Author's Note: I own none of the characters mentioned or used in this story, except for the one from whose point of view this story is told. Any and all of the other characters belong to Team Shanghai Alice.
Chapter 1: Brought Within Boundaries
"Why in the world did you bring him here?"
A little… personal experiment."
"Oh, that's so like you!"
"Is he dead? Poke him with your horn!"
No sooner did I hear that when I felt a sharp jab in my arm.
"Yay, he's alive!" It was a young girl. Not very old. Maybe about nine years old, give or take a year.
"Of course he is," said someone else. An older woman. Late twenties, maybe early thirties. "I made sure he didn't die as I brought him here."
"You wouldn't be able to tell, he's so banged up." Teenager. About my age, most likely. Who are these girls anyways?
I tried opening my eyes. My vision was extremely blurry. Like I had just woken up from a really deep sleep.
"Look, he's coming around!" Another teenager, but maybe a couple years older than the other one.
I groaned softly, trying to move my arms. It was difficult, like trying to move through thick quicksand. My mouth was dry.
"We should give him something to drink," the younger teenager said.
"Oh, oh! I know what to give him!" The little girl.
"No!" The teenager again. "Don't even think about doing that! Just get some water from the shrine."
There was a pitter-patter of steps as the little girl ran off. A shrine, she said? So some kind of Eastern location? Maybe.
I managed to rub my eyes, and my vision cleared somewhat. The sky was almost empty, a single cloud drifting lazily across the sky. The floor beneath me was hard and cold. Stone? I wasn't sure.
I groaned again, louder this time. I felt a little sick, and everything felt sore: legs, arms, chest, everything. It felt like I was put through a workout marathon and then sent to run the actual thing. And my head… Argh, it hurt!
"Yukari-san did you call-"
"Yes. She should be on her way," the older woman said.
Wait. Yukari was a Japanese name, and san was an honorific term. So maybe I was in some Eastern place? But if I was, how come I could understand them? Gah, this was only making my headache worse….
"In fact, I actually called her before even bringing him here, telling her to prepare a special serum for healing bodily damage and mid-level migraines, so she should be here in exactly 11.6483 seconds."
That accurate? No way. One… Two…
A pitter-patter of steps coming back. The little girl. "I got the water!" she said. Now that I think about it, did she sound drunk? Or was it all in my head?
"Great. Just pour it down in his mouth."
"Alright! Drink up!"
Five… Six… I felt the mouth of a wooden bottle on my lips. A slow stream of cool water trickled down my throat. Oh, sweet water!
"And now for a little added extra!" Suddenly, the bottle was taken away, and the mouth of another was shoved into my mouth.
Ow! Burn, burn! What the hell was that! I choked and sputtered, spitting as much of the liquid out as I could. Several drops still managed to slither down my throat.
"Suika-chan, why in the world did you do that?" The teenager cried out.
"What?" the girl asked, whose name was Suika. "He needed a pick-me-up, right?"
"Not with sake!"
Great. I had just drunk a few drops of sake. I wasn't even legal age yet. Ten… Eleven…
"Yukari-san, you called me here?" Another woman. Late thirties maybe. That was exactly 11.6483 seconds? Damn, I was impressed.
"Ah, Eirin, you're here. You have the serum I requested?"
"Yes. This should fix him right up."
"Well, then give it to him!" The teenager said.
There was a light squeak of a stopper being pulled. A sweet, lilting smell tickled my nose, and I felt glass on my lips. The "serum" was like sweetened honey crawling down my throat.
Suddenly, a soothing sensation washed over my whole body. Then, in less than a second, my skin began to crawl, and my headache began to recede. I sighed. Such relief!
"Wow, you really know your stuff, Eirin-san." The older teenager. Did she sound drunk too?
"Of course," Eirin said proudly. "Making something like this is actually extremely simple for someone like me."
It may have been simple (even though it probably wasn't), but it sure was effective. My vision was clearing up for good this time. I opened my eyes fully, and my body no longer felt sore. But the sky was no longer clear. There were shadows…
Oh, wait, never mind, those were just the girls from earlier, all leaning down over me. Two of them had what looked like horns.
I sprang up. Perhaps a little too quickly, because the front of my skull suddenly throbbed a bit. A light breeze played with my hair. A large, somewhat rundown building sat at the end of a stone path. The shrine?
"Yay, he's awake!"
I turned to the sound to see a small, orange-haired girl jumping for joy. She was wearing an old, tattered shirt with the sleeves ripped off and a decorative dress. Despite the shackles and chains dangling off her wrists, and the two horns protruding from under her hair, she could have passed off as a pretty normal ten year old. Her name was… Suika, right?
"Yahoo!" Another girl jumped into view and started dancing with her. She looked considerably older, with a single horn coming from her forehead underneath blonde hair. A plate is somehow balanced precariously right on the tip. Her shirt could have come from a Japanese P.E. uniform (at least if it was stereotypical), and she wore her own decorative dress and chains.
"Uh…." I wasn't sure how I was supposed to react. But they did look drunk.
"Don't worry too much about them."
I turned to the voice. The girl kneeling was more… normal, I guess? She didn't have horns at least. She was wearing a bright red vest and dress with white trim, a yellow ribbon, and her black hair was done up with a large, matching bow. Her white sleeves were detached, and I managed to notice a strange bandage wrapped over her chest under the vest. The peculiarities struck me as familiar, and I realized she was a shrine maiden.
"Are you sure about that, uh… miko-chan?"
She cocked her head and smiled. "So you know I'm a shrine maiden? Interesting. Well, I'm Reimu. Reimu Hakurei." She extended a hand to me.
I quickly readjusted to a respectful kneeling position as well, and returned the handshake. "A pleasure to meet you, Reimu-chan."
She giggled a little. "A pleasure to meet you too."
"Hehe, thanks." I looked around, and immediately noticed that, besides the many trees of a forest and the shrine, there was almost nothing around.
"Well, now that that's done, I really must get back to Eientei," said the woman named Eirin. Her braided silvery hair was easily thigh length, and on her head was a red-blue hat that would be seen stereotypically as a nurse cap. Her dress was matching in color, and had a design printed along the bottom hem. "After all, Lady Kaguya-sama really is useless without me. And I'm expecting Alice-sama to arrive soon, as she usually does."
A loud yawn drew my attention away. "I should get back home too," said Yukari. Her blonde hair was topped with a white mob cap, and she was adorned with a white dress with a purple design racing down the front. A similar symbol to Eirin's was stitched around the middle. "Ran is in a panic without me around."
Both of them waved goodbye.
Then something amazing happened.
Eirin turned and jumped, and started flying! Within seconds, she was out of earshot and out of sight. Yukari managed to pull something even stranger: she fell backwards. Before I realized it and tried to stop her, a big… hole… opened up beneath her and sucked her in. Just before it closed, I thought I saw a huge eye gaping out of it.
For a moment, I heard nothing more than Suika and her friend laughing and partying. The scene I just witnessed was….
I turned and asked, "Reimu-chan… Where in the world am I?"
She didn't look fazed at all. Like this was a regular occurrence, somehow.
"You're in the land of Gensokyo."