Alternate Ending: Little Outcast Youkai
After I first posted the story here, I'd thought that there was no way that I'd be able to top that effort with a sequel. Much later, after a bit of conversation with someone over PM, the wheels began turning again. I figured, "If a sequel won't work, why not a different ending?" So... against my better judgment, I revisited FoUR and the events within. Enjoy, folks, and do try to remember that this is not canon to the story itself.
What if: after breaking Suika's "Wrecking Machine" card, Coop had been able to fight back instead of being reduced to dodging?
Suika came charging up to Megas, left foot out in a flying kick. Coop tried to catch it, but his reaction time was a hair slow. The kick struck Megas backwards onto dry land, with a follow-up haymaker crashing it into the ground a bit further out.
After what felt like an hour of struggling, Marisa was finally able to grab hold of her mini-hakkero. The smile that heralded her typical usage of it was tinted with sadness and determination.
"MAGICANNON: FINAL... MASTER... SPARK!"
Suika approached Megas as it got to its feet once more. "You've come close, mister," she declared, "but no sake for you." She began winding up, her fist wrapped up with flames. "This duel goes to me!"
Coop knew that the outcome of this whole game was at stake, so he frantically pressed every button on the dashboard that was within arm's reach. Nothing cooperated with him. "Nothing's working! C'mon, Megas, talk to me!" he urged.
It didn't look like there was any way out of this, as the negativity of the others indicated. But Coop was nothing if not stubborn; he continued to press buttons, flip switches, and turn any dials he could. Finally, out of frustration, he punched a dimmer switch-shaped knob near the temperature gauge...
Right as Suika leaned forward to sock Megas a good one, a translucent green energy field popped into place around the mech. It yielded when Suika's punch connected, shimmering and wiggling like jelly, then sapped every last trace of heat and excess strength out of her attack. Befuddled, the oni pulled her fist free of the field and backed off several steps, contemplating this new development.
A twinkling from somewhere behind Megas... and then came the roar of sound and light that accompanied Marisa's Master Spark. It was the sort of power that Suika had to contend with when Reimu and the others had been investigating the repeated parties, and she could testify to its strength... but none of it touched her metallic nemesis. All that energy and ferocity washed against the energy field, distorting and shaking it, but ultimately dissolved into a mass of particles that were drained into the shield as well.
As the Master Spark- - -followed shortly thereafter by the odd shielding- - -faded into nonexistence, Patchouli turned to look out the rear window, quietly surprised. She ignored Kiva's disbelief as Megas's energy reserves were partially restored, Jamie's dry humor at the outcome, and Coop's mirthful declaration of counterattack. She knew instinctively who was responsible. Black-white rat? Where are you?
Which brought a question to mind: If Marisa went through life the way she did, facing off against superior foes with little more than her wits and her overkill brand of magic, what was she doing sitting around and watching helplessly with nothing to contribute?
Coop was in the middle of entering a specific combination of buttons on a controller when she came to her decision. Reaching into her sleeve, Patchouli pulled out her "Philosopher's Stone" card and gave it a light toss up front. "Use this, outsider."
The oversized human picked it up and gave it a confused glance. "A Spell Card? What are you giving this to me for?"
"Yeah. It's not like we can use magic," Jamie reminded her. "Not of the dodgeball variety."
Patchouli shrugged and closed her eyes for a bit. "I'm sure you can figure something out. You've been making things up as you go along this entire time, anyway."
Suika was making her move again, charging for Megas with both arms outstretched. Deciding to go with the flow, Coop placed the card in a slot- - -which, unbeknownst to Patchouli, was the car's tape player- - -and pushed a button with a triangle on it, ending the button combination at that point. The oni closed in, trying to grab Megas with the intent to wind up for a throw- - -...
Megas ducked beneath the outstretched arms and caught Suika beneath them, stopping her movement, and rocketed upwards. Streams of energy- - -buffeting, metallic, thick and earth-like, fiery and watery- - -were collecting in the mech's right arm and giving it an otherworldly glow. On the dashboard's communications screen, five words had appeared; Patchouli didn't know this, but she would shortly come to regret seeing those words for the rest of her existence.
Escape the Machine: Megas Buster
Coop grinned. "One..."
From Suika's perspective, the backdrop for their fight briefly shifted into something akin to a battle arena, complete with strangely-dressed grapplers and a crowd of spectators. She knew that a Spell Card was in use- - -a real Spell Card, not that poor man's imitation from earlier- - -and that Coop intended to finish this in one go. She pounded, pulled and kicked, trying to break free from Megas's grip, but the surging energies that accompanied the Card prevented her from escaping in time.
Once Megas had gone as high up as was intended for it, the mech tossed Suika away from it- - -and released the gathered energy from its arm via a titanic burst of power. The shot took the appearance of a gigantic fist, having a silvery core but lathered with merged danmaku that rotated around it at high speeds. The elements of the "Philosopher's Stone" were all represented in this attack, successfully merging together magic and technology for the sake of blowing up anything it collided with.
The Megas Buster detonated against Suika dead-center, directing all of its energy into the point of contact and converting it into damage. With an explosion of elemental rainbows and the high-pitched SHWING that signalled the fight's end, the oni- - -having shrunk down to normal upon being struck- - -was shot across Misty Lake like a powerful bullet, descending quickly at an angle.
Somewhere, a brass bell rang.
Those that were watching the fight from outside the Scarlet Devil Mansion didn't know that anything had gone past them until a powerful gust of wind tore at them, sending hair and headwear whipping about and threatening to tear the Scarlet sisters' parasols out of the hands of their holders. Suika smashed into the Mansion's exterior, going straight through the construction and leaving a nice oni-shaped hole behind.
Crashing and tumbling noises made those at the Mansion flinch with each successive instance. One after another, things could be heard toppling over and shaking the ground as they landed. Remilia and Sakuya weren't sure where in the Mansion the noises were coming from, but they both had a gut feeling that the repair costs would be astronomical. Neither of them knew how right they were.
The ruckus finally quieted down a little while later. Reimu and Yukari, neither of them desiring to stick around for the aftermath, flew off to intercept the magus before it departed. Alice and Reisen removed Remilia's and Flandre's hats from their faces and returned them to their respective owners. Patchouli showed up while they were doing this and chewed out Remilia for sending her out on a fool's errand, then re-entered the Mansion and left them behind without another word.
The magus didn't look to be making any severe movements; in the minds of the residents, things seemed to be well and truly over. Meiling took a deep breath, let it out slowly- - -...
"NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NOOOO-OO-OOOOOOOO!"
...- - -and jumped as the wail of one forever cursed reached them from within the Mansion. For the first time in ages (the storms didn't count), Remilia allowed herself to be openly afraid. "...That was Patchouli, wasn't it?"
"...Yes. Yes it was, my lady," Sakuya confirmed, not sure how to react. "...Want me to check on her while you and the young mistress take cover?"
"...That would be lovely."
"I'm going to bed now. Good morning, good afternoon, good night!" Flandre agreed, not afraid to show fear, and bolted into the Mansion towards whatever safety she could find. Remilia was close behind, while Sakuya's route took her to the library. Meiling stayed outside, presumably to keep watching the magus, while Cirno- - -having a brief flash of intelligence- - -decided to stay as far away from any potential danger as she could; Alice and Reisen followed Sakuya, their curiosity overriding their better judgment.
The books stored in the library were fireproof, waterproof and effectively immune to physical damage. No one had ever said anything about the bookshelves, however. Whether they had or not, though, there were loopholes through everything; nothing archived was Megasproof or Suikaproof.
From the oni-shaped hole at the very back of the library clear to the front was wreckage. Pure and total wreckage. Bookshelves were smashed apart and lying on the ground, while countless magical tomes, encyclopedias, textbooks and the occasional manga volume were scattered about throughout the entire room; most had pages torn out of them. The desk where Patchouli did most of her reading had relocated to the library's entrance, broken into three large pieces. The door to the room where the librarian kept her personal effects had been impaled with part of a bookshelf, although the contents beyond were untouched. Half-buried underneath the debris near the door was Suika, senseless and swirly-eyed from the Megas Buster, and Koakuma, who had been putting some things away when the mini-hurricane had hit.
All in all, only those shelves that had been constructed along the farthest walls had been spared the devestation, and considering the size of the library that was saying something.
Patchouli was having an out-of-character moment. When Sakuya and the others reached her at the door, the librarian was completely white, clothes and all. She was on her hands and knees on the floor, repeatedly punching it after each frustrated "no" she uttered. The aura of depression and sadness she was radiating was palpable enough that Sakuya felt inclined to offer her a cookie, and only the remembrance of the fact that Patchouli was not Flandre kept her from doing that.
Hesitantly, Alice reached down and tapped her shoulder (from a safe distance, using Shanghai). "Patchouli? Hey. Are you still with us?"
"... ...I have learned an important lesson today," Patchouli rasped. "Never offer a Spell Card to a hot-blooded buffoon who graduated from the Marisa Kirisame School of Danmaku."
Everything and everyone nearby, including the broken desk, sprouted sweatdrops.
Thankfully, once the full story had made the rounds, Coop was only partially to blame for the disaster. Part of it laid with Patchouli herself for her honest mistake; a third portion was blamed on Suika for instigating the fight; and as Reisen brought herself to acknowledge, her former bosses on the moon were also at fault for opening the way to Gensokyo (if inadvertently, if what Kiva said was the truth).
While Remilia had a bit of fun at Jamie's expense- - -she almost laughed at his attempts to cheer up Patchouli- - -she recognized Kiva to be an intelligent and capable human. She had a little pity for the soldier who had to put up with those two... but only a little. It wouldn't do for her to show that she actually liked having these strangers here for a visit, the damage done notwithstanding.
Ultimately, she didn't hold any grudge against any of them, not even Coop. Sakuya had added some degree of skill in home repair to her repertoire in recent years, and while it would take a bit of effort and time to purchase needed supplies and repair the Mansion (even moreso, since the recent storms had struck the human village pretty hard), Remilia had no doubt that things would turn out alright in the end. First on the agenda, of course, would be to have that hole in the wall patched up; there was a reason why the library had so little natural light, after all.
Remilia had, reluctantly at first but afterward without reservations, agreed to be hospitable towards Coop and his friends before Yukari sent them home. Everyone who had been present- - -plus Marisa, who had showed up a bit late while favoring her arm- - -were invited to share in the festivities.
About twenty minutes in, Remilia noticed that despite Jamie and Kiva's best efforts, Patchouli was still quietly fuming. She directed the conversation she was currently involved in towards another topic. "...You know, Pache, you should consider this a blessing in disguise."
"...How so, pray tell?"
"Well, you've spent most of your life in the library, and with good reason. But since we have to remodel and do repairs in there, maybe you should take this opportunity to travel with someone. See more of the world outside the Mansion other than the usual locales."
Despite the annoyance she still felt towards Remilia, Patchouli had to agree. "I could probably go along with that, just so long as I could take some of my things with me. And I'll need a place to stay when I have to take a break."
"That can be arranged." Remilia nodded. "Marisa, how about it?"
"No can do, ze," Marisa immediately spoke up. "I had to blow up my house just to keep from becomin' a permanent floor mat. It's in no condition to host guests."
"It never was in the first place" was the thought on the minds of those that knew her, but it went unspoken.
"I'll have to decline as well," Alice said, swallowing her bite of food. "Between the endless night, the trial of guts, the storms and the outsiders' arrival, the conditions at my home are less than optimal. I doubt she'd want to wait until I had everything in order."
"And you'd be right," Patchouli agreed, nodding slightly.
"I'm not hosting any freeloading youkai," Reimu stated indignantly. "I already have my hands full with Suika as it is."
"You know you like me," Suika chirped, blissfully drunk on sake from her recovered treasure. Her comment got a smirk out of Jamie.
"Whether I do or not doesn't matter," Reimu told her. "And in any event, you still haven't bought those supplies I asked you to get."
"I'd just as soon keep my home's location a secret, thank you," Yukari informed them, her tone of voice leaving no room for argument.
"Eientei made it through the weather just fine," Reisen said, being the next in line. "What concerns me is that if she bunked there, Patchouli would have to put up with Tewi's shenanigans..."
Remilia frowned, remembering the mischevious rabbit that she and Sakuya had met. "Bookworms and pranksters don't mix. I agree. And I don't think that anyone at the village would be inclined to take her in..."
"Especially not this soon after the... Glorft's failed moon invasion," Reimu pointed out, pausing to work out the unfamiliar name. "You send any youkai down there, even one more inclined to read than to cause trouble, and I can guarantee they'll be up in arms."
"So out of those we know, who does that leave?" Sakuya wanted to know.
A short pause, with the only sounds being those of Coop enjoying the meal... then everyone in the room turned to face the three outsiders. Patchouli's face turned a paler shade of gray. "You wouldn't."
A day later, Coop was cheering at the climax of the Rogue Wrestler movies he had missed. After discovering that there had been a temporary power outage while they were away, he had gotten into contact with someone he knew who had been able to record the films without any trouble. Jamie, as usual, reclined at the other end of the couch and commented on anything that he found out of place.
Kiva shook her head, not really interested in the movies. Getting up from the chair she'd borrowed, she walked over to the basement stairs. Patchouli was seated there on an aged cushion, half-heartedly reading an old science textbook that Coop's mother had been nice enough to loan her. The librarian looked up as she approached. "Is this what it's like for you? Their lazing about, playing those strange games, fighting monsters, repairing junk and having no real purpose in life, every single day?"
"Bluntly," Kiva told her with a long-suffering sigh, "yes. So if Jamie asks to take you out shopping, I suggest turning him down."
Patchouli grimaced and silently urged those in Gensokyo to hurry up with the repairs. The sooner she could leave Jersey City, the better.
But in the meantime, maybe trying that "Last Fantasy" game Coop was talking about wouldn't hurt...
Ending No. 2
Feline is preparing...
(Edited September 23, 2016)