying."
"Now, now," Yukari utters, noting Marisa's vacant stare, as if struggling to absorb something wholly irrelevant. "Isn't it bad manners not to properly listen? I'm telling you this out of my goodwill; I'd surely like some appreciation in that regard." Goodwill? Don't make me laugh, Marisa thinks, but decides she may as well listen since it seems Yukari will not finish her business otherwise and keep pressing onward. "Anyway, where was I...?" For a moment, Yukari pensively and almost absent-mindedly looks up at the ceiling. Then, she playfully smiles. "Oh yes, the dream. I'd dreamt of a flower; a flower who can't dream, to be precise. The flower was so dejected when I first found him, that I figured I may as well ease his non-existent spirits. I decided we set up a judgment ground to reach our conclusions: a way in which we could determine whether there was any worth to those who don't sit at the border between humans and youkai. However, between me, someone who sees the society of Gensokyo in such a biased fashion, and the flower, who was going to be judged to begin with, there was no fair, unbiased judge. Still, I tricked the flower: I told him I could provide him this judge, when there was never such a thing to begin with at my disposal. In turn, I pointed to someone almost as biased as myself, but lacking in the context I possessed."
Marisa takes in Yukari's words with a remarkably serious frown. "That's... An oddly specific dream you're telling me about." She hadn't thought there was meaning to it at first, but the more she thinks about it, the more she may have been wrong in light of its contents.
"For a dream, it was very marking, so I remember it vividly," Yukari responds. "Don't you also have your share of dreams of long ago you still remember?" The question is rhetorical, and Marisa doesn't bother to answer. Instead, she decides to focus on Yukari's story. Noting said surfacing investment, Yukari can't help but smile in amusement. "Whatever the case, at the time, I knew how much of a hassle it would be to set up this judgment ground, but still, I busied myself forcing the cooperation of beings much more knowledgeable than myself in these areas. Most were unwilling to aid us, warning us of 'great dangers' and whatnot, so the flower and I had to beat them senseless." Yukari snickers, reminiscing. "When we did get a hold of one, we carried out my plan. With the help of a certain someone who gladly agreed to share their own dreams and recollections, we built the perfect unsubstantial judgment ground. And so, we watched. Things were looking up for the flower's side. Even the flower was surprised at the lack of carnage, and I was ever so slightly disappointed. By the very end, though it had been more than evident already, I requested a clear, solid verdict and sent the flower as a means to attain one. Is the flower guilty, or innocent? Forgiven or unforgivable? In the end, the flower was found innocent and our judgment ground came to an abrupt close, without even the time to chat with the flower. Afterwards, I woke up, unscathed."
Marisa holds her chin with her right hand, ever so slightly covering her mouth as she stands deep in thought. Judgment ground? 'A certain someone'? To begin with, why was she working with a flower? Who did she have to beat? Marisa feels as if she'd been given the answers on a silver platter, but is still unable to decipher them; that fact mildly irritates her. Is this truly just a random dream for the youkai of boundaries, one that she merely decided to tell Marisa out of her own whims for her amusement? Or was it something else? Regardless, not expecting Marisa to speak up, Yukari frowns, continuing with her own words: "Four days later, and I find that Reimu is still asleep. I thought there would be a party right about now."
Yukari seems genuinely troubled by this development, Marisa notes; at least, her expression indicates it quite clearly. As much as Marisa is curious about Yukari's dream, thinking it must be the key to something, she finds the topic of Reimu easier to ponder on and approach, and someone like Yukari could provide her with clues. "About that," she utters, "do you have any idea why Reimu's like this?"
"I might," she responds, almost about to disappoint Marisa greatly before she continues to speak: "You know, Marisa, dreams are very dangerous things." A cold, almost somber gaze befalls Yukari as she explains this, almost as if to further evidence that the matter is of the utmost urgency. "When you dream, your consciousness leaves for an entirely different world where you can experience anything at all. Haven't you ever heard of people who dream of falling indefinitely? There are even those who dream of death itself. You can dismiss it as not part of your reality, but the fact that your mind was experiencing it still stands, and whatever shock you feel will ultimately affect you mentally. Sometimes, the sheer mental trauma may lead people to insanity, or even make them never wake up again. Because of this, those who have the innate power to control dreams, too, are among the most dangerous of youkai." Yukari's words weigh on Marisa, who listens to this in a mixture of shock and dread. If even Yukari considers it a dangerous matter, it must surely be so; Marisa herself had never given much thought to dreams in this manner. "But then again, dreams themselves are malleable: if you find yourself dreaming, you can use whatever power you imagine, which is just as dangerous. If you consider this, wouldn't she perhaps still be asleep because her own mind was forcefully disrupted or disturbed? Reimu's mind is likely taking the toll of an especially shocking and unnatural dream."
Awed, Marisa stares at Yukari for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "You mean... She might be like this just because of a dream?" Marisa questions, incredulous.
"Dreams weigh heavily on the mind; they are an integral part of your subconscious. Under the appropriate circumstances, they would be more than capable of causing something like this." As she stares down at a sleeping Reimu, Yukari sighs, seemingly troubled. Though I didn't expect youkai masterful in dream manipulation to cause a mishap as embarrassing and incompetent as this one. Regardless, Yukari manages a faint smile. "In any case, this is Reimu we are talking about. Even if something were to have momentarily disturbed her subconscious, she will probably come back as if nothing ever occurred to her. I admittedly came over here because I was worried, but with how peacefully she seems to be sleeping, I've no doubt she'll wake up soon."
... Despite such words from Yukari, Marisa finds herself apprehensively chuckling. "Still, dreams are pretty scary, huh?"
"On the other hand, you can also experience all sorts of positive sensations from them," Yukari adds, looking towards Marisa with a devious smile. "So it can also make your wishes come true, even if not in a physical sense. After all, nothing about a dream is truly substantial."
"I dunno about you, but I don't think that makes 'em all that much better..." Marisa glances at Shinmyoumaru, who is currently still asleep. She wonders what sort of dream she is seeing. I hope she's alright over there, she momentarily thinks. "I mean, it's not even like you can dream forever."
"You'd be surprised at the number of entities who've only ever lived in dreams," Yukari lightly retorts, though something about it strikes Marisa as awfully serious.
Marisa wryly smiles before snidely uttering, "I bet you probably dream a lot, too."
Yukari lowly chuckles. "That I do, but lately, I've been having quite the nightmares. I do wonder if someone has a grudge on me now," Yukari playfully remarks, as if only amused at what Marisa perceives to be an entirely dangerous situation. "Anyway, now that you know why I was so busy the day Reimu went missing and I have some closure on Reimu's condition, I suppose I'll leave."
Surprised and skeptic, Marisa frowns. "Wait, that's all you came here for?"
"Of course," Yukari responds without hesitation or hassle. "Were you expecting something else? I did say I came here because I was concerned with Reimu's health, but I've already verified that Reimu's just fine. Now, I'll have to busy myself with other things, such as what exactly happened while I wasn't looking. I had Youmu go to the mountain for a reason." Or multiple reasons, but Yukari has no business telling that to Marisa.
In fact, she never had much business telling Marisa about that dream, either. However, Yukari opened an exception for her because she knew Marisa would never truly understand it, especially as she had hardly diclosed most of her true intentions. Even if she did, it wouldn't trouble her or her plans, which had all come to fruition already. Besides, she did enjoy confusing Marisa from time to time. Meanwhile, if she'd told Kasen, she would most likely catch on. Yukari knows Marisa will tell her, but the details will be vague, and suspicion is ephemeral. Besides, her actions were all for Gensokyo's common good, and Kasen is on her side. Whatever others may throw at her, Yukari is convicted of that. "Well, goodbye," Yukari says before stepping back from Reimu and opening a gap in front of her to step towards. Without giving Marisa any time to say any parting words, Yukari merely slips in, and the gap disappears. Marisa stares at it for a while, processing Yukari's visit. Just what exactly was Yukari's dream? And, more importantly, what dream did Reimu have that would render her in this state?
Meanwhile, Yukari's priorities lie elsewhere: the nature of the entities she has just allowed into Gensokyo. Though anything supernatural, by definition, classifies as a sort of youkai, the way in which the mountain's people function strays from the core of 'youkai', and cannot be fit into Humanity either. However, Gensokyo is to welcome all that is fantastical that the Outside will not. The mountain population, too, fits in with this label. Still, if they are ever to adapt to the laws of Gensokyo, they must do so under the youkai role, and for that, a watchful eye will have to be kept on them. Yukari had been eyeing Mt. Ebott ever since the legends started to fade, and she had known it better than to risk it transporting itself to its present time, where youkai tensions may just grow. In this particular state of time, where only small sparks are present, the mountain is much more manageable, and she can see to it they become but a backdrop to the conflict. If anything, she already has.
No one truly knows about this, but Mt. Ebott had actually appeared the day before Reimu's disappearance. Its first visitor was Yukari, the very person that momentarily hid the mountain from Gensokyo's eyes so as to go about her own business. The second visitor was Ran, her shikigami, who had been the one to truly interact with the monsters whilst Yukari talked to other, more special existences. Luckily, the human was more than cooperative, and they promised to keep every detail of Yukari's visit their own little secret.
Yukari quietly chuckles. Even though surprising events such as the youkai parade and Reimu's slumber had occurred, things went swimmingly for Yukari. Now, she only has to wait for the party.
. . .
Kasen returned to the shrine building proper an hour after Marisa's conversation with Yukari. When she did, Marisa immediately told her of Yukari's dream and the theory she had left her about Reimu's condition. She firmly nodded, finding it more than within the realm of possibility that a dream could be the cause of Reimu's mental shock. However, Yukari's visit and the supposed strange dream struck as the oddest part for her. Was the dream merely told to Marisa so as to segway into the topic of Reimu's condition, or did it hold a special sort of meaning none can truly comprehend? As she prepares tea for Marisa, herself and Shinmyoumaru, who'd just awoken, she continues to ponder on this.
Meanwhile, Marisa and Shinmyoumaru take to conversing in the midst of their boredom near Reimu. "Seriously, that Yukari youkai just sounds creepy," Shinmyoumaru comments, "I bet she was saying that to throw you off and pretending it was useful; what a bully!" Presently, Marisa is sitting on the floor, and Shinmyoumaru is on top of her right shoulder so she can be better heard when speaking. Feeling Shinmyoumaru's feet on her shoulder is a very strange sensation, Marisa casually notes, but she also finds it cool that she literally has a tiny person on her right shoulder so she is willing to let that slide.
"I dunno about that," Marisa responds, not particularly irritated or surprised now that so much time has passed since the conversation. She now recalls it in a more nonchalant fashion, more worried over Reimu's condition than anything else. "When she's just messin' around with me, I don't think she usually does it that elaborately. Why'd she make up some dream just so it'd sound smart?"
"Because she's a bully, duh! She's looking down on you!" Shinmyoumaru argues, absolutely convinced this youkai Marisa talked about was up to no good and probably shouldn't be trusted. "And you fell for it like an idiot!" Shinmyoumaru crosses her arms while cheekily smiling. "I bet she's laughing at you now. If you had woken me up, I would've told her off for you and you wouldn't have been humiliated. That's why you totally should've woken me up and let me meet her!"
"You're just saying that because you wanted to see her, aren't ya?" Marisa blankly questions.
"Maaaaaybe," Shinmyoumaru responds in a mock-innocent fashion. Then, she frowns, slightly pensive. "I mean, she kind of sounds like a big deal, and she knew what happened to Reimu right away, didn't she? Maybe she knows a way for the Miracle Mallet to recover its power faster!"
Marisa glances at Shinmyoumaru, who she can barely see from the corner of her eye. "I think you'd be better off asking someone else," she says, "And, trust me, you might as well never see her, too. Yukari's the definition of 'suspicious'. You should be glad she doesn't randomly go into your house just because she feels like it."
"That'd suck," Shinmyoumaru immediately utters, imagining her privacy being invaded constantly by a suspicious-looking lady.
"Right?" Marisa was about to shrug, but she notes that this could make Shinmyoumaru lose her balance and fall off her shoulder, so she refrains from the action. "No matter how you slice it, you're the lucky one here, not me. She just dumped some cryptic stuff on me and left."
Shinmyoumaru finds herself reluctantly nodding only because she still wanted to oppose Marisa somehow; however, she can't help but agree. "Yeah, I guess you were unlucky. While I was just peacefully sleeping through the whole thing, you were getting bullied and hurt and scared by some youkai, which is really pitiful." Shinmyoumaru smirks. "That's just the worst. Sucks to be you."
Marisa's smile becomes more apprehensive in nature. "You didn't have to rub it in." Naturally, to get back at Shinmyoumaru, Marisa planned on saying something else, some mean-spirited remark that would assert her superiority in banter. However, Marisa is immediately rendered silent by what she sees in front of her.
Reimu shifts in place, her hands trembling. Marisa and Shinmyoumaru look at this in awe, with their mouths agape. Seeing Reimu's eyelids show signs of movement as well, Marisa and Shinmyoumaru glance at each other in pure surprise. "H-hey..." Shinmyoumaru calls out, as if Marisa's presence and support could calm her extreme anxiety. "Could it be that s-she..."
Faintly, Marisa and Shinmyoumaru hear Reimu groan. They snap their attention to her immediately. They continue gawking at the fact that Reimu's eyes are slowly opening. Reimu is blinking in succession in order to better dismiss her drowsiness as she attempts to raise from the futon, only to grimace. "Ugh, why am I so sore...?" Reimu mutters, perplexed.
"REIMU!" Shinmyoumaru leaps from Marisa's shoulder and rushes for Reimu just after processing that she truly is waking up before her very eyes. Agitated, Marisa follows, but draws her distance by only positioning herself near Reimu's futon. Meanwhile, Shinmyoumaru grabs onto Reimu's arm as if her life depends on it, which makes Reimu shift her gaze towards Shinmyoumaru in complete confusion and awkwardness.
"W-what's gotten into you all of a sudden?" Reimu asks, surprised. She lifts her arm, which is also extremely sore, and watches Shinmyoumaru still grasping it, floating in the air. Now that Shinmyoumaru is at her eye level, Reimu notes that she is crying. "Seriously..." Concerned, but mainly confused at this level of sadness, Reimu scratches her head with her other arm while glancing around. Then, she notices Marisa.
Marisa is smiling down at Reimu, though in a much more somber manner than Reimu is used to. "Took you long enough," Marisa wryly remarks, unsure of how else to express her relief. "You've been sleeping for four days straight."
Reimu's eyes only widen further at this discovery. "Wait, what?!" She looks down at a crying Shinmyoumaru, processing her genuine sadness, and back at Marisa, who isn't lying, for once. "I was...?"
Marisa crosses her arms. "You don't remember? You passed out in the Forest of Magic and went missing for a whole day. If I hadn't found ya, you'd have stayed there." Reimu takes in these words, still in shock.
Hearing footsteps, Marisa looks towards the door, which is swiftly slid to the side to make way for Kasen. "Just what is going on h— You...!" Kasen immediately spots an awakened Reimu and frowns. "Do you know how much trouble you caused us?! You were sleeping for four days! That's four days of me taking care of your shrine for you, and four days of you slacking off in your duties!" Reimu vacantly blinks at the sight of Kasen, who had suddenly entered the room and seemingly lectured her, something Reimu hardly wants to hear after waking up at the shrine completely sore. Figuring that Reimu didn't truly listen to a word she said, probably having just woken up from her slumber, Kasen silences herself, stares at her for a moment, and exhales in pure relief. "Just... Thank goodness you're up, Reimu."
Reimu awkwardly grimaces, still completely uncertain of what to make of this situation. "Uh, okay," she utters, if not just to relay to Kasen that she is responsive. Confused, even bewildered, Reimu takes to thinking of her circumstances, furrowing her eyebrows in mild frustration as she finds herself sick of her own awe-struck state. She feels a small part of her arm getting wet and briefly looks down at Shinmyoumaru with a blank gaze, but she can't bring herself to remove her. "So... Let me see if I get this straight: in the morning of the incident, I saw the mountain and decided to check it out. And then..." At first, she draws a blank and pauses, scrambling for some form of a recollection of the past event. "And then, while I was flying... I felt all drowsy, and before I knew it..."
"You were passed out at the Forest of Magic," Marisa interjects, thinking this would actually help Reimu process what had occurred to her faster.
However, against her expectations, Reimu's expression shows even more confusion than before as she shifts her gaze towards Marisa. "Huh? Wait, you found me at the Forest of Magic, right?"
"That's what I've been telling ya," Marisa responds, more perplexed at the fact that Reimu is in such a way confused than anything. Just what sort of thing scrambled her mind this hard? Marisa thinks, slightly worried.
"But the last thing I remember is..." Reimu casts her eyes to the sheets covering her legs, narrowing them as she gives serious thought to her own memories. She reminds herself of the voice that called her name and put an end to the reality she had been seeing; Marisa's voice. "So, in other words, I was always at the Forest of Magic?"
"Not unless you were sleepwalking," Marisa says, "which I'm pretty sure you don't do."
"I was sleeping the whole time..." Reimu mutters to herself, as if to dispel her own disbelief.
Worryingly, Kasen and Marisa glance at each other. "Reimu," Kasen softly calls out. "Is there something else you remember that doesn't match up?"
"So you'd SPARE me?"
Some of the details slipped away from her mind, but Reimu can still vividly remember the last moments.
"To be honest, I had fun watching you. Maybe this Gensokyo place won't bore me for longer than I thought if it's full of people like you."
Suddenly, a headache surges, causing Reimu to reflexively clutch her head with the arm Shinmyoumaru was grabbing onto. "Whoa...!" Shinmyoumaru shouts, admittedly shocked at the movement as she struggles to grab on and fails to do so, causing her to fall to the sheets, in between Reimu's legs. "W-what's wrong with you this time?!"
"Can't you tell?"
"R-Reimu?" Marisa utters, surprised.
While Marisa watches on in worry, Kasen kneels down beside Reimu immediately. "Is everything alright? If it hurts thinking about it, you don't have to, you know? There's no pressure."
"I've been watching you from the start."
"it wasn't so bad havin' someone like you fall down here, for a change."
"THIS IS THE GREAT PAPYRUS YOU'RE TALKING TO NOW! DO YOU AT LEAST REMEMBER THAT?!"
"I'll be waiting."
"Are you... r-really human?"
"When I leave for the surface, I'll find you and get that rematch if it's the last thing I'll do. Got that?! You'll see how determined monsters can be then!"
"You are truly one of a kind, child."
"Going back to Snowdin is too troublesome now that I'm all the way over here, so tell Papyrus I'll give everything back to him on the other side."
Reimu only scowls through the pain, bearing it for the sake of the memories that had remained with her. The confusion is still apparent in her mind, which still seems to struggle to make out reality, but Reimu sees in her the need to endure it. She looks down at the sheets, on which Shinmyoumaru is lying on, staring back at Reimu in a mixture of shock and worry, much like Marisa and Kasen, who don't exactly know what to make of Reimu's mental turmoil.
Meanwhile, Reimu, even in spite of the pain, tries to piece together what she can remember: she'd been to the Underground, trapped by a barrier, and interacted with many different sorts of youkai that, in the end, were never youkai to begin with before seeing the end of her adventure with him, the flower. While no one knew of Gensokyo or could even conceive Reimu's society, he explicitly referenced it, as if he had been there; as if he were a newcomer.
"It's me, Flowey! Flowey, the flower!"
In a slower fashion than usual, Reimu picks Shinmyoumaru up. "W-what's the big deal now, seriously?! Just tell us something already!" Shinmyoumaru exclaims as she flails her arms and legs around, having been grabbed by her kimono. Reimu drops her near Kasen, next to the futon before moving the sheets away from her legs. As expected, there are no leg warmers; her bag is also missing. This doesn't faze Reimu. "First, you worry us for no good reason, and now you're just moving me as you please?! You're way too mean, Reimu!" Instead, Kasen and Marisa can only look in wonder as Reimu's strained expression gradually softens in its suffering and becomes one closer and closer to pure conviction.
It isn't as though Reimu is no longer confused. Instead, Reimu is simply resolute despite her deep confusion. Pressing her hand onto the floor next to her, she uses that force as a way to propel her sore self up from the bed and succeeds, though not without at first spreading her arms out briefly so as to balance herself. She grimaces from the pain, but her gaze remains full of resolve as she faces the exit out of the room. "I'm sorry for worrying you before, but I'm going to the mountain now."
"... Huh?" Marisa, Shinmyoumaru and Kasen collectively utter in light of the tremendously sudden statement from Reimu, which seems to have no origin they could ever trace.
"See you later," she says before walking out of the room without any hesitation, leaving the three behind. At a fast pace, ignoring her sore muscles and great hunger (which has just started settling in), she quickly takes to exiting the shrine, though not without hearing footsteps from behind her.
"Reimu, wait! You're in no condition to do something like that right now!" a voice Reimu can easily associate with Kasen shouts in an agitated fashion, but Reimu does not look back or slow down.
"What's gotten into ya all of a sudden?!" However, at Marisa's voice, Reimu merely narrows her eyes. It was Marisa who awoke her from that dream...
That dream which Reimu almost perceived as real; Reimu cannot simply go on without getting to the bottom of it. What was the purpose behind it? Why did she fall asleep only to see it? Who had caused her to dream? Whoever it was, Reimu resolutely notes, they will learn their lesson no matter what.
As Reimu faces the sunlight, now outside, she smiles. As if even the sun were supporting her, Reimu feels herself ever so slightly warmer despite the faint breeze. Moving forward, she notices the clean state of her shrine with slight wonder. Kasen had truly been helping her, and the first people there for her were Marisa and Shinmyoumaru. Marisa had searched for her.
Reimu had never really thought she would be missed. Naturally, the thought brought anger upon her, as she felt that she, of all people, held the right to be missed. However, now that others have truly shown concern over her missing self, Reimu can only somberly smile.
Just as she is about to take off into the air, she spots a tiny figure at a short distance from her. They seem to have just gone up the stairs to the shrine, and look clearly human. A visitor to the shrine? While Reimu had plans to leave, she finds herself approaching and staring at the child that had appeared before her. "Hello there," Reimu kindly greets as she bends her knees somewhat so as to be closer to the child's line of sight. "Did you come all this way to pray? I appreciate the visit, but the path is dangerous for a child to walk around alone. Where are your parents?"
The child raises their face in Reimu's direction, but their eyes remain closed. Looking them over in case they happen to be wounded, Reimu only finds that their clothing is not normal: wearing a blue and purple striped shirt and shorts, they hardly seem dressed up for the late Autumn weather.
The child smiles, and tells Reimu that they are in a mountain.
"Huh?" Reimu utters, perplexed. "In a mountain?" However, as she gives thought to the child's response, she frowns. "Are they hurt? Did you come to me for help?"
The child shakes their head.
Reimu can certainly see that the child does not look as though they have gone through any sort of traumatic event. "Then... Could you be from the Outside World? Your outfit looks foreign, after all. You must be lost." Reimu sighs. "I suppose a visitor would be too good to be true..."
The child proceeds to inform Reimu that they are, in fact, a visitor.
Reimu's eyes widen in surprise. "Really?" The child immediately nods in response, which leaves Reimu to awkwardly glance to the side. "I see..." It seems as though they are not an Outsider, surprisingly enough. Reimu manages a small smile and looks back at the child. "Well, as I said, you're welcome here, but you shouldn't be going to the shrine alone. The next time you decide to go, take someone from your family here, alright?" The child nods again. "After you're done here, I'll take you home just this once, so you better follow through with that." It looks like I'll have to leave the flower for later...
The child stretches their hand out to Reimu, offering her a handshake.
From the doors of the shrine building, Marisa and Kasen, along with Shinmyoumaru, who is on Marisa's shoulder once more, take sight of this interaction with curious eyes. They can only see Reimu from behind, so they are unable to make out her expression, and they are too far away from her to listen in on the conversation, but still, they find themselves simply staring at the mysterious child.
As Reimu returns their handshake with a curious gaze, she feels the child's grip on her hand weakening. They are still brightly smiling in a manner as warm as the sunlight Reimu is currently feeling, and there is a distinct lack of hesitation in the handshake itself. In it is a sort of determination Reimu can't quite place.
When the child lets go of Reimu, they falter, wobbling in place slightly. Noticing this, they sheepishly scratch their head, as if the matter were only lightly troublesome. "Wait, are you okay?" Reimu asks, surprised at their sudden deteriorating condition. Even now, their hands tremble frantically, and the child's smile fades as they frown pensively and curiously. They seem almost unfazed. As if to prove it, they shrug in response to Reimu's question. "You definitely don't look like you're okay." Though, she, too, feels just as lacking in energy, albeit she has no great concern for her own condition. She knows she is better off remaining in the shrine for the sake of her health, but she has other priorities. "Really, it's nice to have visitors, but you should go home to your parents. Where's your house? I'll take you there right now. I was about to go out anyway, so this is actually convenient."
Calmly, the child shakes their head, as if to immediately refuse her offer. Seemingly exasperated, Reimu scowls, but she is given no time to reprimand them for their recklessness as the child begins to fall on their back, onto the shrine grounds. "Hey...!" Reimu shouts as she rushes to grab onto the child so they would not hit their head, and she manages to succeed at this, having wrapped her arms around their back before it hit the ground. However, in face of this direct contact, the child is unresponsive, and their head hangs back, heavy. They seem to be unconscious, and Reimu can hear their quiet breathing. They did not look particularly weak when she scrutinized them. In fact, as Reimu raises their head by placing one of her hand on its back, Reimu feels their forehead with her own as if to check their temperature. Reimu grimaces in confusion: they seem perfectly fine. "Were they just tired...?"
"Woah, what happened with the kid?" a familiar voice asks from behind Reimu, warranting only a glance from her. Marisa is standing nearby, staring at Reimu and the child with a remarkably nonchalant expression on her face, the most present in terms of emotions being light curiosity. Grabbing onto Marisa's shirt is Shinmyoumaru, still on top of Marisa's shoulder. "They just passed out all of a sudden."
"I'm not sure," Reimu responds, "They're just sleeping now." Troubled, Reimu attempts to lift the child so as to carry them. To her weakened self, this is admittedly more of a struggle than it should've been seeing as the child is lighter than normal, but she winces, only barely being able to withstand carrying them. "Since I don't know where they live, I'm taking them to the shrine until they wake up."
"So you're not going to the mountain anymore?" Shinmyoumaru questions while frowning Reimu's way. Even now, she feels some form of resentment for the way Reimu had so suddenly left her behind.
"Not for today, at least. I can't just leave them here and go to the mountain." Reimu shrugs in a strained manner as she walks towards the shrine building, spotting Kasen nearby.
Kasen is eyeing the child in awe, only to look up at Reimu with a serious, ominous frown on her face. "Isn't this similar to what happened to you? They've fallen asleep." At first, Reimu blinks, bewildered by her words. However, she then grimaces.
"Another victim, huh..." Reimu mutters while coldly looking down at the child, peacefully slumbering. It looks like I really need to go get some answers out of that mountain... And out of that flower. "I'll get to the bottom of this."
. . .
Ultimately, Kasen and Marisa left the Hakurei Shrine, both with differing destinations. While Marisa looked to tell other people of Reimu's awakening, Kasen was supposedly going to report about this second victim to Miko, who is currently investigating the incident. Although Remilia and Sakuya had gone to visit Reimu, they thought she would be asleep and were satisfied when they saw her awake, so they left quickly. After finally having some form of lunch with Shinmyoumaru, who is acting especially sulky around her to the point of having left to her own tiny room, Reimu is now simply sitting near the futon she had been asleep in, staring at the child who has taken her place.
Truthfully, she wants to fly to the mountain immediately. While she was lacking in energy before, she feels better now, and finds the fact that she has to merely watch over a child to be a waste of her time she could be spending subduing the culprit. However, not wanting to take any risks in regards to their health, Reimu is forced to wait for their awakening, assuming it will come today. "I wonder if I can get Kasen to stick around for them..." After all, she did stay for Reimu.
Reimu sighs. "I need to meet that flower somehow..." Extremely bored after more than an hour of staring at the child, Reimu figures she needs fresh air and decides to leave the room. The more she delays her trip to the mountain, the more likely it will be for the number of victims to increase. Whatever the nature of this incident happens to be, Reimu is the only one with a clear lead and knows that she must take action.
Finding herself face to face with the early afternoon sky, Reimu faintly smiles. "Well, just you wait..." She does not need to stray any further from the room; Reimu decides to watch the sky from the shrine's entrance. Simply being outside is refreshing to Reimu, who feels as though she has barely moved for a very long time. She stretches as her eyes fall upon the mountain in the horizon, adding to the landscape of Gensokyo.
"They're not a victim, you know?"
Reimu's eyes widen in shock at the familiar voice. Immediately, she turns to its source, which she assumes to be by her right, near a corner of the shrine's outer walls. She'd recognized that voice from her dream, to the point where she doubted her ears until she took sight of the one entity she had been looking for.
A golden flower, slyly smiling in her direction. "They CHOSE to be in that state. They're more of an accomplice than I ever was."
"Flowey..." Reimu mutters, taking in his presence. So he was real after all. I knew it...
"Golly, you remember? And here I thought I was nothing special to you," he snidely remarks, seemingly amused. "Your words, not mine."
"You're talking about that dream, right?" As Reimu looks down at Flowey, she finds herself smiling. "I admittedly didn't think I'd have the culprit come over for me, but it's sure convenient!" Immediately, she grasps five amulets, seemingly prepared for battle.
Meanwhile, Flowey frowns, ever so slightly exasperated at Reimu's attitude. "Were you even listening? I'm not the mastermind," he plainly asserts. "If anything, I'm a victim just like you. I was actually forced into the whole plan by the culprit herself." Though she shows herself doubtful, a memory surges to mind.
"Anyway, just ignore whatever it is that's bringing you back and answer the question already. I REALLY don't wanna know what she'll do to me if you don't."
For a moment, Reimu feels lightheaded, but recovers while wearing a grimace. "And why did you come here? To tell me about the mastermind? After all, if you were forced, you of all people would know who the mastermind is."
"Of course I know who she is. But then again, I'm not stupid enough to go against HER," Flowey says, "so I'm not here because of that. Besides, I've been here ever since you got carried to the shrine." Flowey glances to the side. "I just decided to reveal myself now because I figured you were thinking this is all some continuous incident you had to solve."
Reimu raises her eyebrows in pure skepticism. "Isn't it one? I've been put to sleep and so has a kid visiting my shrine. For all I know, there could be some youkai inducing sleep on people who needs to be punished, and I need to stop them."
"See? You're completely wrong, just like I expected," Flowey wryly remarks, smirking as he looks up at Reimu, who is now furrowing her eyebrows in irritation from the quick rejection of her theory. "Think about it. Where did the Underground and all the monsters you dreamed up even come from? SOMEONE had to give up their own dreams for you."
"Are you saying that kid is in league with the mastermind?" Reimu questions in disbelief. Then, her grimace only deepens further. "Are you sure they weren't forced into it like you were?"
"I know them better than you do. After hearing it was for everyone's sake, they probably didn't even hesitate to cooperate with her. What an idiot, right?" Despite the mean-spirited grin he wore as he said that, his stem returned to his usual expression, though he now frowns, displeased. "They didn't think about the risks at all and ended up just like you because they got their dreams messed around with. They weren't even supposed to be awake back then. I bet they were just that determined to see you. I don't know what dream they saw, but it probably had something to do with you."
Reluctantly, Reimu takes in Flowey's words, perceiving the scenario they paint to be entirely conceivable. After all, she had also been able to wake up for a brief moment, making it possible that the child, too, was awake only temporarily before falling asleep due to their scrambled mind. Besides, this also explains why they would visit Reimu to begin with: because they knew about her and wanted to see her face-to-face. Reimu narrows her eyes, pensive. "Then, in the end, what was the point of doing something like that? Dreams don't affect anything in reality. Did the culprit just want to anger me?"
"I guess it wouldn't be strange for you to assume something like that. It looked pretty meaningless, didn't it? After all, the monsters you dreamed about will never remember you. They never actually met you to begin with." Flowey smirks, relishing in the bitter truth, finding only amusement in it as he cannot feel much else. "All you saw was copy of what THEY had to go through. Having you there is as pointless as it gets. At least, that's what I thought at first. When I asked her about her motive, she said it was to see whether even the Hakurei Shrine Maiden would accept the monsters into Gensokyo or not. But, in my opinion..." Flowey's smirk only widens. "That was probably a big fat lie. If the monsters hadn't been accepted already, they wouldn't have been allowed to come over here at all. SHE would have made sure of it. The REAL reason she set the whole thing up is so everybody else would start accepting monsters faster. She just brought me along because she wanted me to meet you."
"... Is that so?" Reimu absent-mindedly questions in the midst of her varying thoughts about the myriad of clues she received from Flowey. Her gaze cold, she sees herself reaching ever closer to the truth. Ultimately, she finds herself grimacing, troubled. "I think I'm starting to get who this mastermind even is... If she bothered to tell you something like that without making sure you wouldn't keep quiet, it's because she had no reservations about being found out in the first place. But then again, since it was all a dream, there's no evidence to begin with, huh?" Reimu sighs as a clear indication of her decreasing motivation to pursue the mountain. "What a bother... Well, she'll get what's coming for her the next time around. For now, I'm curious about the last thing you told me." With a neutral expression, she crosses her arms and raises her eyebrows. "You think she brought you to my dream because she wanted me to meet you, right? I agree: it's either that, or one of her whims; you can never be too sure when it comes to her. Still, what makes you so special she'd bother bringing you to my attention? Aren't you just a monster?"
"I wish," Flowey responds while wistfully looking to the side, as if to avoid Reimu's clear gaze. His smile is wry and sour as he reminisces, exasperation welling up inside of him. "I'm just a flower right now, but I USED to be a monster. It's a long story. You probably don't have the patience to listen to it, if the dream's anything to go by. What matters now is that I don't have a soul anymore and she must have wanted you to keep an eye out for me because of it."
"You don't have a soul...?" Reimu mutters, skeptical. She stares at Flowey for a few moments, as if to see through him. Now that he mentions it... Finding that she was being awfully silent, Flowey turns to look at Reimu again, only to see a strangely serious and ominous expression from her. "You... Are pretty strange-seeming. There's definitely something off about you. You live in the mountain, right?" I suppose I'll have to pay a visit for other reasons...
Flowey frowns in a seemingly troubled, awkward fashion. "Uh. About that." Seeing an overwhelming look of curiosity placed upon him, Flowey scrambles to cheerfully smile and winks, as if to make himself more endearing and convincing. "You're curious about why I showed up to talk, aren'tcha? It couldn't have been just to prove you wrong, after all. Well, I've been in the shrine for a while now, so I've been thinking..." So as to avoid Reimu's gaze, Flowey innocently looks to the side. "Maybe I should just start living here forever?"
"You know, because I don't actually have anywhere to call a home right now," Flowey says while willfully ignoring Reimu, whose expression of confusion is awfully severe. "And, all things considered, this IS the safest place in all of Gensokyo. I mean, I technically don't need anywhere to live in, so it's not like you have to do anything for me either. I just need a place I can stay at without risking an attack by some random youkai. Besides..." Flowey's cheerful expression suddenly decays as a demented, eerie smile and big, wide eyes stare precisely into Reimu's; Reimu herself isn't particularly intimidated by the attempt. "I'm more dangerous than I look. Without somebody watching over me, who knows what I could do?" In fact, Reimu's dumbfounded, exceedingly confused expression remains in place.
"Are you serious right now?" Reimu's eyebrows furrow and she frowns, displeased. "This is a shrine, you know? It's not a place made to accommodate weird things like you. I'm not about to let you loiter around when there are already baseless rumors about this place being a youkai shrine!" she argues, finding herself angrier and angrier the more she ponders on her shrine. Naturally, she is not aware of the many youkai that have visited it already in the past few days, but even then, the shrine had been visited by others in the past, and the reputation remains.
His stem displaying his usual expression, Flowey is currently frowning, equally displeased. "I only asked for your approval because I didn't want to bother hiding from you, but I can also do that if you don't accept me being here. I'll hang around the shrine whether you want to or not. It's still safer and quieter than the other places in Gensokyo." Flowey casts his gaze to the ground in a seemingly somber manner. "And it's not like I can go back to the Underground now..." As if his thoughts lent him even more strength of will than before, he looks back up at Reimu with an unnaturally long scowl and darkened eyes. "I could kill someone if you don't keep me around, you know? I could go to the Human Village and kill every single one of the humans in it. She brought me to you for a reason. She KNOWS I could do it. I know I could do it. Are you REALLY sure you'd rather take that chance?" His twisted scowl twists further into a crooked smirk. "You saw me in your dreams. I was relentless. For all you know, I could be tricking you into thinking I WON'T cause any trouble as long as you're around and start killing everyone you know without you noticing it."
"... You must be desperate, huh?" Reimu nonchalantly remarks, but her gaze is cold and assertive. "If you're trying to threaten me like that, you must really want to make sure I watch over you. Are you that scared of doing something you might regret?"
Slowly, Flowey's sinister expression transforms into a mere frown. "You have no idea," he responds in a low voice. "I know what I'm capable of. I know that no matter how hard I try... I'll forget myself and start causing trouble again. The worst part is that I won't regret it afterwards." Flowey's eyes narrow as his frown takes on a more bitter, saddened form. "It might be pointless trying to convince someone like you, but... Please. I need you to reconsider."
. . .
"I don't know about that," Reimu says in a casual fashion, contrasting with Flowey immensely, "If you were that dangerous, you probably wouldn't be standing here right now." Reimu scratches her head as she muses on Flowey, even now not exuding any killing intent. However, Flowey notes, her words were more than serious: as lightly as Reimu seemed to take them, they were nothing but the truth. "Anyway, it's not like you'd leave after I beat you up, so..." Reimu glances to the side, almost as if that could erase any evidence of this conversation having happened. "I suppose I'd let you go if you're staying at the outskirts. That is, if you don't cause me any trouble whatsoever." Reimu sourly grimaces, wondering if she will come to regret this decision later on. "You'll get what's coming for you if you do anything stupid! And if any visitors show up, you better hide!"
Flowey reflexively smiles, unable to contain the satisfaction of having managed to persuade Reimu. "Oh, don't worry! They won't even notice I'm here!" he confidently exclaims before slyly narrowing his eyes. "But then again, I probably won't have to hide that often considering how deserted this place is. Seriously, when was the last time you actually got a visitor?"
Reimu angrily scowls, as expected. "Today, so you take back what you said about the shrine if you know what's good for you!" She points her Purification Rod at Flowey in a threatening fashion, her hand shaking in fury.
"They don't count. They came to see you, not the shrine," Flowey retorts, only to frown. "And also... Don't tell them I was here. I don't want them to know where I am."
"I was never planning on it to begin with," is Reimu's immediate answer as she glances back to the shrine, towards its entrance. "But if you don't want to risk being found out right now, you should hide. They might just wake up soon if I'm all better." This whole dream incident must have taken a big toll on a kid like them... Reimu decides not to even imagine what sort of dream they saw, judging it was probably a variation of one of her own.
Flowey playfully winks. "Trying to get rid of me already? You're right, though. I wouldn't want to risk it." With that, Flowey burrows into the ground and disappears without a trace, leaving Reimu alone to stare at where he originally was.
Briefly, she glances at the mountain before returning to the shrine building, pensive. Admittedly, she hadn't expected this outcome. Regardless, she knows there is meaning to Flowey's presence; for the time being, she figures she'll test the waters. As she reaches the room where the child remains asleep, Reimu grimaces. "Figures..." Staring down at them, Reimu is reminded of Flowey's words, detailing their involvement with her condition and dream. According to him, the dream she saw was a 'copy of what they had gone through'. It's strange for Reimu to imagine someone else having actually gone through the same adventure, and that their adventure was the true one; it disorients her ever so slightly. "It looks like I never had to break the barrier after all..."
The realization that everyone she had met are all free, perhaps roaming about Gensokyo further sinks into her. They are monsters, not youkai. Still, like all that resides in this land, they are a part of fantasy that cannot fit anywhere else. As such, Reimu sees in her the will to welcome them. With a smile, she ponders. Even if they do not know of her, she does not mind. In fact, it may just be better this way. If her adventure was ephemeral, so be it.
Her gaze reaching far beyond the confines of even her shrine, Reimu finds herself simply expecting the very best out of Gensokyo in light of its changes, as always. After all, she will ensure it as long as she lives, no matter what may befall her.
Honestly, I don't really know what to say. Well, I do. I've thought about what to say in this section for so long I can't even estimate the amount. However, when it actually comes to writing it, I find myself staring into nothing, simply listening to the many Reimu-related musical arrangements I searched up to fit the mood. I ended up like that for basically 15 minutes, mostly just feeling the raw storm of emotions that finally surged within me after I was in the middle of writing the last sentences.
The storm of emotions originated from the fact that I truly was finishing this story. At least, that's what I suppose happened with me. I can't really put it into very coherent and understandable words: there's this urge to cry, but out of happiness, as if you were saying goodbye to someone who was going to move on with their life or something like that. A sort of bittersweet, sad but happy feeling. One where you can't help but become teary-eyed, but also feel proud of yourself; that you accomplished something. That this something, after years, has taken a substantial shape and that you made it happen. I finished it, man. I did it.
Hahaha, but I'm not so sure if you're happy. Surprised? This was the ending I'd always planned for. If you think about it, the story was named 'Unsubstantial Underground Adventure' for a reason: it was always supposed to end as a dream from Reimu. In fact, the original Japanese title was 'Sanbouken' with the kanji for 'mountain', 'dream' and 'incident/case'; I was almost spelling the plot twist out for you. Later on, I figured I should change the title because the kanji for 'dream' didn't truly have the spelling I wanted you to read as. As such, it then became 'Sanbouken' with the kanji for 'mountain', 'delusion/lie/falsehood/hogwash' (something along those lines; I just wanted to not translate it as 'bullshit' lol) and 'incident/case'. It was meant to be named Sanbouken because I wanted a wordplay involving 'bouken', which stands for adventure, making it also be 'mountain adventure'. Similarly enough, I wanted the English title to be Touhou-like in the sense that a bunch of words vaguely related to the story were thrown in and made into a supposedly coherent title. I figured that using words like 'Fantastical' or 'Phantasmagorical' or whatever would be too unoriginal and that words like 'Dream' or 'Illusionary' would be too obvious, so I went for 'Unsubstantial' because you could interpret it in many ways. What made the Mountain Adventure unsubstantial? Was it its meaning? Its plot? What was it? Well, it was actually because it truly had no physicality, though the word 'unsubstantial' really fits the plot in various ways.
At first, I really considered who I would put in the Underground. When my mind gravitated to Touhou, I found myself really questioning how you could even put a Touhou character there. You can't simply have them randomly fall down and call it a day. Most of the characters are too OP for that. People like Miko or Byakuren or Yukari were obvious plot no-go's because there simply would be no situation whatsoever that could force them down the Underground, no matter what I came up. I had to look towards characters who were a bit less important than that, but even then, I couldn't see a plot there. Should I make the character be kidnapped? Should they just accidentally fall somehow? But the former required a character that would want to put them in the Underground, and there is no such Touhou character; after all, Yukari doesn't actually gap people into places just because. But then again, the latter was too lackluster for a plot, so even if the character ended up leaving, it would just feel awkward and meaningless. I thought to the weaker youkai: sure, the power balance would be better, but why would they ever be put in the Underground and what weight would they hold in the story? I didn't really picture them there, at least not as something I should invest in writing. Maybe I should go for Marisa? I seriously considered Marisa, but Marisa... Isn't important in the panorama of Gensokyo. In terms of Touhou, she is greatly important, at least in my view, but if she were put in the Underground, it wouldn't be any scandal; maybe Reimu would find herself wondering where she is.
Eventually, I settled for Reimu because Reimu was the best choice all around. She was not a clear pacifist, so the playthrough wouldn't be basically the same as Frisk's, and she's not genocidal either, so it wouldn't be a huge kill fest with Chara and whatnot. However, if you hypothetically wanted Reimu to fall in by accident, how could you ever pull that off when Mt. Ebott is not originally in Gensokyo? 'Well, just move it there,' you say, but if I did, wouldn't that mean that the barrier would have already been broken? What basically stops this sort of stuff from being teleported to Gensokyo right away is 1. a majority that believes 2. seals or whatever that make it be away from the eyes of the Outside World to begin with.
In face of all these limitations, I came up with a plot: that Reimu would simply see these adventures in a dream. Now, you may look at two of my three one-shots (one of them's supposedly not a one-shot but it might as well be) and say 'You just can't make up anything other than stories where everything's actually a dream' but hey, I resent that! I can make other endings, I swear! It's just that those oneshots demanded dream endings, really, I can finish my stories without dream endings! ;_; Anyway, I had to make it dream to fulfill all purposes I wanted to fulfill. Originally, the story was just going to be Reimu in the Underground all the way through, with it then ending in a similar manner to Chapter 15, only for you to find that everything was a dream that Reimu had while she was passed out in the Forest of Magic, all because she was actually sick. She was supposed to actually go solve some minor incident in the Youkai Mountain, but on the way there, she passed out because she had a fever and went missing, causing Marisa to set out to find her. That was the original plot lol
However, in the middle of brainstorming, I found that it would simply be too much of a dick move to make up a story where it was all a dream without any foreshadowing, so I decided to include the Touhou scenes to 1. be able to write more Touhou characters than Reimu 2. make smoother timeskips and transitions 3. to see to it you'd have no reason to complain after reaching the ending seeing as you'd been given all possible foreshadowing in the world for it. Well, you'd always have the right to complain anyway, but yeah, I wrote the Touhou scenes basically to make you be able to guess the plot. Additionally, I thought about what outcome Reimu's adventure would bring: there is no way at all that Reimu would get to the True Pacifist ending considering its requirements. Asgore would totally die, among other things. But, as I thought of the idea of Mt. Ebott actually existing within the story, I couldn't help but find that too sad, so I decided to have the cake and eat it too. That while Reimu dreamt of her adventure, Mt. Ebott would have reached Gensokyo precisely because Frisk reached the True Pacifist ending. If I did that, the Undertale characters would reach the perfect ending and Reimu would have the adventure all at the same time.
After a while, I realized the 'Reimu actually had a fever' idea was too dumb to be a thing and scrapped it. Besides, it'd be WAAAAAY strange for Reimu to randomly dream of doing the same kind of adventure Frisk did without any actual purpose. So, I thought, how the hell am I gonna justify Reimu's dream? I searched through literally every Windows Touhou character existent, but there wasn't really someone who sounded like they would do this kind of thing... Except for one. I cursed myself and my lack of originality: 'shit, I'm using Yukari.' And yup, I used Yukari. I mean, come on! She's the only one with considerable ties to Reimu who'd have the power and motivations to do it! It's not like I could use Doremy or anything. Since I decided I was going to use Yukari to begin with, I decided to use her in a way that would be most in-character for her. I mean, most of the time, Yukari gets used to make people get dropped in Gensokyo or basically to do things out of whims. However, Yukari doesn't actually tend to do much of that in canon. Whenever Yukari acts, it's usually pretty subtle. It's usually a move that brings about some sort of fluctuation. Yukari's plans tend to be more like ripples in the water rather than some grand explosion. They all tend to be concocted in a way that you either barely notice she did it, or when you notice, you're supposed to feel some sort of dread from her. When she takes direct action, it's mostly for some motive related to Gensokyo itself.
I drew a lot of inspiration from Silent Sinner in the Blue. This is gonna be spoilers but Yukari basically does these tiny moves that ripple into the water to form precisely what she wants and you ultimately gawk at her genius: she does this whole Moon pseudo-invasion with Reimu and Remilia, purposely fails her own infiltration, and all of it so she can make Yuyuko, who wouldn't be noticed by the people of the Moon (so Yuyuko's the Silent Sinner in Blue by the way), sneak in to steal sake. Yes, all of it was for sake. But it wasn't JUST for sake, mind you. Yukari's actions were so Eirin would stop being all smug about being a Lunarian and learn her place in Gensokyo. Ultimately, Yukari acted so Eirin would learn to act as a human now that she is in Gensokyo and, as a human, teach her to fear youkai. Yukari just wanted to make Eirin and Kaguya fit in Gensokyo's society... And get some nice Lunarian booze. But basically, Yukari's motivations tend to mostly center on these sorts of things. In Forbidden Scrollery, Mamizou hypothesizes that someone spread a rumor about the end of the world and basically manipulated the power of the urban legends in Gensokyo to make everything thrive, and this is a continuation from Marisa's ending in Touhou 15, where Yukari visits saying they're lucky they got a hold of the Occult balls because they can change Gensokyo even more. Also, Yukari's planning something with Kosuzu on Volume 7 and I am SOOOOO looking forward to that because I've no idea what it is.
Naturally, I'm not a genius like ZUN is, so I may not have gotten Yukari to act as amazingly as she usually does, but I did try. And, in general, Chapter 16 was written as a way to give you the precise answers to everything that was set up in the story, while also providing reactions and conclusions to all actions the characters had been up to on the Touhou side. While I thought people would see the plot twist coming from miles away, a lot of people genuinely didn't know where I was headed, and I was pretty surprised: I mean, I immediately bring out scenes of characters claiming to have visited Mt. Ebott and talked to its population. This naturally implies that, on the Touhou side, the barrier is broken. As such, there would have to be two realities: Reimu's and everyone else's. Seeing as the only person from Touhou sharing in Reimu's reality is Reimu herself, it's easy to assume that true reality is the one you see on the Touhou scenes, so you can immediately conclude Reimu's on some illusionary trip. At least, that was what I thought. But apparently it wasn't obvious? Either way, what Yukari did this time around had multiple functions, but they were all ultimately for the sake of Mt. Ebott's integration into Gensokyo. You'd think Yukari wouldn't risk something like using Reimu, but Yukari has no reservations: in Silent Sinner in Blue, she steps over even her own pride and dignity to accomplish her plans, and uses Reimu to get Remilia making a rocket to the Moon. Would you think Yukari wouldn't use Reimu as a decoy?
Youkai, particularly the ones in the Youkai Mountain, are very wary of competition. In general, youkai are split into factions, and the factions that exist are locked in a conflict for influence in the Human Village, as influence in the Human Village is the equivalent to power in Gensokyo. With that in mind, imagine if a mountain suddenly appeared in Gensokyo: the power required to simply move a mountain is no joke; it's likely littered with youkai, too. Tensions between youkai would surely rise, and spark conflict. If that was going to be the case, why not just make up something that would completely distract youkai? Even then, Mt. Ebott ended up in a time tensions between youkai were only just starting with Mamizou's appearance (which is causing tension precisely because Mamizou's strengthened the Tanuki faction by becoming their leader) and while Touhou 14 had just ended, so it even put itself in the most convenient time possible. However, it naturally would not be good if the mountain were there, and the monsters had any activity while the youkai were watching over them.
Then, Reimu disappears. Elaborately so. Though, to keep to the order of scenes in Chapter 16, I'll go over the Dream World scene first. I have to admit, I wasn't planning on writing Doremy. However, when I found that I needed a scene in the Dream World, I couldn't NOT write a scene with Doremy. She wasn't very pleased, as you wouldn't be when someone starts shit in the Dream World and uses dreams in an unnatural, dangerous fashion. When I knew I had to write this scene, I simultaneously knew I had to place it in the beginning, no matter how many spoilers it would give off right away; you could already tell Reimu was dreaming it anyway. The scene would never fit in the middle of the story, so I had it be the very first as basically the means to justify Reimu's final conversation with Flowey. Truthfully, Reimu wasn't talking to the same Flowey she'd beaten up, basically. The Flowey that was breaking the Fourth Wall and opposing Reimu was a dream Flowey, while the Flowey Reimu talked to at the end of Chapter 15 was not. So, uh. Think about that.
Meanwhile, Yuyuko tries to make Youmu think about things, but Youmu isn't very good with Yuyuko's roundabout ways. I didn't think I was going to write Yuyuko either, but I honestly reeeeeaaally wanted to fit her in because I love her. I love her sort of cheery, absent-minded but clearly not unintelligent personality. Yuyuko is actually very sharp, and matches up Yukari in conversation for this very reason. However, Youmu's not very bright. It isn't that she is dumb, but that she's so straightforward and practical that other things don't really surge to her naturally. That scene was basically Yuyuko trying to make Youmu think about Yukari's plans, and in the end, she got some success, I suppose. Youmu still didn't really get it, but Yuyuko tried her best. Naturally, Yuyuko totally wants that party, but it couldn't happen either. In any case, Youmu's venture into the mountain had two purposes: to gather information, and to spread information. Like Yuyuko said, Youmu was simply watering the planted seed, and going to the mountain to solve the incident was actually very unimportant.
Speaking of that, I still get sad at the fact that I wasn't able to include Sanae in this chapter, but I really couldn't. If I did, it would be filler, as much as I really feel like writing Sanae, Suwako and Kanako. Sure, we could have had a talk about negociations with the mountain, but... That isn't really what the story is about, let's just say. At least, I didn't really want to dive into Mt. Ebott's appearance in this chapter, as much as you know it's around. As such, the focus is more on Reimu and her disappearance, with the next scene including Seiga and Miko! It was originally gonna be Futo and Miko, then Miko and Futo and Seiga, but it then became just Miko and Seiga because I couldn't fit Futo in: after all, Futo doesn't need to be briefed on Miko's investigation; she already knows everything about it. Meanwhile, Seiga doesn't actively hang around Miko, and while Miko doesn't want to associate herself with Seiga, there was that one image of Seiga playing shogi or something with Futo (omg why Futo) so I'm assuming Seiga sometimes stops by. Besides, I figured I should write Seiga if I mentioned her relaying information to Miko in the story.
Though, I was admittedly nervous about Seiga because I'm not very good at her. Seiga's not a good person, but she's very chipper and playful, and she made me lol in her appearance in Wild and Horned Hermit. Unfortunately, I don't tend to be good at writing these sorts of characters. I did try, though. I read up on Seiga. I wondered how Miko would address Seiga, and I figured there would be some familiarity, but that Miko wouldn't regard her very highly. However, the reason Miko was in such low spirits was actually because the investigation was not bringing in results and not because of Seiga's presence. I mean, when someone basically screws around with you building up some fake case, you kind of get mad. Meanwhile, Miko is very over-confident: she thought she'd crack it for sure; she thought she was gonna crack this super high scale case. When everything came crashing down at her, she found herself somewhat dejected, as anyone like her would normally be. In Hopeless Masquerade, she finds herself dejectedly figuring that things weren't going like her expectations dictated, and she overall acts in a manner that implies she is not comfortable with things not going according to plan. Because of this, Miko gets in low spirits because of Yukari, even feeling somewhat disturbed at her genius, which could perhaps surpass even her own, and that she was perhaps taught a lesson because of this: to look at things in a smaller scale. She would've brushed off Seiga's suggestion were she in a normal mood, but Yukari's trolling taught her not to get her hopes up lol
Miko being Miko though, she also gets even more motivated to solve the case; I don't think Miko would just give up or rage quit. She would instead find herself respecting the mastermind and wishing to then retaliate, to attempt to learn from her mistakes and surpass them. Now, more than to get to the bottom of Reimu's situation, Miko's just solving it because she wants to get to the bottom of the mastermind. To be continued...? Overall, Miko's the most like a detective in the entire story and it amuses me greatly XD I just start feeling like doing some sort mystery story with detective Miko and her assistant Futo solving cases in Gensokyo lol. Anyway, about Miko's discoveries, just so you don't get confused, what they're saying is that the Three Fairies of Light were given a powder that would turn people's tongues blue, and they decided to use it on Reimu, who's nearby. However, when they mixed in the powder with the tea, said tea was switched by the perpetrator with normal tea, which Reimu took, before the perpetrator then placed sleeping powder all over the storage, but a sort of sleeping powder that deliberately does not match the way Reimu falls asleep.
You'd think 'How'd the perpetrator get the timing right when she was busy with the Dream World?' But this all happened before the whole Dream World stuff. Precisely when Reimu took the normal tea, the sleeping powder was placed and into the Dream World she went. Also, 'How would these powders be mixed into Reimu's tea?' Is not Japanese tea made into powder, normally? But then again, this may be only precisely before making the tea, but just imagining someone making the tea into powder every time sounds like a lot of work. Even if it weren't in powder but in tiny packets, it would be possible to slip the powder in. Besides, even if none of these apply, the fairies could have tried to slip in the powder but it'd be switched with normal tea anyway and the sleeping powder was supposed to be showy, so it's all fine. Hopefully.
Mamizou is so much fun to write. Everything about her is great. She's so pleasantly devious, and the down-to-earth feel she gives off is great. When I figured I'd include Mamizou, I decided I may as well write Kosuzu and make a scene about the humans and the youkai parade. Mamizou got her ass kicked, but at least the youkai parade drove the humans away in every perfect way possible. The way she interacted with Kosuzu, clearly just trying to steer her in the right direction, was great and kinda sad, because it only shows how much Mamizou couldn't care less about Kosuzu. Meanwhile, Kosuzu, at this point in Touhou (around Volume 2-3 of Forbidden Scrollery if I remember it right...?), really looks up to her. Kosuzu's very bright in every sense of the word, so she's actually really likable; it only goes to show how ZUN makes interesting protagonists since she's not bland at all. Forbidden Scrollery is a great official manga and you should read it; it's reeeeeaaaally good. Mamizou theorizes that maybe everything, even the youkai parade, was planned from the very beginning, but she's only partially right. Still, pretty scary stuff, huh? Sometimes, I feel as though a lot of my Touhou scenes are just Forbidden Scrollery homages ^^'
The scene with Futo and Alice was very short, but it was actually one of the most important among all of them. At first, I didn't know what I was gonna do with Alice, but knew that I had to have a scene with her because she was a member of the search party, and every member of the search party is important enough to have an appearance at the final chapter. I thought about making it Sanae, but since there's no way they could've been together, it became Futo instead. While Alice is relaxing as always, I had to deliberate on Futo's dialogue. Alice is very overbearing and self-confident, so she tends to stick to her own conclusions. Meanwhile, Futo basically figured everything out. You may think Futo would never be able to do so, but you have to think back to Futo's background: she's the one who led her own clan and the Soga to war and plotted her clan's downfall. If there's anyone who's gonna know about plots and schemes in the conversation, it's gonna be Futo. It's literally part of her background! So Futo figured out what Reimu's disappearance was for, but Alice didn't buy it, hahaha ='D Also, Futo did know Alice was a youkai all along.
Suika and Aya's scene was more youkai-focused, and had a very different perspective and feel to it. Suika's an honest youkai, while Aya thrives off of exaggerating events. Her newspaper is shady, and most people call her out on it in seconds, though Aya denies it. Rather than focusing on the youkai parade, she knew Reimu's disappearance was the real scoop and wrote an article about it faster than anyone else. This originated a huuuge spike in popularity for Aya's newspaper, but it's not just her who's enjoying this sort of popularity. Reimu's disappearance made a lot of youkai profit, and Mamizou's scene implies this as well. It was because of it that they were able to let loose, and because of it people like Aya are thriving right now. As newspapers thrive, so does gossiping. Aya took advantage of this and the mysterious nature of the case Miko's handling and basically wrote an article centered precisely on the fact that you can draw your own conclusions and theories, which drives people to seek out more information; it's all in everyone's benefit... And Yukari's. Beyond that, Aya addresses youkai tensions, and it's kind of dark stuff. Suika just wants to party, though.
But she can't because Reimu's down. I didn't know what purpose Sakuya and Remilia's scene was gonna serve, so I figured I'd give it the honors of being about Reimu's condition. Remilia is fond of Reimu, and she really wanted that rematch, so she's in a bad mood. Also, Remilia is very very very easy to write, so I loved writing her because I really felt at ease. Besides, Sakuya and Remilia, though it should be a given, work splendidly together. While exposing Reimu's condition, they were really entertaining to write. Sakuya was particularly savage omg when she joked about Shinmyoumaru I died a little on the inside XD Remilia ends up wanting to visit Reimu, but we never really get to see the visit, unfortunately. Also, Nue's scene! In the grand scheme of things, it didn't have much of a point even though I had some stuff planned out, but it was basically about a youkai perspective into the monsters. And just dat feel when she finds out about the case behind Reimu's disappearance and finds it a masterpiece XD It's great because she really would, since it's like the epitome of making people fear what they can't figure out. Because Nue's so much more simple-minded like this, it's a ton of fun writing her. She was the one who mainly fought Suika, but she naturally lost because Suika is too strong.
When you finally get to the Hakurei Shrine, things feel much calmer, but heavier at the same time. I mostly wanted to get into Marisa's head, and do her justice. I wanted the whole part to heavily touch on Marisa, who basically deserves a medal for being such an eternal bro for Reimu, really. I mean, she went to search for Reimu because she figured she'd get to solve an incident and get the credit and she usually just butts into Reimu's business, but hey, Marisa stuck around for Reimu! That must count for something. Reimu's very distant, but I at least think the two consider each other friends for real. I considered including Sanae here because it was very likely that she'd show up, but with Kasen and Shinmyoumaru also around, I couldn't really bring myself to add more people because it'd clutter dialogue. Anyway, I wanted the first moments of the scene to be somber, with Marisa watching over Reimu, wondering when the hell she'd wake up.
Also, Marisa's totally into adorable things. You see it all over the official manga. Reimu also likes adorable things, by the way. Their reactions to cute things put a smile on my face. Since Shinmyoumaru falling asleep on her hat was adorable, Marisa couldn't bring herself to get her away from it ^^' Anyway, Yukari shows up, and Marisa isn't a great fan of Yukari. She doesn't hate her or anything: she thinks of Yukari in basically the same way everybody thinks of Yukari; as a perpetually suspicious person who you can't trust at all. Also, she REALLY doesn't like it when Yukari sneaks up on her. Marisa's kind of difficult to nail, but Yukari is surprisingly easy to write. In fact, if you look back on things where Yukari canonically appears, ZUN seems to have no problem writing things from Yukari's perspective. As such, I figured I SHOULD give away some of her thoughts, and to make sure she is not omniscient. Yukari is not portrayed in a super amazing way: Yukari sometimes doesn't know things; sometimes things happen that she doesn't really account for. I mean, she is portrayed as someone with very high levels of intelligence, but ZUN never takes it to impossible, too perfect lengths. Instead, Yukari is made out to be wiser than anything else. Frequently, she's talking about different abstract ideas and concepts relating to the situation, among other supernatural truths. Also, she can be calculating, but she is not always calculating and does sometimes act on whims.
Another thing to note is that wow, Yukari is condescending lol She basically knows she's smarter than everybody else and that rubs me the wrong way because it's not like the other characters wouldn't be able to understand if they tried, c'mon! I also tried my best not to make Yukari too playful and enigmatic, because Yukari isn't actually like this very much. There's this mental image of Yukari constantly having a sort of playful smile on her face, and she does smile playfully, but there are equally many instances where she's being more neutral and saying things plainly. There are plenty of times where Yukari's just being serious. Yukari can play around, but I really tried to balance this out because she isn't always playing around or making it seem like she's playing around. However, in the scene with Marisa, you could basically say she was toying with her, though she didn't come over because of Marisa. Naturally, I held off on Yukari throughout the whole story, and planned for her to show up at the ending. I even planned on her showing up precisely when Reimu woke up. However, it was actually really troublesome since then I'd have to make Kasen interact with her and Shinmyoumaru would wake up and it'd be really awkward.
The scene with Yukari basically clears up every other part you didn't get already, though some are told through narration rather than anything else because she's pondering on these matters. The narration takes to being on Yukari's side this time around and it reveals key things such as the fact that Mt. Ebott had actually been around the day before Reimu disappeared (so the barrier was already broken then) but Yukari hid it from sight to prepare everything. Also, the identity of the certain someone is made wholly clear to you, while Marisa gets super confused on every part of the dream. I liked that Yukari went on about how dreams were dangerous: Yukari tends to explain all these sorts of things willingly; she likes talking, really. Though, the irony is really bitter lol.
Marisa and Shinmyoumaru really started getting along, but I was admittedly struggling with their conversation, mostly because I didn't know where to stop and I didn't know how witty I wanted both to be lol Still, the moment Reimu woke up was really emotional: Shinmyoumaru and Reimu also got along really well while Shinmyoumaru was at the shrine, so I figured she'd cry because she's really like a kid on the outside and inside. Meanwhile, Marisa is not very emotional, so I took great care in portraying her reaction. Sure, she was worried about Reimu, but familiarity and Marisa's personality would never allow for an emotional reaction. Marisa acts rather impersonal towards things, and I figured she wouldn't really know what to say either. Meanwhile, I figured I couldn't avoid Kasen any longer and made her show up. Kasen's someone who's trying to be a good person, and she did worry for Reimu. In fact, she was the one who took care of Reimu to begin with. Kasen's also basically considered by others to be the one thing that may make the Hakurei Shrine thrive (or something along those lines) so I figured it really fit. Also, a more gentle personality really made a difference in the scene.
However, I found myself liking Reimu's dialogue the most. It was just... Reimu, not really getting what's going on, and awkwardly noting that everybody was being sad for what she perceives to be no reason. Despite her shitty condition, she moves forward, and she was gonna get to the bottom of things, but the ending happened, I suppose. I was never planning on Reimu meeting with Flowey. At least, not here. But then I realized it would be too terrible of me not to tie up this loose end here: I couldn't just leave the story with Reimu still thinking there was an incident to solve. Initially, I was going to have Reimu meet Frisk and end it there, but it was too inconclusive. I mean, what's the point of meeting Frisk? The story may have no point to begin with (damn it Sans stop being right), but that wouldn't be much of an ending. Instead, I decided to adress another part of the plot: why the people of the mountain were laying low, and Frisk's role in all of this. So, Frisk stops Reimu from going to the mountain by passing out and Flowey shows up. I had this funny interaction from Remilia and Sakuya I wanted to include, but it wasn't letting me end the scene properly so I scrapped it, unfortunately ^^' Anyway, Flowey.
Reimu needed to meet Flowey for everything to go full circle in terms of the ending, or so I realized. This scene was originally meant for something else, which is why I didn't think to write it now, but the more I thought about it, the more the scene HAD to be put in here. It was the only way to end the story in a way that solved everything that was set up. So uh... They talked. Hahaha, surprised, huh? If Reimu accepts Clownpiece living DIRECTLY UNDER HER SHRINE later on, she can certainly accept Flowey hanging around. There are many reasons as to why he went for this. There are also many reasons as to why Reimu accepted it. But I suppose that's something for another day. I like writing Flowey in that True Pacifist Ending state of his; it's basically Flowey, but different. Is this character development I smell...? ^^ Reimu of course figured the mastermind out right away and the way she approached Flowey's words was kind of amazing. It reminded me of Sans, honestly XD As much as there was no other way to end the story, I still feel a little reluctant because the ending is basically a set-up for a sequel. I mean, I couldn't have the story drag on. Even if monsters interacting with Gensokyo is great, it would be out-of-place if the story kept going after Reimu wakes up and everything is solved.
Though, speaking of dragging things on, I was planning on something completely different for the ending, you have no idea. This ending is shorter and more open-ended, in a way, but the ending I was gonna write before this one was going to be much more grand and epic. It was going to include all major Undertale characters and overall be Reimu visiting the mountain while in her shitty condition and reminiscing, seeing them talk to her as if they didn't know her. Some of the dialogue I wrote was very impactful, especially considering what happened in Reimu's dream adventure, but I scrapped that ending because it was simply dragging the story for too long. It was far too grand to fit into this chapter, and it actually was more trouble than it was worth with Reimu not truly being in the best of shapes. Also, I didn't know how to end the story from it, which was a huge problem. I wrote a few thousand words of it, but they're never gonna be seen again, I suppose.
Well, I can only understand if you don't end up liking this ending. From the very beginning, I was prepared to see people disappointed, though it really was the only way I thought would be right. Besides, despite the focus on Reimu's adventure, the plot is very Touhou-centric, and I already knew it wasn't going to be very exciting and grand. I considered Sans showing up, but the choice was too biased even if he was one of the most likely people to show up: if I was ever going to show a major Undertale character, I'd have to show them all if I was going to make it fair and meaningful. Whatever the case, it's over, and I still can't really believe it. I certainly hope my Author's Notes won't be longer than the chapter itself ^^' Though it was just a what-if with me REALLY trying to imagine Reimu in the Underground, with time, it really started to have more and more meaning. Can you believe I originally thought I'd be able to write the whole thing in 6 Chapters? In the end, it became 16. What I meant to be a short story became something with like 400-600 pages worth of content. But even in the midst of that, I really wanted to finish the story. This story was basically a way for me to prove that I can actually finish something. That maybe I'll be able to do something with my life, and finish it. I've been wanting to write my own original work, and I've always been dejected over the fact that I never finished a long project. Over time, years passing, I realized how much this right here was a big project. How I was being able to write something after all. I ended up making a promise to myself: I was going to finish this, because if I didn't, I'd never be able to know if I could finish anything at all. The writing in this story is actually really different from what I usually do: I normally write in past tense and try harder with descriptions and character actions, so I personally think I may not have done myself justice in the writing department. Regardless, I can assure you that I put real effort into constructing this plot, and I can only hope it did pay off in some way. That hey, maybe even I have a shot at getting something done.
At the time I was coming up with the story, there were no Undertale crossovers in the website, and the Undertale fanfic section was still growing. When I was writing chapters for it, there were about 3 crossovers; mine was one of the very first, and I believe I must have only gotten this much of a following because my timing just happened to be really good. I honestly never thought all that many people would read this thing: maybe it'd get to around 50 followers if I was lucky. That's what I thought. Man, was I apparently wrong. Lots of people read my story, and lots of people seemed to appreciate it. It was really awe-inducing to me. I had all these reviews, and most of them helpful and great; it truly felt like people were trying to support and help my story become all that much better. I seriously could only wonder if I deserved them in light of my 'it was actually a dream all along' ending. Either way, no matter what, I'll be thankful. Truthfully. I'll always be thankful of the people who read, the people who followed, the people who put the story on their favorites, and the people who left me reviews. To me, you are all wonderful, and I can only be thankful of the fact that you stuck around this far, even despite this story's flaws. You had no obligation to do so. But you were there for this story anyway. I truly couldn't thank you more. If you even got this far into the Author's Notes, and it always awed me that people seemed to actually bother reading them, I can only commend your patience. Seriously. I ramble too much, don't I?
Whatever the case, thank you for everything, forevermore. Will there ever be a sequel, you ask? Maybe. Well, considering the ending, probably as I do have some plans. I won't make any promises, but I've tempted the possibility of two works related to this story, one being a sequel, and another being more like a supplementary work, both with more focus on Mt. Ebott in Gensokyo. Still, if I'm ever to write these works, I'll only post them if I find myself committed to finish them. Since I have personal projects of my own, I cannot guarantee that I will truly write these ideas I have, however. I don't want to lead you on. Well, now that I've basically written all there is to write (I do actually have more but I probably should stop now ^^'), I suppose I'll leave you with a deleted sentence.
Deleted sentence: "As Reimu returns their handshake with a curious gaze, the child smoothly remarks that they are ready to donate their love to the Hakurei Shrine."
If you know what I mean ;D Yes, I did write this. Because it made me die on the inside, I erased it from the story. Anyway, again, thank you very much for sticking around this far! Hopefully there was some worth to what I have written as, to me, your presence really impacted me and supported me throughout!