A/N: And so, here I am writing another story.
Well, you see...
Starting next week, I'll be dealing with that hellish time known as mid-term tests. A whole week filled with written exams AND practical lab evaluations.
Also, the week following that I'll be taking part on a week-long field trip to the forests at the outskirts of the city for a research project. This isn't my first time doing something like that, but it is the first as an intern for the parasitology lab, so is kind of a big deal...
I'm hoping you can imagine just how excited and nervous I'm feeling right now.
I needed something that could help me get distracted a little bit...
Thus why I worked on this short chapter.
And to any of you still waiting for the next chapter of Of Aces & Jokers, you can all rest assure knowing that not only did I already finish it, but I'm also about to complete a second chapter too.
I'm just waiting after these few weeks are over before posting them, so I can do a proper revision on them. After all I really don't need nor want a repeat of last time' mistake.
As usual, any comments I have regarding the chapter itself will be addressed at the end.
Also, I would like to dedicate this chapter to my copy of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, which finally died on me just two days ago.
The last fourteen years were a blast, but now you finally rest, old friend.
At least I still have the GBA games. Not to mention I also unlocked Fate's Klonoa costume in Gears of Destiny, even though I'm still not sure how I did that...
Disclaimer: C'mon, you know the drill by now. I own nothing, simple as that.
A Maiden's Capriccio.
All of these were perfectly valid options that could be usd to describe that place.
An almost heavenly atmosphere wrapping the very pristine room, made of a lustrous, marble-like material and illuminated by bright, immaculate rays of light that passed through the many imposing pillars scattered across the sides, light coming from seemingly nowhere.
Seriously, all it needed was some "cathedral" music playing in the background to make the thing complete.
However, if anyone were to walk into that place at the moment, their attention wouldn't fall on the grand and impossible architecture. No, their attention would fall instead on the person standing at the center of the room. And while that might be understandable, considering the fact that said figure created just such a strong contrast with the rest of the room, the more specific reason for this was actually a bit more tricky to understand.
Was it the clothing of this person, this man, what was so outstanding?
Well, his clothes were unusual alright. Clad mostly in black, it certainly did a wonderful play with the dominant color of the room. The single piece of his attire that should get special mention? That black coat he sported, made of some weird fabric, almost looking like a mix between leather and scales, and with four long, tattered tails that seemed to resemble aged wings. And as if that wasn't enough, the cloth had some metallic details and ornaments too, like the pieces on the edges of the left sleeve and the collar, add to that the silver lines running along the right side of the jacket and the silver buckle on the belt he wore just for good measure.
So, sure his outfit as a whole was bound to draw some attention, but that wasn't what stood out the most about him.
His looks maybe?
He had a tall and light built, but anything other than that was hard to tell. As for his face, there wasn't much one could say about that, considering it was almost entirely covered by black bandages, including his neck, and lets not forget about that black hood, with a pointy end that reached the height of his nose. There were some bangs of white hair visible and patches of slightly pale skin around his right eye, but those were really hard to spot, with the shadow casted by the lighting of the room and the cover of his hood. But to answer the previous question...
No, his physical appearance wasn't the most prominent feature about him either. Not even that black horn that jolted forward from the left side of his head, piercing through the fabric of the hood before going down was flashy enough to be the answer we seek.
Then what is the answer, you ask...
His right eye, to be more precise, and the only one visible of the two. That crimson orb which seemed to glow with the same intensity as the light bathing the room, and with a stare so strong that anyone facing it would feel as if their very souls were pierced by it.
Of course, none of that was really important. Creepy as hell and quite disturbing, but not really relevant for us right now.
What truly mattered about it was the look it showed. This single detail was the thing that helped the man's very being turn into such a bizarre sight, not any of the stuff discussed before, but the look on his eye. And the best way to describe it would be...
No, really... That's the best way anyone could describe what that look meant.
Even his face, while concealed, appeared to have an expression to match what his eye looked like.
The man in black just kept staring at the empty space for a while longer. But eventually, he finally blinked once before asking with some confusion.
"Sorry, I'm not really sure if I heard that right. You fired me?"
"Yer damn right I did!"
While the answer to his question ended up coming from a rather loud and angry voice from the other end of the room.
And continuing with the contrast-theme from before, the area at the end of the otherworldly hall was every bit as weird as the man staring in its general direction.
Everything seemed perfectly natural up to the point of reaching the small set of steps near the end. But once past that, one would find the marble-like floor replaced, rather poorly, by a tatami mat, a kotatsu as well as a TV connected to some electrical outlets on the pristine wall, and some other furniture around as well. That and some trash scattered here and there.
As for the person sitting by the remodeled area, she was every bit as peculiar as her companion, although in a completely opposite fashion.
She was sitting by the kotatsu, with her back turned towards the bewildered man as she faced the TV in front of her. She did put down the satin silver DualShock 3 controller held in her hands as she yelled her reply, all the while glaring in anger at the man from above her left shoulder. Long and silky black hair came down her back, easily reaching the ground while shinning due to the light showering the place, the same light that made her tanned skin appeared to be made out of pure bronze.
Her crimson eyes, glowing from behind her ebony bangs, were a perfect match to the one owned by the man in black, down to the vertical slit pupils, except for the fact that hers held nothing but anger as opposed to the man's confusion.
None of that mattered to him though. While unsure at first regarding her statement, it wasn't hard to tell just how serious she was after seeing that look on her eyes.
"So, you're firing me?"
"I just told you!"
Rather than feeling intimidated or disturbed by the raging aura she was giving, the man simply brought a hand to his face while letting out a heavy and long sigh.
"Okay... Can I ask why?"
But what came as a response to his question was the DualShock 3 controller being thrown at him, surprising the man slightly while also forcing him to move his head to the side in order to avoid having the thing smashed on his face. Failing to hit its intended target, the controller instead crashed into the massive double doors a few yards past him.
"Why? You dare to ask WHY!"
And apparently, in that short amount of time his attention was away from her, the girl covered the whole distance between them and was now standing right in front of him, yelling at full force. She wore a scanty and short black dress, which barely covered past the crotch area, leaving her long legs quite exposed, not to mention the dress didn't make that good of a job covering her ample breasts either. She seemed to be around her late teens, but the girl certainly had a well endowed body... To say the least...
Did that, or her raging eyes seemed to affect the man?
Not at all.
If anything, the annoyance visible in his eye as he rolled it made it perfectly clear he didn't care one bit about what she was doing.
But then again, he was quite a few inches taller than her, so that took a great deal away from her attempt at intimidation.
Yet, for some reason, the girl actually stopped with her intense glare, changing into a more skeptical expression just as she inquired on her companion, "Wait... You... have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
"Not a clue." And not only was he blunt, he also had no reservations when showing just how annoyed he was.
"You... inconsiderate bastard... GO ROT IN THE DEPTHS OF HELL! ...SPARDA!"
What came after that furious yell was the shorter girl trying to roundhouse kick the taller guy in the abdomen and knocking him into the large magical circle that appeared on the ground behind him. Incidentally, it was while trying to pull this off when the girl revealed that not only she wasn't wearing any bra, but she wasn't wearing underwear at all.
But the important thing here wasn't that, it was the word try. The attack never hit its target.
With relative ease the man in black caught her leg by the ankle with his right hand, while also revealing that his limb was wrapped in black bandages, just like his face. From the tips of his fingers and all the way up to a few inches past his elbow and with yet another silver buckle on the higher end keeping the whole thing in place.
He appeared to be ready to say something once he released her, but relented at the last second and instead just stared back at her oddly. After a few seconds, what came from his mouth wasn't an angry demand but a wary question, "Did you just try to kick me into a hole in the ground while yelling my last name?"
Seemingly uncaring by such turn of events, the girl dropped all the hatred momentarily, taking a more matter-of-fact air as she answered him and the portal disappeared, "What are you saying? Given the opportunity, anyone would try to do the same."
"Sigh... You really live in your own little world... But in any case, we're already in the depths of hell, so you're basically telling me to rot right here. And how many times have I told you to wear some damn underwear!?"
"Shut up! You impudent jerk! I AM your boss, you can't tell me what to do!"
"That's precisely the point! You're our queen, yet you never act as such! We're the ones doing all the work! How many times do you think HUNK has died these last couple of months dealing with crap that could have been avoided if you had done your job!? And now you make me come here and give me this crap? I..." Again he seemed ready to say something else and again he held back. Instead, he took one deep breath before calmly adding, "You know what? Screw it... You want to fire me? FINE! I already helped you get back to your throne years ago, so I'm done. Let the other fools deal with this, I'm out!"
She remained quiet as he began to turn away. But once his back was fully turned...
"I told you..."
She then reached with her right hand and took a hold on his left shoulder, forcing him to turn around...
"...to SHUT UP!"
Followed by a sick punch to his face in tandem with that roar of anger of hers. Not only was the disturbing, cracking sound that came once her fist hit his face as loud as her yell, but the echo that followed just made the whole thing all the more disgusting.
"So shut up and..."
Not satisfied with that, she then kicked him in the right shin...
Then came her left knee to his abdomen...
Her right fist to his sternum...
And a headbutt to his face, which also caused some of the black rags covering it to come undone, revealing a creepy looking jaw that seemed to be made out of black bone. And yet, the edge of his upper lip appeared normal enough.
Finally, the girl got a hold on his coat's collar, did a 360° spin...
"THIS IS YOUR DIVINE PUNISHMENT! VERGIL!"
And hurled him like a rag doll at a new portal that opened right in front of them.
But much to her surprise, Vergil still managed to calmly crawl back through the opening in the fabric of space.
"You're the ruler of Hell, Sheba. Those aren't words you should be using s- ...!"
A problem that she solved by stomping on his face before he could get back entirely, with the portal closing right afterwards.
Letting out a long and loud sigh, the ancient goddess allowed herself to proudly acknowledge her accomplishment, "With this, you're finally avenged, Memory Card 1!"
And after her boastful comment, Sheba headed back to her throne in short skips. Her eyes immediately falling on the TV screen, "Sorry to keep ya waitin' Amy-chan! Let's go back to save the land of Nippon!"
Unfortunately, once her hand began to feel around the kotatsu in search for the controller, a rather inconvenient memory came back to her. She looked back at the entrance to the throne room and found the controller broken into pieces, "Oh well..."
She then cheerfully walked towards a drawer near the wall without a care in the world, all the while humming to herself. Opening the container at the top, she found it filled with lots and lots of empty controller boxes...
And then remembered that the controller she just broke was, in fact, her last one...
He was falling. That much was obvious.
Other than that?
Well, judging by the position of the stars, the sun, the atmospheric gases and oxygen levels...
He was somewhere in or around the area of Japan, at the break of dawn and falling from an altitude somewhere along the Kármán line.
But in all fairness, this would hardly make it into Vergil's top 100 crappy moments. And we're talking about just those of that year.
At least he was building quite the momentum as he kept falling, so reaching the ground wouldn't take so much time. As for the damage, he was actually more than capable of breaking his falling speed, so no worries there either.
It was precisely as that train of thought formed in his head when Vergil decided to try and look at what was about to become his landing point. Given that he was falling on his back, he only turned his head to the side so as to get a brief view of the ground below.
Only to then faintly hear Sheba's voice just as the speed of his fall increased at least a couple of times.
Left with not much of a choice, Vergil could only watch out of the corner of his eye as he came closer and closer to a very painful stop. He could see a small, run-down building of sorts right under him, but it was hard to spot any particular details about it due to the circumstances.
But despite all that, his only response was a flat...
"Yeah... This sure is fair..."
And then the impact came.
It all started with such a peaceful morning...
Because yes, while there are some who at times find themselves at the receiving end of one of lady Fate's practical jokes, at the same time others can go about their days without encountering anything adverse. Sure, everyone is bound to be a victim of casualty from time to time, but still...
Some more so than others.
And if one were to wonder which group Reimu Hakurei would belong to, then that someone would be in for quite the headache as the many, many incidents where she was involved came to light. But then again, considering how much her luck had to do with a whim of Fate and how much it had to do with Karma, perhaps it would be fair to say she was a special case, or perhaps, that she stood in a class of her own.
Thankfully, it seemed that morning was one of those rare times when the hand of Fate moved and pointed at someone else.
Birds chirping, a cool breeze blowing and the first rays of sunlight piercing the night, casting such a sublime duality of colors on the sky for everyone to see.
None of that made the task of sweeping the leafs that littered the Hakurei shrine's front ground any easier or less tedious, but Reimu would still pick spending her mornings like that over dealing with the many annoying incidents that seemed to plague the otherwise perfect paradise that was her home.
Let's not forget though, dealing with such incidents was part of her job in the first place, just like it was preventing them from happening. But hey, why should we get so technical all of a sudden?
After all, Reimu herself never let any of that changed her mind, so why should we...
"Hng... Back is still sore..."
Really, she felt as if her vertebrates were about to snap any second, offering some relieve from the pain that stung her, yet never coming. A sensation annoying on its own, but even more so as it served as a reminder of the hectic events that transpired less than 4 days ago.
That stupid youkai Kokoro and her damn masks...
"What kind of turn of events was that? A fighting tournament of all things is just so random..."
But alas, that's how things went down, and thanks to that Reimu couldn't get out of bed for a whole day.
Just what exactly Marisa makes her bloomers out of?
Well, who cares. That wasn't important.
What truly mattered to Reimu was that all of that was finally done and over, leaving the infamous shrine maiden free to continue with her peaceful days... And her tedious chores. Tedious but peaceful.
Unfortunately, lady Fate is the cruelest mistress there is and as such, she wasn't about to let things be that simple.
Just as the dark and unholy presence that was suddenly felt from high above would prove.
And not only was it powerful but also fast.
Seriously, it was moving way too fast. Moving towards her no less.
Because of this, Reimu could do little more than looking right above her, trying to spot the owner of the twisted aura.
What she found?
A thunderous sound coming from behind her as the very ground shook, followed instantly by a gust of wind so strong that knocked Reimu to the ground face first. And dust, lots and lots of dust.
"...Ugh... (cough...) Just what in the... (cough... cough...) Great, now my mouth taste like dirt..."
Willing her sore body to fully stand up, she spitted out the dirt that found its way to her mouth.
"Please tell me that wasn't what I think it was... Please tell me that wasn't what I think it was..."
Fingers crossed and eyes shut tight, the shrine maiden turned slowly to face at her home. And once the dust settled down and she opened her eyes, she found the Hakurei shrine now reduced to nothing more than a pile of rubble in the middle of a massive crater. The main building was miraculously still standing somehow, but it was so battered it hardly made a difference.
Reimu didn't do much other than staring back with blank eyes. She even thought of trying to pinch her cheek in an attempt to see if what she was seeing was indeed true. Although in the end there was no need for that, as a random piece of falling debris suddenly collided with her head, showing that just like the pain, the sight of her home lying in ruins before her again was very real.
But before long, the return of the dark presence and the large piece of wood suddenly coming her way from the wreckage forced her to snap back to reality and move her body to the side...
Followed by a male's voice reaching her ears, "Sigh... Great, now my mouth taste like wood..."
Locking her gaze on her now broken home, she spotted someone emerging from the previously blocked entrance.
Tall and dark figure that send a chill down her spine just by looking at it? Check.
Demonic essence leaking out of his body at every second? Check.
Face partially wrapped in black rags? Check
Red glowing eye of doom? Check.
Creepy bony jaw and left horn of matching black? Check.
A dislocated left shoulder fixing on its own? Check.
A piece of wood piercing his heart yet with him still breathing? Check.
Which meant she could mercilessly beat him to death without any concern.
And she was about to do just that, until she was distracted by the creature bluntly removing the piece of wood stabbing his chest, complete with dark miasma coming out of the open wound instead of blood, at least until said wound healed. And while he seemed perfectly fine as he absentmindedly crushed the piece of rubble in his right hand, Reimu finally snapped once she realized said broken wood used to be part of her shrine's himorogi.
She yelled, just after throwing a few paper charms that flew at him at a ridiculously high speed and accuracy, glowing with a light-blue hue and ready to deliver some sweet vengeance on the one who dared to destroy her home.
Except that, the charms never made contact with him as some invisible force tore them to shreds before they could get too close. The only warning Reimu got about this was a sound akin to a blade cutting the air as her attack was promptly dealt with. On the other hand, her actions did manage to get the attention of her current target for extermination.
"What?! WHAT! You just destroyed my shrine! And what is the first thing you say?!"
"Wait... That was a shrine?"
And that comment not only earned him a new barrage of charm-projectiles but also some glowing red needles thrown into the mix. Of course, all of that met the same end as her previous attack, but at least he offered a small apology this time around...
"Sorry. I didn't mean to say that out loud..."
Well, sort of...
"... And to be clear, I didn't destroy your shrine on purpose. I simply fell on it."
Reimu wasn't sure what was more dumbfounding, the man's absurd excuse or the matter-of-fact attitude he adopted the moment he began talking.
"... I'm supposed to believe all this mess came from an accident?"
"I never said that. There wasn't anything accidental about my fall. But me falling on your shrine was just bad luck."
"Bad luck? Just like that... Bad luck!"
"Well, welcome to real life. Sometimes, it just plain sucks."
He actually made that last comment in a somewhat annoyed and resentful fashion, but that was something Reimu missed due to the man casually turning his face to the right as he inspected the area a bit.
But suddenly, Sheba's voice was heard just as a monolith made out of pure darkness erupted from the ground, a large gap resembling a cut appearing on its surface and a dark glow seeping out of it. Before either one of them could do anything, the queen's voice was heard again coming from the bizarre apparition.
"...You forgot your crap!"
Followed by some sort of bag filled with stuff being thrown from the other side of the Hell Gate, hitting Vergil right in the face. And apparently, the strength of the throw was so great it sent him flying into the woods at the shrine's outskirts at a ridiculously high speed, causing Vergil to crash into several trees along the way. And with the bag itself, still embedded against his face, exploding shortly afterwards for whatever reason.
Despite the moderate size of the random explosion and the many trees he demolished before that, Vergil actually seemed perfectly fine as he lay on his back, the few bruises and scratches on his body already healed. Still, he didn't do much other than remaining down in the ground, calmly catching a falling pen with an impossibly sharp tip as it was inches away from stabbing his eye.
"Sigh... I really wish I could say this never happened before..."
He briefly examined the silver pen in his right hand and then the rest of the items scattered around, some in better shape than others due to that little surprise Sheba put in the bag, but Vergil could still make out the identity of every single piece. And once done with that, he simply stated...
"This isn't even my stuff."
"... ... ..."
As for Reimu, she actually kept staring at the direction of the dark monolith the whole time, even after the thing vanished almost as fast as when it appeared.
Well, it had nothing to do with the gate itself or with what ended up happening to that man.
"My... My... My..."
It was the specific location where the gate to Hell decided to appear what concerned her.
"My donation box!"
Sure enough, once the monolith was out of sight what remained behind were the broken remains of the Hakurei shrine's donation box, every bit as empty as always.
With tears running down her cheeks Reimu kneeled beside what was left of her beloved box, carefully picking a random piece only for it to crumble once it was lifted from the ground. And when the last bit fell from her hands, that was the cue for Reimu to go out for blood.
"Unforgivable... I will not forgive you... YOU'RE DEAD, YOU HEAR ME! DEADER THAN DEAD!"
But as one would expect from such a mighty yell, Vergil had no trouble picking it up despite the few yards in between them. As such, by the time Reimu arrived flying at his location, he was already done with picking himself from the ground.
"Before I erase you from the face of the earth, tell me... Just who the hell are you?"
Sure, Vergil could have tried to talk his way out of it, but he could already tell how much of a lost fight that would be. Just one quick look at her eyes and he knew the girl was already beyond the point where words would earn him any good.
And that left him with just one viable option.
Now the question was how he could pull it off.
The rays of sunlight coming from behind Reimu and the chromed pen still in his hand were the answer.
Taking a page from his father's book, Vergil recreated that old trick Sparda always did whenever he lectured someone in his dead serious mode. The darkness around them suddenly becoming all the more intense following a flare of Vergil's own dark aura while the shadows turned even darker than black, taking jagged and sharp forms which then began to converge around Reimu. It was as if all light had been erased in the blink of an eye. Ironically, the only thing Reimu could see clearly after that was Vergil's crimson eye.
Indeed, all light was gone.
All light except for that coming from our star king. And with the shinny pen held in his right hand...
"I am just a figment of your imagination."
"WAH! MY EYES!"
With that finally dealt with (sort of...) Vergil wasted no time in getting as far away as possible from the loud girl and her destroyed home.
Was that fair? Well, he really didn't care if it was. He already had his hands full as things were, no need to get even deeper into yet another mess.
Still, he couldn't help but feel a familiar something about the odd shrine maiden. It was like she reminded him of someone or something he encountered somewhere before, and he just couldn't shake off the feeling he really needed to remember what that was. Unfortunately, he just wasn't able to figure it out. Then again, he wasn't trying very hard either, there were more pressing matters to deal with at the moment after all.
Spotting a rather large tree a few feet away, he disappeared in a blur and then reappeared on top of one of its highest branches.
With the advantage of his new vantage point, the now unemployed devil began to inspect his surroundings, searching for anything he could use in order to learn exactly where the hell he was.
"Wait a minute..."
The large mountains, the pristine lakes, the forests of trees and bamboo, the misty valleys, the flux of many supernatural auras colliding and converging while making a mess of his altered eyesight, but above all else, that very unique and distinctive spiritual energy and the oppressive atmosphere that made him feel both so awake yet so dizzy.
"Indeed. Gensokyo it is!"
And while neither surprised nor happy to hear that mocking comment, Vergil still turned in the direction the mischievous voice came from. And was then met with the sight of Yukari Yakumo herself, sitting on a branch next to his and gazing at the breathtaking sight in front of them with a serene smile adorning her lips. Quite the contrast to Vergil's blank expression.
After he finally blinked again she then added...
"Well, hello there Vergil. It's been a while, hasn't it?"
But instead of actually replying to that, his attention returned to the scenery extending in front of him...
"Okay... Well played, Sheba. Well played..."
Indeed, Gensokyo is a land filled with beauty and mystery. Secrets and miracles ready to unfold at every corner, in the least suspected places and at the most unlikely of times.
Such as deep within the earth.
Below the very ground where the Hakurei shrine used to stand not too long ago.
And right after the outlandish arrival of Gensokyo's latest inhabitant.
In a cave where an old and battered altar stood at the top of some stone steps, long forgotten by those who now live in the mystical land.
The slumber of an ancient titan finally came to an end.
The very earth released a roar, calling for a single name...
A/N: I'm sure you all have some questions.
The one in particular most of you might be wondering?
Probably something along the lines of... What the hell is the deal with Vergil!?
Well, would it help if I tell you this is suppose to take place way after the original game?
Exactly how long is something I want to leave ambiguous. It's up to each of you to fill that with whatever you feel like.
And as stated by Reimu herself, this story also takes place within days after Hopeless Masquerade
Why not Double Dealing Character? 'Cuz I haven't play that one yet.
Now, my top three video game franchises are 1) Guilty Gear, 2) DMC and 3) Castlevania. The only reason why I don't include Touhou in there is because I have yet to own at least one of their games.
Mind you, aside from DDC, I've played and finished them all, even the fighting spin-offs, but they were either games my friends lend me, games I played at their houses, emulators or games I borrowed from my big bro Marisa style. If I owned even just one game, then Touhou would be at the top of my list, no arguments on that.
What can I say? I just love a good, old-school challenge.
The one game with which I started my journey? Imperishable Night.
Now, I'm mostly writing this story for the lulz, so there isn't much I could go into detail here.
One thing I do want to mention is Vergil's new look.
I call it Old Vergil, and there is a reason for that, but you'll have to wait a long time to understand why. I based it partially on my main character in Guilty Gear and an old discussion I had with my friends back when there was only a week left before the release of DMC3.
And don't worry, his looks won't stay like that for long. In fact, they will be mostly gone by the next chapter.
As for the in-universe reason why he looks like this... Well, it's actually both disturbing and quite funny. You'll just have to wait (probably) for the next chapter to find out.
For the time being, Gensokyo will only receive the visits of Vergil, a few Infernal Demons and a familiar face from DMC3. Eventually though, I plan to reunite the main cast from the original game (including Mundus as the story's resident butt monkey), plus one or two guest characters from DMC's relatives, Resident Evil and Onimusha.
Is something that will start happening once the first story arc is over...
If we can even call it a story arc...
There is a reason why a picked those specific category choices (Parody and Humor) in the first place.
Anyway, that's all for now.
I'll be seeing you gals and guys in three weeks with Of Aces and Jokers... Hopefully...
So take care and see ya later!