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When the young man's attack made contact, the results were catastrophic. An enormous explosion that lit up the night and could be felt and seen for miles. Ripples of pure flame surged across the stars, dispersing every cloud within sight.
The power behind it was so great that Reimu actually had to throw up a barrier around the group to protect them from
the after shock alone. Yes, that included Tenshi too.

In fact, the results could be seen even from where a certain green-haired woman was out for a stroll in her garden of sun flowers. At hearing the explosion, she looked up and watched the scene unfolding before her. "My, my, what do
we have here?" She watched for a moment and then smiled to herself and continued walking with her parasol out, "Well than, looks like it's finally getting interesting around here again...I suppose I should consider at least keeping an
eye on things..."

With that, she walked off humming to herself...


The entire SDM group were out on their patio overlooking the garden with Sakuya pouring up tea for everyone. Patchouli, as
usual, had her face buried in a book, and even Flandre had been allowed to join them outside too. Of course, she was helping
herself to some of the tasty goodies on her plate while Remilia herself stirred her tea.

"So, I take it your trip to the Underworld was a productive one, Patchy?" Remilia asked as she sipped her drink.

The purple-haired magician put down the book and nodded, "Indeed. We were able to confirm a great number of my theories, though it appears that my findings suggest there is another person behind recent events aside from our
instigator. Someone who is hoping to benefit in the aftermath of whatever is going to happen."

"I see..." The vampiress nodded along to what her friend was saying before laying back in her chair with her eyes closed, "Well, I wouldn't worry about it too much. The Hakurei Miko and her friends should be capable of handling matters on their end."

"If I may speak freely, my lady," Remilia opened an eye and leered over at Sakuya who was standing at attention yet had a hint of worry on her facial features, "That man who was here with the Miko the other day. He didn't say anything to upset you,
did he?" If it turned out he did, she would personally see to it that he was made to answer for it.

The lady of the manor only giggled and shook her head, "No, no, of course not. A bit on the...clueless side he can be, but it's just not every day I run into someone who is so...self-assured he is in control of his own fate. That the world has no say in where
he goes and what he does...when in actuality, it can...and does. In more ways than we can conceive," She turned to her head
maid, "I'm sure you agree too, Sakuya...otherwise, how else would we have ended up meeting?"

Sakuya could only nod in agreement. The story of how she and her mistress had met was a long and...rather complicated
one. The kind not to be shared with just anybody. At that moment, a voice called out, "Remilia-sama!" The door flew open
and Meiling stood there, panting, "Huh...huh...we're...under attack! The Manor's under attack by flaming meteors from the sky!"

"Hmm?" Remilia rose an eyebrow before looking up at the sky where, sure enough, the sky was dotted with streaks of
light. Leftover fragments of the destructive battle that had finished not long ago, " it is...Flandre, if you would be

"You got it, Nee-chan!" Flandre clapped her hands together, giggling before hovering up in the air and raising a hand up.
She grinned rather evilly as she targeted the "eye" of each falling "star" and clenched her hand. As a result, each fragment
went off with an loud boom, dotting the night sky with bright flashes of light. Just a casual display of the power of the
Sister Of The Scarlet Devil.

"There, problem solved!" Remilia smiled and sat back in her chair. Seeing the awe-struck expression on the gatekeeper's face,
she snapped her fingers for Sakuya to bring Meiling over to another stool and hand her a cup of tea. She sipped her own drink
while watching the sky.

Yes...there are forces in this world that we cannot comprehend, that ensure things happen in a particular way. We can question it all we want but these things will happen regardless of our input. Perhaps someday you too will come to accept that truth in your own life, Mr White...

Everything around me was little more than a blur of colors. Heck, I could hardly even think straight. Did I win? Did I lose? Was
I even alive? I could hear voices calling out to each other. One of whom sounded vaguely familiar, "Don't worry buddy, we got ya da ze!"

Suddenly, I felt arms holding onto mine and slowing my descent. I could hear that same voice whistling in a way that resembled
approval, "Dang! When you wanna get showy, you can get showy!"

"Oi Marisa, can the praise and help me get this idiot to the ground. I feel awkward enough already..." That voice...Reimu?

"Is he gonna be ok?" That voice had to belong to Cirno. By this point, I could feel my vision starting to clear up a little. Enough
to see the girls figures.

"He'll be fine. He's just over-exerted himself with too much power," It had to be Reisen, "To be honest, I'm a little surprised he's
still the way, shouldn't one of us help Suika?" Sure enough, I could make out someone falling like a rock towards
the ground.

"She'll be alright," Reimu shrugged it off, "Probably gonna wake up with one doozy of a headache but she'll live." With that, we headed
towards the earth where I finally got dropped off against a tree. Suika having made a crater in the ground from her impact.

"James!" The coldness I felt let me know that Cirno was clinging to me right now and it had the secondary effect of snapping me
back to an alert state somewhat.

"C-Cirno?" I stammered out before reaching a hand up to pat her back, "Hey there...I'm ok now, see?"

The ice fairy looked ready to have a breakdown but was doing a good job of holding it together, "Everyone was so worried about
you, you idiot...why did you do it? You could've died...or something bad could've happened..."

"Cirno.." I let her lay against me as it hit me that I'd broken my word about taking better care of my own life. This was especially
evident as I saw the faces of those around me that wore expressions of worry and disappointment,"...Sorry about that.." I rose up
the ice fairy's head, "I really am...I just...I just didn't wanna feel like I was a burden anymore. You're not always gonna be able to
protect me, remember?"

"We know that, but picking Suika as your first combatant without even talking to us has to be one of the dumber moves I've
seen from you Outsiders," Reimu remarked with her arms folded before sighing, "Still, you're right about one thing...I'm not your
babysitter...but you're still my responsibility." To prove her point, she showed me the plushy I'd given to her.

"Reimu..." Marisa only smiled and shook her head before going over and laying a hand on my shoulder, "Hey, if it's
any consolation, I doubt anyone here sees you as a burden...and besides, you beat frekkin Suika! I highly doubt you're
gonna need anyone watching your back...heck, I might even need to drag you along the next time I need to borrow
some books from Patchy," She winked at me.

I looked over my friends at hearing their words and nodded in acceptance. No more being a burden or a liability...I
was gonna stand on my own two feet from now on and that was final. It was good to have friends you could count
on...but it was equally important to have faith in your own abilities too.

However, it appeared our story was about to take a turn...and it started with a gap opening over the Hakurei Shrine. We all looked up at it, possibly wondering who or what was gonna come through. We didn't have to wait long. "If that's Yukari paying us a visit, she better be ready to explain a few things or else." Reimu
remarked while folding her arms.

There was silence for a bit...until a voice echoed from within "YYYYYYYYUUUUKKKKAAARRRIIIIIII!"

Immediately, and in a matter of seconds, a young girl fell through the gap. Amidst all her yelling, she attempted to stabilize herself
by flying in the air before she hit the ground. When that failed though, she ended up landing flat on her face,"Owww..."

The girl's attire...looked an awful lot like what a witch would wear...only all in Red...and with a very nice hat too.

Despite the pain of what I'd just been put through, I got to my feet with Cirno and Reisen's help,"Um...are you ok over there, Miss?"

"Just...peachy.." She grunted out before forcing herself up too and dusting off her clothes. "Sorry you guys...this is all Yukari's fault," The girl rubbed the back of her long dark hair nervously, "She insisted I watch the battle. And then
forced me to watch from a gap all the way up there," She pointed to the sky.

"...And then apparently thought it would be funny to shoot me down once it was all over."

Reimu and Marisa shared a knowing glance before letting out a simultaneous sigh, "Gosh darn it, Yukari."

The girl in red before us sighed too before trying to smile. Suddenly, she turned in my direction, "You're James White, correct?"

I rose an inquisitive eyebrow at the fact that this girl who I hadn't seen before knew my name, "Um...actually
yes. How do you know that though? And who might you be?"

"From the woman who tossed me into that gap. Take a wild guess," The girl remarked while rolling her eyes before smiling and sticking out a hand in greeting, "Sorry, name's Alyss Baraen. Part Time President Of Visionary Requiem...and full time overworked high school student. Nice to meet you, Mr White!"

"The pleasure's all mine Miss Baraen," Figuring she was friendly enough, I shook her hand in return and nodded in greeting...before a strange thought occurred to me, "Wait...did you say...Alyss Baraen?" The girl nodded, looking confused, "Uhh...this is gonna sound weird but...I may've read about you and your
group in a comic back where I come from. Tell me, the name "The Crossroad" sound familiar to you?"

Reimu and Marisa looked ready to fill me in...when they suddenly stopped at hearing my question.

Alyss just stared at me incredulously for several seconds...and then she promptly facepalmed,"You have GOT to be kidding me..." She sighed, "I guess this is what I get for snooping into alternate dimensions..." The girl removed her hand and now looked at me rather nervously, "Say, um...what exactly was that...comic about..?"

I scuffed my shoes on the ground, now feeling rather embarassed at bringing up this topic, "Well...basically it was this tale about a young lad named Makoto who gets transported to Gensokyo and upon seeing how this
world is full of heroes, he tries to become one himself...only to end up finding himself in way WAY over his head.."

I could remember that comic well. Good read, very good, but a bit dark for my tastes and a bit more cynical than I would've liked at times. Still good though.

Alyss then proceeded to facepalm once more, "Son of a DUCK!" She sighed yet again but then tried to shrug it off, "Well, let's not question it any further right now. Dimensions are weird like that..." She nodded, "But yes, I am that Alyss Baraen."

She smiled cheekily, "Part Time President Of Visionary Requiem...and full time overworked high school student!"

Reimu scoffed, "You forgot full-time reckless snooper."

Alyss shrugged with a smile, "To each their own, Reimu."

I sighed and folded my arms, "Well, at least this answers a few questions I been having..." I looked up to the red-clad witch, "So basically Gensokyo really IS a place that exists among many other worlds and times?"

"Like you wouldn't believe.." Alyss scratched her head nervously, "I think that's why my adventures are suddenly popping up as comics and stories...oh God this is embarrassing.."

"Hey, that's the Multiverse Theory for ya," I remarked with a shrug.

The girl twiddled her fingers, "Let's not think about it too much, shall we? For now you just got done being beaten up by Suika...and you beating her up in return. And I fell a few metres from the sky and am somehow
not dead," She gestured over her shoulder, "What you say we talk more in the Shrine?"

Before we could say anymore, Reisen's voice cut in, "Hey guys! Suika's coming around!"

Perking up, the Red Bomber jumped and was next to the crater in an instant. Super Speed? Teleporting? Whatever it was, it was flipping cool, "..Woah."

" head...did you really have to punch so hard, James?" Suika sat up and massaged her noggin where a bruise lied. Looking up, she spotted the girl in red and smiled, "Oh hey Alyss. What's up?"

Alyss waved at her, "Oh hey Suika. I just fell from the sky."

"Yukari?" Suika quizzed like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Yukari." Alyss replied simply.

The rest of us arrived and stood around the crater, staring down the Oni who began to sweat under the weight of our stares, "Hehehe..." She glanced down at her Pandemonium Spell Card...which dissolved away. At the sight of this, she sighed, "Ah, I guess this means I lost, eh?" She shrugged, "Oh well, can't complain too much. Got an awesome
duel out of it so I'm happy." She sat up and dusted herself off.

Alyss took off her hat and scratched her noodle, "..Remind me, what was that duel about again?"

"That's what I'm curious about myself.." Marisa nodded before tilting her head at Suika, "Alright, I think it's
time you started explaining yourself. Agreed?"

Suika chuckled, "Sure thing. I'll tell you everything I know. As promised."

Far away from where the gang currently was, and miles beneath the earth, a certain blue-haired girl was hard at work in her room on something of vital least to her it was important. The only light in the room appeared to come
from the screen in front of her.

"Not much longer now..." Nitori snickered to herself as she continued typing. She had to hand it to the humans on the Outside.
They had thought up some truly amazing toys and devices ever since the Great Barrier had been first was just a shame
that they couldn't utilize said toys to their maximum potential. No, that required a mind of unparalleled genius like her own.

Wires were running out of the laptop she had been allowed to borrow from the young man and went along the walls too. At first,
the kappa had just wanted to see how it worked and what not...but when she saw what exactly this device was capable of and a
certain someone had shown up with a plan to earn her a profit...well, the rest is history.

The blue-haired girl suddenly stopped and looked over her shoulder, "I know you're there Suwako-san. No need to hide from me."

"Aww, you're no fun," The hat lying on the floor suddenly popped open to reveal the ruler of the Moriya Shrine who giggled at
seeing the kappa frowning at her, "I just stopped by to say Hi is all...and maybe check on how your little project is going."

"It's going fine," Nitori remarked with a shrug before turning back to the laptop, "I trust our friend has set up the transmitters I built?
Which by the way, I'm hoping to be re-compensated for." The girl didn't like giving out her inventions to just anybody, but when that
"somebody" was one of the major political figures in this world...that changes things quite a bit.

"Oh, she did. We can fire them up whenever we wish and then we can just sit back and let the dominos fall," Suwako giggled as
she walked up beside Nitori, "And no need to worry your cute little head. If all goes according to'll be paid back ten times
whatever I owe you. You have my word on it."

"Good," Nitori hit one last button, "And we are go!"

All along the walls, lights began to come on as up over their heads another pair of lights shined an eerie green color. The sound of
gears and motors turning echoed through the room as something was in the process of awakening...

End Of Chapter 8
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 8 Part 2
And Part 2! With a chance to check in on the other groups AND more Alyss being...Alyss...and awesome. Yeah, the things that happen in this
one chapter basically mean...the game has been taken to the next level. This is THE Wham Episode I been waiting to write and I'm glad I did XD

What happens from here? You'll have to wait and soon as I stop being overwhelmed with college work...
Chapter 8: What Lies At The Match's End?

"And stay out!"

Somewhere deep in the groves of the Forest of Magic, a group of fairies were pushing a human out of their territory. This was one really annoying human for them – most humans are absolutely fun to play pranks on, because all they did was scream in fear or get mad at them, then run.

Not only was this little human girl not scared of them, but she had the nerve to ask them to move. She was babbling about some friends of hers who were youkai (which sounded bogus enough in and of itself) and who wanted to live in this part of the forest and trees. Kiji-something and red…things. Oh, they tried to tell her to get lost at first by stealing her red witch hat, but somehow, she was just too fast. It seemed like she could get from one end of the forest to the other in a second. So here they were, using the might and strength of two human palms to try to push this colossal dummy out of their home.

"You idiots don't understa-aaand!" The human girl tried to protest, "They're forest spirits too! Friendly ones!"

"Scram, human-face!"

The girl fell to the floor, though she wasted no time standing back up afterwards. She herself was starting to get annoyed, and not just because those stubborn fairies almost ruined her brown braids. As she dusted her hair and her red dress, she fiddled with the spell cards in her pocket. The urge to use them was extremely tempting. Then her fingers stopped twitching. If she did chase the little buggers away, wouldn't they just come back?

Yes, persuasion by herself alone probably wasn't going to do much, then. She would have to save these cards. And though she dreaded the thought of flying all the way back to base just to deliver the news and Plan B, it looked like she would have to have her clients talk to these annoying heralds of nature themselves.

Just as she turned around to leave, a familiar noise caught her attention. The sound of a delicate rip in space was close behind her. Next followed the sound of bullets – quick darts of magical energy. And what followed were the terrified screams of fairies, flying as fast as they could and abandoning their home. When the young girl turned back, the grove was empty, sans the casual and relaxed smile of Yukari Yakumo.

"Um…" the human girl wasn't sure how to reply. "Thanks?"

"You should have more faith in your clients, little President. Akateko and Kijimuna are as strong as they are cute."

The teenaged girl nodded hesitantly at the Youkai Sage's calm chiding. Perhaps she was being too diplomatic – as far as someone who maintains inter-dimensional human and ethereal relations can be. At least, it was nice to see Yukari was on her side. Or perhaps not really, since the Youkai Sage was on nobody's side or agenda but her own – merely supporting anyone she agrees with (or can use).

And that reminder suddenly worried the young girl. Why did Yukari come to help her out of the blue with this small relocation?

"I have a special treat for you, Red Bomber," the Sage spoke with a grin, "And I'll gladly help Visionary Requiem with the relocation while you're gone."

…now the girl was even more worried.

"What treat?" She asked suspiciously, "And how is it worth handing over my busy job to you?"

That constant smile from Yukari was unnerving. The trust the young girl had for the Sage always seemed to waver every day.

"A front row seat," replied Yukari, "To a battle between dear Ibuki and outsider James White."

"James…White? Thought that guy was just a rumour."

"Oh no, he is very real."

The Sage flew herself – and the gap she was sitting on – closer and closer to the Red Bomber, and her voice grew lower and lower, like she had some secret to tell.

"I brought him here myself, you see. Promised that loveable fool a…trial period of three weeks. Predictably, he's spent that time making friends and getting himself into the most unpredictable of predicaments!"

The young girl became a little upset. Not just for a missed opportunity to meet fellow Outsiders – but also to actually make his time in the Fantastic Wonderland less convoluted.

"You didn't tell me about this, why?"

"It was not your time to meet him, little one."


In her mind, the Red Bomber questioned why all this would mean Yukari wants her to watch Suika beat the tar out of this man. Especially if it delayed all the missions Visionary Requiem had to deal with. Then again…

This James White might be an interesting person. Interesting enough that Yukari would want to use the both of them for something.

"How long is this going to take?" The girl asked her last question.

"As long as it needs to. Now get in there! Go on!"

With a speed rivalling the girl's own flash steps, Yukari warped behind her and pushed the girl into another eye-filled gap. She could barely protest before being sucked into God-knows-where in Gensokyo. Just as the gap was closing, the faint screams of "Damn it, Yukari!" rang throughout the portal.

The Youkai Sage's smile did not collapse. That Red Bomber, silly a little girl as she was, was unquestionably an ally of Gensokyo – and one who would not abandon a task of heroism, or honour, or whatever romanticized ideas, given to her…


"That idiot!" Reimu shouted as she slammed her fist against one of the shrine's support pillars and seethed, frustrated as all get out, "Taking that oni up on her offer without a second thought...I swear, does he have a death wish or something?!" It was obvious that this latest event had left the shrine maiden in a
fairly bitter mood.

Reisen, worried for her, went to move forward only to feel a hand on her shoulder. Startled, she turned to see Marisa who shook her head, "She needs to get this off her chest so it's best we give her a minute." The witch girl
knew from experience that her friend needed space when it came to venting.

The dark-haired girl fumed as she began pacing back and forth, "I swear, if it turns out all the duels we been in up till now have given him an inflated ego, I'm gonna knock it out of him with my own two hands." Judging by the
way those words came out, she meant it too, "Also, what the heck was Suika even talking about? Trust? What does that have to do with anything? I swear, I don't get that girl sometimes..."

Despite her manner of speaking, inside Reimu's head she was pondering a thought or two. What indeed was Suika going on about? Why had she suddenly challenged James out of the middle of nowhere? He hadn't even been here a full week so what was the
point of dragging him into one-on-one combat when anyone with a lick of rationality would know he was nowhere near ready?

Of course, even though she wouldn't admit it out loud she did partially blame herself for this current situation. If she'd bothered to
stop and interrogate Suika before starting out on this whole, now was not the time for wondering what could've been. Needed to focus on the present.

"Yo! Earth to Reimu?" Marisa waved a hand in front of her friend's face, looking rather concerned, "You alright? You kinda spaced out on us there for a minute."

"Huh?" Reimu finally snapped back to reality and glanced over to the witch girl, "I'm fine, Marisa. Just thinking about how I'm gonna give that boy an earful when I get my hands on him...assuming he isn't dead by the time we reach him."

"Yeah, sure you will..." The blond-haired girl rolled her eyes at her friend before glancing around the area, "Hey, anybody seen Cirno
around here?" At that one question, everyone suddenly froze like statues. In the heat of the moment, Cirno had...vanished!

Reisen's ears twitched as she whirled around and pointed upwards at where Cirno was floating not even a couple hundred feet
above them, "There! Cirno, what you think you're doing?!"

"I'm off to be with James!" She proclaimed, causing everyone below to look up at her with wide eyes, "This is his fight, yes...but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be there by his side!" The ice fairy folded her arms and straightened her posture, "He's pushing himself to do all he can, so what kind of friend would I be if I wasn't there to show I supported him...the way he supports me..." She mumbled that last part more to herself than aloud.

"...Cirno.." Marisa hopped on her broom and floated up to the fairy's level, "...You know the real reason he's going through with
this, don't you?" From the way the ice fairy interacted with the young man, it was obvious to anyone with two brain cells
that, despite how little time they'd known each other, she considered him someone very important to her.

Cirno turned her head away from the witch girl's gaze, now looking a tad embarassed but doing her best not to
show it. Marisa could see right through her, couldn't she?

"Regardless of the reason, I'm still giving him a piece of my mind when I see him," Reimu floated up beside them, arms
folded. She still looked rather cross but at least she wasn't fuming with fury anymore. She too was curious why the young lad
was going along with Suika's plan...although she would never admit that aloud, "Now let's get a move on. Lead the way, Cirno."

"Reimu..." The ice fairy locked eyes with her shrine maiden friend for a moment, not saying anything. Legends told that eyes are
the mirrors to the soul...and Cirno saw what she needed to see in Reimu's, "...Right! Let's go!" The quartet took off into the sky
as fast as they could...

Hoping against all odds they wouldn't be too late...


After flying through the sky for what felt like ages, I found my flight abruptly ended as I was dumped rather unceremoniously onto the ground. I grunted from the force of the drop but did my best to ignore the pain as I opened my eyes to see where I was, "What the..." A quick look revealed that I was lying on what looked to be a small island floating amongst the clouds. There was fields of green grass, rocky terrain and even a few trees here and there. The air was thin, cool, yet still breathable.

Somehow, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew where I was, "...Your home away from home, I'm guessing, Suika?" I stood and turned to where the Oni girl was standing, chugging down more of her sake.

At hearing my question, she finally stopped and gave a refreshed gasp, "Yep! Welcome to my little corner of Heaven, Mr James!" She
spread her arms out and spun on the spot, doing her best not to fall over, grinning,"Hehe...pretty sweet, ain't it? This way we can both go all out and not need to worry about wrecking Reimu's shrine...or anything else that's actually important." She added that last part with a shrug.

I took a look over the floating island, giving a critical eye to what I saw. This would definitely suit our purposes...although there
was something I needed to clarify, "You know, the "duel on a floating island" gig sounds like something out of an anime, right?"

Suika snickered and slurped down more of her sake, "Well, what can I say? A good fight should be one that's a spectacle. A feast for
the eyes and ears, if you will, so I figured the location should be equally fitting." She attached her gourd back to her dress, "So, you
ready to get started?" Judging by the glint I saw in her eyes, she was more than ready.

I, however, had to ask her, "I don't suppose you're going to tell me what this is all about, are you?" It was a long shot but I figured I might as well.

As I should've expected, she shook her head, still grinning, "No can do, drinking buddy. What, don't tell me you're already planning
to back out? That isn't like you to back down from something..." Her tone turned a bit more solemn and distant during that last

That was enough to catch my attention so I folded my arms and tilted my head, "What are you talking about, Suika? Why are you
acting like you know me?"

"Maybe it's because I do know you," Suika twirled a strand of her hair, "I've lived a long time, James. Long enough to learn a thing or two about how the world works...and especially how people work. I mean, think about it, when Yukari left you to your own devices you could've done anything you wanted...and yet you chose to jump right into figuring out why she brought you of all people here..."

She turned away and looked over her shoulder, "Why do you think that is?"

I opened my mouth to speak up...only to stop myself at the last second and look away. Whatever I said, I figured it would be too silly or something only a child would say. I'd accepted long ago I was no special snowflake. Suika seemed to be able to read my thoughts so she cut in, "It was for more than idle curiosity, wasn't it?" I glanced up at seeing her turn her head and smirk at me, "You knew the consequences of taking her offer and yet you did so feel connected to everyone here..."

She walked a little way's and stopped, looking up at the sky in a rather solemn manner, "...Connections are an important part of
living. We can deny it all we want, make all the excuses we'd like as to not get close...but one way or another, we can't live without
them. A life without those one not worth living, if you ask me." She slurped down some of her sake after that little speech.

My eyes widened as something clicked in my head. Those words...they were almost exactly the same ones that Satori had said
to me! " been watching me and the others since this whole incident started, haven't you?" The tone I used was a bit
more accusatory than I would've liked but I felt it would get my point across.

The Oni grinned cheekily, "And the lad finally puts it together! Good job!" She gave a small clap for me, "Yeah, it's amazing what
you can pick up on when you got a bunch of Mini-You's running all over the place," Suika rubbed the back of her head sheepishly,"Sorry about that, by the way, but Yukari asked me to do it as a favor."

"Yeah, you and her go together like peaches and cream," I remarked half-sarcastically while scoffing, "...But I guess you're done giving out free information, eh?"

"Yep, to be honest, that was a bit more than I probably should've said but what you gonna do?" She took one last gulp of Sake
before putting her gourd away, "Don't worry, you beat me and I'll tell you whatever you wanna know," Suika spaced her legs
apart and got in a fighting stance, "Ready when you are, James!"

I let out a sigh of resignation before adjusting my hat and getting into my own stance, "Bring it."

(Play Suika's Theme: Broken Moon)

The oni girl actually smirked at me before planting one foot down hard enough to send small cracks through the ground beneath and catapulting herself forward, the sudden force of her charge causing her hair to blow backwards. I felt the power of my first Capture Card kicking in as a ball of the energy it contained spiraled into my fist. The Deva was upon me within seconds, showcasing that despite her appearance she was much faster than she looked.

Not wanting to back down, I swung my shining fast forward to meet with Suika's punch, the collision of our two fists causing a
small sonic boom to resonate through the air, rattling the trees around us before the outburst of power forced us to skid back away
from one another. I looked up to spot the Oni grinning at me before kicking off the ground once again only this time she launched
herself high into the air.

Angling herself downwards, she aimed to fall like an anvil on top of me so I opted to jump to the side in time to avoid the impact
she made with the area I once stood in...except the crash she made was still powerful enough to generate a shockwave and I got
caught in the blast range. It was like someone had sucker-punched me in the gut as I gasped in pain before feeling myself lifted by the shock wave and thrown several yards before landing in a heap.

Ignoring the pain, I sat up, rubbing my side, to see her coming at me once more, arms spread wide, looking as gleeful as can be.

Well, at least one of us was enjoying themselves. Upon closing within range, I once more invoked the brief boost in strength my cards afforded me and clapped my hands together, raising them up and revealing the orb that quickly grew in size until it was twice as big as myself! "Let's see how you like this!"

With that, I hurled my makeshift Spirit Bomb forward and it blazed towards its target. Instead of looking distraught or worried though, the Oni Girl appeared more excited than anything else as she pulled back and began rotating her arm in a circular motion, picking up speed and momentum. Just as the orb was about to make contact, she swung her fist towards it and the two overpowering forces collided...Suika's fist proved to be the stronger of the two though and the orb splintered and dissipated after a few seconds of struggling.

"Ha! Nice try, but it's gonna take more than that to-" She didn't have the chance to finish because as she was taking the time to
punch out my attack with her bare hands, I had dashed forward behind the orb, using it as a form of concealment, and the moment
it had broke apart, I came in from down low, hand clenched around another sphere, created by my second Capture Card.

My drinking buddy only had time to let her eyes widen in shock and her mouth to form a perfect O before I slammed the sphere
into her chest, the explosive discharge going off like a ton of TNT and blasting her away. The force of the attack caused her to
skid backwards across the field, her feet dragging through the earth.

However, despite the power of my attack she appeared to have been barely even fazed. "Not bad, drinking buddy!" She dusted off
her top, looking positively elated, "I guess this means I should actually take this up a notch, huh? Well, let me return the favor than!" The oni clapped her hands together and spread them apart, revealing a pair of small condensed orbs of flame in her hands. With a laugh, she began juggling them like she were at the circus.

Before I even had time to comprehend this, she began lobbing them every which way. At first, I had no reason to be alarmed as
she seemed like she wasn't even aiming straight...until one of them exploded like a bloody grenade! That was more than enough
reason to start moving as I tumble-rolled to the side, just barely avoiding the blast wave given off. I ran as fast as I could while
the sound of explosions could be heard not far behind me.

Bits of debris soared by me and I could feel the air around me growing increasingly hot too. I never thought I'd be saying this
but I'm actually grateful my Phys Ed Teacher in High School put us through all those drills.

Of course, there came a point that one of the fireballs finally got lucky and exploded not even a couple feet from me. I yelped as
I found myself lifted and thrown by the blast. For the following few seconds, I got a nice taste of vertigo before plopping down and
tumbling into the grass as part of a rather rough landing.

Must ignore pain...must ignore's all in your head...

Hearing a whistle, I forced open my eyes to see Suika floating in the air above me, winking and giving a playful wave at me.
Next thing I knew, she took in a big gulp of air, like a REALLY big gulp of the stuff, and then she blew...and out came a frekkin

I swallowed a lump in my throat at the sight of this, especially when I saw the sheer force of it blowing away the trees around
me without even touching them. I put a hand up to keep my fedora from flying away. There was no way I could dodge or survive an attack like that! Unless...

That's when a memory flashed through my mind. Wait, most of the girls have mediums to channel their power through for
better affects. Reimu has her talismans and Yin-Yang Orbs, Marisa has her Mini-Hakkero, Cirno has her ice, Reisen has her
Lunatic Eyes...what do I have?

I whipped off my fedora and stuffed the Capture Card inside, "Not quite the same as a Hakkero, but it'll have to do!"

Just as the cyclone was closing in on me, I pointed the hat out, the interior shining with bright blue light, as a suction effect
kicked up. My makeshift vacuum swallowed up the cyclone, me bracing myself against the wind as I struggled to my feet. The
moment Suika's attack was completely absorbed, I spun on the spot and pointed the hat again, "Right back at ya!"

The captured cyclone jetted forth, myself standing firm against the small kickback it released while gritting my teeth, now
going to meet with its former owner. The Oni girl only had time to cross her arms and brace herself as the attack made contact.

As a result, she ended up being literally blown away and bounced along the ground several times before crashing down hard enough to kick up a cloud of debris. I will admit, I did feel a measure of guilt over this whole mess...but I also had that voice in
my head as difficult as this was also necessary if me and the gang wanted to get any closer to the truth. Also, as much
I liked to see myself as a pacifist, here I was willingly fighting and playing along with the rules of this once fictional world.

Yeah, I'm kind of a hypocrite when you stop and think about it, aren't I?

Well, as one might've expected, my opponent/drinking buddy didn't stay down very long. At best, I had a few seconds to catch my breath before the rubble was forcefully blown away by sheer strength and Suika strut out, looking a bit scuffed up
but nowhere close to finished.

She reached up and wiped the dirt off her face, before grinning and kicking off the ground once again and soaring towards me. I braced myself to counter her assault...only to see her dissipate into pure mist and pass right through me!

I whirled around in time to see her reform behind me and slam her palm into my chest. I felt the air briefly leave my lungs
as that one blow was enough to knock me off my feet. As I hit the ground, I felt the clink of metal, and found Suika's chain
wrapping around my ankle before she started swinging me in a circular motion around and around.

There was little I could do besides hang tight and watch the scenery blur together around me before being hurled like a
beanbag into the air. Despite still being about ten feet off the ground, I turned and spotted Suika jetting towards me, cracking
her knuckles.

I decided I needed to go on the offensive and so I conjured another makeshift Spirit Bomb...only for her to grab my wrist and
cause it to discharge elsewhere. She slammed me down into a patch of dirt before dragging me several feet and casually tossing
me aside like a chew toy. Did it hurt? What do you think? "Come on, James! Is that really all you can muster?"

Against my better judgement, I forced myself up and spat out the dirt in my mouth, "Hardly..." Apparently, she took that as
a challenge because next thing I knew she had launched herself high into the air before descending on me in a bullet dive, her
fists swirling with fire and wind.

Somehow, I felt this was not an attack I could capture...which meant I needed a way to block and counter it. This is gonna
look so many levels of stupid...but if it saves me from becoming chunky salsa, I'm not gonna complain too much!

I whipped off the scarf. Aunt...please lend me strength...I pulled out my Capture Card and invoked its power, slashing it along
the length of the scarf and causing it to glow a bright blueish color. Hoping against all odds this would work, I whipped it in the
air and made a large circular loop with it...and the result was a bright blue shield!

Suika's fists smashed against my new barricade, releasing enough power to partially uproot the ground beneath us. I saw the
shield buckle and my knees wobble...but it held firm. Seeing that I wasn't budging, the Oni kicked off the shield and landed
a few feet from me. She flexed her wrists as we both dashed towards one another.

She began lobbing more of those fireballs my way but I kept my head behind the shield and just charged through the
barrage full throttle. Suika's hands rose up as she tried to stop my makeshift battering limited success. Somehow, I
managed to make her dig her feet into the loose patches of dirt and hold firm.

"Nice trick you got there..." She managed to quip despite the situation, "But playing defense all the time isn't gonna grant you victory. You of all people should know that."

I gave a small smile, "There's an old saying we humans have. The best defense..." I revealed a second Capture Orb which
I crushed in my fist, "Is a good offense!" I slammed my now supercharged fist into the barrier, the explosive force it released
being enough to transform my shield into a makeshift rocket. It was enough to briefly overwhelm the Oni's defense, mostly
by catching her off-guard, and catapulting her away from me at high speeds.

My attack hit a far-off boulder and exploded with my scarf returning to normal in the process. When I didn't see Suika
emerging from the rubble, my intuition alerted me to spin around, my fist filled with more power...only for my opponent
to be there...and taking the punch while barely even flinching. "...What the?"

Even with my knuckles in her face, she still managed to grin at me,"Heh, that's a nice punch you got there." She went
to kick me in the ribs but I managed to back away in time, "I suppose I should get at least a little serious, eh?" With that,
she laughed and spread her arms out as I saw a Spell Card floating over her head.

Vaporous Sign "Six Leagues In The Fog"

Taking a gulp from her sake, she dispersed into a white fog that quickly began to fill my field of vision...somehow, I got
the feeling that this was gonna hurt...and sure enough, I would soon be proven right...

The girls finally arrived in Heaven and began looking every which way, "Alright, anybody see any signs of that drunken
oni and the idiot?" Reimu asked, still not in the best of moods.

Cirno scanned the horizon for several seconds before spotting something and pointing, "Over there! On that island!"
Following her lead, the group flew towards the island floating in the sky over the realm. The sounds of battle could be heard echoing from it.

However, before they could intervene, flashes of red light filled the air around them, halting the group in their tracks and a familiar voice could be heard, "Sorry about this, but I can't let you ruin the show when it's just getting good."

Reimu looked upwards and her eyes widened, "Tenshi?!"

Sure enough, the instigator of the Scarlet Weather Rhapsody floated before them on her keystone, wearing a rather amused smile on her facial features, "Hello there, Reimu. Lovely weather we're having today, wouldn't you agree?"
She winked in a playful manner.

"Don't give me that!" The shrine maiden barked while pointing her gohei at her, "You knew about all this from the start, didn't you? Come on, fess up already!"

Instead of answering right away, the Celestial pulled out a candy bar from her pocket and took a bite out of it, savoring the sweet chocolate taste as it melted over her tongue, "Mmm...ah, you know, you surface dwellers don't have the first
clue how lucky you are to be able to eat this kind of delicacy all the time."

"Don't try and distract us! Just answer the bloody question already!" Reimu roared, jabbing her gohei almost in the
girl's face, "I'm not in the mood for your nonsense so talk."

The blue-haired girl sighed and pushed aside the purification rod, "You really need to learn to relax more, you know that? You're gonna give yourself a heart attack one of these days with being all serious all the time," At seeing Reimu
narrow her eyebrows, Tenshi put up her hands, "Ok, ok! I may've...spoken to the drunken oni at one point and she may've dropped a hint or two that she had a plan of some sort."

"So you do admit it," Marisa remarked, keeping one eye on the battle below, "What do you know about all this?"

The princess shrugged and spread her arms out, "If you guys have come this far, you probably know about as much as I do. Although I do remember warning you this was bigger than any of us think, but did you listen? Nope! So that one's
on you, not me."

"Alright, why did you go along with it than?" Reisen asked, looking genuinely curious as to why the celestial would go along with anything that involved a certain Youkai Sage.

"I was bored," Tenshi stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world, "Hey, I didn't cause the current incident so give me credit where it's due, alright? Besides, you may not see it but this maybe a opportunity for you."

"An opportunity to do what?" Reimu remarked while folding her arms.

"To see if your friend here is capable of standing on his own two feet," Tenshi tilted her head and smirked at Reimu's
bemused expression, "Come now, I'm sure even you don't want to play the role of babysitter forever, right? Every bird
has to eventually leave the nest after all," She readjusted herself on her keystone, "Besides, if you're not willing to challenge
yourself, you aren't exactly living, are you?"

"What do you..." Reimu stopped herself as Tenshi's words actually began to sink in. She had to admit it was annoying
having to watch his back constantly...but then she remembered the frustration he himself had shown at not being enough of a
help to everyone...was this the reason he was going through with this?

"I see my words have hit home, huh?" Tenshi quizzed while floating in front of her, smiling, "I gotta say, you show quite a
bit of concern for someone you barely even known a few days. Is he really that important to you?"

"O-Of course not!" Reimu sputtered while looking away, "It's my responsibility to look after Gensokyo's inhabitants. Besides, it's
in my own best interests to keep him alive. That's all there is to it."

"I wonder..." The blue-haired girl scratched her chin before looking over to the others who only shrugged. She had an inkling that the shrine maiden wasn't exactly honest with herself, which was nothing new, "Well, whatever. It's not my business to
pry. Now than..." Several more keystones floated up around them, "Why don't we have a seat and enjoy the show?"

The girls, now looking uncertain yet interested at the same time, took a seat as Tenshi joined them, "You can do it, James!
Kick that oni's butt!" Cirno cheered from the sidelines.

"She does realize he can't hear us from all the way up here, right?" Tenshi remarked, to which Marisa and Reimu only shrugged...


Surrounded on all sides by pure white mist, I looked every which way for my opponent, "Where are you...?"

Suddenly, I heard faint giggling over my shoulder so I spun on the spot to attack...only to see a silhouette vanish
into the fog. I gave chase after it...when I felt a sharp sting on my back and turned to see a swarm of blue energy
orbs flying out of the fog and in my direction!

I yelped and ducked down low while scurrying, just barely managing to avoid them only for more to descend from on high. Hopping from side to side, I felt one of them missing my noggin by only inches...but for every one I evaded,
two more found their mark. On their own, each shot was little more than a brief static sting...but up to half a dozen hitting you at the same time? Over and over?

Yeah...not fun one bit.

Before long, I found myself once more knocked onto my back, groaning in pain, "Ok, I am REALLY getting sick of
being knocked on my back."

"Than man up already!" Suika's voice echoed all around me, her laughter in my ears, "You can't always trust what your
eyes show you. Sometimes, you just gotta have faith, trust your instincts, don't think, just feel."

Trust my...what was this?! Was this still a duel or a lesson in philosophy mixed in with training? The more I thought of it
the more plausible the second option sounded, especially since I'm pretty sure Suika could've ended this with one attack
if she really wanted to.

I sighed and got to my feet, shaking the numbness out of my limbs, "Ok, got it...Use The Force, Luke." I closed my eyes and
focused intently. I winced as the energy bullets continued to ping off my skin but I knew I had to do this. Come on, come on...

The sound of dirt and gravel shifting to the right tipped me off. I swung my arm out and felt it strike something solid, "Agh, sorry!"
Opening my eyes, I spotted the silhouette darting back into the fog and the storm of bullets briefly coming to a halt.

Knowing I needed to act quickly, I slammed down one of my spare Capture Cards, "Go!" The suction effect kicked up and
proceeded to swallow the giant cloud of fog, revealing a grinning Suika who clapped for me.

"Nicely done, James! Nicely done indeed!" She winked and wagged a finger at me, "But let me assure you, the fun's only getting started!" As if to prove her point, she reached up and removed several rather rather large tufts of hair without
even flinching.

What is she...My eyes grew as large as dinner plates due to the truth that hit me like a cannonball. Oh crap...

"Say hello to my little friends!" Suika happily proclaimed while tossing her strands of hair into the air where they
reformed into dozens of Mini-Suikas who began rapidly filling up the field, some of them gathering together to merge
into larger versions who were closer to the original, "Let's see how well you deal with being outnumbered!"

The small army of Suikas all ran together towards me, laughing and waving their arms about like they were off to play on the jungle gym rather than crush poor little me.

Luckily, I had another idea...though it was a tad more crazy than my usual ideas. I slipped my capture card into my scarf and invoked its power. The result was the energy being funneled into it like a medium and the ends lengthening
out and flapping about like they had come to life.

I so hope Iku doesn't mind me borrowing her gimmick...

Taking in a deep breath, I decided to get to work and rush to meet the mob head on. As I raced towards them, a pile of the
smaller Suikas leapt into the air and shot off like missiles in my general direction. This was no time for fear though, just needed
to keep moving. Even as the field around me fell into chaos from the explosive force caused by each Suika's impact, my now-living
scarf got to work, lashing out like a pair of supercharged whips to bat aside the Suikas that tried to stop me.

Two of them leaped to attack from both sides in what I assumed was a flanking maneuver so I let the ends of my scarf rise
up in response, forming a pair of shields the the attacks of the twin Suikas and shoved them hard enough to launch them both
into a pair of conveniently-placed boulders at high velocity.

Spotting a trio of them coming at me from the front, I let one end of my improvised weapon zip forward and ping-pong off of
each of them. I was alerted to another sneak attack by the sound of dirt on the ground shifting behind me so the other end of my
scarf sweep out behind me like a broom. The sound of several yelps reached my ears and let me know I had connected.

However, even as a pile of Minis, Suika was still pretty smart, as when I went to lash out at one of them, they grabbed my
scarf and hauled on it, dragging me off my feet and in their direction where she blew out a large gust of air that sent me
flying. Spotting a tree, my scarf tied itself around one of the branches and I managed to swing myself back into the fray.
Don't ask me to explain how that works because I had long since given up on logic to explain most things.

Rolling out of the way of one of the Suikas ground pounds, I wrapped the end of my scarf around their ankle and hauled
them off of their feet before swinging them like a pendulum around me, knocking down a bunch more. Spotting a group of
the girls lining up in a row, I watched them each rear back a hand and chuck fireballs in my direction. My scarf spiraled inward
to take a shape akin to a defensive barricade.

As a result, the fireballs hit the shield but were "captured" allowing me to send it back at them by lashing outwards, sending
an expanding wave of pure flame out that forced the group to disperse. Out of nowhere though, a Suika appeared in front of
me and delivered a right hook to my chest. I gasped in pain as I felt myself pushed backwards...but then I reached out and
grabbed their arm before slugging them in return with my normal arm causing her to pop like a balloon.

All of a sudden, I found myself dogpiled by the girls from all directions, each landing on me and trying to hold me down as
more and more kept leaping on. I'm not gonna way I'm gonna let myself lose here!

Letting my scarf go limp for a moment, the Capture Card rematerialized in my hand, "Go!" The orb it conjured quickly grew in size until it was as big as a car and began lifting the massive load off of me. With a snap of my fingers, the orb
collapsed and went off with a loud explosion that blew away everything in the immediate area. Even my vision was briefly
consumed by the blue light.

When I could finally see again, I noticed I was kneeling in the middle of a small crater...and no sign of Suika anywhere!

Alright, where that drunken oni get to now?...Man, this duel is taking the good out of me!

"Yoo-hoo!" My head shot up as I noticed the large cloud of dust gathering together above my head where Suika popped
out and landed on top of me, laughing, "Wow! That was fun! Let's keep going!" Before I had a chance to object, the Oni
carried me high into the air and activated another Spell Card.

Gathering Oni "Throwing Atlas"

I felt my world once more going all blurry like in a blender as small boulders and debris began to gather from all around us
and quickly blot out most of my vision. I had the sinking sensation in my gut if I made impact with anything in this state, our duel was pretty much over right here and now.

"Have a nice trip, see you next fall!" Suika announced in a sing-song voice before letting go and sending me soaring towards
the ground, face-first.

I so hope this works...

The massive boulder made impact with the earth, and exploded into large shards of rubble which flew every which way. The impact also ended up shaking the surrounding area, giving one a small taste of just what kind
of power was packed away in the seemingly little girl's body.

"If he's a pile of broken bones under there, me and her are gonna have words." Reimu grumbled, more to herself than anyone else. Cirno could only watch the scene before her, waiting for any sign her friend was still ok.

Suika landed on the rubble and glanced around the area, "Hmm...might have overdone it just a tad there..." She sweatdropped while massaging the back of her neck, grinning.

Suddenly, white fog began to drift up from the gaps in the debris and began to cover the area, "What the..." The Oni's eyebrow rose as she saw her vision quickly filling up, "Oh...I see..." Orbs of blue energy
began to descend on her from all directions so she merrily skipped her way through them, not even bothering
to pay them any heed.

"You used my captured Spell Card to escape, didn't you? Clever trick...but..." She turned and rose a slender finger, "Not clever enough." She fired off a single Danmaku bullet and something could be heard falling over
within the mist.

She sighed and walked on over, "Seriously? This is MY spell card you captured, remember? You didn't think I wouldn't know it inside and out? Its strengths, its weaknesses...if that's the case, you still have much to learn..."
With that, she scooped up the young lad and looked him in the eye.

Despite the situation though, he managed to smirk at her, "Oh, I knew fact...that's what I was counting on..."

When he said that, Suika's eyes widened in realization...but by that point it was too late. One look down showed that
his hand was only inches from her own abdominal area...and there was a Capture Orb already rapidly expanding! Before
she could do anything, he slammed the orb into her gut, and he used his other free hand to hold onto her arm while
he pushed the orb with all his might into her.

For what seemed like the first time in this whole match, Suika actually grunted in pain and smacked a hand against the side of his face in the hopes of pushing him away. However, the young man held firm and pushed back even harder while
her fingers tried to dig into his skull. The ground around them giving away as he kept aiming to overpower her. As if in response to his will, the Capture Orb began to spin rapidly, adding even greater force and causing the earth behind Suika
to start splintering open.

At last, Suika was blown off her feet and sent rocketing far away...but if that lad thought this duel was over he was wrong...dead wrong.


I watched the drunken Oni dig a nice long trench through the earth, smashing through trees and boulders before
being caught in a huge explosion. Refusing to accept she would stay down for long, I let my scarf come to life once
again as a giant pair of fists and charged toward her.

Sure enough, she reformed from a pile of mist laughing with joy, "Now this is what I call a fight!" Cracking her knuckles, she catapulted herself towards me and our fists met in the middle of the field. The next little while was filled with quite a
bit of rapid-fire fisticuffs. The speed and ferocity behind each exchange of attacks continued to quake the ground around
us. Neither side giving an inch.

Finally, we both lashed out our fists one last time, her own fist glancing off the side of my head while my own fist met
her face. It didn't hurt her much but it did stun her long enough for me to finally let loose, releasing a powerful high-speed
barrage of fists into the girl. A bit much? Maybe, but I got the feeling my stamina would run out long before hers did so the sooner I finished this the better.

I kept up the onslaught for a nice while, before finishing it off with one last "ORA!" Before delivering slamming both fists into
her at full throttle with enough force and power to destroy the surrounding area.

This time, Suika actually seemed to struggle a little upon getting to her feet. Still, she smiled and invoked her next spell card.

Oni Sign "Giant Oni Of The Earth's Axis"

She clapped her hands twice and began to grow rapidly until she was probably twice the height of the Hakurei Shrine and had the stature of a colossus. Each footstep she took now shook the land around us. Figuring that clashing with her head on
was useless right now, I finally decided to give in to my fear and started booking it away from her.

"Come back! I just wanna play!" She called out, her voice booming across the horizon as she kept following me. I ignored her and kept running, knowing I needed to come up with something and quick if I wanted to bring that giant down. All of a sudden
I saw a shadow looming over me and looked up only to pale at the sight of my opponent actually leaping into the air and crashing
into the ground not even ten feet in front of me.

Quickly shielding myself from the recoil, I looked up to see her raising her fist and bringing it down hard. I used my scarf's
"Giant Hand" mode to help me propel myself backwards as her attack made a crater out of the place I once stood. She kept up though and moved forward while continuing to try and lay down the beatings, forcing me to keep zig-zagging and
maneuvering back and forth to stay even just one step ahead of her.

I can't be careless...I gotta time my attacks just right...and...there! Lunging forward, I raced underneath the giant after her latest ground pound and struck at her heel with both fists before conjuring an Capture Orb and tossing it at her shin. In
response, she stomped the earth with her other foot, causing a small shockwave that I was forced to shield myself with despite being still blown over.

Regardless, I got right back up and resumed my attack, running in a circular motion around her while continuing to throw
Capture Orbs at her. One got her right in the face, allowing me the chance to race to her leg once again and raise my
fists up, bringing them down and shattering the ground around her feet. Although I was knocked aside by the backlash,
it worked in causing part of the area to give way and cause Suika's leg to give out beneath her and fall to one knee.

I dragged myself to my feet once more and began running up one of her arms, clinging on as tight as I could when she
tried to shake my off...only to feel my grip slip and start falling! At the last moment though, my scarf lashed out and grabbed
onto a strand of hair, allowing me to climb up to her head.

Rearing back to bop her one on the noggin with my scarf fist, she yelped and began stomping off in another direction, heading right towards the side of a mountain! She can survive being buried under ten tons of rock...but I can't!

I held on tight to her hair as she crashed her noggin against the side of the mountain, feeling like I was on a roller-coaster of death. Seeing the debris starting to fall, I held on as long as I could but eventually was forced
to let go and slide down her back. The moment she went to turn, I took aim and fired a Capture Orb that zipped
right past her head and hit the side of the mountain.

The blast triggered an landslide and tons of giant boulders began raining down. Suika went to stop them..only
for my other Orb to hit her damaged shin. It didn't do much but it did distract her enough for the boulders to make contact. Feeling the terrain shifting all around me, I sank to my knees to catch my breath as dust filled
the air, blocking the scene before me.

Alright, I can probably conjure three or four more of those Capture Orbs. I have a scarf that allows me to attack and
defend and I still have Patchy's Royal Flare card. Within that frame, I need to finish this...
unfortunately, it seemed lady luck wanted to make fun of me a bit longer.

From out of the dust rose the colossus...only rapidly shrinking back to her normal size, "Huh?" She looked at her hands, " seems you did enough damage to cancel out my Spell Card. Nicely done, friend," The Oni
stretched and smiled at me, "Alright than, I think you've earned my full attention now!" Somehow, I knew I wasn't gonna like that.

She guzzled down a rather large amount of sake before inhaling deeply and slamming her fists together. An aura of bright red-orange blazed to life around her, kicking up a dust storm. I braced myself as she rose up a single fist which
began spiraling with both wind and flame, condensing into a single point, "Have a taste of an Oni's true power! The power to gather!"

The air around her seemed to ripple as next thing I knew she was right in front of my face, gleefully smiling as she
brought her fist down. My instincts told me that trying to block it this time was suicide so I booked it out of there...

And the moment her fist made contact with the earth, that's when all hell broke loose.

(End Song)

The entire island shaked and shuddered as tremors started happening all over the place. The earth itself seemed to be tearing itself apart as I saw the scenery around me beginning to fragment. No...the entire island was fragmenting!
Giant chunks of the place were crumbling away, and before long there would be nothing left to stand on!

The only thing that could be done right now was leave...but go where? Jump? That was a death wish waiting to happen!
No, the only thing that could be done...was plant the ends of my scarf into the ground like anchors and wait out the
storm! The area I stood on finally gave way as did the surrounding area and next thing I knew, I found myself falling
through the sky on a slab of earth.

One look up let me see that the rest of the floating island was coming apart too and that's when it hit me: Suika's
punch...that one punch...destroyed an entire island...she really has been holding back this whole time..

The sound of someone landing behind me snapped me out of my stupor and I turned to see Suika standing there, watching the show happening above me with a very embarassed look on her face, "Hehehe...umm...oops?"

"Oops?" Ok, I'll admit that reaction made me a bit livid, "Oops is quite an understatement considering you kinda just
destroyed an entire section of Heaven with a single punch!"

"Eh, you worry too much," Suika gave a dismissive wave, "Besides, that section technically wasn't Tenshi's so I doubt she'll be
that pissed about it...of course, if the locals complain I'll fix it up, no biggie." She was surprisingly jovial and nonchalant about
the whole matter...but than again, I guess that's Suika for ya.

She swallowed some more sake and wiped her mouth while giving a refreshed gasp, "Alright than...shall we continue? I should warn you that from here on out, I'm not gonna bother holding back...wouldn't be fair to either of us, don't you agree?"

Even with the massive odds against me, I took a deep breath and composed myself...before my scarf came to life once more and I held out the one spell card I still had, "No it wouldn' I won't bother holding back either." I could feel something
inside me, anxious to fight, "And I intend to win."

"That's the spirit!" She held up her own spell card and grinned, "Come at me with everything you have! I won't settle for less!"

(Play Suika's Theme-Onigashima In The Fairyland- Missing Power)

Sun Sign Royal Flare

Will O Wisp Superdense Conflagration

Both of us invoked the power of our spell cards at the same time, waves of flame so hot they rippled outwards and melted all
the falling rocks to nothing. Above us formed two blazing suns that began firing off flares at each other. The air before us quickly
filled with explosions as our attacks met in the middle. Laughing, Suika spin jumped into the air as a spiraling column of miniature
suns filled the air around her.

With one flick of her wrist, they rocketed down on my area forcing me to start running even as I willed my own sun to launch a counterattack. There was no way I could capture her spell and add it to my own at this I needed to buy time until
I could get close enough to do so.

Oh, that and I needed to avoid being barbecued at the same time.

Her own fire-based spell card had a bonus compared to mine as her own flares could split into multiple ones upon hitting the earth which meant that
staying in one spot for too long meant I was done for.

Suika batted aside my flares with her bare hands as she launched a barrage in return, the area around me quickly filling up
with smoke and fire so my scarf lashed out and captured several of the flares before tossing them right back. The Oni however
simply fell right through them and punched the ground with her bare hand, causing it to begin to fracture and splinter.

Realizing I was in trouble, I made a running leap to the next falling slab and continued my offensive, launching my own
flares as now her shots seemed to miss me on purpose...what was she aiming at?!

The next slab of earth began to give way but as it did, Suika rematerialized in front of me and slammed a palm, launching
me off the platform. As I fell through space, I willed my scarf to grab onto another slab and haul me to safety. In many ways,
I was fighting two battles at once. Against Suika AND against the descent itself.

Seeing her land on a slab not far from mine, I went to charge at her, both of our own sun-based spells meeting in the middle with even more explosive results. It was like a fireworks display. Even as my attacks made contact and forced her back, I heard
explosions elsewhere...and one look up made me realize what she was doing.

She's destroying the other platforms! If she keeps this up, I soon won't have anything to stand on! I glanced over to where
she stood, the realization dawning on me. Clever girl...but two can play at that game!

I aimed my flares at several chunks of debris that fell around her which created a makeshift smokescreen. Taking a running
start, I jumped off my platform and descended on her area. Suika looked up and gasped but by then it was too late, "Spell
Capture!" Snapping my fingers, the suction effect kicked up, blowing the Oni back as both suns were engulfed by the blast
of blue light. On my card there was now the image of an star in the process of going supernova.

The platform beneath us broke apart leaving us now trapped in a free fall. We stared each other down, me looking as determined as ever, or I hoped I looked the part, and Suika looking absolutely ecstatic as she wiped her brow, " know,
I gotta commend you. It's been quite some time since I faced someone who could actually force me to go all out.." She tilted
her head at the card in my hand, "And it seems Lady Satori taught you a few nifty tricks too."

"Yeah, she did..." I pocketed the card and felt my scarf coming to life, the ends flapping as if they were trying to capture
the air itself, "I suppose you still got a few tricks left up your sleeve too, eh partner?"

She giggled, "I don't have sleeves, dummy! But you're right. I think I still got a thing or two left to show you!" She snapped her
fingers and the air around us filled up with fireballs. At seeing the alarmed look on my face, the oni grinned and waved at me
before the orbs of flame began raining on me from all directions. My scarf came to life and began whirling all about me, capturing
all the fire shot at me and imbuing it in my scarf.

However, Suika broke through my defenses in a flash and kicked me hard enough to knock the wind from my lungs and send
me flying backwards. I could feel my vision so blurry. No! I am not passing out! If I lose here, I'll never be able to face Reimu and
the others again! I won't disappoint them...and I certainly won't disappoint myself either!

I willed myself back from the brink of unconsciousness only to see Suika flying through the air on a massive fireball! Don't ask me
to explain that one either! I let my scarf rotate on itself till it formed a pair of drills...and let the fire shoot out the backside like a
pair of rocket boosters! "Whaaaaaa!"

The result? I ended up rocketing through the night! Angling myself, I felt the scenery blur together as I
followed Suika hot on her trail. I'm flying...holy crap, I'm actually flying! My giddiness at this new revelation was short-lived because
I knew I still had a fight to vanish, "Oi, Suika!"

"Huh?" The Oni glanced backwards and her eyes opened big time at the sight of me closing in on her rapidly! "James?!" However,
her alarm didn't last long as she smiled and clapped her hands together before thrusting forward and releasing a spray of flares
in my direction. The sky around me quickly filled with bright flashes of light. Not one to back down easily, I whipped off my hat
and ignited my spare Capture Card within. With a wave of my fedora, a Capture Orb was let loose on her.

She knocked it aside but I used those precious few seconds to charge and slam into her at full throttle. She shoved back just
as hard and we found ourselves spiraling through the night before being forced to let go and backpeddle away. Suika summoned
a rather large flaming meteor between her hands and hurled it at me.

I conjured one of the few remaining Capture Orbs I still had, as my stamina was beginning to run out, and hurled it to meet her own attack head on. The two forces collided with enough force that the explosion made me flip over and over backwards.

Willing myself to keep going, I flew forward to meet my opponent who did the same. Power filling my fist, I throw a punch
only for her to knock it aside with a backhand before countering with a spin kick which I ducked under before bringing my leg
up to kick her in the gut.

We exchanged blows, neither side making any real progress until I finally had enough and held her while the two flaming
drills crashed into her with enough power to generate a sonic boom and blow away all the surrounding clouds...

When I came to, I found myself once more falling through the sky. My body feeling like it couldn't take much more. Suika falling beside me, looking just as dazed and winded...but still as happy as could be. When I went to check on her, she
grinned, "Not yet...still got one more surprise!" She revealed the last of her cards...and my heart was her trump card.

And she cast it without a second thought.


The sheer power it released blew me backwards as I saw Suika floating there below me. Arms raised as I saw purple orbs
appearing from nowhere and being drawn into her orbit. As this happened, entire rings of blue orbs began emitting from her
body and spreading out in all directions. In a flash, I conjured another Capture Orb and threw it. It slammed into the girl...and
did jack squat.

Oh no...if that thing stays active for too long...

As if karma hated me, the air around the girl started to take on a distorted
appearance. Warping inward on itself if you would. I conjured yet another Spirit Bomb and lobbed it downward at her. However, by this point, the power in her spell was starting to rise rapidly and she began to counter what I threw at her by summoning
MASSIVE orbs of energy that eclipsed anything I could dish out.

Flapping my scarves like a pair of makeshift wings I began my own descent towards the black hole that was taking shape
around the little Oni. If I don't finish this right now, I'll be the one who's finished! I realized before hauling out my fusion card
and nodding. Let's hope this works!

Before I could cast it though, a ball of light knocked it out of my hand! "No!" It fell into Suika's orbit which meant...I would need to dive in there if I wanted to get it back...great, just great. Swallowing whatever pride I had left, I dove in, being
caught up in the current as I felt myself being whirled about and shaken like someone shaking up a bottle filled with soda pop.

Seeing the card, I zeroed in on it even as more bullets and energy orbs emerged from the center of the storm. Space itself
seemed to be collapsing just from the sheer power Suika was emitting. I got the sinking sensation this girl could destroy all of creation if she wanted to!

But...I had come this far, been through too be stopped here and now! With one last ounce of strength, I grabbed the card and invoked it:

Sun Sign- Royal Conflagration

The air around me became superheated as columns of searing hot solar flares appeared all around me, rotating in a clockwise formation. I struggled and strained at the overwhelming power being released while raising my arm up and having all the
flares meld into a series of giant suns before spiraling together above my head. The result was one giant orb of atomic fire.

Clenching my fist, I descended for the last time on Suika and into the heart of her spell card. As I fell, I let myself reflect on
all that had happened up till now. Meeting Reimu, Marisa, Kaguya, Cirno, and everyone else. Getting to see the flipping afterlife and
living to tell the tale. Facing goddesses, time-manipulating french maids, magicians, and so on. It was...great. Amazing even.

It was scary sure this moment, I didn't regret taking the hand being offered.

Thanking the gang from the bottom of my heart and soul, I broke through Suika's final defenses and appeared in her face, leaving
her gobsmacked, "Game Over!" With that, I brought the giant orb of fire crashing down on top of her.

The last sight I had of the oni was her closing her eyes and smiling if she had found what she been looking for...

(End Song)
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 8 Part 1
This is it. The chapter I had been waiting the whole story to write. Needless to say, I had a blast writing this. It was
loads of fun...though looking back, I probably had a bit TOO Much fun and...probably went overboard especially in regards
to Suspension Of Disbelief. Yes, some folks on pointed out the obvious flaws. With Mr White suddenly able to pull out
all these tricks of his...relax, this will be one of the ONLY times he does this. Again, got carried away...

Also, guess who makes a surprise appearance in this chapter? XD That's right, my good friend :iconkigurou-enkou:icon 's avatar Alyss The Red Bomber!
Oh, rest assured...things are about to get QUITE interesting with her here...XD

Part 2 will be up shortly.
"Would it...have..killed...Lady escalator..?" I panted out in the middle of climbing the steps leading to her manor. I was starting to wonder if this thing ever ended!

"Umm...I'm not sure how installing an escalator is suppose to kill Miss Yuyuko considering she's already dead," Reisen remarked while walking beside us. Her rabbit ears twitching every which way, as if she were pulling look-out to make sure we weren't jumped
by anyone else.

"I'm pretty sure that's suppose to be the joke, Reisen," Marisa said while trying not to laugh. Finally, we arrived at the top of the
stairs...where someone stood waiting for us.

Standing before the front gate was a girl around my height with short silver-white hair and wearing a green and white dress with long sleeves, white socks and black dress shoes. Attached to a belt on her waist were a pair of swords, one longer than the other. In her arms, she carried a wisp-like creature formed from what looked like white ectoplasm. As you might have
guessed by now, this was Youmu Konpaku.

Upon our arrival, she opened her blue eyes and stared us down rather intensely"Halt! State your reasons for being here quickly, or I will turn you back by force if necessary!"

"Jeez, Youmu," Marisa waved her hand in the air, "No need to get your panties in a wad, da ze. Remember us? Reimu and Marisa? The
totally cool pair who kicked you and your master's asses when you tried to steal Spring?"

"I remember you lot perfectly well," Youmu remarked with a sigh as she let her ghost self float beside her, "But my question still stands. What are you doing here? Last I remembered, the land of the dead is not a tourist attraction."

Marisa leaned over to whisper to me, "Youmu's kind of a stick in the mud in case you haven't noticed."

"Eh, I'm sure she's not that bad," I shrugged it off, "Just very devoted to her job. I'll talk to her," I waved to her, "Hello there!
Youmu, right? Nice to meet you...say, um, you and Lady Yuyuko wouldn't happen to be willing to spare some time? We just wanna ask a few questions, drop off this parcel, and then we'll be on our way." I looked around before gesturing to the bag, "Could you please make it quick too? My back's gotten a bit sore from carrying this thing over that flight of steps."

The girls snickered amongst themselves but Youmu looked less than amused "Such insolence! Demanding an audience with Lady Yuyuko without any prior arrangement?" Youmu unsheathed her swords, "Furthermore, you wish to dump off some of your junk here as well? Can you be any more inconsiderate? Who do you think takes care of this place, anyway?"

"Let's just kick her butt and walk past her afterward," Reimu sighed, "There is no point trying to skip the first step in the process." She drew out her staff and prepared herself for battle, but before she even got the chance...I felt something or someone press up against me.

The girls all stopped and froze up like statues as they stared at me, "...What is it? Do I have a zit on my face?" I looked over and for a
moment, my heart skipped a beat.

"Oooh!" the soft voice called out, "There are cream puffs in here, too... And even some sweet rolls!" A pink-haired girl wearing a blue flower-pattern yukata was pressed up against my side. The Princess Of The Netherworld, Yuyuko Saigyouji had arrived. The princess then got to work on helping herself to the snacks in my bag even though I was still wearing it.

"L-lady Yuyuko?!" Youmu's jaw nearly dropped to the floor.

"Hey, you can't just grab onto James like that!" Cirno protested against Yuyuko's behavior.

"Oh, you're right..." Yuyuko giggled, "This young man looks rather delicious as well..." She pulled herself up a bit more and latched her lips onto my ear playfully, "He's rather cute, too..." The ghost patted me on the head while she sucked on my ear, the faint smell of cherry blossoms wafting all around me as she did so. The girl felt literally weightless, but even so her body was still incredibly soft yet cool to the touch.

Oh god...quick, think of something before your thoughts start drifting the wrong way, brain! I finally managed to sputter, ""Umm...L-Lady Yuyuko, right? I appreciate your kind gestures but...wouldn't you rather help yourself to what's in the bag then try and eat me? Honestly, with all the pizza and burgers I eat, I wouldn't
be very good for you. I'd just give you indigestion."

"I don't mean eat you literally," Yuyuko giggled, "I don't like my meals that fresh, you know... I prefer them cooked rather than raw, just like I prefer round meat buns to square meat buns."

"Lady Yuyuko!" Youmu waved her arms in the air, "What are you doing?!"

"I'm flirting with the cute boy, that's what," Yuyuko smiled, "You really are too innocent, Youmu... I'm guessing you don't even know where babies come from."
It was obvious this woman got a kick out of getting her servant riled up.

"O-of course I do!" Youmu's face turned bright red, "But that's beside the point! Please try to contain yourself, Lady Yuyuko."

"Yup, Youmu's definitely a virgin, da ze~" Marisa nodded. Reimu shot her a stern look. "What? I'm just saying..." Marisa shrugged.

"Anyway..." Reimu turned to Yuyuko, "Could we come inside? There are a few things we need to talk to you and Youmu about... Feel free to help yourself to the snacks and James, too, as you wish." Help herself to me?! Who's side are you on, Reimu?

"Alright," Yuyuko nodded, "Step right in... Youmu-chan, make sure our guests are feeling welcome." The ghost took me by the hand and led me into the house into a large common area where a tea table was set up. The ghost princess floated over to the closet and pulled out some extra cushions for everyone to sit down on. Youmu excused herself to go prepare some tea while Yuyuko dragged me over to her place at the table and sat me down beside her.

"So... What did you want to speak to me about?" Yuyuko asked, popping two or three cream puffs into her mouth at once. The girl had a truly bottomless stomach if there ever was one. She spotted the sisters outside and smiled, "Lunasa, would you and your sisters be kind enough to give us a small show?" The trio bowed and did as asked.

As that went on, and Yuyuko had her little feast, we finally got to work on explaining the situation to her. She simply nodded along to what
we said for the first while, either implying she already knew we were gonna say all this..or she was just taking this all in stride. My money was
on the latter.

"Hm... Sounds like things are starting to get amusing then, hm?" Yuyuko smiled as soon as we were done explaining the situation, "Its like when the dough is just beginning to rise and expand in all directions when baking sweet rolls."

"Uhm, do you have anything you could tell us about the current incident, perhaps?" Reimu tried to keep Yuyuko on topic.

"Yukari-chan told me that you all would be coming to visit me soon," Yuyuko tented her fingers, "And I'm glad she was right... Otherwise, I might not have had an opportunity to meet James. He's even cuter than Yukari-chan described him..."

"Uhm," Reimu waved her hand in front of Yuyuko, "About the incident?"

"Oh, right," Yuyuko nodded, "The perpetrator is using a powerful artifact known as the Amplifying Comb. Although at first the effects of wearing the comb are subtle and hardly worth mentioning, over time, as its name suggests, it increases the powers of the wearer."

"Holy cow!" I exclaimed before smacking my hands over my mouth, everyone turning to me, surprised, "'s just..something like that would be incredibly dangerous...especially considering most folks here in Gensokyo have already won the lottery when it comes to having powers,"
I stared down at my fingers which were knitted together on the table, "I mean...who would even condone the creation of such a tool?"

"I wouldn't worry about it too much," Yuyuko patted me on the head while wearing a bright smile, "I'm sure whoever made it had their
reasons for doing so. It's not like a person would make such a valuable tool on a whim after all."

"Doesn't that mean that the longer we take the harder it will be to defeat the perpetrator?" Reimu asked, trying to get back to the
matter at hand.

"Not really... Just because someone has more power at their disposal doesn't mean they are able to put it all to good use," Yuyuko explained, "Just like adding twice as much cream filling to a cream-filled doughnut does not necessarily make it twice as delicious."

"How do you know they have the Amplifying Comb, anyway?" Reimu pointed her staff at Yuyuko's nose.

"I've seen it used before, so I know what clues to look for," Yuyuko replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Do ya have any idea who might be using it now?" Marisa asked.

"I have a few suspects, but I don't want to point blame unless I know for sure," Yuyuko smiled innocently.

It felt like we were finally getting somewhere, but I felt we needed to press her just a little bit "Miss Yuyuko, we know you don't want to put blame on anyone, and we're not asking you to, but anything you can share with us would be a big help. The more we know, the better our chances of keeping this incident from spiraling out of control..."

"Heh, you really are another Romeo, you know that?" Marisa snickered before being bopped by Reimu's staff.

"There isn't much danger of it getting out of hand," Yuyuko popped another sweet bun into her mouth, "After all, Yukari-chan is keeping track of things, so I'm sure she'll step in if things go wrong. Since you asked so nicely, though, I'll give you a little something to help you.." Yuyuko reached up and gently stroked my cheek with her fingertips.

"The Prince walked by a certain village, over which he had dominion and power to do as he wished. However, the villagers there did not have full faith and trust in the Prince, so the Prince decided to do something about it," Yuyuko began, "The Prince gave one of the villagers the authority and power to rule over the entire village..."

"But in time, the villagers began to realize how difficult their new ruler was making life for them, so they cast down the villager that had at one time been one of their own and turned back to the Prince to rule them," Yuyuko then concluded the riddle, "As a result, the villagers learned to trust the Prince more than before."

"Wait... I don't really understand what you are getting at," Reimu shook her head.

"Its a riddle, stupid," Cirno crossed her arms in front of her chest.

"I know that... But I don't understand it at all," Reimu sighed.

"I don't either!" Cirno declared proudly.

I blinked as the princess words sunk in, "Another riddle, huh? I'm starting to see why you and Yukari are so close," She only giggled, "So, we figure this out, we'll be on the right track?"

"Perhaps... It depends on who you are looking for," Yuyuko replied with another innocent smile, wrapping her arms around my shoulders and pressing her cheek up against mine, "Ah... You're so warm and comfy, James... You feel just like a loaf fresh from the oven, warm and delicious!"

Oh my gosh, close contact! "Ehh?" I stared at her, a little awe-struck,"Ummm...thank're...surprisingly affectionate towards someone you only just met, aren't you?" I didn't mean anything rude by it. Just something I been picking up on.

"I'm sorry, I can hardly help myself," Yuyuko eased back slightly, although she still held me gently in her arms, "You're the first living boy I've met in quite a while... As a ghost, I crave the warmth of the living, but more so than that, you're so adorable I wanna just eat you up, too." She looked up at him innocently, her large round eyes gazing at me intently, "Do you... Want me to stop?"

"Eh? N-No no, it's fine!" I proclaimed before noticing Cirno attached to my other arm, "...Cirno?"

The ice fairy only smiled and snuggled up closer to me, "Pay more attention to me. I've known you longer, after all." Ok, I wasn't gonna deny
that, even if our time together had only been a couple days. It was quite a scene with a ghost princess clinging to one side of me and a ice
fairy clinging to the other.

Marisa leaned over to her best friend, "You know, I think a certain tengu would have a field day if she saw this..." She snickered at the scowl her friend threw in her direction.

"Ughh...can we all please stay on topic for five minutes?" Reimu pleaded as she rubbed her temples, exasperated. She turned to the half-phantom, "Youmu. Utsuho told us you were the lunch lady at the reactor the day it got attacked. Did you happen to see anything
strange or out of the ordinary?" Oh, so now she wanted to take the lunch lady thing seriously?

"This is Gensokyo, unusual stuff happens almost everyday," Youmu commented while rolling her eyes and sighing, "But if you must know, I haven't been the lunch lady there for very long. However, from what I can tell, things were fairly normal. I could tell that the kappa were a bit on-edge since they were expecting an inspection of some kind from Kanako-sama or Suwako-sama. The lunch room isn't anywhere near the front of the facility, so I can't really say when Suwako arrived, but I saw her sometime before lunch started. The abrupt shaking started a few minutes after the lunch break began."

"That still doesn't explain why you were feeding meat loaf to the kappa to begin with," Reimu pointed her staff at Youmu, "The kappa are known to prefer vegetarian dishes to red meat ones!"

"That would be due to Yuyuko getting into the salad I had intended to serve instead of meat loaf," Youmu sighed, "I was not trying to make them upset, but they did not complain much on account of Suwako's visit."

"I'm sorry, I was just so hungry and I knew I would not have anyone there to feed me for a few hours at least..." Yuyuko looked at me instead of Youmu for some reason as she apologized, "I thought just a little taste wouldn't hurt..."

"Oh, there was one more thing that you might find important," Youmu spoke up, "Whoever caused the damage to the reactor did it through raw physical force or some kind of innate ability, since I did not detect any spell cards or magic being used throughout the lunch break."

At hearing her words, we all stopped and shared a knowing glance with one another, a look of resignation, "Is...something the matter?" Youmu
asked, now looking a bit worried.

"It's nothing, just..." It was my turn to sigh, "You just confirmed something we had been hoping wasn't true...that Suika was the one who attacked
the reactor. After all, what other kind of Youkai has the raw strength to inflict the damage needed?"

"That's true, da ze~" Marisa sighed, "But I get the feeling we might be overlooking something... I mean, why would Suika need dat comb? She's already supposedly one of the most powerful people in all of Gensokyo."

"You're thinking too hard, Marisa," Reimu shrugged, "Why don't we just beat the answers out of her instead of wasting time here? We know where she is, anyway... Its not like keeping a low profile is her style, anyway."

"I think you might be a bit too eager for a fight, Reimu," Reisen raised her hand.

"Where is your warrior spirit, Reisen? I thought you used to be a soldier or something," Reimu huffed, "Its already clear that Suika has something to do with this incident, so I could care less if she's the perpetrator or not. In the very least, she should cough up enough information to get us closer to the truth."

That's when something that dawned on me...something that actually put a few things in perspective, "Unless the comb wasn't meant for Suika.." I offered,"You said it yourself, Reimu. Suika and Yukari are on rather good terms with each other and she wouldn't break her usual M.O. for no good reason. I mean, Suika strikes me as the type who just wants to party rather than fight..."

I tapped my chin in thought before nodding,"Guys...this is only my theory but...what if the whole damage to the reactor thing...was just a massive red herring?" Seeing their quizzical looks, I sighed,"Think for a second...everybody knows if the reactor goes kaput so does most of Gensokyo. So she damages the reactor just enough to cause a small crisis and then bails. All we needed was a little push to start investigating, our trip takes us to different parts
of the world where we fight various, incredibly powerful individuals.."

I placed my hands on the table, "What if this whole trip up till now...was meant as nothing more than a training trip? You know, a series of trials
to make sure we're ready for whatever is really coming?"

"That...Totally sounds like something Yukari might do," Reimu sighed, "Plus given that it's Suika who is the primary suspect here, it makes sense since she would do just about anything Yukari might ask her to do as a favor."

"So, ya think we might have been wasting our time running all around Gensokyo?" Marisa's shoulders slumped, "and here I was thinking we were getting close to figuring out what the heck is going on." Well...that's one way to deflate everyone's spirits. Man, I felt like a jerk right now.

"Hm... I think James has a point, but there is one more thing we might not have considered yet," Reisen spoke up once again, "What if the various events we have observed are not all related to each other? Do we have any real proof that all of this is caused by the same person? Perhaps one or more people have taken advantage of the confusion to do things for their own reasons, making it appear as if they are related when they are not."

"I suppose you're right for a change," Reimu groaned out, "Especially if the instigator is who we think they are...I swear, I'm getting a headache
from all this. Why can't things stay simple where I solve the problem by blowing it up?"

"That's no good..." Yuyuko cuddled up against my side, apparently feeling a bit ignored during the conversation after polishing off the food they had brought her along with her tea, "Not all problems can be solved by violence... I think it would be fun if you could resolve the incident by simply making love instead of war." The ghost giggled, rubbing her cheek against my shoulder.

"Oi! Can the lovey-dovey nonsense already!" Reimu exclaimed, looking ready to trounce the princess with her friend trying to hold her back.

Yuyuko only snickered, "Now, now, dear Reimu. You really need to learn to relax and live in the moment more. Besides, life's too short to
waste it being serious all the time..." She looked away from us and out the door, "I, of all people, know that well..." We followed her gaze out and saw it...the Saigyou Ayakashi. The only truly evil entity in all of Gensokyo. The only thing holding it back happened to be...

Yeah...quite a way to dampen the mood, am I right? "But enough about depressing stuff," With that, she was all chipper again and smiling, "I'm going for a walk, would any of you like to join me?" She floated to the door and looked back at us from over her shoulder.

We each shrugged and decided to follow along...

"Ahhh! The cherry blossoms sure are beautiful this time of year!" Yuyuko proclaimed in sheer joy as she let them drift all around her
while we walked the grounds together. The gang was split up leaving just me to walk with the ghost princess. Or more like I walked, she
floated around.

I was quiet for a second, before deciding I should ask, "Um, excuse me, Miss Yuyuko?" She stopped and looked back at me, "You said
Yukari's already told you we were coming, right?" She nodded, "Don't...take this the wrong way but...the Prismriver Sisters running into
us accident, am I right?"

The princess giggled and waved a fan in front of her face, "My,my, you really are an observant one, aren't you? I'll admit I may've...tipped them off...but I couldn't help myself. Besides, it was a rather enjoyable show you all put on for me." Wait, did that mean...dang, she was good.
"This is kinda embarassing but...can I ask you a personal question, Mr James?"

"Huh?" I looked up to Yuyuko who simply stood there, waiting for my answer, "Um...sure, I guess."

"Thank you," She then surprised me by reaching out and taking my hand, "Your has the aura of death around it, doesn't it?" At seeing my eyes widen in shock, she only giggled, "Don't look so surprised, dear. I'm the Princess of the Netherworld. It's only natural I can
identify the nature of one's soul...and it seems like in yours there's still a struggle going on."

"A struggle? What do you mean?" I asked, putting a hand to where my heart was.

" best to explain this to you?" Yuyuko's lips quipped for a second before she nodded twice, "Mm-hmm...yes...the reality of death has played a big role in your life, hasn't it? You've lost people important to you, and the impact that has can cast a shadow over one's
life. Even now that fear is still there in your heart, isn't it? The fear of loss, of letting everyone down..."

I averted my gaze out of shame, knowing what she was saying was true, "Well, duh...everybody goes through that. I convinced myself long ago that I'm not some special snowflake who's gonna change the very nature of the world. The universe is not that kind to let someone go
against its Grand Design."

"Even so, you still choose to believe," Yuyuko remarked in a comforting tone, "You still choose to believe in people, and to want to be close
to them, even with the reality of death hanging over you. You once let such a cruel lesson turn your heart to ice, didn't you?" I only nodded, "I
figured as much...the struggle in you comes down to one word...Why?"

She took me by the hand so I could walk with her, "Why are good people's lives cut short while the monsters are allowed to roam free? Why is charity and good will punished while cynicism and evil is rewarded? If there is a God, why do they allow such terrible things to happen
in our lives when we did nothing to deserve it?"

"Yeahhh..." I acknowledged, still trying to not look at her, feeling rather uncomfortable with this topic, "But I'll probably be dead long before I get anywhere close to the answers..."

"That doesn't mean the journey isn't one worth taking. Why, even I ponder those questions myself," I stopped and finally locked eyes withher as she smiled at me, "What? You didn't think all I do during the day is eat, sleep and annoy my precious Youmu, do you? I got things I
want answers to as well...but I also knows I won't find those answers on my own."

Before I could speak up, she turned me to face the others, "Take a good look...those girls trust you, and you trust them. You need each other...and Gensokyo needs you too. If you stay together...I'm sure one day you'll find the answers you're looking for," She pointed to
my heart, "Now go find it. That place where you feel your heart belongs...and when you do, that will be the day you realize your own potential..." She smiled at me, "And unlock your true self."

"My...true self?" I looked up at her, clueless as can be, "What do you mean?"

She winked at me, "That's something I leave up to you to discover," Hearing the others calling to me, She then kissed me on the forehead, "You best be off now. But do come by and visit again soon."

So, that's how my first encounter with the Ghost Princess concluded...with even more questions than what else was new?

"I should've known better to expect one of Yukari's closest pals to shed any actual light on this case," Reimu remarked with a snort while
we flew out of the portal and back into Gensokyo, "Can't even come out and just say it, can she? Gotta dance around the issue and drop a
bunch of stupid riddles and rhetorical nonsense..." It was obvious the visit had only soured the shrine maiden's mood.

"Whoa, easy there, Reimu," Marisa and I flew beside her, she putting a reassuring hand on her friend's shoulder, "Take a deep breath and
let it out slowly, ok? I'm upset too but losing our cool doesn't do us any good, got it?"

Reimu scowled at her and looked ready to snap...but after a moment, she did as asked, "Sorry, Marisa. I guess I'm a little testy right now
with the thought that we might've been running around Gensokyo the last three days for nothing. At least if we rough up Suika, we might
finally get somewhere."

"Amen to that," I agreed while we flew, "So, I know this is a dumb question, but...something tells me Suika isn't just going to tell us what we want to what's the plan for dealing with her?" I felt we might as well have one.

"Isn't it obvious?" Reimu blinked, "If she won't tell us right away, we'll have to smack her around until she spills the beans." Reimu never entertained the thought that doing such might be difficult in any way, or at least no more difficult than dealing with any other youkai in a similar manner.

"That's Reimu for ya," Marisa laughed.

It didn't take long for us to travel back to the shrine, where the three fairies of light awaited. For some reason, the fairies were cleaning up the shrine grounds instead of raiding the snacks at the moment. Marisa, who seemed to be well acquainted with them, flew over to them first to speak with them, "Yo, what's up?"

"Hello, Marisa-san," Sunny Milk smiled at the witch, "Already finished solving that incident?"

"Not exactly... Say, have you seen Suika around lately?" Marisa asked.

"Sure, she's taking a nap," Sunny Milk gestured toward the shine, where a familiar-looking lump lay sprawled out on the wooden porch. Suika looked so calm and peaceful laying on her back, her arms and legs spread out wide while she took deep breaths. Reimu flew over to the oni and wasted no time in trying to wake her by nudging her with her foot.

"Huh?" Suika sat up slowly and rubbed her eyes. "Oh, hey guys. Gotta say, I didn't expect you back so soon. I'm guessing you already
took care of things?" Oh, she was pulling the innocent act on us. Well, judging by the way the gang was simply standing there, staring
her down, we weren't falling for it, "...What?"

"You can drop the act, Suika. We know you're hiding something from us," Reimu pointed her staff at Suika's nose, "Who else could have broken into the reactor unnoticed and caused that amount of damage? You and Yukari are up to something, so don't bother trying to deny it. The fact that she sent you of all people to deliver her message when she could have just as easily come deliver it herself makes you particularly suspicious!"

"Not to mention the time and place you picked to drop off said message was equally suspicious," I remarked while folding my arms,"I saw your mist
form. There's a vent system attached to the reactor would be remarkably easy to sneak in, damage the reactor, and slip out again with that kind
of power."

Suika actually seemed to visibly recoil at our accusations. I will admit that we were being a bit harsher than we should've been, but considering we
could've saved ourselves ALOT of trouble if the Oni had just chosen to speak up, I think it would be hard to fault our irritation. Eventually, she seemed
to slump a little in defeat, "Ah... You weren't supposed to come talk to me about all that just yet," Suika rubbed the back of her head and smiled nervously.

"So you admit it!" Reimu smirked, "Now spit it out already... What's Yukari up to?"

"Hm... She hasn't told me a lot, but I don't really need to tell you what I know either," Suika shook her head, "You'll figure it out by yourself soon enough, after all."

"Don't give me that!" Reimu stomped her right foot, "We know about the Amplification Comb too, so If I have to kick your ass to get some answers, don't think I'll hesitate to do so!"

The oni sighed as she stood up, "Same ol' Reimu...always solving everything with violence," She took a gulp from her gourd, "If you really think
you can force me to tell you, you're welcome to try...though I should warn you..." Suika opened an eye and leered over at us in an unsettling
manner, "I might forget to hold back."

I could see the girls hands clenching tightly in anticipation. Finally, I sighed and reached into my pocket, "Suika...did you know from the start
that these weren't Bomb Cards?" I showed her the Spell Capture Cards, keeping my gaze focused on her.

Suika didn't say anything at first...then shrugged and slurped down her sake, "I did, indeed. However, I felt it was better if you figured it out on your own. That, and it would be a bigger surprise for you," A gleam appeared in her eye, "I also know why you were given them
in the first place."

"Care to explain yourself instead of beating around the bush?" I remarked, now feeling anxious to get to the bottom of this.

As I expected, she shook her head, "Not really, no...I can tell you this much. It was for more than just Yukari's amusement or to give you something to protect yourself with..."

"Alright, enough with the vagueness," Reimu stepped up to her, "Speak clearly...we're done playing detective games with Yukari."

"Sorry, but there's still one more game to be played," Suika downed even more sake...and that's when I remembered...the more she drinks, the more powerful she becomes, right? "Anyways, I think you been given enough free information for now. It's time to start the real show."

In a flash, she was gone from the porch and we spun around to see her standing in the clearing, a powerful windstorm picking up all around us. Suika stood there, hand out towards us and her standing in a combat-ready stance. "Suika! What do you think you're doing?!"
Reimu roared over the growing power of the wind.

"What I have to," She shot back without budging, "James White!" I snapped to attention at being called out, "If you wish to discover the
reason you were brought to Gensokyo, and giving that forbidden power...than show me the strength of your resolve! Accept my challenge
to one-on-one combat!"

"WHAT?!" Everyone exclaimed at the same time. Disbelief was everywhere. Suddenly, I was starting to regret using my fusion spell card
on the sisters. There was no way I could win a fight against Suika of all people...especially on my own.

The oni only smirked in our direction "Ever since I heard about your Spell Capture Cards, I've been wanting to see them in action... What a great opportunity to satisfy both of our curiosities, wouldn't you agree?"

"Are you stupid?" Reimu shouted at Suika, "If you hit James even once, he'll die!"

"Well, he'd better not get hit then, huh?" Suika nodded, "Have a bit more trust in your friends, Reimu... Its because of that attitude of yours that you haven't gotten yourself a lover."

"Huh?" Reimu looked offended and confused at the same time.

"Love requires mutual trust, Reimu," Suika smiled, "But let's not get off-topic... Do you take my challenge, James?" Judging by the look of
anticipation on her face, she was waiting for me to say yes.

"No way! James doesn't have to agree to anything!" Cirno tried to charge forward at the Oni only for Reisen and Marisa to hold her back, "Let
me go! She's gonna kill him!"

"Cirno!" The sharpness of Suika's tone was enough to silence her briefly, "This is HIS decision! Not yours!" She refocused on me with an intense
Stare that drilled into my soul, "You've been given great power, James...but power is nothing without responsibility! So come! Show me that you're
worthy of standing alongside the heroes of this world!"

I could feel my body trembling at this scenario. Suddenly, that night in the Scarlet Manor with Flandre was looking like child's play compared to what I now faced. I mean, without my cards, I was more or less an ordinary human, and Suika was...well, Suika! I doubted it was even right
to call this "fair". Maybe if I just-

No! No! You are not backing down from a challenge just cause you're a little scared! My conscious screamed at me. You take the coward's way out and you'll never be able to live with yourself Listen, you've come this far, you took on a frekkin earth goddess, a time master, tanked an
attack from the frekkin SUN! You went toe-to-toe with a flipping Immortal and survived! YOU CAN DO THIS!

I went quiet for a few seconds than dropped my bag beside me,"You're on. I accept your challenge."

"Oh no you don't!" Marisa ran in front of me with her arms spread out, "You want him, you gotta go through me!"

Suika shrugged nonchalantly, "Fine by me. This place isn't a good enough arena anyways." With that, she transformed into a cloud of mist and flew towards us. Everything went black briefly...

Only for the next sight to greet me was seeing my legs dangling in mid-air as I was carried off away from the shrine and up into the sky by Suika's cloud form. I spotted the girls down below, shouting up at me but I was already too far up to hear them.

Even so, I needed to try on my end, "I'm sorry! I'll come back, I promise!" Before long, they vanished from view completely as clouds covered everything...

This was escape...was there even a way to win what was to come?

I didn't know...all I there was no turning back...

End Of Chapter 7
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 7 Part 3
And the last part is up. More mysteries piled on top of...more mysteries essentially. Don't worry, it'll all start
to make sense soon...maybe XD

Next chapter is the one I'm...actually quite proud of may surprise you in more ways than one. What do I mean
by this? Just wait and see XD
"GET BACK HERE WITH MY CHOCOLATE!" Suddenly, I was blindsided by a white and black blur along with being caught in the middle of several bright, colorful explosions. All I could see was stars, stars, and more stars, "There! Now give me back my-Oh my gosh, James! Are you ok? Sorry about that, I was aiming for Marisa." The voice obviously belonged to Reimu.

"N-No problem..." I managed to muffle out before noticing the mass sitting on top of me, "...You're allowed to get off me anytime you want, you know that, right Marisa?"

"Hmmm..." Marisa pondered for a second what to do before shaking her head, "Nah...besides, I'm feeling ready for a nap now.." She winked and laid her head down on my chest...only for a hand to reach in and yank her away, "Oi!"

"I think that's enough fooling around for one day. In case you forgot, we still got a job to do, so could you at least PRETEND to be serious? Just this once?" Reimu sighed as her friend wiggled free and she took notice of me,"So, what you doing all the way out here anyways?"

I forced myself to my feet and brushed myself off, "Just came to pay a visit to Mokou. Felt we needed to clear the air between us. She seems to be dong a lot better at least...I think." I adjusted my fedora as I noticed the looks the girls were giving me, "What?"

"Hmph, you're a regular Romeo, you know that?" Reimu remarked next to me though the scathing tone was off-set by the amused look on her face, "Anyways, we should probably get moving. We've wasted enough time already."

"Just for the record, Romeo dies at the end." I added but the girls were already on the move, with Marisa hauling me onto her broom as we took flight once more. Don't ask how her broom was able to support me and my now much heavier knapsack. It's Magic, don't question it!

We travelled along, looking for the portal to the Netherworld, me lugging along the giant knapsack on my back. "So, are you positive Lady Yuyuko can consume this much food? Cause I think there's enough in here to feed a small army." I asked while wondering if carrying this thing was gonna give me back problems at some point.

"Trust me, that little snack should be just enough to tide her over long enough to have a discussion with her," Reimu replied while seemingly ignoring the awe-struck expression I was giving her, "And none of us want to deal with a Yuyuko that isn't distracted by food... She's troublesome enough when she's placated, let alone when she's bored."

"I think we'll take your word for it, Reimu," Marisa laughed nervously.

"Seriously? All this is only enough for a snack?" I sighed and rolled my eyes but we kept moving,"That better be some dang useful info we get out of her than.." I suddenly stopped and looked up,"Hey guys...that portal wouldn't happen to be a giant swirling black vortex in the sky would it?" Sure enough, by looking up, I noticed said giant black hole in the fabric of reality just hanging there, as if beckoning us to come on in.

"Yeah, as a matter of fact it is," Reimu shrugged, "What could possibly have given it away?"

Reimu's sarcasm was lost on pretty much everyone else in the group as one-by-one we began to fly upward toward the portal which hung like a gaping vortex into a thick, black nothingness...Traveling through it was much like the adventure I had when experiencing travel through one of Yukari's gaps: disorientating nothingness, then a sudden realization that the trip had already ended.

...On the other side lied the Netherworld. The Land Of The Dead. The air was thin and somewhat hazy, with small stone road markers alongside the path leading deeper into the realm. Small blue fires flickered on and off in the distance, while large cherry blossom trees stood on either side of the path.

I took a moment to get my bearings and take in the scenery, " this is the Netherworld, huh?"

"Yep," Reimu walked up beside me, catching a few scattered sakura petals in her hand that drifted down from the trees, "A far more cheery-looking place then one would initially expect it to be, wouldn't you agree?" She glanced over to me for confirmation and I nodded my head. With that, we moved onward to face what was ahead.

Some stray spirits drifted between the trees and stared aimlessly at the group of travelers walking on the infrequently-used path leading to Yuyuko's place of dwelling. None of them bothered attacking or doing anything beyond simply staring off into space in our general direction. However, as one might expect, we couldn't go ten feet without landing ourselves knee-deep in some form of trouble.

Without warning, Reimu stuck out her arm to impede our way, "Huh? Reimu, what you stop-" The shrine maiden shushed her witch friend and the rest of us to be quiet. We stood there, wondering what the heck she had stopped for before seeing her put a hand to her ear. A signal to listen. We did as asked and, to my surprise, we picked up on bits of dialogue.

"Ok! They're coming this way, now remember the plan, girls. On the count of three, we jump them, got it?" A female voice chimed from behind some bushes not even five feet from our current position.

"Yeah! Wait, why are we doing this again?" Another voice quizzed, allowing us to hear a pair of dismayed sighs.

"Because Yuyuko-sama told us to stop anyone who's not dead from trespassing into the Netherworld, duh." A third, more snarky-sounding voice replied, sounding just a tad irritated at the other person, "Also, in case you forgot, that's kind of our job?"

"Oh right! Silly me!" The second female voice laughed,"Although are you sure we need to jump them? I mean, what if they're listening in on us right now?"

"You worry too much, dear sister," spoke the first voice in a reassuring tone, "Now on the count of three, we attack! 1...2..."

"We know you're there! We can hear every word you're saying!" Reimu called out to the bush, causing a trio of yelps to be heard, "Seriously, if you guys want to launch an effective sneak attack, the first thing you need to learn is to actually be sneaky."

"In other words, don't announce your plans where everyone can hear them." Marisa quipped while rubbing her nose.

Three heads popped up from behind the bushes. All of them were female and wore a distinct outfit to suit them. One had short brown hair with brown eyes and wore red, another had short light blue hair and eyes with a pink dress and cap on. The last had short blonde hair and wore black. Each of them had musical instruments accompanying them.

"Lyrica, Merlin, and Lunasa..." I muttered under my breath before turning to my shrine maiden friend, "The Prismriver Sisters?"

She leered at me with a face that basically said "Do you even need to ask?" and I nodded, "Right, right, stupid question, sorry..."

"Hmm? Hey sisters, look! Isn't that Miss Reimu Hakurei?" asked the one in pink while pointing at the shrine maiden.

"Huh, now you mention it, yeah, that does look a lot like her," The one in black said with a nod while stroking her chin, "Good day to you, Miss Reimu. Might we ask what brings you all the way out here?" Judging by the way she spoke and her mannerisms, it was obvious she was the most mature of the three.

Before Reimu could speak, Marisa butted in front of her, "What about me? Don't you remember my name too?" She puffed out her chest and put on a rather pompous pose, "Come on! It's not that hard! Besides, you see me at your shows all the time!"

The trio of "sisters" looked at each other cluelessly, blank faces all around as if they didn't know what this girl was talking about, "Um...forgive us for asking but...what's your name again?" asked the one in black again while tilting her head.

"Oh come on!" Marisa stomped her boot and fumed, "It's me! Marisa Kirisame, the Ordinary Magician! Number Two Youkai Hunter In Gensokyo? Ring a bell to any of you?" Once again, blank faces all around, which caused her to sigh and turn to me, "See? This is why I tend to introduce myself using Reimu's name."

"I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stop doing that. Nobody ever falls for it anyways," Reimu sighed as she glanced back up at the trio, "Sorry to cut this reunion short, you three, but we're here to see Yuyuko on some business, so do you think you can step aside?"

"Lady Yuyuko never mentioned she had guests least, I don't think she did.." Merlin put a finger to her chin as she turned to the others, "Did she?" They shrugged.

"It's perhaps for the best we expel them from here. After all, they aren't dead," Lyrica remarked while giving a dismissive wave in our direction, causing Reimu and Marisa to groan and roll their eyes.

"I suppose you're right," Lunasa conceded with a sigh as she and her sisters floated into the air, "Our sincerest apologies, Miss Reimu. You may have your reasons for wanting to meet with Lady Yuyuko but we have our orders."

"Somehow, I knew you were gonna force us to do this the hard way," Reimu remarked while her shoulders slumped down and
she removed some talismans from her sleeves, "Let's get this over with. You guys ready?"

I watched the others all gearing up to take on the trio of poltergeists, even Reisen. With a relunctant sigh, I dropped my bag and pulled out my own spell cards, "Ready as we'll be...quick question. On a scale of 1 to 10 how dangerous are these three in a fight?"

"Individually, they're about a four or a five," The shrine maiden shrugged, "Together, they're closer to a be careful when fighting them, ok?" That last part actually had a hint of genuine concern behind it. I looked her in the eye and nodded.

"Here they come!" Marisa called out as the fight began.

(Play The Primsrivers Theme- Phantom Ensemble)

The three sisters floated up into the sky and formed a triangle shape. A musical orchestra could be heard echoing through the air, possibly a result of those ghostly instruments they were wielding. As they played, the air around them filled with bullets made of multi-layered red and blue energy. "James! You're with me!" Marisa ordered. I didn't think twice of hopping on her broom and us taking to the sky just as the area below was blown to bits by a spray of bullets.

Reimu grazed past a spray of energy blasts like she had done this a million times before and hurling a barrage of glowing talismans at Lunasa of the trio, only for Merlin to play a tune on her instrument and another round of bullets flew forth and collided against her attack, cancelling both sides out. Reimu scoffed before calling to us, "Split up and we'll try to divide their attention between us!"

"What happened to talking not being a free action?!" I complained as I ducked down to avoid an arrow of energy that narrowly missed my head. Marisa angled her broom and started circling the trio, her Mini-Hakkero at the ready and firing off potshots at them. They responded by soaring higher into the air while rotating in a clockwise formation, raining down a colorful maelstrom of Danmaku bullets.

Marisa cursed to herself before glancing over her shoulder at me, "Hang on tight! This might get a little crazy da ze!" Heeding her command, I clung tighter to her broom as she turned and started guiding us right into the barrage the sisters were firing! I watched
her wave a hand and a magical symbol formed in front of her before firing off several laser streams at one time. The beams narrowly missed their targets but did succeed in forcing them to split up.

Not looking too happy about this, the red one, Lyrica, spread her arms out as more music keyed up in the background and a swarm of red, green and blue notes formed in the air around her before rocketing towards us, taking the shape of arrowheads. My witch friend braked hard and maneuvered us to the right, the bullets zipping right by us way too close for comfort. Seeing this, Lyrica took flight after us, music notes continuing to fire at us in a spreadshot formation.

Marisa's response was simply to flash a wink in my direction and zoom towards the girl. I braced myself as the witch girl conjured several spherical orbs around us that opened fire. Shots flying forth and yet somehow the majority of the shots seemed to fly right by each of us. Don't ask me how that works cause my suspension of disbelief had long since been blown to smithereens.

We zipped right by the girl, only for me to glance back and see an explosion go off. Apparently, Marisa still had a few of those exploding pots on her. However, the smoke was instantly dispelled by Lyrica bursting forth, now looking a bit peeved at us and redoubling her efforts. "Uh, Marisa? Bogey on our tail!"

"Huh?" She glanced back and rose her eyebrow, "Man, tenacious one, ain't she? Guess we actually gotta get serious, huh partner?" Ignoring my incredulous glance, she pulled out her Hakkero and managed to use the same hand and slot in a card, "Here! Attach this to the back and make it quick!" I nodded and grabbed the device only to have to duck low as we suddenly had to drop low to avoid a beam of light. Off to my side, I noticed the rest of our group fighting the other two sisters.

Cirno was casting her Perfect Freeze to create makeshift barriers out of the Danmaku being fired off. Following this, Reimu and Reisen would jump into action, launching a twin barrage of lasers and talismans at Merlin and Lunasa to block them on both sides from escaping. From there, Cirno would clap her hands and the frozen danmaku would explode, showering the two in a barrage that...honestly looked quite painful.

I hate to brag but I had to admit that we were starting to look like an actual well-oiled team...which meant I couldn't let myself fall behind either! I smacked the loaded Hakkero onto the broom's end, "It's ready!"

"Ah yeah! Let's do this! Stardust Reverie!" I had to look away briefly as the device opened up and let loose a huge amount of energy, becoming a makeshift rocket thruster. Our ride felt like it went from zero to Mach 2 in seconds and we found ourselves streaking across the sky, leaving behind a long trail of star-shaped energy blasts that fanned out and filled the air behind us.

One look over my shoulder confirmed that our pursuer was now having a much harder time trying to keep up, being forced to pull off various flips and rolls in the air to stay one step ahead of getting bombarded.

Likely feeling that we had put enough distance between us, Marisa did yet another sharp brake and pulled a U-Turn in mid-air before zooming back towards our target. She cupped her hands and shot them forth, letting loose more of those star-shaped Danmaku in a steady stream that fanned out over the area. Lyrica, seeing this, paled a little and started flying backwards at high speeds, and as she did so, she fired off large red orbs that exploded into rapidly-expanding grids of those crimson arrows from earlier.

Of course, as one might expect, Marisa wasn't exactly that fazed. Heck, she looked more excited than anything else. Like this would actually be worth her time. Adjusting her hat, she revved up and we followed in close pursuit even as the poltergeist retreated from us. Up, Down, Left, Right. Marisa ducked and weaved through the onslaught, much like we were running through the Death Star trench. The witch girl continued to fire off lasers when something occurred to me.

Wait...that attack I used on Mokou...maybe...

I pulled out my last empty Spell Capture Card as I felt the power flow out of the thing in torrents, "What are you doing?! She hasn't used a spell card!" Marisa demanded at seeing me gather the energy.

"Just trust me on this one!" I yelled back as the power finished becoming an spiraling orb and I hurled it like you would a javelin. The compressed orb flew forward at high speeds.

Lyrica narrowly evaded another of Marisa's lasers and scoffed at seeing my tiny orb coming at her, "Really? That's the best you can do, huma-" The words died in her throat as the orb rapidly expanded, returning to its true size and hitting her with the force of a battering ram. The orb quickly dissipated but the blast was enough to send her falling backwards over and over.

"Sister!" The other two members of the trio broke off their attack and flew up to check on her, "Are you alright, sis?" Merlin asked, worry written all over her facial features.

"I'm fine..." Lyrica groaned while rubbing her forehead, "But I'm gonna get those two back for this...besides, I think we've done enough warming up. Don't you agree, sisters?" They all nodded and turned to face us.

Reimu scoffed and folded her arms, "This is ridiculous, you know. I've already whooped all three of your butts in the past, so why don't you just make this easy on all of us and call it quits? There's no shame in admitting when someone's better than you." The trio's response?

Spell Card- Noisy Sign "Live Poltergeist"

"Great job," I remarked while rolling my eyes, "Now we've gone and pissed them off."

"Just shut up and get back to the fight." Reimu retorted while conjuring her Yin-Yang Orbs around her. The sisters floated before us once more in a triangle format while Lunasa sprayed a rain of colored music notes side to side and her two sisters flanked her sides while calling upon wave after wave of red orbs to fill the sky around us.

Seeing this, everyone got to work, firing lasers, ice missiles, talismans, etc, while trying their hardest not to get pummeled by the all-out onslaught. I winced as we narrowly grazed several red orbs that got close enough I could actually feel the heat off of them. We continued to circle the sky above the Netherworld even as the firefight became ever more intense.

"Snow Sign! Diamond Blizzard!" Cirno called out as she rose her hands up high and an orb of bright blue light formed above her. It pulsated before letting loose an literal blizzard of blue laser bullets that flew everywhere, meeting many of the sisters own shots dead on and cancelling them out, actually giving us some breathing room.

"I'll try and get their attention," Reisen declared as she barrel-rolled out of the way of a barrage of arrows before revealing one of her own cards, "Ocular Spectrum!" In a flash of light, she vanished, only to reappear right next to the girls...than far away...than up close again, causing them to become confused and looking every which way for them.

Deciding now was as good a time as any, I called forth my last spell capture card and bright blue light filled the sky, triggering a vacuum which began swallowing the sisters' own spell card. Within seconds, the air was cleared of all bullets. I took a deep breath and called out to the shrine maiden, "They're all yours, Reimu!"

She nodded in acknowledgement before finally casting one of her own spell cards, "Disaster-Dispelling Prayer!" Slamming it down, the air around her filled with dozens upon dozens of amulets. They glowed brightly before spraying the field before her with even more of its kind.

Marisa slotted in another of her own cards, "Star Sign! Meteoric Shower!" Once again, she let loose an explosive discharge of star-shaped energy blasts, moving our ride about in a circular motion possibly hoping not to miss.

The sisters yelped and tried to flee...only to end up ramming into each other and getting bombarded from both sides. I winced as the air quickly filled with explosions and smoke. "...Think that did it?"

"Hard to say..." Marisa tapped her chin before snapping her fingers, "I got an idea! Let me borrow that!" She snatched away the card I'd taken off the Sisters and waved it frantically in front of her, "Yo guys! We got your spell card here! You want it back, come and get it!"

"Marisa! What the hell do you think you're-" Reimu and I never got to finish that thought because suddenly a HUGE pulse of energy erupted forth from the dust cloud before us. The force of it sent a shockwave out that managed to blast us all backwards several feet, each of us being forced to shield ourselves from the recoil.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of glass breaking and I could feel my skin going cold, "Oh crap..."

Key Ghost "Bosendorf Spirit Performance"

Dark Trumpet "Ghost Clifford"

Spirit Strings "Stradivarius"

Three streaks of light burst forth and spiraled around one another before moving to surround us on all sides. Each one of them then did their part in filling their section of the sky with energy from their respective spell cards. Judging by the looks on their faces...they weren't too pleased at being insulted.

"Oho!" Marisa adjusted her hat and grinned fiercely, "Looks like those three are finally getting serious too, huh?"

Reimu didn't share her enthusiasm, "Marisa, we get out of this alive, remind me to smack you upside the head, got it?"

"Oh come on, Reimu!" The witch patted her shoulder, "A duel ain't much fun unless both sides are giving their all, right?" She winked playfully at her, "Do try to keep up now da ze!"

Rolling her eyes and suppressing a groan, the shrine maiden took flight once more as did the others. Me and Marisa zoomed off into the sky to face Lyrica head on, even as she laid on the firepower in the form of multitudes of spiraling colored arrows that rotated in the shape of multiple circles before looping and overlapping with others to form an intricately beautiful yet also dangerous display.

It was much like a flower...a flower that would hurt you ALOT if you tried to touch it.

"You...CAN get through that, right?" I asked, now feeling like we were about to enter a minefield.

"Relax, compared to what I've flown through, this is a piece of cake," Marisa gave a dismissive wave, "They don't call me the Number Two Youkai Hunter for nothing, you know," Huh, by this point I was starting to wonder between Reimu and this girl which was the more cocky one...

But than again, I'm a college student who's stuck in a fantasy wonderland fighting poltergeists who played music alongside a flying shrine maiden, a witch girl who loves blowing stuff up, an ice fairy, and a bunny girl from the moon...and somehow managing to take all this in stride. So yeah, what did that say about me?

...It means I have weird priorities, that's what.

I groaned and snatched away the card Marisa had "borrowed" off me, "So, what you say we double up on the firepower, partner?" Hey, if you can't beat them, join them.

Marisa smirked at me, "I say that I like the way you think," She pulled out one of her own cards and we cast them together.

Love Sign "Non-Directional Laser"

Noisy Sign "Live Poltergeist"

A magical barrier formed around the two of us as a multitude of energy beams fired forth in all the colors of the rainbow. Interweaving with the lasers were spreadshots of those star-shaped bullets. The power from my own card mingled with the display, releasing sprays of colorful music notes and multiple clusters of red orbs that quickly filled the space between us and Lyrica.

The girl in red winced at the sight of her own power being used against her but kept herself moving side to side as we did the same, the scenery around us quickly filling up with laser fire and danmaku bullets. Each of us trying to stay one step ahead of the other side.

Suddenly, I spotted something coming from the right, "Marisa! Look out!" Marisa glanced off to our side and paled at the sight of seeing more music notes filling the air around us.

"Don't worry, James! We'll get through this no prob-" She stopped at seeing even more music-based projectiles surrounding us on all sides, forming a cage-like structure around us. At the sight of this, even the witch girl's previous bravado evaporated somewhat, "...Huh...luring us into a trap this whole time...clever girls..." She glanced back at me, "So, got any bright ideas?"

I pondered our options for a moment, "Hmm...I got one...but I don't know if it's gonna work. I need you to trust me on this though."

"Hey..." She patted my hand while winking at me, "I do trust you...after all, we're friends, right?"

Despite the situation, I managed a smile in return, "Yeah...we are."

"Oh, and in case this goes wrong..." She ruffled her hair, 'Sorry about getting you dragged into all sure you don't regret coming along with us?"

I shook my head, "Nah...not for a moment.."

With that, the laser cage closed in on us...

Lunasa sighed and dusted off her hands, "Well, that takes care of that, I suppose,"

"Serves the witch and her friend right! Stealing our spell card like that!" Lyrica exclaimed while
pouting and crossing her arms with indignation.

Merlin was about to open her mouth to chime in...when she spotted something shining within
the cloud of dust, "Um, girls?" She tugged on Lunasa's dress shirt but went ignored.

"Seriously, Lyrica, don't you think it's a bit childish to get worked up over one stolen spell card?"
The eldest of the three remarked while rolling her eyes.

"But Lunasa, that wasn't just any spell card, that was our spell card! We didn't work
so hard just to have it taken away by some dork with a funny hat!"

"Hey, don't insult my friend!" Cirno proclaimed as she moved in only to be stopped
by Reimu, "Come on, Reimu! Let me at them!"

But the shrine maiden shook her head, "Easy there, give it a few more seconds..."
To illustrate her point, she pointed to the glowing light within the cloud as Merlin
continued to pester her two sisters to take notice.

"It...might be a wise idea to move, right now," Reisen advised, looking
at the glowing light with an ever-growing sense of uneasiness.

The girls flew on aside, which caused the sisters to finally take notice, "Huh? Where are
those guys going? Don't tell me they're gonna quit just cause two of their friends got
shot down." Lyrica quizzed while shaking her head.

"GUYS!" At hearing Merlin shout, the two jumped in fright and whirled on her, "Look!"
She pointed behind them and, finally, they did so...too bad it was too little, too late.

The light grew until blinding and from it emerged James and Marisa together, scuffed
up and bruised, but still alive. The image of a phoenix could be seen around them. The
trio paled at the least until James called out "Sorry about this!"

"Divine Union- Honest Man's Dragon Necklace"

After that, all the trio knew was a world of hurt...


The world around me filled up with every possible color as a multitude of energy beams
exploded out around me, arcing out in all directions. The beams criss-crossed with one
another as rainbow-colored energy missiles flew every which way. The two sets of projectiles
spiraled together before bleeding into a barrage of curving lasers which went all over the place.

The sisters found themselves forced to flee, the lasers chasing them relentlessly with each individual one fading after several seconds. Of course, the majority hit the sweet spots and triggered a set of explosions and fireworks that lit up the horizon.

Marisa, of course, could only laugh, "Oh yeah! Now THAT Is what I'm talking about! I gotta say, I think you're really starting to get the hang of this." She winked back at me.

"Hehe...yeah...thanks..." I muttered with a chuckle, not sure how to respond to that. I'll admit the scene of having such power was both awesome...but also a little frightening. I was starting to see why these particular cards were banned and sealed away.

"Oi, stay sharp you two!" Reimu scolded as she flew up beside us with the others, "Those three aren't done just yet. They still have a few tricks left."

"Right!" Lunasa flew alongside her sisters and nodded to them, "Sisters, let's use our trump card." They stopped and turned
around just as the lasers impacted them and set off a huge explosion...but over the roar of the blast, we heard the sound of glass
breaking...the scenery around us gradually grew darker.

"W-W-What's happening now?" Reisen asked, looking every which way, trying to keep her composure.

"I don't know, but whatever it is, it can't be anything good..." I remarked, feeling a shiver go through my whole body. Whether
it was from fear or anticipation it was hard to say.

Marisa shushed us, " comes the big finale da ze."

Just as it looked like darkness would blot out came.

Great Funeral Concert "Ghostly Wheel Concerto"

Three spheres of light appeared in the air before us, and within each of them we could see one of the sisters. Beams of energy connected them in a triangle shape as they began rotating, the music swelling to a crescendo as an orb of power began gathering
in the center to fire off some sort of massive attack.

"Well, guess I should steal that card off of-" But before I could do anything, or cancel out my current spell, the girls jumped into action with their own spell cards.

Fantasy Seal! Reimu shot forth a giant cluster of sacred energy spheres.

Master Spark! Marisa let loose her famous Wave Motion Gun blast.

"Lunatic Blast!" Reisen shot frekkin eye beams.

And Cirno? "Insta-Freeze Beam!" Ice lasers, what did you expect? But yeah, everyone's attacks spiraled together within the orb the Spell Capture card I used created before roaring forth as a massive blast of pure, concentrated power. It collided against the
sisters attack...and broke through within seconds.

A giant flash of bright light went off along with a deafening kaboom that rattled the trees on the ground and echoed far and wide. We all floated there, watching the blast subside in quiet silence...until the sound of glass breaking let us know the duel was over.

(End Song)

Once the display subsided, and the ground stopped shaking, we flew back to the earth below and landed safely. I wasn't going to say this out loud but I cannot tell you how glad I was to finally have my feet back where they belonged. Glancing over, I spotted Reimu and
Marisa high-fiving one another. Seeing Cirno with her hand raised, I high-fived her in return along with Reisen.

"Say,um, you think those three over there are gonna be ok?" I asked while gesturing to where the sisters lied together in the middle of a small crater, groaning and having trouble even moving. Somehow, I figured they were gonna have quite the headaches in the morning.

"They're poltergeists, it's gonna take alot more than a bit of rough-housing to keep them down," Reimu remarked while giving a dismissive wave, "But hey, if you wanna play doctor, go right ahead. I won't stop ya."

I looked over to Marisa who shrugged before following me to the crash site. I called down to them, "Oi! You guys need any help?"

"Nah, we're fine," Lunasa replied as she sat up while rubbing her noggin, "But thanks for asking. I gotta admit, for a group of humans and a moon rabbit, you actually make a pretty good team," Someone could be heard coughing over us, "Oh, and your fairy friend too."

"Thanks, you guys are a pretty good team too," I admitted with a nod as it was only fair, "So, um, is it ok if we go on now?"

"Yeah, sure thing, we'll show you the way," Lunasa spotted Lyrica tapping her foot with her arms crossed, looking rather miffed. The elder sister sighed, "Lyrica-san, can you please drop it already?"

"Not until that man there apologizes for stealing our spell card!" The younger sister proclaimed while pointing at me dramatically.

I let out a breath I'd been holding in and slipped off my hat, "Fine, fine...I'm sorry I stole your precious Spell Card. There, you happy now?"

"Apology accepted," Lyrica said with a nod, "Just make sure it don't happen again, got it?" I decided not to justify that with a response and let them lead us on the way.

After a while of walking, we came upon the most outrageous set of stairs I'd ever seen. Deciding to get this over with, we got to walking...and walking...and walking...and more climbing...
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 7 Part 2
Here's part 2 where we finally get an appearance from the Prismriver Sisters!...who are a sadly underutilized group
despite how interesting they are. I don't know about anyone else but I find their backstory kinda intriguing and they have
a rather unique theme to them too. It also helps they each got their own quirks but still love each other in the end. 

Word of advice? Don't get between Reimu and her candy...just don't..

Next time is Part 3...
Chapter 7: The Calm Before The Storm

The next time my eyes opened, I found myself welcomed once more to Gensokyo by the familiar sensation of something, or rather someone, pressing against my chest. Together with the slight weight, there was also a distinctly cool sensation...

Cirno's arm was drawn across my chest while she curled up beside me, a look of satisfaction and comfort spread across her lips as she slept peacefully. Her wings moved ever so slightly, small ice crystals drifting above her like a thick halo. You know, I was beginning to wonder if she was going to make a habit of sneaking into my room at night...not that I minded, of course.

I smiled at her sleeping form...only to frown as I looked up at the ceiling and draped an arm over my eyes while sighing. That dream again...why am I still having it? There has to be some special meaning behind someone messing around in my head? Yeah, that's gotta be it...but if so, who? And why? For kicks? To send me a message? To find out the recipe to
my dear departed aunt's fudge brownies?

...I can assure you, whoever they were, it would be a cold day in Hell before I gave that last one up.

Well, at least things were starting to make more sense...sorta. All I could make out was that one feature. Whatever the emotion
was, it was attached to the color Green. Emotions are typically connected with colors after all. Red for Anger. Blue for Sadness...but
Green?...Green was connected to one important emotion...I'll sum it up for you folks at home.

Ever heard the term "Green with Envy"?

It wasn't much, sure, but it was something to work with. I glanced over to Cirno and managed a smile. Normally, I'm not one who likes to get all touchy-feely...but for some reason, having Cirno near me was...strangely comforting. Heh, maybe this was a sign that
Gensokyo was starting to grow on me?

I rubbed her head playfully, "Morning Cirno-san, sleep well?"

"Hmm?" Cirno murmured, slowly waking up in response to my rubbing. She yawned then blinked a few times, her eyes not focusing on anything in particular at first until they locked onto my face. She gave a friendly smile in return, "Good morning..." The ice fairy sat up and wiped the sleep from her eyes.

"I slept well, thanks for asking," Cirno yawned again and stretched her arms a bit before returning to cuddling up next to me, "I like sleeping with you, James." She rubbed her cheek against my chest affectionately. The tender moment was interrupted however when we heard the door slide open, "Huh?" Cirno glanced past me to see who it was so I turned my head to see...

Reisen, once again wearing rabbit-print pajamas, stood just inside the doorway, her face completely red, "Eh... EHHH?!" Apparently she had come by to wake me up herself when she stumbled upon the two of us together and quickly jumped to conclusions. She quickly stepped back out and shut the door, "I'm sorry! Please excuse me!" The rabbit fled down the hallway without waiting to hear an explanation.

I stared at where Reisen once stood, completely and utterly embarassed,"W-Wait,'s not what you think it is! Really, it's not!" Of course, she was already so far out of reach that I might as well had been talking to thin air. "Umm...ok than.." I rubbed the sleep from my eyes,"That's gonna create some awkward moments later but...yeah, feel free to sleep in my bed anytime, Cirno."

"Alright," Cirno nodded, completely oblivious to whatever complications her actions may have resulted in. She sat up and fixed her hair a bit by running her fingers through her blue locks, "I was a bit worried about you so I figured I would slip in and give you some company...that, and you didn't seem to mind the last time I did it either." She giggled though I could've sworn I saw a hint of red in her cheeks.

I rose an eyebrow at her, "You were worried about me?"

"Yeah..." She sheepishly rubbed the back of her head before looking away, "Are you...sure you're feeling ok? I knows last night must've brought up some bad stuff for you..."

It took a moment for my mind to process that before it suddenly clicked,"Oh, right...that thing about me being an unwanted child and stuff?" She nodded, causing me to sigh, "I appreciate your concern, Cirno...but I'll be fine, see?" I smiled to show her there was nothing to worry about, "I mean, I got you, Reimu, Marisa, and everyone else. I'm also basically living every Touhou fan's dream right now...what's there to be upset about?"

"Mmm..." Cirno folded her arms and tilted her head, "I've heard lots of people say they were feeling fine when really they weren't...are you sure you've made peace with those bad things in your past?"

I stared into my friend's crystal blue eyes...and for some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to lie to her. I finally sighed as I sat up and grabbed some changes of clothes, "To be honest with you, I don't know. I like to think I have...but some days I wonder if I've just done a really good job at talking myself into believing I have."

"I see..." Cirno nodded after a moment in understanding, although she still frowned, "Are you sure you're ok with holding onto such sad memories? Doesn't it get difficult sometimes?"

I shrugged, "Some days are easier than others...besides, we all have our crosses to bear in life," I pointed to my head, "Holding onto these memories, and making sure history doesn't repeat itself, is mine."

Cirno was quiet for a moment before taking my hand, "Alright...but just remember, you don't have to bear that burden alone. We're your friends, can trust we'll be there when you need us," She smiled warmly, "You're not alone anymore James, and if the strongest has anything to say about never will be again."

"Cirno..." I squeezed her hand and smiled a little, "Thanks," I went to get up when I saw the package lying next to my bed, "Huh? What's this?" I scooped it up and blinked in surprise as I turned back to my friend, "Did you bring this in here, Cirno?" She shook her head, looking just as confused as me,"Weird...the only one I can think of who could drop off a package and leave without anyone seeing them is..."

Me and Cirno locked eyes and said together as one, "Yukari."

Everyone else had already gathered around the breakfast table by the time me and my ice fairy friend arrived to take our seats. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Eirin giving me a knowing glance, as if hinting that she too had picked up on our little exchange from earlier. Reisen was nearby too, trying to eat but looking a little fidgety at the same time.

Oh yeah, Reimu and Marisa were stuffing their faces, like usual.

"So, will you all be traveling to the Netherworld today?" Kaguya struck up the conversation once me and Cirno took our seats.

Reimu swallowed her food and nodded,"That's the plan. Did we have anywhere else planned for today?"

I piped up, "Well, one thing we have to make sure we do is track down Suika. If Youmu can collaborate what we got so far, we'll know without a shadow of a doubt that she's got a bigger role to play in all this than we first thought."

"Right... Knowing her, she's probably still hanging around the shrine," Reimu nodded, "Either that, or she's wandering about Youkai Mountain. She could also be enjoying her allotted space in heaven, but I doubt she'd be there if she's playing a part in this incident."

"The fun part is getting her to talk, da ze," Marisa grinned.

"You really haven't fought Suika recently, have you, Marisa?" Reimu looked over at the witch sceptically.

I... I learned a bit more about those strange waves while you were away," Reisen managed to speak up, but she didn't look directly at me or Cirno as she did so, "The waves appear to have several centers spread across the underworld, which would imply that more than one youkai or some sort of broadcasting device is being coordinated to send out the waves simultaneously from multiple locations."

"They appear to be aimed at increasing aggression in youkai and possibly humans as well, but I believe that there is more at work here than just that," Reisen continued, "How would an ordinary youkai get their hands on broadcasting devices strong enough to reach Gensokyo from the Underworld?"

"No idea, but it doesn't sound good at all," Reimu shook her head, "It would need to be pretty advanced tech to create a signal that strong. The only folks I can think of that could build such powerful transmitters are the Kappa...but..." At this, she frowned, "No...the Kappa are arrogant and self-absorbed, but they aren't stupid enough to aid just anybody."

"Perhaps it isn't just anybody?" Kaguya spoke up, getting our attention, "My apologies for cutting in but I have a theory. Maybe the person you're looking for got the transmitters they needed through someone else? Likely someone in a position of authority and had the right connections?"

The whole room went quiet at hearing her theory. We all promptly facepalmed at the same time as it hit us, "Goddamnit!"

"I should've known the Moriya Shrine would have a hand in this," Reimu groaned as she slurped her tea.

"Not to mention Suwako's attitude has been WAY too suspicious for my liking," I chimed in, now feeling a bit irritated, "I'm a terrible liar, but I also know when other people are lying to me or at least not telling the whole truth...and no offense but Miss Frog Goddess pretty much had a giant sign over her head saying "I'm totally deceiving you!"" I massaged my temples, "I swear I'm starting to get a migraine from how messed up this situation is getting."

"Welcome to my world," The shrine maiden remarked sarcastically as she sighed, "Now, as much as I would LOVE to go and wrangle some answers out of Suwako, unless we got some concrete evidence against her and the Moriya Shrine, I highly doubt we'll get anywhere," She took a bite of fish,"No, it's best we head to the Netherworld first and see what we can dig up pun intended."

"You're the boss, Reimu, we'll follow your lead," I gave her a two finger salute and a wink, causing her to actually smile back. I turned to Reisen and Kaguya, "Thanks, you two. Also, Reisen, for the record, whatever you think me and Cirno were doing in the same bed, don't was friendly cuddling. I'm sure Kaguya does the same for you sometimes, right?" I'll admit, I did not really mean anything serious by that last part.

"Y-yeah..." Reisen looked a bit relieved, but also a bit uncomfortable for a different reason entirely, "I'm surprised you know about that, though..."

"Cirno sneaked into your bed again?" Reimu looked a bit annoyed, "Well, as long as you're alright with it, I don't see any harm in it."

"Beat you to the punch, eh, Reimu?" Marisa teased her.

"Shut up, that's not what I'm getting at," Reimu fumed but instead focused on her food rather than trying to clout her friend.

"Why don't you go along with them, Reisen?" Kaguya suggested, "You can be a lot more help with them than here during their investigation, after all, and you can get much clearer readings of what is going on as well."

"I... I suppose I'm alright with it," Reisen hesitantly replied. Always the shy one.

"It'll be good to have you on board, Reisen," I replied, in the hopes of cheering her up, "Something tells me we're gonna need all the help we can get." I genuinely meant that last part, especially now that the possibility the Moriya Shrine was involved had revealed itself to us.

"Thank you," Reisen smiled, looking a bit more relieved now, "I hope I will be of help."

As we went about our breakfast, I felt now was as good a time to tell the group of my latest dream. Despite the fact that before they didn't take it too seriously, this time the girls actually listened intently. I figured they would take any chance they could to shed light on this ever-growing mystery.

"And the latest detail is green, huh?" Marisa leaned back slightly, "Sounds like some sort of premonition... An ominous feeling and the color green isn't a whole lot of help in telling us what its about, though...unless.." She tapped her chin before her eyes suddenly widened, "Wait! Didn't that Parsee girl have green eyes when we met her?"

"And green is usually associated with the color envy," Reimu acknowledged with a nod, "Not to mention that Yuugi told us Parsee disappeared not long before the
earth quakes started. There was something odd about the way Mokou was acting last night too..." She knitted her eyebrows together and scowled, "It didn't seem like she was driven by hatred...but something else like..."

"Envy," I finished for her as I folded my arms, "She was in the grasp of a cloud of jealousy. Jealous over Kaguya and the fact that she had everything she never had. But that only raises more did Parsee get so powerful? And if she is responsible, why is she doing this?"

"All very good questions," Marisa downed the last of her drink and burped before pushing herself away from the table, "But sitting around here ain't gonna get us closer to the truth, so how about we-" She stopped as she spotted the package lying next to me, "Whoa, hang on," The magician scooped it up before I could grab it and started inspecting from every angle, " return got a secret admirer we don't know about or something, James?"

"No!" I exclaimed a bit louder than I intended, now feeling awfully embarassed, "I..I just...I woke up and it was lying next to my pillow, ok?"

"We think the Gap Lady snuck in last night and left it for him," Cirno added, her eyes narrowing at the box like it was a ticking time
bomb, "Is there a way to make sure it's not a trap?"

"Yukari is many things, but I'll be the first to admit that whenever she does something there's usually a reason behind it," Reimu shrugged, "Now, whether it's a good reason or not is a matter of debate..." She snatched the parcel away from Marisa, ignoring the girl's protests and handing it to me, "You feel like opening it up?" Judging by the look
in her eyes she was just as curious as I was to what the Gap Youkai had sent me.

"Mmm...might as well," I shrugged and undid the rope, opening it up...only for the biggest grin possible to appear on my lips, "Oh yeah!" I pulled out what lied inside and held it up as I imagined the "Item Get" music from the Zelda
series playing, "I never thought I'd say this but thank you, Yukari!" What I had in my hands...

Was pants!

I saw all the blank faces staring at me like I had grown a second head or something. Reimu was the first to speak up as she cleared her throat,"Ahem...right, that's all well and good but why you making a big deal of this? It's a pair of pants."

"I know!" I showed them to her, "It's great, isn't it? Sakuya destroyed my old pair, so I was wondering when I'd get the chance to grab some more."

"What, you saying you don't like wearing short shorts?" Marisa quipped with a playful wink. At seeing Reimu narrowing her eyes at her, she put up her hands, "I'm kidding! Geez, learn to lighten up already, Reimu."

"I'll learn to lighten up when your jokes stop being so dirty," The shrine maiden glanced back to the unwrapped parcel, "Wait, there's something else in here," She reached in and her eyes lit up like stars, "Whaaaa! Oh my gosh, Yukari actually did something right for once!" Reimu pulled out several full-sized chocolate bars and held them to her chest, looking as giddy as a school girl.

"Chocolate? Oy Reimu.." Marisa slid over beside her friend and put an arm around her, "Say,um,'re not gonna be able to eat all those on your own, right? Why don't I just-"

Before she could do anything though, Reimu elbowed her in the ribs and shot up, "No way! These are mine, you hear me? Mine!" She took off like a lightning bolt with Marisa and Cirno in close pursuit with me and Kaguya doing our best not to laugh.

The princess laughter stopped when she noticed something, "Wait...there's something else in here," She reached in and pulled out what looked to be a long-sleeved white dress shirt and a dark-colored waistcoat too along with
a pair of black fingerless gloves, "Oh my..."

"What the..." I set my pants aside as I inspected the other articles of clothing, "It's a whole set of clothes...why would
Yukari give me this though?"

"Perhaps she wants you to feel more at home here?" Kaguya offered, causing me to glance over to her with a
raised eyebrow, "This is only a shot in the dark but I'm guessing she wished to give you something that would
allow you to blend in with the locals better...that, or she simply felt you could use some new attire...or this is her
idea of being funny. I never could understand how that woman thinks."

"...Well, I'll give credit where it's due. At least it's not one of those bloody long coats," I shrugged, "Or as a friend
back where I come from might say, "pregnant woman's coat"," We both collapsed into hysterics at that one.

"Ahh..." She wiped a tear from her face with a slender finger, "That's a good one...on another note, I'm curious about that
power you used last night against Mokou."

"Hmm? The Spell Capture Cards?" I pulled out said cards and showed them to her, "Well, I'm sure you can tell what they do
just by the name. You seem pretty smart."

"Why thank you," She giggled with a bit of red forming in her cheeks at my compliment as she inspected the cards more
carefully, "The ability to capture spells and use them as your own...there is great potential in such cards, for both good and
ill..." She glanced up at me, "If I were you, I would use caution in deciding which individuals you choose to show this power

Kaguya sighed as she picked up the card formed from her and Mokou's powers, "As you probably learned by now, there are
those in Gensokyo who are not happy with the way things are, and will use whatever means they must to tip the already fragile
balance in their favor." It was obvious the possibility of her new home being caught in a crisis upset her greatly.

It took me a moment, but when I spoke it was with more conviction than I'm use to showing, "...We're going to figure this mess
out, no matter what it takes, you have my word on that," She looked up to me, eyes widening a little, "I don't care who this person
is. Human, Youkai, God, whatever...if their actions are causing trouble for the people, we're going to make them answer for it. For
you, for Mokou, for Reisen...for everyone who's leading an honest life,"

I felt my hand clench into a fist, "If any one person thinks they have the right to dictate what happens here in Gensokyo...they're
in for a rude awakening, you can be sure of that."

"I'd be careful of whom you use that kind of language around, Mr White," Eirin stirred her tea, "There are some folks who might take
offense to someone challenging their supposed divine rights."

I shrugged,"With all due respect, Miss Eirin, I've never been a religious person or a man of the faith, so I couldn't care less what
Gods and their "divine rights" have to say," I downed the last of my drink, "Most gods I know of can use a lesson or two in humility
anyways. That, and I'd question the will of any deity that let their own subjects get caught up in their petty squabbles, manipulated them, and then let them die for no reason."

"Mmm...sounds like you have your reasons for thinking the way you do," The silver-haired woman stood up while gathering plates,
"I will not force the matter, but I would still advise using caution. There are quite a few powerful beings in this world that would not
hesitate to put you in your place if they feel you showed disrespect," Her eyes hardened a little, "And they will not hesitate to use force if they have to."

"They show me respect, I'll show respect in turn, simple as that," I got up and started gathering my stuff, "So, you guys think I should try out this new get-up?" I did have to admit it did seem a bit more like what an actual incident resolver might wear...that, and I didn't wish to destroy more clothes than I already had. My mom was going to kill me enough, no need to add fuel to the fire.

"That would be a wise idea, yes," Kaguya covered her mouth with her sleeve as a mischevious twinkle formed in her eyes, "Unless you actually enjoy wearing short shorts?" At seeing my blank expression, she giggled in amusement.

"Right..." I shook my head as a thought occurred to me, "Say um, you don't think Mokou's gonna be too upset about
last night, do ya?"

"Probably not... But if you want to make sure, just go visit her alone. Even if she does not want to speak with you just yet, she will not hurt you if you are by yourself," Kaguya replied, "She is not a bad person... She has just been through a great many hardships
in her life. I am sure you understand, right?" I nodded "Just follow the path leading south into the forest, and you'll find a river. Follow it a few hundred feet upstream and you'll find Mokou's house. You cannot miss it,"

"Thanks," Somewhere in the distance, we heard an explosion, "...And that's my cue to get a move on. Thanks again for
everything...I'll see you guys again soon."

I headed for the nearest washroom and laid out my new attire. For a moment, I was reminded of all the times my mom
would bring home new clothes to me and I would get annoyed with her since I already HAD a closet overflowing with
new duds. Her response?

"Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it"

Shaking thoughts of home away for the time being, I quickly got changed, peeling off the bandages and getting freshened up before suiting my new attire on. "And the finishing touch..." I slipped on my fedora and scarf and looked in the mirror, "Huh...I don't look half bad actually..."

Taking my knapsack, which was now filled to the brim with food, I headed on out and followed the road leading to Mokou's place, hoping when I got back the girls would be over their chocolate craze...and there would be some part of Eientei still standing.

Reimu sighed in relief as she sat on the front step and took a bite of her bar, letting the chocolatey goodness melt
over her tongue, " good..." She glanced over at Marisa and Cirno who lied on the ground with swirly marks
in their eyes, "I hope you two learned your lesson...don't come between me and my chocolate!"

Cirno snapped out of her dazed state and shot to her feet, "T-The Strongest ain't gonna be beaten
that easily! B-Best two out of three!"

The shrine maiden was about to chomp down on her candy again when she stopped and raised an eyebrow at
the fairy in surprise, "...Geez, you're a real glutton for punishment, you know that, right?" She lowered her bar
as her voice turned a bit more solemn, "Than again...that's something about you which has never changed.."

"Well, of course it hasn't! I'd lose my title as the strongest if I ran away at the first sign of trouble! Now let's-" Cirno stopped
at hearing Reimu's words,"...Huh? What do you mean?"

Reimu didn't bother to look at the ice fairy at first, only remaining staring at her bar, "...What I mean is...we've
known each other a while now and no matter how times me or anyone else beat you down in the past, you always
came back for more, just as determined as ever..." She looked up to the blue-haired girl, "I guess what I'm trying to
ask is...why you so obsessed with becoming the strongest really?"

Cirno folded her arms and tilted her head, " you're actually curious about me for once, huh? Well..." She
turned and walked off a little way's, "For as long as I can remember, I've always been looked down upon by everyone
who's not a fairy as weak and I'll never amount to anything, and seeing myself and my friends be used
as target practice or drafted into doing menial was too much to bear. As if that weren't bad enough whenever
I tried to complain, folks simply told me this was just "the way things are suppose to be" and I should learn to accept it.."

She looked over to Reimu with a remarkably serious expression on her face, "Now imagine having to endure
something like that...every day of your life..."

The shrine maiden opened her mouth to speak...only to not have the right words to say so she kept her
mouth shut and let the fairy go on, "So one day I made a vow to myself...that I would become the Strongest
in all of Gensokyo!" She slammed her fist against a boulder...and the whole thing instantly froze before splintering
into chunks! The scene of this made even Marisa tumble over in shock.

"...Power's everything in this world right? And if you don't have it, you're I pushed myself to my limits.."
She looked down at her hand which had an icy mist swirling around it, "...I didn't care what it took, or how much pain
I had to endure..I'd keep challenging those with power and prove to them that we fairies aren't to be looked down upon..and
one day, I would surpass them."

Reimu finally found her voice, "You do realize that this kind of pursuit could endanger the status quo of Gensokyo
one day.." She didn't mean anything rude by it. She just wanted the little one to know what exactly she was getting
herself into.

"I'm not an idiot, Reimu," Cirno glanced back up at the girl in question, "I know the consequences...and I'm beyond
caring at this point. This is my wish...and I'm not stopping until it comes true," She shrugged, "Besides, people like you have it way too easy in my eyes."

This caught the shrine maiden's attention, "I beg your pardon?"

For a moment, Cirno hesitated, knowing what she was about to say couldn't be taken back, but at the same time
knew it was now or never. She let out a long sigh, "...You always have it so easy, Reimu. You got all that power inside
you, and just about everyone who's important respects you, and you can do pretty much whatever you want,"

She could feel her body trembling a little, "You always seem to excel at everything you do, and nothing ever appears
to give you trouble. You don't struggle with anything or know what it's like to have to work and work and work until your
bones feel like they are gonna crack..." Before it could look like she would have a break down though, she took in a deep
breath and did her best to compose herself, "I know it's selfish to say but...that's the reason...I want to surpass you someday,
Reimu...and until that day comes...I'm never gonna stop pushing my limits, and I'll never give up!"

She smiled victoriously, "Because I'm Cirno, and I am the strongest!" With that, she turned and puffed out her chest proudly,
feeling relieved to have finally gotten all that off her chest.

There was silence for the longest time as Marisa only lied there, wondering how her friend/rival might react to such bold proclamations. As it turns out, she didn't have to wait long.

Reimu leered down at her candy bar and, not feeling so hungry anymore, set it aside and sighed, "I swear, does everybody around here got a speech shoved up their butts or something?" She got up and walked over to where Cirno was standing...and calmly put a hand on her shoulder, getting her attention, "I'm...guessing you've had all this bottled up for a while, haven't you?"

The ice fairy still avoided her gaze but did give a small nod, "I been trying to think of how best to say it...but every other attempt just came out as really silly..heh, guess even this one came out as kinda overblown too?"

"Sort of, yeah," Reimu nodded, ever the blunt one, before looking away, "You hard as this is to believe...I know how you feel, at least to some degree," Cirno looked up to the shrine maiden whom looked up at the clouds hovering overhead, "Being the Hakurei Shrine Maiden may make me one of the most powerful and important individuals in Gensokyo...but it's not all roses and butterflies,"

Her gaze tilted back downwards, "When you have power, it's true you'll be respected...but you'll also be feared too, even by those you're sworn to protect. Have you ever wondered why my shrine always looks so empty?"

Cirno scratched her noodle, " it because everybody went home to make sandwiches for you?"

Reimu chuckled in an empty manner, "I wish! No...the Hakurei Shrine Maiden is meant to keep the balance in Gensokyo between humans and youkai. It's a...rather lonely life too..." She held up her hand before the fairy could speak, "And before you ask, no. I can't just up and quit. This life was decided for me from the moment I was born...besides, without the role I play, this world would fall back into chaos...In that regard, I envy the freedom you have,"

Reimu wasn't sure where all this was coming from, but somehow it felt...good to be able to do this, "It's a pretty thankless job of course. Aside from you, Marisa, and the other Youkai, I don't get many visitors, and most times people only come to me when they need their problems fixed...," She shrugged half-heartedly, "And of course, I do it because that's my obligation. The ones who came before me fulfilled this exact same role...and so will those who come after me."

"But that's not right!" Cirno exclaimed, causing Reimu to snap to attention at the fairy's outburst, "Don't you have things you want to do with your life too? I know I'm the wrong person to be saying this but're not just the Hakurei Shrine Maiden! Reimu is Reimu! It's up to her to define herself and make her own choices, not let other people decide for her!"

She took the shrine maiden's hand, "You...if everyone else is happy here in Gensokyo...don't you think you deserve to be happy too?"

The dark-haired girl's eyes widened out at hearing the fairy's question. Of course she'd wanted to be happy too! Didn't everyone? But she had resigned herself to this life, for the sake of the people of Gensokyo and her ancestors, and although she couldn't admit this aloud...she did it for her friends too. She had her eyes closed for a while...before opening them and putting on a small smile, "...I do...but I'm gonna earn it on my own terms just like you..." She rubbed the fairy's head, "Thanks...say, um.."

She rubbed the back of her neck nervously while looking off in the distance, "If you...wanted to come over for some tea some time...I suppose I wouldn't object...just as long as you don't cause trouble." Cirno managed a rather sweet smile at this. Even if these two had their differences, at least they knew they had some common ground too.

Marisa suddenly barged in, "Awww! That's so cute, you two are getting along! I'll just be borrowing this!" She snatched up the
remaining bars and ran off laughing.

"Marisa!" Reimu waved her purification staff about before turning to Cirno, "Tell you what. Freeze her, and I'll consider splitting one of my bars with you."

With that, the chase resumed...


Following Kaguya's instructions, I eventually reached a small bamboo hut nestled beside the river running through the forest. There was a large woodpile stacked up beside it, but other than a small planter just outside the door the house itself was almost completely unadorned. It looked like a place a monk would feel at home. The interior of the house seemed vacant. Had Mokou gone out for the day?

Deciding to find out "Um...hello?" I called out,"Lady Mokou? It's me, the guy you nearly roasted last night? I just came by to check in on you and make sure you're alright. Maybe ask you some questions? Nothing personal, I promise." I looked around the grounds to see any sign of the white-haired girl.

Suddenly, I saw her step out from behind the house. She looked me over rather calmly, At first she didn't say anything at all, the morning breeze blowing across her face as she stared at me wordlessly, her hands pocketed in a casual manner. "Umm...hi there," I waved to her.

"Hey...sorry about almost killing you," Mokou said simply, turning her head slightly, "What did you want to talk about, James?" She seemed reasonably friendly, especially considering what had transpired between us the day before.

"Eh, don't worry about it," I waved it off,"To be honest, I'm use to people trying to barbecue me by now. Just wanted to come by and check in on you been holding up? I knows I might've said some pretty harsh things to you last night.." I turned my own head slightly, feeling a tad guilty at the way I'd blown up at her, even if I had my reasons to do so.

"You're worried about me even though I tried to kill you?" Mokou's amusement showed through her usual facial expression, "That's new... The only other person who really worries about me is Keine. I'm doing alright, I suppose... Just feeling a bit lost."

She held her right hand out at waist height, a small flame kindling on her palm, "What are you supposed to do when the one meaning your life had is taken away, and you realize that perhaps it was all just a misunderstanding from the start?"

I took a seat on a log and pondered over how best to answer that, "...That's a difficult question to answer. I would say that you gotta go on living, find new meaning to your life...but for someone like you, that's not gonna be easy, is it?" She slowly shook her head, "Figured as much..." I crossed one leg over on top of my knee and sighed, "...As crazy as this is gonna sound...there was once a time I got put into a similar situation to the one you're in right now."

"Hmm?" Mokou lifted her head and closed her hand over the small flame, extinguishing it without leaving a scratch. Dang, I needed to learn how to do a cool trick like that.

I felt myself shift uncomfortably, "I...I know how it have the one meaning your life had taken away, and to realize it was nothing more than some misunderstanding," I needed to get this off my chest right now, "When I was very young, I had someone I loved with all my heart and soul. I loved them so much that I was willing to do anything to bring a smile to their face and to see them happy," I glanced up at her with a solemn expression, "And I do mean anything."

"That does not sound like it was a healthy relationship one bit," Mokou came over and sat beside me.

I shook my head in response, "It wasn't...but I didn't care. For me everything revolved around this one person. I craved their attention, their respect...their love. No amount of work was too back-breaking, and if this person felt like punishing me for something trivial...I sat there and took it with a smile on my face, feeling they were in the right, and when my best wasn't good enough.." I took off my hat, "I worked even harder, pushed myself to my limits, endured everything thrown my way...I would devote myself body and soul just for that one smile...that one pat on my head, and just hearing "you did good" made it all worth it."

Mokou seemed to squirm a little in her seat, "That person...was the mother who brought you into the world?"

I let out an empty chuckle at this, "For a given value of "mother", yeah, she was. I idolized her, and she convinced me she was the greatest thing to ever walk the earth. An angel that could do no wrong...and I fell for it like the fool I was!" I smashed my fist against the stump, clenching my teeth to hold in the pain, "...I was so blinded by devotion and loyalty I neglected everything and everyone else...and I didn't discover the ugliness in that woman's heart...until she had destroyed my life and my family..."

I rubbed my now sore hand, "I should've seen the signs sooner...that she was a monster wearing the skin of a human being...but I loved her too much to realize her true nature...and I paid the price by being robbed of all I had and took for granted..." With a sigh, I looked up to Mokou, "So you can imagine, I was left an empty shell for the longest time. No motivation for anything, didn't want to trust anyone, became a shut-in...some days, I felt I was little more than a zombie."

"Sounds eerily similar to how I myself felt in the years before coming here to Gensokyo," Mokou nodded in understanding, "But you seem to be in a much better state of mind now than you were back then."

At this, I managed a smile, "Only because I eventually ended up with a new family who treated me like a person and not a tool. They showed me real love and respect, taught me a lot of valuable lessons too. I guess you can even say they were the reason my faith in humanity was reignited, and I was reminded of their potential for good," Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out the card created from Mokou and Kaguya's powers, "Now, I want to do the same for others. To save them from their own personal hell."

Mokou's smile seemed to brighten up a bit more. As if the sun itself were starting to shine again, "I see...that's quite the story you got there...and those folks you ended up with sound like wonderful people. I wouldn't mind meeting them myself someday."

"Yeah, you'd love them. Especially when Mom makes her home-made chocolate chip cookies," I chuckled to myself before putting an elbow on my knee, "Actually, I got some time, so how about you tell me your own story?" Hey, if it worked for Satori, it would work for Mokou.

"You already know some of it by now," Mokou shrugged, "But I don't see what harm it would do to tell you it from the beginning..." Mokou readjusted her position on the stump so she was more comfortable before starting, "I was born sometime long ago, around one thousand three hundred years from the present day... The exact time difference between your world and Gensokyo is a bit fuzzy, so I could be off any number of years,"

She shrugged at this, as if it weren't a big deal, ""I was an unwanted child, as I was frail and female, when my father wished for potential heirs to carry the family legacy. As you may already know, girls at the time were most useful as bargaining chips than anything else, and as I was frail of body I was ill-suited as a potential wife for a young noble or prince."

"Yyeahhh..." I scratched my head at this, "I can remember reading about that kind of thing in history books...people back then had REALLY bizarre senses of morality, even by Youkai standards...although I try to chock it up to most folks just having smaller brains in general back then...but go on."

Mokou nodded, although I noticed now as she talked her voice became increasingly sombre, "After Kaguya, for whatever reason, disgraced my father and the entire family by subjecting him to an impossible task, I sought to exact revenge upon her in retaliation of the perceived slight... Some time afterwards, I got the chance I longed for,"

"I hid myself within a regiment of soldiers under the command of a man named Iwakasa... Due to the rigorous pace the soldiers set, it didn't take long for Iwakasa to discover my presence, but much to my surprise he took me in and helped me along rather than send me away." Huh, apparently some people's way of thinking was a little more ahead of their time even in the Feudal Era.

"I had heard that they were carrying a gift from Kaguya to the Emperor of Japan, but I learned while in Iwakasa's company that it was no mere gift... It was the Hourai Elixir," Mokou explained, "I sought to have it for myself, against my better judgement... I gravely wounded Iwakasa and left him for dead, escaping with the Hourai Elixir upon the first opportunity that presented itself."

By this point, the words just seemed to flow out on their own like a broken dam, ""However, those who take the Elixir no longer age as normal humans do.. For three hundred years, I shunned the company of humans who would despise me upon discovery of my ageless, immortal body, wandering the countryside while performing odd jobs as necessary during my travels. During that time I trained myself in the arts of magic and unarmed combat, and over the three hundred years that followed I mastered them both to such a degree that neither human nor youkai posed any threat to me,"

Mokou looked down at her hand once again, "But after all that, my power offered me nothing but boredom and despair. For three hundred more years, I could find nothing that would satisfy me or give my life any purpose... Until I met Kaguya once again in Gensokyo."

"I suppose you know the rest of the story from that point on," Mokou shrugged, "My life is a story of a girl's search for meaning in a meaningless life. I suppose my mistake is expecting the world to give me a meaning, when it's really up to me to find it for myself, within myself..." Amen to that one.

"I've made more mistakes in my life than I can count, but I'm glad that I did not make the mistake of killing you or the others... I suppose I have Kaguya to thank for that." She sighed in relief, as if some kind of burden had been taken off of her,"I'm not asking for your pity, but it's good to have someone to talk to about my life... Sometimes its hard for me to remember what it was like before I became as I am now," Mokou looked up at me.

Ok, I won't lie, I'm a sucker for good stories and that there was definitely a good one, "Well, that's a heck of a tale you got there, Mokou," I admitted as I folded my hands in my lap, "...It's amazing where our choices have led us, haven't they? If either of us had made even one decision differently we likely wouldn't be sitting here right now.." I scuffled my shoes on the grass, "We've both been through a lot, you far moreso, but I...I really gotta admire the fact that you kept going no matter what. That kind of resilence and determination...makes you pretty amazing."

I grinned at her, "It also makes me proud to call myself human."

She looked over to me and smiled in a rather amused yet grateful manner, "Thanks... Even though I lacked many important qualities before, I have always been rather resilient and determined. I suppose that might help explain some of it,"

Mokou studied me a bit more closely than before, "You're rather amazing yourself... Not just anyone can fall into Gensokyo and already be as comfortable with it as you are. Mokou replaced her hands into her pockets, "Are you sure this is the first time you have been to Gensokyo?"

I put my hands in my pockets too and stared up at the morning sky,"...If you want me to be brutally honest with you, I've actually had knowledge about this world before even coming see, where I come from, the Outside, there are these...interactive stories that catalogue some of the most important events in this world's history. You play through these stories and the further you get, the more you learn about the story, the people and so on,"

"Interesting," She nodded along to what I was saying, "So, I'm guessing these works are popular?"

I snickered in a rather devilish manner, "Like you wouldn't believe! The sensation started in Japan and it's spread all over the world. We refer to the collection as the Touhou Project," At seeing her raise an eyebrow, I put up my hands, "Don't ask about the name. I'm not the one who owns the license to the franchise."

I went on, "To make a long story short, "I was always intrigued by the lore behind Gensokyo so I took to doing some research...some very in-depth research I may add," I rose an amused eyebrow,"Oh, and let me clarify, no, despite what you may think I'm just an ordinary human, nothing that special about me. I can't fly on my own, I'm not the descendent of any gods, nor am I the reincarnation of some ancient legendary warrior, nor am I half-youkai, and I'm not a deity who's taken physical form,"

"I am exactly as you see me right now. Just an ordinary guy who through some luck and intelligence got my hands on some nifty magical artifacts which have managed to keep me alive up till now," I shrugged, "Honestly, if it weren't for said artifacts and my new friends I would likely be dead right now." Hey, Reimu's not the only one who can be blunt as hell.

"Well, I must give you credit where it's due. For a normal human, you've done well for yourself so far," Mokou took the combo card and looked it over carefully before nodding in approval, "There are many types of people who are great. There are those who are born great, there are those who achieve greatness, and there are there who have greatness thrust upon them,"

She handed the card back to me, "Neither of us were born with it, but that does not mean the potential isn't there. If I can achieve it under my own merits than so can you, and these cards of yours are proof of your own potential."

I pocketed the card as I pondered her words over in my mind. You had to hand it to her, she did have a good point. When both of us were down on our luck, we refused to crumble, got back up, and made something of ourselves. We made our mistakes but we were still here, still living...and following the paths we believed in, " you do think there's a reason specific people get called here?"

"I'm almost certain of it, yes," She nodded in agreement, "Many different types of people have come to Gensokyo over the years, some by their own means and some by chance, but for whatever the reason we all find ourselves in the same place. How we choose to make use of that opportunity is up to ourselves to figure out."

We took the next little while to just sit and let the clouds float by. Finally, I broke the silence while adjusting my fedora, "You know...Kaguya thinks a lot of you, and I can tell she wants to someday mend the bridges with you. And I...I knows she wants to be your friend. I can tell by the way she talks about you.I'm quite good at telling when people are being dishonest or lying...and I can tell you, I don't detect a trace of either in her...and...there's more to her story you need to know.."

Mokou leered at me but didn't say anything. I took it as a sign to go on, ""You some ways, you and her are alike. You both grew up in a time when women were little more than bargaining chips...your father wasn't the first man she turned down...she turned down many, because she knew in the end all those men wanted was to use her as a playtoy and have her wealth. She didn't want any part of it, that's why she set up the Five Impossible Requests...because nobody in their right mind would ever be able to complete them."

"I suppose Kaguya and I are alike in that respect... Only she was fit for use as a bargaining chip whereas I was not." Mokou shrugged, "I'm not sure what use words would have in order to make amends for the hundreds of years of hate and spite I have piled up on top of her," She leaned back and closed her eyes, "To be honest, I'm wondering now if I actually DID hate her...or if I was just looking for a scapegoat to take all my rage and frustrations out on..but looking back does
neither of us any good. "

"All we can do now is move forward...and maybe in time me and her can come to see each other as friends," Mokou opened her eyes and looked to the sky once more, "Huh, when I say that aloud it actually doesn't sound too bad."

"Tell me," Mokou turned toward me, "Do you like Kaguya? I mean... I don't really care if you do or do not, I'm just curious as to what makes you feel attracted to her if you are." Wow, just right out of the blue, eh?

I did my best not to blush,"W-Well...I's not just her's what's in her heart I like. She seems like the kind of person who just wants to be accepted for who she is. She's...well...kind, caring, likes to have fun, doesn't turn away someone who is in genuine need of help, even if they're strangers...and she seems very wise and knowledgeable. She understands a lot more about the human heart than one may think.."

"She's waiting for the day when someone who will come that truly loves and respects her, treats her as an equal and not just an idol to be coddled...I don't know if I'll be that one...but no matter what happens...I want to protect that smile of hers, simply because I think it's something worth protecting."

Mokou looked me over, saying nothing for some time before a small smile spread across her lips, almost as if she were relieved in some way. She closed her eyes and let out a sigh. "If that's truly how you feel, then I envy Kaguya. I envy those genuine words and feelings you have toward her. Perhaps its selfish of me to say this, but I would very much like someone to convey such words and feelings to me as well."

"Who knows? Maybe I'll steal you away from Kaguya, even," Mokou opened one of her eyes while leaning back slightly. It was difficult to say if she was joking when she said this or not.

Ignoring that for the time being, I patted her on the shoulder, "Hey, give it time. I'm sure we can be good friends too if you want to be. Besides, I know you are a good person deep down Mokou. You have a kind heart too, if you didn't, I doubt you would volunteer to always lead people through the Bamboo Forest. "Once things in this world settle down again, I'd like the chance to get to know both you and Kaguya better." Oh, poor clueless me, if only I knew the true implications of what I'd just said.

I didn't know whether I was just speaking my mind or being crafty because my mind is a strange place sometimes.

"Both Kaguya and myself, hm?" Mokou repeated, "You're a rather ambitious young man..." Mokou stood up from the stump and nodded, "Very well, I accept your challenge. By the time you come to meet me again, I will be ready to prove to you that I am just as worthy as Kaguya of your attention. I won't lose to her, I can promise you that."

Then, from out of the blue, Mokou grabbed me by the collar in both hands and bent over, placing her lips on my cheek briefly before releasing me. She then backed up and replaced her hands into her pockets as if nothing at all were amiss despite the fact I must've been wearing the most stupified look in the universe,"Now you have anything else you'd like to talk about?

"Huh? O-Oh sure," Oh my gosh, I just got kissed by Mokou of all people! If the Touhou fanboys could see me right now, they'd saw my flipping head off! "Just out of curiosity...would you like to come along with us to the Netherworld? We can use all the firepower we can get on our side."

"You want the one who nearly incinerated you to help you in your investigation," Mokou stated matter-of-factly before smirking, "You really are an odd one...unfortunately, I got things to do today. Keine wants me to help her run some errands...and no offense, but the realm of the dead is not a place I'm comfortable being in."

"Mokou!" We stopped and turned to see a girl standing there with brown eyes, long silver hair with blue highlights and wearing a blue and white dress with brown dress shoes and a blue cap shaped like a building, "There you are! I been looking all over for-oh, who's this?"

"Oh, him?" Mokou jabbed a thumb in my direction, "This here is James. James, meet Keine, she's the school teacher in the Human Village."

"Ah, so you're the young man I been hearing me about," Keine nodded her head in greeting. At seeing me raise an eyebrow, she giggled, "Don't look so surprised. Word travels fast, especially when a certain tengu is involved. Thank you for coming to talk to be honest, she could use more friends."

The white-haired girl cleared her throat, "Ehem, uh, James? Don't you have somewhere to be?" It was obvious the topic of her having friends was more than a little embarassing for her.

"Oh right!" I scooped up my bag while shaking her hand, "Say,um, if you need anything at all, don't hesitate to ask, ok? And...take your time thinking over what you wanna do got your whole life ahead of you, and I know you'll make something great of it. If you truly do want to make amends for what's happened in the past...the least either of us can do is go on living. That's just me, of course."

"It would probably be more accurate to say that I have all of eternity ahead of me," Mokou smirked, "But thank you for the thought... I'm sure we will see more of each other soon."

Keine giggled, "My, my, you two are certainly quite friendly with each other, aren't you? Well, how abo-" She stopped at hearing a loud gurgling sound from her friend's belly, causing her to scowl and fold her arms, "...Really, Mokou? Didn't I tell you you need better food in your system besides bamboo shoots all the time?" Before Mokou could answer, she took her hand, "Nevermind. Let's go. See you later, Mr James." With that, they disappeared into the forest.

With that taken care of, I turned and headed on my way to wherever the girls were waiting...
Step Into Gensokyo Chapter 7 Part 1
Well, here's chapter 7 for those of you still reading this. Yes, the plot finally starts moving for real...I can't
really say too much for obvious reasons. Events of the previous chapter start being cleared up though...

Again, I hope you enjoyed this more...complex portrayal I took of Kaguya and Mokou's relationship and
other things. I tried to stay as close to canon as I could and you can thank my friend for the work on Mokou's

So yeah, expect Parts 2 and 3 soon. 



Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
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.
We all make mistakes but some mistakes are bigger than others. At times, we act without thinking or considering the
consequences, and as a result, we dig an hole for ourselves. I say this cause...well, lately
I been making quite a few big ones. I won't go into detail about them here but let's just say
recent events have made me start reevaluating a few things I took for granted. 

Looking back, I realize I wasn't always the...well, nicest individual to hang out with or talk
to on here, being pushy at times and not knowing how to react to some situations. Despite my
own sensitivity, I didn't always return that same sensitivity, something I'm ashamed of.  I won't always
be able to please everyone, and it's futile to try. I know I've got issues to sort out if I want to keep moving
forward and I've been a stick in the mud when it comes to "Change" of any kind due to most changes
in my life having been negative ones. 

So, to those of you who feel I may've wronged you in the past in some way, or acted in a way
that offended or annoyed you, even if it was accidental, I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart. I can't promise I'll change overnight and clean up my act...but I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Once more, I am sorry for any mistakes or misunderstandings up till now. I will do what I can to
be better. For both you guys and myself too.

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sonilver1995 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2015
k just wondering also hope you continue the pretty cure stories you have going on those were very good
GamerXZ Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Cleaned them out, along with a bunch of stories I considered Old Shames. Felt it was about
time I started cleaning up my act and began being a bit more grown up XD
sonilver1995 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2015
what happened to the fusion stories
enderslayer Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2015   General Artist
this may seem like an old question, but what happened to Sonic Fusion Trouble?
darkskyluna Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the fave! :)
darkskyluna Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the watch! :D
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)
rainbowmewmew13 Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2015
Hi buddy :)
extremespeeds Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Are you planning on continuing some time soon? Again, sorry if this was asked already.
GamerXZ Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
Ask away.
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