Epilogue ~ Eighth Day ~ The First of Many Cups of Tea

Even flying, descending the mountain took another day. We left early, Sanae still asleep and Nue, the girl that had turned out to be hiding inside of that ball of light, floating around and poking at things curiously. She had introduced herself briefly, a cute young girl in a black dress with blue trim around the buttons. Strangely, the wings she bore were different on each side; three red wings looking almost like great sickles to her right, and three blue wings like devil's tails to her left. She confessed to having interfered both with Murasa's crew and with Sanae, Reimu and Marisa, mostly because it seemed like fun to her at the time... though she hadn't realized what Murasa intended to do at first. It was apparently due to her that the blocks had looked like UFOs to Sanae and I, like blocks to Reimu, and like fairies to Keine.

"This is my 'Seed of Non-identification'," she said, showing me the snake-like object twined around her right wrist. "It's basically a magical item that can disguise something's true form... what people then see is all due to their experiences." She glanced at the sleeping Sanae, giggling. "So Sanae, fresh from the outside world, saw something flying through the sky that shouldn't be, and immediately thought of aliens..."

I tilted my head. "So, you're not one, then...?"

Nue giggled. "Nope... even though Sanae's gotten the idea stuck in her head that I am..." She explained to me that she was a nue, a lesser-known kind of youkai similar to what Westerners call a chimera... though she had in fact been using her seeds each time she faced humans. "Those images of me, all those crazy combinations of animals... that's just what emerged in their mind from their nebulous fears," she explained. "This is what I really look like..."

When Sakan and Daiyousei had awoken, we headed out, although Sanae was still sleeping... and likely would be for a while, after the night's exertions. Nue, meanwhile, had gone to look for Byakuren, to try and apologize for interfering with her release... and also a bit intrigued by the woman after what I'd told her about the monk.

We made a brief stop at the Aki Shrine as well to visit with the goddesses, but the cleanup would have to wait until I could get some supplies, and soon we pressed on, ending up sleeping in the fields between mountain and village.

The next morning, Daiyousei was frowning as she fluttered overhead. "Chitose... I should head home for a while," she said quietly. "Cirno probably misses me, and I've been away from it for a long while now..."

I nodded, and hugged the child-sized fairy tightly. "I'll stop in and visit later on, okay?" I asked.

Daiyousei nodded, and shyly kissed my forehead. "I'm glad you're staying, Chitose," she said, beaming. "I'll see you around!"

I stood there for a minute, watching her fly off, before Sakan nudged my leg. "C'mon, aneechan..."

I smiled and scooped him into my arms, closing the book gently. "Settle down, silly... now relax for a bit."

Sakan's voice echoed faintly from the closed pages. "Okay, aneechan... I'm still kinda sleepy anyway..."

I held Sakan securely under my arm as I moved through the village. My supplies had run a little low, and I spent a while moving about the market, replenishing my bag's contents and confirming with the few vendors that recognized me that, yes, I was going to stay, likely in the village. That done, I set out looking for information on a place to settle a bit more permanently.

As I passed down one of the streets, my eyes fell on Daisuke, the man sitting in front of his door and puffing quietly on a pipe. He caught sight of me at almost the same time and groaned. "Reimu still hasn't sent you back yet? Geez..."

I smiled, bowing lightly. "At this point, I've pretty much made up my mind to stay anyway..."

Daisuke twitched. "You've gotta be kidding me..." He shook his head. "Listen, kiddo. When my family got drawn here by that damned kyoukai, they didn't have a choice about getting back. You do. Don't waste it."

I tilted my head. "You're from the outside world?"

Daisuke shook his head. "Nah. But somewhere along the line, one of my family wound up spirited away, just like you. He settled down here, married someone he met in the village, and the Kirisame family's been part of Gensokyo since."

I smiled lightly. "And eventually that line led to the birth of one of the strongest magic-users in Gensokyo..."

Daisuke twitched more noticeably this time. "Kid, I told you I don't like talking about that girl..."

I smiled lightly. "Youkai aren't nearly as bad as you say they are," I said quietly, hefting Sakan's book and starting to flip through the pages. "I've spent time with quite a few of them over the last few days..."

Daisuke groaned. "Great. Now you sound like that monk girl who showed up yesterday..." He pointed to the far side of the village. "She's building a temple now, up by Rinnosuke's place... crazy girl keeps talking about 'equality for humans and youkai'... hah... that's just nuts." He frowned. "What's with the book?"

I smiled, even as Sakan poked his head out and leaned on the side of the book sleepily. "Well, I like them, anyway," I said quietly. "I've even started taking care of this newborn..."

Daisuke stared at us both for a long moment, and then rose from his place, knocking his pipe out against the side of the inn and storming inside without saying another word. Sakan pouted up at me. "He's kinda mean, isn't he?"

I sighed. "Some people just don't trust youkai..."

Akyu's voice spoke behind me, and I turned around to see her smiling lightly at me. "It's not all his fault," she said quietly. "Gensokyo used to be a far more dangerous place..." She was holding a book under her arm. "I heard you'd come back to the village," she said, smiling.

I tilted my head, Sakan floating down to peek at her curiously with those sleepy eyes of his. "It's good to see you again... but... was it really so dangerous?"

Akyu nodded quietly. "Yes... the Gensokyo you've been exploring over the past several days only recently started becoming that way," she said quietly. She indicated the book under her arm. "Each time I reincarnate, I culminate my researches with a volume called the 'Gensokyo Chronicle'. Until this most recent volume, its pages have been filled with quite a few frightful youkai... dangerous beings with little respect for human lives..." She sighed quietly. "Daisuke remembers well some of those dark times... and quite a few of the Kirisame family were devoured by wicked youkai... I don't blame him for being mistrustful even in these changed times..."

Sakan shivered, staring at her with eyes wide. "... I promise I'm not gonna try and hurt you..." he said hesitantly.

Akyu giggled softly. "Well, aren't you a little sweetheart?" she murmured softly, rubbing his hair gently. "I'm not so worried. Honestly, I had to take a few liberties and a much more worrisome tone in this latest volume just to make it sound like the old ones... the Gensokyo Chronicle was mainly intended as a guide for humans, to help them survive against hostile youkai. This time around I mostly had to indicate how much of a threat they would pose if they acted against humans... rather than indicate to what degree they were a dangerous enemy..." She smiled lightly. "Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if my little Perfect Memento is necessary anymore..."

I tilted my head. "What will you do if that's the case, then...?"

Akyu smiled. "Reincarnation is an arduous process," she said quietly. "And it takes so long that nearly all the humans I know are long gone by the time it finishes. I've been considering just living out the remainder of my ninth life peacefully, and let myself pass on at the end of it..."

I shivered quietly, but nodded, hugging the girl on impulse. Akyu blinked, and then smiled lightly. "I've lived many times a normal human life anyway, Chitose. And I haven't decided that there won't be a Hiedo no Ajyu..."

I nodded, releasing her. "Well... at the very least, you'll get to see part of my history unfold," I said softly.

Akyu smiled, and nodded. "I'll ask around for a house you can move into," she said. "You may have to build one, though..." She giggled. "Not that that would stop you, mm?"

I laughed, and we parted ways. Further down the street lay a small tea shop with tables arranged outside in the sun. Despite the niceness of the day and the soft breeze blowing, though, the inside was fairly clearly crowded, while only one person sat outside. Then I got closer and saw who it was, and understood, laughing softly as I stood by her table. "Hello again... did you get the hot spring installed, finally?"

Suika looked up and laughed, her gourd at her side for once as she sipped at a cup of tea. "Hey, there you are... well, I tried to make a start of it, but Reimu came back and kicked my ass." She laughed again, and took a swig from her gourd before returning to the tea. "Incident, Cirno proclaiming herself the strongest, and me in the same night... boy was she mad..."

I rolled my eyes. "Guess that means no hot springs for a while, huh?" I seated myself carefully at the table, setting Sakan open beside me. "Well... I could always try to bargain with Reimu... my help with the shrine in exchange for you and me getting to work on the springs..."

Suika grinned. "Sounds like a plan... though I don't think Reimu's gonna be keen on bargains for... a month at least." She sipped at her tea again, and waved to the man at the counter inside, pointing to me. "Who's your friend?"

I smiled, ruffling Sakan's hair gently. "This is Sakan. He's a newborn youkai... I'm taking care of him..." I giggled softly. "I'm his big sister now."

Suika laughed. "Well, you've certainly changed since the surprised little girl who'd never seen an oni before..." She leaned back in her chair as someone came out of the building and set a cup before me. "Don't worry about paying, s'on me. I'm just waiting for someone to drop by anyway, so feel free to join..."

I nodded, sipping quietly. "... Even the tea tastes better here, somehow," I mused. "Is it maybe just cleaner air...?" I looked across at her. "Come to think of it... didn't Reimu say something about you causing an incident once? What did you do?"

Suika grinned. "Oh, that? Well..." She tugged out a few hairs, and they changed suddenly into tiny copies of herself. "My power's 'manipulation of density'... so I can gather and spread things..." She grinned as the tiny onis vanished again. "Basically, I spread myself throughout Gensokyo, and gave everyone... let's call it 'party fever'..." She giggled. "Reimu eventually got fed up with it all and went looking for the one responsible... and she found me..."

I blinked. "Parties...?"

Suika nodded. "All the other oni live underground," she said. "Like Yuugi... she only comes up for stuff like the spring festival, and gathering supplies, and the others don't really come aboveground at all. I was bored... and I thought I could get them to come out of that old place and party with me." She pouted. "It didn't work at all though. Nobody showed up, and I ended up getting beaten up by a really angry shrine maiden..." She shrugged lightly, and grinned. "So... I take it from the fact that you're not fleeing for the shrine at top speed that you've had a decent time?"

I nodded, grinning back. "Not half-bad," I said lightly. "If you don't count nearly getting disintegrated by a crazy flower-loving parasol lady..."

Suika laughed. "Hah... not the youkai I'd choose to run into my first week here..."

A soft laugh broke in on our conversation, one I knew well and had been expecting to hear since that night at the shrine. "Well, it's lucky I was keeping an eye on you then, dear... wasn't it?"

Another of those strange, eye-filled slits appeared in the air next to our table, and Yukari stepped out of it, twirling a parasol lightly on one shoulder. I smirked lightly. "Would have been luckier if you hadn't held Ran back," I said, lightly ruffling Sakan's hair. "He ended up revealing himself to me anyway later, though... You knew he was there the whole time, didn't you?"

Yukari giggled lightly behind her hand. "What on earth gives you that impression?" she asked quietly, settling herself at the table as the server hurried over with a third cup.

Suika smirked. "Because it's you, Yukarin," she said, taking a heavy swig from her gourd again. She seemed to be alternating between sake and tea at this point.

Yukari chuckled softly, eyeing me now. "So... it's been a week, hasn't it?" she asked softly. "Since our little meeting at the inn... where you asked me to return you to the outside world... And how have those seven days treated you?"

I pretended to consider this. "Pretty well, all told," I said. "Besides nearly getting incinerated by Yuuka."

Yukari laughed softly behind her gloved hand. "Yes, but really, that was your own fault, you know," she said lightly. "Daiyousei did warn you to be careful around those flowers..."

I smiled a bit, ruffling Sakan's hair. "I made friends with youkai, beings I thought I'd never see in my lifetime... and with goddesses who're even now eagerly awaiting my return so we can give their shrine a proper cleaning instead of the basic one the three of us did..." I giggled. "I even made friends with a fairy, and took on a newborn youkai as a younger brother..."

Yukari grinned. "Which must be rather new for an only child like you," she said softly.

I blinked. "... Just how long have you been watching me?" I hazarded.

Yukari's grin widened. "What an odd question. What makes you think I was at all?"

I rolled my eyes. "You knew about me restoring the outside world's Hakurei Shrine... you knew I still cared about faith and the gods... you even knew somehow that I was an only child..." I paused, looking around for a moment. "Yukari... you planned all this, didn't you?"

Yukari rested her chin on one hand, smiling softly at me. "Planned? What do you mean, dear?"

I shook my head. "It wasn't coincidence you chose this particular visit to the shrine to pull me through..." I said quietly. "You knew I'd go to the spring festival, and meet dozens of youkai there... you knew that there was an incident on the horizon, and that Reimu wouldn't even consider sending me back... No matter what, I'd be forced to remain here for several days... surrounded by youkai, humans, yousei, even gods..."

Yukari's smile spread. "Well, you certainly don't seem angry about it..." she said lightly.

I nodded. "You were right... I hadn't even seen a dram's worth of your world..." I paused. "Well... I suppose now it's 'our' world..." I shook my head slowly. "And you planned things just right... so that when you spirited me away, that I'd end up having to stay here long enough to realize that..."

Yukari got a strangely familiar smirk on her face for a moment, which cracked Suika up. "Now who's been hanging around with Sanae too long?" the oni teased.

Yukari just sipped her tea, still smiling. "Even now you haven't, Chitose," she said quietly. "Gensokyo is a whole world... it's far too vast and wild to see in a single week..." She nodded. "And... well, perhaps things did go just as I planned them..."

I nodded slowly. "I had a feeling you would..."

Suika snickered. "Another case of 'Damnit, Yukari!', eh?"

I shook my head, grinning. "No... not really. Not this time."

Yukari leaned back in her chair, sipping her tea quietly. "So, Chitose, what lies in store for you next?"

I shrugged lightly, smiling. "A house... probably going to have to build one myself, but I'm no stranger to putting things together. And then... well, I have a pair of goddesses whose shrine needs some serious attention and faith... and a very cute kappa who's gotten very interested in my new abilities..."

Suika blinked. "Abilities, eh? What, can you make stuff build itself?"

I rolled my eyes. "If only... but I can make moving parts, well, move around... I haven't really explored it well yet..."

Suika laughed. "Bet that'll make you pretty popular on the mountain..."

I paused, looking up at Yukari. "I have a favor to ask, actually..."

Yukari smirked softly. "After everything else I've done for you, dearie?"

I smirked right back. "Like dragging me out of my world against my will and keeping me from returning until you were 'satisfied'?" I countered.

Yukari's grin widened. "I thought you were happy with the result..." she said softly.

Sakan giggled. "Doesn't make it any less mean though! C'mon, please? For aneechan?"

Yukari laughed and shook her head. "All right, dearie... what is it?"

I hesitated for a moment... then dug in my pocket and pulled out my car's keys. I'd had them with me when I had passed through the Hakurei Border, and hadn't ever bothered to throw them away. "I want... for you to put these on the front seat of my car," I said softly.

Yukari tilted her head. "Oh...?"

I nodded. "No sense in letting it go to waste," I said. "It's brand-new anyway..." I smiled, holding out the keys to her. "Please?"

Yukari smiled, and opened a tiny gap beneath my hand. I dropped the keys in, and with a soft motion of the air they were gone. "There," she said lightly. "Free to all finders..."

I nodded, smiling lightly. "That settles it..." I said quietly. "I'm a resident of Gensokyo from now on..."

Suika clapped me on the back and held out her gourd... and this time, I took a swig. "Heh... welcome to Gensokyo. Properly this time! 'Cause I forgot before," she crowed.

I smiled, stifling a hiccup. "Well... I wasn't a proper resident before anyway..." I grinned. "Give me a call next time Reimu runs off to deal with an incident... maybe we can get that spring installed before she gets back..."

Yukari chuckled. "Already plotting ways to harass the shrine maiden? You really are a resident," she teased, leaning on her hands again.

Suika grinned. "Ey, she'll warm up to the idea once we actually get it installed and she sees how nice having one is..." she murmured. "Plus, maybe it'll actually start bringing in donations from people other than this goof." She ruffled my hair heavily, and I had to fight to keep from being knocked from my chair.

Yukari smirked. "Well... you certainly seem to be enjoying things..." she said quietly to me.

I smiled... putting an arm around Sakan gently, and focusing. My smile widened as I saw a tiny blue light crystallize in my palm, two tiny gears running slowly around the perimeter. "Yeah..." I said softly, smiling up at her. "I guess I am."

(And so this tale is finished...)

(For those of you who aren't aware, tea is basically the most important thing in all of Gensokyo. EVER.)

(Daisuke again... honestly, I feel like I didn't fully realize my intent with this guy. Daisuke is in a way representative of the way things had been in Gensokyo a scant few years before; it was really only after Reimu took over as the fifth Hakurei maiden and established the spell-card system that the peace we see in the Touhou games existed. Daisuke, of course, was born long before this, and even after roughly a decade of what we might call the Pax Reimu he still doesn't trust that things have really changed from the way it was in his father's time. When two groups war with each other for centuries, even after the fighting ends not everyone will be eager or even trusting enough to make amends. While I feel he may have come across as such here, Daisuke's not evil or mean-spirited. I don't even think you could really call him a racist. He's just one of those who can't bring themselves to let go of their grudge or to trust youkai as a whole no matter how many examples of friendly, kind, playful ones they encounter.)

(Of course, this is all my own interpretation, mostly based on the fact that the man literally disowned his only daughter at the age of nine. ZUN never showed or even named him; his only mention is in Curiosities of Lotus Asia where Rinnosuke mentions in passing that he used to work for Marisa's father, and that he now runs a shop in the human village. The name (and possibly the concept of him running an inn) are drawn from Muffin, as I mentioned before, but otherwise this is my own extrapolation... and the belief that there had to be something deeper to the Kirisame family schism than Marisa learning magic (which he does hate) and consorting with Mima as often as she could. While I do view it as somewhat of a mutual breakup (Marisa has never once mentioned her father in 13+ games), it's still throwing your nine year old daughter out of your house...)

(... whew, that was a fair bit. I think I'm probably just being over-critical, and that I likely did manage to get all or most of that across in his scenes, but if I did fall as far short as I think I did, I at least don't want readers to go away thinking that Daisuke's a step away from becoming Gensokyo's version of Simon Legree.)

(Akyu, by the way, actually discusses in Perfect Memento the arduous nature of reincarnation and speculates on whether the Gensokyo Chronicle - and consequently Akyu herself - are needed in the new realm that Gensokyo has become since Reimu took over. Of course, whether she eventually does is ultimately dependent on Akyu herself; I honestly don't know whether she would or not, and I'm not sure even ZUN himself does...)

(I like the idea of Suika showing up at the end here. It helps both to give the narrative the feeling of a full circle, while at the same time emphasizing that Chitose really has not come back to her starting point...)

(And yes, that's a Light Yagami smirk on Yukari. Muffin influence peeking in again, I think. Also, her calling the keys "free to all finders" is a light reference to Tom Bombadil, who pronounced the same thing about the Barrow-Wight's treasure. Considering Yukari can pass through the Hakurei Border at will, I'm rather fond of her having the capacity to make references to the real world (that's why Ran knows who the frell Gustav Mahler is, by the way).)

(... it's probably really sappy to make the story end on Chitose creating her first danmaku bullet, but I love this ending far too much to change it. :3 )

(Anyway, this is properly the end now, so now I can actually thank you all for reading, and your kind comments. I -may- do something else with Chitose in the future, but I'd need to come up with a story that a) makes sense and b) is appropriate to her (stage 2/3 boss) level first. I have another story in the works, though, in a completely different franchise, so I'd definitely like to finish that one before trying to brainstorm out another Chitose story... look forward to that in the future, after I figure out how on earth you divide up a diary-based narrative into proper chapters. x.x Thank you all once again, and enjoy!)