Touhou Doujin: The Epilogue
Time passes, even in Gensokyo
Hakurei Shrine, early morning
The Hakurei Shrine was in a state of peace. Twenty years had passed, and although one of the occupants of the house had grown up, and had, for the most part, given up her role as protector of Gensokyo, a young, energetic girl of the age of thirteen had taken up the mantel, and was currently the only one in the house that was awake.
The time was around five in the morning, and while Reimu Hakurei the thirteenth was sleeping, her tireless, black-haired successor had already awoken, and she was busy making Miso for herself and her adoptive mother. She had been told from an early age the situation, yet could not help but view Reimu as a mother of sorts. Pouring the soup into two separate bowls, she took one bowl across and into Reimu's bedroom.
Standing over the sleeping, grown-up Shrine Maiden, the girl called, "Reimu! Reimu! Wake up, Reimu..."
Reimu groaned, "...Patricia? Is that you? Why are you up so early?"
"It isn't early, you've just slept in..." Patricia replied, "...it's five in the morning already!"
"...that's early!" Reimu muttered, "Can't you just go back to sleep?"
"...I've made you soup..." Patricia said disappointedly.
Reimu opened her eyes somewhat grudgingly, and sat up in her bed, "...honestly, what the hell? You can't keep getting up like this, Patricia... Suika is bad enough for making noise, the last thing I need is you actively trying to get me up..."
Patricia sighed, "...well, here's your soup. Do you know when Uncle Jean and Aunty Marisa will be coming round?"
Reimu took the bowl off of her successor, and said, "...well, not any time soon. They sleep at this time of the day, like normal people."
"...I thought you said that we're anything but normal..." Patricia pointed out.
"...well, yeah, but that doesn't stop them being normal." Reimu replied, "...look, if you want, I can teach you some more techniques..."
Patricia's small face became smug, "...ha! I know everything you know! I beat you in a Danmaku battle the other day, remember?"
"Oh? You didn't think that I could be going easy on you because I didn't want you to get hurt?" Reimu asked, "...if you're so smart, try to do this..."
Reimu put her bowl onto the bedside table, and crossed her forearms, pointing her index and middle fingers outwards, and instantly phased from her bed to a space directly behind Patricia. She tapped her on the back, and said, "Boo."
Patricia jumped, and said, "Okay, I can't do that..."
Reimu smirked, and began to list other things she was incapable of, "...you also need to work on forming a proper duplex barrier, you need to learn how to go from one side of a screen to another, your high speed flight is fast, but sloppy, and although you look like you've got the hang of using yin-yang orbs as means of firing projectiles, you don't know the first thing about throwing the yin yang orbs themselves..."
"Uncle Jean's nicer to me when he teaches me..." Patricia complained.
"...and that's where he's going wrong. He's too afraid to just say you're doing something wrong..." Reimu began to rant, "...I mean, how are you meant to improve if no-one tells you where you're going wrong?"
Patricia mumbled, "...I guess you're right..."
Reimu ruffled Patricia's hair, "...of course I'm right. Now, you can go out and sweep the grounds, seeing as you're so desperate to be awake at this time..."
Patricia folded her arms, "...I haven't eaten my breakfast yet!"
"Well, eat it up and get to work... it's your own fault for getting up so early." Reimu replied.
"...you're mean, Reimu..." Patricia replied half-truthfully.
"You wouldn't have me any other way, though, would you?" Reimu asked, "And when you're tired tonight, it'll be a lesson to you. Never interrupt your mother... er, predecessor while she's sleeping..."
Reimu's slip of the tongue made Patricia smile, "...Reimu... why am I called Patricia? All of the people at this shrine before you were called Reimu, just like you, weren't they?"
Reimu folded her arms, "...well, let's just say you're named after someone who was very important to your Uncle Jean. Speaking of which... Patricia?"
Patricia cocked her head, "...what is it?"
"...um... Uncle Jean... do you know if... if he and... Aunty Marisa are... you know, together? It's just they've been living together for a long time now, but they haven't been acting like a couple or anything, and I was just..." Reimu stopped talking when she realised she was confusing the young girl.
"...well, I wouldn't know anything about that stuff." Patricia replied, "...whenever I visit, they don't seem to look like a couple, but I've never had a boyfriend, so I wouldn't know..."
Reimu shuddered, almost feeling the urge to say 'get used to it, kid'. She felt somewhat small knowing that she would never be able to give her child any personal advice when it came to relationships. She decided that it was probably for the best that she stuck to Danmaku, and stopped worrying about it.
"...okay then, get eating your breakfast, and sweep up the grounds. And if you see any Youkai..." Reimu began to say, but Patricia beat her to her own sentence.
"...yes, show them off whatever way you can..." Patricia replied, "...what if that weirdo Tengu or the Kitsune from the floating house come down?"
Reimu folded her arms, "No exceptions."
"But what if he's just passing by?" Patricia asked.
"He can use the sky." Reimu replied, "He's usually just coming to be all annoying and dote over you when he's here, it's kinda creepy..."
"...I like him. He's nice to me..." Patricia said, "...Youkai can be nice people, can't they?"
"...well, most of them are untrustworthy, but..." Reimu scratched her head, "...well, that guy's odd, even by Youkai standards. He's lived in the outside world with humans without doing a single thing to hurt them, or so they say. He must be under the delusion that he's a human or something. Don't pay any attention to him. He's a sad, strange little man."
"...well, he didn't seem strange when I talked to him the other day..." Patricia replied, "...he just gave me some sweet food of some sort, said it was a present for me and you, and walked off."
"That cake was from him?" Reimu asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you'd throw it away..." Patricia said, "...why do you hate him so much?"
"...well, I just don't like the way he acts around you." Reimu replied, "...he's a teacher at the human village as well... I wonder..."
"...what are you trying to say?" Patricia asked.
"...nothing." Reimu shook her head, "Ignore me. Eat your breakfast. But make sure that you see off any youkai when you sweep, especially him. Got it?"
"...okay, Reimu..." Patricia mumbled in a forlorn manner.
The Dawitsu Mansion, eight o'clock ante-meridian
Throughout the twenty years of ageing that the Dawitsu Mansion had gone through, not much seemed to have changed, bar the lack of a certain presence, a certain someone who had occupied the Mansion and had played a big role in making it what it was today. The owner of the mansion, the youkai mimicker known as Dawitsu, was getting ready in solitude, his face full of sadness.
He was standing in the bathroom, looking at his face. It was clean-shaven, and his hair, although messy, was seemingly alright to look at. Yet Dawitsu couldn't help but sigh to himself.
"...what's wrong with me?" Dawitsu mumbled.
Walking out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist, he walked to his bedroom, where Ran was still sleeping. He threw some clothes on, and stopped to look at Ran as she slept.
Kneeling so his face was at her level, he whispered, "...I'm so sorry, Ran. I want... I want it as much as you, but... I can't... I can't... give you what we both want..."
Ran continued to sleep, and Dawitsu stood up, half-glad she hadn't heard what he had said. He put on a teacher's cap, and walked out of the room. The first thing he came across upon exiting the room, however, was the youngest member of the household, Chen.
"Hello, Dawi! What were you saying to Ran-sama just then?" Chen asked.
"...it... it doesn't matter." Dawitsu gulped, "...it's... it's something between Ran and I."
"Oh... but Dawi, I thought you said you wouldn't keep anything secret from me any more..." Chen asked.
"...look, I... I know I said that, but I really... really don't want to talk about it." Dawitsu shook his head, "...let's just say that... I don't think Ran and I will be able to... well, it's like..."
Chen's eyes filled with fear, "Are you and Ran going to divorce or something?"
"N-no! It's nothing like that!" Dawitsu stammered, "Ran and I are happy together, it's... please don't talk to me about it, Chen..."
Dawitsu turned and walked away from Chen, taking the lift down to the foyer, before walking straight out of the house, allowing himself to plummet towards the ground before slowing his fall so as to land on his knees. Landing directly within the Hakurei Shrine grounds, the first thing he saw was a certain thirteen-year-old shrine Maiden, decked up in the red-white attire of her predecessors.
The girl walked up to the youkai, and said, "...Reimu says I have to chase you off..."
Dawitsu laughed, "...oh, I see. Tell her I said hi. Good to see you as always, Patricia."
Patricia shrugged, "...I don't mind you being around. So, where are you headed?"
"...I'm going to go to school. I've got to teach the kids some mathematics, and then some science, and perhaps I can throw in a music lesson in the afternoon so I don't get too bored..." Dawitsu smiled weakly, "...you don't want to know about my life. It's boring as hell. Anything new for Miss Miko of the Hakurei Shrine?"
"...well... no. Apparently some Youkai are set to cause some trouble in the underground, but I'm not sure if that's really my concern or not..." Patricia replied.
"Well, you're a human, right?" Dawitsu replied, "Really, you're the only one qualified for the job. Of course, we could drag old Reimu out for a spin... I'm sure she'd appreciate the nostalgia..." Dawitsu's face suddenly fell.
"...huh? What's wrong?" Patricia asked.
"Humans. They age so quickly..." Dawitsu mumbled.
Patricia didn't quite understand the youkai's meaning, "...well... compared to youkai, I guess, but what are you talking about?"
"...well, what if I told you that I knew Reimu since she was three years older than you are now. She was young-looking, energetic, and a real hard-headed jerk. She had stupid teenage crushes, and a hair-trigger temper, and was so soft and kind underneath it all... and now she's... she's grown up... within those twenty years, I haven't aged at all. I looked just like I do now..." Dawitsu began to tear up, "...and as she gets old, and her skin becomes like paper, I'll still be like this. When you grow up, I'll still be young. Humans age and die while I sit back and watch them grow and wither away... I... don't mean to sound patronising, but... I feel so sorry for you humans..."
Patricia's eyes widened, "...Reimu was wrong about you..."
"...huh? What did she say?" Dawitsu asked.
"...she thinks you're weird around me. I think she thinks that you're... um... you know, one of those creepy guys that like young girls..." Patricia explained.
Dawitsu sighed, "...is that so? Let her think what she likes. I wouldn't dream of doing anything like that to you. Good day, Patricia. Perhaps some day, I'll tell you some stories of what we all did before you were born..."
Dawitsu walked away from the shrine, and left the young shrine maiden somewhat dumbfounded. He walked through the forest, feeling like he was truly alone in the world. The topic that was brought up had hit him hard, and he couldn't help but remember the first group of children he had taught. And the second. Third, fourth... every set of children that had grown up, who he had assisted in getting there. His current class was probably a whole generation younger than his first. He couldn't be sure, but Dawitsu thought that Yutaka was bothered by this too. The thought that they could keep teaching until the first class of theirs had died, and be still working. They would be living relics of the human village history, just like Keine Kamishirasawa... the one thing that remained constant, while everything else changed around them.
So lost in thought, he took a good ten seconds to notice that someone was speaking to him. Alice Margatroid was standing beside him, with Medicine hovering by her side, "...Dawitsu? Hello? I'm talking to you..."
Dawitsu turned to look at the puppeteer, "...oh, it's you, Alice. Sorry, I was miles away..."
"It's okay." Alice mused, "...what's on your mind?"
"...what are your thoughts on being a youkai yet being friends with humans? You know, with being human yourself at one point, perhaps you would feel it a little more than me..." Dawitsu replied.
"...feel what?" Alice asked.
"...you know... like the people who you'll come to know will be here one moment and gone the next... then again, you haven't lived as a youkai for all that long, have you?" Dawitsu remarked, "...you're so young compared to me, yet so mature... I guess you're a youkai with the mind of human, just like me..."
Alice smirked, "...are you trying to be philosophical? You could help Byakuren with her column-writing if you want..."
Dawitsu shook his head, "...sorry, I guess I think too much. There's a shrine below me that constantly reminds me of how humans are..."
Medicine hovered so that she was above Alice's left shoulder, and thus closer to Dawitsu, "...the way you're talking makes it seem that you want to age and die like one..."
"Not at all." Dawitsu replied, "...I guess I just... don't like the idea of letting go of my human friends when the time comes. This is first place where I know I can have some permanent friends, but knowing that some will disappear within sixty years upsets me... speaking of which, at some point I've got to visit Sakuya..."
Alice closed her eyes, "...ah. Is that where you're headed?"
"I have a job at the human village, remember?" Dawitsu said, "Thanks for talking to me..."
"...I didn't, really..." Alice replied.
Medicine nodded, "...yeah, it was more like you talked at Alice..."
Alice sighed, "...well, I guess sometimes people need to do that. Marisa's looking older now, isn't she?"
"...hmm. You're right. I wonder..." Dawitsu looked up slightly for a moment, and then he stopped walking.
"What is it?" Medicine asked.
"I should start up an incident. An incident which will need the help of Marisa and Reimu to solve... for old times' sake..." Dawitsu answered, "...what do you say? That would be fun, wouldn't it?"
"...well, I guess that could work. What would you do?" Alice asked.
Dawitsu rubbed his chin, "...I... have no idea. Well, I need to get to work now. Perhaps I can get Yutaka to be in on it too..."
Alice smiled, "Well, good luck with that. I think I'm going to go over to the Myouren Temple..."
Dawitsu grinned, "...you and Byakuren, eh? Well, be sure to say hello to Byakuren for me. She is our saviour, after all..."
Alice nodded, "...indeed she is. See you later..."
Dawitsu and Alice continued to walk together towards the human village, and when the two came across the path to the Myouren Temple, Alice split off from Dawitsu, leaving him alone once again.
The mimicker walked to the village school, and walked down the corridor to the staff room. Opening the door, he revealed a spick-and-span room which was filled with comfortable chairs and a pleasant lavender smell. A table lay in the centre of the room, and a certain short, pink-haired magician was sitting at it, transforming an apple into a pear, and then back into an apple.
"...hello, Yutaka..." Dawitsu said with a smile, "...it feels like ages since I last saw you..."
Yutaka looked up at Dawitsu, "...boss, we saw each other yesterday..."
Dawitsu giggled to himself, "...you still haven't broken that habit..."
"What habit?" Yutaka replied.
"Calling me 'boss'..." Dawitsu answered.
"...old habits die hard..." Yutaka remarked, "...so, how are you?"
Dawitsu sighed, "...Ran and I tried again last night..." Dawitsu shook his head, "...it's no good, Yutaka. I know that it won't happen..."
Yutaka looked down, "...I see. Boss, you don't think that I could help you with that, do you? I can manipulate motile cells at an intracellular level now, and Patchy and I were thinking of using these techniques to perhaps..."
Dawitsu sighed, "...well, with you and Patchy it's different. There was no way that you would be able to without resorting to something like that. But me..."
Yutaka looked back up at Dawitsu, "...look, it's not like you'd be less of a man because of this. I have a set idea of how it would work. You get a fresh adult cell from each person, you take out the nuclei, and you..."
Dawitsu shook his head, "...no thanks, Yutaka. Still, I'm glad I can talk to you about this..."
Yutaka smiled, "...any time, boss. Any time."
Dawitsu smirked, "Still, you calling me boss feels funny. If anyone's your boss, it's Keine..."
"Yeah, well..." Yutaka shrugged, "...it'd be strange for me to address anyone other than you as 'boss'. You'll always be boss to me..."
Dawitsu sighed, "...I guess we'll always be friends, huh?"
Yutaka nodded, "...always."
After a brief moment of silence, a portly man with black hair walked in, and sat down at the table, "...hello, Mrs Hadekawa and Mr Dawitsu..."
Yutaka smiled to herself, "...Hideki, it's okay to call me Yutaka now..."
Hideki stopped for a moment, before saying, "...I guess. I still feel a little strange being called 'Mr Kobayashi' if I'm honest..."
Dawitsu got up, and sighed, "It's gonna be a long day today, I can feel it..."
"What do you reckon Miss Kamishirasawa has planned for today?" Hideki asked.
"Well, I got Maths and Science. You?" Dawitsu asked.
"...I don't know. I lost my schedule..." Hideki replied.
Yutaka folded her arms behind her head, "...ah... I see. Well, it's fortunate I have a copy of it for you, isn't it, Hideki?"
Yutaka rummaged in her pocket, and provided a folded sheet of paper, "...here you are..."
Hideki smiled, and took the paper, "...you're a life saver..."
Reading the piece of paper, he gulped, "Oh, crap! I'm meant to be teaching English at nine! Gotta go, see ya!"
Hideki dashed from the staff room, and Dawitsu laughed, "...he was never this forgetful as a kid..."
Yutaka turned to Dawitsu, "...you've been thinking about that again, haven't you? Well, Boss, I've got to teach girl's physical education, so I'll see you later..."
Dawitsu smirked, almost wanting to make a joke about staying with Yutaka to watch her playing sports, but something stopped him. He was a married man now, and there was no way he could do it without joking, and even joking about that sort of thing was getting old for him. He eventually said, "...see you later. Say, at lunch, I have a proposition for you..."
Yutaka cocked her head as she got up, "Oh?"
"...I'll tell you then..." Dawitsu replied, "...you get to your class. My first one's at ten anyway..."
Yutaka began to walk away, "I see. Goodbye for now!"
"...goodbye, Yutaka..." Dawitsu mumbled as she left the room, "...I hope you're happy where you are..."
Tokage Reiketsu's House, Mayohiga, ten o'clock ante-meridian
The cluttered, possession-filled house of Tokage Reiketsu seemed to be falling apart at its hinges. Although the owner of the house was now a prominent figure in Mayohiga, the house itself was suffering from neglect, the reason being that throughout the twenty years that had passed, Tokage had finally found her niche in the writing world. Not one to let her fans down, it seemed that all she ever did was eat, sleep, and write, and within twenty years she had written thirty novels, all more or less the same genre, but always having something unique to offer.
This was as much as the public of Mayohiga knew. The truth was a little different. The real secret to her success was little more than a friend, someone who, while talented, preferred to stay out of the limelight.
As Tokage rested her head on her writing desk, sleeping under the warm glow of a paraffin lamp, Hebiko 'Bimyouna' was flitting through Tokage's notepad, and making the necessary adjustments, even leaving little notes to Tokage stating where she had gone wrong. Of course, this didn't change Tokage's attitude, a fact she was well aware of ages ago, but she felt that if she didn't keep trying, then there'd be no point to her editing.
"...and he lay next to me, gently kissing my neck upwards until he reached my lips, his soft lips touching mine..." Hebiko read out loud, and then rubbed out a word, "...hmm, that's a little redundant. I know..."
Hebiko rubbed out the whole sentence fragment, and replaced it with 'and he lay next to me, his soft lips gently kissing my neck, working upwards until they met my own'. Hebiko smirked, "...much better. Now, let's see... wake up, Mara, he said in a caring voice, I want to see your beautiful eyes once again. I blushed, keeping my eyes shut. I look terrible in the mornings, I said quietly, my insecurity seemingly false yet belying true insecurity. He slowly stroked my cheek... I think you look beautiful without make-up, he comforted, there is no way you could look terrible..."
Hebiko broke out of narrative, "...oh, that's actually quite sweet... maybe she is getting better after all..."
Deciding to walk out of the house, Hebiko put the notepad down, and left a small note saying, 'This section was good. Pillow-talk is the most romantic part of a story if done right. Oh, and thanks for the skewered locusts yesterday. They were delicious. Kind regards, Hebiko.'
Following through with her decision, she walked back towards her house, the streets of Mayohiga seeming closer to those of a deserted city than a bustling village, due to the time of day. Looking over the eerily quiet village, Hebiko mused, "...something's changed... I can't quite put my finger on it..."
A voice interrupted her out-loud thoughts, "...the state of Mayohiga changes depending on the condition of the Hakurei Border..."
Hebiko turned to the voice, and jumped at the sight of Yukari Yakumo herself, standing and looking at the sky while her Oni Shikigami stood dutifully beside her.
"Um... Miss Border Youkai? Why are you speaking to me?" Hebiko asked.
"...I don't know." Yukari replied, "...anyway, that's the reason things are so quiet recently. The Hakurei Border has been stable for some time now. I remember when people were using it willy-nilly to go in and out of this place..."
"...this place?" Hebiko questioned, not quite understanding her meaning.
"...Gensokyo. The only time the border will weaken is when I or the Hakurei Shrine Maiden wishes for it. Although I don't think the current shrine maiden would be able to do that..." Yukari rubbed her chin, "...it's strange, I usually move on from the idea that a Hakurei Shrine Maiden's been replaced with a new one fairly quickly. Yet I still see the Miko of the Hakurei Shrine as Reimu. Why is that? Do you think it's because she's still alive?"
Hebiko scratched her head, "...I don't know why you're asking me. I don't know about these sort of things."
"...the last time a person transferred from the outside world to Gensokyo was around thirteen years ago... that is, the child I gave to Reimu to raise. She looks so different now, does Reimu. She... she's tall, she's more intelligent. I don't know if she's happy or not, but things in Mayohiga have been calm since that day." Yukari mused, "...I guess she wouldn't have had time to want to bring anyone into Gensokyo. And recently, I cannot think of anyone from the outside world to take to Gensokyo. No-one seems to interest me over there any more. The world outside is a secular one, one with no belief in the supernatural. However, there will always be a spirit of Gensokyo within that world... their seeking of entertainment through the supernatural. All things that are real in Gensokyo... they are tales over there. Legends. Things that make them happy. And perhaps... perhaps there will be hope over there after all. There will be more people to take..."
Hebiko didn't really know what to say, "...are... are you okay?"
Yukari sighed, "...Gensokyo will eventually die. There are facts that I know about Gensokyo that others do not. All good things come to an end. Think of it... think of it as those books you write..."
Hebiko blushed, "...I... I don't write books. You've got the wrong lizard..."
"...you do write books, and that lazy cretin takes all the credit." Yukari replied, "Anyway, if you think of Gensokyo as a tale, a tale written by one man in the outside world... that man will eventually have to end the tale. One cannot keep writing indefinitely. And even if the tale never ends, he will eventually die himself, and although the story will not have been concluded, this world will become stagnant. However, hope lies for Gensokyo..."
"What are you talking about? So you're saying we're all just part of a story that will eventually come to an end, yet there's still hope? How can there be?" Hebiko asked.
"...people like Tokage and yourself exist. That is the hope. People like you within this universe can do but nothing, but in the outside world, there are many people. People who see a universe, and wish to alter it to their own whims. Desires. They want this universe to tell their tale. And as long as someone like that, somewhere sees this universe as desirable, then Gensokyo will not become stagnant." Yukari held up her parasol, "...it's about to rain."
Hebiko let Yukari's silent shikigami take a spot underneath the parasol, while she stood, waiting for the rain to fall on her. Finally, a moist mist filled the air, and Hebiko turned her head to Yukari, "...why are you telling me all this?"
"...because I need someone to tell it to. It'd be useless for me to tell my shikigami, because she already knows most of what I know..." Yukari replied, "...also, I imagine you're not doing anything important today, are you?"
"...admittedly, no." Hebiko replied, "...however, I still need to do something today..."
"Ah." Yukari twirled her parasol ever so slightly, "I see. Well, it was pleasant talking to you. Not many people are as patient as you..."
Hebiko smirked, "...well, I've had to deal with Tokage all my life..."
"...fair enough." Yukari replied, "...goodbye for now, lizard. You're proof that animals can be intelligent..."
"...I'll try to take that as a compliment." Hebiko mused, before walking back to her house.
She opened her front door, quickly went into her living room, picked up some flowers from a vase, and walked back out of her house, heading towards the Forest of Magic. For what reason, no-one knew, but whatever the reason, Hebiko certainly felt this task was greater in priority than listening to confusing monologues from the Border Youkai. Hebiko still didn't quite know what she meant, but could tell that, at least to her, it was somewhat serious...
Marisa's House, the Forest of Magic, twelve noon
The house of Marisa Kirisame, the ordinary magician of Gensokyo, was the same cluttered mess it always was. Even though twenty years had passed, and in theory, Marisa had developed enough as a person to organise the myriads of items she had 'acquired' throughout her life, the fact was that she simply couldn't.
Unlike Reimu, who, mainly thanks to Yukari forcing a child upon her, had grown up significantly, Marisa was still very much the same person as she was twenty years ago, albeit taller, with a far more grown-up, less pudgy-looking face. As such, she still very much enjoyed going on adventures, and was currently in her kitchen, thinking of going out to 'borrow' from Patchouli and Yutaka's house.
Stopping to plan her outing, she pondered over the situation, a practice that she admittedly had gained from growing up. Yutaka would be out, working at the Human Village. Patchouli would normally be either staying inside, reading and doing the housework. Marisa giggled at that. That the once arrogant, self-declared intellectual had become something of a house-wife. However, Patchouli could have also been donating at the Moriya Shrine, which would leave the house alone, but with a locked door, and Marisa couldn't afford to leave remains of a break-in. At any rate, it was an opportune time to leave at the moment, as only one magician would be there, not two.
Marisa instinctively said, "Jean! I'm going out!" before stopping and sighing to herself, "Oh yeah... he's with that Byakuren chick at the moment. Stupid Buddhist Priest..."
Whistling, she waited for her broom to come to her, mounted it, and sped out of her house, cackling to herself in a far more witch-like manner than her teenage self, "Come on, world! I have six different spells waiting to fry you up for lunch!"
The way was hardly fraught with danger, with a few fairies blocking the foot of youkai mountain, but nothing to scream about. At least, not until a certain God of relatively low threat came flying past Marisa, shouting, "QUICK! GET OUT! GET OUT OF HERE! MY SISTER'S ON A RAMPAGE AGAIN!"
Marisa recognised the autumn leaf coloured dress of the Goddess in question, and knew full well who the sister of the Goddess was. It was the now mighty, fear-inspiring Minoriko Aki, who had, within the twenty years, taken up the title of Goddess of feasts, harvests, seasons, and the passage of time itself. And what was more, that sister happened to be close enough to see Marisa, and call out to her.
"Who dares set foot on my territory?" a grand-sounding voice declared, "Cower before the mountain's grand guardian!"
Marisa turned towards the voice to see the former weakling, who had taken to wearing rather ridiculous sunglasses in an attempt to look intimidating, "...oh, is Aya Shameimaru coming here? I'm cowering in fear..."
"THE GUARDIAN IS ME!" Minoriko declared, "I protect this mountain from trespassers like you! NONE SHALL PASS!"
Marisa scratched her head, "Um... seriously, you've taken up that job? You do know there's like, a whole bunch of Tengu just a little further up that will more than protect the mountain from any real threat, right? I'm just a little human, can't you let me go?"
"No." Aki declared, placing her hands on her hips, "You haven't seen me since you beat me all those years ago, right? I'd forget who you were if it weren't for the fact that I'm a God, and know every potential worshipper when I see one. Now, give me a sake offering and I'll let you go!"
Marisa laughed, "...look, I trounced you last time, even with that little time-stop trinket you used, what makes you think you can beat me again?"
"I'm no longer just a God with a time stopping trinket. I now have officially become a Goddess of Time! You stand no chance!" Minoriko teleported to the left, as if to prove a point.
"...um... I think I do stand a chance. Sorry, I'm gonna go right past now and..." Marisa began to say, but was cut off by a loud call.
"TIME SIGN: SEASONAL IMBALANCE!" Aki screamed.
The God began phasing from location to location as what seemed to be orange flowers of danmaku began to grow from the ground, before a chilly wind became apparent, and the flowers thus became blue, and shattered into many tiny pieces, all of which were razor sharp and capable of a little more than scratching the human witch, who was easily dodging the attack, but was having a hard time keeping her aim at the God.
"Damn it... stay still! Why don't you show me some real attacks instead of just keeping up a stalemate?" Marisa shouted.
The response was that Aki continued the assault, but added her trademark slow-moving lasers to the attack as punishment for Marisa's supposed insolence. However, this attack was originating from her, which gave Marisa a good idea of where the God was, and from there, she could deduce a certain pattern to her movement. The witch adjusted her dodging pattern accordingly, and before long, Aki gave up on that attack, and moved cleanly onto the next one.
"Bumper Crop: Seven year's worth of harvest!" Aki declared, and began firing countless grains of rice out from herself.
Marisa could tell the God was frustrated, as she had stopped teleporting, and had simply focused on filling the area with projectiles. But despite this, Marisa was quite simply dodging the attack, occasionally moving a tiny amount to the side, but not moving too much, as it was not really necessary, nor was it particularly safe to do so. The more Marisa attacked Aki, the more bullets filed the air. She began to fire lasers, became increasingly red-faced, and eventually fell from the sky as she took one bullet too many.
Marisa shook her head, "Wow, she's really got an ego problem. I wonder what that Kanako Goddess thinks of it all?"
Half expecting Kanako to appear and tell her herself, Marisa waited a small while before continuing with her journey. Finally, she got to her target location; a small house by the river the kappa population of the mountain called home.
She stopped flying forwards, slowly descended, dismounted her broom, and put it by a nearby tree. She tiptoed towards the house, and gingerly touched the door handle. Gently opening it, she soundlessly entered the house, shutting the door in the quietest manner possible.
She had become familiar with the house's layout. The basement was where all the books were kept, that and a few tables, and a tank full of electric eels that powered the lights in the house. However, Patchouli was most likely sat at a table in there, reading, and one of the tables happened to be rather close to the entrance. Marisa's next move would be a pure gamble. Walking down the stairs into the basement, Marisa winced as she opened the solitary door to Yutaka and Patchouli's underground library.
However, no-one seemed to respond. Marisa smirked, and ran into the library. She kept light on her feet, in case there still was someone there, but as she approached the nearest bookcase, there was nary a whisper indicating Patchouli's presence. She browsed the bookcase, and found one that appealed to her.
"Hmm. Scenery Manipulation; the broader implications of the practice and higher-level manipulation of the surroundings, by Yutaka Hadekawa. Well, the first bit seems boring, but I always like high-level stuff... wait, she wrote that herself? Damn..." Marisa sniggered to herself, "...it's gonna be a shame, but you're coming with me!"
Marisa picked up the book, which swiftly sported a huge mouth and growled, opening up so as to bite the witch, however, Marisa was too quick for the monster, and recited a spell that caused it to revert back to normal, and then placed it under her top.
"Hmph. They're still using their old tricks? How lame. I guess that I'm one step ahead of them now..." Marisa mumbled, "...I wonder where Patchouli is. It's kinda creepy when the library's empty like this..."
The witch walked towards the exit of the library, more than happy with herself. However, when she began to ascend the stairs to the ground level, she felt a little odd.
"...um... was the staircase this big last time?" Marisa asked, stepping on the first stair. She continued climbing the stairs, and by the time she got half-way up the staircase, the distance she had to climb seemed to increase.
Trying not to get a little worried about the situation, Marisa began to run up the stairs, and the stairs that were appearing above her simply become apparent at an even greater rate. Finally, she stopped, gasping for air. She turned around, and froze as she noticed that the length of the stairs going downwards was as short as half the original length of the staircase.
"...w-what the hell?" Marisa asked herself, before stopping and thinking a little more, "...oh crap..."
Patchouli walked into view, standing just past the door into the library, "...hello, Marisa. What brings you here?"
"Oh..." Marisa began to laugh nervously, "...hello... Patchy. How's Yutaka? Are you guys okay? I was just coming to visit you, that's all..."
Patchouli played along with the human's pathetic act, and said, "...oh, how heart-warming. I recently developed a magical system which prevents book theft. Basically, anyone who leaves with a book from this library on their person activates a special familiar that manipulates the nature of the stairs back up into the main house. Isn't that something?"
Marisa sweat-dropped, "...um... yeah, that is something..."
"You seem to be having trouble leaving the library." Patchouli replied, "...you wouldn't happen to have accidentally picked up a book when you decided to stop looking for me down here, did you?"
Marisa gulped, "...n-no, not at all, Patchouli! The stairs... just went like that themselves, honestly! I think your familiar's a little bit disobedient."
"Oh. That's strange, because it's a machine with a magical attachment. It should never go wrong." Patchouli said, keeping deadpan as she approached Marisa, "Look, just hand it over."
Marisa quivered, and said, "...um... er..."
Suddenly, as if overcome by pure immaturity, Marisa took the book she was stealing out from under her top, and threw it at Patchouli before bolting up the stairs. However, despite the mechanical familiar had stopped manipulating the scenery, Patchouli had taken up the role of staircase extender, and soon Marisa gave up trying to run away, and said, "...you're not gonna let me go, are ya?"
Patchouli shook her head, "...not after that stunt, no."
Marisa shuddered, "...what are you going to do to me? Creepy things? I mean, you're currently holding me against my will in a basement. That's sort of creepy..."
Patchouli walked up to Marisa's level on the stairs, and grabbed her by the collar, "...I'm not going to do anything to you. The electric eels, on the other hand, are very hungry, and would probably be hungry enough to eat human meat. So, I'll just throw you in their tank, and they can do all the things you're expecting me to do to you..."
Marisa fell silent, but managed to squeak out one syllable, "...Jean."
Patchouli looked at Marisa with a confused look on her face, "...Jean? What kind of word is Jean to say in desperation? Hold on, did you honestly think I was going to kill you? I wonder why you'd say that guy's name when..." Patchouli stopped talking, and began to giggle, "...oh... I see how it is..."
Marisa's face fell, "...you see what?"
"...I see what's going on. You're in love with that grey-haired human man?" Patchouli smirked, "...oh my, to be thinking of him in your final hours..."
Marisa blushed, "...please kill me..."
Patchouli let go of the witch, and walked back down into the basement, picking up Yutaka's book from the floor as she did, "...even if I was going to do that, I wouldn't any more. I will remind you that I live rather close to the houses of certain newspaper reporters, ones which love gossip just like this... I'm going to let you go, Marisa. Go on. The stairs are back to normal. Go... frolic in the fields, or whatever humans do."
"...uh..." Marisa turned to Patchouli, "You're... not going to tell those tengu anything, are you?"
Patchouli turned around, and put on an obviously false smile evocative of Yutaka's, but with the wrong type of face to wear it, "...well, I'm a house-wife now, aren't I? I never, ever go out of the house apart from to give due respect to Kanako Yasaka and Suwako Moriya. I simply don't have time for salacious gossip..."
Marisa sighed, "...I know you're lying."
"You're so perceptive. Now please, get out of my library, or I do believe the eels' hunger will be too much for them to bear and they'll leap out of their tank just for you..." Patchouli said, keeping up her grin.
Marisa couldn't tell if the threat was genuine or not, but in order to be safe, she simply went along with her request, and bolted up the stairs. She left the house feeling a strange uncleanness that adhered to her psyche like mud on a shoe, and whistled for her broom so she could go home.
The journey back was thankfully free of power-mad weaklings acting mighty, and she got home, opening the door and rushing for the nearest sofa in her study. She threw herself onto the applicable sofa without thinking, and felt something unlike a cushion underneath her posterior.
The thing that was unlike a cushion was Jean's chest, and the formerly sleeping owner of said chest awoke, shouting, "Sacrebleau! Que dans le monde?"
Marisa quickly stood up, and said, "Jean? What are you doing here?"
Jean sat up, and rubbed his tired-looking eyes, "...I am sorry... I thought that you read my note saying that I would be back by one in the afternoon..."
"...I did, but I didn't believe it..." Marisa mumbled.
"...what did you say?" Jean replied.
"Never mind." Marisa dismissed, "...so, you have fun being a Buddhist and all that crap?"
"...I actually taught a number of the human followers today..." the greying man replied, "...I am so glad that the human village is beginning to accept Byakuren as a religious leader. I guess I have a part in that, being human myself. I can understand why people would be afraid of a temple filled with the youkai, even if they are kind people..."
"...I see. So, you wanna come to Reimu's with me?" Marisa asked.
Jean rubbed his bristly chin, "...I am very sleepy... but if you wish. Where have you been today?"
Marisa turned red, "...oh, nowhere in particular."
"You do not seem so sure..." Jean stated the obvious.
"Oh, no. Nothing happened. It's just been a boring old day for Marisa Kirisame..." the witch lamented her false boredom, "...so, wanna go now or later?"
"...we shall go now, if you wish..." Jean replied, "But if it is okay, I am going to change out of these clothes..."
Seeing as he was wearing a Buddhist robe, the choice was a pretty logical one considering he would be visiting a Shinto Shrine. Jean walked upstairs, and shut the bedroom door which was now indisputably his, and after a short delay, Marisa walked upstairs also, and walked up to the bedroom door, trying to look through the somewhat mangled keyhole.
The effort was futile, however, and she rushed downstairs before Jean was finished changing. By the time he was done, the Frenchman in origin only walked downstairs to see Marisa whistling in an overly innocuous manner by the door, and opened his mouth to say something before being interrupted.
"Should we go, Jean?" Marisa quickly said.
Jean examined the witch's face, and stopped for a moment, before saying, "...is there something wrong?"
"...nothing, just thinking about certain offers made in the past, that's all..." Marisa replied without thinking.
"...what do you..." Jean began to ask, before he was once again interrupted.
"...nothing! Just ignore what I said..." Marisa said, "...come on, we should get going."
Jean sighed. He knew exactly what she was referring to, and he couldn't exactly say he hadn't been thinking about it as well. Marisa had matured into a fine woman, one who was still very much fun-loving and young at heart, yet every time Jean felt through his greying hair, he was reminded of the fact that despite their ages, forty-three and thirty-six was still a rather large age gap. Not only that, but he wasn't sure that he really wanted such a relationship with Marisa. It was like he valued her too much as a friend to see her in a romantic way.
"...we shall talk about this later." Jean mused.
"...it's always later with you, isn't it?" Marisa asked.
"...you were the one who said you wanted to go to the Hakurei Shrine." Jean replied, "Do you want to talk about this now?"
Marisa squirmed at Jean's question, "...um... actually, no. Sorry I brought it up."
"...do not be sorry. I have been dodging this for a while as well..." Jean replied.
Marisa sighed, "...um... we... could... try it, couldn't we?"
"...what? Just like that?" Jean asked.
"I dunno. We could be all hand-holding and stuff on the way to the Hakurei Shrine, and if it ain't awkward, take it from there..." Marisa suggested.
"...it will be awkward, though. I just know it..." Jean replied.
"...come on, let's just try it..." Marisa said, "...right, um..." Marisa opened the door, "...we'll just walk there, okay?"
"...this is not a good idea..." Jean replied.
"...but so what if it isn't? We're still friends regardless, right? Come on, let's go..." Marisa said, "...here."
Marisa extended her hand, and Jean took hold of it. Marisa laughed, "Your hands are so coarse... oh, Jean, you're an old man now!"
"Look who is talking!" Jean replied, "Is that a wrinkle I see?"
Marisa used her other hand to feel her face worriedly, "...ah! No... I don't really have one, do I?"
Jean smirked, "Does it matter?"
"It does to me!" Marisa replied, keeping her hand holding Jean's, "Anyway, are we gonna walk or what? I thought this was romantic or something. Last time I try to be mushy..."
"You broke your promise last time you said that..." Jean mused.
"...just... I preferred you when you spoke French every time you had something snarky to say..." Marisa muttered.
The two walked out of the house, holding hands as if they had been chained together rather than as a couple.
"This isn't awkward, right?" Marisa said, obviously not believing a word being said.
"Not at all." Jean lied.
"Good." Marisa replied, pausing for about a minute before she said, "Wanna stop?"
"Yes." Jean quickly replied.
The two stopped holding hands, and spent about five minutes walking together in silence. Marisa occasionally looked Jean's way, and Jean looked away ever so slightly when she did.
Finally, Marisa said, "...sorry. That was dumb of me. You were right. We shouldn't have tried it."
"It was worth a try." Jean muttered.
"Well, I can only imagine how awkward it'd be if we were to kiss or something, eh, Jean?" Marisa replied.
Jean nodded, "Yes. It would be awkward."
Marisa sighed, and repeated her sentence with added emphasis, "I SAID 'I can only imagine how awkward it'd be if we were to to kiss or something, eh, Jean'?"
Jean looked away from Marisa, "...yes. And I agree."
Marisa became angry, and grabbed Jean by the arm, "Kiss me, you fool!"
Jean stepped away from Marisa, "...the answer is no."
Marisa slowly let go of Jean's arm, and sighed, "...no? But... but I thought it was awkward because we were doing something so clichéd..."
Jean couldn't quite keep eye contact, "No. It was awkward because I did not want to do it..."
Marisa's heart went into her throat, "...I... see."
Marisa looked down, not quite sure what to say. Jean was equally uncomfortable with the situation, and was wondering whether he was too harsh in the way he treated her.
Marisa finally got round to saying something, "I almost died today..."
Jean turned to Marisa, "Huh? I thought you simply had a boring day today..."
Marisa sweat-dropped, "Well, I sort of nearly died. I don't know if she was being serious or not..."
"Oh, I see." Jean replied, "You tried to steal from somewhere, and the owner threatened you with death?"
"Wow, you're right!" Marisa replied, glad she could change the subject, "I decided to steal from Patchy and Yutaka, but they have some lame system in place that stops me from stealing from them..."
"I thought you had outwitted them..." Jean said, before the responsible side of his personality kicked in, "...I mean, you should not steal from them, Marisa. Do you not know that greed is a major cause of the suffering?"
"Yeah, yeah, stupid Buddhist with your stupid 'possessions are meaningless' talk. I'm only there to steal knowledge, and isn't that the most precious resource to Buddhists? You know, enlightenment and all that crap?" Marisa asked.
"Enlightenment and using knowledge to further your own power are two separate things..." Jean replied.
"Yet both you and Byakuren have used magic to make yourselves more powerful..." Marisa mused, "...I smell a hypocrite..."
"That is not true!" Jean replied, "You allowed me to use your knowledge to further my own power, and I am sure Byakuren did not steal from anyone to gain the powers that she has... you, however, are stealing from others to further yourself..."
Marisa shrugged her shoulders, "Sorry, grandpa. Anyway, that dumb house-wife, Patchouli found me and threatened to throw me into her eel tank. That, and she locked me in with some kind of everlasting staircase trick. Anyway, I was really frightened, and then Patchouli found something out that... oh crap..."
"What happened?" Jean asked, "Why are you worried?"
Marisa sweat-dropped, "Um... if anything is published in the Bunbunmaru Spirit News or whatever it's called this time, and it happens to be about me, just ignore it, okay?"
Jean scratched his head, "So... Miss Shameimaru was there?"
"Miss Himekaidou?" Jean asked, proud of his perfect pronunciation of the surname.
"...no, a reporter wasn't there. It's just that Patchouli lives so close to the Tengu, and she may have got the wrong end of the stick about something I said and may or may not have decided to report it to the Tengu..." Marisa explained vaguely.
"...so, what did she misinterpret?" Jean cluelessly inquired.
"...it's nothing. It's not true, anyway..." Marisa replied.
"If that is the case, you should be able to say it..." Jean replied, "...is there some secret that I do not know about you?"
Marisa squirmed, "Well, um, it's... sort of about what we just tried... sorry for bringing that up again... I... sort of... said your name when I thought I was going to die... please don't take that the wrong way, it's just that..."
Jean smiled warmly, his aged face creasing where his facial muscles were, "...Marisa, it is okay. You can be with me... on one condition."
"...w-what's that?" Marisa asked, suddenly excited at the prospect.
"...that you stop stealing things and become a Buddhist..." Jean replied.
Marisa sighed, "...that's two conditions. You drive a hard bargain, Jean..."
Jean smirked, "So, what do you say?"
Marisa stopped, and thought for a moment. Jean could see she was genuinely thinking of refusing the offer, and decided to interrupt her train of thought, "...you had to think about it, so thus you are not ready."
"...the conditions I gave were a test, to see if you were willing to change your ways for me..." Jean replied, "...of course, I do not actually want you to change your ways..."
Marisa grinned, and said, "...oh, you don't, eh? Why is that?" before noticing he had just been messing around with her, "...wait, you were just toying with me, weren't you?"
"Not at all." Jean replied, "I was merely testing if you were sincere about me..."
"Why does that matter?" Marisa asked.
"...I am an old man now, as you said..." Jean replied, "...anyone who I should get with should be for life, is that not right? Anyway, we are approaching the Hakurei Shrine, I am sure that young Patricia does not want to see this kind of discussion..."
Marisa nodded, "...fair enough. Say, she's getting to look a little like Reimu, isn't she?"
"I think that may be the outfit..." Jean replied.
The two human magicians walked onto the shrine grounds, and were surprised to see that the current shrine maiden, Patricia Hakurei, was outside, performing some kind of ritual over the small fountain on the grounds.
Once she was done chanting, she turned to the witch and her friend, "...oh! Hello, Aunty Marisa and Uncle Jean. How's things?"
Marisa and Jean blushed, and looked at each other, and spoke in unison, "...um... fine."
Patricia rubbed her chin, "...hmm. You two are acting weird. I'll get Reimu for you. She's currently sleeping... she's getting really lazy lately..."
"That's Reimu..." Marisa remarked.
Patricia shrugged her shoulders, "Well, it can't be helped, for the time being, anyway. I'm sure that once she recovers from all of the sleepless nights she suffered when I was a child, she'll be less lazy..."
Marisa smirked, "So that's her excuse? Pretty lame if you ask me... I mean, you're, like, fifteen now, right?"
Jean stopped Marisa, and whispered into her ear, "...she is thirteen."
"Thirteen! Thirteen, I mean. You're thirteen now, right? She shouldn't still be recovering from that. She's just making it up." Marisa dismissively said.
"Well, I'm pretty forgiving of it. I mean, she still raised me, didn't she?" Patricia said in a particularly bright tone, "...anyway, do you guys want to come in?"
Jean smiled, "That would be wonderful, Patricia. You are getting taller every time I see you..."
Patricia smirked, "...you're embarrassing me, Uncle Jean..."
"Embarrassing you in front of who? I'm the only other person here, and I agree..." Marisa quickly parried.
The three walked into the house of the Hakurei Shrine, and closed the door behind them. They didn't know it, but the fact that Reimu, Marisa, and Jean had been gathered together in such a manner, despite being purely down to chance, was coinciding perfectly with a certain youkai's plans...