My eyes open just as the sound of bamboo striking stone comes through the screen door. Sitting up, I stretch my arms out and yawn widely, before getting out of the futon and heading over to the doors. I take a moment to fix my clothes before sliding the door open, revealing the garden outside my room, still dark as the dawn has yet to show over the walls of the place I am now staying in.
I make my way over to the washing area, where I take the chance to wash my face before heading back to my room to change. From there, I head for the meditation hall.
This early, there's no one else there. No one else, other than the person in charge of this place, and she's already laying out the mats for those who will come.
The woman turns around at the sound of my opening the door. "Ah, Ikuto-kun." She greets me with a smile, "Good morning."
"Good morning to you too, Hijiri-san." I greet her back.
Only two days, and I've gotten used to this already. I smile inwardly as I help her with the rest of it.
After I made my way down from Youkai Mountain, I decided to try my luck at Myouren Temple, and Byakuren accepted my request to stay right away. In exchange, I would help out with the chores and other stuff.
As the chief priest, she naturally offered to teach me about dharma, but I gently refused. Still, I accompany her in some of her practices, such as the morning meditation, which I am currently using to hone my mind and spirit. Based on what I know, this helps with my magic as well.
"Though you do not practice the dharma," Byakuren's voice makes me blink and look at her, "Your meditation shows an impressive level of development. May I know how you accomplished that?"
It came from a manga, actually. But looking at her... I see Byakuren's kind expression waiting patiently for my reply. "Well... I believe it's about... what was the word... appreciation! That's the word." (1)
"Appreciation?" Byakuren looks at me curiously. "That is an interesting school of thought."
There's the sound of a gong, followed by several footsteps approaching our location. The morning meditation will soon be starting, so we agree to continue the discussion later. Youkai start to filter into the place, each greeting Byakuren, and some greeting me, as they take their seats on the mats. The senior members such as Ichirin and Shou take the ones near the front, next to Byakuren, while I take one for myself near the back and settle down in a seated position.
Relaxing my body, I empty my mind first, letting it drift around randomly for a few moments, before focusing on the emotion that best represents appreciation.
Gratitude. I lose myself in it, until the sound of the gong rouses me.
"Thank you all for attending this morning's meditation." Byakuren speaks from the front of the hall. "Let us adjourn to the dining hall for breakfast."
The youkais bow in acknowledgement, and I follow suit. Breakfast is a simple meal of rice and greens, one that I don't find very savory, but manage to gulp down all the same.
I definitely need to ask Yukari for some vegetarian cookbooks. I decide, heading back to my room to change.
I begin my morning training, going through several motions that Meiling had beaten into my body. I can feel people watching me, but some turn away after a while. One, however, I can feel her staring intently, from up on the roof. I turn with the motion, and confirm my suspicions; it's Nue, and she doesn't look friendly. Naturally, since my first interaction with that youkai was putting her in a submission hold when she attacked a kid at a festival, and then she retaliated by putting one of her snakes on me to disguise my appearance.
Well, as long as she doesn't give me any trouble, I won't give her any.
"The male training over there." A high-pitched voice calls out to me.
I turn around again, this time to see Ichirin standing nearby, with her partner Unzan floating around her, both of them looking at me. I did know them from before, but when I returned recently, I very nearly forgot her name. Just in case, I make sure to burn her appearance into my mind.
Ichirin wears a blue headdress from which her long blue hair falls out of, on top of a blue dress covered by a black and gold Buddhist robe. There's a red orb hanging from her neck, and a large golden ring held in her right hand. Unzan on the other hand, is a smoky grey cloud with the face of an old man with thick eyebrows and beard.
"Yes, what can I do for you?" I ask, finishing another set of movements.
"Nothing. I just want to know how you're finding your life here."
"Thanks for your concern, but..." My hand snaps up and catches a thrown roof tile, "I think I'll be fine."
"Who-? Nue!" Ichirin catches sight of the culprit. "Don't damage the roof!"
"BLEH!" Nue responds by sticking her tongue out and disappearing over the other side before Ichirin can pursue.
Sighing, the girl turns back to me. "I'm sorry about that girl."
I smirk. "No worries. We have an understanding, actually."
In the short time I've been here, Ichirin has shown herself to be a serious and smart person, yet easy to get along with. She answers most of my questions willingly, and just last night, I played a game of Go against her when she asked me to. It was during that time that she told me more about herself and Unzan's history.
Years and years ago, when she was just a young human girl, Ichirin met Unzan, a nyuudou which would have killed her the moment he raised his lowered head, but she managed to outwit him, and the shock of his defeat led to Unzan protecting her. However, the presence of a youkai hanging around her made humans fear her, and before she knew it, she turned into a youkai herself.
Later, she told me she was pleased that I hadn't shown any pity for her losing her humanity. Ichirin didn't say any more on the matter, so I have no idea what lies behind her reasoning on that issue. Maybe when I get to know her more.
"Well, don't let me interrupt your training any further." Ichirin nods to me and leaves, Unzan imitating her actions.
I still have another hour of training to go, so I continue on. Practicing with my Ki is important to progress further, and I have far to go before I can consider myself proficient with it. Adept at most, I would say.
"Energetic, aren't you?"
I automatically react, spinning and unleashing a palm strike that releases a burst of Ki at the speaker. Naturally, given the difference in our strengths, she simply spins around and disperses the wave with a sweep of her large tail.
"Oops, sorry about that."
"Heh, that was a pretty good attack there." Mamizou compliments me, grinning.
If Ichirin's the serious type, then Mamizou would be easygoing one. It's possible to talk to her about anything, because she would willingly offer a listening ear to whoever needs one. In other words, she's like the counselor of the place.
Mamizou's a brunette, and with her tanuki heritage, she has animal ears on top of her head in addition to the huge striped bushy tail sticking up from behind her. Out of everyone I've met so far, she's the only other person apart from Rinnosuke who wears glasses. Adorning her head is a green leaf with a small hole in it, somehow staying stuck on despite her movements. I'm guessing it's how she uses her power, or maybe just a decoy.
Her outfit is a dull brown dress, and the way it flares up near the bottom tells me that she's wearing some bulky underpants underneath there.
I avert my eyes. Damn, I'm more perverted than I thought.
Out loud, I ask her, "Did you want anything with me?"
"Meh, well, I was wondering if you would like to spar a little." Mamizou proposes, grinning.
"Spar?" I chew my lip. "Well, I don't mind..."
Mamizou tilts her head with a smile, putting a hand on her hip while the other goes to touch the leaf on her head. "Glad to hear that. Well, shall we go to the field outside?"
She lifts off the ground and flies towards the east, and I follow, channeling Ki through my legs to help me jump after her. Mamizou notices, and slows down her speed so I can keep up.
"You still haven't learned how to fly yet?" She inquires.
"Actually, I don't have enough magical power to do so," I confess, "The most I can do is decrease the speed of my descent." I activate the power I got from Cirno to illustrate, and float alongside the tanuki. And this isn't even my own ability.
"Guess I'll have to give you a handicap later, won't I?" Mamizou remarks, smiling.
She gives me a quizzical look. "Why? I think you'd need it."
"I'm not sure if I should feel offended that you think so lowly of my skills." I reply dryly. "I did spend some time training before coming here, just so you know."
"Hoh? And what sort of training is that?" Mamizou asks me curiously.
I open my mouth, then stop without saying a word. Actually, I don't think the skills involved in fighting Monster Hunter beasts will help much in a spellcard battle.
"So? What sort of training?" The tanuki presses.
"Danger awareness, I guess." I finally admit.
"Hmmm..." Mamizou hums thoughtfully. "That might help against me, I suppose."
My feet finally touch the ground, allowing me to jump again, this time crossing over the wall that surrounds the Temple. I feel a brief spike of envy when I see Mamizou easily keeping pace, looking nonchalant about it. We eventually reach our destination, and take up positions on opposite sides of it.
I do some last stretching while Mamizou waits, and ready my key.
"Ready?" The amusement in her tone is obvious.
I manifest Future Gazer in my hand. "Bring it!"
She begins with a spray of energy balls that I don't waste energy on deflecting, but simply slip between to avoid. It's obvious she's feeling me out, and once she noticed that I'm not going to get hit so easily, she declares her first spellcard.
"First Duel - 'Primate Danmaku Transformation'!"
She releases several blue motes that transform into dolls of light a certain distance away from her body, and they start circling her.
No, they're not just circling, they're moving outwards from her as well. I realize, slowly walking to the side to avoid the small bullets the dolls shoot at me. It's the typical initial lock-on shot, just move slowly and let it wear out.
I snort. "Yeah, right."
Channeling a bit of the ring's energy into my hand, I form a small chunk of ice in my palm. Tossing it up into the air, I smack it right at Mamizou with my Keyblade. Naturally, she dodges it easily by simply leaning out of the way, and retaliates by releasing even more bullet-firing dolls.
"You're holding back, aren't you?" Mamizou inquires, shooting off yet another wave of dolls.
"Can't be helped," I shrug as I sidestep another wave of danmaku, "I can't shoot off danmaku like you do, and I'm trying to stay in line with spellcard rules."
"Ah, I see."
I go through her next three spellcards, facing first green dogs that try to flank me, followed by red birds charging from the front, then glowing frogs that explode into bullets. I'm finally forced to use my Keyblade to block some of those released from the frog bombs, and Mamizou smirks victoriously.
"What?" I ask her as my mind wanders slightly. I wonder what Suwako would say if she saw that spellcard just now.
"Finally made you do something other than dodge or try to hit me with those wimpy attacks."
"I'm not really good with preset attacks like that," I admit, "I'm more of a-"
In that one moment, the Keyblade in my hand transforms, and I close the distance between us in a flash. This close, I can see her eyes start to widen behind her lenses, but her reaction is too slow to stop me from landing several shadow blows to her neck, sides, and knees, all pulled so that they stop before making contact.
My retreat is barely in time to avoid the sudden barrage of danmaku from her body, and I leap back to my initial position, sidestepping them so fast I'm almost leaving an afterimage.
"-react on my feet type of person." I finish, brandishing Phantom Blossom in front of me.
The first Keyblade form I gained after Future Gazer, this weapon signifies the bond between me and Youmu, formed during my stay in Hakugyokurou. It's literally a flowery weapon, but it is also a blade that embodies the speed of the girl it represents to me.
Mamizou stares at me for several long moments, still shocked by the sudden attack I had launched. She even forgot to continue with the battle. Eventually, she comes to her senses and gives me an approving look.
"I heard about that weapon of yours, but seeing it in action is another thing altogether." The tanuki remarks. "Say, why don't we put aside the spellcard rules for a bit, so you can show me what you've really got?"
The idea itself was tempting, but I put my hand up. "I decline for the time being. Right now, I want to see just how I perform under the rules."
Mamizou doesn't even falter; she nods and continues with her next spellcard, Scrolls of Frolicking Animals, which throws types from the previous three combined at me. It reminds me a little of the time spent training against Sakuya's knives, and I start dodging instinctively.
No way Phantom Blossom is going to work a second time for a sneak attack, now that she's aware of it. I think as I meet her gaze from where I'm weaving in between danmaku bullets. But then again, right now I'm just seeing how long I can keep this up.
Beasts from the sides, birds from the front, and amphibians around her scattering bullets in all directions. It's tough, but I somehow manage to scrape through escaping with quite a number of grazes. The gaps between them were that hard to squeeze through; if I hadn't learned how to see the danger spots from fighting against so many dragons, I would have had a harder time.
"Good, very good! Then how about this?" Mamizou floats slightly to the right, and unleashes another spellcard. "Sixth Duel - 'Tanuki's Monstrous School'!"
There's a brief swirl of wind that makes me squint momentarily, and when I can see clearly again, there are already more of the light dolls materializing into existence in a row behind her, slowly advancing forward.
Stop and go maneuvers again. I decide, guessing that like the first time I had seen those, the dolls would fire bullets at my position at set intervals. Except...
I was right, yet there an unexpected twist presents itself; the rows that appear behind Mamizou did so at varying heights, which makes the whole thing even harder to predict. Furthermore, once the rows passed me, I would have to focus on avoiding bullets from every direction apart from up and down, so I resort to using another of my Keyblades.
"Silver Flame." I intone, switching forms at the same time I reverse my grip on the handle. "And... cut."
I slash furiously around me, slicing through the energy shots aimed at my body and slowing them down enough to create an opening for me to slip through. Sakuya's Keyblade fills up quickly with all the extra time I'm stealing, and it waits for me to activate it and release all the stored up power. Just before I'm about to be enclosed again, I thumb the trigger.
Everything slows down to a near stop, and I start walking forward, feeling a resistance beneath my shoes as I step on grass that can't bend fast enough to keep up with the speed I'm moving at in reality. As I move towards Mamizou, I sway from side to side, making it harder for her eyes to track me.
And the result of all this work is... I think as I come to a stop right in front of the youkai. "Boop." I poke her in nose just as the power wears off.
Then I'm gone just as the dolls fire simultaneously again, retreating to a safe distance.
"You can go even faster?" Mamizou questions, rubbing the spot I poked. "Even more interesting."
Unfortunately, my luck runs out after that. The swarm of danmaku that sweeps across the field in her next spellcard comes hard and fast, and I end up taking several hits when I try to dodge it without using my other Keyblades.
"Still want to continue?" I hear my opponent ask.
My reply comes out as a pained grunt. "Yeah..."
I didn't expect her to suddenly transform into a near-perfect copy of Reimu, with only that bushy tail remaining to indicate her true identity. I couldn't help it; with the stress of facing danmaku and having been hit a few times, I started humming the Mario theme. (2) I noticed Reimu-Mamizou looking at me oddly as she flew around the field releasing more danmaku behind her and planting frog-bombs around the place.
The next spellcard is even harder, and I take even more hits than I did before due to being surrounded on all sides by her danmaku. If this was the actual game, I would have had to use a continue. Her final spellcard is actually easier for me to dodge with the smaller amount of shots I had to deal with.
Guess my weakness lies in being overwhelmed with superior firepower. I think to myself as I lie flat on the grass, beaten up pretty badly. On the other hand, I can survive if I use my Keyblades to help me avoid attacks better.
I sense Mamizou approaching and settling down near me. "That was a splendid performance you put on."
"Ahh, glad to hear it." I mumble.
"Are you okay?" She asks me.
"Just need a bit of rest..."
Hunting monsters gave me lots of experience in taking hits from something several times my size, so the bruises I'm feeling don't hurt as much as they could have. That said, they still hurt, so I swap my Keyblade for Burst Needle, and jab myself with one of Eirin's recovery elixirs. The pain quickly fades, and I hear Mamizou whistle appreciatively at what she sees.
"That's a very useful weapon you've got there." She remarks. "Care to tell me more about it?"
My reply comes instantly. "It's not just a weapon. It's a representation of the important bonds I formed in Gensokyo."
She hums interestedly. "And those bonds... they aren't just for you to gain more power?"
"Of course not!" I reply instantly, heat coloring my tone. "Speaking honestly, I love this place, and I love those girls!"
Given the teasing expression that comes over Mamizou's face, I have just given her material to hold over me. "He~h, so you lo~ve them, huh~?"
"Shut up." I grumble.
She continues to smirk at me, so I try to poke her with my Keyblade, only for her to dodge out of range. Somehow, it feels like I'm slowly starting to fit back inside Gensokyo again.
I nearly make the mistake of going to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, if not for suddenly recalling that my past self was still there training. Yukari said that she had to construct a Paradox Machine in order for me to come back to Gensokyo without destabilizing the barrier, but I don't know how much of that is true.
What I do know is that I had no idea of my future self's existence back when I was training in the mansion, and I don't want to test what might happen if I do something to alter that. The problem is that to me, that period of time is quite a while ago, so I don't really recall the times I went outside of the mansion. Therefore, the best thing to do is to avoid the place entirely.
But now what do I do? I ponder as I sit among the high branches of a tree. I'd visit Reimu or Marisa, but those two go by the mansion quite often, then they might mention something which would throw everything off.
Without looking around, I swing my arm out and slap away a danmaku bullet fired by a fairy. I hear it giggle, the sound fading as it flies away, clearly not very fascinated with me.
But that's an idea. I should visit someone, but who exactly?
I take a look around, and coincidentally lock gazes with someone who's just flying by. It's a woman in a light blue dress with sea blue hair, pinned up in two loops behind her head with a long hairpin. Unlike the usual manner in which the people in Gensokyo fly, she looks like she's riding on a long, translucent white cloth.
Oh. FUCK. I instantly bolt away, vanishing down among the leaves. Of all the people to meet, it has to be one I DON'T want to meet.
From what I know of her, she's a hermit, similar to Ibara Kasen, but that's as far it goes. She's not a nice person, according to what I've heard from the people of Myouren Temple. Sure, there's some bias behind it, but when Mamizou herself warns me against getting involved, I think there's definitely some truth to the issue.
I glance over my shoulder to see Seiga following me from above the treetops, easily keeping up with me. But that's to be expected; right now I'm only running at my normal speed, when I have several levels higher than that.
Ki, activate! Instantly the distance between my steps increases greatly, and the surrounding blurs past me.
And as usual, all the stupid fairies start coming out in response to someone rushing through their forest. My response is quick and direct; I dodge around their attacks and strike at them with my hands and legs. It knocks them away, but doesn't take them out of the fight, so they come after me again.
But that's all part of the plan. Even if I take them out, I'll be slowed down enough for Seiga to catch up. Sure enough, she's closed the lead I had gained earlier. On the other hand, the more bullets there are... the harder it'll be to spot me!
I suddenly stop, and turn a full circle to see annoyed and amused fairies all aiming towards me, as well as an interested-looking Seiga watching from above.
NOW! Eternal Inheritance! Using my body to hide my hands from her sight, I dig the point of my Keyblade into the ground. Revised Technique: Sakamaku Tsuchi! (Rolling Earth) (3)
Slashing upwards, I pull part of the ground beneath me up in front of my body as a shield and a cover to hide from Seiga's vision. My other hand is already channeling magical power, charging the runes that cover it, and I release it in a random direction just as the bullets make contact, purposely firing it off half-assed so as to create a huge explosion of dust around myself. Within that smokescreen, I crouch down to stay hidden.
To top it off, I activate Wavebreaker's camouflage ability, which blends me into the surrounding even more. And it looks like the dust doesn't give away my position, I think as I check over my body carefully.
I can hear the bullets thudding against the barrier I made, and the rest of the fairies continue to fire their danmaku even though they can't see me, being the trigger-happy airheads they are. With the small hollow I've opened up thanks to my earlier technique, I just have to crouch low to avoid all the shots coming my way.
Eventually their firing tapers off as the fairies lose interest, and some of them start moving in the direction I fired my air blast, assuming that was where I went. Narrowing my eyes through the smoke, I also see some of them going up, apparently targeting Seiga, but they get shot out of the air soon enough.
Apparent immortality really does reduce your sense of self-preservation. I muse to myself. Now will she take the bait?
It takes several minutes, but eventually I glimpse her flying off in the direction in which I had pretended to go. The moment she's out of sight, I stand up and slip around to run in the opposite direction, still maintaining my camouflage. It doesn't conceal so well when I'm moving, but it's good enough for my purposes. In fact, I don't drop it until I'm nearly out of the forest, when the trees start to get sparse.
So where am I now? One of these days, I really should ask someone like Akyuu or Aya for a map. I exhale slowly. Then again, I'm no closer to finding something to do... My eyes go to the key in my hand. Oh wait, I do. But I need to find a place for it.
Traveling out of the forest puts me somewhere near a place that I've been avoiding all this while: The Garden of the Sun. I mean, anybody in his right mind would stay away if they knew what Yuuka Kazami was like. That's not to mention the number of fairies that live in there among the flowers. Akyuu's records warn against entering that place as well. Even from where I am, I can clearly see the flowers moving around, turning this way and that as the playful fairies manipulate them to make them face whichever way they want.
I know Yuuka moves around Gensokyo depending on the season due to the different flowering periods, and it's summer right now, so the chances of her being in there right now is high.
Should I, or shouldn't I? I think for a moment, then facepalm. If I'm even thinking of going in there, something must be really wrong with me!
I blame all the Monster Hunting I did; having to go right into the dragon's nest in order to grab its eggs or chase it down to beat it into submission has left me with the mindset of confronting things far stronger than I am head on. Not a healthy mindset to have, especially in Gensokyo, where I don't have Felynes to rescue me when I get beaten.
Okay, now that I decided that it's a bad idea, I better get out of here before- I turn around to see a green-haired woman in a red plaid skirt and waistcoat looking at me with amusement. She sees me... My mind completes the thought dully.
"Oh my, what a coincidence." Yuuka remarks, spinning her open parasol behind her. "I didn't expect to meet you in a place like this."
"Well, I must say I wasn't expecting to meet you either." I reply with forced humor.
We laugh lightly at this 'coincidence' that has led us to meet.
"Okay, I remember something I have to do, so if you'll excuse me-" I make to step by her.
"Wait." An arm bars my way. Right in my throat, to be specific.
"Gakk!" Out of the corner of my eye, I see Yuuka's eyes are closed on top of the small smile she's wearing. Totally... out of my league?
"Now, now," Her arm wraps around my neck and pulls me into her side, forcing me to adapt to stay on my feet. "Since you're here, why not join me for some tea?"
I'm starting to have déjà vu here. I think as she starts dragging me in the direction of the sunflower field. It happened quite a long time ago, but I recall her dragging me along like this before.
The sense of nostalgia increases even more when I see the cottage among the field of sunflowers. The last time I saw this, there were only a few because it was winter, but now that it's in summer, the whole place is so bright and yellow I'm already squinting.
She finally releases me after we're inside, and sets about making tea while I massage my neck to try and get the blood flowing properly again.
I think I remember now... that time when I was planning the snowball tournament. Then the time after I came out from the underground, and I... I wince at the phantom pain the memory brings up. I tried to fight Yuuka and got a Master Spark for it.
"Here, please help yourself." Yuuka serves me some green tea.
"Thank you," I reply, accepting the cup.
We spend some time simply enjoying tea together, although I never let down my guard against her. The memories evoked from being here has reminded me more of the time before I was sent out of Gensokyo, and with those memories come a whole lot of emotions. One of the strongest ones was the urge to become strong, which was why I moved into the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
But what now? I wonder as I continue to sip tea. Frankly speaking, I'm definitely stronger than I was before, but the question is what do I do with that strength? I'm certainly not going to go challenge everyone the way Tenshi did.
And therein lay the contradiction; I first wanted to become stronger because I didn't like to lose, and now that I was... I found that I didn't care so much. It was like a spur of the moment decision now that I look back on it.
"This is good tea." I remark, lowering my cup.
She doesn't add anything further, and we continue to pass the time in silence. Occasionally I would get a refill of tea, but apart from that, it appears that she's trying to test to see how long I last before breaking the silence again. The old me would have said something, but the current me who has been practicing meditation at Myouren Temple is more used to staying quiet.
Yuuka finally speaks up. "You're not the same Ikuto I know."
"I'm not." I confirm with a nod.
"I see. Then who exactly are you?"
"I'm Ikuto, except from a few months in the future." I answer honestly.
"Hmmm~" Yuuka hums interestedly. "That would explain it, I suppose. I don't suppose you would care to tell me how that came about?"
"It was a small incident involving Rumia, actually." I give her a brief rundown on the events leading up to my travelling back in time.
"Such an odd tale." The flower youkai comments. "But I can see how it has led you to change."
Something about the way she says that bugs me... I eye her suspiciously, noting the way she looks back at me as though trying to decide what to do. "How do you think I've changed?" I ask cautiously.
"We~ll..." She gets up from her seat and approaches me, and before I can scramble backwards, she's already kneeling close in front of me with one hand cupping my face.
"Umm... You're a bit... too close..." I mumble, already starting to shake slightly from looking at her red eyes up close.
"Hoho~h?" Yuuka moves her hand downwards, stroking gently along my neck, then over the front of my shirt.
What is this? What the hell's going on here? This is a joke, right? There's no way I raised a flag with Yuuka! My eyes are darting all over the place, and I can feel her breath on my face.
Then just as suddenly as it had began, Yuuka drew back from me, smiling widely. "Yep, guess you haven't changed that much after all."
"Wh-what? What was that for?" I demand, my breathing faster than normal.
"Just checking that you were still interesting to tease, that's all." The smile on her face suddenly reveals its true form: the joy of a sadist.
Goddammit. This is another reason why I don't like interacting with Yuuka. I think, irritated. "Are you done, then? If you are, then I would like to leave."
"Sure," She flaps a hand at me dismissively. "You can go. Be careful of the fairies on your way out."
I don't hang around any longer than that. If not for the flowers it would wreck and the wrath it would bring down on me, I would have used my wind runes to speed up my escape from that place. But as Yuuka warned, there are fairies lying in wait to ambush me.
I really don't get her at all. I muse, slipping past the bullets to whack each shooter on her head. I seriously doubt I'm going to conquer her at all. I'm not the Capturing God, plus there isn't anything around my neck to make me do so. (4)
Finally leaving the area of the sunflower field, I take a moment to stretch my body out. That's when the next idea of where to go strikes me: the Underground.
I wouldn't mind seeing Yuugi or Satori again. Except there's one problem with that. I still can't fly, so if I go down there, it's going to be a problem getting up again.
But I've been acting on my whims for quite a while already, so why not now? I place my hands together and use a bit of ice energy to make a small disk the size of a large coin, one side with a small indentation in it.
"Heads I go, tails I don't." I flip the coin, and catch it. "Aaaand... heads it is. Now where is the entrance anyway?"
I end up having to use a boosted jump to get enough height to get my bearings, and manage to locate the cavern mouth soon after that. But just as I'm about to venture down into youkai territory, a growl from my stomach reminds me that I should eat lunch.
Rather than return to the village or Myouren Temple, however, I resort to foraging for herbs and fruits to eat. With the experience I had accumulated in my vacation from Gensokyo, it's an easy task to accomplish. Particularly with picking fruit from the trees; I just have to use Wire Performance to cut down and grab the fruits to bring to me.
A bit of precision slicing, and they're peeled and in neat slices, ready to eat. Taking a seat under a tree to get some shade from the summer sun, I enjoy this brief lunch, observing the roaming inhabitants of Gensokyo from my spot.
"Gochisousama-deshita." I clap my hands together in a brief prayer of thanks after finishing the meal. "Alright, time to go."
Activating my runes, I fly into the hole. If my memory serves, I had to use Blaze Revive last time because it was so dark, but I have a feeling that doing so now would just make me a target, so instead I use Iku's Keyblade, Sky's Embrace. It's special ability builds up an electrical charge the more I move around, and that charge manifests itself in the form of an energy field that can serve as a radar.
With it equipped, I can easily navigate the tunnel without using my eyes. Occasionally, some youkai try to hinder my way, alerted to my presence by the small glow of my Keyblade, which represents the level of charge I have gathered. Their attacks are simply testing, so it's an easy matter to simply dodge them with slight adjustments to my momentum.
A large spiderweb suddenly appears in front of me, forcing me to slow down by aiming wind directly forward. Seeing no way around other than through it, I let myself fall to the ground so I can talk to the person responsible.
"Who are you? And what are your intentions?" A blond girl in a brown dress descends from the cave ceiling to land in front of me.
Uhhh... what was her name... Oh yeah, Yamame. Yamame... something. "Yo. Remember me?" I greet, holding my hand up in a stationary wave.
She looks at me searchingly, tilting her head with a frown. "I... I recall seeing you before. Though I cannot remember where."
"It's me, Ikuto. You helped me treat my illness once." Yeah, it's coming back to me now. I first met her when I was coming down here with Tenshi to get sake for a party.
Yamame finally looks at me with recognition. "Ohhh, yes, I do recall that. It certainly has been a while."
"I haven't thanked you for that, especially because of my companion at that time. So thank you for helping me back then." Tenshi challenged her and beat her unconscious, after all. "How have you been?"
"I have been well. Thank you for asking." Yamame turns slightly and dispels the web. "I assume you wish to travel to the Ancient City? Normally they don't turn away visitors, but I was curious as to your presence."
I realize that I still have Sky's Embrace active, which must be the reason why I attracted her attention. Looking at her closely, I see she's slightly on edge, twitching occasionally.
Oops. Well, it's bright enough that I can navigate by sight now. I swap my Keyblade out for Wavebreaker, and Yamame relaxes right away.
She looks at me curiously. "Was that feeling due to your weapon?" The tsuchigumo asks.
I nod sheepishly. "Yeah, sorry about that. It was dark further back, so I was using it to sense my way around. I didn't realize it was affecting you until just now."
She shakes her head. "That's alright. It's not unpleasant, just that it felt... odd."
The look Yamame is giving me suddenly makes the back of my neck prickle. What's with this... uh oh. She's looking for a fight.
"You seem to be very familiar with that weapon of yours, and the way it's able to transform into different shapes interests me..." Yamame sounds almost eager. "Would you care to spar with me?"
"Weeeelllll..." I draw out, unsure of whether to take her up on it, or just try to run. Maybe I should give it a try? "As long as I'm allowed to go to the City whether I win or lose."
"Certainly." Yamame agrees. "Now, shall we begin?"
She floats up and back, and begins releasing danmaku around her. I initially expect a simple spray, but to my surprise, half of the bullets suddenly shift in color and home in towards me. I quickly fire several homing shots of my own from Wavebreaker, while slipping through the gaps in her own firing pattern.
After taking a few blows, Yamame declares her first spellcard. I dodge to the side as she releases energy strings all over the place, before drawing them back towards herself in a circling pattern and firing them out again as tiny energy pellets.
Left, right, right, jump, duck, left... I avoid them with some difficulty, twisting around to prevent even a single one from brushing against my body. At the same time, I'm releasing my own bullets to break her spellcard. Fire, fire, fire!
Her next danmaku pattern involves another outward spray of bullets, but this time I'm ready for the bullet shift, which alters their direction from outwards into a straight drop in my direction. Much easier compared to the previous one, since I don't have to move as much.
"Miasma - 'Unexplained Fever'!"
I almost curse when I see the bullets materialize around her in a spiraling fashion, which indicated that they were going to go everywhere. With two more similar spirals being formed behind her, things were going to be difficult. I quickly jump back to get more distance, since it was easier to read the pattern from further away.
Okay, just watch closely, make sure to see the safe points when- "Oh fuck." Some of the bullets shifted color and stopped after a certain distance. That's another element to look out for.
Turns out that it wasn't as hard as I thought. Overall there were three main bullet sources, and with the spiral shooting, there were only several angles at which the bullets could come at me. The paused shots turned out to move in the direction opposite of their initial flight, which turned out to be the exact same angles as the former. It was certainly a lot of bullets to see, but not all that hard to avoid.
Channeling a bit of Ki into my arms, I release a few blasts of my own, and she lets them smack ineffectively into her as a way to bring this impromptu battle to an end.
"You certainly do have some skill in battle." Yamame comments, descending back down to my level. "But I wished to see more of your weapon skills."
"Sorry, but I don't really have a proper way of reaching you with what I know." I apologize. Plus there's no way I'm going to go in close against that crazy bullet storm you had.
"Alright. Go on ahead." She nods to me dismissively, and starts going back up along her thread.
I watch her for a while, before taking off to continue my journey down towards the deep underground.
Compared to the beginning of my journey, the current part is much more relaxed, since I now have Wavebreaker concealing me. In fact, I manage to sneak past Parsee, who appears to be busy muttering about something or someone at the side of the bridge. Yandere successfully avoided, and my trip goes on.
Thinking back, it might have been a good idea to have some mission support for this the way Reimu did in the game... maybe I should have looked for Suika or Nitori for help... I think to myself as I enter the city. Speaking of Suika... I wonder how she's doing?
The atmosphere in the place is upbeat as I recall, due to all the onis engaging in parties down here. It's impossible to see a street without anyone drinking or making merry.
The last time I came here, I... I jump up onto one of the walls that lined the street, and look around. Nope, no damage. These guys can do amazing construction work.
That's right, the last time I came down to this city, I was accompanied by Marisa, and I got myself drunk. Drunk enough, in fact, to challenge Yuugi to a fist fight. We tore up quite a few buildings then, although I don't recall most of it. Suika's Keyblade, Festival Horn, had a hidden ability where I could detach the keychain like the cap on a flask, and inside contained a special alcohol that would increase my strength when I drank it, at the cost of losing my sanity.
Sanity... heh, sometimes I wonder if I'm really sane in the first place. I hop back down into the street and start making my way towards the Palace of Earth Spirits, where Satori Komeiji lived.
There are some evil spirits around; blue manifestations of flame with skulls within that add their own illumination to this dark but lively place. They float around exuding a malevolent aura, but it's dim compared to the revelry generated by the oni. Occasionally, one comes close, and tries to lock onto me for some reason, but I simply cut it down with my weapon, which causes it to fade away, probably to reform elsewhere like a fairy.
"Oh? Just when I was planning to drink alone, I meet someone unexpected." I hear someone say loudly above my head, and look up.
Yuugi is there, seated on the roof with several jars of sake by her side and her red sake dish in her hand. Seeing that I've noticed her, she grins widely and beckons to me with her free hand.
"Yo! Join me for a drink?" The oni invites me, grinning.
I return it with a smile of my own, and jump up to land next to her. She pulls another sake dish from somewhere, much smaller compared to the one she's using, and fills it for me.
Hmm, just as sharp as I recall. I think, sipping the alcohol. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"Hm? Ah, yeah." Yuugi nudges me with an elbow. "Took a while to fix all the damage from last time, but as you can see, it's all okay now."
"Sorry." I apologize. "It happened because I drank too much."
The oni laughs. "No worries! This sort of thing happens once in a while, you know."
When I notice the sake in her dish is running low, I grab one of the jars and offer to refill it, which she accepts. I catch her eyeing me appreciatively after that.
"How's that Suika doing?" Yuugi pauses to ask.
"Her? Well, she's still the same, lazing around or looking for parties to join in." I reply. "What about you?"
Yuugi chuckles loudly. "It's always the same down here. Drinking contests, maybe a bash-up once in a while..."
"Any interest in going up above ground again? That festival was fun, wasn't it?"
"Hahaha! You sing pretty good, Ikuto! I really enjoyed myself back then."
"Thanks. You never know, maybe you might come right as an incident is happening."
"Incident, huh? Sounds like that might be worth taking a look."
"Considering that most of the time there's a party afterwards..." I hint obviously. "Besides, I know Suika would be happy to see you."
"She did come back down here a while ago, you know." Yuugi remarks.
Really? I guess I must have been really out of touch while training at the SDM. "Oh?"
The oni nods. "She brought some Celestial-brewed sake too. Almost as good as the two bottles that girl who came with you brought."
A smirk comes to my face as I recall how Tenshi got past Yuugi by bribing her with alcohol. "Come to think of it, I don't think I've tried their sake before."
"You should." Yuugi tells me, refilling my dish. "It's great."
"Maybe I'll ask Suika to bring me some next time." Or Tenshi, though I'm not sure if she'll do it.
We continue to chat for a while. I tell her more about what I've been up to, such as my training at the SDM, followed by my moving out to stay at Myouren Temple. Yuugi seems pretty amused when I tell her that the people at the temple would probably welcome her at first, before kicking her out later when her partying gets too rowdy. I also hear more about what she's been doing in return, which is simply going around upper Gensokyo, though she didn't go up Youkai Mountain.
When I switch over to Festival Horn to make use of its power to burn through the alcohol in my blood faster, Yuugi notices and asks, "You haven't drunk any of that, have you?"
She's referring to the time I powered up in our fight. "Not since that time, no. I doubt I'll use it unless things are really dangerous."
"That's a good decision." She refills my dish again.
The lightheaded buzz that has been developing ever since I started drinking is fading as my Keyblade's power goes to work on me. It goes against the purpose of drinking for fun, but I'm not really interested in drinking myself into a stupor.
"Looks like you can really handle your drink, eh? How about competing with me sometime?" Yuugi leans towards me, a smirk on her already red face.
"I'll think about it." I reply carefully. "Besides, we're already out."
The oni blinks, and turns to look at the empty jar I'm holding upside down to show that it's empty.
"Ah, so we are." She sounds disappointed. "Well, guess it'll have to wait until the next time." With that, she finished off what's left in her dish and stands up. "I think I'll go back to get some sleep. See you around, Ikuto."
"Yeah, see you around, Yuugi."
She flies away, leaving me to deal with the empty jars. But with so many breweries around, it's a simple matter to just drop them off at one of the shops, who will simply reuse them. After doing my part to prevent littering, I finally resume my journey to the Palace of Earth Spirits.
I notice a few hell ravens and cats watching me, and they run off once they seem to have confirmed my destination. Sure enough, I find Satori meeting me at the entrance, her pets having warned her of my arrival.
"Hello. We meet again." She greets me softly, curtseying.
"Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it?"
"It seems that it was longer for you than it was for me." Satori comments, before turning to indicate the open gate. "Would you like to come in?"
I nod and thank her for the invitation, and follow her inside, accompanied by all the pets.
"Is Koishi around?" I ask the back of Satori's head.
She turns her head to look at one of the cats, before facing straight forward. "My younger sister is currently out somewhere. No doubt going wherever suits her fancy."
I'm tempted to start some song in my head.
Satori instantly turns around and frowns at me. "Please don't."
"Alright, since you asked." I glance around. "What about Rin and Utsuho?" It took me a while to recall their names; I remember referring to them as Orin and Okuu respectively.
"Orin is currently out gathering more fuel for the fires, but Utsuho is here." Satori finally enters a sitting room, and gestures for me to take a seat. "Though she is currently busy tending to the reactor."
"Ah, is that so?"
Her pets leave and return with a pushcart laden with snacks and tea, and Satori serves me some of them before doing the same for herself. She really does look the picture of an elegant, if reclusive, lady. Reminds me a bit of Kaguya, in fact. Then again, Kaguya isn't really suited for living on her own. Satori on the other hand, looks perfectly capable of looking after herself even without her pets.
"I appreciate the compliment." Satori says without looking at me.
I nod, not caring that she's technically intruding my privacy by reading my thoughts. "How have you been?"
"My life goes on as it always has. I'm content with it."
"I see." I smile at her. "Glad to hear that." But what I really mean is, how are you getting along with your sister?
Satori twitches, and I immediately realize that their relationship is still the same as it was before.
After a moment of silence, she finally sighs. "Her whimsical personality just makes me worry about her sometimes." Satori admits.
"Well, she is your sister, after all. And with her ability, it's hard to keep track of her, isn't it?"
"That's right, because her power counters mine." Satori eyes me over her teacup. "But it appears that you aren't as affected."
"What do you mean?"
Satori explains to me how her sister's ability not only prevents her from being detected by normal means, but actually makes them unable to remember her afterwards. From what little she can see of my heart, it tells her that I, for probably the same reason that Satori has difficulty reading me, is a bit unaffected by this.
Well, sounds like there are some times where I must have forgotten about my interactions with that girl. I muse, drinking my tea. I need to go to the toilet soon. Have been drinking too much.
"If you need to relieve yourself, the washroom is outside the door and to the left, at the end of the hallway." Satori informs me.
Okay, I suppose that part would be embarrassing to be read. "Excuse me then." I get up from the table and leave the room.
On my way back after I've relieved my bladder, I encounter Okuu, who seems surprised to see me. Then again, given her mind, I wouldn't be surprised if she forgot me.
"Ah, it's Ikuto! What are you doing here?"
Aaaaand... I'm surprised she remembered me. "I came to visit~ But sorry, okay? I didn't bring any eggs for you this time."
"Mmm..." She pouts. "Alright, but you've got to bring me some next time, okay?"
"Haha, sure. If you like, how about I go out and buy you some later?"
"Really? Yay!" Okuu throws her arms up in joy. "That's a promise, right?!"
I nod, patting her on top of her head. "Yep, that's a promise."
When we rejoin Satori, the owner doesn't look too surprised to see Okuu with me. As for Okuu, she breaks away to tell Satori about her day of managing the furnace, such as opening the skylight to cool things down when they got too hot. I can imagine Okuu doing this every time, reporting the same thing to her owner each time, but looking at the way Satori is smiling, it's obvious she cares for her pets very much.
"And Ikuto said he'd bring me eggs later!" Okuu finishes, causing Satori to turn towards me.
"Spoiling my pet again, Ikuto?" Satori's tone is so dry I almost didn't realize she's teasing me.
"But she's so cute. Just like her master." I reply right away.
"Yes! Satori-sama is cute, just like Okuu!" Said pet hugged her master and started rubbing her head against Satori's face.
Seeing Satori's lack of expression as her head gets nudged repeatedly from her pet's show of affection is kind of amusing. Not so much when her shoe rams into my shin, still without a change in her facial expression. Looks like she doesn't like being teased very much.
"Hey, Okuu, come here for a bit." I beckon the hell raven, who turns towards me curiously.
"What is it?" She skips over to me.
I start combing my fingers through her hair. "Your hair's messy. You should comb it sometime." Quite a lot of knots...
"Ahaha, that feels weird!" Okuu giggles, but doesn't pull away from me.
"Do you have a comb?" I ask Satori as I continue to comb out Okuu's hair.
"I do. In fact, I do groom my pets, you know." The youkai replies, picking up her teacup.
"It feels just like how Satori-sama does it for me." Okuu murmurs contentedly.
I glance at Satori, who doesn't seem to be displeased. In fact, she closes her eyes dismissively.
"I'm not so small-hearted as to be jealous of something like that."
"That's right! Satori-sama's big heart is amazing!" Okuu adds, pumping a fist.
They really do love you a lot. I think, looking around at the other pets crowding around us. It makes me feel a little envious.
This time, Satori smiles, and it's a beautiful scene.
"Seriously, what sort of technology went into this?" I ask out loud, staring up into the darkness.
True to my word, I bought some eggs from the shops in the Ancient City to give to Okuu, and asked Satori to help send me above ground once again. I don't know just how the passage she brought me through leads to where I am now, but apparently it's linked to a research center run by the kappas. I have a feeling that the Moriya Shrine people are linked to this in some way, but it also leads to the question as to what Satori makes of their meddling.
As for where I am? I'm currently riding some kind of platform elevator up towards ground level, and it's a huge one. There's a yin-yang symbol in the center with the eight trigrams around it, and the whole design is glowing bright yellow. In fact, running along the sides of this chute is a spiral staircase, and the whole thing extends amazingly high up, giving a small idea of just how far I traveled underground in order to reach Satori's place.
Is this even okay? Somehow, I feel like I'm trespassing... I stamp experimentally on the elevator. Also, how does this even work? Magnets? Faith? Lack of common sense?
In the end, I decide not to think too much about it, and instead work on trying to understand the 'new' Keyblades I have yet to name. However, thinking about the situation in which I had brought them out pissed me off quite a bit.
I'm definitely going to punch that bastard the next time I see him! I clench my fist angrily. Then again... who was that Black guy anyway?
After brooding about it for a bit, it hits me just what a waste of time it is, and I go back to focusing on my weapon.
First is the one he used, Remi's Keyblade. Despite how long it's been since I last summoned it, it comes to me easily. And it's still hard to hold as always. I wince as I feel the spikes on the handle bite into my hand.
Thinking back to that fight, this weapon absorbs blood in exchange for red energy that I can manipulate any way I wish, be it to form a shield, blade, or even an energy bolt. Simply put, it's a trade for power. Just like Remi, to do things only when there's something in it for her.
"Well, that makes things easy." I raise it up above my head. "This is a contract between me and the elder Scarlet sister. Our... Crimson Pact."
The cross keychain twinkles, and now has a small black bat overlaying the center. Smiling, I dismiss the weapon and bring out Meiling's one next.
The thing is as huge as I recall, and as light as it is big, plus I can infuse it with Ki to make a powerful bludgeoning weapon due to its affinity with my own Ki. But what's really incredible about it is its versatility. Depending on the type of Ki I channel into it when I activate it by twisting the handle, it can transform into a set of equipment that best enables me to use the selected Ki.
Red Ki, destructive, it becomes a pair of giant gauntlets, with piledriver-like protrusions extending out from the elbow. I remember charging the cylindrical thing in my right arm with even more Ki to hit EX-Rumia with, and it was incredibly powerful.
Yellow Ki, sharp, turns the Keyblade into blades running along the outside of my arms and shins. It doesn't look like it's safe to test it out at its full capabilities where I am now, but a quick swipe towards the rock wall confirms my guess: I can fire extremely sharp bursts of Ki that will cut very deeply even into bedrock.
Orange Ki, defensive, I used it to block EX-Rumia's attack. It's an expandable round shield with several layers made up of energy, and by my estimate, I could probably tank a strike from an oni with it, although I'd still be sent flying, just unhurt from the blow.
Next is Green Ki, propulsive, also used in the same battle to avoid a counterattack. Taking the form of thin gauntlets and greaves, I can use them to add more force to my movements, or if I want to, send green blasts to knock my targets away.
Blue Ki, stability, it's not my forte. During the fight, Black told me so, and even when I used the hand cannon form from Meiling's Keyblade, it was easily deflected. Still, I suppose it would do for a range attack.
Indigo Ki, speed, turns the Keyblade into a sort of full-body covering with glowing indigo lines running out from a large core on the chest along the limbs. The speed is incredible when I'm wearing it, almost at the level if I were to focus the entirety of Phantom Blossom's enhancement into a single limb. On the other hand, there's not much defense. It reminds me of Fate's Sonic Form. (5)
Lastly, Purple Ki, manipulation, perfect if I were to do Aikido. The equipment covers me from shoulders to fingers, with three purple lines extending out from glowing purple crystals on the shoulders, and spiraling around my lower arm to reach similarly colored circles on the palms and backs of my hands, where further lines wrap around my fingers.
Huh, this is weird. I wonder what this does? I wonder as I look over my new accessories, then I notice something else. Oh, the top's finally in sight. No wonder I couldn't see anything, it's dark. I must have been down there longer than I thought.
Suddenly, there's the sound of footsteps, many of them, and before I can react, there are several kappas surrounding me, standing on an outer ring that the platform elevator has stopped at, and every one of them is wielding a type of gun, aimed at me. There are about eight of them, by my count.
"Intruder! Identify yourself!" One of them barks.
Something tells me that this wasn't part of the plan for me to get out... or was it? The image of Satori smirking while she makes the victory sign comes to mind. "Ah, I think there's a misunderstanding somewhere, why don't you put those guns down and..." I say, raising my hands to show that I'm unarmed.
"He's charging his lasers! Everyone, fire!"
Ah fuck, I forgot about this thing I'm wearing. I think miserably as several bullets shoot towards me.
I initially move to dodge the projectiles, but then the crystals on my shoulders start glowing, and suddenly I realize that there's something else I can do. Spinning around quickly, I take note of how many shots are coming towards me.
Eight directions, three, three, two, four, one, two, three, and one big one still charging up. The first bullet comes within the range of my arms, and I reach out and gently brush it aside as a test of my newfound ability. I see, so the Purple Ki gear allows me to redirect things, even danmaku.
As the remainder of the barrage come into my range, I quickly start deflecting them towards the kappas. It's amazing to see the energy bolt curl around my arm before I release it back towards its sender. With the kappas not expecting this sudden turn of events, they fall to their own fire before they realize what's happening, knocked out by whatever energy they were using for their bullets.
The last one manages to fire off her cannon before she falls, and the size of the shot is as big as my chest. Bracing myself, I bring my hands up to intercept it. The moment it makes contact, I draw it into my control, spinning around to bleed off the force behind it. And with a flourish, I throw it up towards the night sky.
Letting the equipment revert back to its Keyblade form, I watch the red ball shrink as it flies further away, before exploding into an impressive burst of fireworks. Okay, better get out before reinforcements come to see what's happening.
Knowing that Ki is lesser known compared to magic, I decide to rely on the former for my escape. Once again I draw out the Green Ki armament, and use it to jump as hard as I can. As it turns out, as hard as I can is several times higher with the equipment assisting me; not only do I clear the distance to the top of the hole, but I go even higher than the trees around the outside of the opening. Once I feel myself start to slow, I activate the slow fall ability from Cirno's ring and take a look around.
Uwaaa... it's really late. The night youkais are starting to become active. Better get back quickly.
Since the glow from the gauntlets and greaves are guaranteed to draw attention, I quickly dismiss them, and orientate myself in the direction of Myouren Temple before activating my wind runes for propulsion.
"Guess I'll be relying on you for help from now on," I look at the large Keyblade I'm holding. "Rainbow Treasury."
The star-shaped keychain twinkles, clearly accepting the name I've given it. Smiling, I revert the weapon back to its original form and tuck it safely into my clothes, before turning up my power full blast for maximum speed.
(1) Guess the manga from which Ikuto is drawing this idea from. It shouldn't be too hard.
(2) I'm sure everyone remembers the tanuki suit in Mario, right?
(3) Another copied technique from Hitman Reborn, the actual name is Sakamaku Ame (Rolling Rain), from the Shigure Souen Style.
(4) Reference to The World God Only Knows. Great harem manga, which ended just a while back. I'm sure we all know Katsuragi Keima, the Capturing God.
(5) Fate Testarossa from the Nanoha series. Her Sonic form involves the shedding of her armor, sacrificing defense for overwhelming speed. And a whole lot more sexiness.
And yes! Once again, I have updated my shameless self-insert fanfic! If anything, it was even harder to write than the previous one, which was updated after several months on hiatus like this one. But it became easier after the first few parts.
Let me just say thanks to all my fans who are following this, as well as those who message me asking whether I have abandoned this fic or not. Knowing that I have people who wish to see where I'm going with this fanfic is great motivation to keep writing. So thanks once again, please continue to support me. I'll do my best to update again soon.
Regarding the combat, if you feel like Ikuto's fighting skills has diminished a little, you're right. In the Monster Hunter world, he was only practicing with martial arts and Ki, along with basic Monster Hunting skills. Even with his bond to the girls, there are still stuff he's forgotten, and now he's trying to relearn those skills. In case some of you may have forgotten, Ikuto does have this ability where he materializes miniature versions of his Keyblades. Expect to see those make a reappearance in the next chapter.
Well, time to work on the next chapter of FateProphecy Break! And life goes on...