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By the time we drew close to the forest, the sun had already begun its long decent toward the horizon, the shadows growing long and the light dimming slightly as we approached. A thin mist of sorts hung over the mysterious place, giving it an ominous look and obstructing any identifying features that might make navigating such a place easier.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I did kinda shudder as we headed deeper into the forest. During the day this place wasn't so bad as one could at the very least see where they were going, but at night, it was a whole other story. Not helping matters is that some
Youkai and other creatures might have used the dark as a way to get the drop on us.

The bamboo stalks stood a good twelve feet in the air, their grassy leaves spread out like a half-finished tapestry that allowed the occasional beam of light to pass through and light the interviewing paths through the forest.

"This place hasn't changed in the slightest," Reimu huffs, "Just as creepy as ever." The dull silence that hung over the forest only helped to add credence to Reimu's observation.

"That, I can agree with," I blew on my hands and rubbed them together as we kept moving, "Say Reimu? I don't suppose more Youkai come out during the night and are more aggressive?"

"Sure, more youkai will come out when the sun sets, but at least its not a full moon tonight," Reimu shrugged, not looking particularly concerned about the youkai that might happen upon them, "You should have been here during the full red moon... This place was literally swarming with youkai." She didn't bother answering whether or not the ones at night were more dangerous than the ones found during the day, which in my eyes spoke leagues about just how confident she was.

Whether that counted for arrogance was an topic I would rather avoid touching.

"The mist is a bit thinner during the day, but I suppose there's no helping it," Marisa ran her finger along the edge of her hat, "I'll blast anything that moves, so don't worry James, we'll get to Eientei safe and sound, da ze!" It was a little odd hearing that line from a girl, but oh well...

We kept going for some time and before long, I started to wonder if we were walking in circles as all the paths eventually seemed to start blending together as one. Just as we passed by what appeared to be the very same bamboo stalk stump for the fifth time, Reimu tripped over something huddled by the side of the path.

"Reimu!" I ran to her side and helped her up,"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine!" Reimu stood up and brushed herself off, turning to the culprit whom had accidentally tripped the shrine maiden. Before her stood none other than Wriggle Nightbug, one of the many youkai inhabitants of the Bamboo Forest. Wriggle was a girl with blue eyes and short teal hair and bug-like antennae on her head. She wore a white shirt with stylized long sleeves, a black and red cape and blue baggy shorts with brown shoes.

"You have a lot of guts attacking me again after I beat you so badly last time," Reimu pointed her purification staff directly at the girl's forehead, "But after pulling a cowardly stunt like that, I'm not gunna go easy on you!"

"I didn't attack you!" Wriggle protests, "I was just minding my own business when you bumped right into me!"

"I won't listen to any of your excuses!" Reimu flew up into the air, spreading out a large number of talismans in front of her.

"Uh, Reimu? I think we got bigger things to worry about than someone tripping you over!" I shouted out to her as I ducked behind a tree as I figured I knew what was about to happen,"...She's not gonna listen to a word I say is she?"

"Nope, probably not," Marisa shook her head and sighed, "You know how Reimu is. She never stops once she's made up her mind about something, da ze~"

"If you think you can just kick me around, then you've made two mistakes!" Wriggle turned and whirled her cape as countless insects of various sorts came to her assistance. She waved her hand and divided them into groups before directing them toward Reimu, using them as bullets against the shrine maiden. Despite her strong words, however, the outcome of their fight had already been decided.

Reimu dodged and weaved between the waves of insects, throwing her own talismans back at the firefly youkai in return. Time after time they pounded away at each other, with Reimu having the clear upper hand the entire time. Bamboo stalks shattered and were blown apart as the two girls clashed until, at last, Wriggle gave up, falling to her knees despondently.

"Another annoying pest dealt with..." Reimu brushed her sleeves off.

I gnarled my teeth at the sight of this. Yes, I knew this was just Reimu being Reimu but in my eyes this was the equivalent of bullying, especially since she was doing this to someone smaller than herself. "Alright, Reimu, I think that's more than enough.." I walked out with my hands raised and slightly annoyed with her,"You've had the chance to vent your anger, now let's at least get Wriggle's side of the story.."

"You wanna talk with the pest, go right ahead," Reimu crossed her arms in front of her chest, "Thanks to her, we've lost sight of the path, too..." I was honestly quite tempted to give a snappy remark to her, but I had more important things to worry about right now.

I knelt down beside Wriggle and helped her to sit properly while I got out a first aid kit."There we go...so, Wriggle, right? You gonna be ok? And what were you doing just lying there on the road like that?"

Wriggle looked up timidly, her wide eyes large and round, gleaming in the dim light. They welled up with tears, but she somehow managed to keep herself from crying, "Why are you being so nice to me, human? Don't humans hate youkai?" The firefly youkai did not look badly injured, just slightly bruised and battered from taking some direct hits from Reimu's talismans.

She sniffed, "Well, I set out from my home this afternoon to find something to eat and I found a nice tuft of grasses by the side of the road. I bent down to gather some when the shrine maiden bumped into me." Wriggle's antennae bounced up and down, "I guess she couldn't see me crouched down in the mist..."

"Are you implying something?" Reimu cast an irritated glare in Wriggle's direction.

"Wriggle, would ya happen ta know da way ta Eientei?" Marisa asked the youkai, possibly trying to make sure another brawl wasn't started over simple misunderstandings or the like.

"Eientei?" Wriggle blinked, "I don't know what you're talking about..." She turned back to me, still looking as nervous as ever, "You didn't answer my question, mister..."

"Hmm?" I glanced up at her as I got out the ointment for her,"What does you being a Youkai have to do with anything?" That made her eyes widen a little as I started packing up,"I can't speak on behalf of other humans but I don't need a reason to help someone in need, especially when they're hurt. Besides, you didn't mean to trip up Reimu, did you?" She shook her head, "Than you got nothing to apologize for,"

I applied the ointment for her, ,"There we go...also, I trust you know of the earthquakes that been happening lately? We're trying to figure out what's causing them and we think Princess Kaguya can help us. Do you think you might be able to help us find a way through this mist?"

"I like you, Mister," Wriggle smiled, her cheeks flushing slightly, "By Princess Kaguya, do you mean that person that's always fighting with the fiery girl every morning and afternoon?"

"I can't think of anyone else who'd match dat description other than Princess Kaguya, da ze~" Marisa nodded, "Would you happen ta know where she lives?"

"Hm... Does she live in that big mansion?" Wriggle blinked, somewhat unsure.

"Yes, that would be Eientei..." Marisa sighed, "Talking with idiots like her makes my head hurt..."

"Only idiots call other people idiots, idiot!" Wriggle stuck her tongue out at the witch, then turned back to me with a friendly smile, "In that case, I can show you the way, Mister..."

"Is it just me, or is James being hit on by a bug?" Marisa turned to Reimu.

"I don't know, but if she doesn't cut it out soon, I'm gunna kick her butt again," Reimu huffed.

"I heard that!" I called back to them as I helped Wriggle up to her feet,"That would be appreciated, thank you. By the way,the name's James White...or you can just call me James, Jimmy, Jimbo, any of those names will do."

"I'm Wriggle Nightbug, A Bug of Light Wriggling in the Dark," Wriggle introduced herself as well, "Pleased to meet you, Mister James." She waved her hand and tiny lightning bugs began to glow in the distance, forming a line for the group to follow, "This way... I leave some of my bugs behind so I can find my way back in case I get lost, see?"

Me, Reimu and Marisa followed after Wriggle, who guided them through the seemingly endless rows of bamboo by simply walking toward the next lightning bug. As they passed by, Wriggle gathered them up, presumably so she could use them again later.

You know, some people really underestimate the usefulness of certain powers. I mean, Wriggle's ability to control bugs and insects may not seem like much on paper...until you stop and REALLY think about it.

I mean, she could have Black Widows and Scorpions suck the life out of you or poison you altogether. She could have termites tear down a building from the inside out. Even these lightning bugs were great for finding your way through pitch darkness. Her control over certain insects means she could be one heck of an assassin. Kill her target with a dangerous bug bite and practically nobody would ever figure out it was you.

The more I thought about it, the more scary such an ability seemed to be...I guess I should count my lucky stars she's on our side for now, and that she doesn't know the full extent of her abilities...Or maybe she DID know and simply kept quiet out of respect for the Spell Card Rules. Yeah, best not to touch that topic with a ten-foot pole."So, Wriggle, right? What you make of these earthquakes that been going on lately?"

"It doesn't feel natural in origin, so I think its a powerful youkai of some kind causing a fuss underground," Wriggle mused, "Power is everything for youkai, you know, so its probably some kind of challenge to another youkai, or perhaps to all the other youkai in general... I haven't heard anything for certain from the others, so that's just what I think it is."

"It doesn't feel natural, you say?" Reimu's interest peaked a bit.

"Mhm... When the ground shakes, it feels a bit off, you know?" Wriggle replied, "Its like when you drink an artificially-flavored soda instead of a naturally-flavored soda."

"I don't see how soda has anything to do with this," Reimu's shoulders sagged with disappointment.

"Hey, Mister James..." Wriggle fidgeted nervously, "Do you... Like bugs?"

Reimu reached for the firefly youkai, but Marisa held her back with her arms, "You can't just take out our guide, Reimu... At least wait until we arrive at Eientei."

I ignored those two in favor of answering Wriggle's question, "Me? Like bugs?" If this were an anime, I'd be sweatdropping right now,"Uh...well..bugs are kinda hit and miss with me. There are some I like and some I don't like. Butterflies are probably one of my favorites, especially the whole growth and maturation they go through from caterpillar to cocoon to a butterfly.."

"I like them because well...they kinda represent freedom for me. Being able to go wherever they please and not have to answer to anyone's authority...I like the way you used the lightning bugs to guide our way too. The way you use them is kinda cool."

"You think I'm cool?" Wriggle's blush deepened. She held her hand open and a large butterfly flew over to her, its brightly-colored wings fluttering as it stood upon the palm of her hand. I won't lie, that was a pretty nifty trick there.

"You're quite the lady's man, aren't you?" Reimu remarked with a hint of distaste lacing her words, "Stop distracting the guide or we'll never get out of here... Where is that darned Mokou when you need her?"

"It is a bit odd that Mokou hasn't shown up, now that you mention it, da ze~" Marisa glanced about, noting how silent and still the forest was at the time.

"Come to think of it, you're right.." I acknowledged Marisa's comment as I glanced around the forest,"I mean, isn't Mokou suppose to be like a guide for people lost in the Bamboo Forest? Doesn't talk much but generally likes people but if you come upon Kaguya, you best run to the hills before Mokou whips out the phoenix wings?...That Mokou, right?"

"Definitely the same Mokou, da ze~" Marisa nodded, "But she don't seem ta be around at da moment... P'haps Kaguya knows something 'bout that."

We kept going deeper into the forest until, suddenly, we stepped into a clearing. Even the fog simply vanished as we stood at the front entrance of a massive Japanese-style mansion complex, Eientei. The interconnected buildings had an old-timey sort of feel to them, an aged elegance that blended well with the rustic surroundings and endless lines of bamboo stalks. Youkai rabbits scurried about on the grounds, looking up from their work to give curious looks to the travelers. One of the rabbits, easily identified as Reisen by her timid appearance and distinctive clothes, approached.

"Excuse me..." Reisen held up her hand, "Would you happen to have business with the Princess?"

"Yes, so let her know we're here before I barge in and let her know myself," Reimu barked, clearly not in the best of moods.

"Princess Kaguya is resting in her room," Reisen tried to maintain control of the conversation, "But I'll let her know that you are here and you wish to speak with her."

"Stop making excuses and tell her already!" Reimu waved her staff in Reisen's face, and the lunar rabbit sighed and turned back toward the house without further ado. I felt kinda sorry for the poor girl, especially considering Reisen is among the most reasonable
and kind-hearted characters in my eyes so I can't say I approved of Reimu snapping at her.

"That was uncalled for, you know," I quipped and to which Reimu only snorted. I leaned against a tree with my arms folded,"So...you guys sure Lady Kaguya can help us figure out this riddle? Because while I would like to go after Yukari, she's kinda napping right now...and basically said I won't be seeing her again for a couple of days, so until than we're on our own.."

"If anyone can figure that riddle out," Reimu shrugged, "Then it would probably be Kaguya..." She turned to Wriggle, "You can go back to plucking weeds or whatever it is that you do all day."

"I'll do that," Wriggle nodded to Reimu then turned back to me and gave a small bow, "Thank you for your kindness, Mister James... I won't forget it, I promise!" With that, the firefly youkai hurried off back into the bamboo forest without a trace.

"With one troublesome person gone, another is sure to take her place," Reimu sighed as Reisen returned from speaking with the princess.

"Princess Kaguya would be happy to speak with you. Please follow me," Reisen gave the group a polite nod before leading them inside the front entryway. The interior of Eientei was much as one would expect it to be. The paper walls were richly decorated with drawings and ink prints all along the main hallway. Reisen directed them down the left wing, around the edge of the lush interior courtyard gardens, until they reached the wide double-doors that stood between themselves and Kaguya's personal quarters. The lunar rabbit carefully slid the doors open and allowed them to pass inside.

The lunar princess Kaguya herself sat at a low table, under a kotatsu as expected. She wasn't eating tangerines, though, as she seemed to have been reading a newspaper instead before her guests had arrived. She had an other-worldly beauty and elegance, her smooth, ivory skin and pleasant smile could have captivated the heart of any man she wished. It was no wonder that so many men had vied for her affections in the past.

"Hello," Kaguya motioned for her guests to join her around the kotatsu, "Please make yourselves comfortable..." She folded her hands in her lap after giving her guests time to take their seats, "Tell me... You must have some reason for coming to see me, because I know you would not come all this way just to pay me a social visit."

Wow, so this was princess Kaguya in the flesh...like, the REAL Kaguya. She was...well, to put it bluntly, very beautiful. Yeah, if she hadn't gotten a guy before, what chance did I possibly have?

No, the best thing to do is focus on why we were here,"Thank you for allowing us into your home on such short notice, Princess Kaguya.." I bowed my head to show some respect to the princess,"Our apologies for the suddenness of our arrival, but we're in need of your help..."

With that, I set about, once again, with help from the others, explaining what was going on and about that blasted riddle I'd been given.

"So you came here to ask me something like that?" Kaguya's voice conveyed a sense of amusement rather than annoyance. She held her sleeve up in front of her mouth and laughed, "Well, if that's all you wish to know, then its a simple matter, really... The riddle is talking about the one most important thing in the world. Can you guess what that is?"

"Money?" Marisa interjected herself into the conversation, "Power?"

"Love, silly," Kaguya could barely contain herself, "Why would you think either of those things would even make sense in the context of a riddle such as this?"

"Love, eh..." Reimu shrugged, "What does love have to do with anything?"

"Its quite simple if you think about it..." Kaguya smiled, "She said that she wants you to meet someone who wants to meet you, but doesn't know it yet? That's clearly referring to your future lover, whoever she might happen to be. Yukari is trying to tell James that he needs to fall in love with one of the girls here in Gensokyo. How exactly this has anything to do with this incident that you're convinced is right around the corner, I really don't have a clue..."

Love? Seriously? Something so cheesy and cliched was the answer to the riddle? This puzzle had just gotten even more confusing for me, and judging by the face Reimu was making, we were pretty much in the same boat.

"Hm... In that case, there's something else I'd like to know," Marisa spoke up again.

"What might that be?" Kaguya asked.

"Where did Mokou run off to? We didn't run into her in the Bamboo Forest, da ze~" Marisa shook her head.

"Oh, that... I killed her earlier today," Kaguya replied in a nonchalant manner, "She probably just hasn't regenerated yet..."

I cleared my throat, "Um...Princess?" She looked over in my direction with a warm smile, "I need to ask...Yukari mentioned Gensokyo was lacking in something...but how can that something be Love?"

"Perhaps you have not realized this yet because you are new to Gensokyo, but the concept of love is not exactly well-established here," Kaguya explained, "The girls here are all so busy fighting each other over petty differences that they put little or no thought to romance. Even marriages here are more firmly rooted in establishing family ties rather than out of love and affection between the two persons involved."

Kaguya shrugged, "Yukari probably noticed that love is more important in your world than in ours and thought that she could transplant some love from that world to this one as a way of remedying the situation."

"You must realize how ironic it is for you of all people to point all of that out, don't you?" Reimu looked over at Kaguya with a cynical eye.

"Hmm..." I could only nod along to her explanation,"I suppose you have a point...that's very much how a lot of marriages worked even in my own world up until...well, maybe not even two centuries ago, if even that..."

"More often than not, marriages were used mainly as a way to make a family stronger or wealthier, or just more powerful in general. It was less about genuine love and affection, and more about what you or your family could get out of it. It was less about love, and more about duty and commitment..." Kaguya looked over to me.

"I've looked at enough history books in my life to know that, while marriages out of love weren't the thing of fantasy, they weren't exactly common either. Often times, one member just wanted an heir to their fortune, or to "keep the family's bloodline going"...heck, many unions fell apart just because the woman couldn't produce an appropriate heir for the husband. Those folks forget there's much more to life than just power, wealth and status...and lose sight of what's really important.."

I than realized I was rambling,"Oh, um...sorry about that, didn't mean to go off on a tangent like that.."

"I suppose I'm not the only one who is a hopeless romantic," Kaguya gave James a pleasant smile.

"Hopeless romantic? The girl who sent men off on impossible tasks when they asked her hand in marriage?" Reimu remained firmly critical of the moon princess.

"How would you like to be constantly pestered by hundreds of men who you have never met relentlessly asking you to marry them?" Kaguya countered, "I did not even have the chance to get to know them... Perhaps my methods in dealing with them were not entirely kind, but I really did not have many options available to me."

"I guess you have a point there..." Reimu sighed, "That would be incredibly annoying."

"So, James... Is there anyone in particular that you have taken an interest in?" Kaguya asks in a completely innocent manner, "Perhaps I can help pair the two of you up!"

The sheer suddenness of being asked such a question startled me so much I recoiled and fell over backwards,"Ack!" I could
hear the girls laughing and chortling above me"T-Taken an interest?" Geez, did all the girls around here love pushing my buttons?

"Uh...well..I can't say for sure...I mean, I've only been here for like one day. I'd...like to get to know the people before making any big decisions...what you need to understand, Miss Kaguya..is I'm not the kind of guy who likes to rush into a relationship and what not...I hope that's understandable?" I sat back up, feeling like I was about to turn into a pumpkin.

"Of course," Kaguya laughed, "I was just teasing you, James. You need not get so worked up over a little joke... You have almost three entire weeks to make up your mind, so there is no need for you to rush. Take your time and get to know a few girls, and I'm sure you'll find your answer before long."

"That's just dandy, but what about us?" Reimu slammed her hand down onto the table, "Are we just supposed to wait around while Romeo here makes up his mind on what girl he fancies?"

"You're all welcome to stay here for as long as you like," Kaguya smiles, "As long as you don't steal anything, of course..."

Marisa stiffens up slightly, "Ha... Ha... I wonder what she means by that..."

"Yes, I wonder what indeed..." I rose an eyebrow in Marisa's direction before turning back to Kaguya, "So, I assume you know of the earthquakes that been going on lately? Apparently, we found out from Wriggle that other Youkai have been hearing them too.."

"Yes, but they have been rather weak earthquakes, so far at least," Kaguya nodded, "They really aren't anything to worry about just yet. I have no idea how you getting a girlfriend could help a youkai underground change their mind, either. Perhaps you should talk with someone who lives down there? I'm sure they would have a better idea about what is going on than I do."

"We can work the details out in the morning," Kaguya turned toward the door, "Reisen, would you kindly prepare some rooms for our guests? Oh, and do make sure that Marisa's room doesn't have any valuables in it. We would not want to tempt the poor girl, now would we?"

Reisen peeked her head in through the doorway and nodded, "I'll work on it right away."

"Thank you, Reisen," Kaguya smiled then turned her attention back to those seated around the table.

"Not that I ain't grateful, but are you sure you have no problem letting us stay the night, Miss Kaguya?" I asked politely,"I just want to make sure we're not intruding on you or anything.."

"Of course not," Kaguya giggled, "I love having guests. It gets a little boring around here at times, so I appreciate the company. Besides, it sounds like you're about to get involved in something interesting in the near future. I would not want to miss out on something like that."

"There is just one thing that I'm still confused about," Marisa spoke up once again.

"What might that be?" Kaguya asks.

"Where are the tangerines?" Marisa says in a completely serious tone.

"Its not the right time of year for tangerines," Kaguya replies.

"I see..." Marisa nods.

"Now if you'll excuse me I really should be getting ready for bed," Kaguya stands up from the table, "I'll chat with you all more in the morning. See you tomorrow." With one last smile, she left the room.

Figuring we should share a few more words before turning in ourselves, I looked to the others, "So...we may've finally figured out what Yukari's riddle was all about..the question now is how does that apply to the situation we're in? What's your feelings on this, girls?"

"I feel like we've been had," Reimu crossed her arms indignantly, "I should have known better than to trust Yukari's riddle to actually shed some light on the situation."

"I think Kaguya pointed us in the right direction," Marisa suggested, "We should go to the underworld tomorrow and pound some answers out of whoever we happen to come across."

"We could also try talking to Tenshi," Reimu considered, "She might claim that the earthquakes aren't her doing, but I get the feeling that she's trying to hide something in the very least... My instincts aren't off the mark very often, either."

"It's always good to trust your instincts," I nodded in approval,"But let's try not to jump to conclusions either. I feel we should do both though, cover more ground that way...what you guys feel more comfortable doing first? Going to the Underground, or going to Heaven?"

"I think we'd better pay Tenshi a visit first," Reimu said firmly, "Otherwise, we might have to go to the Underground again if she tells us something worthwhile."

"She's probably had a good smack-down coming her way for a while now either way," Marisa shrugged. However different Reimu and Marisa's personalities may have been, they often agreed when it came to beating people up. Somehow I knew arguing with them was out of the question when they got in the mood.

"Excuse me," Reisen tried not to interrupt the conversation, but felt it was necessary, "But your rooms are ready, so please let me know when you want to be shown to your rooms."

Upon hearing Reisen, I turned and nodded in thanks to her,"Thanks, Reisen...well, girls, it's been a long day, for some more than others...I think it's time we got some sleep."

"Alright," Reimu stood up from the table along with Marisa, "But I'm going to take a bath before turning in... Might as well, since I'll be staying at a place with its very own bathhouse, right?"

"Wait for me, Reimu!" Marisa followed right after her, leaving Reisen a bit confused when the two of them ran down the hallway by themselves.

"Right this way please," Reisen turned to the young man instead and walked slowly to the right wing of the mansion, stopping in front of one of the guest rooms. Inside there was a fresh futon rolled out in the center of the room, with an extra change of clothes and a bathrobe folded nearly beside it.

"Thanks.." I turned to Reisen, now feeling a bit embarassed,"By the way, I...must apologize on Reimu's behalf. I don't think she meant to be so rude. It's just...well...I guess her job as the Shrine Maiden of Gensokyo takes priority over everything else."

"Don't worry," Reisen waved her hand dismissively, "We have met a few times before and I know how unreasonable she can be at times, but she doesn't mean anything bad by it..."

Reisen continued, "I feel like I should also apologize on behalf of the Princess. She can take her jokes a bit too far at times, and I hope she did not say too much to you today that made you uncomfortable."

"You seem like a kind young man and I feel bad about you being caught up in all this mess," she sighed, then smiled, "Reimu and Marisa often deal with things like this, but you're a bit different from them. You're just an ordinary human, aren't you?"

I let out a nervous chuckle,"Hehe...that obvious, eh?" I set my bag down on the floor,"Well...more or less. Honestly, I have next to no idea how exactly I'm suppose to contribute yet since it looks like for the most part everybody else is far, far more better equipped and capable of taking care of things..." Before she could speak, I put up my hand,"I'm not being pessimistic, more like realistic,"

"For now, the closest thing I have to protection is these.." I pulled out one of my Bomb cards to show her,"I managed to convince Yukari to give me three of these, but I need to be extra careful with them because once I use up all three, I can't get anymore..."

"So unless I start spontaneously calling forth supernatural powers like some cheap Shounen Hero bullshit or such...well, it's probably best I just duck and hide and let the real heroes take care of things."

"There are many kinds of heroes, James, more than the kind that fly around and blow things up," Reisen smiled, causing me to lift my head and look at her.

"I'm sure you'll find some way to help," Reisen offered a word of encouragement, "Even if you are just an ordinary human right now, it doesn't mean you have to stay that way." She bent down and took a look at the Bomb card.

"Well, if you can use those, then I don't see why you can't do more than just duck and hide," Reisen blinked, "You can't use those sorts of cards without at least a little magical aptitude... Didn't Yukari tell you that?"

It took a moment for her question to sink in,"Actually...no..she didn't. She just told me that if I ran into some sort of jam I couldn't get out of to use one of these and they would protect me from any sort of harm.."

"Technically that's true," Reisen nodded, "Assuming you know how to use them and that you have at least a small amount of magic to activate them."

She reached out and took the card, looking it over carefully, "These bomb have been modified slightly to use an alternative source of magic than the user's... Most likely Yukari's instead of your own. That makes things simpler."

The lunar rabbit then held the card above her head, "To use them, you simply hold them above your head like this and snap your fingers, and they should activate on their own... I wonder why she didn't bother to tell you about it on her own." Reisen held the card back out after she was finished.

"My guess is she wanted to troll me a little.." I took back the card and put it away,"Honestly, it wouldn't be Yukari if she just came out and said what was going on. Nope, gotta dance around the issue and give a bunch of vague hints...and judging by what little I know of her, she's had a very long time to get good at that art.."

Gosh darn it, Yukari. Not even bothering to tell me the rules to this particular game, "But enough about Miss Border Youkai for now...Reisen, right? Have you heard of any strange happenings going on around Gensokyo lately?...you know, weirder than normal anyways?"

"Hm..." Reisen thought for a moment before replying, "Not really. I've run a few errands back and forth over the past few weeks, but none of the human villagers seem to have noticed anything amiss..."

Her ears perked up, "But now that you mention it, I have been picking up some strange waves on occasion. I'm not sure where they are coming from, but they aren't particularly strong or concentrated in a specific location. Given that waves generally start at one point and travel to another while spreading outward, this is rather odd."

That last thought piqued my interest a bit,"Strange waves? How exactly are these strange?"

"Well, they were waves intended to influence some sort of behavior, but they were far too weak to even effect the weakest youkai," Reisen replied, "If someone was trying to cause an incident of some sort by using waves in that way, why would they use such weak ones that they would not even be noticed? At first, I just thought it was just another one of Tewi's pranks, since she knows I'm the only one perceptive enough to pick up on those sorts of waves."

"Hmm..." I scratched my chin,"Maybe whoever set off those waves was just giving them a test-fire? You know, performing a bit of trial and error? Testing them out to see what problems there are and then fine-tuning them from there? It's like taking an engine and giving it a jump-start...than you twist a few bolts, re-align some wires and you fire it off again..."

"Or...maybe the waves weren't meant to be noticed at all...maybe it's the kind that's meant to be so faint you don't even feel it burrow into your subconscious...until it's too late.."

Reisen seemed more interested in the second option, "That's possible, but on such a large scale it would take quite a while before there are noticeable effects. They were so faint that even I couldn't figure out what the waves were intended to influence people to do, exactly."

"I'll let you know if I find out anything," Reisen smiled, "Just get some rest, James. I'll come wake you up when its time for breakfast." The lunar rabbit stood up and turned down the lights before stepping over to the door, "Sleep well."

"I will, and thanks again.." Once she was gone, I slipped into my robes and huddled under the blankets, letting my mind wander over all that had happened,"Oh man...what a day..."

Let's see, in the run of one single day, I had: Met a fictional lady from another dimension, accepted an offer that sounded too good to be true, gotten teleported to said lady's home dimension, met a whole slew of other Touhou characters, got to to view TWO Danmaku battles up close and personal, figured out a rather bizarre riddle, and I got the sinking suspicion I was now involved in something a million times greater than myself...I just had yet to figure out what exactly I was involved with.

Yukari is up to something...and one way or another...I'm going to find out what it is. Somehow, I knew she wouldn't make it easy...but this was the path I had decided on, and I needed to follow it through and shape my own destiny. This was no
longer a game. This was real.

I let out a sigh,"Story of my life.." I figured I should get some rest. Something told me that I would need it if we were going to pay the Celestial Princess a visit,"1 day down...20 more to go.."

With the thought of what tomorrow might bring still lingering, I closed my eyes and was out like a light...

End Of Chapter 2
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 2 Part 2
And that's it for Chapter 2. Yeah...the answer to the riddle was kinda corny and cheesy, I'm
aware of that. XD

Still, I hope you enjoyed this latest chapter and please stick around if you feel like it. My friend
and I worked really hard to make this story a good one...

Until next time folks, see ya!
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Chapter 2: This Is No Longer A Game

All I saw before and around me was pitch darkness. Not the normal kind, of course, but a dark so deep that it had the potential to play havoc with your imagination, making you think the kinds of things you wouldn't under normal circumstances, and possibly even question just what exactly might be lurking in a place like this. Yeah, for the paranoid sorts like me, it was a very disconcerting sensation.

The only reason that I wasn't completely freaking out right now was likely due to the fact I could feel Yukari's hand grasping mine very, very tightly. The oppressive darkness was like a thick blanket, heavy and relentless, to the point it felt like it was trying to deny
the existence of anything else. Then, just when it felt like it was taking hold...it stopped. Vanished like it had never been there.

When my eyes finally adjusted, I could only gawk in amazement and disbelief at what lied before me. Above there was only a blue, almost cloudless sky with a gentle breeze that shook the leaves and tall grasses all around. Below there was only lush green grasses mixed with sage, along with a simple dirt path that seemed to fork off in several directions.

In one direction, it led directly into a dark, ominous forest that extended outward to the horizon. Amid the dimness there flickered the occasional light and subdued glow. It went without saying that it was the dangerous Magic Forest that lay in that direction.

The other direction of the path wound along the contours of the land itself, but in the distance there stood what appeared to be a village of sorts, which one would assume was the aptly-named Human Village, one of the few human establishments in the entire land of Gensokyo.

Directly to the sound of the path lay a vast field of sunflowers which gently waved in the breeze. Their size alone would have tipped anyone off that they were anything but ordinary in origin, a dangerous place for anyone to wander by themselves...

Not far from the path, however, stood a rather familiar sight, that of an aged Shinto shrine. Its bare grounds and stubborn appearance atop the singular hill around which the rest of the land of Gensokyo seem to proceed could be none other than the Hakurei Shrine, home of the famous shrine maiden, Reimu Hakurei who had saved Gensokyo from numerous incidents in the past. For some reason, however, nobody seemed to bother to visit the shrine...

Perhaps that had more to do with the personality of the shrine maiden in question, however.

I stood there, observing all this while wearing what was likely the most stupified kind of expression. The sheer spectacle of everything actually caused me to park my butt down on the grass and just taking in all this. It was real...Gensokyo was Real after all! Granted, the Multiverse Theory meant that anything which could exist WILL exist somewhere but to stand here and bear witness to a place that had always been depicted as fictional...it's a whole other experience, I'll tell you that much.

The air I was breathing right now was remarkably fresh and clean. Heck, it was actually kind of relaxing, so much so I was slightly tempted to curl up here and take a nap...but then I silently reminded myself how stupid that would be and shook the idea from my mind.

"Breathtaking, isn't it?" I turned my head to see Yukari standing next to me, watching the scenery with a look of peace on her features, before turning her head in my direction, as if waiting for a response.

Deciding to give credit where it was due, I nodded in agreement,"Yeah...this really is a beautiful place you have...I can see from a glance why you and this world's other protectors would go so far to defend it."

She let out a small smile,"Thank you," She put a hand on my shoulder, "For the time being, consider Gensokyo your home too...so go see what it has to offer...and who knows? Perhaps you'll be able to offer something in return..." A gap opened up beneath her as she started to sink into it,"Send me a postcard if you need anything. I'll send Ran in a few days to check up on you, but until then I'll be enjoying a relaxing nap...take care of yourself, and I hope you enjoy your stay".

With that, the gap simply and unceremoniously closed up on itself, leaving nobody at all to talk to...Yukari had done it again.

Well, here I was. All alone, and left to my own devices, more or less. The question now was where to go first and what to do. Many of the more famous locations were teeming with all sorts of dangerous Youkai that would just as soon eat me as want to befriend a wandering human like myself whose only protection was three bomb cards stashed away in my pocket.

I sighed to myself and huddled my knees close to my chest. I figured I had gotten myself into quite a pickle this time so I would need to use the utmost caution. Best to think in terms of RPGs and tackle lower-levelled areas before going for the high-level stuff...

The Human Village might be a good way to get to know the locals with the least amount of risk to your life...but right now, I was on a mission so the Hakurei Shrine might be just as good a choice as any. The resident Shrine Maiden was a total grump and WAY too brutally honest for her own good sometimes...but she was also a decent person deep down who would wager her
life to protect Gensokyo and its inhabitants.

Deciding to be a little adventurous, I figured I would leave this up to a coin toss. I pulled out a quarter, "Alright, let's do this. Heads for Hakurei Shrine, Tails for Human Village..." I flipped it into the air and waited for chance to take effect...

The quarter flipped and turned in mid air, until at last it landed on the ground, its shiny heads side staring up at the sky defiantly as if determined to rule fate with an iron fist and a cheesy grin. With the choice of destination made, there was little left to do other than head over in that direction. The path was easy enough to follow, and although, judging by the sun's position, it was just barely past the morning hours there was hardly a soul within sight.

The Hakurei Shrine stood tall and firm in the distance, the ancient trees that shared the hill alongside it appearing sturdier and perhaps more dependable than the shrine itself. The sun shone down on the clean, empty pavement in front of the steps leading to the shrine proper, but as expected there wasn't a single person standing there. The shrine maiden herself couldn't be bothered to sweep at such an unpleasant time of day, but there was someone else who frequented the shrine who might provide a slightly more friendly welcome.

Relaxing in the shade on the shrine's front porch, a certain oni lay on her side, her head propped up with her hand while her elbow rested on the hardwood floor. She yawned, her head tilting back slightly as she idly stared up at the sky, her gourd which contained an endless supply of sake rested close beside her.

Seeing the figure lying on the front porch, I recognized her as Suika Ibuki of the Oni. One of the Four Devas Of The Mountain. Thankfully, despite the trouble she brewed up here and there, she was content to live life at her own pace and throw parties rather than cause destruction.

Huh, I just imagined a strength contest between her and the Incredible Hulk. That would honestly be hilarious.

I took in a deep breath, hefted my bag up, and walked towards where she was lying,"Umm...hello there. I'm looking for Miss Reimu Hakurei. She wouldn't happen to be in right now?"

"Huh?" Suika opened her eyes as she took in the sight of me. I'm guessing she wasn't use to seeing visitors here so early, "You mean someone's actually looking for Reimu at this time of day?" She sat up in a more proper manner, crossing her legs and placing her hands onto her knees, "I'll call her if you want, but she's probably napping."

Suika uncorked her gourd and grinned, "How about you have a drink with me instead?" The oni didn't get the chance to hear a reply before someone else stepped out, alerted by the sound of voices outside the shrine. Reimu Hakurei herself stood just inside the doorway, her eyes narrowed slightly with irritation. Her distinctive red bow accented her brown hair and matching shrine maiden outfit.

"Suika. How many times do I have to tell you to stop inviting people over for drinking parties on my front porch?" Reimu grumbled, then looked up and spotted me, "Oh... Are you here about that delivery I ordered? I didn't think they'd be able to fill it so quickly." Apparently, Reimu appeared to have me confused with a deliveryman from the Human Village. Not surprising considering I WAS carrying a rather large knapsack on my back.

Ok James, you can do this. Just play it cool, act natural, and she hopefully won't send you blasting off using her Fantasy Seal. I shook my head at her question,"Sorry, I got nothing to deliver...you must be the Hakurei Shrine Maiden, a pleasure to meet you.."

I bowed a little to show the right respect,"My name's James White. I'm new around these parts so I felt getting to know some people would be good for me...also..well.."

Here was the make or break moment,"While I have nothing to deliver.." I pulled out my wallet and pulled out a couple bills,"Your shrine looks like it could use a donation, is that acceptable?"

"I see," Reimu's shoulders sagged slightly, "I should have known better than to expect them to have it ready in less than two days..." She stepped out of the doorway to listen in a slightly more polite manner, sliding the door shut behind her.

"You must be new around here with a name like James White," Reimu raised one of her eyebrows in a skeptical manner, "Wait, so first you tell me that my shrine looks like a dump, then you hand me strips of paper out of pity?" Clearly Reimu had simply leaped from one misunderstanding to another.

She stepped closer and picked up one of the bills, studying it carefully before giving another frustrated look, "This isn't any sort of talisman that I'm aware of, either... Did the idiots over at Myouren Temple send you over here to insult me, or something?"

"What? No! No!" I waved my hands,"That's not it at all!" Geez, was this girl dropped on her head as a baby or something? If she were, that would explain way too much,"You're getting the wrong idea, this is Money, see?" I showed her some silver quarters and gold loonies,"..or what we use for money back in the outside world.."

And I just blew my cover after not even being here five minutes...great,"..And yes I am from the outside world and yes..I was gapped here by Yukari...now before you go and fly off the handle, I knew what I was doing...I think.."

I then started sputtering, "Ok, so I was home minding my own business, Yukari pops in, I freak out and nearly have an existential crisis, and then she gave me this weird deal and I agreed, and she gave me these cards too, and put me here on some sort of trial period. I survive three weeks, I get to go home, now I'm here, with this weird riddle to solve and please
tell me you understand some bit of what I'm saying!"

Reimu's eyes widened slightly at the sudden revelation, but at least she wasn't as upset. She let out a sigh and held up her hands, "Alright, slow down... Why would I get upset when its Yukari's fault in the first place for grabbing you and tossing you wherever the hell she feels like? I don't know what she told you before running off, but you can't believe a word of what comes out of that mouth of hers."

Reimu leaned her back against the door frame with her arms folded, "Great... Now I have to check on the barrier to make sure its still stable. Its bad enough that random junk comes through from the other world, all I need now is a hoard of immigrants, too." She directed her attention back to me, "You sound like you've had a rough time, so why don't you come inside and we can talk about it over some tea?"

Without waiting for a reply, she slid the door back open and stepped in, leaving it ajar while she stepped into the tea room. Suika blinked and shrugged, "I guess you're off the hook for now..." Reimu was being understanding for once, and even Suika seemed a bit confused.

Breathing a sigh of relief to myself, I took off my shoes at the door and stepped inside. Me and the maiden sat at the table with our drinks and I got to work explaining in detail what had happened up till now. From me minding my own business in the Outside World, to Yukari's appearance in my life, the rather surreal chat we had about ourselves, and finally...the deal
we made.

I did my best to ease Reimu into the idea of Touhou Project but it was obvious she was more interested in what the Gap Youkai had told me before leaving me here.

"So, basically you're telling me that you have no idea why she brought you here in the first place or what she has in mind for you to accomplish, except that she wants you to meet someone," Reimu sighed then took a sip of her green tea,"I'd expect nothing less of that Yukari, so I can't say I'm surprised..."

"I think our best bet at figuring out what she has in mind is hidden in that riddle she told you," Reimu continued, "Riddles aren't really my thing, so we'll have to find someone else who is even more bored than I am to work it out for us."

"Until then, I suggest you find a job in the village or something," the shrine maiden waved her hand in the air, "I hardly get enough donations to support myself plus one freeloader, let alone two... That is, unless you can find someone willing to take that other-world money of yours." Reimu's eyes suddenly lightened up, "Actually, I know someone who would probably be overjoyed if you gave him that stuff."

I looked up at her while tilting my head,"Really? That would be great. Especially since I probably won't be needing this for a while," I gestured to the bills in my hand.

She nodded in agreement, ""There's a half-youkai that runs a shop right outside Magic Forest, and he'd love to take those useless talismans and coins off your hands," Reimu suggested, "He'll probably even give you a fair bit in exchange."

"The Magic Forest, huh?" I got up and opened the door, my eyes wandering over the scenery of the world that would be my home for the next few weeks. Sure, others would be overjoyed at the prospect of living in a fantasy world, but me? I knew better. I knew
that no matter where you live in life, there's always gonna be problems of some sort to deal with.

Sure, it was nice to look at and what not but...well, most people here had a few screws loose, to put it bluntly. You ever heard that saying "All That Glitters Is Not Gold"? Yeah, that sums up this place perfectly. If you weren't powerful enough and/or clever enough to stand up and make a name for yourself...you're Youkai Food.

But...this is what I wanted, there was no time for regrets. "One more question and then I'll leave you alone...do you have any tips or pointers for surviving in this world?" I turned and sat back down while holding up one of the bomb cards,"Because I only got three of these to spare, and I have the feeling they alone won't be nearly enough to see me through.."

Reimu was in the middle of frowning at the fact her teacup was empty but she seemed to brighten up when asked for advice, possibly indicating she enjoyed these types of questions. "Don't stick your nose into stuff that doesn't concern you. If you see something suspicious, leave it alone or tell someone who can actually do something about it. If it were me, I'd just kick their butts to make sure they stay in line,"

Reimu whipped out her purification staff and pointed it directly at my forehead, its tip mere inches away from me, "But I'm guessing that the reason you asked for my advice is because you're not strong enough to defend yourself at this point."

I simply kept quiet and didn't bother to answer, causing her to nod, "That's what I thought," The shrine maiden leaned back slightly from the table, setting her staff down beside her, "In that case, I'd suggest you bring someone along who can protect you. Normally that would be something I'd have to do, but I already have a lot of work in checking the barrier, so you'll have to find someone else who can act as your bodyguard." She probably just didn't want to bother with it, given that she did not seem to be in any particular rush to work on the barrier either.

"Take Suika with you if you have to... She's stronger than she looks, and most youkai you'll run into along the way wouldn't bother attacking while she's around," Reimu waved her hand in the air.

A bodyguard, huh? Well, for now, it would have to do, but geez, this girl just said whatever was on her mind, didn't she? Honestly, if I hadn't already read up about her using the wikis I think I would be offended..but than again, being a shrine maiden she needed to remain a mediator.

She couldn't pick sides in a conflict, no matter who it was with, and personal feelings needed to be kept separate from her job. It was her duty as a shrine maiden...though I sometimes wondered how she REALLY felt about that. But still, Youkai admired honesty, as far as I knew, and I doubted there were few people more honest and straightforward than Reimu.

"Well...you're a honest person, Miss Reimu, and I respect that.." I got up and slipped on my coat, fixing the hood,"Thank you again for everything...and don't worry, I'll be back soon with a REAL donation.." I gave her a thumbs up and turned to Suika,"Hey Suika? Do you wanna go hang out with the new guy for a bit?...We can get a drink later if you want."

If there was any way to get into an Oni's good books, it was through food and drink.

"I'm looking forward to it," Reimu smiled and waved to me while still seated at the table. She wasn't one who often exchanged many pleasantries, but the suggestion of honest-to-goodness donations was enough to make even Reimu get into a good mood, "Take care."

Suika Ibuki, who had been standing just outside the door, poked her head in, "You know it! I've been wondering when something interesting would turn up, and it seems like you might find yourself involved in something big..." The petite oni grinned in a slightly mischievous manner, "And where there is an incident, there will doubtless be some decent beatdowns... And afterwards, plenty of parties and drinking!"

"Don't jinx me, Suika," Reimu called out from the tea room, "If you get yourself into a fight, leave me out of it."

Suika nodded in Reimu's direction before setting off in the direction of the forest...
___________________________________________________________________

"Don't worry, Reimu just has to get used to you being around. After a few weeks she'll soften up a bit," the oni teased as we headed towards our destination, "Then you'll be free to win her heart with your finely-tuned masculine charms."

Wait, what was that oni girl implying?! Sure, I'd made a good first impression on Reimu but...seriously? Win her heart? Please tell me she's just joking about that. Reimu was cute and all but...well, her personality left much to be desired.

More importantly, I wasn't exactly mister attractive or supermodel material. I decided to strike up a conversation as we walked,"Umm...hey Suika, what makes you think an Incident is on the horizon? For all we know, this could just be Yukari screwing with everyone's heads...again..for the umpteenth time.."

"Well, you DO know a lot about Reimu, don't you? Most people don't even bother visiting her these days, so the fact that you went through the trouble to learn about her shows you have some sort of interest, right?" Suika let the subject drop, thankfully, when the topic of the possibility of an incident was brought to her attention.

"Hm... Its just a gut feeling that I have," Suika gave a reassuring smile, but if all she had to run with was her own feeling, then it was not as concrete of proof as one would like, "I suppose this wouldn't mean much to someone who is new around here, but there have been some unusual things going on lately. In fact, there was a rather strong shaking of the ground just a few days ago, but that celestial girl insists that it wasn't an earthquake. I dunno who made her the regional expert on earthquakes, but I'll take her word for it."

I won't lie, that info piqued my interest. It couldn't be Tenshi. Sure, she was a spoiled brat with the mental state of a child, but I highly doubted she was dumb enough to cause ANOTHER incident just to attract attention. Also, she had Iku to keep her in line...I hoped. It also helped that Suika was a frequent visitor to Heaven.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Suika here had an entire section of the Celestial Realm all to herself?...yeah, I'll stop geeking out for now. "So, this Half-Youkai we're going to go meet...they're all about collecting things from the outside world, are they?"

"Uhm, not really... Rinnosuke is just into that sort of thing for some reason. His ability to determine the name and purpose of objects from simply looking at them might have something to do with it," Suika chuckled, "There really aren't that many half-youkai running around Gensokyo, though. Marriages between youkai and humans is pretty rare to begin with, for various reasons."

"I'm pretty sure I know why.." I muttered more to myself than aloud. Even with the spell card system in play and the whole concept of "fair duels" there were always those who didn't respect the rules and just did whatever the heck they felt like doing. It was likely frustrating for all parties involved.

"I think we're coming upon the forest now...best be ready just in case we run into any trouble...not from Rinnosuke of course, but there's no telling what's waiting up ahead.." I cautiously stuck a hand in my pocket, just in case I was forced to use one of my bombs.

"Relax, its just the edge of the forest," Suika waved her hand in the air dismissively, "All the poisonous spores, man-eating plants, mischievous fairies, and aggressive youkai generally don't wander around Kourindou." The oni led the way in closer until a small shop came into view, hidden behind a small outcropping.

As expected, the shop looked like it hadn't seen any customers in quite a while. Outside there were all sorts of random things from the other world, including but not limited to a tanuki statue, some garden gnomes, and a tire swing. If this was just the stuff that couldn't fit inside the shop, doubtless there would be plenty of junk that he had managed to collect over the years that lined the shelves on the inside.

Suika walked up to the front door and knocked before entering, "Oi, anyone home?" Rinnosuke stood just behind the front desk, the walls of his shop neatly organized with all manner of goods that nobody in Gensokyo seemed particularly interested in buying.

The half-youkai nodded politely, "Good morning. What can I do for you?"

"Excuse me," I politely bowed before letting myself in,"Hello, you must be Rinnosuke. My name is James White, and I was wondering..." I reached into my wallet and withdrew some bills and coins,"You're into trading and collecting, right? Well, how much do you think this stuff from the outside world is worth?"

Rinnosuke almost fell over upon merely seeing the bills and coins presented to him, having to grab onto the counter to prevent his inevitable collision with the floor. He quickly stepped around the counter and looked them over with great interest.

"These coins and talismans..." Why did everyone assume the bills were talismans?! "They are used as a store of value in the other world... Men and women toil for hours without end for such things, and they are in such good condition, too!" Rinnosuke looked up, his glasses glinting, "How did you manage to get your hands on them?"

Oh for crying out loud, first Reimu now this guy? Geez, these people acted like they'd never seen money before...except they WERE a few hundred years behind the time so I guess you gotta cut them some slack. Might as well remain a bit professional about this.

Even so, it was probably best if, for now, I didn't show him any of the other stuff from the Outside World. If seeing a few dollar bills did THIS to him...well, seeing what else I had would probably give the poor guy a heart attack.

I scratched the back of my neck,"Ermm...well, these honestly aren't anything too special. You see, the Outside World is...a place where magic only exists in fairytales and in parlor tricks these days. Science and technology pretty much reign supreme. Honestly, you'd be surprised by some of the stuff we have these days...these things.."

I let him hold one,"We use them as a form of currency. They're actually very common, we even have machines to make them for us...and no, I don't have one of them on me. So common in fact you can even find them while simply walking down a street on
certain days."

"The Outside World is certainly an interesting and mysterious place," Rinnosuke nodded, "Despite how common they may be in the Outside World, here in Gensokyo we rarely come across actual currency from that world. For whatever reason, it just doesn't fall through the barrier that often, and when it does its often not in very good condition."

The shopkeeper let out a sigh, "Unfortunately, I do not have much to offer you in exchange. I can offer you five thousand yen for each of your fabric currency strips, one thousand yen for each of your gold coins, and two hundred yen for each of your silver coins. I realize its not even close to their actual value, but I'm a bit low on available funds myself, so I hope you'll understand."

"If you find anything in my shop that you'd like in exchange, I'm sure we can work something out that we will both find acceptable," Rinnosuke motioned toward the shelves of his store, "Please take your time."

Whoa, was this guy serious? Judging by the resolute look in his eyes, yes he was. Still, five thousand yen for the bills alone?
One thing was for sure. Reimu was going to be one happy shrine maiden.

I managed to snap out of my stupor and nod,"I'll do that, thank you," I waltzed over to the shelves and began browsing them, looking for certain souveneirs and stuff to take back with me. Of course, if I could get my hands on a weapon or some other means of defending myself that would be great. I wanted my bombs to be a secret weapon of sorts, a last resort if you will.

Before I could ask Rinnosuke, I heard the bell chime to signal a new customer. I glanced up and...I swear, it felt like my heart skipped a beat. It was her. Right down to the letter it was her. The wide-brimmed black hat and matching black dress with white frilled apron on the front and black shoes. She had long golden blonde hair with one strand done up in a small
braid. In her hands she carried her iconic broom and wore her signature smirk across her face.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marisa Kirisame! She stepped over to the counter, completely ignoring me and Suika as she slung her arm across it, "Yo Kourin! Do you have anymore of those herbal blends? I've just run out and need a fresh supply."

I turned away as I tried not to hyperventilate. Calm yourself down, James. Don't get carried away. Stay in control of your emotions...Ah screw it. I gotta go for it! Besides, I doubt I'll get another chance like this. I pulled out a pen and paper
from my pack and walked over, "Um...excuse me...M-Miss Kirisame..?"

I put my head down and held out the pen and paper,"M-My name is...J-James White and I was wondering...can I have the honour of getting your autograph?" Oh man, I must've looked so stupid right now.

"That's me da ze~" Marisa turned and pounded her chest proudly, although it might have just been her way of hiding her embarrassment at being asked for an autograph right out of the blue, "I didn't know I had a fan club... James White, was it?" She set her broom against the wall before taking the pen and paper and tapped her foot a few times as if trying to think of what to write.

She nodded twice then began to write, adding a little picture of herself winking as an extra after she was finished. The message read:

"Ordinary Magician Marisa Kirisame,

With Love to James White."


Marisa handed the paper and pen back, rather pleased with the result, "Here you are... You know, I don't remember seeing you around before. Have we met, or are you a fan through reputation alone?" The magician grinned at me which made me resist the
urge to blush. Apparently she was very pleased at the prospect of having a fan.

"Thanks so much...and sorry again about coming up to you out of the blue. It's just...well, if my appearance and name haven't tipped you off yet...I'm kinda from the outside world...and you can probably take three guesses how I got here...by the way, the first two don't count.."

"But yeah, from where I come from, stories about Gensokyo kinda exist as these...moving pictures is the best way...and your own stories are among the most popular. Especially the ones involving the Scarlet Mist and the Endless Winter incidents. So no, we haven't met yet...but trust me, I'm a fan of your work.."

"Oh really?" Marisa blinked, as it seemed she hadn't spent the time to connect the dots herself, "Kourin's from the Outside World, too, actually, so its really not that strange, da ze~" Marisa did not worry too much about such things, especially if they didn't involve fighting or interesting developments.

Rinnosuke laughed nervously, "That was quite a while ago, though, so I really don't remember much at all about it. Its changed a lot from what I hear, so I'm almost as much at a loss about what goes on there as anyone else."

"I just assumed you were a friend of Kourin's, which would have explained your get-up," Marisa crossed her arms in front of her chest, "My work, you say? Its funny, I don't know anyone else who actually appreciates what I do..." She flashed another grin, "Pleased to meet you. Perhaps we can get to know each other a bit better... Just give me a minute, alright?"

The magician turned her attention back to Rinnosuke, "I think I'll make that a double order. And in exchange, I'll give you this!" She slammed something down onto the counter that resembled an earthenware pot of some sort. Exactly how she managed to carry it around on her without a bag or backpack remained a mystery.

"Alright," the shopkeeper nodded, and reached under the counter before setting down two jars containing herbal tea, allegedly.

"Thanks," Marisa scooped up the jars and dropped them into her pocket. Don't ask, just...don't ask.

I then remembered I had something to ask the shopkeeper myself, ""That reminds me, Mr Rinnosuke. I was wondering, do you have any sort of weapons or tools that could be used for self-defense? I'm going to be stuck here for a while and I don't want to be constantly bothering people to keep an eye on me."

"Let me see..." Rinnosuke ducked back below the counter for a moment before popping back up, setting down a few knives, a baseball bat, a wooden sword, and a pistol, "I'm sorry to say that I don't know how to use any of them, but they are weapons of some sort or other."

He walked around the counter and returned with the katana, carefully setting it down on the counter along with its decorative holder, "I also have this sword, but I've gotten a bit attached to it, to be perfectly honest... Its one of my store's treasures, but its probably the best thing I have at the moment for self-defense purposes."

Rinnosuke mused, "If you need training in how to use it, I'd talk to Youmu Konpaku. Its quite a walk from here, though, and you'll need the help of someone who can fly as well."

"A sword.." I inspected the blade. Yeah, it was a definite Japanese Katana. The material used in it is probably some of the sharpest metal in the world. Could cut through just about anything...even still, its use in a Danmaku battle would be...questionable at best. Youmu could get away with it due to being a master of swordsmanship, but me?

Pfft, I may've swung around a toy sword as a kid but the real thing? No way. Also, this was Rinnosuke's sword. I couldn't take this from him. I gently shoved the sword back to him and smiled,"Thank you..but I cannot accept it. If this sword is something important to you..something you've grown attached to...than you should protect it and keep it safe with all your heart...besides, I'm no sword expert, and it would take far too long to become one.."

"But..I appreciate all your help.." I shoved my outside world money toward him,"I'll take whatever currency you can spare, and you can keep some of this for yourself. Don't worry, I'll be fine, honest."

"If you insist," Rinnosuke let out a slight sigh, apparently looking a bit guilty about taking such a bargain, "but if you ever require my assistance in the future, please don't hesitate to ask." He carefully accepted the currency and wrapped it in linens before stashing it away behind the counter.

The shopkeeper doled out twenty thousand yen in exchange, and I stored it away in my wallet when Suika finally came back around to us, "Ah, you finished? How about we head back to the shrine than?" She yawned and stretched her arms up into the air, "I'm sure Reimu is expecting us back soon anyways."

"Sounds like a plan," Marisa placed her hands onto her hips, "We can chat more over some of that fancy tea I just secured."

"Since when did you join the party?" Suika turned toward her while raising an amused eyebrow.

"What were you expecting, a popup window asking if you would like to allow Marisa Kirisame to join?" Marisa grinned. I wondered
if she realized just how much of a hole she had punched through the fourth wall,"Now than, shall we get a move on?" We bidded good-bye to Rinnosuke and started our walk back to the shrine.

As we walked, Marisa struck up a conversation with me, "So...you're a fan of me and my work, eh?" She grinned in my direction, "In that case, answer me this...out of all my Spell Cards that you know of...which one's your favorite?"

I tilted my head as I pondered which of them did I like best, "Hmm...I do like that one which turns your broom into the equivalent of a rocket booster...but if I had to choose I would say your Master Spark," I smiled at her, "Few things are as cool as being able to carry around and fire off a Wave Motion Gun whenever you darn well please."

"I know, right!" Marisa laughed as she tossed her portable Hakkero up and down in her hand, "Sometimes I think of just yelling Kamehameha when I fire this bad boy off da ze!...Or maybe I should yell I'm Firin My Lazer! Have yet to decide which one would be cooler," She pointed to my bag,"By the way, you got anything to eat in that bag of yours? I'm kinda in the mood for the munchies."

"Did you forget to eat breakfast again?" Suika chimed in with a playful wink, "Or are you simply trying to mooch off your "fan", Marisa?" The magican's reply was simply to give one of her cheeky grins.

I snickered and reached into my bag,"Sure, here you go," I handed her an apple.

"Thanks," She took the fruit and tore a juicy chunk out of it with her teeth before chewing and swallowing, "So, what brings you here to Gensokyo, James? Judging by your appearance and name, I'm going to assume you must be the newest Outsider, eh?"

"Pretty much, yeah," Before I could continue explaining, I heard a cry along with laughter not far from us and flashes of light, "But it's probably better I explain myself back at the shrine, come on." The others nodded and we took off together...or more like I ran, they flew, "Show offs..." I muttered to myself as I ran to keep up with them.
_____________________________________________

As we got closer though, it quickly became clear that not all was well at the shrine. Specifically, it was under siege by a group of mischievous fairies. Sunny Milk, Star Sapphire, and Luna Child were flying about while the shrine maiden waved them off with her purification rod. Reimu didn't seem to be taking them very seriously, though as the majority of the danmaku that the fairies were firing at her went in practically all directions except toward Reimu.

"This will teach you to stop stealing my rice crackers!" Reimu whipped out some talismans from her sleeves and spread them out in a fan-like pattern, the emblems on them glowing brightly before they flew, dodging and weaving in between the small, glowing bullets that the fairies had fired at her. The fairies suddenly fled in panic as the talismans followed them relentlessly. Reimu laughed, leaving one to ponder who was the real villain in this situation.

"They never learn, do they?" Marisa approached her friend, nodding in approval.

"Not really, but at least they try something new each time," Reimu shrugged then turned toward me, "So, how did it go?"

At her question, I smiled and shook my head,"It went well enough. I gotta say though, that Rinnosuke guy, he's...well, he's certainly eccentric, I'll say that much. Heck, when he saw my stuff from the outside, he pretty much flipped.." I glanced off after the retreating fairies,"All I can say is...I'm glad I didn't show him any of the other items I brought from the Outside. Didn't wanna give the poor fella a seizure or anything of the sort..."

"Eccentric doesn't even cut it," Reimu admitted while shaking her head. Judging by the look of anticipation in her eyes, I knew what she was waiting for. I hauled out my wallet and placed a few thousand yen in her hand. As a result, her eyes lit up in a way that was almost magical, "Thank you for your generous donation...may the gods bless you and your offspring...and may fortune smile upon you..."

Reimu waved her staff back and forth a few times, then pocketed the money without further ado, "Now that's settled... Would you like to come in for some tea and rice crackers? Don't worry, I'll give the ones the fairies nibbled on to Suika."

"I managed to lift some of the good stuff from Kourin," Marisa declared proudly, as if lifting goods were something one should brag about, "So leave the tea to me, Reimu."

"Who said you could come in?" Reimu asked Marisa, her eyes slightly narrowed.

"Aw, come on... I brought some tea, the least you can do is show me a little hospitality," Marisa smiled, "Besides, I need some place cool to chat with my new friend."

"Since when did the two of you get so chummy?" Reimu's shoulders sagged slightly, "Whatever, come on in..." She turned and led the group back to the tea room.

"Anybody want cookies?" I hauled out a bag of chocolate chip cookies from my knapsack, "These were made by mom. A little something to go with our-" I had no time to finish as the bag simply upped and vanished from my grasp and all I saw was Reimu
dumping the whole thing out onto a plate as both her and Suika grabbed handfuls to indulge themselves with.

I opened my mouth to object...only for me to shrug, feeling it wasn't worth it, especially since all the chewing and murmurs
of approval was a sign that appreciated the treat. It also helped that I noticed Reimu glaring at Suika from across the table
as if trying to intimidate the oni into giving up her share of cookies.

I decided to speak up before the shrine maiden did something drastic, "Um...right..as for how me and Marisa are such buddies?
Well, apparently, she appreciates being given praise of any sort..."

"Sounds like Marisa alright," Reimu shrugged, "Send a few honeyed words in her direction and she'll roll over like a puppy if you ask her to." I wouldn't know about that but considering the magician's attitude towards me, maybe there was some merit behind that idea?

"I do not!" Marisa protested, sticking her tongue out at Reimu as she poured up tea for the group, "You're just jealous that I have a fan and you don't."

"You actually have a fan?" Reimu gave her friend an incredulous look, "You have got to be kidding me..."

"Hehe...um..she's not kidding.." I spoke up suddenly, now feeling a bit embarassed,"Remember how I told you about the Touhou Series? Well, she's actually one of the most popular characters in the entire fandom.."

"Impossible!" Reimu slammed her hand down onto the table, giving me quite a startle, "No matter how you look at it, I'm the main character, so it goes without saying that I should be the most popular character!" Ok, what kind of logic was that?

Suika patted Reimu on the shoulder, "Don't worry, Reimu. If we had a popularity poll here in Gensokyo, I'd vote for you over Marisa."

"That doesn't make me happy at all..." Reimu glanced over at Suika, then back at me with a completely serious look on her face, "But what about you? Don't you feel ashamed for following in lock-step with the ignorant masses?" Apparently Reimu took this sort of thing very seriously...

"Perhaps people like James here just have better taste, da ze~" Marisa set down a steaming cup of tea for everyone at the table before taking a seat herself. I knew I needed to do something to defuse this situation before it escalated...however futile it would
ultimately prove to be.

'Marisa, you might not want to push your luck. Reimu looks ready to explode on us.." I warned before putting up my hands,"Easy there, Reimu. I said she's ONE of the most popular, not THE most popular. For all I know, maybe you are the most popular, I don't know..." I scratched the back of my neck nervously, "Besides...people are free to like and dislike whatever they want, right? It's
our right as sentient beings,"

"And didn't a wise individual once say "We're all different, therefore we're all the same"?"

"That may be true, but I also have my own rights, which includes the right to change people's minds," Reimu stood up from the table and pointed directly at Marisa, "Marisa, I challenge you to a duel! The winner gets to keep James as their fan, while the loser acknowledges the popularity of the winner!"

"Fine with me, da ze~" Marisa whips out her Mini-Hakkero, clutching it in her hand tightly before heading outside with Reimu close behind.

"Things have started to get interesting around here all of a sudden," Suika laughed, "Good job, James... You've only been here for what, half a day? And you already have two girls fighting over you." She took a long swig from her gourd, letting the truth of her statement sink in.

I took a few moments to let what just happened sink in...like, REALLY sink in. I had accidentily gotten the resident Shrine Maiden and her trigger-happy magician best friend to fight over me...granted, it was for popularity reasons, but still.

I felt my face turn pale as a ghost as I buried my face in my hands,"Oh my gosh, what have I done? I feel like I'm in one of those types of Touhou fics nobody likes talking about..or in one of those animes where the guy gets girls literally fighting over him..."

There was only one reasonable thing to do at a time like this,"...Suika?" I glanced up at her as I held out my glass,"You don't mind if I have a drop of that gourd, do you?"

"Why not? We're drinking buddies, after all... And you look like you could use a drink, besides," Suika tipped her gourd, filling the glass all the way up to the rim with sake. Afterward, she held her gourd out, "Bottoms up!" Suika then proceeded to take yet another long drink, ending with a refreshed gasp.

"Ah, yes... Nothing quite does it like sake," Suika grinned, while outside the sounds of battle reverberated through the walls of the shrine. Explosions and flashes of light were exchanged and the glasses on the table shook and clanked together while the duel raged on.

"So, if you aren't happy about them fighting over you, I take it that your tastes in girls are a bit different, am I right?" Suika nudged me in the shoulder with her elbow. Somehow, Suika was getting quite a kick out of all this. One could even argue she was rubbing
this all in a little too much.

I tried not to blush and turned my head away,"I-It's not that...it's just..is it really necessary for them to have to fight over something so minor and trivial?"

"If anything, it's...a little embarassing..I mean, I haven't even done anything to attract their attention and I...to be honest, I've never been too good around girls..I was always taught to treat them nicely, like actual people and not just something to be ogled or worshipped,""I didn't really think it would ever lead to something like this.." I took another sip of my drink,"But...I suppose that's life for ya..you can never be sure what it has in store for you...or how your choices will affect the outcome of it."

Suika let out a laugh, "James, this is Gensokyo. Doesn't everybody fight over minor or trivial things?" She took a swig of her gourd, "I'll tell you something else, too. Its not always about what you do or even what you look like when girls are involved. Sometimes people just click, you know? Its like sushi and sake. Why do sushi and sake go together? How would I know... But they go together for some reason, even if common sense would dictate otherwise."

"If it were all about looks, I'd probably be at the bottom of most people's lists," Suika smiled, "Although I hate to admit it, I'm flat as a board and my horns aren't exactly a turn-on, either. Out of the two of us, I think you're in a better position than I am."

"You know what I think? I think you think too much," I glanced over to her as laid down, sprawled out over the tatami mat floor while she stared up at the ceiling, "If you're so bothered about everything, then you'll end up stuck in life. Think less and just let life go about its business... That's what I do, and it hasn't failed me yet."

"Well, you aren't that bad looking, you're kinda cool in my eyes.." I stretched out and got more comfy, letting out a sigh,"But...you might have a point...people back home sometimes told me I worry or tend to put too much thought into things..."

"But...life isn't all rose and butterflies. There's always going to be certain responsibilities you gotta step up and take on at
some point. If one is always so carefree about everything...nothing will ever get done. People are always going to expect
certain things from you, and the last thing you want to do is..." I sighed while glancing up at the ceiling,"Not be able to live
up to those expectations."

"Thanks," Suika smiles, grateful for the compliment, "You're not to bad-looking yourself. Slip on some tailored linens and you might even be downright handsome."

"You should live honest to yourself, James," the oni continued, "If you do that, not only will you feel better about yourself, I'm sure others will come to appreciate you for who you are rather than who you pretend to be... In the very least, I find honest people to be very attractive. Why else do you think I hang out with Reimu so much?"

"Don't get trapped by what other people expect you to measure up to. Set your own goals in life and strive to reach them instead," Suika opened one eye.

"Live honest to myself, eh?" I stared up at the ceiling. Up till recent years I always felt trapped by what other people expected of me...but in the end, was that really what was important? Wasn't living up to your own expectations more crucial and fulfilling?

I chuckled out loud, "Heh...you make that sound so flipping easy, Suika...but I guess it's something worth thinking about, thanks," I glanced over to her,"Where exactly did you learn to be so philosophical?"

"Philosophical? Me?" Suika laughed, "I don't think about things long enough to be considered philosophical. I suppose some of it might come from my talks with Yukari on occasion, but that's a different matter entirely." Wait, what?

"I'm just trying to offer some friendly advice to my drinking buddy," Suika sat up, noticing that the sounds outside where starting to lessen, "So, who do you think is going to win?"

"Hmm.." I pondered that thought over for a few seconds,"Well, it's hard to say. They're the two top Youkai Hunters in this entire world, they've each fought immensely powerful individuals in their pasts including demons, gods, shinigami, celestials, and so on...plus they've known each other for quite a few years so they could probably see through each other's moves.."

I shrugged,"Your guess is as good as mine, but they seem about even in my eyes. Personally, I'd rather it end in a draw, but I think it'll come down to not who is more powerful or skillful...but who has the stronger will, who is capable of keeping their cool more...and that one opportune moment..." I held up a finger for emphasis,"That one moment when you see an opening...and you take it."

"That's often what fights are decided by," Suika nodded, "But I have a feeling that neither of them are going to approach this fight in that manner. They both have their pride on the line, after all, and nothing gets Reimu and Marisa's blood boiling quite like a personal spat."

"Who is having a personal spat?" Reimu asked, who had been standing just inside the room, completely unnoticed, for some time. Her robes were slightly soiled and her hair was somewhat out of place as she took her seat at the table, crossing her arms indignantly. Marisa entered soon after her, in a somewhat better mood than her friend.

"So, Reimu~" Marisa grinned, "Which of us is the most popular?" The witch really knew how to rub in a victory, even though she looked just as dirty and battered as the shrine maiden.

"Sit down and shut up," Reimu huffed, "The fight really doesn't matter since it wouldn't change James' mind anyway." She just then realized that?

"If you wanna be that way," Marisa shrugged, taking her seat as well, "Fine with me, da ze~" She turned towards me with a smile, "Sorry about that, James. You said you were going to explain how you got here to Gensokyo, right?"

I nodded and set about explaining what had happened to me up till now to Marisa, hoping to get her up to speed on what was going down. Having to repeat this story yet again was getting a little aggrevating though I did have Reimu to vouch for me now which helped alleviate some of the irritation. Everyone looked all shades of confused by the end, even though Suika looked like she was hanging on to every word I said. Eh, than again she had mentioned wanting something interesting to happen around here.

"I'm not sure what ta say, da ze~" Marisa scratched her head, more than just a bit confused, "It sounds ta me like ol' Gap-Happy believes somethin' is goin' down soon, but that riddle of hers isn't making it any easier to know what, exactly. There have been those earth shakes, but that don't give us much to work with either, da ze~"

"It's pretty suspicious to me that she'd willingly bring someone from the Other World here in the first place, and give him a three-week trial period," Reimu added, "I think its safe to say that whatever is going to happen, its going to happen sometime over the next three weeks... Aside from that, I have nothing."

"Same here," I munched on one of the few cookies I'd managed to snag, "The only thing I can think of is to focus on that riddle she left me with. If we can figure out that, we'll at least have something to point us in the right direction."

"You said that Yukari wanted you to meet someone, right?" Reimu crossed her arms and nodded, "The person she's referring to could be the one responsible for the earth shakes. If that's the case, then all we have to do is figure out who is behind them and make sure you meet her,"

"That's not necessarily the answer either, Reimu," Marisa spoke up, "What if the person Yukari wants him to meet is supposed to help resolve the incident in some way instead of being the perpetrator herself."

"UGH!" Reimu threw her hands up into the air, "This is starting to make my head ache... I wish I could just beat it out of Yukari right here and now instead of playing along with her little game."

"I think we need to find someone who can figure out the riddle for us, first," Marisa suggested, "Without that, we won't be able to get very far, da ze~"

"So, you guys know of anyone at all that would be good at riddles?" I asked as I glared at Marisa to get her hand away from my meager share of cookies.

"Riddles?" Marisa blinked as she withdrew her hand, not looking the least bit embarassed by her little stunt, "Probably someone with a lot of free time on their hands, da ze~" Why did people in Gensokyo assume riddles were only for the insanely bored?

"Kaguya Houraisan, perhaps?" Reimu suggested, "She strikes me as the sort of person who lazes about under a kotatsu all day, eating tangerines and complaining about how much pith remains on the fruit after peeling them."

"Yeah, I suppose she does," Marisa laughed, amused with the mental image of Kaguya complaining to Eirin about tangerines. We all seemed to be on the same wavelength as each of us managed a small chuckle at the thought.

"Hopefully, we'll get lucky and this will be one of those rare, rare, very rare days where she and Mokou aren't having one of their old throw-downs.." I began packing up my bag,"But than again, you two are awesome enough to knock some sense into both of them if you want to...still, at least wait until I'm out of range before you start throwing around the lasers, deal?"

"Deal, but don't blame me if I end up blasting them both away at once instead," Marisa spoke with confidence, as Reimu stood up from the table.

"We should get going right away then, if we want to reach Eientei before sunset," Reimu picked up the dishes from the tea table and dropped them into the sink.

"I'll look after the shrine for you while you're away," Suika offered.

"Just don't throw any parties while I'm out, Suika," Reimu glanced at the oni who only grinned in response, causing her to sigh and shake her head before we all headed out...
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 2 Part 1
Well, here you go guys, Chapter 2 of Step Into Gensokyo...or at least the first part XD

Yeah, Deviantart has this thing where you can only upload so much text at one time
so I needed to split each chapter into multiple parts. Sorry about that...than again, this might
work to your advantage since...well, for lack of a better description...my works tend to have REALLY
long chapters with a lot happening in them...

So yeah, everyone's favorite pair of Youkai Hunters are here to kick butt, chew bubblegum and
ask questions later. No time for fun and games though cause an incident's on the horizon...but is
everything really as it seems?

Part 2 coming soon...
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Step Into Gensokyo: James White by GamerXZ
Step Into Gensokyo: James White
And I present to you all my horrible, horrible drawing skills! XD

Yes, to all three of you who were wondering what exactly Mr White looked like...this should give you an
idea...yeah, needless to say, I should probably stick to writing...

Also, this is partially a gift for :iconkigurou-enkou:icon for being a good friend and helping me get more use
to Walfas, and for helping me create the Walfa for James White. 

So yeah, here's the hero of Step Into Gensokyo, armed with the power of the Spell Capture Cards...oh, this attire?
He wears it when he goes to fight against...actually, I can't spoil it for you. XD

Here's a link to FF.net for what I got so far: www.fanfiction.net/s/11229201/…

Enjoy!
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Step Into Gensokyo Part 2 will be up soon, just wanted to give you guys the heads up XD
Chapter 1: Close Encounters Of The Phantasm Kind

You know, if there's one thing I've learned about life it's that it can always find new ways to surprise you. What's more, said surprises have a tendency of happening at the most unexpected moments. Oh, you could have everything down pat, think you're on top of the world, the master of your own destiny...and that's when it gets you.

That kind of unpredictability means one needs to use some caution, you know, think things through, because none of us can be sure what tomorrow will bring. Why, you could get run over by a car, get invited out on a date by a girl you have the hots for, your house could catch fire...for some reason.

...Or you could find yourself in truly bizarre situations where you find yourself being stalked by a character from a video game series, getting drawn into a deal that sounds too good to be true and being whisked off on the kind of adventure that only someone who reads too many comic books and eats buckets of sugar can dream up.

Yeah, in case you haven't figured it out yet, that last example was what I currently found myself in. Now, you're probably sitting there, reading this, and thinking to yourself "What on earth is this guy yammering about? Am I listening to the raving words of a lunatic?" Don't worry, if I was in your situation right now, I'd probably be pondering the same thing.

I guess the best place to start explaining myself is the beginning...so let's get this show on the road, shall we?
____________________________________________________________________

It all started on a Friday. Classes were done and I was on my way home, and needless to say this latest week had been rather brutal with two papers due, an in-class test, and a presentation on top of all that. Needless to say, I was pretty pooped out and more than ready to kick back with some video games, a pile of snack food, and maybe browse the internet for some new fics to read.

Admit it, after a week like that you would wanna do the same thing.

Oh right, should probably give you a bit of background info on yours truly. Name's James White. Just turned 21 the previous year. Stand about 5 foot, 11 inches in height with short deep brown hair and brown eyes. My physique is...a bit more on the bulkier side than I might like with broad shoulders and a bit more of stockiness to me than someone who's completely thin. Not enough to be unattractive but enough that it's noticeable.

Canadian descent, and still unemployed while living with my parents till I finish my degree and has a small circle of people I'm close with or at least keep in contact with. My life followed a fairly simple routine:

Get up, get dressed, wash, eat breakfast, check to see if I have classes that day, go to said classes, eat lunch, finish classes, than either go to the public libary, or come home and study, have supper, do a bit more study than shower, grab a snack, play a few video games and than it's off to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. Routine might alter slightly on certain days but that's the basic gist of it.

I know that may not sound like the most exciting way to spend one's days but that's kinda the point. I wasn't really that big a thrill-seeker, where's other people liked extreme sports I preferred gaming or kicking back with a good book. Yes, I dreamt of going on grand adventures here and there but, to be honest, who HASN'T thought of doing that at some point in their lives?

I does well enough when it comes to education, even moreso when I'm actually motivated..though I have a bit of a tendency to procrastinate and leave things till last minute. I'm not really much of a fighter either, preferring to talk problems out than use my fists. Yeah, not exactly your first choice to be a hero and go off to slay some great evil, eh?

Where was I? Oh yeah, getting off the bus in time to feel a droplet of water on my head. I glanced up to see the clouds becoming unusually dark and grey as I simply stood there while rain began to fall on me. I finally sighed and folded my arms,"Rain...great. Just how I wanted to start off my Mid-Term Break too..." Deciding I would rather NOT get a cold, I put my hood up and trekked along
to my house, grabbing the mail and opening the door before chucking the mail on the step and locking said door behind me.

With my parents out of town for the weekend, I had the whole place to myself so I dropped my bag off in my bedroom and headed out to the kitchen to stick a pizza in the oven and crack open a can of root beer. I took a large gulp and let out a loud burp with a content sigh,"Ahh...I feel better already..."

With the timer set on my food, I headed back to my room and fired up the computer as I got out a pen and paper to help me brainstorm ideas for stories I wanted to write. Of course, me having a slight Otaku in me, I also browsed the web for info on Touhou Project, preferably for more info on the next episode of Memories Of Phantasm. Nothing new so I settled down with my drink and
got to browsing the web.

Yep, quiet and peaceful, just the way I liked to spend my days.

It would've been a day like any other too, if a certain someone had not decided to step in for some reason. Maybe it was out of curiosity? Boredom? Who knows? There might've been a perfectly valid reason for this person's entry into my life but at the time, it was not made apparent.

The sound of a zipper being undone made me stop and tilt my head over to see what looked like a thin line drawn across the air. Normally, I would've chalked this up to my eye playing tricks on me...except for the fact this line had actual width and even cast a shadow on the floor beneath it.

It's a good thing I was seated down in my swivel chair because at that moment, my legs felt like they were turning to jelly, especially when the line lengthened out and tilted down slightly to become a giant eyelid.

The "eyelid" then proceeded to open up like an actual eye, exposing what looked like pure darkness within. Amid the darkness were eyes...so many eyes...staring right into your soul...yeah, I was gonna be paranoid as heck for a while just from seeing this. Believe it
or not, the gap and the eyes were not the strangest thing I would see today..

Leaning her elbows against the edges of the gap was a young woman with long blonde hair and a careless smile spread across her lips. She wore a long purple dress and had on long white gloves. In her hands, she carried a parasol and a fan. I won't lie, the effect that the contrast created between her and the gap was more than a little surreal.

She then chose to speak,"Hello there," She waved her fan, "I couldn't help but notice that you were looking for something..." She rested her head against her left hand, "Would you like me to help you find it?"

I stopped myself at the sight of who was before me. Yes people...standing before me...was the Border Youkai, Yukari Yakumo herself.

I did the only reasonable thing I could think of at the time and proceeded to slap myself quite hard,"Owww..." It stung like heck, but when I looked up...she was still there. Still smiling at me like she didn't have a care in the world. I then did the only other option available to me...I
cautiously used my feet to shove my swivel chair backwards until I was out in the hallway, reached in, and closed my bedroom door before laying my head against it.

Oh my gosh, I've gone flipping insane. I've gotten too far into Touhou and now it's affecting my perceptions of reality!...Or maybe it's a side effect of eating chocolate cake before bed. That might work too. I lifted my head and took a deep breath to try and compose myself. Calm
down, James. You don't do anyone any good by freaking out.


If you-know-who is in there, the least you can do is find out what she wants...and then shoot her down gently if it's what you think it is. Suddenly, I heard what seemed like the sounds of one of my Touhou games being played behind the door,"What on earth..?".

Cautiously, I opened the door, only to be shocked by the sight of Yukari Yakumo, one of, if not THE, most powerful and feared youkai in the entire Touhou franchise...was using one of her gaps as a seat and was before my computer playing Embodiment of the Scarlet Devil. I swear, I am not making that up. Judging by the look in her eyes, she was intently focused on the screen. I won't lie, it was quite a contrast with her typical portrayal in the fandom as a scheming, cunning manipulator who used people in her plans without them noticing.

Summoning what courage I held, I cleared my throat,"Ah hm? Erm...Yukari Yakumo?"

"Hm?" She paused the game and looked over in my direction,"Oh, hello there! Sorry, I just didn't know how long you were gonna take so I figured I would amuse myself for a bit with one of your games here. I must say, I can see why your kind gets so addicted to them..."

I did my best not to roll my eyes,"Yeah, that's Touhou for ya...so...you really ARE Yukari Yakumo and I haven't hit my head and am simply hallucinating all this?"

"Bing-bo!" Yukari laughed, "That's correct, my dear boy!" She waved the fan in the air as if to celebrate the fact she had invited herself into my home unannounced and with no clear purpose. She leaned forward slightly, "No need to look so on edge. I came all this way to meet you and make
your dreams come true. What more could a bored, lonely young man like you possibly ask for?"

I won't lie, her smile seemed remarkably harmless and easy to fall for, and she was easy on the eyes herself to begin with...but then I reminded myself that she was one of the most dangerous Youkai for some darn good reasons. Besides, make my dreams come true? I swear, if I wasn't
so intimidated right now, I would probably laugh. I wasn't stupid. I'd lived long enough and been through enough crap to learn that VERY few people ever do something and not ask something in return. Going as far as to hold a debt over someone's head.

I did my best to once more compose myself, which wasn't easy when you're staring down the Border Youkai herself, "Well...since I know who you are..it's only fair you know my name. James White. I would say it's nice to meet you but you DID just break into my house..."

I folded my arms,"Now, what did you mean exactly by making my dreams come true? Because I'll let you know I have a decent life right here. I mean...what are you even doing here?"

"Oh James, surely you jest!" Yukari giggled, waving her fan and dismissing the tension,"I'm just paying you a friendly visit, that's all. Don't your friends do the same from time to time?" She wiggled her legs about while somehow remaining seated on the gap. How she did it would forever
remain a mystery to me.

"Don't pretend like you're happy with your life as it is...would someone who is content with their life spend so much time by themselves, learning about a world that he believes to be fake yet wishing at the same time it was as real as the world you see around you?"Yukari turned her head to
the side slightly, eyes still remaining fixed, "You want something more out of life...excitement..mystery...perhaps something to stave off the loneliness even?"

"I know this because I want the very same things for my own life," Yukari smiled once again, "But the world continues to turn and the universe simply minds its own business. It doesn't care about what you and I might want, it just does whatever it wishes. You can't simply expect life to
drop into your lap gift-wrapped. You have to do something about it if you want things to change. Perhaps we should...take action. Don't you agree?"

Gosh darn it. That lady could read me like an open book...well, sorta. I winced and averted my gaze, especially at the implication we were alike, "That's easy for you to say, Miss Yakumo. You're the one who's immortal. You're the one who can snap her fingers and do just about anything. Me? I wasn't handed life on a silver platter...I worked hard to get where I am. What I got isn't much...but at least I can say I earned my keep in this world,"

I took a sip of my root beer,"...I need to know something too. Why me specifically? There must be thousands of other folks who are far more desperate than I am to escape the supposed "monotony" of everyday life...so what sets me apart from them?"

Yukari was quiet for a second, as if contemplating how to respond, before doing so, "Hmm...I just felt you would be the one best suited to the job," She shrugged, "While it's true that you aren't a whole lot different from someone you could find anywhere else in the world, you have
something the others don't have."

"Humans are born everyday, but each of them lead very different lives. Some of them rise to greatness while others don't get anywhere in life. It's a roll of the dice so to speak, and that's exactly what you have," She pointed her arm in my direction with a smile, "You have the
opportunity and they don't."

Man, this woman could string together some pretty impressive speeches when she wants to, "I see...another question than...don't take this the wrong way but what are you hoping to get out of this? You must benefit somehow from this..."

Yukari rose an eyebrow at this latest question,"My, my...aren't you just a living questionnaire...still, an inquisitive mind is something I can definitely respect,"

She leaned backwards slightly, "What do I get out of this? Oh...it's nothing you'd be interested in, really. I suppose you can say it's a matter of personal importance. Why do you choose the strawberry-flavored crepe instead of the blueberry? You might be in the
mood for strawberry at the time, or you just don't care much for blueberry. Do you ever stop and ask the people who order crepes why they order that particular flavor? It's much the same sort of thing in this case...only you're not a strawberry crepe."

Ah geez, you can never get a straight answer out of this girl. Always gotta beat around the bush instead of just answering the bloody question. I resisted the urge to facepalm, even though said desire was strong indeed.

I let out a sigh, but thankfully, I was saved by the buzzer in the kitchen,"Oh! That must be my pizza," I turned back toward her and scratched the back of my neck, "I, uh...don't get many visitors often and I'm not sure what your feelings are on Western Cuisine...but how about I treat you before you need to leave? I think I have some green tea in the cupboard you might like."

Sure, this woman had busted into my house and given me a totally Faustian deal that sounded way too good to be true...but she wasn't trying to kill me yet and I hadn't detected the hint of a lie, so that was a good sign, right? Besides, it was rude to not provide hospitality to a guest.

"That would be lovely, thank you," Yukari finally set her feet down on the floor and stood up, folding her parasol before looking around my room, "Pardon the intrusion.." Despite her lazy demeanor, she moved with surprising grace as she exited the room with me and the gap closed
up on itself.

Once we were in the kitchen, she jumped up on the counter, apparently taking the offer as a free pass to do what she wanted, and I wasn't in the mood to argue with the woman who can tie the fabric of reality in knots, "Hmm...how about this than? I'll give you a free trial period, just
like those ads on the TV," I glanced in her direction, my interest piqued, as she rested her head against the back of her right hand.

"I will provide you a new outlook on life for three weeks time," She held up her pointer, middle, and ring fingers on her left hand, "If you want your old life back, all you have to do is let me know and I'll drop you right here, no questions asked and absolutely no obligations. I'll even throw in a free cupcake for your trouble,"

"However, if you come to realize that you prefer your new life, than all I have to ask you in return is just one little favor," Yukari smiled and flicked open the fan, holding it before her face, "It's nothing big, really. I just want you to meet a certain someone...I'm sure she wants to meet you as well, even if she doesn't know it yet".

It was safe to say that the powerful youkai was still speaking in vague generalities, but at least she was being a bit more specific about what she was offering. I put the kettle on to boil as I pondered her offer over in my mind. Three weeks in Gensokyo...a world that I'd mostly only
read about. I'd get to meet Reimu, Marisa, Cirno, Suika, Kaguya, and everyone else. Plus, assuming I survived, it would make an awesome inspiration for any novels I planned to write.

Also, despite still being vague as heck, at least Yukari was being a bit more forthcoming with info on her offer. Even so, there were still certain matters that needed ironing out before I made a final decision.

The kettle clicked off and I started pouring up her tea, "I won't lie, Yukari. That's a...very tempting offer you've put on the table..though I hope you'll excuse the need for me to get a few more things clear..."

I cut up the pizza while it was still warm, "For one thing, how does the flow of time work in Gensokyo? I mean, if I leave for three whole weeks, my family's gonna be worried sick, as will the friends I have out here. I can't just drop everything and go off to a fantasy world with no plans..."

I brought over her food and drink,"And I don't think I'd forgive myself if I cause my loved ones unnecessary grief."

Yukari nodded in thanks before bringing the mug to her lips,"Time in your world is much like streaming an online video. You can stop it at any time you like to pick up where you left off last, but there might be complications if you try to go back to a previous point," She drew two lines in the air with her finger, "Time is separate between the two worlds to such an extent that the two never cross at any point. I suppose you can say they are parallel lines reaching into eternity,"

"So, you don't have to worry about missing your parents and friends while you're away. They will literally never even know you left at all," Yukari took a bite out of the pizza, chewing carefully before taking a sip of her tea,"It's the separation between the worlds that allows both this world and Gensokyo to exist side-by-side, the one dependent on the other much like master and slave disk drives."

"So, it'll be like I never left basically..." I summed up for her as I seated myself and took a mouthful of pizza, sipping root beer in between bites,"That's some measure of comfort, I suppose,"

"So, as you mentioned, three weeks is the trial period, right?" It was my turn to hold up three fingers just to make sure we were on the same page, "And if I'm not satisfied, all I have to do is say the word and you'll take me home without a fight." I know it sounded like I was just rehashing what she'd already said but it didn't hurt to be absolutely sure she was being sincere.

"Yes, three weeks," Yukari nodded,"All you need to do is come find me and I'll drop you back here, no questions asked, up until the third week of your stay. It will be like none of this ever happened...just make sure you keep track of the number of days you been there, and you shouldn't have a problem. I won't even charge you for shipping and handling."

I needed to ask though, "You...do realize I'll be an ordinary human stuck in a world full of super-powered girls who can destroy mountains with their fists, fire off wave motion guns whenever, vampires that control probability itself, Gods, and so on...right? Do you have some way I'll be able to defend myself? Because I know even with your fancy smancy Spell Card system, that won't stop a rogue Youkai from gutting me like a fish and eating me for dinner..."

Yukari rose a delicate eyebrow at me,"Hmm...I suppose that's true," She then smiled, "But isn't that part of the adventure? It would be pretty dull if there was no danger involved...than again, you won't be able to meet Her if you get eaten before the end of the three weeks, now would you?"

She reached into her dress pocket and pulled out three cards, each with a large blue emblem drawn on the front. My eyes widened in realization of what they were as Yukari simply grinned at my reaction, "Ah, so you are familiar with Spell Bomb Cards. Well, I'll throw these in to sweeten the deal. Just use one when you feel you're in danger and it'll protect you from whatever comes your way,"

"I'm only giving you three though, because they don't come cheap these days," Yukari sighed, "Ideally, you should find someone to fight for you instead so you won't need to use them too often. You're cute and resourceful, so I'm sure you can think of something," She placed the cards into
my hand, "So...what do you say, Mr White?"

I glanced at the cards and then up at her beaming face. Boy, she was really buttering up to me, wasn't she? "Thanks.." I pocketed the cards and finished my slice while Yukari indulged with the rest of the pizza. After finishing, I took a moment to ponder my options. I knew she still wasn't
telling me the whole story, but she still wasn't out and out lying to me either.

I downed another gulp of my drink, swirling the can and swishing what was left,"Alright...I got one last question and than you get your answer. On the extremely off chance I decide I prefer my new life...can you give me some more details on this "favor" please?" I rose an eyebrow
in her direction, "Or is that meant as a surprise?"

For some time, and to my irritation, Yukari simply didn't reply, as if she'd somehow missed the words spoken to her. She ate quietly, and after finishing her tea, looked up once again, eyes twinkling with confidence, "But that would be telling, wouldn't it?" Yukari giggled while fanning herself, "It's like asking a lady what her age is...it's something you simply shouldn't do. However, since you asked nicely, I'll give you a hint instead,"

She flashed a surprisingly warm smile in my direction as she began, ""Its something that can be found without looking for, felt without being seen, known without being told, shown without needing sight, conveyed without words, and given without being received," Yukari spoke in riddles instead of speaking plainly, "There are many imitations of it, but if you possess it, you have found something of the utmost value... Its something that Gensokyo lacks, that I believe you can help provide."

I sat there as her words sunk in. Seriously? A riddle? That's what I get?...well, it's better than going in blind I suppose. Besides, that was probably enough
free information out of her for the time being. Now there was only one thing left to do...make a choice.

Let's see, I stayed here and life would go on as normal. I'd finish college, probably get some middle-class job, work for about ten or so years, get a girl, settle down with her, have kids, probably spend the rest of my life working and never realizing greater things. Pass away peacefully in my sleep when in my 80s or something.

...Or...I could take this lady's offer. Step beyond the border of reality and fantasy and take this once in a lifetime opportunity, because I got the feeling if I turned this down I wouldn't be getting another one like it.

Besides, something she had said rung true with me. Sometimes in life you need to take a risk or two to get anywhere. If I could come back the moment the left...nobody would ever be the wiser. Also, I guess in some ways, I wanted...to challenge myself. I mean, you never know what you're truly capable of until you actually try it, right?

Three weeks...I knew I could do it, or I believed I did anyway.

I finished my food and let out a sigh as I finally spoke my decision,"...You drive quite a bargain, Miss Yakumo...but as long as you give me your word that you'll abide by our deal...I'll accept it."

...I sincerely hoped I wouldn't come to regret this.

"Yes, of course," Yukari nodded and opened her parasol after standing up, "You have my solemn word that I will abide by every word spoken in our agreement." There was an almost judicial manner in which she pronounced those words, but considering that this was Yukari who was speaking them, there was still an opportunity for deception hidden in there somewhere.

Yukari walked back into the adjacent room, and with a wave of her hand the gap reappeared, spreading open just before she stepped back into it. She turned and rested her arms on the edge like she had done before, almost as if the entire conversation before had not taken place at all. She held her hand out, "Let's shake on it, shall we?"

I stared at her outstretched hand, knowing that the moment I took it, the deal was done, and I would be in it for the long run. There would be no turning back. I then asked a question that made even the Border Youkai tilt her head,"Say um...can you give me a few minutes to throw together
a travel pack of some sort? You know, changes of clothes and what not...I don't want to run into a Youkai while wearing smelly underwear, you know."

"Oh...alright, but don't keep a lady waiting," Yukari looked a little peeved at the interruption but relented and rested her head on the gap in a slightly annoyed manner. It was honestly kinda cute but I also knew that I shouldn't try to test her patience anymore than I already had.

I rushed to my room and emptied a knapsack to fill with essentials like a couple changes of clothes, shoes, some of the other things you needed when camping, books, a Touhou plushy, some games, my laptop, chargers and so on. I then ran out into the kitchen to grab some canned food and packaged goods to eat while traveling along with a water bottle. I was in Scouts when I was a kid so I know this kind of stuff. I also threw on a hoodie since you never know how the weather can change in another world.

Satisfied I had all I needed, I ran back to the gap and took a deep breath. I glanced around my apartment one last time, knowing I wouldn't be seeing it again for a nice long while, assuming everything went well.

No...I would come back..Gensokyo may become my home for a while...but I would be back, someday.

Gathering myself, I turned and grasped Yukari's hand, shaking on our agreement...only for her to flash a smile and haul me through the gap, and off into complete darkness...somehow, I should've known that first step into Gensokyo would be a large one indeed.

I only had one thought on my mind now: What on earth have I gotten myself into?
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 1
My first piece of work for the Walfas Wagon based heavily on a Touhou RP a friend and I are doing together XD
We basically took the usual "Gappy Fic" formula and managed to put some nice twists on it.

Synopsis: An otaku on break from college finds his world turned upside down by the entry of a certain Border Youkai.
Relunctantly, he accepts a deal to do a "trial run" of the world he once considered fiction. However, actions speak louder
than words, and before long, his interactions with Gensokyo's denizens begin to set off a ripple effect...and the wheels of
change begin to turn...

So yeah, comment it and fave it if you like...or not, and tell me it sucks since I know how critical some people are of
Gappy Fics XD

Regardless, I wish you all a good day.
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GamerXZ

Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
Canada
Current Residence: somewhere in Canada
deviantWEAR sizing preference: XL
Print preference: none
Favourite genre of music: something catchy
Favourite photographer: none
Favourite style of art: whatever interests me
Operating System: PC
MP3 player of choice: none
Skin of choice: Caucasian to White, but I'm not racist!
Favourite cartoon character: again,too many
Personal Quote: Dreams are like Goals, Strive For Them And One Day They'll Come True.
Interests
Well, my days of being 21 are done. As of today, I'm another year older. Let's see what being 22 brings, shall we?

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:iconenderslayer:
enderslayer Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2015   General Artist
this may seem like an old question, but what happened to Sonic Fusion Trouble?
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:icondarkskyluna:
darkskyluna Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thanks for the fave! :)
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:icondarkskyluna:
darkskyluna Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
Thanks for the watch! :D
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:iconstacy-l-gage:
Stacy-L-Gage Featured By Owner May 10, 2015  Professional General Artist
Thanks for the fave!

(you should check out the rest of the fanarts! :D)
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:iconrainbowmewmew13:
rainbowmewmew13 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
Hi buddy :)
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:iconextremespeeds:
extremespeeds Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Are you planning on continuing some time soon? Again, sorry if this was asked already.
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:icongamerxz:
GamerXZ Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Ask away.
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:iconextremespeeds:
extremespeeds Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Hey, um, I was looking over your stuff, and if it's ok to ask, I have a question about the Sonic story.
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:icongamerxz:
GamerXZ Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Hmm? Yes? What is it?
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:iconextremespeeds:
extremespeeds Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Hello?
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