The bedroom was decorated sparsely, with only a simple wooden drawer and a small bed in the corner. On top of the drawer was a picture of two girls: an older, blonde woman wearing a purple and white dress, and the other a younger girl with short brown hair tied back in a red bow, matching her red and white shrine costume. The blonde woman's eyes were closed, and her face was smiling in amusement as she rested a hand on the shorter girl's shoulder. The brunette had a look of annoyance, but the ends of her mouth were turned up slightly.
Next to the picture was a white mob cap. It was tattered, and had a red ribbon tied on the front, its edges fraying slightly.
The young shrine maiden in red and white stood in front of the dresser. Somberly, she stared at the battered hat, her eyes closing in pain.
The faint chirping of birds and the scraping of a broom against hard stone filled the bright, sunny day. The young girl holding the broom stopped her motions. She laid the bamboo tool on the veranda of the shrine behind her, and leaned back, using her arms as support. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head towards the sky, sighing.
It's almost too quiet. It's been like this for weeks. That's odd, because she's usually always here….
The girl then heard soft noises beside her, as if someone had stepped onto the ground from the veranda.
Ah. I knew it.
Releasing a bigger sigh, her eyes remained closed, her head never moving from its position. "What d'you want, Yukari?"
A light giggle was heard, soon followed by the sound of a fan being opened. "Why, Reimu dear, I just wanted to see you. A bit grumpy today, aren't we?"
Reimu straightened up and took her broom in hand. She continued sweeping, her eyes occasionally glancing at the woman wearing a purple and white dress. "What I don't get is why you come here. Shouldn't you be busy sleeping, or whatever it is you youkai do?"
Yukari smiled coyly, the sunlight bouncing off of her long, golden hair. "Well, I was considering visiting Rinnosuke at his shop… That man has been getting more interesting stock each week, and I haven't had tea with him in quite a while!" She continued to fan herself.
Reimu frowned slightly and gripped her broom tighter, her narrowed eyes burning a hole in the stone path.
T-The nerve! She hasn't visited in so long, and when she does, she talks about having tea with that half-youkai?
The shrine maiden's reaction failed to escape Yukari's gaze. Giggling softly, the elegant woman covered her mouth with her fan, disguising her amusement. "Ah! Can it be? The unmovable youkai-hunting shrine maiden of paradise is jealous?"
Reimu twisted around and glared at the still-laughing woman, her fists coming close to snapping the broom. "Look! Why don't you just visit him then! Just go away, you stupid gap hag! Leave me alone!" Her yell echoed through the still air, the clearing suddenly devoid of all sounds. The young shrine maiden whirled around and stormed off in the other direction, her balled hands a chalk white.
Just leave me alone… Like you always do, now…
Yukari slowly folded her fan, gazing after Reimu's retreating form.
The sound of breaking glass filled the dark night, and Reimu could hear nothing else except for the blood pounding in her ears.
The… The Boundary!
The shine maiden was in front of her shrine, her arms thrust forwards. Holding a gohei, she projected a square red barrier over what seemed to be a giant crack in the air.
This isn't…. this isn't possible-!
Reimu poured more power into the crimson square of energy, trying to close the cracks. Sweat dripped along the side of her face, and she bit her lip, drawing blood. All around her, the cracks widened and the earth was shaking and pieces of the sky were falling all around her and-
- this can't be happening oh god no-
Her red barrier fragmented into a million pieces, and Reimu only had enough time to widen her eyes in shock before the backlash of the broken field of energy sent her flying back. Landing heavily on her side, Reimu let out a pained cry. She scrambled to her knees, looking around desperately for the gohei that was knocked out of her hands. She started when she felt a comforting hand descend gently on her head.
The hand slid off her head, its warm presence lingering. The owner of the hand strode forth confidently, her step never faltering. Reimu gasped. "Yu… Yukari! I-"
The blonde woman turned around and smiled gently at the young girl in red. An unknown emotion swirled in the gap youkai's eyes before they closed in reassurance. She turned around, her long, blond hair moving violently in the turbulent night air, shards of the sky falling around Yukari almost like the petals of a cherry blossom-
The dark, frenzied night was illuminated by a blinding white light. Reimu shut her eyes and held her arms in front of her face, the energy enough to blow her back a few feet. Lowering her hands, the shrine maiden saw a tattered mob cap flying through the air, landing a few inches in front of her.
The remnants of sky were replaced with white and purple shreds of cloth, falling gently to the ground. Slowly, droplets of water soon joined the shreds, fading into the stone without a trace.
All was quiet in the dark bedroom, and even the sound of Reimu's breathing did little to change the dour, silent air. Sitting in her simple bed, she was no longer dressed in her red and white shrine maiden garb, opting instead for a simple white robe to keep her clothed.
Staring down at her blanket-covered lap, Reimu's face was shadowed by her shoulder-length, dark brown hair, free from its showy red bow. She gripped the sheets between her hands, and tried not to look upon the wooden dresser beside her.
… my fault…
The shrine maiden's head jerked up, her eyes widening in disbelief at the hand held in front of her. A choked name fell from her lips as her breathing hitched.
The blonde woman smiled gently, her eyes closed in reassurance, looking as if she had never disappeared in the first place. Reimu's eyes began to shine with hope and relief, and with unshed tears she reached to take Yukari's hand –
"Yukari! I was so worried about you, you idiot! I-I mean… I didn't mean to yell at you that day-I'm so…"
- and closed her hand around thin air.
Reimu's hand remained in front of her, shaking. Her tears pooled over her eyes, and Reimu buried her head within her hands, sobbing quietly.
… it's all my fault-!
The soft crooning of insects and the scraping of a broom against hard stone filled the damp, cloudy day. Wearing her red and white garb, Reimu kept her head bowed and swept the debris into a small pile. Among the fallen leaves were shreds of dirty cloth, once violet or white. Her actions were mechanical, almost robot-like, and the shadows under her eyes contrasted alarmingly against her pale skin.
The shrine maiden heard the wind blowing suddenly behind her, and loud, clattering footsteps sounded on the stone path. Stopping right behind her, a loud, cheery voice called.
"Yo, Reimu! Hey, didja see the giant storm earlier? I couldn't come up to the shrine 'cause the weather was horrible. D'ya know what happened?"
Flinching slightly at the words, Reimu slowly turned around and looked at the speaker. The brash visitor was a young, robust girl dressed as a witch, complete with a black, frilly hat sitting on her dirty-blond hair. Her left hand was holding a wooden broomstick, and her right hand was scratching the back of her head sheepishly. Marisa's closed eyes, combined with her cheerful smile, took Reimu aback.
The young witch slowly faded into an image of another blond woman, one older and much more elegant and composed. Her smile was hidden from view by a purple fan, and Reimu could do nothing but stare speechlessly.
Reimu gritted her teeth and her face distorted in shock and pain, but she quickly schooled her expression into one of indifference. It didn't escape the blond witch, however, and the dead look in the shrine maiden's once lively eyes combined with Reimu's disheveled appearance jolted Marisa out of her cheery attitude. "I… Reimu? Hey, are you oka-?"
Reimu turned her back on the now cautious blonde and continued to sweep the pathway without uttering a sound. Marisa gazed after the silent brunette, and pulled her dark hat down to cover her eyes.
Soft rays of light filtered through the doorway of the storage house, the places untouched by light shadowed in foreboding darkness. Reimu stood on her toes, using a duster to clean the top of one of the shelves. The light that penetrated the darkness of the space fell on Reimu's face, accentuating her sharp, gaunt cheekbones against her sunken face. The shrine maiden's eyes were still flat and lifeless, and the bags under them were made even more alarming.
Almost like an automaton, Reimu kept dusting the shelf. Her tool hit something unstable, and the contents of the top row fell onto the brunette. The look of surprise that appeared on her face was the first sign of life she had exhibited in a long time. A giant, suffocating dust cloud permeated the air of the room, and the shrine maiden, having collapsed onto the ground, coughed heavily.
When the cloud dissipated, the shrine maiden looked around her. The floor was cluttered with various boxes, scrolls, and scripts, the size of each object intimidating. She began her new menial task, reaching out for one of the nearby books. Glancing at the cover with a faint curiosity, Reimu's eyes widened and stopped all her motions.
What…? Can this be?
She quickly opened the book and leafed through its contents, her face becoming lighter with each flip of a page. Hope began to flow through her body, and she quickly stood up, all thoughts of cleaning the storage fleeing her mind.
With this… With this I can finally make things right! Yukari…
She ran out the room, heading straight towards the shrine with script in hand. Her face hardened with steely resolve, one word echoing through her mind.
The Book of Resurrection
The Art of Life covers many things.
But the most Delicate, and the most Difficult practice… is Necromancy.
You can Tamper with Life when Life is Abundant… However, the true challenge is Tampering with Life when there is None.
A single Person cannot harbor enough Magic in them to Resurrect Life…
But if that Person Takes from an extremely Powerful Source of Magic…
It will be entirely possibly to bring back Someone from the Dead….
… But not without severe Consequences.
A small, intricately-beautiful doll hovered up the immense set of stairs, slowing to a stop at the tall red gate in front of the silent Hakurei shrine. The doll turned its head around, looking at the unkempt state of the shrine grounds. A girl's voice sounded from the doll.
"Goodness, Marisa was right. Hasn't been swept in days, it seems. Where the hell's that shrine maiden?"
The doll continued to hover towards the imposing shrine, the voice continuing to speak.
"I definitely don't like this weather, either. The dark clouds actually make the shrine look intimidating for once. Perhaps another big storm will come."
The doll reached the open door of the shrine, almost hesitating to go in. The voice sighed. "Which way to go…? Ah, I see an open door in there. Go, Shanghai."
Shanghai did as it was commanded and floated into the shrine, the corridors frightening and dark. A weak source of light emanated from a room far into the hallway. The doll came closer to the light, and looked into the room.
Reimu was seated at a table with many papers spread out on it, and a short candle on the top, its flame flickering every few seconds. Her back faced the doorway, and she appeared to be furiously scribbling something. Her hair, long enough to pass her shoulders, was lank and oily, and her red and white clothes were heavily wrinkled. The floor around her was strewn with paper full of complex designs, some crumpled up in a ball. The shrine maiden gave no visible sign of noticing Shanghai.
The doll turned around and left.
There were no sounds of insects or birds as the stormy, black sky rumbled threateningly. Looking as if it might rain any second, the dark, heavy clouds rolled over the shrine. In front of the shrine, Reimu stood in the middle of a complex and exacting design drawn carefully in ink.
With a deep breath, Reimu raised her arms. With one hand, she held her gohei in front of her. She supported the weight of the wooden instrument with two fingers on her other hand. She furrowed her brow and concentrated, glaring determinedly at the Great Boundary. The ink pattern on the stone started to glow, and soon the only thing the shrine maiden could hear was the rushing of wind. Bits of debris around the shrine began to float up ominously, as the rumbling of the black clouds overhead became louder.
Reimu closed her eyes.
An image of the smiling blonde woman offering her hand flashed through the young girl's mind.
Soon, I will be able to see you again. I will make things right. I promise.
Directly overhead the shrine maiden, the sky broke into pieces.
A heartrending, bestial cry echoed through the night.
A deafening sound akin to a shattering mirror overhead startled Marisa. "Wh-What!"
She jumped to the side, barely avoiding a giant falling shard. It hit the ground, and sunk in at least three feet. "I… I need to get Alice!" She quickly mounted her broom, and burst into the stormy dark sky.
The solid, wooden door burst open, destroyed in a ray of light. A girl with short blond hair accessorized with a red, frilly headband stood up from her plush armchair. "What the- Marisa, get the hell out of my house!"
The worried witch bounded into the house, grabbing the other girl's hand and began dragging her to the doorway. "Alice, this is no time to be sitting here! Just get your dolls! Something's wrong with the Boundary; pieces of glass or sky or energy or- or whatever it is keeps falling!" As if to prove Marisa's point, a giant shard fell through the roof and cut Alice's armchair in half.
Alice stared at the ruined piece of furniture in shock. The turbulent winds causing her blue dress to flutter, she shook her hand free from the witch. She called out into the house, grabbing a thick, padlocked book nearby. "Shanghai! Hourai! Come, my dolls, it seems we need to go!"
Lightning flashed, illuminating the dark room in the frightening mansion. A silver-haired maid looked out the vast window, seeing only the dark sky and the shadows of trees bending in the strong wind. "My Lady…"
The room's other occupant chuckled. Lifting an elegant tea cup up to her pale lips, she replied back. "Sakuya. It seems as if yet another problem has appeared at the Hakurei Shrine." She took a tiny sip of the suspiciously red liquid in her cup. Delicately putting the cup down, she turned her head and stared at her servant. After a long moment, Sakuya nodded.
"Yes, my Lady."
Reimu clenched her teeth and concentrated even more on the great energy before her. She channeled the energy through her body, relishing in the raw magic flowing through her veins.
It feels incredible… I never knew so much magic was invested in the Boundary. No wonder it's been able to exist for so long. With this much energy, there's no way I'll fail!
For the first time in weeks, the shrine maiden felt herself smile, the foreign motion making her jaws ache. A sudden shout, somehow tangible through the roaring winds, reached her ears. "Reimu! What are you doing?"
Reimu almost lost her concentration, her eyes nervously flickering back and forth. Finally she spotted three figures in the sky steadily approaching. She growled like a beast, her face flashing with annoyance and determination. "Get out of my way! You can't stop me, this is the only way!"
Alice, the fastest of the three girls, rushed closer. "You fool! Can't you see that you're destroying Gensokyo? Shanghai, Hourai, let's go!" She opened her padlocked book. "Spell Card: The Phantom of the Grand Guignol!"
Her two dolls flew in front of her and shot a multitude of bright red and blue lights from their bodies, rapidly approaching the shrine maiden.
W-what? These bullets… Danmaku? Well, even if it's Alice's best spell card, she'll have to do better. Reimu smirked, seeing an opening in the paths of the bullets. She began to move her feet, then stopped. Her eyes widened in realization.
I can't dodge! If I do, the ritual-!
The girl in red and white felt power coursing through her and calmed slightly. Ah, that's right. I'll be delayed a little, but if this can work-!
She moved her gohei so that its tip was pointing straight at Alice. Reimu concentrated, growling slightly at the effort. Just when the swarm of neon projectiles was about to hit her, four red glowing barriers popped up, forming a protective square around her. The danmaku hit the shields with ferocity, but it held fast. The field of energy made the bullets bounce back towards Alice and her dolls, shocking the blond girl in the blue dress.
Alice managed to grab Shanghai and Hourai and held them close to her before the red and blue danmaku hit her, sending her flying off into the distance.
"Alice!" The witch and the maid shouted. Marisa started back after the downed girl, but Sakuya grabbed her arm. "There's no time – Look!" Pointing at the black sky, Sakuya and Marisa stared grimly at the giant cracks appearing in the air around them.
Whipping out a polished brass pocket watch, Sakuya inhaled deeply. She flipped open the watch. "Spell Card: Void 'Inflation Square'!"
She threw a single silver knife, its sharp edge glinting red-hot under the light of the energy surrounding Reimu. As if by magic, the knife suddenly multiplied into hundreds, all heading straight for the trapped shrine maiden.
Reimu let out a barking laugh, her eyes starting to resemble a madman's. She kneeled quickly, placing the flat of her hands on the stone ground. The ink seal around her burst with compressed energy, and the red squares fused together, forming a vortex of electric-blue light covering every inch of her body just before the daggers could hit her. The weapons were blasted back towards Sakuya and Marisa, both getting cut by the sharp edges.
The witch and the maid frantically tried to dodge the incoming daggers, the weapons grazing their sides and ripping their clothes. An agonized scream filled the air as Sakuya was hit, the knife burying itself in her stomach up to its hilt. The wounded maid flew backward, the momentum of the thrown knife enough to throw her far back. She landed heavily on the ground and didn't move.
"No! Sakuya!" The witch screamed in horror. She whipped her head around to look at Reimu. "Reimu, you can't do this! Look what you've done!"
"What I've done? This is my repentance, this is for Yukari!" The shrine maiden roared at the distraught witch. Reimu glowed even brighter, the electric-blue energy around her turning an almost-blinding white.
"But Reimu, don't you care about Gensokyo? Don't you care about Alice, and Sakuya, and everybody else?" Crying, Marisa's anguished shout faded into a choked sob. "Don't you… don't you care about me…?"
Seeing no response from the berserk shrine maiden, Marisa closed her eyes in resignation. She quickly landed a few meters from Reimu, and took out a wooden, eight-sided amulet. The amulet started to float between her arms, now held in front of as if she was trying to push something back. The amulet started to glow with light green power. "Love Sign: 'Master Spark!'"
A giant white laser was fired point blank from the amulet straight towards Reimu. Reimu's eyes widened in panic, and she concentrated solely on her barrier, picking up her gohei. As she pointed her tool at the witch, the pure white vortex around her took the shape of a fearsome dragon, its serpentine body coiled protectively around Reimu. The huge beam of light collided with the blindingly bright dragon, and as her gohei was knocked out of her hand, the last thing Reimu saw was white.
Reimu opened her eyes. Groaning at her splitting headache, she quickly clutched her head and sat up. Opening her eyes, Reimu found herself in an odd room. Lit by bright, fragrant candles, the room seemed like a traditional Japanese bedroom, but with foreign objects and strange furniture placed thoughtfully throughout the space. Instead of a sliding door, the room had a polished, wooden door. Everything else seemed to be a shade of purple, white, and black. Sitting on a giant, Western bed, Reimu stared questioningly at her surroundings.
All this purple… It could only belong to Yukar-
She drew her legs up on the rich, purple sheets and hugged her knees. She stared hopelessly at the wall, her eyes flat and dead.
That's it then. I failed. Yukari will never come back. And… I failed Gensokyo, too. As the protector of the shrine, and as Reimu…
The broken young girl closed her eyes in pain and her shoulders started to shake, although no tears fell from her eyes.
There's nothing I can do now.
Something warm then touched her back. Reimu didn't even move, staying as still as stone.
I don't care anymore.
It then moved to her shoulder. Reimu glanced at it despite herself.
… A hand? It… it feels like-
Another hand grasped her other shoulder, and the fallen shrine maiden found herself in a loving, gentle embrace.
She turned around and looked up at a calm, smiling face framed with long, golden hair. Reimu's face contorted. Hugging back, she buried her face in the other woman's chest. A choked name fell from the shrine maiden's lips as she shook even more, her arms tightening.
"Shh… It's okay, Reimu… It's okay," Yukari whispered softly, her hands rubbing Reimu's back comfortingly.
Reimu tensed, her fists clenching Yukari's dress. "… No. It's not. I betrayed my friends; I betrayed Gensokyo. And I failed to bring you back… Because of me… because of me, you…" Her words tapered off into silence.
Yukari sighed and smiled sadly. She used her hand to hold Reimu's chin, tilting the shrine maiden's face upwards. "But you didn't destroy Gensokyo. Marisa, Sakuya, and Alice will understand; they won't hate you. And," Yukari closed her eyes, her mouth still curled in a melancholic smile, "you did all of that… for me. And somehow, it makes me feel…" For the first time since Reimu had known her, Yukari seemed at a loss for words.
"Reimu… Everything happens for a purpose. We do our best to follow, and try our best, even if we don't understand completely." Yukari held Reimu's hand up, their fingers interlocking. "Let me ask you something." Yukari moved in front of the shrine maiden, holding Reimu's eyes in an intense gaze.
"You're on a journey, Reimu. On your journey, you will travel to wonderful, far-off places. You will meet all sorts of people. You're on a great adventure. However, you originally started that journey for a simple reason. Perhaps it's for something, or someone. Others might call you misguided or delusional for it.
"But you know not to rush your journey, instead savoring every little moment of your quest. Some good things will happen, and bad things will happen. But you accept all of it, and keep moving on. Why?"
Reimu pondered it, but eventually shook her head, her face dropping. "… No. I'm sorry, I don't know…"
Yukari laughed. "Oh Reimu, that's alright." The young girl tensed at the laughter, but then relaxed.
It's okay. I can handle her teasing me – anything so that Yukari won't go again.
The lighting of the room changed suddenly as a few candles blew out. "Yukari! What was that?"
Yukari's smile dimmed, and she looked away. "It seems as if the time has come." The candles slowly went out one by one, and only one small flame was left burning. Both girls looked at the lone candle. Yukari silently slipped off the bed and made towards the barely visible door.
"No, Yukari! I… I don't want to lose you again…" Reimu grasped Yukari's hand with both of hers, as if she could anchor the blond woman in that one spot.
"Reimu…" Yukari tried to smile gently, and squeezed Reimu's hand. "I'll tell you the answer to my riddle, alright?"
She leaned in close, her breath tickling Reimu's ear. Whispering softly, she backed away, untangling her hand from Reimu's. The shrine maiden's eyes widened and sat as still as stone, shocked. As Yukari turned around and walked confidently towards the doorway, she paused and looked over her shoulder at Reimu. An unknown emotion swirled in the gap youkai's eyes before they closed in reassurance. Yukari opened the door and left the room, the door shutting quietly behind her.
Reimu stood up and walked towards the door. She leaned her forehead against the cool wood, her right hand loosely holding the doorknob. Releasing the doorknob, tears fell from the shrine maiden's eyes, and she made no move to stop them.
I… I get it. But… am I crying out of sadness or happiness...? Maybe it's a mix of both. But now I know…
The remaining candle in the room faded away, and Reimu was shrouded in a layer of darkness.
Reimu clenched Marisa's black dress between her hands, sobbing quietly. Marisa held Reimu's head in her lap, staring up into the sky. The dark clouds broke apart, and a single ray of light fell, illuminating the witch and the shine maiden.
The faint chirping of birds and the scraping of a broom against hard stone filled the bright, sunny day. The young woman holding the broom stopped her motions. She laid the bamboo tool on the veranda of the shrine behind her, and leaned back, using her arms as support. Brushing back her waist-long hair, she closed her eyes and tilted her head towards the sky, sighing.
It's almost too quiet. It's been like this for such a long time. But that's okay; I'm used to it.
The woman opened her eyes, gazing contently into the endless blue sky. Images of a time long ago flittered by her mind - those of golden hair, enigmatic smiles hidden behind a fan, a single, lit candle, a dark and stormy night.
It was long ago, but it was not forgotten.
Closing her eyes slowly, Reimu whispered into the peaceful air. "I'm on a journey. On my journey, I'll go to wonderful, far-off places, and meet all sorts of people. It's a great adventure. But I originally started my journey for a simple reason – for someone. People might call me misguided or delusional for that reason.
"But I know not to rush my journey, instead savoring every little moment of my quest. Some good things will happen, and bad things will happen. But I'll accept all of it, and keep moving on. Why? Because…"
The door slid open and a person stepped inside. The room was decorated sparsely, with only a simple wooden drawer and a small bed in the corner. On top of the drawer was a picture of two girls: an older, blonde woman wearing a purple and white dress, and the other a younger girl with short brown hair tied back in a red bow, matching her red and white shrine costume. The blonde woman's eyes were closed, and her face was smiling in amusement as she rested a hand on the shorter girl's shoulder. The brunette had a look of annoyance, but the ends of her mouth were turned up slightly.
Next to the picture was a white mob cap. It was tattered, and had a red ribbon tied on the front, its edges fraying slightly.
Walking to the drawer, the person reached out a hand and took the hat. The person walked out of the room and out of the shrine onto the veranda, footsteps barely tangible against the smooth, wooden floor. Leaning back on the wooden porch was a young woman wearing red and white clothes. The shrine maiden didn't seem to notice her mysterious company, and was murmuring quietly to herself. The words were loud enough for the other person to overhear.
The other person smiled, and finished Reimu's sentence.
"I'll find my reason."
AN: S here! Whew, that took a while. Anyways, this fic was based off of the one fanvid- Touhou Theatre: Maze. Well, big thanks to my friends who read this for me, and a big hug to R, who was undeniably lovely in the support and help I received!