A Different Story of an Eastern Wonderland: Chapter 3
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Flandre, after she'd retrieved and repaired the flashlight, explained it like this (with help from Satori, who was able to phrase things better):
Flandre had realized that the spell on Koishi was an enhancement for abilities — her Third Eye's power and range had been boosted an enormous amount, while Renko and Maribel, who had been taking small steps towards learning to use magic, had gained the ability to use danmaku and fly, which were by far the easiest magical abilities to learn.
Obviously, something had gone wrong, and the spell had gotten out of control, especially when Renko and Maribel had interfered. Flandre had reasoned that if she got another hit from the spell, she might be able to gain enough of a boost that her ability would be raised to the level, not merely of destroying things, but to manipulation of destruction — that is, she could increase, decrease, create, or nullify anything which fell into the category of "destruction"; she'd already been able to destroy danmaku, so why not gain the ability to destroy any other spell, and repair any damage she'd done?
Her guess, as it turned out, was entirely correct; this left the question of who had done this to Koishi, who had apparently been whisked out of her bed and then dropped in the forest.
"I dunno," said Koishi, patting Flandre's head. Flandre was still clinging to her. "I woke up and felt like I was falling, and I was in this ... black dimension with monster-eyes in it."
Flandre straightened up. "Really," she said, in an I-know-who-it-is-and-I'm-going-to-explode-them tone of voice.
Koishi's Third Eye opened, and peered at Flandre. "You think it was Yukari Yakumo?" she said.
"Hmm." Mokou frowned. "She showed up in one of her gaps while I was looking for Flan, and pointed me in the right direction," she said. "She was acting kinda weird. Even for her, I mean."
Her again, thought Maribel, suddenly feeling exhausted as she slumped back against the nearest tree. She glanced at her watch; it was around 1 AM, and she knew she couldn't have had more than a few hours of sleep.
"She showed up near the Palace and told one of the other hell-cats to tell me about it," said Satori. "I don't think I've actually seen her in person before." She glanced at Maribel and Renko, and suddenly said, "Oh, ah, Fujiwara-san, why don't you take these two girls to the Human Village?"
"Hmm? Oh right," said Mokou. "Yeah, this crazyness musta woken you up. Can you still fly, or did that break when Flan broke the spell?"
Maribel hovered. "I can fly," she said.
"Hang on," said Renko, "we need our tent and camping gear ..."
"I'll deal with that," said Sakuya. She disappeared in a blur of motion, then reappeared in another part of the clearing, carrying both of their backpacks, which appeared to be fully stocked.
"Oh right," said Renko weakly. "Flandre said you can manipulate time, didn't she? Thank you."
"You're welcome," said Sakuya. "It's certainly useful for a maid's work. What wouldn't you do with time-manipulation?" she added with a smirk. "Anyway, I'll probably be out here for a while," she added, watching Flandre and Koishi hugging each other.
They flew much more slowly than Flandre had carried them, partly because they had to worry about their backpacks, but mostly because they were only human. There were lights in the distance ahead of them.
"Is it true that you're immortal, and the daughter of, er, Fujiwara no Fuhito?" said Maribel.
"Yeah," said Mokou. "Is it true that the people in the outside world can ... almost copy the power of the sun, and you control the power of lightning? And it's all without using any magic?"
There was a pause. "You mean nuclear power and electricity?" said Renko.
"Maybe," said Mokou. "I know something about ... ah, don't mind me, I was born back when women weren't allowed to cross the street by themselves, we didn't even have the word 'technology.'" She spoke the word in English without accent. "I'll figure it out sometime after people take it for granted in Gensokyo."
"It's all right," mumbled Maribel. Right, she really needed eight straight hours of sleep. Or days, preferably ...
"All I know is, that satori's pet hell-raven can throw miniature suns," Mokou continued. "I mean, one of my powers is, I'm immune to fire, I don't even feel heat that's too hot, but those things stung ..." She shrugged. "I dunno. What'd you guys do if you got power over fire?"
"I'd ... politely give it back, if I could," said Renko, stifling a yawn. "Sorry, it's just that it's, ah ..." She glanced at the sky. "... 1:12 AM."
Mokou glanced back at them. "Sorry," she said. "I guess I've kinda developed a chatty side."
"Mokou?" A woman with silvery hair rose up into the air ahead of them. She seemed to glow with a strange greenish light, and a pair of horns were sticking out of her head. One of the horns had a little red ribbon around it.
"Oh, hi, Keine," said Mokou. "It's all right, Flan was setting off a signal flare. We think Yukari Yakumo put some weird spell on her girlfriend for some reason. This is Maribel and Renko, they're outsiders who need a place to stay for the, uh, the rest of the night. Girls, this is Keine Kamishirasawa, she's a friend of mine."
"All right," said Keine, looking them over warily. She seemed to be somewhat shy. "And ... you can fly?"
Girlfriend, thought Maribel. "We were ... er, it's ... complicated," she said. She realized she was staring at the ribbon on Keine's horn.
"They need sleep," said Mokou firmly. "Can you take 'em to the Inn?"
"Fine," said Keine. "Are you going back to Eientei?"
"I'm gonna catch up with Eirin and make sure Flan gets home without leaving a trail of destruction in her wake," said Mokou irreverently. "I'll talk to you later, all right?"
"All right," said Keine, and sighed. "Come on, let's get to the Village before the fairies figure out that Flandre's gone home. Nocturnal fairies can be brutal this time of month."
Renko and Maribel moved to follow her. "Er," said Renko, "are you ...?"
"I'm a were-hakutaku," said Keine, gesturing towards the full moon. "Please don't mention it if you see me around other people when I'm in my human form, all right?"
"All right," said Maribel dizzily.
"Tomorrow," said Keine, "we'll help you find your way back to the Hakurei shrine. The shrine maiden will help you get back to the Outside World."
Maribel nodded weakly. She was simply exhausted, and realized she was starting to fall asleep. She knew there were street lamps, and houses which looked like they'd come straight out of the Meiji period, and a particularly large building near the edge, as well as Renko's hand helping to guide her along. And a bed.
Mokou flew back to the Bamboo Forest. She was soon joined by Eirin and Kaguya.
"That went well," Eirin said after Mokou explained the situation.
"Yeah, it's definitely a good thing that nobody got hurt," said Kaguya, radiating her perpetual cheerfulness.
"Yeah ... I wonder if we'll even need to hang around the Mansion anymore, what with that manipulation-of-destruction thing Flan's got," said Mokou, trying to push aside a vague unease.
Kaguya tilted her head, watching Mokou. "Is something wrong?" she said.
"I think the mere fact that Koishi Komeiji was stolen from her bed and hexed is worrisome in and of itself," said Eirin. "Is that what it is, Mokou?"
Mokou considered this a moment. "I've seen that girl Maribel before," she said. "In fact ... dang, it was a few hundred years ago. I think it was only a couple decades after I first moved into the Bamboo Forest. I saw her wandering around one night, looking like she thought she was dreaming or something." The old memory was coming back to her. Memories from the time when she hated Kaguya were kept locked away ... "Yeah, some kind of mouse-youkai gave her a scare, and she ran off. I came up and pounded its face into the ground, but she'd sorta vanished into thin air. I don't think she even saw me."
"And you're sure it was her?" said Eirin slowly.
"The more I think about it, the more I'm sure," said Mokou. "Same voice, same hair, same dress, same hat."
"Hmm," said Eirin. "A few hundred years ago ... wasn't there a strange paper found in the Bamboo Forest about that time? And it mentioned the name Renko, and some strange terms which, I'm given to understand, recently came into use in the outside world ..."
Maribel dreamed she was the woman in the purple dress, except that she was wearing a white dress made entirely of frills, with a purple and orange flap running down the front. She was sitting on a mat in a Japanese-style house somewhere, getting a backrub from the nine-tailed fox she'd dreamed about before.
"So, ah, I take it that things didn't go too well?" asked the fox. She sounded like she was referring to something she didn't fully understand.
"No, ___, it didn't," said the woman, calling the fox by a name which Maribel didn't know. She thought she could half-hear it, though. "Although it did have a side-effect which will save me some trouble later on."
The fox paused rubbing the woman's back. "You know, ______-sama," she said, "I think talking about this plan of yours would be a great deal less infuriating if I actually knew more about it than the fact that it exists."
The woman laughed. "Rather sharp today, aren't you, ___-chan?" For some reason, Maribel thought that the last part rhymed.
"Sorry," said the fox. "It's just that ... well, I'm your shikigami, and I want to be able to help however I can."
"Hmm." The woman became somewhat pensive. "Well."
"And it feels like now you're trying to annoy me," said the fox. "First there was that business in Mayohiga with the outsiders and CHEN —"
Maribel woke up. All she could remember was that the dream had ended with someone saying "Chen."
She sat up, rubbing her eyes. It was mid-morning; she was in a guest room in a Japanese-style house. She could tell that it was a guest room, because it went out of its way to show habitation — furniture, decorated walls, and so on — without actually having any personal touches that would indicate anyone specific lived there. Nearby, there was an electric lamp on a small table, plugged into a socket which looked like it had been hastily added recently, inasmuch as it sat in a block of wood next to a wall with wires trailing out the window.
Renko was still sleeping on a mat a few feet away. Maribel got up and went to the window, which was facing what seemed to be the village's main road.
It looked more or less like she'd imagined a Japanese fantasy village would look like. It was like Mayohiga, except fully populated, with various people (all human) milling about and mostly Getting Ready For The Day. There were a few poles with power lines set up here and there, with cables going into windows. The building they were in was also at the edge of the village; there was a fence around the outskirts, and she could see a mountain in the distance.
Maribel looked at the borders. She saw the border of the village and the outside. Her gaze shifted to the mountain again, and she could see the border between the mountain and the sky.
She held up her hand. A small blue bullet of light appeared at will. She realized it felt as natural as, er, flying had, which didn't sound right even in her mind. She'd have to think about this some more.
Then Maribel realized that she could feel the borders, even from this distance. She frowned, wondering if she could control them in some way. She reached up to touch the border between the mountain and the sky ...
Renko grunted abruptly. "Ugh ... that was a strange dream," she muttered, slowly sitting up.
Maribel turned. "Good morning," she said.
"Morning," said Renko. "We're really in Gensokyo, aren't we?"
"Yep," said Maribel, looking out the window.
"I wonder if anyone will believe us," said Renko. "Even with the photographs we took." She reached into her backpack and pulled out a small notebook.
"Probably not," said Maribel. "I suppose if we found someone who already knew about Gensokyo's existence ..."
"Not very likely, I suppose," said Renko, jotting down something in the notebook. "We couldn't just put out an ad, or randomly ask people ..."
"What's that?" asked Maribel, glancing at the notebook.
"My dream diary," said Renko.
Maribel tilted her head. "Oh, so you took my advice?" A year ago, she'd tried to talk Renko into keeping a diary of any dreams she had, and given her a few pieces of advice for keeping it. They'd both stopped writing about the nightmares about their failed experiment really quickly.
"Yeah," said Renko. "It was a strange one. Well, stranger than dreams usually are. Remember the time we arrived early for that meeting with Professor Okazaki, and we decided to wait a few minutes because she sounded like she was arguing with someone?"
Maribel screwed up her face as she tried to remember. "Um. That's sort of, uh, specific."
"Well, I remembered it in my dream," said Renko. "But there was an extra part to it. You'd just commented on how she sounded like she was in a vile mood, when that woman in the purple dress suddenly stepped out of Professor Okazaki's office."
"Really?" said Maribel. This woman was starting to sound creepier and creepier. Especially if her dawning suspicions were anywhere near the mark ...
"Yeah," said Renko. "I ... knew-in-the-dream that this was a few days after we'd first really started noticing how often we saw her. She looked straight at you and said, 'It's such a pain to be accused of something just because you aren't from around here, isn't it?' in English. And then she left and you translated it for me."
"I see." Maribel frowned. "That's really strange ..."
"Right," said Renko. "Next thing I knew, she just sort of disappeared, and I was suddenly suggesting we wait a few minutes, as if nothing had happened."
"I'm starting not to like the sound of that woman," murmured Maribel.
"That's probably a wise reaction," said Renko. "In any event, the next thing that happened in my dream was that I heard the woman's voice ... uh ..." Her voice trailed off. "We're speaking English, aren't we?"
Maribel blinked, and laughed nervously. "Yes ... we are," she said, switching back to Japanese.
"Yeah," said Renko, grinning sheepishly. "Anyway, the woman's voice said, 'Yes, that was a really bad choice of memories.' Then there was this flash of purple, and I heard her swear under her breath, and then I woke up."
They digested the implications of this for a moment.
"She must be Yukari Yakumo," said Maribel.
"Perhaps," said Renko. "We should ask someone what she looks like. I think that sort of thing should wait until after breakfast, though."
They rolled up the sleeping mats and stepped out into the hallway. A woman in a blue dress with silvery hair with teal streaks was walking up the hallway at that moment. Maribel was struck by the somewhat odd hat she was wearing; it reminded her of a bento box. "Ah, good morning," she said, bowing. "I was just going to check on you."
Her voice was familiar. "Oh — Keine-san?" said Maribel. She realized that her dress was in the exact same pattern as the one they'd seen the previous night, minus the green glow and the fact that it was now blue. "I didn't recognize you, uh, in daylight."
"That's all right," said Keine, smiling faintly. "In any event, welcome to the Inn. I usually volunteer here, on the rare occasions that we get visitors. Why don't you come join us for a late breakfast? Daisuke and Sanae are making a meal in the kitchen."
"We'd be honored," said Renko, bowing.
"Thank you," said Maribel, smiling and bowing. She was feeling hunger pangs already.
The hallway led to a larger main room with a front door, making it look somewhat like a smallish restaurant. There was already a low table set up with five places. "Don't worry about payment," said Keine. "We wouldn't expect outsiders to have Gensokyo's currency anyway. It's all volunteer work here."
Another side-door opened, presumably to the kitchen, and a man stepped out. He had black hair with a single blonde streak, and wore a maroon kimono with black highlights. "Hah! Seriously, you're best off not going on any youkai-hunts with those two, my dear," he said back into the kitchen. "Just stay at home and —" He stopped when he saw Renko and Maribel. "Ah! My apologies. Good morning!" He bowed low, smiling. "My name is Daisuke Kirisame. Welcome to the Outside Inn."
"Pleased to meet you," said Renko, bowing. "My name is Renko Usami."
"I'm Maribel Hearn," said Maribel. "So this is called the Outside Inn?"
"It sounds more amusing in English," said Keine.
Renko considered this, and smacked her forehead. Maribel groaned.
Daisuke grinned. "Sorry, my fault," he said, in rather accented English. "Why don't we sit down? Here, let's get us brunch."
He and Keine retreated back into the kitchen, and returned a moment later with a total of five food trays, accompanied by a young woman in blue and white with green hair ...
Maribel gave a start of recognition. "Sanae Kotiya?" said Renko slowly. "Is that you?"
Sanae blinked. "Oh! Renko?" she said, eyes widening. "And Mari? What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing," said Renko.
Daisuke arched an eyebrow. "Oh, you know each other?" he said, setting down the food trays on the table.
"Yeah, she was a friend of mine in high school," said Renko. "I introduced her to Maribel once between college semesters. Then a couple years ago she sort of just disappeared ..."
"Small world, isn't it?" said Keine.
"Gensokyo's even smaller," said Sanae, grinning nervously.
Maribel was always rather impressed by the sheer substantiality of a traditional Japanese breafkast. Here, there was a bowl of steamed rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a seafood dish.
Well ... not seafood, exactly.
Sanae noticed Maribel's curious expression as she took a bite of fish. "Yeah, Gensokyo's landlocked," she said. "The only fish we have here is freshwater."
And yet fish is still traditionally important, despite the fact that the whole reason it's important in the Outside is that Japan is an island, thought Maribel.
"So you've gone native?" said Renko.
"Ahaha, I suppose," said Sanae, grinning sheepishly. "That seems to happen rather quickly. You don't really have that much of a choice, though, if you want to keep mingling among humans."
"Ah ... is there a reason why, er, your hair's green?" asked Maribel.
Daisuke chuckled good-naturedly. "Oh dear," he said drily, "we're going to be bombarded with questions for the rest of the morning."
"It's because of the magic in Gensokyo's air," said Keine. "Some humans are born with a magical trait that causes their hair to turn unnatural-looking colors in the presence of high levels of magic. I'm an obvious example."
"It's genetic, apparently," said Sanae. "In my case, it's also due to my connection with faith. I was surprised when it happened, it took a matter of seconds."
"Interesting," said Renko. "So, getting back to our original questions ..."
Sanae laughed. "Yes, um, well," she said, "you know I was the priestess of the Moriya Shrine, right? Well, the two gods of the shrine realized that, well, there wasn't enough faith to go around in the Outside World, so they transported the entire shrine to the top of Youkai Mountain."
Maribel blinked. Gods? she wanted to say, but she immediately realized that the existence of actual gods made as much sense as youkai and immortals and magic and, frankly, the very fact that they were in Gensokyo to begin with. Besides, there was a much better reason to be confused. "But ... the shrine's still there," she said. "Where it was before, I mean."
"It just changed overnight so that it suddenly looked like it had been abandoned for years," said Renko, who was much of the same mind.
Sanae blinked. "I've heard of something like that, actually," she said. "Sometimes buildings get moved to Gensokyo, leaving behind, sort of, a hollow shell."
"As if it was a dead body whose soul had departed," said Keine. "Or as if its history had been changed so that nobody had lived there in the first place."
Sanae nodded. "Since then, I've just been taking things one day at a time," she said. "Tending the shrine, gathering faith for my gods, going out with Reimu Hakurei, the Hakurei shrine maiden ..."
Maribel felt a silence physically descending on the table. Daisuke burst out laughing.
Keine sighed, but there was an obvious hint of amusement. "I always forget about this," she said, throwing Daisuke a mock-glare.
"Forgive me," said Daisuke, eyes twinkling. "It's just one of the differences between the culture of Gensokyo and the Outside. That sort of thing, it's accepted here. In fact, we find it strange if you only prefer one gender over the other."
"I see," said Maribel. She glanced at Renko, who still seemed somewhat disconcerted by the whole idea.
"As for your part," said Daisuke, "well, it's a bit better-known about why you're in Gensokyo."
Maribel blinked. "Pardon?"
"Well, it happens all the time," said Daisuke. "That's why we started the Inn, you see — the Border isn't absolutely secure, so people accidentally stumble in all the time. I bet you were out camping or something, when you suddenly discovered yourseves in a strange realm, yes?"
Renko and Maribel exchanged a glance. "Actually, we came here voluntarily," said Renko.
"What?" said Daisuke, frowning in surprise. Keine seemed startled, as well.
Renko nodded. "We've always been curious about the way magic worked," she said. "Visiting Gensokyo has been our goal for a long time now."
Daisuke frowned. "Don't you realize how dangerous it is here?" he said. He didn't seem angry so much as concerned. "Well, I mean, yes, the Hakurei shrine maiden has been doing her best to keep things under control, but there are still a great many man-eating youkai in greater Gensokyo, and I doubt you'll learn much about magic in the Village." He sighed. "Wouldn't you rather lead a more normal life? I mean ... not that I'd know what it's like in the Outside, but ..."
There's something else going on there, thought Maribel. Something ... personal.
Sanae cleared her throat. "Well, um, let's just get finished with brunch," she said in English, "and then I'll show them around the village after that."
Daisuke seemed to deflate. "Of course," he said, regaining his previous jolly attitude. "Sorry." He grinned. "Best eat up, then!"
Maribel and Renko followed Sanae out of the Inn, carrying their backpacks. They seemed to attract a reasonable amount of attention, but nobody seemed interested enough to actually stop what they were doing.
"11:09 PM," murmured Renko, glancing at the sky. "Where to now?"
"Well, I suppose there's two places we could go if you're interested in learning about Gensokyo," said Sanae. "There's the Hieda household, which is by the village center, and the Kourindou shop at the edge of the Magic Forest. Hiedo no Akyu knows a lot about Gensokyo's history; whereas Rinnosuke Morichika, the owner of Kourindou, knows a lot about how Gensokyo works."
"I suppose it would make sense to go to the nearer place first," said Maribel, watching Sanae curiously. Every time she thought she'd gotten a reasonably clear idea of what Gensokyo was generally like, it threw her a curveball.
Sanae noticed Maribel's gaze. "If you're wondering about me and Reimu, it's ... well, I guess it's something of a fling," she said. "We're still in sort of the 'getting to know you' phase. We just started going out because it seemed like something everyone else was doing."
"I was a bit more curious about how your reaction is pretty much the opposite of how Mr. Kirisame was acting," said Renko.
Sanae laughed. "Yes, well, I know how you are with magic, Renko," she said. "It's just ... well, Daisuke's daughter Marisa ran off to become a witch years ago, and she's in love with a youkai-magician now."
"Aha," said Maribel softly.
"And she's the second-most famous person in Gensokyo now, after Reimu," Sanae continued. "He's always eager to meet Outsiders because they won't immediately say, 'Oh, you're related to that witch?'"
Before either Maribel and Renko could respond, though, there was a roaring buzzing noise from the edge of the village, accompanied by the sounds of screaming.
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