Disclaimer: I write stuff for fun, not for profit. This is some of that stuff. Thus, it is be that no profit is made from the creation of this stuff, as it's just for fun.

Hm… maybe I shouldn't have tossed that thesaurus out after the chapter 4 disclaimer…


"… Course, it was boring without her around. I thought about heading up there myself and take her back, but the others said she had agreed to do so, so I figured I wouldn't bother… yet. And since all the small fry were scared of what would happen when she did come back, none of them were doing anything fun either so I just wandered around."

"If you had stopped by while I was gone, you should have cleaned up. When I got back there was dust and snow all over, and I think fairies had come through at least once or twice. Both you and Marisa, sheesh…"

"My, my. I had no idea. If you'd come to me, Lady Reimu, I would have been more than happy to take care of the grounds in your absence!"

"Hm… well, I just didn't think of it. Besides, I remember you would sleep a lot when it got cold…"

"Well, I am a turtle, after all…"

"Wouldn't have mattered anyway, Reimu. After all, it would have just been a mess anyway when the Shrine got smashed!"

"Urg… don't remind me…"

Shifting slightly on the futon he had been laid down on, Koizumi half-listened to the ongoing conversation just outside the room. It was somewhat interesting that the participants felt no need to either move farther away or hush their voices beyond what they presumed might have disturbed him. One would have thought for a hidden world such as this there would be more of an attempt to obscure things from an 'Outsider.' Possibly they considered it pointless considering how much he had already witnessed.

Or maybe he was simply a bit too accustomed to the idea of keeping up a masquerade, for better or worse? Something to consider, perhaps.

Regardless, it appeared that things here were quite peculiar (aside from talking turtles and fairies and such). Vampires and ghosts and immortals… a trip to the moon, no less! Despite Hakurei Reimu's somewhat bored tone it all seemed very exciting. Though perhaps in being the one having to resolve all the happenings associated with these beings left her less impressed by them.

A bit like Kyon, Koizumi had to admit.

At least this was giving him more than adequate time to recover and compose himself. After that wave of disorientation had toppled him from the turtle Genjii's back, he had ended up falling more or less into the very lap of the person they had been going to see, Hakurei Reimu. Considering it had been while still at least several dozen meters above the ground (a fact that he was most thankful for, as due to the aftereffects of the likely spatial breach Koizumi had been left scrambling to call up his power and coming up short) all parties involved were more or less taken by surprise. On having the explanation given to her by Genjii, the miko had offhandedly allowed him to rest in her home, and while waiting the two old companions had ended up talking after Reimu had done something she had described as a 'patch job.'

The young girl who had shown up a little while ago, who had introduced herself to Genjii as 'Ibuki Suika' came across as fairly more boisterous as far as Koizumi could tell through merely overhearing (all right, eavesdropping on people who weren't particularly trying to keep quiet) of her shared experiences with Reimu. Perhaps a girl from a local town, who liked to pretend? Though considering how many individuals he knew already who had rather innocuous appearances compared to their abilities…

Sitting up, and finding that his previous headache had all but passed, Koizumi stretched and rose from the sleeping mat. Composing himself, he walked over to the door and stepped outside.

"Ah, you're up," Reimu said, glancing over at him. Genjii nodded towards him, the turtle's long beard trailing over the side of the engawa, and the miko's hand resting lightly on his shell. Another girl who looked just as young as Kyon's sister, bearing a pink and purple dress and carrying a rather large gourd bottle, shackles with chains leading off them on her wrists, and… yes, quite prominent horns sticking out of her ginger hair, with no immediate sign of being a mere ornament… stood idly just a little off to the side of the yard. "Feeling better?"

"Indeed. Thank you again for allowing me to rest here, as well as for catching me before," he replied, bowing. Now that his brain didn't feel like it was trying to be in three different dimensions at once and wasn't in danger of hitting the ground at a bit under terminal velocity, he was able to actually examine his rescuer and hostess.

She wasn't quite what Koizumi would have expected from a miko, especially one with true spiritual abilities. Her clothes, while certainly reminiscent of the sort of uniform associated with the role (and he had had a recent opportunity, after all, to see the females of the Brigade in such), were rather different. A red skirt rather than a hakama, a red sleeveless shirt rather than a white haori (the collar of the shirt was white, though, albeit tied with a blue ribbon), and odd disconnected white sleeves, apparently held on by ribbons tightening the fabric around her upper-arms. A large red bow sat high in her back-length dark hair, which fell loosely behind her other than for two short locks of hair framing her face with were held in shape by two red, cloth tube ornaments.

Her expression, again, reminded him rather of Kyon: a somewhat casual, just short of blasé attitude. Not that she was ignoring her companions, but despite their odd natures she barely seemed to register them as anything other than as the individuals they were. In fact, he seemed to be receiving more attention at the moment, and that was likely just due to his unfamiliarity and the condition he had been in when she first encountered him.

As he was appraising her, Reimu just waved his gratitude off. "No problem. I had a weird feeling to begin with before that light or whatever, so I was going in that direction when you fell off the old man. I was surprised to see a human falling out of the sky, but…" She shrugged.

"Still, I would have been in quite the predicament if you hadn't, Miss Hakurei. Giving you the proper thanks is the least I can do."

Another shrug. "If you insist. Oh, yeah. You know the old man already, but this is Suika," she said, gesturing toward the horned girl.

"Koizumi Itsuki. A pleasure," the esper said, bowing to the girl.

"Hmm? Oh, sure," Suika said absently, opening the gourd and drinking directly from it.

Koizumi quirked an eyebrow at the disinterest, but left it alone. Despite her earlier excitement, she might just not be all that interested in purely human affairs, or shy around strangers (though the idea of an oni being shy was somewhat comical in concept, so he rather doubted that considering her eager tone when talking with Genjii before).

Reimu stood up, patting Genjii on the shell as she did so. "I'm going make some tea. You want a cup?"

"Ah, that would be nice. So long as I'm not imposing."

"No problem. You're more polite than most guests I end up getting."

"Ne, if you talk about people like that even less people are going to come to the shrine, Reimu," Suika said, grinning.

"If less people come, it's because of all the youkai that keep dropping in when they feel like it. Anyway, you want some tea as well?"

"Nah, I'm good!" The little oni lifted the gourd to her lips again with a wide smile, causing Reimu to just shake her head and continue into the building.

"Glad to see you up so quickly, young Koizumi." Genjii shifted to face him. "I was quite worried when you became dizzy like that and fell off of me. It was good fortune that Lady Reimu was nearby, even if she won't take credit for helping as she has." The turtle chuckled to himself.

Koizumi just nodded with a smile. "As you say. I take it you've had a pleasant reunion?"

"Ah, indeed, indeed! She's just as I remember, if not more skilled! I always knew she'd be well, but it's quite nice to see it for oneself."

"Of course. I hope I wasn't interrupting anything when I arrived?"

"No, no," the turtle assured him. "Just hearing about her exploits. Which I quite enjoy, but there is plenty of time for that. I should like to know just what did end up disorienting you so much, young man. I won't claim that flight is for everyone, but you seemed to be doing quite well until that light, and while something of a startle I myself didn't feel anything awry. You had mentioned something about your friends?"

"Ah, yes. Though perhaps I should wait until Miss Hakurei returns so that she hears it as well. I wouldn't want to leave her out of things when she's been so accommodating."

"Quite the point, young man! If it concerns the Border she should be most interested in listening. I'll go help her prepare the tea so that we can all here your story the sooner." With that, the turtle floated off the porch and into the shrine.

Itsuki chuckled silently to himself watching Genjii fly, considering the oddness of how a creature not normally all that graceful on land could… supernatural or not… handle the air much more naturally. It was likely somewhat like swimming, he supposed in retrospect. As a human, enhanced or not, neither flight nor swimming was the typical means of movement, so his own-

His train of thought was interrupted by the tang of alcohol reaching his nose. Blinking in surprise, he turned to see Suika standing just a foot or so away, staring at him with half-lidded eyes, the smell of sake strong on her breath.

"Ah, Miss Suika. May I help you with something?" Koizumi asked, recovering from the surprise.

She just mumbled a small 'hmm' as she looked at his face. Unsure as to her purpose, he just smiled.

"I must say, I would not have expected a legendary oni to appear as you do," he continued. "Though I suppose I can hardly claim to have any true knowledge of such things aside from the more traditional depictions and modern reimaginings."

The small oni continued to just stare at the esper, though now slowly tilting her head from side to side.

"I'm sorry, but… Are you drunk, Miss Suika?"

The two of them looked at each other for a moment before Suika grinned. "Never been sober!" she declared, clapping him on the shoulder.

"Ah, I… see…"

"So, you seem like a polite enough guy," she continued, surprising the esper. "Met a few people from Outside from hanging 'round Reimu. Most of them are all 'Go play over there, girl,' or 'Who in their right mind gave a kid like you booze?' or 'Dear god what's going on? How did I get here?' and stuff. But you're just letting it roll, and gotta say I like that."

Shoulder aching surprisingly fast from the pats, Koizumi just nodded. "I'm glad to see that I haven't offended in some way. I don't wish to-"

The hand she was patting him with suddenly gripped down hard, and he struggled to keep from crying out.

"That smile, though…" The oni's tone had darkened. "I've seen that kinda smile before. It's smiles like that were on the humans that didn't do things fair, who didn't tell you if they were going to fight ya, who wouldn't even fight while they tried to get rid of you, and do it all while smiling. It's why we left, 'cause of smiles like that."

Koizumi forced himself to meet her eyes, which glowed from within as the very air seemed to heat and rumble. He grabbed at her wrist trying to push her away, but the oni barely moved from his efforts "I-I'm not…!"

"Now me, I'm willing to let bygones and all that. 'Sides, wasn't like it was you personally, I don't think. Humans don't usually live long enough for you to have been back then." She shrugged, the motion sending a jolt through Itsuki. "If you have secrets, fair enough. Got no problem with secrets to be honest. But if that's one of those smiles … Reimu's an honest girl, and she fights good, and we oni respect that. So if it's not just secrets, and like those humans from back when, and she gets caught in it…"

"It's not! I promise! Please!" he hissed as she tightened her grip further. Suika relaxed her hold on him slightly, still keeping him trapped, but after a few more moments she nodded and let go.

"Ok!" she exclaimed, her smile back and voice now honestly happy. The oni brushed off his jacket where she had gripped him before stepping back, sending more twinges through him at the contact. "Sorry 'bout that! Just needed to make sure and all. Make up for it, how about some sake?"

Rubbing his shoulder, Koizumi shook his head, wondering if shifting away from her would be taken as an insult or not at this point. "A-ah… I am below the age limit for such…"

"Aw… that's no problem! C'mon!" She held out the gourd.

"There's also the fact that… Miss Hakurei and Mister Genjii will be returning with tea shortly. I wouldn't want to preempt as I already accepted her offer." Plus that he didn't think he would ever accept anything from the horned girl if he could help it.

Suika tilted her head and blinked in confusion. "Huh. Oh, yeah. That's what they were doing. Heh! No problem then. Maybe later! So, instead… Disperse!"

Koizumi twitched away for a moment as he felt his aching shoulder… ease away? Soon enough the pain had effectively evaporated into nothing. He looked over to the little oni questioningly, but having done whatever it had been, she was currently drinking again, taking big gulps from the gourd.

"Don't tip so much," he heard from inside as he tried to figure out how to view the whole confrontation. Settling himself, the esper turned to see Reimu and Genjii return, a tray with a teapot and cups resting on the floating turtle's back.

"I don't remember the halls being quite as narrow…" Genjii said. "Or perhaps I've gotten a bit stiff from resting in the pond for such a time. Maybe I should start exercising to keep limber…"

"Suika rebuilt it like it was, at least as far as I can tell," the miko said. "I think she even made the halls a bit wider, just so her horns wouldn't get stuck when she runs around…"

"Welcome back," Koizumi said, smiling.

"Ah, yeah. Ok, set down, old man." The elder male did so, smoothly lowering to the floorboards, and Reimu took the tray and placed it besides them. Settling back down herself, she began to pour for herself, Koizumi, and Genjii.

"So," she began after they all had a cup, "the old man says you have some things you have to tell me?"

Sneaking a quick glance at Suika, who was apparently now oblivious to everything but her gourd (and maybe some of the rice crackers that had been brought with the tea), Koizumi nodded. "At the very least it would help to explain my situation, so yes."

Taking one more sip of his tea, the esper placed the cup to the side before starting: "Now, I'm unsure as to how much interaction Gensokyou has with the world around it, as well as your own knowledge and part in it, I may have a few questions of my own during the course of this."

Reimu just shrugged, which Itsuki tentatively took as an acknowledgement of that detail. "Now then… to start, Genjii previously mentioned that you have the ability to transfer people across the veil that separates Gensokyou from that which you call the Outside. Due to that, I can presume that you have some sort of awareness as to things dealing with such?"

Reimu nodded lazily. "Kind of. I'm the current Hakurei Maiden, so one of the things I have to do is maintain it. If something big happens I can tell… usually. Like that big flash of light earlier, though to be honest probably half of the valley saw that anyway even if they don't know what it was. Probably thought it was Marisa, though."

"Indeed, though I shall have to take your word on that last detail. Regardless, as such I feel that it is only fair enough that I myself and some others from Outside have a similar role, though different in situation and execution."

That apparently caught Reimu off guard, as she spun to look at him in surprise before narrowing her eyes. "You don't really seem to be a priest, even an in-training one."

Itsuki bowed with a chuckle. "True enough. No… I and my peers in this are what is termed 'Espers,' and possess innate abilities tied to this task. In this, we have the ability to detect, enter, and collapse specialized pocket regions we refer to as 'Closed Space.'" He quickly held up his hand: "Not that that is the intent to my presence here. Not only was I unaware of this realm when I arrived in the corresponding area, but Closed Space is much different in nature than Gensokyou."

Reimu grimaced as he obviously forestalled her reaction to his explanation. "Go on…"

"To explain Closed Space, I must give some context as to how it forms. The Organization I am part of consists of Espers like myself who gained our abilities roughly three years back. After some necessary time spent in both practicing and confirming our new talents, and locating one another, we determined that the root cause of this empowerment was a single girl, Suzumiya Haruhi.

"Suzumiya is… if you will allow some interpretation… something of a demiurge. Tell me, roughly six or seven months ago, was there anything of note that you detected either from Outside or the membrane that separates it from here?"

The miko blinked, then closed her eyes and mumbled to herself for a few moments. "Oh, yeah," she said finally. "There was that storm when the oak out back got hit by lightning. I enshrined it to see if it would attract visitors, but when not enough people showed up I decided it wasn't worth it. Got scolded by Yukari for that, too." Reimu sighed for a moment before straightening back up. "She did mention something about the Barrier being affected or something, but that it had already been taken care of."

"I believe I've seen the tree," Koizumi said. "It's where I unintentionally passed into this realm. This is actually quite a good example, as it was likely at that time that Suzumiya almost recreated the world."

The three listening to him froze (followed by Suika having a small fit of coughing as some sake went down wrong).

"As I said, Suzumiya has the ability to alter reality, though she has no knowledge of her own power, and can only exhibit it unconsciously. A typical… relatively speaking… example of Closed Space is a byproduct of this, and perhaps could be considered a lesser version of the event that happened back then.

"Closed Space occurs when Suzumiya experiences a great deal of emotional turmoil. While in the normal course of events her power is more subtle, if not still as imposing, the formation of Closed Space is a preliminary step in a grand alteration of the world on a global scale."

Itsuki held out his hands, balling one into a fist and cupping it with the other. "While initially small… again, from a relative standpoint of course… there exist within giant entities we refer to as 'Celestials,' which are Suzumiya's frustrations, dissatisfaction, and stress given form. Closed Space initially reflects the corresponding area it forms at, albeit without human inhabitants, but then is destroyed by the Celestials. As this continues, the area the Closed Space encompasses grows and more Celestials form to continue and spread the process."

The balled hand began to open within the other, continuing until they his fingers on each were steepled.

"Should this continue unabated, Closed Space would envelop the entire world, and with the eventual destruction within leaving open the path for whatever grand reordering was desired." The 'Closed Space' hand now enveloped the 'World' hand, having exchanged their initial positions.

"So this… has happened, young Koizumi?" Genjii asked.

"Very nearly so." The esper put his hands back down in his lap. "In the end, it was… allowing for some dramatic wording… pulled from the very jaws of disaster by one whom in the end managed to convince Suzumiya to reconsider her position on the matter which had led to this occurrence."

"So what do you 'Espers' do in the meanwhile to prevent that kind of thing?" Reimu asked.

Smiling, he held out a hand, forming a ball of crimson energy. "While within Closed Space… or indeed, as some experimenting has shown, any altered region I've thus far encountered other than 'Outside…' we Espers have a set of abilities to combat the Celestials. Although in areas other than Closed Space we may not necessarily be privy to our full capabilities due to various circumstances. Regardless, by destroying the representation and conveyor of Suzumiya's stress, we act as a method of sympathetic catharsis to her immediate turmoil, thus ending an instance."

Reimu nodded. "So, what went wrong?"

Sighing and dismissing the sphere, Koizumi answered: "In all honesty, we were caught off guard. While the exact details would require more details and time than would be appropriate at the moment, suffice it to say that Suzumiya became exceedingly dissatisfied with the world to a degree that caused the very nature of Closed Space to change. Not only was the size and growth rate of the emergence bigger than any single one before, but we were prevented from entering altogether, removing the usage of our normal methods. In the end, the best we were able to do was pool all our power to attempt to pass on a message to the person who finally did succeed in reversing the incident."

For some odd reason, Reimu's mouth quirked into a small smile as he finished speaking. When she didn't add anything further, he continued to speak.

"Now, while I expect this is not exactly a light topic to have to discuss when we have only just met, but-"

"She's in Gensokyou, isn't she," Reimu interrupted, slumping down to rest her chin on one hand.

Koizumi nodded apologetically. "I would hazard so. We… that is, a group formed by Suzumiya at our school in the intent of searching for any sort of unnatural phenomena that I have become a part of… had recently come to the corresponding shrine of your own in the Outside world. While I arrived here alone, I do not doubt that the earlier event just before you saved me from my tumble from the back of Mister Genjii was the entry of one or more of that group."

Reimu groaned and leaned back onto the porch. "So, should I expect to see giants start appearing any time soon?"

"Actually, the chances of that are rather low," he replied. "A majority of Suzumiya's discontent is with the mundanity of the outer world. If arriving here in Gensokyou, it's likely that the transition itself, let alone any of the more…" He glanced between Genjii and Suika, "… unique inhabitants… would preclude the manifestation of Celestials."

"So we still only have the one we already got!" Suika snickered, earning a confused look from Koizumi and an annoyed one from Reimu.

"Well, there's that I suppose," the miko said. "So I don't have to beat her down for that. If she starts changing things around I'll still have to, though."

Itsuki choked on the tea he had begun sipping to wet his throat after his lengthy explanation. "'Beat her down'? Miss Hakurei…"

"Yeah, yeah. I'll beat her down gently, all right? Don't worry."

"That's… not quite as reassuring as you may think it is."

She rolled her eyes. "I'm in charge of making sure things in Gensokyou keep working like they should. She wants to come here and explore? Annoying, but not really something that bothers me on its own. Mostly. She starts messing with stuff, though? Then I have to go through the bother of fixing it and making sure it isn't going to happen again anytime soon. So making sure they know I'll be able to knock them around if they try again."

Koizumi shook his head. "I appreciate your responsibilities, but it's not as simple as you may think. As I said, while the Celestial giants are almost entirely unlikely to occur, her ability to manipulate her surroundings is… likely to expand enormously, even if she remains ignorant of them. She was previously constrained by her own self-rationalizing that certain things could not exist or happen; thus, any changes she initiated were either concealable, unable to be directly observed in the first place, or easy to pass off as being mere coincidence. This has kept her from more than wistful thinking and enacting large-scale manipulations.

"Here, however, there stands a fair chance that she will sooner or later come to the conclusion that anything is possible, especially if she ends up using her abilities to… influence her experience here to be more favorable for her. While hopefully it won't get so far, the possibility of it cascading into a self-realization of-"

"Doesn't matter. Look," Reimu leaned forward, "I've been dealing with that kind of nonsense for years. I have vampires who mess around with fate, with maids who pull all sorts of weird stuff with time. Youkai who's idea of saying hello is to pop out of a hole in the world while you're trying to enjoy a cup of tea." She glanced around suspiciously for a moment before continuing.

"Oni who get the idea of breaking the moon and put it back together because Setsubun annoys them." Suika chuckled loudly at that. "Actual Celestials who happened to get bored and took everyone I've just mentioned as a guideline and wrecked my shrine! And that isn't even the half of it. So yeah, this girl sounds a bit more annoying than usual. You say she isn't going to make trouble intentionally? Trust me, that's a welcome change. But even if that's the case if something does happen I'm going to just handle it like I always do."

"With danmaku!" the oni cheered, only to be hushed by Reimu.

Koizumi sat quietly for a few moments, considering. "It seems you have quite the bit of experience, then," he said finally.

Sighing, Reimu nodded. "More than I want. If I could just skip the whole thing it would be nice, but I can't. Especially since the Border's already been disturbed once by this whole thing."

"I suppose so."

The miko picked back up her tea, and took a brief sip before downing the remainder in one gulp. Standing, she gestured to Koizumi. "All right. So, let's see what you've got."

He blinked, confused. "I'm sorry?"

"If you're going to be here, you're going to need to know how to fight by the rules. And that means danmaku. You said that you destroy those giants the girl creates, but that's not going to fly in a Spell Card duel. So we have to see just what you can do first before some idiot youkai decides to pop up and be an annoyance if I'm not around, and teach you what you're supposed to do. Come on."

"Ooh! Ooh!" Suika hopped up and down, hand raised in the air. "Can I do it? I wanna see how he fights!"

"No," said Reimu flatly. "If it were up to you we'd all be punching each other in the face with explosions."

"What's your point?"

Reimu just put a hand to her head for a moment before turning back to face Koizumi, who was looking between the two with an increasingly apprehensive expression.

"If I may, perhaps an explanation of what 'danmaku' and 'Spell Cards' entail before any… tests?"

"Eh… it's easier just to show. Come on, I still need to see what your esper light can do."

"Miss Hakurei…"

"Just get it over with, or I will let Suika be the one to teach you."

The esper very deliberately did not look at the deceptively small oni, instead pausing a moment before finishing off his tea much as Reimu had. Getting up off the porch, he moved opposite the miko in the yard. "Please go easy on me," he said politely.

"Good luck, young Koizumi, Lady Reimu," Genjii called from the sidelines, as Suika flopped down beside the turtle with a grin on her face.

"Thank you. When you're ready, I suppose, Miss Hakurei," Itsuki said.

"All right. So, let's see what you can do. Easier if I know what your abilities are in the first place." Reimu lifted off the ground and began to circle slowly around the esper. Bowing slightly, Koizumi summoned up another sphere of energy.

"Please be careful, Miss Hakurei," he called, tossing the sphere into the air before striking it like a handball.

"You hit the shrine and it's coming out of your hide," was the only comment Reimu made after simply dodging out of the way of the suddenly-accelerated projectile, and letting it crash far into the forest behind her. Koizumi began jogging to counter her movement, tossing another sphere at her.

This continued for about half a minute, Koizumi gradually increasing the speed of his attacks and starting to curve their movements a bit more, before Reimu sighed and held up a hand. Koizumi stopped, tilting his head as the miko grumbled to herself for a moment.

"Ok, seriously; if you're not going to actually show me what you can do you have no room to complain if I end up mussing up that girl more than I need to."

"Miss Hakurei?"

"You have to be holding back, or else those giants you fight are seriously weak. I know fairies that could dodge those attacks."

Itsuki rubbed the back of his head hesitantly. "You have me there, Miss Hakurei, but I'm just somewhat concerned for your well-being, as the tactics I typically am forced to use are rather…"

"Yeah, yeah. Well, if you don't want to show what you can do, I may as well start my end of this. Scattered Spirit: 'Fantasy Seal – Fader'."

Puzzled by the odd declaration, Koizumi only had a brief moment to watch Reimu pull what looked to be some sort of paper talisman or amulet before he had to dive out of the way as a veritable storm of the slips flew through the air towards him. Normally he wouldn't have been so concerned, but between how straight they were flying and the faint glow of power his senses were detecting, it likely was a prudent action.

A prudent action which almost got him in trouble as when he nearly missed spotting the barrage of white energy spheres the floating shrine maiden fired together with the end of the flurry of ofuda, these moving even faster than the other projectiles had been.

Even as the last spheres and talismans passed by, Koizumi felt a building pressure in the air. Reimu had drifted to the side as he had tried to avoid the barrage, and with a pulse of force she tossed another volley of paper and spheres. Trying to get more distance from the attacks' origin, the esper jumped back, red light flickering around him as he began to drift upward himself, also speeding up his movement. Suddenly, however, he felt a sharp pain in his side, and fell over as he recoiled from whatever had struck him.

Seeing him fall, Reimu brought her hands together and the spheres and energy in the talismans faded away. Landing back on the ground with a shake of her head, she strolled over to him. "Oi… Suika…" she drawled.

"Lazy!" the oni called back, but hopped off of the porch. Taking a quick mouthful from her gourd, she pointed at the ground. Koizumi, managing to prop himself back up, watched as the scattered and fallen paper rustle and leap back into the air. This time, however, the charms only flew into several stacks where Suika had pointed, which Reimu picked back up and stuffed into her sleeves as she passed.

"Call it punishment for whatever you did while I was making the tea."

"Aw… what makes you think I did anything?" pouted Suika.

"I guessed."

"Heh! Yeah, fair enough." Coming over as well, the oni looked on as Reimu pulled Koizumi back to his feet. "You went easy on him. Didn't even bother watching the second volley."

"Well if he's not going to do it right, why should I?"

"Eh… I suppose you're right. And you!" Pointing at the esper, Suika frowned. "You just jumped right into that! Do you even bother to look behind you? It was one of the slow ones, too!"

Itsuki stared at the two. "What was that? All… that!"

"Danmaku," the two chorused.

"It's how fights are settled now," Reimu continued. "Rather than simply overpowering your opponent, it's more like a duel."

She pulled out another slip of paper, this one different from the multitude she had attacked him with earlier. As it was held up, he could see the phrase she had used at the beginning of her assault written on the paper.

"Since youkai and humans can't just go around killing each other all the time, danmaku is used instead. Attacks are nonlethal, pretty much, and whoever wins has restrictions on what they can do with the loser. Youkai aren't allowed to kill or eat humans who they defeat, and likewise humans can't exorcise or kill youkai. That kind of thing."

"I… see…" Koizumi said. "So rather than larger, more damaging attacks, one uses waves of less powerful ones?"

Shrugging, Reimu nodded. "Size doesn't matter, though there's some etiquette. There has to be a chance of avoiding getting hit, so you can't just blast everything at once even if you have enough power to do that. Also, while most of the weak youkai and fairies just throw out a few shots, if you're powerful enough you should have Spell Cards like this." She shook the card, before stowing it away.

"If you are, you better make them interesting!" Suika said, smirking. "I wanna see how good a giant-killer you are!"

"You keep out of this. Anyway, Spell Cards record specific attacks, and have to be named. There are various rules to them as well, but first we need to get you more ready for danmaku in general, rather than 'giant-killing.'"

"In my defense, the two are hardly alike, outside of both being in the realm of combat."

"Which is why you need to learn how to do it right, so me or Yukari don't have to make you learn why you're supposed to use the Spell Card system later." Reimu sighed, and looked up at the sky. "This is going to take all afternoon, at least."

"I apologize for the inconvenience," Koizumi replied.

"Eh, you can make up for it by helping out a bit while you're here. Chores or cooking or something. Or if you learn well enough to keep up maybe you can come along when I go looking for your friends; if you really don't want me knocking them around, if you can talk them out of whatever they might get up to it would save me the trouble."

Itsuki nodded. "That is something I would not object to, Miss Hakurei. It seems that I for the time being I shall continue to be in your care, then."


Author's Notes:

Mm… finally got this done. Somewhat of a 'talky' chapter, but considering that it's Koizumi you shouldn't be surprised.

C&C is welcomed, as always.