Only the phoenix arises and does not descend. Everything Changes
And nothing is truly lost.

Maribel sighed in contentment as the tea warmed her stomach. Sipping tea in the fall was one of life's greatest pleasures.

Renko sat down on the walkway beside her, then waved to the young girl sweeping the steps. "Kuroko, that's enough for today. People expect a few leaves in the fall."

"Okay, Miss Renko," the girl replied. She flicked one last leaf down the stairway, then went to put the broom away in the shrine's storage room.

Well technically it wasn't a shrine anymore, Maribel thought as she took another sip of tea. There was no god for the Hakurei Shrine after all. But when they'd bought the land they'd rebuilt the shrine mostly the same as it had been before.

Maribel had been a little worried when Renko'd suggested they take over the shrine. But most of the youkai who had stayed in Gensoukyo had seemed perfectly happy with it. And once Kanon had shown up to insist that the Hakurei shrine should be run by humans the few hold outs caved in.

Now it served more as a tea house. A place at the boundary of the Tengu's new capitol city and the village of Gensoukyo. Between the magitech world the kappa and humans had built, and the pure magic of the wild youkai. A place where steam fairies and flower fairies could meet up and plot mischief, though Maribel was going to make them sorry if they tried anything here.

Maribel's introspection was cut of as Ran flew in over the rise. She reached through a gap and grabbed another cup of tea as the kitsune landed and bowed. "I see you three are doing well."

"Ah hello, Miss Ran," Kuroko said. Maribel nodded her own greeting and handed Ran the tea. Ran accepted it and sat down on the shrine's back porch.

The four sat there for some time, just sipping their drinks. After a while Ran asked, "Has Kanon dropped by recently?"

"Apparently Utusho's been having problems with the generators again," Renko replied. "Kanon's been busy helping with her barrier powers."

"Ah. That's too bad. I know she said she wanted the watch them finish the radio tower," Ran nodded towards the structure that now rose above the expanding city. "I have to admit, it is impressive."

"She'll be there for the shrine consecration at least," Maribel replied. "They need three miko after all, and she's better trained then the triplets or the Kochiya."

"Oh! Can we go to the opening ceremony Miss Maribel?" Kuroko asked excitedly.

Maribel smiled. "Of course Kuroko."

"I'm still not sure why they had to make it a clone of Tokyo Tower," Renko said. "You'd think the kappa would want to create something new."

"Just because we youkai aren't bound to tradition any more doesn't mean we don't appreciate it. And it was a nice building." Ran stretched. "I imagine they'll rebuild the original in Tokyo too, though Momiji will probably focus on getting a road open for the humans first.

"Should you really be treating the shogun so familiar?" Kuroko asked.

Ran smirked. "She's not my shogun. Gensoukyo is the 'ancestral homeland of the youkai, now and forever.' Momiji was smart enough to realize this land can't be ruled by any one group. You humans might like having a government, but we youkai don't."

"Though I'm surprised by you humans," The kitsune said as she looked over the city. "This is supposed to be the age of youkai, but humans are the ones driving the expansion now. The tengu and kappa are just keeping up, really."

"It has been seven years," Renko pointed out. "People are surprisingly good at bouncing back."

"Hm... Perhaps." Ran stood. "Well I'd love to stay a bit longer but I need to talk to Alice about those Makai tourists. Do you have magic lessons at the SDM today Kuroko? I can fly you over."

"Ah, yes. Thank you." Kuroko hopped to her feet, then gave Renko and Maribel a questioning glance.

Renko smiled and nodded. "We'll pick you up for dinner. It's beef stew tonight of course."

"Great!" Kuroko's happy smile turned into a frown. "Though Patchouli said we're supposed to be going over bio magic..."

Renko chuckled. "I know it's no fun, but it's very helpful. That regeneration spell she's teaching you is the reason Eirin's still alive. That and Reisen's medical skills."

"Right, right." The young girl rolled her eyes at having to hear another 'war story.' Maribel smiled herself as their young ward followed Ran into the sky. It was a good sign that Kuroko could brush those stories off. Especially since that war was the one which had taken Kuroko's own family.

Maribel leaned against Renko and watched the wind play with the leaves. "Hey Renko, do you think Kuroko would mind if we adopted another kid?"

Renko laughed lightly. "She's old enough that you could ask her about that you know." Maribel pouted until Renko relented. "But I did overhear her talking with the Kaenbyou kids about how it might be nice to have a sister, so I think she'd agree." Renko shifted causing Maribel to plop into her lap with a surprised squawk. "Now, when were you going to ask me about this Mary?"

Maribel frowned. "It was just a thought. You know I'd ask you before I seriously thought about it." Her further protests were silenced when Renko bent over and kissed her on the lips. Maribel relaxed and lifted herself into the kiss. When Renko finally pulled away Mary growled lightly, "You're insufferable sometimes."

"Yep!" Renko replied cheerily.

Maribel was considering how to respond when the sound of someone coming up the steps caused them both to start. She sat up as an older man in worn but very beautiful archaic robes crested the hill. Maribel wondered if he was from one of the villages or cities on the outlier areas of the tengu shogunate. While the new capitol of Japan was the most technologically advanced city in the world, places that were further away tended to actually be a lot closer to the human village in Gensoukyo. It was much easier to help the locals rebuild a preindustrial city that could survive the winter and expand later then to get a postindustrial city running all at once.

The two bowed to the man as he approached. "Welcome to the Hakurei Shrine," Maribel said. "Can we get you some tea?"

The man smiled and bowed in return. "Ah, thank you for the offer, but I'm just passing through. I need to get to the village before dark I believe."

Renko nodded at the mans words. "That's a good idea. The spellcard rules should protect you if you stick to the village and major roads, but wandering around after dark is always dangerous. Still it is a long walk, if you want you can take a break here and Mary here could teleport you to the village later."

The man's eyes widened a little bit at that and he turned towards Maribel. "Ah, I see now." The man hesitated for a moment before bowing deeply. "Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am Sareseno Watatsuki. I've come to visit my aunt in the Bamboo Forest, and my cousin in the Netherworld."

Maribel's started in surprise. "Oh!" She realized she had no idea what to say. "I... that is."

The man chuckled lightly. "You need not worry about justifying yourself to a failed poet. Besides I know the truth of events."

"I see." Maribel shook her head to clear it. She still wasn't sure what to think of the man, but she didn't sense any malice from him. Quite the opposite in fact. "Well, I can teleport you to Eientei directly if you like. It's hard to get there by foot. Do you want to take a break here or...?"

"No, but thank you. I'm very eager to meet with my family, and I wouldn't want to impose on you more then I needed to."

Maribel nodded at his words then opened one of her gaps to just outside Eientei. "This should put you by the front gates. I hope your reunion goes well."

Renko spoke up softly from her side, "You may also want to visit Muenkuza. You might be interested in talking with one of the Shinigami there."

A somber look flickered over the man's face. "I see. Perhaps I will. Thank you again." He moved towards the portal before hesitating and turning back to them. "Ah yes. I think you should have this."

He handed her a tome from his travel pouch. Maribel hesitantly took the well bound book. The title, in strong but simple letters read. 'The Rise and Fall of the Lunar Civilization."

"I wish you two good fortune," he said as he entered the portal.

"Safe journeys," Maribel replied hastily. The boundary closed with his passing and her eyes quickly returned to the book. She felt Renko move to look over her shoulder as she opened the tome and skimmed through it.

Before her appeared stories. Tales of victory and defeat, of reason of madness, of hatred and forgiveness. But one story called to her more insistently then the others. She quickly flipped to the back. To the moment everything changed.

Ignoring Renko's surprised hum, she scoured the page looking for the answer to the one question that had plagued her since the battle. She scoured the chapter, looking over it twice, then moved on to the next section to check there.

She repeated this process five more times before sighing and giving up. Renko squeezed her shoulders as she closed the book. "What were you looking for?"

Maribel bit her lip. She didn't want to worry Renko about this. Finally she sighed. "I wanted to see if what I said was true. If that really was Yukari talking though me, or I was just lying to hurt people." She closed the book. "But it doesn't say."

"Are you still worried about the connection you have with her?" Renko asked softly.

Maribel grimaced. "I don't know. I think I just wanted to know why things turned out this way. What Yukari's plan was. And, well... I suppose I wanted to know more about the person I was. Or wasn't." She reached up to touch the hat that the shadow had given her.

She closed the book. "But I guess we can't get all the answers." She patted Renko's hand and smiled. "Anyways, we should get started on dinner soon. Otherwise Kuroko will lean how bad you are at staying on time."

"Hey, I'm never more then a couple of minutes late!" Renko protested as they headed towards the kitchen. "You're always exaggerate these things Mary."

"I give our story to dreams, so that as long as the world lasts, it is not forgotten."

With this I end my longest work. I don't know if I'd ever want to do something like this again, but I'm very glad I did.

I wish I could think of more to say, but I fear I can no longer find the words. I'd like to thank all of your for reading. And I hope to be able to entertain you once again in the future.