The smoke from within the dream room continues to flow out and blind everyone of the figure standing under the doorway.
Mima isn't going to take any more of it, so she waves her arms in front of herself and forces the smoke to split with a powerful magic gust.
On the doorway; standing proudly while looking down at the three girls before him; Ail snarls softly before rudely scoffing towards the evil spirit.
Mima smiles and happily says "Ail, you're alri-huh?" and that's when she notices his red eyes and ghostly appearance, snarls as she prepares a black orb on her hand, then asks "what the hell are you doing here?"
Nega-Ail snarls softly again, then says "what the hell do you think you are doing? Hurry up!"
Shikieiki wants to ask him how he got out of the dream world, but he becomes a flash, and then morphs into Reimu, who still has her death wound on her chest.
She waves her arms around and smacks her thighs to show her despair as she says "what are you waiting for!? He needs you!" Right after saying that, she becomes a small white beam that zips straight back into the room.
Yukari realizes what the dreams mean and heads toward the room, although Mima quickly catches on and rushes to beat the gap youkai inside.
She rushes past the smoke, scans the room with her eyes as fast as she can, and then she finds the dense boy hugging his knees and trembling behind the last bed of flowers in the room.
"Ail?" she calls softly, not wanting to frighten him or scare him into a fight.
She slowly floats toward him with Yukari and Eiki behind her; though they stay five steps away all the time; then softly calls "Ail, are you alright? It's me, Mima."
The boy begins to tremble harder, stammers incoherently, then finally, sounding despaired and frightened out of his wits, he replies "p-p-please... I just want to get home. I... I don't want to fight anymore. Please... please just let me go. Let me go home! M-Moriya-sama help me!"
The evil spirit listens to him sob and is reminded of when Marisa was a young child.
She remembers the little girl would cry whenever she got scared or frustrated, and for some reason she didn't understand, she would embrace the child and comfort her with coos and purrs while combing her hair with soft strokes.
Without realizing it, she's doing that very same thing for Ail, while the trembling boy taps her arm and face with his finger before whispering "you're real. Mima is real."
Shikieiki takes this chance to step forward and say "but Ail, you are home. You are wide awake, and no longer bound to the dream."
Yukari wants nothing more than to take video evidence of the supposedly evil spirit and the boy right now, but even she can't bring herself to do such a thing, and smiles while casually saying "the trial is over. You passed with flying colors."
The trembling boy suddenly gasps and returns Mima's embrace; desperately looking for something safe to hold on to before speaking. "B-but Budou... Sanae! Reimu and Flandre, and Remilia! They all died! They're all dead! I killed them! I-I-I killed them!"
The evil spirit grips the back of his neck until he stops squeezing her, then with a stern and motherly tone she says "listen careful Anilan Inmodo Leuch, son of Ayalina Leuch Higani; you passed your test. Their deaths weren't your failures, but the world's own. You passed the test, and you are back home."
Yukari chuckles mischievously, spreads her arms widely, and then says "if you want proof that you are back, notice that we are here with you, and we are not trying to kill you."
Shikieiki looks suspiciously at the gap youkai, but disregards the suspicious feeling to look at the boy without frightening him, then says "and all your friends, the Moriya Shrine Maiden, and your youkai daughter are all just fine. They are all waiting for your return."
It takes a few more coos and hair combs from Mima, but Ail finally relaxes his grip, his sobs lessen, and lifting his head to look at Eiki, it appears he's realizing he's really free from that world.
He looks around until he spots Yukari smiling at him, then the blonde says "welcome back child. And just so you can feel honored and proud of yourself, know that I have decided to teach you math myself, so that you can blunder less when messing with borders you shouldn't be messing with."
The boy looks up at her with puppy eyes before gulping, then after some soft stammers he manages to ask "but... didn't Ran teach me all of that already?"
The woman opens her fan to cover her sly grin, and says "not what I know, dear child."
He nods twice and thanks her, looks around himself and taps Mima's back to let her know he's now feeling better, and thus she lets him go to look at his face, and it not very pleased with what she sees.
The boy's skin is slightly discolored, his hair is messier than usual, the dark circles around his eyes look frightening, and his clothes are very rumpled.
She smiles as she combs his hair a little while helping him stand up, then says "there, you see; nothing to worry about. You're back home, you're fine, and you are back to your roots. So, no hard feelings, right?"
Ail smiles at her, sighs, then shakes his head and says "n-no, not at all. I must thank you all. The experience was... horrible; but I understand my acting without thinking was leading me somewhere terrible."
He begins to tremble as though struggling to keep his body standing while smiling, and says "I truly thank you, from the bottom of my heart."
Shikieiki and Yukari both lift their respective items of choice to cover their mouths while Mima fails to hide her worry, and asks "Ail, are you sure you're alright!? If you want, we can bury those memories deep-"
Anilan lifts her hand while giving all three women a determined stare, then says "this terrible experience has opened my eyes widely. If you were to make me forget even the slightest detail, it could all become undone."
His legs twitch so violently he ends up falling on the nearest bed of flowers, but remains speaking with determination. "I thank you for the offer, but please, let me handle these. I'll flood them with new happy memories with my Sanae, my Budou, and all my friends. I can do this."
The girls give each other some estranged stares, then Shikieiki nods once and says "alright; but if you ever change your mind, you can speak with any one of us. We'll be ready to help you as we can. Just keep in mind that your choice may complicate what we can do."
The boy stands up once more, bows politely, then smiles and says "you'll see; everything will be just fine!"
Later, at the Forest of Magic, at Ail's house, on that warm and beautiful spring morning, Lily White lands behind Budou and Sanae; whom have just exited the house; and says "it's spring! Tell Ail!"
The boy lands just behind some bushes in front of his home and starts looking around himself as though lost and totally disoriented, starts to shake when he looks at the girls and fear takes him, and thinks he should keep away from them, yet takes small cautious steps towards the house while still looking around.
Budou turns around with an irritated face, sighs, and irritably says "listen you stupid fairy! Papa is not back yet, so-"
The little bat youkai gasps so loud, she mutes Sanae's own gasp when they place their eyes upon the pale and trembling Ail.
The green haired girl lifts her arm when hesitating to approach the seemingly disoriented boy, and asks "Ail-kun? Sweetheart, are you alright? What happened to you?"
The boy looks at them and mumbles something under his breath, so the three girls rush toward him.
Before any of them can reach him, Phredia pops right out Budou's heart and flies straight toward him, but he drops on his knees, wraps his arms around Sanae, Lily and Budou as soon as they are close; almost crushing Phredia in the hug; and repeats "it's me! I'm back! It's me! I'm back!"
He starts to sob and his tears dampen the girls' hairs, and then he starts to cry "Budou, Lily, Phredia, Sanae-chan, you're alright! I'm so sorry; for everything!"
The four girls manage to glance at each other; Budou changing her sight from Sanae to Lily, then Phredia; then they all manage to wrap a hand around the boy.
He twitches when he feels their fingers on him, thinking they might kill him yet not caring for it, but he relaxes when he feels their warm embrace melting away any fear he may have had instead.
When he's relaxed, Sanae stands up and helps him to stand, wraps his arm around her shoulder, then says "come on sweetheart, let's go inside;" and leads him into the house, followed quickly by Budou, Lily, and Phredia.
Inside the house, the boy is welcomed by the familiar sight of his own home, with the blue furniture and the newly-painted white ceiling and light-blue walls, and not the girly remodeling his mother had done.
The shrine maiden sits him on the new love seat, helps him settle his back against the backrest, then rubs his face and softly asks "Ail, are you alright? You are back home; you know that, right? Do you understand?"
The little bat girl jumps on the free space to the boy's left, hugs his waist, and exclaims "papa, what's wrong? Are you home for good? You won't leave again, right!?"
The dense one suddenly shakes his head, looks at Budou's head before petting her and combing her hair with his hands, lets a questioning gasp escape his lips when looking at Sanae, then he whispers "I really am back. Y-you're not..."
He grabs the girl by the shoulders, and looking frightened he asks "Sanae, nobody had died, right? Kanako is alive and with us, right!? R-Reimu is still the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, right!?"
The confused girl looks into his frightened eyes, then says "Ail, nobody we know has died; Kanako is at the shrine, probably drinking sake again; and yes, Reimu is still the Hakurei Maiden."
The boy chuckles, his eyes half-close while he smiles and says "it's alright. I'm really back home. I'm... back home with you!"
He grabs Budou by the head and gives her a kiss on the forehead, holds Lily and Phredia in a crushing hug, then releases them and gives Sanae an equally strong crushing hug, a kiss on the lips, then excitedly says "I'm back home! I'm really out of the dream!"
She grabs hold of his head just as he suddenly winds down to an almost complete stop, sets his head on her lap, and rubs his head while softly saying "Ail-kun, calm down. We can see that 'trial' of yours was very tough on you, so just rest and let us take care of you. ...Honey?"
She waits for a bit for an answer, but is quick to discover the boy has fallen asleep on her lap, and snores softly while enjoying her soft strokes on his head.
Budou jumps off the love seat and walks to the kitchen with Phredia flying next to her, and Lily getting ahead of her, then whispers "I'll go get something to eat. Papa will wake up hungry."
Sanae chuckles, turns her head toward the little bat youkai, and says "make sure those fairies get extra honey. We don't want Ail-kun waking up to a fairy battle now."
The teal haired girl and the two blonde fairies salute the shrine maiden, and then they all rush into the kitchen, where soft arguments over honey can be heard.
In the meantime, Sanae looks down at Ail, coos when stroking the hair around his ear, then whispers "don't worry my sweet, I got you now and I'm not letting go."
Hearing those words, the dense boy smiles and moans while shifting his head, then seems to shut off and let his body truly rest.
For two days Ail's home becomes a gathering for friends, all eager to welcome the boy back; particularly Ayalina and Yuka, whom showered him with kisses. He still does not understand why Yuka was so glad to see him, and why Kurumi was so horrified of the flower masters.
Hourai's, Shanghai's and Alice's visit were both a surprise, and a constant reminder of what his other self did to them in that dream world. Even with Sanae and Budou there, the puppeteer's visit was mostly awkward.
Ail had to apologize repeatedly, and managed to explain a tiny bit of his experience with them in the dream, though making sure to keep the more uncomfortable details hidden.
On the morning of the third day, he, Budou, Sanae and Lily visit the Myouren Temple, where things get awkward for the boy.
The moment they land on the outer gates of the temple they are greeted by the sight of tense youkai and a handful of anxious humans walking around as though on patrol and fortifying the walls.
"Wh-what going on here?" asks the boy, nervously wondering if his presence has anything to do with what's happening.
They finally spot Kyouko walking alongside a woman who has light brown hair and a pair of dark brown ears on her head, a large, thick raccoon's tail, who wears round glasses, a leaf on her head, and wears an ecru shirt, and a red-grey skirt.
Ail twitches when he sees them, takes two instinctive steps back and bumps against Sanae, then Budou; not knowing what's happening, calls them. "Hey Kyouko, Mamizou!"
They dense one's body stiffens up and gets cold, so the shrine maiden rubs his arms while speaking in a soothing tone. "Calm down sweetie. Everything will be just fine."
The temple girls turn around with dangerous looks on their faces; ready to attack whatever may have called them, but then they see the guests and settle down.
"Oh, it's just you," comments the yamabiko, to which the tanuki adds "oh, sorry about that."
She scratches her head while chuckling uncomfortably and says "you see, Byakuren has everyone on edge over the Taoists, and I'm afraid I have also become rather paranoid. My apologies."
She notices the stiff boy leaning against the blue and white shrine maiden and asks "and who's this fellow?" She looks at Budou and rubs her head while smiling and saying "this wouldn't your 'papa Ail' now, would he?"
The little bat's wings flutter involuntarily as her head is rubbed, then she nods and says "yup; that's him alright!" She turns around to look at the boy and says "that's right papa, you haven't met Mami-chan! She's a very nice, very... um, papa?"
While Kyouko chuckles at the sight, Mamizou smiles uncomfortably, places her hands on her hips, and says "oi, that boy seems a little stiff. Is he gonna be alright?"
Sanae giggles and says "oh, don't mind him. He's just been through some rough waters. Don't worry; I'll take care of this." She immediately gives him a hug and makes sure his face is on her chest, and like ice on fire, the boy's body melts into a more natural and relaxed state.
Ail gives his girl a peck on the lips, a quick "thank you," then turns around, extends his hand, and says "h-hello M-Miss Mamizou. Nice... to meet you."
The tanuki woman shakes his hand using both of hers, and loudly says "nice to meet you too!" She stops for a moment, looks at him in the eyes and says "no need to be so nervous, I won't bite."
Kyouko sighs; secretly recovering from her laughing fit after seeing that dense boy acting like some sort of chicken; then says "come on, let's head inside. Lady Byakuren will be most pleased to see him! Pfff..."
Meanwhile, at the Hakurei Shrine, Marisa Makes a smooth and quiet landing in front of the donation box, dusts herself while looking around, places her right hand on her cheek as she prepares to make her usual call.
Behind the shrine, Reimu watches Rika swing her wooden sword with perfect precision while dancing elegantly around the ample grounds.
They can hear a very loud clang coming from the entrance, and right after the shrine's maid asks "what was that?" the shrine maiden sighs and says "that's the sound of our peaceful time fluttering in the wind."
Rika stares at her mistress and wonders how a metallic sound like that could compare to something fluttering in the wind, but she reserves her confusion and merely follows after her lady, in case her assistance is needed.
What they find is Suzaku standing next to the black and white witch that's crouching on the ground and holding her throbbing head, while a silver washtub as tall as her hat sits to her right.
The blonde lifts her head and smiles, then says "yo, Reimu, Rika. Ugh! W-what's up?" She looks up to the sky and adds "jeez, these things are raining again. Better be careful."
The unamused shrine maiden crosses her arms over her chest and says "well, at least your hard head served you well. That thing looks heavy."
The witch stands up with a smile, picks the washtub up while straightening her hat, then happily says "well what d' ya know! And here I was about to ask you if you had something tall enough to wash my hat in."
Rika's wings flutter as she softly claps her hands together in front of her chest, and says "how fortunate for you, Miss Marisa. The heavens have smiled upon you and granted a desired gift... though in a most peculiar manner."
Marisa puts her hat back on and grins while saying "let it have its moment. I'll get back at it eventually, ze."
While she speaks, Chiaki walks casually to the blonde, slips her hands into the apron's pocket, takes a few coins, and then casually walks away while Reimu gives her an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
The witch stares curiously at her friend and asks "and what's got you so happy all of a sudden?"
The black haired girl coos cutely while holding her hands behind her back and says "oh, I just felt a sudden surge of happiness. Maybe the Hakurei God is happy."
Even Rika is finding that hard to swallow. Regardless, they all smile at each other before the maid raises her hand, silently summons Suzaku to her, and says "come on everyone, let's go have some tea while we wait."
Marisa grins and asks "so he's really coming today? Sweet! I brought my swimsuit just as you asked!"
Reimu sighs as she rolls her eyes, then says "no, that's for tomorrow. Today is just the meeting for the preparations."
The blonde frowns, then says "oh, that's right. Kyo told me it wasn't today. Guess I wasn't payin' attention."
The shrine girls can't help but look half-faced at each other because of their disbelief, but their faces soon turn to surprise when they look back at the witch and see Chiaki folding the black with white polka-dots swimsuit and placing it inside the washtub before walking away.
Marisa raises an eyebrow, shivers when a strong gust whooshes by to reveal the commando state she's in, then she asks "you guys feel that breeze?"
At one of the Myouren Temple's cozier guest room, Byakuren, Kyouko, Orange, Mamizou and Minamitsu accompany the visiting group.
Lily White has made herself quite comfortable on the Youkhrist's lap; and the owner of said lap doesn't mind at all; while Ail tells them just a little bit of his experience in the dream world.
As he speaks, he fails to notice Shou and Nazrin standing under the doorway behind him, or Ichirin and Unzan watching with interest from the window also behind him.
Although he does fail to notice them, he can feel their presence, though is not sure what it is, and so he ends his tale without mentioning his experience at the other Myouren Temple, the Moriya Shrine, or the many deaths he witnessed.
Byakuren notices his reluctance to continue, and decides against letting it slide, so she makes sure to make eye contact with him when asking "and... that's it? Isn't there something else Ail?"
He knows that she knows he's purposely omitting parts of the story, and so is clear on the fact that hiding the truth will not work, however all he can do is look down and mutter incoherently under his breath.
Sanae quickly holds him tight as if protecting him, scowls at the woman and says "no, don't force him! If he doesn't want to say more, then don't make him!"
Byakuren sighs as she rubs Lily's head and says "but if he keeps that buried inside it's only going to rot him from the core! Please Ail, share with us a little more! Let that pain out."
"That look in her eyes. She knows what happened! But how?" The dense boy shivers as this revelation hits him, but there's some comfort in knowing there's someone that might understand what he went through.
He lets his head slump and rubs Sanae's embracing arms for support, then says "I went to the Temple there. I did so many atrocities. Well... my other me did; the one me that almost became real!"
The more he speaks, the harder he shakes, and that makes him feel weaker and weaker, yet he continues "I harmed you Lady Byakuren, to the point that you had lost yourself, and your faith in me! I cursed Miss Nue's throat, I almost killed Mi- Nazrin, and I killed Kogasa!"
He sobs and says "I'm a monster," just before Sanae embraces him lightly and stares daggers at the Youkhrist while saying to him "no, you're not."
Byakuren stands up, placing Lily in Orange's lap, walks over to the boy, kneels when in front of him, then places a gentle hand that's glowing light blue on the back of his neck.
"Let it all out... little brother. Don't bottle it up." As she whispers these words, the boy's sob and shaking diminish, and his girlfriend's gaze softens a great deal.
After he's calmed down enough to lift his gaze toward the gradient haired woman, she rubs the side of his head and says "I'm so sorry Ail, but I couldn't let you bottle that up. Yes, we already knew what had happened. What I didn't know is that you remember everything so vividly."
The boy shivers a bit when sniffling, then says "it was the dream spirits. They interfered; did something to the world that ruined something of it. Because of that... I remember everything that happened, onee-chan."
Both he and Byakuren chuckle softly after he calls her that, while Sanae raises an eyebrow and quickly wraps her arms around the boy while glaring at the woman.
From the doorway, Shou chuckles and says "then if you remember everything, you should be conscious about being free from said world, so why are you still so tense?"
Ail turns around with a terrified look on his face and notices the girls behind him, smiling and waving all friendly-like at him. He even notices Nue hiding behind Shou with a very mischievous grin on her face and still waving her fingers at him.
He feels as though his chest becomes a void that's swallowing and consuming him from within. His skin turns paler than Yuyuko's before breakfast, yet he manages to fight the fear he feels when realizing the girls are surrounding him.
"Sweetheart it's alright," softly coos Sanae. Shou sits with her legs crossed while looking straight into his eyes form the other side of the table and says "nobody is trying to kill you; nobody hates you, nor have you hurt anyone."
Nazrin mimics her master and sits in the same manner while saying "yes, listen to master. Look, we're not raising any alarms or anything, so calm down."
He keeps staring at them with fear that slowly fades away from his eyes as he takes notice of their smiling faces and worried looks; although Nue looks more mischievously curious than worried.
Finally, he lets a sigh escape him, manages a weak smile and a nod, and while the color returns to his skin he says "I'm so sorry everyone; and thank you. Yes, you're right, I'm free from that nightmare... but it's going to take some time for me to take it easy. It was just too much for me, you know; to see my friends hating me so much and d-die... before my eyes."
Byakuren's motherly face as she rubs Ail's head again gives the boy unimaginable comfort as she says "that is alright. If you want, you can come back here and we will all help you recover from this. What do you think?"
He chuckles softly while his face brightens up with a genuine smile, and then he nods and says "I would appreciate your help very much!"
The Youkhrist smiles brightly and says "good! You can trust us, Anilan. It's those Taoists you should be careful of."
"Taoists?" asks Ail with an infinitely dense and confused look on his face, turning his mind away from his woes and busying it with wonder.
Sanae giggles, then says "I'll have to explain that to you later, ok?"
The boy smiles and nods, then he finds himself being tackled on the chest by something dark, hard, soft, and mischievous.
On top of his dazed self is Agava, who wears a black vest and skirt over her tight purple ninja-tights, and has her wavy black hair held by her black bow.
She aims her blue eyes to the boy's spinning golden ones, smiles, and says "welcome back home twerp! Did you miss me!?"
Ail's reply is a dazed moan, so the dark girl look at the others; which just happen to have murderous gazes aimed straight at her; points at the boy, and casually asks "what's the matter with him? He's so tense."
Later that day, Ail's group arrives at the Hakurei Shrine with Agava, who has a nice steaming bump on her head while being dragged by a collar held with a rope that Lily controls.
While the spring fairy handles the shadow youkai, Sanae and Budou keep a very close watch on Ail, who still looks a bit odd; as if sick.
The concerned fruit bat walks in front of him, jumps on his arms, gives him a forced hug and says "no more afraid of friends, alright papa! You are not the bad guy; and me, and Mama Sanny, and everyone loves you."
Sanae takes the chance to get closer to him, holds him by the shoulder to get his attention, then says "listen to her Ail-kun. You're home; that horrible trial is over."
The boy closes his eyes, takes a long and deep breath through his nose, and as he slowly exhales while soft smile breaks the gloom from his face, he says "you're right. I'm sorry for all the trouble I have caused you already, but please bare with me. I feel... I feel as though I may still need your help through this."
"We're here Papa. Stay close to us, and I'll stay close to you." As the little bat youkai says this, she wraps her wings and arms around him, trapping his arms so that he cannot escape her.
Whether that is beneficial or not to him, it doesn't appear to be clear. He remains smiling softly but doesn't move an inch, and so Sanae is about to remove the little youkai.
Ail merely giggles, easily frees his arm to pat Budou's head, and when he's about to speak, Rika calls "Miss Reimu, big-brother Ail is here, and he brought Budou and Miss Sanae."
The angelic girl's wings flutter with happiness as she makes her call, then stops and raises her eyebrows while adding "oh my, and he brought Miss Agava and Lily too."
The greetings happen as normal as one would expect from someplace other than the Hakurei Shrine; what with a few hugs here and there, a kiss on the cheek for the returning ally, and a few exchange of welcoming words from the host. Lily does steal several hugs from Rika before stopping.
Ail wonder if he's really back home, seeing as he was expecting something else; maybe a yin-yang orb on someone's head, Reimu turning violent over Marisa's playful teasing, or perhaps Suzaku would crash-land on him after a danmaku bullet blasted her; but none of that happened.
At the living room's short table; after the boy told just enough of his story without hesitation; the dense one finally notices Chiaki trying to take some paper money out of Budou's pocket, and stops her.
"Now this is more like it," he said while holding the cursing vixen by the back of her neck. "It came a little late, but this is the kind of welcome I expected at this Shrine."
That comment earns him a vengeful yin-yang to the head, but as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, the boy asks "and who is this I'm holding here?"
Agava stands and bangs her hands on the table, looks at the girl, laughs out loud, then says "so she made you her SLAVE!? You weak little bi...vixen! I told you she was too much for you!"
Rika taps the back of the shadow youkai's head to shut her up and says "Ail, this is Chiaki Onkamikami, and she is my new familiar! Chiaki, say hi to big-brother Ail"
The rude youkai pokes the boy's forehead with spite while saying "what!? Ya mean to tell me dis hairy butt-head is yer big bro? N' wonder ye're so weird, big-boobs!"
To Chiaki's eyes, Rika has become a dark demon with red glowing eyes, swords for wings, snakes for hair, and talon-sized fangs for teeth.
The maid's sweet, yet stern voice sends chills down everyone's spines as she speaks in a strict tone. "Chiaki Onkamikami, you will speak like a lady, not like some gutter rat learning to communicate with a street thug. Now apologize to him and everyone in this room, then go to the temple and meditate on what you have done. That... is an order."
The fox is hugging the shadow who cries "I'm so sorry for you, girl!"
Regardless of the shadow girl's sympathy, Chiaki immediately bows to Ail and says "'M sorry to 'ave called you a butt-head, Mister Butt-Head!" She turns to the rest of the group and bows "I'm sorry fer my misbe... misbe..havior. Misbehavior!"
The second she's done with her apologies, she darts right out of the room with her tail between her legs, and sits in the center of the praying room with her legs crossed under her black skirt.
Rika sighs, then bows her head apologetically while saying "please forgive her. She's got a good heart, but she needs strict guidance." As she lifts her head, she holds her chin and mutters "I have to have her wear red..."
Ail chuckles awkwardly as he looks at Lily and Budou, relaxes when he looks at Sanae, then says "good old Hakurei Shrine..."
Reimu's next retaliation stops when she sees pain in the boy's eyes as he adds "just the way it should be. I hope it never changes."
She lowers her weapon of choice (gohei) as she takes her seat next to Marisa and Suzaku, then asks "what else happened in there?"
For a moment, he thinks a white lie would be more prudent, but he remembers what Byakuren told him, so he gulps and says "because of me, you lost your status as the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, most of your powers, your home; everything. And later after that, y-"
Marisa reaches for his ear; seeing as she's nearest; tugs it tight and demands "don't start a story if you can't finish it. It only makes the listeners that more stressful!"
He rubs his throbbing lobe and quickly says "after that, Reimu, Remilia and Flandre died because of me! Reimu protected me, Flandre fell in love with me, and Remilia... because I was so fucking stupid!"
Sanae holds his shoulders to show her support while saying "enough! One thing at a ti-"
He holds his head and grips his hair as he remember what happened last, and as if sounding mad he continues "then Reisen said she loved me after telling me she wanted to kill me while Cirno, Nue, the Akis, the Tengu, Satori and Orin, all were fighting a losing battle just to help me!"
"Papa, stop!" shouts Budou while trying to pull his hands away from his ears. Without even noticing the girls, he shakes as he continues "then I finally meet with Sanae and Budou, and all they want to do is kill me, and all I do is defend myself and try to run, but I... I kill them both-"
"Ahh, how interesting," says the voice of a girl from the shrine's entrance. "His desire for peace is strong; as strong as yours, Reimu. My, my, I daresay you're like brother and sister."
The girl entering the shrine has grey eyes, very light, almost platinum blonde hair she makes into a style that looks like large ears, and wears a purple headgear-like earmuffs that have the Chinese symbol for "Harmony" on them.
Her elaborate white vest, purple dress, and her sheathed sword sway with her steps as she makes her way inside, holds her plain-looking rod against her lips to hide them, and says "I finally meet Mister Ail. I'm assuming you are Ail, am I correct? Sanae and little Budou have desired your return so strongly. They seem to be at peace now."
The boy looks into her eyes with a bit of contempt; after all, he sees no reason to doubt Byakuren's warnings; but when he fails to see actual malice from the girl his gaze softens and he says "and you must be Miss Miko Toyosatomimi. Miss Byakuren spoke quite ...fondly of you."
Miko's gaze hardens a slight as she says "we don't see each other eye-to-eye;" but her eyes quickly soften once that is out of the way.
As the two keep staring into each others' eyes, their invisible tension lessens until the Taoist is sitting next to Reimu, even though the shrine maiden looks like she's about to say "who invited you!?"
"And she went and said it," whispers Budou to Ail's ear.
Just an hour later, as lunch is being served, Kyo, Luna and Medicine enter the shrine.
"Hello everyone" happily chirps Luna, surprising even Agava. It's not usual to hear Luna Rivers speaking with such happy tones.
Ail doesn't care about that. His mind is still stuck on his experience, and seeing Kyo alive sends many jolts of joy to his heart, and clumps of doubt to his mind.
He walks around the table, making sure not to step on Rika's or Lily's feet, walks over to his friend, and says "y-you're alive. Kyo, you're alive."
The friendly hug and loud greeting the muscled boy was just about to perform ends up in a void after being weirded-out by his friend, and instead asks "we don't see you all this time and this is the greeting you come up with? You've turned pretty morbid, buddy."
Ail ends up bro-hugging his long-time friend, which makes the awkwardness levels sky-rocket right off the roof, with Kyo being in the spotlight of said awkwardness.
The black haired boy frees his left arm and pats his long-time friend on the head, then hesitantly asks "um th-there, there. Buddy, what's the meaning of this?"
Before he answers, Anilan notices Luna and Medicine staring at him, and his mind goes back to that horrible encounter, where Luna almost killed him after telling him Kyo was dead.
Without noticing it, he lets go of his muscled friend and trembles as he takes cautious steps away from the girls while muttering "I'm sorry; I didn't know! I'm so sorry. I'msorryI'msorry!"
He takes a few steps back and trips on the short table, falls on his back and hugs his own knees against himself, and with terror in his eyes he says "I didn't mean to. I didn't know."
The world around him takes an unhealthy greyish tone as his consciousness seems to drift for a moment, and when he comes back to he realizes he is being held by Sanae and Budou, and that everyone around them is giving him very worried looks, even that Miko girl he just met.
As he tries to smile back at them, the despair in his mind is driving him crazy. "Nnnnoooo... I can't handle it! The more I try the worst I get! Mima! Mima, can you hear me?"
Kyo kneels closer to his friend and is unable to hide the fact that he is worried sick for him.
Luna gets a little closer as well to show her support to her man, then Kyo looks at Ail and says "Ail, buddy, we can postpone the wedding a little more if you'd like."
"NO!" barks the boy as he jumps back on his feet. "I've already caused a great delay. I will not accept it! You will have that wedding on its due date, and I WILL be there!"
[Ail? Ail, what's wrong? You seem to be on edge there.]
Luna herself steps forward and in a gentle tone of voice says "Anilan, it's alright; we understand. What happened in that trial world was devastating to you, so please accept Kyo's offer. I can wait, honest."
The dense one shakes his head, takes a deep breath while saying to Mima "please don't leave. I need to talk to you;" then looks at his friends and says "I'm sorry, I seem to have lost myself there. Please, let me take some fresh air."
Before Budou or Sanae offer (or force) themselves to go with him, he signals them to stop and says "don't, please, I need to be alone with my thoughts. I promise I will be just fine. I'll be right there on the veranda. I won't move from there."
The girls give hesitant nods, but Rika doesn't seem convinced; especially after Suzaku told her what he just said to Mima; so the vermilion bird is sent to Rika's bedroom.
Moments later, Ail is just outside the living quarters, easily visible through the paper doors as he holds on to one of the support beams. What they don't know is that he's hugging it as though for dear life.
His unhinged eyes can't keep in one place as his body shakes, and yet to the others, it just seems as though he's taking slow and deep breaths to calm himself down.
[Alright Ail, what's goin' on? What happened?]
"Mima, I tried, I really did, but I can't take it! Everywhere I go, those memories from the dream world keep popping up! They're driving me mad! I thought I could take it, but I can't!
[You want me to seal them don't you? But Ail, that shrine maiden and the bat are with you. If I seal those memories now you won't know why they are giving you special treatment.]
"But Mima... it's maddening! Even with them there I keep having the flashbacks and forgetting where I am!"
[Look, I really wish I could just lock those in your subconscious right now, but doing so all at once will be unwise. The others; they will wonder why you suddenly changed your mood and why you are so calm. Please, Ail, try to continue living on as you are. Who knows, maybe you can pick up your life where you left it off by the time you master your mind.]
Ail's body seems to melt into a pile of mud as tears start dropping out of his eyes while he says to her "but Mima, how does one pick up on one's old life when everything has changed so much for me? How am I supposed to just go on after seeing so much pain and death; pain and death caused by what I almost became!?"
[Listen Ail, I can't force you to keep those memories, but when you chose to keep them before, you already complicated the process. Now, if we were to help you, it would have to be gradually. Just... listen, try to keep them for a month or two; see how you can handle them during that time. I promise you, you'll be able to deal with yourself and you'll be glad you didn't chicken out.]
The boy sighs, sniffles, and then says to her "alright, I'll do my best to hold on; but it's just so hard. I can't help but wonder how Rika dealt with herself? How did she manage to live the way she did, and remain the sweet girl she is to this day?"
[I'm afraid that is something you'll have to find out for yourself.]
After hearing the conversation, Suzaku waits for Ail to go back inside before taking flight and moving straight to the other side of the building.
After the reunion is done, and somehow Marisa's under-nudity goes unnoticed by the two men, Ail, Sanae, Budou and Agava make their way to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Lily has decided to stay with Rika and her honey cupcakes a little longer.
Before they reach the long stairs down, however, Ail is called by the shrine's angelic maid. "Big brother, wait a moment please!"
She reaches him quickly, stands in front of him, and then says "I was wondering, seeing as the wedding is still a week away, could I trouble you to take me to, and to accompany me for a few days when I visit my old home? You see, I don't wish to bother Miss Yukari, and I would like to come back at any moment without delay."
"This is it," cheers the boy in his mind. "Some time alone with Rika might be for the best! She could tell me how to deal with this mess inside my head!"
He smiles at her and nods, then says "sure. I would be honored; i-if it's no trouble for you Budou, or you, Sanae."
The girls look at him with a little suspicion, especially after noticing some despair in his eyes, but after a while and after looking at each other, the girls nod, and the little bat says "if it's with Rika, then alright. She'll make sure Papa Ail comes back home safe and sound."
"Thank you little one, and I will too," says the winged girl as she rubs the little girl's head and flutters her own small wings.
The green haired girl still hesitates, but she settles her own doubts and says "well just remember to come straight to the shrine when you come back; and to the Moriya Shrine, not the Hakurei Shrine. Ah... of course, you have to bring Rika here, but then it's STRAIGHT to my shrine afterwards!"
The angelic maid giggles at Ail's distress and confusion, then says "don't worry Miss Sanae, I'll make sure he's there the very second he drops me back. You have my word."
The boy looks at them with sad and confused little eyes and asks "di-did I do something wrong again?"
Meanwhile, at the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Flandre roars Azzhara's name after she finds her underwear drawers have been plundered, and all her bloomers have been replaced with laced, side-tie, or striped panties, lingerie, and what looks to be a set of strings that make a sling bikini.
The three-tailed cat hops on the drawer with a mischievous and confident grin on its face, hisses a chuckle, then meows in a most suave manner that sends uncomfortable chills down the blushing vampire's spine.
She lifts her bent rod and points it at the offending cat, then threatens "if you don't get my underwear back, I am going to neuter you right where you stand!"
She activates and launches her Lavatein at him, but Azzhara is already on her head and scratching her senseless, makes her stumble against a wall, causes her to fall down, then lands on top of her in his human form.
His yellow eyes glow with lust and his cheeks turn red when looking down at that cute scowling face that wants nothing more than to maim him, and chuckles softly when strengthening his hold on her while saying "I'm so sorry Flandre my love, I took the liberty of burning every single one of those boring bloomers. Now you have nothing else to wear but the cute underwear I got for you."
As the girl's rage limit rises, he continues saying "and please do wear that swimsuit I got you. It should accent your beautiful skin."
Sakuya opens the door to Flandre's room and says "young Mistress, Mister Anilan is on his way here, and the Mistress has asked for your presence at-"
Flandre's exploding roar not only cuts the maid's speech, it also sends the three-tailed cat straight toward the elegant maid.
Azzhara is unable to control his flight, and being so stiff out of reflex he accidentally cuts Sakuya's shirt in half, leaving her pink bra bare.
Flandre stops her would-be rampage after hearing the loud rip and Sakuya's shriek, catches Azzhara from mid-air, and looks toward the maid as she holds her shirt and trembles in place.
A dangerous red aura burns around the silver haired woman, knives appear around her and aim themselves straight toward the cat and the vampire, and with red eyes replacing the usual calm blue ones, the time stopping human says "you two and your games have gone LONG ENOUGH! The maid will stop this charade ONCE AND FOR ALL!"
Flandre holds Azzhara close as they both shiver in fear of the dangerously angry maid, and both screech as soon as the knives start flying.
The little blonde runs right out of the room with twin-tears flowing out of her eyes as she calls for her "onee-sama" and holding on to the nekomata fro comfort, while the maid walks behind her, smiling while calmly saying "oh please, I'm not going to hurt you two much! I just want to show you my point! If you don't move so much, it will hurt less, I promise~"
Moments later, Flandre reaches the main hall with Azzhara on her hands, and she and the cat are covered with knives as though they were a set of pin-cushions, and both sniffle while tears roll down their cheeks.
Sakuya stands to their right in a clean set of clothes, sighing happily before saying "here's the young lady, just like you asked, My Lady."
Remilia sits on the main chair of the room with her legs crossed elegantly, with Patchouli to her left, Leon and Lina behind her, and the fairy maids standing on both sides of the carpet in front of her.
She raises an eyebrow as she contemplates the sight before her, then her elegant maid says "oh, I just had to make sure these two would behave properly."
Flandre sniffles, then whispers to Azzhara "just you wait, you damned cat."
Sakuya grips the back of her neck and says "I said, BEHAVE PROPERLY!"
Remilia can only flap her wings once while glancing over to Patchouli, who seems to be at a loss for words as well.
Meanwhile, at the farthest shore of the Misty Lake, Ail, Sanae, Budou and Agava look over toward the tiny island in the distance where the Scarlet Devil Mansion is.
"Almost there..." mutters the boy, to which his girlfriend asks "Ail-kun, why do you insist on walking? Couldn't we just fly over here?"
Budou pokes his side to take his attention and asks "or better yet, why don't you just open one of those gaps?"
The boy shivers once, nods twice, then says "I-I'm trying to not rely on those gaps again; at least until my training with Yukari is done."
He looks sad toward the mansion as he says "I kept opening them all willy-nilly and never really thought of the dangers of messing with borders and barriers."
Agava gives him an evil and toothy grin, and says "that doesn't explain why you are so keen on walking instead of flying. It's much faster you know."
He chuckles, rubs her head as he would do to Budou; to the shadow youkai's annoyance; and says "in this case, it's more if an indulgence of mine. I want to enjoy the little things here at my home, and there's nothing better than walking to achieve that."
As they continue to gaze over toward the mansion, they slowly take notice of a girl standing to their right.
The cute girl has grey hair she ties to a ponytail, grey eyes, and wears a tall and silly-looking navy-blue hat (called an eboshi), a white shirt with long and thick sleeves, and a purple skirt. Ail swears he thinks that's an uniform seen in his books of the Heian era, only slightly adjusted.
It seems as though she hasn't even notice them there, and mutters her plan to them. "And there it is. Now I just need to fly over, and assassinate those monsters. It's foolishness proof!"
Ail doesn't need to hear any more and activates his weapon of light the very moment the girl notices them and hops back with a loud yelp.
She places her hand on her chest, forces herself to smile, then says "salutation fellow travelers! Have thou come to rid this world of the demons that inhabit that edifice? I do not mind the competition, but heed my warnings; the leader of the demons belongs to me, so stay out of my way, or be vanquished alongside the vile creatures!"
Anilan's most unfriendly scowl accompanies the tip of his flaming weapon of light as it forces the cute girl to raise her hands defensively.
Without thinking of what he's doing, he threatens her. "You as so much lift a single finger at any of my friends at the mansion, and I'll personally slice you until there's nothing left but your memories!"
The girl scowls though shivers with fright, then exclaims "what is the meaning of this! Does this mean you are comrades of the demons too, Miss Sanae!?"
Budou jumps on Ail's arms and exclaims "no papa, she's good, she's not mean!" while Sanae holds him by his shoulder and says "it's alright Ail, calm down! That's Futo Mononobe, Miko's friend!"
Because of their interference, the dense one lowers his defenses and asks "a friend of Miko? B-but... she just said she wanted to kill Remilia!"
The shrine maiden gets in front of him to make eye contact and scolds him. "Ail, calm down! First of all, she's a friend! Second, shock from the trial or not, drawing your weapon against strangers is dangerous, and you know this well! Third..."
She lowers her voice to a whisper and says "she's probably trying to get some people to turn to Taoism, but she won't get past Meiling, so take it easy!"
"I heard that," barks Futo furiously while glaring at the golden-eyed boy. She points at him and adds "I have no quarrel with him, but if he wants to brawl, I will! I'm not frightened of getting my hands a little messy!"
Anilan is a bit reluctant to do so, but looking at the little bat's pleading eyes, and his girlfriend's scolding eyes; plus the look of expectancy on Agava's face; he decides to bow apologetically and say "Miss Futo, please forgive me."
As soon as he straightens himself again, he looks at her and adds "it's just that the people that live there are dear friends to me, and I do not wish to see them threatened."
The gray haired girl looks carefully into his eyes as though studying something thoroughly, then says "I see. I fail to see evil intents in you, nor do I detect fibs. Tell me something; I heard tales of that mansion being overrun by blood sucking monsters of the night. Why wouldst thou protect such vile fiends?"
A slight surge of irritation crawls up Anilan's spine after hearing her calling his friends 'monsters' yet again, however he manages to remain looking calm and serene and says "they are not monsters, only different from us. Remilia and Flandre are vampires, and they have had a very hard life. People spread rumors because they fear them; because they cannot understand them. Now my question to you is; why do you seek to harm them? Have they don't something wrong to you?"
Sanae, Budou and Agava roll their eyes as they already know the answer Futo gives. "I have no personal quarrel with these people, however I was asked by the villagers to dispose of them to prove my claims about Taoism. That means defeating these creatures equals to more followers joining our group!"
The dense one's facepalm is so intense, Futo can't help but wince and ask "why would thee harm thine self in such a painful manner?"
The boy sigh, shakes his head while Sanae says "let it go Ail-kun." He looks at the girl and asks "and did those people gave their word to you that they would join your group if you gave them that proof, or did they merely laugh as they left?"
The girl hops back for a moment and looks at the water next to her feet, blushes as though slightly embarrassed, then mutters "well, they did appear amused by my words... and never really promised anything..."
As her voice trails off, Ail's own face softens to his usual state, then he says "I'm sorry Miss Futo, I didn't mean to cause you pain. I am merely looking out for my friends."
Futo finally smiles when looking at him, making him realize she's adorable. Sanae doesn't approve of the pink face he's making.
The Taoist sighs and links both of her hands under her sleeves, then says "thou are a very noble person, Mister Ail. You risk much for those allied to you; and your eyes remind me a bit of the Crown Prince and Miss Hakurei."
She walks over to him, extends an arm, and says "alright, please think of me as an ally to thee as well. I believe the shaking of hands applies to this joyous occasion?"
As she says this, she looks at Sanae and Budou; whom give approving nods; then looks to Ail as he accepts her hand shake.
She smiles, bows her head, then says "alas, I shall have to search for new methods of convincing the people to join Taoism. I shall consult the Crown Prince. She might have wonderful ideas, as always."
After saying all of that she bows; and so do Budou and Ail. "I wish you luck in your quest, Miss Futo-eh? Where-?" The dense one opens raises his sight and gasps lightly with surprise when he fails to find Futo.
Sanae merely giggles while Agava chuckles mischievously, then says "come on sweetheart, let's go to the mansion already. I wish to go back home before it gets dark, or I won't cook dinner!"
The boy sighs with a smile, nods and says "let's fly close to the water, please. I want to enjoy every corner of Gensokyo I can."
His girlfriend giggles, then nods, and then they all take flight and make their slow way towards the Scarlet Devil Mansion, enjoying the water just below them as they fly so close to it. Yes, even Agava is enjoying herself, but stays behind so that nobody can see her grinning while playing with the water.
To be continued...
Characters, spell cards and scenarios belong to ZUN -Team Shanghai Alice-
Ail, Budou, Agava, Kyo, Luna Rivers, Phredia, and Chiaki were created by Willie G.R.
Rika Onkamikami and Suzaku the Vermilion Bird were created by Snapshot 2010.
APR 29 2013
Patchouli: And so, you finally finished another chapter.
Me: That I did. *Looks around* Uhh, that's odd. Where's Satori.
Patchouli: Never mind that. Just tell me, why are you taking so long to post these chapters? They are so simple and crude.
Me: Lack of motivation. I just don't see the use of hurrying up.
Patchouli: Hmm, I see. You lack discipline, don't you?
Me: *Gasps, then slumps* that was a blunt hit. *Sighs* but you are right, I lack discipline.
Satori: *She drops out of a cabinet tied up and gagged. The cabinet flies away with feathery wings.*
Me: What the f-
Patchouli: Ah, that damned cabinet. It never follows instructions.
Satori: *Is trying to yell.*
Me: I wonder what's she trying to say.
Patchouli: If she doesn't want another round of punishment, she'll say nothing.
Satori: *Gasps and settles down.*
Me: Aren't you both stage 4 bosses?
Patchouli: Correction: stage 4 bosses, and an EX-mid-boss myself.