Author Topic: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story  (Read 7074 times)

hungrybookworm

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The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« on: September 02, 2014, 07:47:02 PM »

(Just in case the image above isn't working, please be aware that this fic includes suicide references, binge drinking and slight injury detail.)

There'll be a new chapter every 4-5 days. Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Collapse
(AO3 Mirror)

The explosion lit up the night sky, and Yukari Yakumo laughed within it. Her clothes were torn and dishevelled from the battle, but the light in her eyes gleamed brighter than ever. Her remaining bullets fizzled away like dying fireworks. The fight had been long and hard, but its victor was finally decided.

The shockwave ended, and Reimu?s body trembled with every breath. She held her purification rod out in front of her, and grinned from ear-to-ear. It?d taken four rematches, but she?d done it. She?d resolved the worst incident Gensokyo had ever faced. ?There!? Her arm shook as she spoke. ?Now change everything back!?

Yukari looked at her, and changed her mad laugh into a gentle smile. ?I suppose you wouldn?t consider another rematch??

?Absolutely not!? Reimu had been in the air for over twelve hours now. She was running on adrenaline alone. ?I won fair and square, now change it back!?

?A shame, I was enjoying it.? Yukari?s smile grew wistful. ?I suppose I shall make do with the memories.?

?Cut that out.? Reimu flew closer, annoyed now. She was here for a reason. ?Do you have any idea how much trouble your stupid announcement caused? There was a riot in the Human Village, and a bunch of youkai started going around trying to eat people!? Marisa had to drop out to deal with the riot, and Sanae and Sakuya teamed up to fight the youkai. ?If this is supposed to be a joke, then it?s gone too far.?

Yukari raised her eyebrows. ?A riot? Then I suppose I?ll have to make further announcements later, to clarify a few things. The youkai of Gensokyo are still bound by contract, and are not allowed to eat any humans from the village. Even,? and her voice gained a hint of sadness, ?when Gensokyo is scheduled to close down.?

?It?s not closing down anymore. I?ve won, so change things back to how they were before. Or is there someone else I need to beat up first??

Yukari shook her head. ?No, I am the one who made that decision.?

?Then-?

?Reimu.? Yukari?s voice softened. ?I cannot change anything back. There is nothing I can do.?

?Of course you can change it. Don?t give me that.?

?You?ve noticed the barrier weakening, haven?t you??

Reimu had. ?Wasn?t that just you fooling around, poking holes in it and stuff??

?The Great Hakurei Barrier isn?t just a fence separating Gensokyo from the outside world. It was conceived as a way of holding off the inevitable.? Yukari pointed south-east with her parasol, towards the Hakurei Shrine. ?Gensokyo is unsustainable. It was unsustainable from the very beginning. I was young, and a fool, and misjudged my power. Around the late Meiji era it became too much for me, so we erected a barrier that would allow the Hakurei family to carry half of the burden. Not that you?ll find that written down anywhere. Officially we were simply sealing Gensokyo off from the outside world.?

It sounded preposterous, but Yukari?s tone of voice sent a shiver down Reimu?s spine. ?...Come on, you can?t be serious.?

?Unfortunately I am completely serious. And as it turns out, even sharing the burden with you isn?t enough. Gensokyo requires too much power. I was faced with the choice of turning a blind eye and letting it simply implode one day, or giving everyone advanced notice and closing it down on a set date. I think you can agree that the latter is more practical.?

Reimu waited for Yukari to smirk, to twirl her parasol and laugh. This was all one long joke, it had to be.

But the gap youkai just stared at her, with eyes so honest they hurt.

?Isn?t it a bit early to decide that? I mean, surely there?s another way.? Reimu broke the silence, trying not to let the fear show in her voice. ?Can?t you get more people to share the burden, or just grab someone with a convenient power and make them fix it? The Moriya Shrine has an unlimited energy source, what?s wrong with that??

But Yukari shook her head again. ?I have been looking for a solution for centuries. I have altered hundreds of borders. Gensokyo is unsustainable, and will close down in exactly one month. That is a fact, and there is nothing any of us can do about it.?

Yukari?s voice quivered towards the end, and she hung her head. Her sinister aura was gone, and she looked almost human.

Reimu lowered her purification rod, the truth finally sinking in. She tried to think of something to say, some kind of protest that would open up another alternative, but Yukari?s expression told her not to bother. For the first time in her life, Reimu found herself against an insurmountable wall. A cold, hard barrier that stretched up for all eternity, and couldn?t be demolished with mere human strength.

And terror crept behind her, intending to crush her against it like an insect.

*****
?Hey Reimu! Reimu!?

Marisa hovered over the Human Village, waiting for her. Reimu had taken her time coming back from Mayohiga, and the sky behind them was now a cool morning blue.

?Woah,? said Marisa, once they were facing each other. ?You look like a corpse.?

Reimu made an effort to keep her voice level. She didn?t want to break the news just yet. ?You don?t look much better. What happened to your face??

?Oh this?? Marisa touched her cheek. The left side of her face was streaked with blood. ?Some kid threw a rock at me. It?s no big deal.?

?So you sorted out the riot??

?Yeah, I told them you were going to beat up the culprit.? Marisa narrowed her eyes. ?You did beat her up, right??

?Obviously.? Reimu didn?t have the energy to glare back. Yukari?s words were still at the forefront of her mind. ?Where are the others??

?Just follow me.? Marisa turned. ?Everyone made it back fine. Well, kinda.?

Marisa led her to a small soba shop near the centre of the village. The owners were nowhere in sight, but the door was unlocked. ?They?re letting us use it, as thanks,? she explained as they went inside. The interior was dark, lit by a single gas lamp. Someone was sobbing gently. Reimu could make out three figures.

?Oh, the Hakurei Shrine Maiden returns,? said Sakuya, looking as perfect as ever as she sat at a table. ?Any news??

A large phantom floated past. Reimu glanced down, and saw Youmu kneeling on the ground, wrapping Sanae?s leg with a bandage.

Sanae was covering her face with her hands, moaning softly.

?One of the youkai took a bite out of her leg,? explained Sakuya gently. ?We let our guard down too early.?

?Her leg?? Reimu was horrified. She stepped closer to Sanae. ?Hey, are you okay??

Sanae didn?t say anything. She didn?t even move.

?Okay.? Youmu finished wrapping the bandage. She got up, and snivelled. ?It?s my fault for arriving too late.?

?It?s nobody?s fault, these things just happen sometimes.? Marisa shook her head, and looked back at Reimu. ?Anyway, don?t just stand there Reimu. Tell us what happened.?

Everyone looked at her. Even Sanae removed her hands from her face, and stared at her with wet eyes. Reimu tried to say something, tried to say the speech she?d mentally rehearsed on the way there, but her mind had gone blank. Her legs shook.

Marisa tilted her head to one side, worried. ?Reimu??

Reimu forced herself to focus. She was the Hakurei shrine maiden of Gensokyo. This was a part of her job. ?I found the culprit, the gap youkai,? she said, ?and I fought her. But she says there?s... there?s nothing anyone can do. Gensokyo will close down in a month, and she?ll make further announcements later. Youkai are still not allowed to eat humans from the village. That?s all.? Reimu clenched her fists, feeling even worse than before. She couldn?t pretend it was a lie anymore.

You could hear a pin drop. Nobody knew what to say.

?Ah well,? said Marisa at last, putting a cold hand on Reimu?s shoulder. ?If you can?t do anything, then I guess that?s it, eh??

Sakuya gave a sad smile. ?It was fun while it lasted.?

?I?ll have to ask Yukari-sama about the Netherworld,? said Youmu.

Reimu had prepared herself for disbelief, more tears, maybe even threats, but not meek reactions and passive sighs. Even Sanae wasn?t crying any louder than before. Maybe they?d expected this from the very beginning.

?Did they have that little faith in her?

?Oh yeah, maybe we can all move to your place,? said Marisa to Youmu, sounding hopeful.

?How is that any different to suicide?? Sakuya gave a hollow laugh, then stood up. ?Either way, I should go inform Milady. The next month will be quite busy for us.?

?I should update Yuyuko-sama as well.? Youmu picked her sword, Roukanken, up from the table. ?Umm... I really am sorry. If I?d arrived earlier, then...?

?It?s fine...? Sanae spoke this time, barely louder than a whisper. ?I was careless.?

?You can make it up to her later,? said Sakuya, and the two of them left.

?Can you fly, Sanae?? asked Marisa afterwards, moving to pick up her broom. ?Do you need a lift??

?I?ll carry her.? Reimu wanted something to do. Anything. ?Shouldn?t you tell the Village Leader about this, Marisa??

?At five in the morning? All the rioters got arrested. There?s nothing to worry about anymore.? Marisa tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Reimu saw dried blood splashed down her neck.

?Fine,? said Reimu, ?help me carry her then.?

They took turns carrying Sanae, Marisa balancing precariously on her broom during her sessions. They made an effort not to touch her injured leg, but she still winced and cried as they flew through the air. The sun rose behind Youkai Mountain, and the sky glowed with cheerful pastel colours.

Nobody said anything until they reached the Moriya Shrine. Kanako was waiting for them, pacing frantically in front of the torii gate.

?Sanae!? She rushed over immediately. ?Oh Sanae, you?re all right.?

?Kanako-sama...? Sanae reached out as they landed, and clasped hands with her god. ?Kanako-sama, I?m so sorry!?

?Come on now, don?t cry.? Kanako lifted her out of Reimu?s arms, cradling her like a child. ?We?ll work out what to do next.?

Reimu looked at the ground, too embarrassed to watch. The god?s solemn expression made her feel terrible.

?Thank you for bringing our Sanae back.? Suwako came over, looking deathly pale. Kanako and Sanae were already heading indoors. ?You?re welcome to stay for a while, if you want.?

Reimu was exhausted, but she shook her head. ?I need to get back to my shrine.?

Suwako understood. ?You?re right. Your god?s probably worried.?

I doubt it, thought Reimu. ?Thank you for the offer. I appreciate it.?

?I would?ve liked some tea,? mumbled Marisa as they left.

?You can stay then.? Reimu?s chest felt hard and hollow as she rose through the air. ?I?m going home.?

?Hey, slow down.?

Reimu was expecting Marisa to head for the Forest of Magic, but she was still trailing behind her when the Hakurei Shrine came into view. Reimu touched down on the grass, and without warning her legs gave way. Her knees slammed into the ground.

?Woah, watch out.? Marisa landed behind her.

?I?m fine,? said Reimu unconvincingly. She thought of Kanako rushing towards Sanae again, and felt even worse. ?Why are you here, anyway? Don?t you want to go home??

?I?m too tired. Your place is closer to the mountain.? Marisa poked her with her broom. Reimu resisted the urge to snatch it off her. ?Need any help??

Reimu shook her head, and pushed herself back up. Her clothes were already stained with sweat and grime. A bit of dirt wouldn?t make a difference. ?Fine, do whatever. I need a bath.?

*****
Reimu took her time soaking in the tub. She stared at the wall, and listened to the birds chirping outside. It felt good to finally be alone, sitting still in a place she could think clearly. It was probably around mid-morning now, and the horrors of last night felt like a distant dream.

It didn?t last. The sharp sunlight accentuated her bruises. Unknown cuts and scratches stung all over her body. Her joints ached, and she?d pulled a muscle around her right side. This was hardly unusual; the first bath after an incident was always the most uncomfortable, but for some reason her injuries felt more noticeable this time. Reimu lifted her hands out of the water and glanced at her fingernails. They were chipped, and a few had even broken.

Her injuries had been caused over nothing. Gensokyo was unsustainable, Yukari had said. Unsustainable from the very beginning. Reimu had been powerless to save it from the moment she was born. No amount of training would have made a difference in the end. Her shrine could have been bursting at the seams with worshippers and it wouldn?t have changed a thing. There was no culprit to exterminate, no grand youkai scheme to foil, just the sad, hollow truth that Gensokyo didn?t work. Their paradise was a complete failure.

Reimu bit her lower lip, trying to stop the tears welling up in her eyes. She didn?t want to bawl like Sanae did over her leg. Marisa would be able to hear her from the main room. But her mouth already tasted of salt, and her breath came out in sharp gasps. All the terror and emotion from the last few hours finally broke through, and she didn?t recover for a long time.

*****
Marisa was fast asleep, sprawled on the tatami with her legs under the table when Reimu came out of the bathroom. She was using a floor cushion as a pillow, and her hat covered the top half of her face. Her chest rose and fell gently as she slept. Reimu ignored her, walked over to the table and helped herself to some tea. It was lukewarm, but she couldn?t bring herself to care. The drink tasted of normalcy, and that helped her relax.

The clock ticked towards eight o?clock in the morning. Reimu had been awake for over twenty-four hours now. Marisa slumbered peacefully beside her, murmuring in her sleep every now and then. Reimu watched her for a moment, hoping that she might say something funny or embarrassing. It wasn?t like her to snooze with her hat on. She reached out and pulled it away.

The material felt different. Was it a new hat? She looked closer. The frills and bow were brown with... mud? No, it was blood. Definitely dried blood. It was caked into the black fabric too.

A chill ran through her. Reimu tossed the hat aside, and reseated herself above Marisa?s head. The blood on her friend?s face was mostly gone, but there was still some in her hair; stiff streaks that stretched down to the tips. It was especially dense near the front-left side of her head. Gently, so as not to wake her, Reimu parted her hair with her fingertips, and took a closer look at the wound.

It was long and horrible.

?Ow...? Marisa winced, and opened her eyes. Reimu couldn?t move away fast enough, and they found themselves looking at each other. ?What are you doing??

Reimu moved away, embarrassed. ?Just checking your wound. What kind of rock did they hit you with??

?A huge one.? Marisa sat up, and put her hand to her head.

?Shaped like a blade?? Reimu could tell she was lying now.

?Maybe, I can?t remember.? Marisa removed her hand and looked at her palm. ?Crap, it?s still bleeding.?

?Anyway, the bath?s free, if you want it.? Reimu got up, and poked the cushion with her foot. ?You?re paying for anything you bleed on.?

?Oh come on, that?s unfair.?

Once Marisa was done washing, she let Reimu dress her wound, and after that the two of them sat on the porch. Reimu wanted to sleep, but talking to Marisa was a better distraction from reality.

?And then, about thirty of them ran at me!? Marisa waved her arms around in exaggeration. ?One of them had a pitchfork, and he thrust it at me, like that.?

Reimu wondered if that was where the wound came from. The large bandage on Marisa?s head looked almost comical in the morning sunlight. It was setting out to be another bright, cheerful day.

?But I dodged it easily, and flew up in the air. They were so funny, shaking their fists down on the ground.?

A day that should have been like any other. Reimu?s eyelids were drooping. She placed her cup back on the tray, and yawned.

?Oh come on, my story isn?t that boring, is it??

?I?m tired.?

?Me too, but my head hurts like crazy.?

?That didn?t stop you sleeping earlier.? Reimu sighed, and lay down sideways. ?I?m taking a nap.?

?All right, suit yourself.?

Reimu closed her eyes, and fell still. Once Marisa was sure she was asleep, she let the smile drop from her face and winced. She gingerly touched her bandage, and ran her fingers over the gauze. Then she glanced down at her sleeping friend, her expression a mixture of warmth and concern. She thought her suspicions were confirmed when Reimu almost collapsed earlier, but she seemed back to normal now. Marisa could probably rest easy and head home soon.

She had a lot to think about, after all.

When Reimu opened her eyes, Marisa was gone. The sun was high in the sky, and the air fragrant with a warm autumn breeze. The main room stank of blood, and there were little red specks on the tatami mats.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 10:05:10 AM by hungrybookworm »

Kilgamayan

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Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2014, 09:23:04 PM »
Oh boy, this is on its way already? I've been getting pretty psyched watching you describe your progress on the Tumbler.

Finally got a chance to read this. Was not disappointed. I probably won't comment again until it's done being posted, but I'm indeed looking forward to the rest.
[22:40:12] <Drake> "guys i donwloaded esod but its not workan"
[22:40:21] <Drake> REPORTED
[22:40:25] <NaturallyOccurringChoja> PROBATED
[22:40:30] <Drake> ORGASM
[22:40:32] <NaturallyOccurringChoja> FUCK YEAH

[22:28:39] <Edible> Mafia would be a much easier game if we were playing "spot the asshole"

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2014, 06:17:18 AM »
Oh boy, this is on its way already? I've been getting pretty psyched watching you describe your progress on the Tumbler.

Finally got a chance to read this. Was not disappointed. I probably won't comment again until it's done being posted, but I'm indeed looking forward to the rest.
Thank you! I hope you keep enjoying it!

Tengukami

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Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2014, 01:09:46 PM »
Wow, this is pretty heart-wrenching. It's always enjoyable to see Gensokyans have to confront real emotions and crises, but this has the potential to be a well-constructed tragedy (one that's already off to a great start). Thanks!

"Human history and growth are both linked closely to strife. Without conflict, humanity would have no impetus for growth. When humans are satisfied with their present condition, they may as well give up on life."

Mr.Magic

Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2014, 04:30:27 PM »
This is very good, however a tiny bit depressing.

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2014, 05:27:59 PM »
Wow, this is pretty heart-wrenching. It's always enjoyable to see Gensokyans have to confront real emotions and crises, but this has the potential to be a well-constructed tragedy (one that's already off to a great start). Thanks!
Thank you! I hope the rest meets your expectations.

This is very good, however a tiny bit depressing.
Oho, I'm afraid we're just getting started. :3 Feel free to sit this one out if sad stories aren't your thing.

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [1/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2014, 04:05:51 PM »
Chapter 2: Coming Apart at the Seams
(AO3 Mirror)

The next week passed sluggishly, no different from any other. Every morning Reimu woke up, ate breakfast, performed morning rituals and cleaned the shrine. Then she would sit on the porch and kill time, barely aware of the passing hours as she tried to ignore the dark, helpless thoughts churning in the corner of her mind. The initial shock had worn off now, and her mind was fixated on the same set of fundamental questions.

Namely, what she was going to do next. She would stare at her reflection in the turtles? pond, trying to think of a way to save Gensokyo. When that failed, she tried to think of something that would make the situation better. That never went very far either.

?What should I do, Genjii?? Reimu would ask the biggest turtle in the lake. But he never said anything back. He stopped talking over a decade ago. She tried asking the same question to her god, but it was just as hopeless. She might as well talk to the ceiling.

A whole menagerie of visitors came to see her, many seeking counsel or reassurance. Reimu would comfort them the best she could, trying to hide her own cluelessness as she spoke. A few worshippers gave larger donations, hoping futilely that the Hakurei God could somehow save Gensokyo. Reimu used the extra money to buy supplies, and managed to secure the last two bags of rice in the village. This year?s autumn harvest wouldn?t be ready in time, and many farmers had already abandoned their fields. The shops were running low, and weren?t planning on restocking.

Everyone became busy. She only saw Youmu once, and didn?t see Sakuya or Sanae at all. Kasen visited for five minutes to ask for news, then left uncharacteristically quickly afterwards. Marisa showed up twice earlier in the week, but didn?t stay for long. She was impatient for answers, and had a hard time hiding it. She looked tired. They all looked tired.

Reimu couldn?t shake the feeling that she?d let them all down.

The trees shed their leaves, and the warm wind cooled as early September passed. The apples on the trees were red and rich. Nobody had bothered informing nature of Gensokyo?s impending destruction.

Finally, Yukari Yakumo stepped elegantly onto the porch one clear evening, and closed the gap behind her with a wave of her hand.

?Oh,? said Reimu, drinking tea outside. ?Ready to show your face again, are you??

?I have to.? Yukari sat next to her. ?Don?t you want to know the details??

?I suppose.? Reimu glanced at the shrine grounds. Thinking about the future made her feel sick, but at least she could give people answers. ?Do you want some tea??

?Of course.?

Yukari sipped her drink, and Reimu got straight to the point. ?So,? she said, ?what do you mean by ?closing down???

Yukari sighed. ?It means I will make Gensokyo cease to exist.?

?And what about everyone in it??

?They will have to find somewhere else to live.? Yukari lowered her cup. ?I will give everyone an opportunity to leave for the outside world, though I?m sure many youkai will simply switch to a different colony. We aren?t the only one, after all.?

?Another colony?? Reimu was intrigued.

?Yes, there are several youkai colonies around Japan. None of them match up to ours.? She smiled, proud. ?I believe Gensokyo is the only one with a border, a sizable human population and spell card rules.?

?The others don?t have many humans?? This surprised her.

?Oh they have some. They?re farmed, like goats. It?s quite a sight.?

Reimu decided she didn?t want to move to another youkai colony after all. ?What about the people still in Gensokyo when it closes down??

Yukari stared at Reimu for a short moment. ?Anyone foolish enough to stay in Gensokyo will most likely disappear with it.?

?And the Netherworld? Higan? Makai??

?The Netherworld and Higan will be unaffected, though I wouldn?t recommend sheltering there. You won?t be able to return, and will have essentially killed yourself.?

?I wasn?t planning on it.? Reimu felt disappointed regardless.

?The same applies to Heaven and Hell, though they will simply throw you out. Makai will most likely fall with Gensokyo, as it is borrowing land from us. Though I hear they?re cooking up some kind of scheme to save themselves, so I will be keeping a close eye on them. The Taoists have their own little world hidden away somewhere, but access is invite only and they are refusing to negotiate with me. I suppose the Dream World might be safe, but most humans can?t survive there. I wouldn?t recommend it.?

?So the only option humans really have is the outside world,? said Reimu.

?The safest option, yes.? Yukari nodded. ?Don?t worry, humans have a much easier time in the outside world. Gensokyo was designed for youkai, but the outside world is designed for humans. They can perform all kinds of miracles there.?

?Sounds nice.? Reimu swirled her drink, her heart heavy. ?No youkai to exterminate.?

?None worth exterminating.? Yukari was smiling, but her eyes gave away her sadness. ?I shall have to return to my old life.?

?Mm.?

?What about you??

Reimu had been dreading that question. ?I?m guessing I can?t be a shrine maiden in the outside world, can I??

?You can, though only as a part time job. It won?t be like now.? Yukari frowned, and placed a finger on her chin. ?I suppose you don?t have many transferrable skills, do you??

?Transferrable??

?You should ask the Moriya shrine maiden,? said Yukari, ignoring her. ?I?m sure she can give you better advice than me on the subject.?

Yukari spent the rest of her visit explaining the Human Village evacuation plan to Reimu. They would offer three set dates for humans to leave for the outside world, and open a hole in the border to let them through. Ran was currently helping the Village Leader write a lecture on how to survive in the outside world, to be performed at the next village meeting (?They wouldn?t believe it if it came from a youkai?) and Yukari was visiting contacts in the outside world who could give people jobs.

The youkai, however, could pass through the border into the outside world more easily, and thus needed no extra help. Most had friends or relatives in other colonies.

?Sounds like hard work,? said Reimu.

?Not as hard as running Gensokyo on a daily basis.? Yukari placed her cup back on the tray, and picked up her parasol, ready to leave. ?...Reimu.?

?Yes??

?You will talk to the Moriya shrine maiden, won?t you??

Yukari looked genuinely worried. This was unusual. Reimu took another sip of tea. ?If I get the chance. Why??

Yukari turned away. ?You should take your time deciding what to do next. Don?t pick anything in a hurry.?

?I?ll keep that in mind.?

Yukari left. Reimu emptied her cup, and thought about the outside world. She?d always wanted to visit it at least once, especially after seeing the Lunar Capital, but it?d never occurred to her that she?d have the option of living there one day. Why would it? She was born to be the Hakurei shrine maiden. Her role in life was so heavily entwined with Gensokyo that living anywhere else just wasn?t possible. But now?

Now she had options. Not many, but they were there, lined up waiting for inspection. Going to another youkai colony sounded appealing, but Reimu was human. She didn?t fancy living the rest of her life as an unimportant piece of livestock, and without spell card rules backing her up, she doubted she could change anything to make things better. The Netherworld, Higan, Heaven, Hell, Senkai and the Dream World were out automatically. She didn?t want to travel somewhere else solely to die, and Senkai was invite only. (She might be able to persuade Toyosatomimi no Miko and friends to let her in, but that would require becoming a Taoist. No thank you.) Reimu hated Makai and didn?t want to live there, even if whatever plan they were concocting actually worked, so that left? the outside world? It was just as Yukari said. How annoying.

No, Reimu was forgetting something. There was one other option: staying in Gensokyo and watching it fall asleep, bit by bit. Living out her role as the Hakurei shrine maiden of Gensokyo until the very end. Nothing would change. She wouldn?t even have to do anything. She could drink tea on the porch and enjoy her last days leisurely, watching everyone else panic and run around like headless chickens.

Should she even consider that? It didn?t seem all that different to dying in the Netherworld or Higan, really. Reimu shook her head and stood up, meaning to put the tea set away. She had plenty of time to ruminate. There was no need to make a decision now.

*****
The Scarlet Devil Mansion residents were the first youkai to leave. They held a large party halfway through the second week, after the Human Village?s first evacuation date. Everyone of note was invited, and the red mansion was lit up for all of Gensokyo to admire, courtesy of several large magical spotlights.

?I could?ve done better than that,? muttered Marisa, holding a wine glass.

?You would?ve blasted the walls off,? said Alice, next to her.

?Well yeah, it?d give Gensokyo something to remember them by.?

?I think the Scarlet Mist incident was memorable enough,? said Reimu. It was hard to hear everyone over the noise. Youkai, fairies, humans and everything in between were gathered in the mansion gardens. A worried Meiling was patrolling near the flower beds, on the lookout for vandals.

?Yeah, that was forever ago though.? Marisa shrugged. The bandage around her head was gone, and her hair was clean and fluffy. ?I bet some kids don?t even remember it.?

?I bet some youkai don?t even remember it.? Alice shook her head. ?It all starts to blur together after a while.?

Reimu staggered away, intending to refill her drink. She wanted to get as drunk as humanly possible tonight, and so far she was right on track. The gardens were so packed it was hard to walk in a straight line, and she elbowed her way through the crowd. Everyone seemed to be holding a drink. There was enough alcohol on offer to kill a tengu.

The last few days had passed quickly and quietly, giving Reimu plenty of alone time to mull over her choice. She knew, of course, that the outside world was the only sensible option, and yet the thought of staying in Gensokyo, of relaxing on the shrine porch as the sky darkened, kept reappearing in her mind, over and over again.

Marisa hadn?t visited the shrine at all since Yukari?s visit, and she arrived at the party alongside Alice. Reimu already knew that the puppeteer was planning to return to Makai before the month was over, and it didn?t take a genius to assume Marisa would go with her. People were actually starting to leave, and the thought put Reimu in a particularly bad mood.

Yes, Reimu was going to get blind drunk, at least once she found the punch bowl. There were separate jugs for humans and youkai; the youkai one smelling suspiciously of iron.

?Oh, Reimu-san. Over here!?

Reimu looked up, and was met with a camera flash.

?Come on, at least smile.? Aya laughed awkwardly. ?This is for the commemorative edition.?

Reimu gave it a try.

?Okay, maybe not.? Aya lowered her camera. ?I?ve got a message for you anyway, from the Moriya Shrine.?

Reimu frowned. Did Yukari ask Sanae to talk to her? She did seem rather insistent on the two shrine maidens communicating.

?Sanae-san and the gods couldn?t make it here tonight. Apparently she?s still recovering, and the gods have a lot of packing to do. But they want you to visit, as soon as you can.?

?Oh.? It was definitely that. ?Well, all right. I can?t visit her tonight, obviously, but I?ll try and see her sometime this week.?

?Great.?

?What are you tengu doing anyway?? Reimu felt like asking.

?About leaving?? Aya?s smile faded. ?Well, our boss has some friends in Hokkaido. We?re going to move there with the kappa.?

 ?A youkai colony in Hokkaido? That sounds chilly.?

?Yeah it will be.? She shuddered. ?I?m not looking forward to it. Want to come??

A freezing cold youkai colony? ?I?m all right, thanks.?

?Oh well, I?ll miss having the Hakurei family around. It was fun, chasing you all and playing danmaku and such.?

?Yeah.? It didn?t hit Reimu until then that she was saying goodbye. ?It was fun too. I guess.?

?Come visit if you can, I?ll be waiting.? Aya waved, then disappeared into the crowd.

*****
The rest of the night went awkwardly. Reimu drank more and more booze, and the crowd started to thin. Eventually Remilia started crying, and Sakuya had to take her back into the mansion, leaving Patchouli behind to finish the farewell speech. Even Flandre was present, looking bewildered in the corner with a mug full of wine.

?We should probably call it a night,? said Sakuya once she returned. ?Milady is quite upset.?

The party dispersed, and soon it was just Reimu leaning heavily against the punch table.

?Are you feeling all right?? asked Sakuya. ?I can accompany you home if you?re feeling ill.?

?I?m fine,? said Reimu. Or at least tried to say. Moving her mouth was hard, and everything kept spinning. ?Leave me alone.?

?I?ll take her from here.? She felt a new pair of hands grab her. ?Alice, you can go on ahead. I?m gonna walk Reimu home.?

Reimu tried to protest, and made a half-hearted effort to shake her off, but Marisa had a firm grip. ?Come on,? she said, ?we?re walking.?

They left the grounds, and Reimu was marched along the edge of the lake. The mansion was still lit up, and dominated the landscape like a blood red moon.

?How much did you drink?? Marisa had an arm around Reimu, trying to keep her facing forwards.

?Not enough.? Reimu made another effort to push her away, but it turned into a drunken side step. Marisa?s closeness bothered her. ?And I can get home by myself.?

?Sure you can. You can barely walk in a straight line.?

?Oh shut up.? Her foul mood was getting worse. ?I don?t want your pity.?

?Well you?re getting it.? Marisa glared at her. Her cheeks were red from drinking. ?Everyone?s worried about you.?

Reimu scoffed. If they really cared, then why didn?t they visit her? ?They can all go jump in the lake then. I?m fine.?

?Getting blind drunk isn?t helping your case.?

?Shut up.? You traitor. The words passed through her mind involuntarily.

?Fine then.? Marisa gave in, and they walked back in silence. Reimu focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and ignored the unpleasant thoughts racing through her head. Marisa just stared ahead, her expression dark.

Thirty minutes later, the shrine finally came into view.

?Crap, I forgot my broom,? said Marisa as they crossed under the torii gate.

Reimu finally wormed herself free, and staggered forward. ?You aren?t staying here,? she slurred. ?Go back to Alice or whoever.?

?Like I?d want to stay with a self-centred shrine maiden whose just gonna puke everywhere during the night.? Marisa looked at her in disgust, then turned away. ?See you. Enjoy cleaning it up.?

?Good riddance.? Reimu tried to step onto the porch, but stomped the ground instead. ?Ow!?

Marisa was already out of sight. Reimu smiled with bitter triumph, and placed her hands on the porch edge. She tried pushing herself onto it, but just flopped forwards. The edge jabbed into her stomach, and the sudden rush of nausea made her fall back to the ground.

Once she finished emptying her stomach, Reimu rolled onto her side and stared at the underbelly of the shrine. She briefly considered crawling under there and curling up in a cosy little ball, free from the world outside.

No, she had a better idea. Reimu wanted more booze. She tried getting up, planning to grab a few bottles from her storehouse, but her limbs wouldn?t listen to her. Her eyes closed.

Reimu slept fitfully and woke up covered in dew and grass stains, feeling even worse than before. There were fingernail marks on her shoulder from Marisa?s vice-like grip. They wouldn?t go away, no matter how much she scrubbed her skin that morning.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 02:31:25 PM by hungrybookworm »

hungrybookworm

  • Shipper On Board
Re: The Fall [3/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2014, 06:23:27 PM »
Chapter 3: Head over Heels
(AO3 Mirror)

Reimu spent the next day secluded in her shrine, nursing a skull-splitting hangover. She didn?t remember Aya?s message until the following morning, and finally set off for Youkai Mountain around noon. It was another warm autumnal day, and the air was clear. Gensokyo stretched out for miles below her as she flew.

She passed over the Misty Lake, and noticed that the Scarlet Devil Mansion was gone. They had already left. Reimu tried to recall where they were moving to, only to realise that no one had told her. She was too busy getting drunk that night to ask.

I really am a self-centred shrine maiden, she thought gloomily. She considered flying back to the village and buying a present for the Moriyas, to make up for not visiting yesterday, but she was late enough as it was, and she was already carrying some fruit for Sanae. There wasn?t much food left to spare, really. She doubted they would mind.

Her feet skimmed over the tree tops as she ascended Youkai Mountain. The mountain?s stunning autumnal colours were coming through, and memories of her first frantic visit to Moriya Shrine came to mind. Reimu looked up, expecting to see a flurry of activity above her as the tengu lookouts made their rounds, but there was nothing but empty sky. Not even an optimistic fairy flew over to throw danmaku at her.

The shrine came into view. Reimu landed on the stonework and took a moment to gaze at the landscape. The silence was overwhelming. Below her Gensokyo spread out in miniature, coloured in red, green and gold. The vista from the Hakurei Shrine was relatively impressive, but the Moriya Shrine had possibly the most spectacular view in the land.

Reimu didn?t feel like going inside just yet. Instead she flew over to the shrine lake, intending to spend a few minutes enjoying the silence. She sat down, and watched the water ebb at the shore. The calm cleared her mind, and for the first time in days she felt at peace. She could see part of her reflection in the lake?s surface. Her ribbon was askew, and one of her sleeves was coming undone. There were bags under her eyes. A leaf fluttered down to the surface, and the water rippled.

She stayed there for a while, as still as a statue. And when she was ready, she walked back to the front of the shrine, and looked at the landscape once more. Gensokyo became more beautiful with every passing moment, and Reimu found herself weak with love for it. She wasn?t the sentimental type, but with her thoughts wiped clean only honest emotions remained.

She didn?t want to leave Gensokyo. Not for anything. She wanted to stay here forever, and gaze at its autumn colours year after year. Grief mixed with affection, and she felt an odd melancholic happiness. The emotion washed away her lingering uncertainty, and filled her with a sense of belonging.

Satisfied, she turned back to the shrine and walked up the steps. Kanako was sitting near the hall of worship, waiting for her.

?Admiring our lake?? she asked.

?It?s not bad.? Reimu smiled properly for the first time in days. It made her cheeks feel funny. ?Is it going back to the outside world with you??

 ?We might not be able to move the lake and shrine back to Suwa. They built a block of apartments over our old spot.? Kanako sighed. ?The outside world has no respect for sacred areas.?

Reimu recalled why they moved to Gensokyo in the first place. ?Will you be all right for faith??

?We?ll manage somehow. Either way, you?re here to see Sanae, aren?t you? She?s resting in her bedroom.?

Reimu made her way across the shrine grounds. She?d been to Sanae?s room before, and could remember the route. The Moriya Shrine was a lot bigger than hers, and was made up of several medium sized buildings. She weaved through them, heading towards the residential rooms. Once she found the right building, she took off her shoes and slid the door open.

Sanae?s room was small and traditional, with a few faded tapestries (of what Reimu assumed were plays from the outside world) still hanging on the walls. Everything else ? her furniture, her stuffed toys, the big pile of books ? had been replaced with several large cardboard boxes.

Sanae lay in a futon in the centre of the room. Her face looked thinner, and her hair had lost its lustre. ?Oh, Reimu-san.? Her eyes lit up. ?I was wondering if you?d come.?

?How?s your leg?? asked Reimu, feeling bad again for not coming yesterday. She slid the door shut and held out the bag of fruit. ?I brought you something.?

?Oh, thank you. And it?s fine now. Nothing a miracle couldn?t solve.? Sanae patted the tatami mat, and Reimu sat down. The fruit was put to one side. ?I?m still in bed because... well...?

?Well??

Sanae blushed, and twiddled her thumbs. ?I, uh, tried to summon a miracle big enough to save Gensokyo. I collapsed after chanting continuously for about thirty-six hours.?

Thirty-six hours? ?Well, at least you tried.?

?That?s what Suwako-sama said. They won?t let me help with the packing now.?

They talked for a while, and shared the fruit. Once it was all gone, Reimu brought up her reason for visiting. ?So, why do you want to see me??

?Oh.? Sanae looked surprised. ?I just... wanted to see you before I left. I haven?t been out and about much, so there are a lot of people I didn?t get to say goodbye to.?

?Oh.? Reimu looked away, embarrassed for suspecting anything else.

?I saw the Scarlet Devil Mansion disappear yesterday. What was the party like??

Reimu could barely remember it. ?Crowded. You didn?t really miss anything.?

?I see. Sakuya-san visited me a few days ago and said they were heading to France. Apparently that?s where the vampires come from.?

?So the outside world??

?Yes. I might meet them again, if I?m lucky.?

?What?s the outside world like?? It was a natural direction for the conversation to go in, and Reimu wasn?t going to miss the opportunity.

?Oh, it?s...? Sanae frowned, trying to think of a good way to explain things. ?I suppose it?s very different to Gensokyo. You can?t fly, and the magic?s completely different; it?s not even called magic, and most people don?t believe in youkai so it?s kind of like a human paradise. There are all kinds of useful devises, like machines that cool the air in summer, and huge mechanical birds that let you travel thousands of kilometres in less than a day.?

?What about being a shrine maiden??

?Uh, umm.? Sanae looked worried. ?It?s not really... um... it?s more like a part time job you do when you?re young. You sell charms and fortunes and things. The priests and priestesses do the kind of stuff we do, and you need to take exams to become one.?

?Exams? Like, how quickly you can perform rituals?? Reimu smirked as she tried to imagine it. She?d never taken an exam before.

?No, you have to go to university, and Gensokyo?s school system isn?t anywhere near good enough to get you in there. If the outside world?s Hakurei Shrine wasn?t abandoned you might stand a chance getting work there, but...? Sanae grimaced. ?I?m a bit worried about myself, actually. I never finished high school, and you need an education to live comfortably in the outside world.?

Reimu frowned. ?Then what would someone like me do in the outside world? They?re not afraid of youkai, and being a shrine maiden isn?t really an option.? She felt like she was just confirming what she?d suspected all along.

?I?m sure you can still get a job. You?re pretty, so maybe you could be a waitress? Working in a shop isn?t too bad; a lot of my friends did that. And... um, if you meet someone better off than you, you can marry them and share their income. You wouldn?t have to resort to... you know...?

They fell into silence. Reimu tried to imagine herself working in a shop or a caf?. If the shop was like Kourindou it wouldn?t be too bad, but she doubted Rinnosuke made enough of a profit to hire help. A store like that would go bankrupt in the busy, fussy outside world, wouldn?t it? A caf? or restaurant could be fun, but it looked like hard work, and she hated the idea of bowing and apologising to strangers like a servant. Maybe she could tolerate it for a few months, but for years? For possibly the rest of her life?

?Reimu-san.? Sanae touched Reimu?s hand. ?Come with us.?

She was caught off guard. ?Huh??

?Come join our shrine. You can help me worship Kanako-sama and Suwako-sama, and we can support you and feed you and make sure you?re all right. It won?t be a full time position, and we won?t be able to pay you, but you won?t have to be alone.? Sanae gazed into her eyes, pleading with her. ?Don?t stay here all by yourself. That?s just too sad.?

Reimu wasn?t sure what to say. She just stared back at her.

Sanae continued. ?There?s a whole world full of wonderful things waiting out there. Things you can?t even imagine. Deserts, trees with trunks thicker than a house, vast oceans, and we can see them together! We can visit other shrines, and holy sites all over Japan, and talk to all kinds of gods. Have you ever ridden a train? Trains can take us anywhere we want in Japan in no time at all. And I?ll be with you every step of the way, even if Kanako-sama and Suwako-sama disappear and we have to live on the streets. It?ll be tough at first, honestly, but you can take your time finding a job you like, and a place in society.?

Reimu couldn?t lie, she was tempted. The thought of eating dinner every night with the Moriyas, of spending time in a futuristic world with Sanae and living a bizarre daily life had its charm. She pictured herself walking home after a hard day at work, and being greeted by Kanako or Suwako. She thought about trying all kinds of unusual dishes and sake, and enjoying comfortable summers thanks to that air cooling device. She thought of spending hours chatting to new gods, and visiting exotic sites like the ones depicted in books about the outside world. And Sanae would be with her the whole time, a friendly face in a foreign world.

She would be mad to turn down such a good offer, and yet she still found herself shaking her head.

?Sanae.? Reimu spoke at last, her voice calm. ?I can?t.?

Sanae looked confused for a moment. ?Of course you can. I know it seems scary, but it?ll work out. I promise.?

?No, I can?t.? Turning down Sanae?s offer hurt, but Reimu knew it was the right thing to do. ?I don?t want to live in the outside world.?

Sanae?s face paled. She tightened her grip on Reimu?s hand. ?I don?t want to go back there either, but we have to. To live.?

Reimu shook her head again. That moment earlier, at the lake, had made her finally come to terms with her true wishes. She placed a hand on Sanae?s wrist, and moved her hand away. ?Gensokyo?s a part of me. I can?t live without it.?

?Yes you can! Of course you can!? Sanae finally realised what she meant. ?It?s not like you to give up.?

Reimu gave a wry smile. ?I?m the Hakurei shrine maiden, remember? It?s my duty to watch over Gensokyo and retain its balance. This is where I belong.?

?It?s not worth disappearing over. You can get a new identity in the outside world.?

?I might as well just reincarnate then.? Reimu waved her hand dismissively. ?My memories of Gensokyo would just get in the way.?

?Listen to yourself!? Sanae lunged forward and grasped her top. The hysteria showed in her voice. ?You?re committing suicide!?

?My mother died when she was younger than me. I?ve lived a long time for a shrine maiden. Most of my ancestors were married with kids by now.?

?Stop talking like that!? There were tears in Sanae?s eyes. ?I want to see you again! You and Marisa-san and Sakuya-san and Youmu-san. The tengu and the kappa, and all the humans in the village. Gensokyo might be dying but the people in it aren?t! You?re not even twenty yet, don?t talk like your life?s already over!?

 ?But I don?t want to live in the outside world. I want to stay here.?

?Even if it means dying??

??Even if it means dying.?

Sanae slapped her. Reimu didn?t cry out, or move to slap her back. She just stayed still, her cheek smarting, and waited for the follow up. But none came. Sanae covered her face with her arms and cried and cried like a child.

Reimu knew she was being stubborn, that if she had even an ounce of sense she would follow the Moriyas out of Gensokyo, but the thought of living anywhere else made her nauseous. She would be dooming herself to an unhappy half-life, waking up every morning to the sad truth that the land she?d put her life on the line to protect was gone, and that nothing would ever bring it back. Even if time healed her wounds and soothed her grief, she wouldn?t be able to forget the joy of flying, the rush of a danmaku battle, the drunken laughter that ran through the shrine grounds during flower viewing season, and the way Marisa, the closest thing she had to a best friend, would smile as they chatted about their mundane lives?

Marisa would be far away in Makai by then, possibly dead with the rest of its population with no way for Reimu to find out. All her flower viewing drinking buddies would be scattered across colonies. The outside world?s magic wasn?t suited for danmaku, and flying?

Even with her natural ability, flying would be out of the question.

?Sorry.? That was all Reimu could say now. ?Sorry, Sanae, but I want to stay here.?

?Reimu-san...? Sanae trembled as she said her name. Reimu leant forward and awkwardly embraced her, unsure what else to do. Sanae clung to her and cried into her chest.

Minutes, maybe even an hour passed. Finally, Sanae grew still. Her voice shook, but she was comprehensible. ?Please don?t go somewhere I can?t reach you.?

Reimu?s guilt overwhelmed her. She placed a hand on Sanae?s head. ?Sorry.?

*****
Sanae calmed down eventually. She lay back in her futon and fell asleep, exhausted. Reimu wormed her hand free from her grasp, and crept to the door.

Kanako was still sitting near the hall of worship. She smiled apologetically, and waved. Reimu could tell she was disappointed; they were probably looking forward to having a second shrine maiden in the outside world.

?Sorry,? said Reimu again.

?We won?t be leaving until the third evacuation date,? said Kanako. ?The offer?s open until then.?

She took her time heading home. The wind had picked up, and it felt cold against her cheeks. Reimu glanced back at the Moriya Shrine every now and then, worried that she?d done something terrible to Sanae, but eventually it disappeared from view, and it was just her and the sky again. The breeze made her clothes crackle, and she felt herself relax.

A plume of smoke rose from the Human Village. Tiny figures scuttled across the ground, moving furniture towards a bright orange bonfire. The second evacuation date was tomorrow, and many families were making their final preparations to move. Reimu wondered how they felt: excited? Afraid? There was plenty of food in her larder, and no one had requested help with unruly youkai recently, so she hadn?t had a good reason to visit the village in a while. Everyone was behaving themselves after the initial chaos.

The thought of people leaving still made her sad, but Reimu was glad she didn?t have to worry about joining them. She could spend the next two weeks with her feet up.

Her shrine came into view, and Reimu got ready to land. There was someone moving around the grounds. Were the three fairies up to something? She frowned, not in the mood for pranks, but when her feet touched the ground Reimu almost stumbled. There, walking past the front of the shrine, was Marisa Kirisame.

?There you are.? The magician was holding her broom, looking annoyed. ?I was just about to leave.?

Reimu stood there, frozen in place.

?Hello, Reimu?? Marisa waved a hand in front of her face. ?You in there??

Reimu sighed, the spell broken. ?I?m here. I?m just tired.? She pressed her fingers against her temples, and took a deep breath. Sanae?s emotional outburst had exhausted her, and the fatigue was finally catching up. ?Want some tea??

?You bet I do.?

They sat down on the porch, just like always. Reimu brought out the tea set, unsure whether to feel annoyed or relieved by Marisa?s presence. A part of her wanted to relax by herself, and let all the conflicting emotions (especially the guilt) bubbling in her find release. But she hadn?t seen Marisa for a while, not properly, and she craved normalcy more than anything right now.

The tea smelt wonderful. It almost brought tears to her eyes.

?How?s your head?? asked Reimu.

?Oh, fine. It doesn?t even hurt anymore. Anyway, I would?ve come yesterday, but I figured you?d be in a bad mood.? Marisa tossed her hat aside and reached for a cup. ?Hangover and all.?

?It wasn?t that bad.? Though Reimu agreed with her. She probably would?ve chased Marisa away. ?And I didn?t throw up all over the place.? Only once. ?Where have you been anyway? I?m normally out of rice crackers by now.?

?Doing jobs for the village.? Marisa sighed. ?They think I?m some kind of miracle worker after sorting out the riot. They won?t leave me alone.?

Reimu frowned. ?Jobs??

?Yeah, mostly guarding the place. Some small fry youkai are getting full of themselves and ignoring the rules.?

?I could?ve helped with that.? Reimu felt jealous. Why didn?t they ask her?

?I wish they?d asked you. It?d give me a break. Anyway it?s getting easier now that people are leaving. I don?t have to work from dawn till dusk anymore.?

?I hope they?re paying you well.?

?They?re paying me a ton. Not that it?ll be worth anything in two weeks.?

They sat in silence for a while, drinking tea and looking at the sky. Red clouds were starting to creep above the horizon. Evening was approaching.

?...Reimu.?

Marisa sounded uncharacteristically nervous. Reimu turned to look at her. ?Yes??

?You know I?m... going to Makai with Alice, right??

Oh. Reimu turned back to the sky, trying to hide her expression. ?I guessed. It was obvious.?

?I guess it was a bit.?

?Why, planning to drag me along too?? Reimu felt her cheeks heat up. ?You know I hate Makai.?

?I just figured you might want to know.?

The crickets chirped across the grounds. A few late cicadas sang in the undergrowth.

?What are you gonna do?? asked Marisa.

Images of Sanae came to mind. Reimu readied herself. ?I?m staying here, in Gensokyo.?

?Huh.? Marisa didn?t sound surprised. ?You?re not going to the outside world??

?There?s no point.?

Marisa laughed. Reimu couldn?t read her expression. ?I knew you?d say something like that.?

?You?re not going to try and stop me?? asked Reimu.

?Nah, I knew you?d pick something like that.? Marisa lifted her cup. ?And I?m no better. Makai?s probably going down too. Alice told me about the spell they?re casting and it?s ridiculous.?

?It won?t work??

?No one knows, not even that Shinki woman. The casters have to chant continuously for about five days, and the entire population?s gonna take part in twelve hour shifts. Alice wants me to help, and I?m only going because I stink at outside world magic. Lesser of two evils.?

?You aren?t afraid of disappearing?? Reimu was genuinely curious.

?I?d rather not, but I prefer quality over quantity in my life. Isn?t that why you?re staying here??

Reimu laughed. ?I didn?t expect you of all people to understand.?

Marisa smirked. ?Don?t underestimate me.?

?I was visiting the Moriya Shrine just now.? She felt like talking about it. ?Sanae asked me to join their shrine and go with them to the outside world.?

?That doesn?t sound too bad. I bet they?d give you free food and a bed and stuff.?

?They would, but I?d rather stay here.? Reimu sipped her drink. ?Telling them was the worst. Sanae wouldn?t stop crying.?

?Mm.? Marisa put her cup down, crossed her legs and leant back. ?Must be a pain, leaving the outside world for Gensokyo, only to get sent back a few years later. I bet her gods are panicking.?

?They didn?t look too good.?

They talked for a while longer, sharing recent rumours and anecdotes. Apparently Rinnosuke was heading to the outside world tomorrow, along with most of the Human Village. A few residents were waiting for the third and final evacuation date next week, and a handful were refusing to leave.

?It?s a pain,? said Marisa, ?because they keep asking me to talk to the ones who won?t budge, on top of everything else. Dunno how they?ll manage once I?m in Makai.?

?When are you leaving for Makai?? asked Reimu.

Marisa lost her smile, and glanced at the ground. ?This weekend.?

That soon? Reimu?s eyes widened in horror. ?This weekend? Why didn?t you tell me earlier? Today?s Friday!?

?Oh, gonna miss me?? Marisa snorted. ?Alice wants me to help with the spell, remember? They?re starting the preparations on Monday. We?ll be leaving on Sunday. I was gonna tell you on the way back from the party, but you were smashed off your face.?

?Don?t pin this on me, you had plenty of opportunities earlier in the week.? Reimu glared at her, genuinely angry. ?And I would?ve listened to something like that, even if I was drunk.?

?Well no use telling me that now,? said Marisa. ?Want to try and stop me? We can fight over it if you want.?

?I?m not in the mood. And you?ll go anyway, even if you lose.? Reimu bit her lip, giving in with a heavy heart. She didn?t want to keep her in Gensokyo against her will. Marisa wasn?t stupid; she wouldn?t go to Makai if she really thought the spell wouldn?t work. Asking her to stay would be no different to asking her to die.

?The Hakurei shrine maiden isn?t in the mood for danmaku??

?Not after a round trip to Youkai Mountain.?

?I bet Hell?s frozen over too.?

They couldn?t look at each other for a few minutes. Reimu put her drink aside, no longer thirsty. Everything was happening so fast today; her emotions could barely keep up.

She was probably still shaken up from this afternoon. It had been a long day.

Eventually Marisa grabbed her hat and stood up. Dusk was settling across the grounds. ?I?d better get going. I?ve got to get up early to help with the evacuation.?

?Right.? Reimu began putting the tea set away.

?You should come down and help.?

?If I?ve got nothing better to do.? But Reimu knew she?d be there. She thought about asking Marisa to stay over as well, but she couldn?t think of a rational reason why. ?I ought to say farewell to Rinnosuke-san, actually.?

?Yeah, he?d like that.? Marisa climbed on her broom, and for a few moments the two women gazed at each other.

Finally, Marisa smiled. A warm, honest smile Reimu hadn?t seen in a long time. ?See you.?

Reimu watched her until she was out of sight. Then she picked up the tea set and went inside. She wanted to go to bed, close her eyes and sleep the evening away.

She was doing the right thing, wasn?t she?

Of course she was. Gensokyo was beautiful. Reimu didn?t need anything else.

hungrybookworm

  • Shipper On Board
Re: The Fall [4/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2014, 08:16:11 PM »
Chapter 4: Drop
(AO3 Mirror)

The Human Village was hell, and it certainly hadn?t frozen over. It was another sunny autumn day, almost hot enough to be summer again, and the afternoon sunshine scorched Reimu?s shoulders as she walked along the endless line of people. Keine was taking a register beside her, ticking off names as they confirmed each family.

?The Satou family? Hideki, Yumi, Miyuki... okay.? Keine moved down to the next group. ?The Motooris??

Kosuzu Motoori was hugging a large bundle of books, looking thoroughly miserable behind her parents. Reimu nodded at her, and she gave a thin smile back.

?Okay, next is...?

They continued like that for what felt like hours. Eventually they reached the end of the line, and Reimu let herself sit down in a nearby patch of grass.

?Here.? Keine handed her a flask. ?Thank you for being here. Just having you around is reassuring everyone.?

?I?m just doing my job.? Reimu took a swig. Cold water had never tasted so good. ?Isn?t Marisa supposed to be here? I haven?t seen her anywhere.?

Her absence bothered her. Reimu had assumed Marisa was hiding at first, afraid of being seen by her parents, but the Kirisame family wasn?t on today?s list.

?She is?? Keine tilted her head. ?I?m afraid that?s news to me.?

Reimu frowned, annoyed. ?I?m only here because she told me to come.?

?Maybe she?s helping the leader and the shikigami with the border entrance?? Ran and the Village Leader were already near the border, setting up the hole.

?I guess.? That seemed like an odd job for Marisa to help with, but where else could she be? ?Where?s Rinnosuke Morichika? I haven?t seen him either.?

?He?s on the list, but he wasn?t in the queue. Maybe he?s late.? Keine glanced over the register. ?The Hieda family have already left, and the Kirisame family won?t be leaving until the third date... otherwise almost all the big families in the village are leaving today.? She sighed. ?It?s really starting to feel like the end now.?

?At least everyone?s behaving.? Reimu was worried about rioting, but none of the villagers had the energy. They?d looked at her with dead eyes, having long resigned themselves to their fate.

A stocky figure appeared behind the queue. ?Oh, there he is,? said Keine.

Reimu looked up, and saw Rinnosuke walking over with a large wooden box strapped to his back. His face was bright red from the heat, and his hair greasy with sweat. ?Am I too late?? he asked.

?No, not at all.? Keine paused to tick his name off the register. ?We haven?t started moving everyone yet.?

?You?re travelling light,? commented Reimu.

?Most of my stock?s already available in the outside world.? Rinnosuke dabbed his forehead with his sleeve. ?I was wondering if I?d see you before I left, Reimu.?

?I?ve been busy.? Reimu was getting used to feeling guilty. ?You?re not going to ask me to pay what I owe you, are you??

Rinnosuke shook his head. ?Gensokyo?s currency is useless in the outside world.?

?What are you going to do out there?? asked Keine.

?I?m going to do some farm work for a while, and save up to open another shop.?

?Not much different from me, then.? She sighed again. ?I?m saving up for a teaching qualification.?

?Anyway, have you seen Marisa around?? asked Reimu, impatient. ?She said she?d be helping out today.?

Rinnosuke looked surprise. ?Today? I thought she left for Makai this morning.?

?No.? Reimu tried not to glare at him. ?She?s leaving for Makai on Sunday. She told me last night.?

?Well that?s odd. She visited my shop yesterday afternoon and told me her schedule. She was going to break the news to you, then head for Makai with Alice once dawn broke.?

It wasn?t like Rinnosuke to make such a blatant mistake. ?Are you sure you didn?t mishear something? I mean, it?s easy to misunderstand things when your mind?s elsewhere.?

Rinnosuke shook his head. He wasn?t in the mood for a long argument. ?Marisa was upset when she saw me. She was pretending not to be, of course, you know what that girl?s like. She indirectly asked me how to tell you she was leaving on Saturday morning. If the date?s wrong, then Marisa has lied to one of us.?

Cold sweat ran down the back of her neck, and for a moment Reimu forgot about the heat. ?She wouldn?t lie about something like that. I mean, why would she? How would that benefit her in any way whatso-?

?Reimu.? Keine spoke up. ?Why don?t you go see the Village Leader and see if she?s helping him? We?re pretty much done here, and this is probably just a silly misunderstanding.?

??Yeah.? Reimu steadied herself. ?Yeah, you?re right. I?ll go look. They?re in Mayohiga, right??

Twenty minutes later Reimu landed amongst the traditional wooden buildings. Ran Yakumo and the Village Leader were fussing over a clump of huge trees. Even from here Reimu could feel changes in the border as they slowly opened up a hole.

?Now now, can?t you see they?re busy?? said a voice beside her. Reimu spun around, heart hammering at the glimpse of blonde hair, but it was just Yukari.

?Have you seen Marisa anywhere?? she asked immediately.

Yukari gave a sinister smile. ?Yes, I saw her this morning, walking into a cave with Alice Margatroid. They?re probably in the heart of Makai by now.?

Reimu?s composure slipped. ?No, she told me. She said she wasn?t going until Sunday! Are you absolutely sure-?

?You shouldn?t believe liars. It?s your own fault.? Yukari opened a fan, and covered the lower half of her face. ?You can chase after her, but I suspect the residents have already blocked off the last of the Makai entrances.?

Reimu?s purification rod dropped to the ground. Panic shuddered through her, and she covered her face with her sleeves.

?How funny. You didn?t seem too upset by the maid and the arahitogami leaving, but as soon as that magician friend of yours disappears you grow a heart. Humans are strange creatures.?

?Shut up!? Reimu?s voice came out in a choked sob. She had to get out of here. There was an entrance to Makai near her shrine. She could still make it in time if she flew fast enough.

?You ought to be more honest with yourself,? said Yukari, but Reimu didn?t have time to listen. She snatched her purification rod back off the ground and shot into the sky. The drag tore against her face, and she forced herself to focus. She took huge gulps of air, trying to get her breathing under control.

The gap youkai was far from amused. ?Oh, how rude,? she said, as she watched Reimu fly into the distance. But she didn?t chase after her. There were more pressing things to do, after all.

*****
Reimu landed in the shrine grounds and broke into a run. She hadn?t visited the Makai entrance in a very long time, but she could easily remember its location. She sprinted through the woods, jumping over logs and gasping like a marathon runner. Her mind was full of one thing: finding Marisa and smacking her around the face.

Why did Marisa lie to her? Was she still angry at Reimu after Remilia?s party? Did she just not care? Reimu wanted to strangle her. She wanted to tear at her bright blonde hair and kick her in the ribs.

She reached a small cliff face. A cave was gouged out to the side, half-hidden by vegetation. Normally a gate guard would be standing beside it, watching the undergrowth with a vacant expression, but the entrance was deserted today. Not a good sign. Reimu hurried inside.

Three steps later, she smacked into a wall of rubble.

?No!? Reimu slammed her hands against it, praying it was fake. She couldn?t detect a seal; it was just an old fashioned cave in. ?No, no, move!?

The rubble wouldn?t budge. Reimu began to throw things: danmaku, her yin-yang orbs, even ofuda, but none of them had any effect. ?Come on!? She had to use her hands. She dropped to her knees and started tugging at the rocks nearest the wall. They were jammed in tight, and the sharp edges hurt her fingers. ?Get out of my way!?

Blood ran down her palms. The pain became too much, and she let her hands flop to the ground. Her head swam. For a few moments she just sat there, hyperventilating, letting the blood drip onto her clothes.

Finally, her hysteria loosened its grip. She noticed for the first time how cold and quiet it was.

Reimu walked back into the sunlight. She took long, deep breaths, and wiped her hands clean on the grass. The autumn insects chirped in the surrounding woods. Yukari was right. She didn?t get this upset over Sakuya leaving, or over the thought of Sanae going back to the outside world. She was the Hakurei shrine maiden. She was supposed to treat everyone equally.

Marisa left twenty-four hours earlier than she expected. That was all. It was going to happen at some point, just sooner than planned. There was no point crying about it. Marisa hadn?t even visited her shrine all that much recently. Reimu should be used to not having her around.

Yes, they were friends, but she was friends with a lot of people. Her friends were all going to leave bit by bit, and if Reimu got this worked up over all of them, then she?d be an emotional wreck by the final night. And she wanted to be dignified in her last moments.

It hurt though.

It hurt beyond words, and Reimu was scared of the implications.

She looked at her hands, hoping that the wounds would give her some kind of distraction. The blood under her fingernails made her think of Marisa?s head injury, of all things. How Reimu had to gently part her hair to take a closer look.

Tears dripped onto her palms. Reimu bowed her head, and gave into grief.

*****
It was simple, really. Marisa was going to be a great magician, regardless of the sacrifices.

She threw away her family, and the comfortable life set up for her in the Human Village. She experimented with dangerous poisons and chemicals, chipping away at her own lifespan to get greater results. She ate mushrooms to save money for precious ingredients, fully aware that her next bite could be her last. Marisa lived in the present, not giving too much thought for tomorrow, and she liked it that way.

And then Gensokyo became unsustainable, and everything changed.

She thought she was good in a crisis, but this one swamped Marisa?s every waking thought. She took on absurd workloads at the village as a distraction, and nigh exhausted herself. As soon as more information became available, Marisa went down to Alice?s house and asked about Makai.

It was a gamble, of course. Just like everything else in her life. There was no guarantee whatsoever that the spell to save Makai would work, but if she wanted to keep being a magician, then she had to bet on it. Even if the odds were less than one-percent, they were still better than none at all. She didn?t want to play it safe and become a bland outside world ?scientist?, fiddling with abstracts and mulling over regrets.

Once she knew which option to take, it was just a matter of forcing herself. She could wave goodbye to most of Gensokyo with a tear in her eye just fine, and maybe give Kourin a fierce hug before they parted, but Reimu?

Marisa had spent too much time with Reimu. She?d let herself become attached to her. If she tried looking her in the eye and saying goodbye, her resolve would crumble.

So for the sake of her future, for her lifelong ambition, Marisa closed her heart. She stopped visiting the shrine as often, and spent that time at Alice?s instead, goading her into retelling old anecdotes about Makai. She took every job offered to her, and fell into deep, dreamless sleep at night. She ummed and ahhed over what to tell Reimu, how to break the news to her, and even rehearsed a speech in front of the mirror.

And she chickened out right at the end.

It was for the best. Of course it was for the best. A simple lie got rid of the awkwardness, and the heartache, and all the pathetic emotions saying goodbye came with. Marisa enjoyed Reimu?s company just like always, until the very end.

The best magicians were always the most daring, the most wicked, the most selfish. And the most cowardly.

Now Alice led the way through the darkness, carrying a lamp and letting the dolls take care of the luggage. Marisa trailed behind her, holding her hat to her chest. The tunnel to Makai was cold and cramped, and the ceiling was too low for her to wear it.

They had been walking for hours now. The air thickened with miasma with every step, and the tunnel grew thinner and steeper. Soon Makai would come into view, then it was a simple flight to the capital.

For the countless time that day, Marisa stopped walking and looked behind her. She squeezed her hat tighter.

That spell had better work. She was going to hell otherwise.

*****
After that, Reimu made a point of saying goodbye to people.

She returned to the Human Village less than two hours after she?d left, and helped herd the villagers through the hole in the border. Kosuzu squeezed her arm and smiled. Rinnosuke placed a hand on her head. And once the last person was through, Ran reappeared and began closing the hole.

?Well done everyone,? said the Village Leader, clapping his hands. ?How about a drink to celebrate??

They went to a bar and enjoyed beer on the house. Reimu didn?t get drunk. She excused herself after an hour and went home, wanting to keep a lid on her emotions.

Days passed. The hole in her heart didn?t go away, but Reimu learnt to live with it. She spent her afternoons visiting people and her evenings alone, drinking through her sake stock. One night Suika joined her and demolished over half of the remaining supply by herself.

?I?m going mountain climbing in the outside world!? The oni declared. ?And I?m taking Kasen Ibaraki with me.?

Reimu didn?t know they were acquainted, but nothing could surprise her anymore. All kinds of people were pairing up and running off to live a new life together. When she went to say goodbye to the Myouren Temple, she found Toyosatomimi no Miko of all people whispering something to Byakuren Hijiri in the graveyard. Reimu recalled the invite-only world the Taoists monopolised, and wondered if their conversation was about that. Mamizou meanwhile just sat in the corner with a bottle of sake. ?She hasn?t been herself since that Motoori girl left,? Nue told her. What a bizarre farewell party it was.

The third evacuation date arrived. The queue through the village was a lot smaller than before, and Reimu came face-to-face with Marisa?s parents for the first time. Her stomach flipped when their eyes met, but the Kirisames just smiled politely at her. They didn?t acknowledge her as anyone beyond a helpful stranger, and left through the hole without fuss.

The line moved. The Moriyas stepped up to leave, Kanako carrying most of their stuff. Sanae clutched Reimu?s hand once they were close enough.

?Are you sure you don?t want to come?? she asked, one last time.

Reimu smiled. Her answer hadn?t changed. ?I?m sure.?

Sanae nodded, and squeezed her hand. She didn?t let go until Suwako led her away.

?Thanks for everything,? said Kanako, almost as an afterthought.

?Take care out there.? Reimu waved, and they soon fell out of sight.

The line moved, bit by bit. A lot of the residents seemed emotional this time, and many took a moment to tell Reimu how much her shrine maiden duties had helped them. How, if they could go back in time, they would visit her shrine more often and invite her to more village events. The elderly residents even praised her past descendants. It left Reimu with a strange, grateful feeling she wasn?t used to.

Finally, they reached the last person in the queue. It was Fujiwara no Mokou, hands in pockets and a wicked smile on her face. Reimu hadn?t seen her name on the register, and worried for a moment that she was going to try something. But her fears were unfounded. It was obvious who she was here to see.

?Mokou?? Keine?s eyes widened in surprise. ?What are you doing here??

?Well, you know.? Mokou?s grin widened. ?I thought about things, and I kinda changed my mind.?

?Changed your mind?? Keine?s face flushed bright red. ?You mean, um??

?Yeah, stuff the Lunarians. I?m gonna start a new life with you.? And in one clean movement, she swept Keine off her feet. ?See you guys, thanks for everything.?

?Mokou, wait! Let me down!? Keine?s voice drifted away as they went through the hole. Reimu couldn?t help smiling. The leader threw back his head and laughed, then followed after them.

?Reimu,? said Yukari, stepping out from her hiding place. ?I won?t ask you again. Are you sure you want to stay in Gensokyo??

Reimu nodded. ?I?m sure.?

?All right. Ran, begin closing the exit.? She turned back to Reimu. ?You can make a hole in the border yourself if you change your mind, as a last resort.? Yukari couldn?t hide her disappointment. ?I would?ve preferred the Hakurei line to continue, but I will respect your wishes.?

?I thought hard about it, just like you asked.?

?I will be closing Gensokyo down at midnight, on Friday evening. Today is Monday, as you are well aware.? Yukari shook her head, and turned away. ?Do as you please for the next few days.?

?Yukari, wait.? Reimu grabbed her sleeve just in time.

The gap youkai paused, and looked back at her. ?What is it??

Reimu felt embarrassed. She was sentimental from all the goodbyes earlier. ?I just? you know? this might be the last time we see each other.?

?That?s right. And??

?I just want to say thanks.? Her voice sounded pitiful. ?I... can?t say I enjoyed your company, but I wasn?t bored when you were around.?

Yukari raised her eyebrows, taking it in. Then, she finally smiled. ?You were one of the better Hakurei shrine maidens. I had a lot of fun with you.? She turned away for the last time. ?I hope we meet again in your next life.?

*****
Silence descended over Gensokyo. Slowly, and steadily, everything ground to a halt. The birds stopped singing. The wind fell still. The large tree the three fairies called home lay abandoned.

Reimu settled into her new, lonesome life quite easily. She could do anything she wanted now; there was no one left to tell her otherwise. Gensokyo was open for exploration, but she felt no urge to leave her shrine. She could still feel the Hakurei god?s presence, and it comforted her. They were going down together, god and shrine maiden united until the very end.

Tuesday evening came. Wednesday. Thursday. Reimu drank the last of her sake, looking forward to Friday. She rolled out her futon for the last time, and slept a long, long sleep. In her dreams she threw a huge flower viewing party, bigger than any she?d hosted before. Hundreds of boisterous youkai and tipsy humans chatted in the shrine grounds. Sanae was conked out on the floor, and Youmu jumped around like a grasshopper. Remilia lounged under a parasol, and Sakuya grinned like a cat by her side.

Marisa was next to Reimu on the porch. It was quieter where they were, for some reason, and they couldn?t look away from each other. The blossom was stunningly beautiful, but it seemed like a waste to look at it, when Marisa was smiling so brightly beside her. Eventually Reimu poured more sake into their cups, and they toasted to another peaceful spring.

When she woke up, she couldn?t sense the god in her shrine. It too had left Gensokyo, and Reimu was finally alone.

hungrybookworm

  • Shipper On Board
Re: The Fall [5/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2014, 10:37:15 PM »
This chapter is dedicated to everyone who voted in Scotland today!

Chapter 5: Nightfall
(AO3 Mirror)

Marisa smacked the loud, bleeping thing the residents of Makai called an ?alarm clock? and immediately shot out of bed. She flung open the cupboards and draws, and bundled everything that looked useful into a backpack. Alice would come back any minute. She had to hurry.

The two magicians were staying in a large, western style hotel room. The window was supposed to overlook parkland ? or the closest thing Makai and its ice fields got to parkland ? but instead a muddy sea of tents and cardboard boxes stretched as far as the eye could see. The entire population of Makai had been gathered in one place, and forced to take part in a massive group spell casting session. Marisa had spent the last week or two kneeling in ice cold sludge, chanting spells in twelve hour shifts. She was only allowed a break once every three hours to drink something and go to the toilet. Once her shift ended she would take a shower, eat her rations and fall into a coma until the next.

Alice had connections, and was spared the grime and exhaustion to help with something higher up, hence why they had an actual roof over their heads instead of sleeping neck deep in mud like everyone else. Rumour had it Alice could even speak directly to Shinki, but Marisa hadn?t had time to ask her. Their shifts didn?t match up: Alice was normally asleep when Marisa woke up, and nowhere to be seen when she came home.
 
Marisa wasn?t afraid of hell anymore. It couldn?t be any worse than this.

?Where is it, where is it, come on?? She tipped the mattress over, looking for her secret stash of mini-Hakkero fuel. Marisa wasn?t stupid. The Makai demons were pre-programmed to follow Shinki?s every whim, and the other magicians were too exhausted to think for themselves anymore, but Marisa was better than that. She could spot a sinking ship when she saw one. The signs became obvious a few days ago, and Marisa had spent the last forty-eight hours weighing up her options. Her brain told her she couldn?t become a magician if she stayed here. Her heart told her to return to Gensokyo. For once they were in agreement.

Last night Marisa set her alarm two hours early, and plotted her escape.

The fuel was right behind the headboard. Marisa tore the cap off and poured it into her mini-Hakkero. Her hands shook, and some of the liquid dripped onto the carpet. Behind her, the door clicked open.

Alice was back.

?Oh, you?re already awake?? Alice staggered inside, too tired to notice what was happening. ?That makes a change.?

?Hey Alice.? Marisa tried to act casual. She shook the bottle, squeezing the last of the fuel out.

?Was there an earthquake?? Alice frowned, looking at the open drawers and the clothes hurled on the floor. Two of her dolls shot forward and started tidying up the mess.

?Yeah, massive. It woke me up and everything.? Refuelling complete. Time to go. Marisa slung the backpack over her shoulder and turned to the door. ?Off on a walk. See you.?

?Not so fast.? Alice grabbed her shoulder. ?You can?t fool me that easily.?

?Fool you? I?m just going on a walk.? Marisa didn?t have time for this. She shrugged Alice?s hand away, but the dolls were too fast. Five or six of them grabbed her legs, their little wooden arms squeezing tight. ?Hey, come on. Cut it out, I need exercise!?

Alice opened a cupboard. ?With half of your belongings and rations? At least you had the decency to leave mine alone.?

?Let me go, Alice!?

?And why should I?? She turned back to Marisa and glared at her. ?You were the one who went on and on about your magician career. Running away isn?t in your best interests.?

?It is when that stupid spell isn?t even going to work.? Marisa struggled, but the dolls hung on. ?I can?t be a magician if I?m going to die in twenty-four hours!?

Alice?s gaze faltered, and she looked conflicted. ??So you noticed.?

?Of course I noticed. Anyone with an ounce of magical ability can tell this thing?s tanking. You and your friends have done a good job brainwashing the nation, but you can?t trick me. Now let me go!?

?Well congratulations on noticing. I?ll give you a gold star later.? Alice?s eyes narrowed. ?You knew this was a risk when you came here. You?ve no one but yourself to blame.?

?Yep, I gambled on the wrong thing. But that?s okay, I?ve still got time to change my bet.? Marisa?s hand crept towards her pocket. ?I can cross Makai off my list, and try somewhere else.?

?Good for you. Now explain to me how you?ll get past the security guards, the Royal Makai Army and the barriers in front of the entrances.?

?Same way as always.? Marisa?s fingers touched her mini-Hakkero. ?So are you gonna get in my way some more? You can always come with me if you want.?

?Unfortunately I still have business to attend to.?

?So you want to commit suicide too. Fine by me, it?s your life.? It wasn?t fine at all, of course, but Marisa didn?t have time to feel sad. ?I?m done with having regrets. Now let me go.?

?Regrets? Marisa.? Alice wasn?t going to budge. ?You?re wasting your time. There?s no one left in Gensokyo to let you out of there. You?ll disappear whether you?re here or there. Even Reimu?s probably-?

?She?s still there. She?s stubborn like that.? Reimu could make holes in the border too. That could come in handy. ?Don?t make me say it again. Let me go, or else.?

Alice crossed her arms, and stared at Marisa for a few moments longer. Eventually, she sighed. ?Fine, if you?re going to be that way.? The dolls let go of Marisa, so suddenly that she almost fell over. ?Aim for the entrance nearest the shrine. It?s the furthest from here, but they skimped on the barrier and made a pile of rocks instead. You can blast through it easily.?

?Huh??

?Don?t just stand there. Hurry up before I change my mind.? She opened the window. ?Come on, out you go.?

Marisa paused, confused by Alice?s sudden change of heart. ?Wait, um?? No, she had to move! ?Are you sure you won?t come with me??

?Completely. Now shoo.?

The dolls gave Marisa a friendly push. They were right, if she was going to leave it had to be now. Marisa wasted no time grabbing her broom, and seconds later she was through the window.

Alice watched her fly away, then closed the window. The dolls hung around her, waiting for orders. ?What an idiot,? she muttered, finally letting the emotion show in her voice. ?Humans are terrible at making themselves happy.?

*****
Reimu was determined to spend her last day like any other, so she did the morning rituals after breakfast anyway. God or no god, she swept the path, wiped the steps clean and dusted the sanctuary. Afterwards she went to feed the turtles, only to find the pond empty. Genjii and his friends had left during the night.

It really is just me, isn?t it? Reimu thought. She checked the donation box on her way back, out of habit, then settled down on the porch just like always. She wanted to save her last bag of tea leaves for dinner time, so she sipped water instead.

What was there to do when you were the only person left in the world? Reimu did the only thing she could think of: reminisce. She tried to remember as far back as she could, as a kind of meditative exercise. The main room used to be a lot bigger, to start with, but maybe that was because she was smaller. She could remember crawling on the tatami, and tugging on her mother?s hakama. Then her mother was gone, and various old women from the village came to see her every day. Then they disappeared somewhere too, and Reimu started cooking and cleaning by herself. Genjii did his best to train her and give moral guidance, but there was only so much he could do.

Those days felt so far away. Reimu drank her water, wondering if it was worth boiling and pretending it was tea to satisfy her caffeine cravings. At some point Marisa and her weird teacher entered her life, and soon she was dragged into all kinds of bizarre training exercises. Then Marisa?s teacher disappeared too, and Genjii stopped talking, and before she knew it, it was just her and Marisa on the porch, killing time together.

One by one, everyone disappeared from Reimu?s life. And here was the result, at long last. No expectations to meet, no god to disappoint, no humans she was obliged to protect; she didn?t even have to worry about Gensokyo anymore.

For the first time in her life, Reimu was truly free.

There was a low rumble, and the ground shook. Reimu leapt up, accidently spilling her drink, but the earthquake ended as quickly as it started. It was probably natural, but in the back of her mind Reimu wondered if it was a warm up for tonight.

Pitch black smoke drifted above the trees.

She put her cup down and grabbed her purification rod. Reimu was free to ignore the smoke, of course, but she didn?t fancy spending her last few hours watching her shrine burn down in a forest fire. She took to the air, and from her vantage point immediately noticed that nothing was ablaze. The smoke was already dispersing, and a cloud of dust lingered around the Makai entrance.

The Makai entrance? Reimu frowned, recalling the spell they were casting to separate themselves from Gensokyo. Did they just finish it? She thought of Marisa, bit her lip, and swung low to take a closer look. The entrance was a mess of scorch marks and rubble, and with a jolt, Reimu noticed a figure lying still in the grass, covered head-to-toe in dirt. She landed and rushed over, fearing the worst. ?Hey, excuse me!? she yelled. ?Are you all right??

The figure coughed, and sat up. They ? no, she, it was a girl ? wiped her mouth, then rubbed the dirt off her face with her hands. Reimu almost cried out when she saw who it was, and immediately stepped back. Her heart pounded in her ears.

?Damn, that was loud.? Marisa Kirisame was shouting. The explosion had temporarily deafened her, and she shook the block of metal in her hand. ?Out of fuel too.? She laughed, as though everything was one big joke.

All of the dark, swirling emotions from the other week came rushing back. Reimu didn?t hesitate; she hadn?t been noticed yet, and she wanted to take full advantage of that. She took a step forward, and swung her foot.

She kicked Marisa in the thigh, right where it hurt.

Marisa yelled and swung around, but Reimu still had the upper hand. She kicked Marisa again, this time in the stomach, and pushed her onto her back. The magician tried to get up, but Reimu placed a foot on her stomach, pinning her to the ground.

?Oh, Reimu.? Marisa struggled, and Reimu was reminded of an upturned cockroach. ?You got here fast... uh, that really hurts, you know.?

?Good.? Reimu put weight into her foot. She heard Marisa yelp. ?Now explain yourself.?

?Explain wh-? Ow! Ow, okay, okay let me breathe, hang on.?

Reimu held out her purification rod, and pressed it against Marisa?s forehead. ?Would you prefer a different punishment??

?Give me a minute, I just blasted out of Makai.? Marisa didn?t look afraid at all, just uncomfortable, and that really pissed Reimu off. Her anger boiled, and she swung her purification rod. She aimed for the ground, and it struck the earth with a satisfying smack.

?Marisa,? she snarled, ?you?re playing with fire. We?re the only people left in Gensokyo. I can do whatever I want to you and there?s no one around to see it. Now start talking.?

?It?s cool. Firepower?s my speciality, I know what I?m doing.? Marisa reached up, and grasped the purification rod with both hands. Touching it didn?t hurt humans. ?You can?t scare me with a stick.?

Hatred flared through her. Reimu tried to yank the rod back, but Marisa had a firm grip. ?Let go of it! Let me hit you!?

?No way.? Marisa pulled on it, trying to tug it out of her hands. ?I?m a magician, not a masochist. Ow!?

Reimu dug her heels into soft flesh. Marisa was in visible pain, but still clinging on. ?You idiot!? yelled Reimu. ?Just behave for once and let go. You?re getting what?s coming to you.?

?N...? Marisa squirmed, still not letting go. ?Geh...?

But something had to give way. With a sickening snap, the purification rod broke in half.

Reimu staggered backwards, horrified. Her foot left Marisa?s stomach, and the magician wasted no time getting up from the ground. Her legs wobbled and she doubled over, hacking and wheezing like a smoker.

Reimu stared at the splinters in her hand. Her anger faltered, and she was overwhelmed with a powerful sense of loss. Look what you?ve done, she wanted to say, but her lips wouldn?t move.

?S... Sorry...? Marisa was looking at the floor, clutching her knees and still trying to breathe normally. ?I didn?t... uh...?

Everything felt so stupid. Reimu threw the remains on the ground, and yelled as loud as she could: ?Why didn?t you just tell me you were leaving on Saturday??

Marisa finally looked up. Her embarrassment was obvious. ??You?re still mad about that???

?Of course I?m mad! I want to kill you!? It would be easy to hurt Marisa, if she really wanted to, but Reimu?s anger was fading. Now she just wanted to cry. ?I want to snap your neck in two.?

?All right, all right?? Marisa stood upright, returning to normal. ?I lied to you, ran away from Gensokyo? left Alice behind in Makai, and now I?ve broken your purification rod. I?m a horrible person, tell me something new already.?

?At least apologise!?

?Yeah?? Marisa looked away again. Reimu finally noticed that her hat and broom were nowhere in sight. ?Sorry??

She looked pitiful, covered in dirt and staring at the ground. Reimu sighed, and shook her head. ?You stupid excuse for a human being.? She bent down to pick the splinters up from the ground. ?You can spend the rest of today making it up to me.? Her vision blurred. Crap, this was a terrible time to start crying. ?Go back to the shrine and get out of my sight. I need time to think.?

Marisa hesitated, but eventually she turned and walked away. Reimu breathed a sigh of relief, and let the tears pour down freely.

*****
Ten minutes later she found Marisa next to the shrine well, scrubbing her clothes down with a dishcloth.

?Your hot springs don?t work anymore,? said Marisa.

?I know. The geysers stopped a week ago.? Reimu assumed the youkai underground had evacuated. A shame, she wouldn?t have minded saying goodbye to Gensokyo neck deep in warm water. ?So you blasted out of Makai, did you??

?Yeah, they were gonna use me as a human sacrifice, so I bailed.?

Reimu?s eyes widened in horror. ?A human sacrifice??

?Just kidding.? Marisa looked at her, and smiled. ?The spell wasn?t working, so I figured I?d rather come back here. I mean, Makai?s dark and a bit smelly, and the food?s rubbish. No point in staying, really.?

?What happened to Alice??

?Alice? Oh?? Marisa grimaced. ?She wanted to stick around. Guess Makai?s more her style, eh??

?Maybe.?

?Anyway getting out was a pain. A bunch of guards started chasing me, and shaking them off took forever. They knocked my hat off and broke my broom.?

?But you got out anyway.?

?Nothing my mini-Hakkero can?t handle, though I?m all out of fuel. Not much of a magician now, am I??

?No hat, no broom, no overpowered weapon.? Reimu could sympathise a little. A phony shrine maiden and a useless magician. What a pair they made. ?You can still use magic though, right??

?Of course, though I dunno how much help it?ll be.? Marisa shrugged. She wrung the water out of her apron. ?What about you? Still got a full arsenal??

?You just broke my purification rod.?

?Other than that, I mean.?

Reimu didn?t want to tell her the truth, but there was no point in lying. ?My god left during the night, so I?m down to ofuda and brute force.?

?Your god?s? gone?? Marisa sounded more upset than Reimu expected. ?Seriously??

?Yep, disappeared into thin air.? Reimu?s voice quivered. She wasn?t about to cry again, was she? It hadn?t bothered her this morning. ?I guess it didn?t fancy disappearing with me.?

Marisa stared at her. They didn?t speak for a moment.

?Can you still make holes in the border?? she asked at last.

Reimu shrugged. ?Maybe. Probably not as fast as before, but if I have at least twenty four hours then I could manage it.?

Marisa?s expression fell. ?So if you started now, you wouldn?t finish it in time??

?Probably not.?

?Probably? Come on, either you can or you can?t.?

Reimu was taken aback. ?Fine, then I can?t. If you left Makai hoping I could magic you away to the outside world, then you arrived a day too late.?

Marisa didn?t respond. For a moment Reimu felt pissed again. So Marisa just wanted to use her shrine maiden powers to get to the outside world, did she?

Well yeah, why else would she be here?

?Either way, I?m going to dispose of my purification rod.? Reimu turned away, annoyed. ?You can stick around, or go back to Makai if you prefer. You?re going to die either way.?

Still no response. Reimu left for the shrine, unsure if she?d see Marisa again. She half hoped her friend did run away back to Makai. Being alone would make everything easier.

The end couldn?t come any sooner.

She took her shoes off and closed the shouji screen behind her. The god was gone, but the shrine still felt like home, and that comforted Reimu. She pulled her broken, splintered rod out from her sleeve and gazed at it. Was there any point in giving it a ceremonial sending off? It would be bad if her rod turned into a tsukumogami, but considering Gensokyo only had a few hours of life left, she wasn?t sure if it mattered. In the end she lit a fire in the hearth and just tossed it in there. The wood wilted in the flames, blackening into ash before her eyes. Another reliable ally in her shrine maiden life had left her.

Reimu shook her head. Was she really getting tearful over a stick? She was an emotional wreck tonight. This wasn?t how she?d wanted things to go. Why did Marisa have to show up and ruin everything?

Her dream from last night suddenly came to mind: Marisa?s bright smile as they gazed at each other, how Reimu had wanted to reach out and touch her cheek, to see if it was as soft as the cherry blossom. What a pointless thing to dream about the night before Gensokyo shut down. What a pointless thing to ruminate over when she longed to be left alone.

Reimu felt thoroughly confused. What did she want exactly? Company? Solitude? Friendship? Rejection? Did she want Marisa to beg for forgiveness? To just shrug and turn away? She had no idea.

She was wasting time. Reimu got up, put out the fire and went outside.

?Hey,? said the magician, waving from the porch. ?Done with the rod??

Reimu resisted the urge to kick her. ?Sticking around after all??

?Not much point going back to Makai. They?ll stick me on a stake or something. And I?ve been thinking anyway.?

Reimu sat next to her. ?Oh??

Marisa grinned, pleased with herself. ?Your shrine?s technically not in Gensokyo, is it??

Reimu frowned. ?Technically it?s in both Gensokyo and the outside world. But we?re very obviously in Gensokyo.?

?Yeah, but technically we?re in both right now. So...? Marisa snapped her fingers. ?I figured it might be worth a shot.?

?What is??

?We might not disappear if we stick around your shrine.?

??Huh?? Reimu thought she?d gone crazy, but she could see Marisa?s logic. ?I suppose there?s a small chance, but you shouldn?t get your hopes up.?

?Yukari said she wasn?t one hundred percent sure everyone in Gensokyo would disappear with it anyway, right?? Marisa continued. ?I think we?re in with a chance of living.?

?If you say so.? Reimu wasn?t sure what to make of that. She?d grown used to assuming she would disappear, but now that Marisa mentioned it, Yukari did say the people still in Gensokyo would ?probably? disappear with it.

But at the same time, Reimu was pretty sure Marisa was just deluding herself. A desperate ploy to stop herself giving in to despair.

?Anyway, got any tea? I?m dying for a drink.?

Reimu crossed her arms. ?And why should I give you any when you haven?t explained yourself yet??

?Explain? Oh. Oh?? Marisa cringed. ?Yeah. The leaving on Saturday not Sunday thing.?

?Did you think I?d forgotten about that? Come on, out with it.?

Marisa fidgeted. She glanced between Reimu and the ground. ?So uh? I just? do I really need to say it? Isn?t it obvious??

?No it?s not obvious. Say it.?

Seeing Marisa flustered was a rare sight. ?Fine,? she said eventually. ?Fine, I?ll tell you. I figured it?d be too awkward, saying goodbye when you?d be on your knees begging me not to leave and crying like a little kid, so I-?

?Liar. Tell me the truth.?

??Can?t fool you anymore, can I?? Marisa gave in quickly. ?Okay, here?s the truth. I knew if I said goodbye to you properly, I wouldn?t wanna go with Alice to Makai. And you know me, I wanna be a magician, so Makai was my best option.?

Reimu was baffled. ?You wouldn?t want to go? Why??

?I?ve spent too much time with you.? Marisa?s face was red. ?I came back planning to kidnap you and drag you into the outside world with me, but oh well, so much for that. Happy now? Gonna give me tea yet??

?I?ve only got one bag left.? Reimu felt dizzy. She took her time standing up. Marisa wanted to drag her into the outside world? Really? She felt both horrified and touched.

?Better than none.?

*****
They talked for a while after that, mostly about Gensokyo?s last days. Reimu told Marisa about the evacuation dates, and the farewell parties she attended. Marisa would occasionally ask about a specific person, and Reimu would fill her in the best she could.

?Your parents left on the third day,? she said, assuming Marisa would ask about them next. ?I saw them off.?

A dark expression flashed across Marisa?s face for a moment. ?The third day, eh?? She looked down at her drink. ?Kourin said they were leaving on the second.?

?They weren?t on the list for the second day. They must have changed their minds.? Reimu wondered if lying about dates ran in the family. ?Sanae left on the third date too, with her gods.?

Marisa gave a grim smile. ?I missed a lot, didn?t I??

?I suppose.? Reimu tried to refill their drinks, but there was nothing left in teapot. ?Your parents didn?t react when they saw me. Did they never see us walking around the village together??

?Nah, they would?ve. They?re just weird. Anyway, enough about them. What time is it??

Reimu stood up and looked at the clock in the main room. ?About five o?clock. We?ve got another seven hours.?

?Great.? Marisa put her cup down and stretched. Reimu watched her, mesmerised by her movement. She felt a lot calmer, now that they?d talked. Maybe having a friend around wouldn?t be too bad after all. When their eyes met, Marisa smiled, and Reimu found herself smiling back.

It didn?t feel much different from her dream, for a moment.

?Wanna go exploring?? suggested Marisa. ?There?s ages to go.?

They were finally out of tea, and Reimu couldn?t think of anything better to do. ?Might as well.? She picked up the tea set, and put it away for possibly the last time.

And they set off, sometimes flying, sometimes walking as they travelled across Gensokyo. Reimu had seen Marisa fly without a broom once or twice before, but never for this long. She looked unnatural, flying horizontally, and lacked her usual speed. Reimu even saw her wobble once or twice.

?You?re not going to fall, are you?? She had to check.

?I?m fine,? replied Marisa, cross.

They crossed the sky together, side by side, picking locations to visit at random. They visited Genbu Ravine, and the waterfalls around Youkai Mountain. They tried finding the Tengu Village, and spent some time walking around the empty Moriya Shrine. Then they skirted around the Misty Lake, and looked for old fairy hideouts. When that proved fruitless, they walked to the Garden of the Sun, and watched the juvenile sunflowers reach for the evening sky.

All the wonders of Gensokyo were theirs to see, and the secret corners of youkai life were out in the open. But Reimu found she couldn?t look at them for longer than a few seconds, before turning back to Marisa. Her friend?s reactions were far more entertaining than the scenery. Her eyes gleamed when they found a pack of fake, bright pink tengu claws, and she yelped in horror when they discovered the kappa?s shirikodama storehouse (it stank to high heaven in there). Reimu had spent the last few days admiring Gensokyo?s beauty, and felt no need to do so again.

?It?s weird,? said Marisa as they headed for Nameless Hill. ?There?s no animals, no fairies, nothing. Everything really did clear off.?

The hill was full of poisonous flowers, as usual. Marisa poked one with her foot. ?I guess it?d be weird if all the plants left too.?

?I?d exterminate them in seconds,? said Reimu, imagining them staggering around on their roots.

?I bet you would. Good luck with the trees.?

?I?ve handled worse. Where next??

?I feel like a rest actually,? said Marisa. ?Wanna lie down??

?What, here?? Reimu stared at the poisonous flowers.

?I?ll give you three guesses.?

They found a grassy field further down the hill. Evening was rapidly turning into night, and the autumnal air blew thick and warm. The first few stars were already shining in the sky. Marisa flopped down in the middle of the field, and Reimu lay down beside her. Together they stared at the red clouds crossing the sky.

?Seems a shame for it to end tonight,? said Marisa.

?You should have come back a few days earlier if you wanted to enjoy more sunsets,? said Reimu, almost agreeing. She?d seen plenty of wonderful sunsets that week, but none had been this perfect.

?The sun?s always setting in Makai. I?ve seen enough sunsets to last a lifetime.? Marisa reached up and pointed at a star. ?It?s fake though, so you can?t see any stars. See that one? That?s Venus. It?s the brightest at dawn and dusk.?

?Isn?t that a planet??

?Yeah, a whole other planet. Magicians in the outside world have studied it, and they say it?s covered in acidic storms and stuff. Sounds cool, right??

?You wouldn?t be able to leave your house.?

Marisa talked about the stars for a while, her smile growing and glowing with every new pinprick in the sky. Reimu yanked blades of grass as she listened, glancing up every now and then to show she was paying attention. She barely looked at the sky though. Her friend?s eyes shone brighter than any celestial body, and were far prettier to look at.

Eventually Marisa noticed. ?Hey, is there something on my face?? She put a hand over her nose, checking. Reimu came to her senses and turned away in a hurry. Her cheeks were red hot with embarrassment. What was wrong with her? She?d stared at Marisa all day, wasn?t that enough? They hadn?t left each other?s sight, even when they went exploring.

She felt terrible now, for wishing Marisa had stayed in Makai earlier. The hole in Reimu?s heart was closing, and she hadn?t felt so content in weeks.

?I?ve been thinking,? said Reimu, quietly. ?What happens if we don?t disappear at midnight??

Marisa laughed. ?We live happily ever after, of course.?

Reimu blushed. ?I mean, for food and such,? she insisted. ?There?s no animals to eat.?

?Oh, then... Plants are fine, so we?ll just eat vegetables, I guess. If we don?t disappear, then the land around your shrine might not disappear either, so we?d have room to grow some.?

?That?d be cramped.? Reimu imagined them living a simple life, ploughing the shrine grounds and praying for rain.

?It?s okay. We can always knock down your shrine to make room.?

??No we can?t.?

?There?s no god there, so why not??

?It?s still my house.?

?All right, we?ll worry about that after midnight.?

Reimu tugged another blade of grass free, then rolled onto her back. She would disassemble the shrine if she had to, but only if Marisa begged her. Reimu liked where she lived, and wasn?t going to let anyone flatten it without a very good reason.

A seed of hope had taken root in her, and Reimu feared that her resolve was wavering. Marisa enjoyed screwing with her head sometimes, and she was doing a good job of demolishing Reimu?s hard work from the last month. But unfortunately for her, Reimu wasn?t going to waste all the tears and misery her decision had caused by changing her mind on a whim. Deciding to live this late in the day was completely pointless, and would simply make the end more painful. They would disappear at midnight, just as Reimu wanted and Marisa feared.

Reimu glanced at her. Marisa was staring up at the sky with a lonesome expression, her arms behind her head and her legs crossed. She seemed transient. For a moment Reimu feared that this was all one long trick, and the real Marisa was still in Makai. The thought made her panic, and she almost reached out, to check she was real.

?You know,? said Marisa suddenly, making Reimu pause, ?there was this outside world novel I read about two people at the end of the world.?

?Oh?? Reimu appreciated the distraction. ?What happened in it??

?They were the only two humans left, so they fell in love and repopulated the planet with their kids.?

Reimu smiled. Her panic faded as quickly as it came. ?Don?t those stories usually go like that??

?It bothered me though.? Marisa frowned. ?Like, if it was just them repopulating the planet, then their kids would have to date each other. But no one in the book seemed to care about that.?

?Beggars can?t be choosers,? said Reimu. A funny question entered her mind, and she asked it on impulse. ?Would you repopulate Gensokyo with me if I were a guy??

Marisa fell silent. Reimu realised, with horror, that she?d taken the question seriously. She tried to think of a way to brush it off, but Marisa responded first.

?Yeah... I guess. I mean...? she mumbled. ?There wouldn?t be much else to do, would there??

They looked at each other. Their awkward expressions matched.

Reimu felt her heart pound in her throat. ?Well? we?re both girls, so no kids would come out of it, but?? Her voice trembled. ?There?d be nothing else to do, so... I suppose we?d end up trying it anyway, wouldn?t we...??

The wind shook the grass in waves. Marisa looked away. It was too dark for Reimu to notice the colour of her cheeks.

?Yeah,? she said at last, her voice tense. ?Yeah, we would.?

The last two chapters will be posted together this Sunday (21st).
« Last Edit: September 21, 2014, 03:15:31 PM by hungrybookworm »

hungrybookworm

  • Shipper On Board
Re: The Fall [5/7] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2014, 10:02:06 AM »
Chapter 6: Arcadia
(AO3 Mirror)

They walked to the Human Village after that, so close their shoulders bumped together. A thin crescent moon was out, and it cast precious light over the darkening landscape.

It was almost pitch black in the village. Normally there would be a few houses lit up here and there, with gas lanterns glowing softly in the windows even in the earliest hours of the morning. But tonight the village was an empty husk of its former self.

?I guess all the villagers left after all,? said Marisa.

?They did, the leader told me.? Reimu had asked him herself. ?They had to force a few.?

?So it really is just us.? Marisa gave a thin smile. Their upper arms brushed as she turned. ?I was hoping there?d be a few food stalls open or something.?

Reimu couldn?t tell if she was joking or not. ?If you?re hungry then we?ll have to forage for food. We ate the last of my rice crackers earlier.?

?Nah, I have a better idea,? said Marisa, glancing at the houses around them. ?Let?s go raiding.?
 
?What, stealing?? Reimu wasn?t exactly against it. There was no one around to care, and the houses were probably packed full of abandoned dry goods. ?Well, I suppose. Breaking in will be a pain though.?

?Don?t worry, I know the perfect place.?

Marisa led the way, and after two left turns they found themselves in front of a large shop. Reimu couldn?t make out its name in the moonlight, but Marisa was already clambering up the side like a monkey. Her hands found a ridge, and she hoisted herself up. Soon she was standing perilously on a window ledge, fiddling with the latch. The window swung open soundlessly, and Marisa gave a thumbs up.

Reimu sighed. ?A true professional, I see.?

?What can I say? I?ve had a lot of practice with this one.? Marisa moved inside. ?Coming??

Reimu floated up to the roof. Marisa held out her hand, and Reimu took it as she stepped through the window. Suddenly she was in a large, bare room. The moonlight lit up the furniture marks on the walls, and the mats looked worn with use.

Marisa didn?t let go of her hand. She looked around the room, wistful.

Reimu put two and two together. ?Is this your old house??

?This used to be my room, yeah.? Marisa pointed to the right. ?Look, you can still see the marks from my wardrobe.?

Reimu could just about make them out. She had a hard time imagining the room full of furniture. She felt Marisa tug at her hand. ?Come on,? she said. ?I?ll lead the way. I know where everything?s kept.?

They walked blindly through the house. Marisa seemed to know where she was going, so Reimu let herself be led down a flight of stairs and through a short hallway. They entered another room, and Marisa turned on a gas light. The room brightened, and Reimu immediately noticed a large round table.

?Big place you?ve got here,? she said.

?Yeah, my dad made a killing in his business, somehow.? She shrugged, and finally let go of Reimu?s hand. ?You stay here. I?ll go search the kitchen.?

She disappeared before Reimu could protest. The house felt cold and unwelcome, and she didn?t want to be left alone. She stared at her hand for a moment, her mind fixated on Marisa?s lingering warmth. Then she sighed, and sat down at the table.

Marisa rarely talked about her family situation. All Reimu knew was that things were bad and they weren?t talking. She tried asking Rinnosuke about it once, a long time ago, but he wouldn?t tell her anything. Did Marisa want to see her old home one last time before the end? No, it probably really was because she knew where the food was kept, and it was easier to break into for some reason.

Reimu tried to imagine a young Marisa sitting at the table, eating dinner with her parents and laughing. She?d always felt a bit jealous of the happy families in the human village, and it was hard to believe that Marisa had been part of one, once. It was from a completely different era, a time before they knew each other.

Reimu got up and paced around the room, trying to ignore the insecurity being apart from Marisa now brought. The room was clearly missing half of its contents, but there was a piece of furniture or a stay book here and there. The bare cupboards were still wide open. They had packed in a hurry, it seemed. Sitting conspicuously on a cardboard box was a large scrapbook. Reimu went to look at it, unable to contain her curiosity.

It was a photo album.

Reimu hesitated, unsure if she should pry. But it couldn?t have been that important if they?d left it behind. She flicked through the pages, spending a few seconds on each.

The first few pictures were blurry ? the photographer was clearly getting used to things. Then finally the subjects were in focus, and there was Rinnosuke and a woman, smiling awkwardly at the camera. That was Marisa?s mother, wasn?t it? Reimu assumed so. There were several group shots, all in front of the shop at first. Then there were a few of the interior, one of Marisa?s mother smiling at the till, and another of some teenagers titled ?new employees?. Then a third of the way in, her mother?s stomach started to swell.

Oh.

A few pages later there was a baby. Then the baby grew into a toddler, crawling around on the floor and laughing. There were more pictures of Marisa?s father ? clearly her parents took turns taking the photographs now ? and even one of Rinnosuke looking terrified as he held up a nappy. Soon the toddler was a girl, and she stood outside the village school in a neat skirt and top, looking nervous about her first day.

It was an album packed full of precious memories. There was the girl ? Marisa, it had to be ? surrounded by friends at a birthday party. There she was dressed up for Hinamatsuri. There were a few of her taken at the Hakurei Shrine festival one year. It felt weird to Reimu that she?d visited the shrine before they met. And then...

Suddenly, there were no more photos of Marisa. The last third of the album was packed with pictures of the sky, abstract photographs of random antiques, and blurry messes. Then finally, right near the end was Marisa again, clearly several years older and not happy to be there at all.

The photographs stopped a few pages before the end.

?Having fun??

She jumped. Marisa was right behind her, staring over her shoulder. ?How long were you there for?? Reimu asked.

?A few minutes.? Marisa looked unhappy. ?So they left that one behind, did they? Not surprised.?

?They left it behind?? She stared back at the album. Reimu had been so wrapped up in the photos she?d forgotten why it was there in the first place. ?Isn?t it all about you though??

?Well, you know. I?m disowned and stuff. They probably don?t want to be reminded of my ugly mug in their new life. Anyway, I couldn?t find any food so I got this instead.? She pulled a bottle of expensive sake out from under her arm. ?That should keep us going until midnight.?

Reimu was pleased with the alcohol, but didn?t want to change the subject. ?Are you all right with that, Marisa??

?With drinking booze? Course I am.?

?No, with them leaving this behind.? Reimu picked up the album, planning to ask her about a few specific pictures, but Marisa snatched it out of her hands.

?It?s fine, that stuff?s ancient history.? She looked annoyed as she tossed it onto the table. ?We need to head back anyway. It?s getting late.? And to Reimu?s surprise, Marisa took her hand again. Her palm felt cold and clammy. ?Come on.?

Reimu didn?t want to push it, but the thought of Marisa?s parents deliberately removing that album from their luggage broke her heart. ?Are you sure-??

?I?m sure. Really.?

They turned off the lights and left through the front door. They walked back to the shrine hand-in-hand, their footsteps unnaturally loud in the silent scenery. Marisa?s grip felt tighter than before, and Reimu couldn?t help but worry a little.

?I should probably mention,? said Marisa after ten minutes had passed. ?They didn?t kick me out or anything. I left by myself.?

?Really??

?Yeah. They hated magic, and I wanted to be a magician. So I left.? Marisa shrugged. ?I don?t want pity or anything. I brought it all on myself.?

?I wasn?t pitying you. It?s your life, after all.? She knew Marisa was serious about being a magician. She?d lied to Reimu as part of some convoluted plan to force herself into Makai, after all. Running away from home was probably just the start of it.

What else had Marisa sacrificed over the years? Reimu wasn?t sure if she wanted to know. Her friend was glaring at the ground with a sullen expression.

Reimu was terrible at comforting people, so she stayed silent and squeezed Marisa?s hand, hoping that would convey everything.

Marisa squeezed her hand back, and they continued walking.

*****
They arrived at the shrine and wasted no time uncorking the sake. Half a bottle wasn?t enough for either of them to get drunk, but Reimu felt the stress of the day?s events flow away as the alcohol kicked in. She strode into the main room, and picked up the clock from the side table. Then she brought it out onto the porch, and placed it in view.

?There,? she said. ?Now we won?t lose track of time.?

?We?re out of booze,? said Marisa, waving the bottle. She?d finished it off while Reimu was gone. ?Oh well, it was good while it lasted. What time is it??

?Turn around and look for yourself.? Reimu sat down, to Marisa?s right. ?I?m exhausted.?

?Eleven-fifty? Woah.?

?It?s been a long day.? This morning felt like forever ago. Reimu wondered if it?d all been a dream. ?And we did travel all over Gensokyo.?

?Yeah.? Marisa paused for a moment, contemplating something. They still had ten minutes to kill. Ten minutes of life left in Gensokyo. ?So,? she said at last. ?Any regrets??

?Regrets?? Reimu glanced at the clock again. She didn?t feel afraid yet. ?Not really. I suppose I would?ve liked to exterminate more youkai. Maybe expanded the shrine a bit. And if I?d known this was going to happen, I would?ve eaten more expensive food during spring...?

Marisa wasn?t impressed. ?Come on, there must?ve been something else you wanted to do in your life. What about getting married and having kids or something??

?I suppose I thought about it, but I never felt the urge to.?

?Me neither.? Marisa sighed. ?I guess you didn?t have time to date anyone either. We all kind of monopolised you.?

?If I wanted to date someone, I would?ve found the time. Anyway, what about you? Do you regret anything??

A shadow fell over Marisa?s face. ?Yeah, one or two things.?

?Like what??

?Well... you know.?

?No I don?t.? Reimu moved closer to her. ?Come on.?

Marisa didn?t move away. She looked down at her hands, the alcohol robbing her of her usual bluster. ?Isn?t it obvious? I wanted to be a really badass magician.? She flexed her fingers. ?I was kinda hoping I?d still be writing magic books in my eighties and stuff, dying with a wand in my hand and whatever. And I wanted to turn Alice into a toad.?

?Alice, a toad??

?Yeah. She said I wouldn?t be able to manage it without becoming a youkai magician, so I was gonna show her.?

Reimu laughed. She leant sideways and rested her head on Marisa?s shoulder, overcome with affection. ?If you went around turning people into animals then I?d have to exterminate you.?

Marisa rested her head against hers. ?Not if I turned you into one first.?

They stayed like that for a few minutes, enjoying the moment.

?Are you shivering?? asked Reimu. She could feel Marisa shaking.

?It?s a bit cold out here.?

That was a lie. It had been a warm autumn so far, and the night air felt comfortably cool. ?Should we move indoors??

?Nah, I can put up with it.? Marisa sat up and rubbed her forearms. Reimu glanced at the clock. Eleven-fifty-five.

She shivered too. The cold touch of fear brushed over her skin. ?You?re right. It is kind of cold.?

?Isn?t it? And it was so warm earlier too.?

Reimu, slowly, put her arm around Marisa. ?Any better??

?A bit.? Marisa went limp, and leant against her. Her hair tickled Reimu?s cheek. ?Damn, I guess it?s gonna end like this, huh??

Reimu hesitated for a moment, but she couldn?t turn back now. She wrapped her other arm around Marisa, and held her close. Marisa was real. Marisa was right here. Reimu wasn?t alone. ?You said we might not disappear earlier. What happened to all that confidence??

?Oh, I?m still confident.? She didn?t sound it. ?I mean, it?s kind of exciting. In a way.?

Reimu looked at the clock again. Three minutes to go. She?d known the last few moments would be the worst, but she?d always imagined them passing serenely as she sat alone on the porch, drinking tea and looking at the sky, full of love for Gensokyo.

But right now, all she could think about was the girl right in front of her, so warm and real in her arms, and trembling like a terrified animal. Marisa?s arms were squeezing her, hugging her so tight it hurt, and her face was pressed against Reimu?s shoulder. Reimu put a hand to her head, and gently stroked her hair.

They were the most powerful humans in Gensokyo, but Reimu couldn?t call herself a shrine maiden anymore, and Marisa?s dream of becoming a great magician would never come true. Everything that defined them and drove them forward was long gone, and now they were just two lonely human beings at the mercy of time, savouring every second as they clung to each other.

Reimu couldn?t think about her resolve, couldn?t think about everything she had worked towards over the last month. She could only press her lips against Marisa?s skin; just above her ear, her temple, the side of her cheek? Reimu?s fingers slid through her hair, and touched the base of her neck.

And finally, Marisa lifted her head, and allowed their lips to touch.

The kiss was shallow, chaste. Reimu tightened her embrace. She didn?t want to disappear anymore, not if it meant being torn away from Marisa. Why hadn?t they at least tried to make a hole in the border earlier? Why couldn?t they have held each other in the field, and spent more time loving each other? Why did they have to be so stupid, so proud, and pretend not to care? She could do anything with Marisa. She could even live in the outside world if Marisa was there to support her, to kiss her when everything became too much, and to remember Gensokyo with her. They could?ve protected each other, made love in the early hours, and held hands as they grew old. What a wonderful life they could have lived. And they wrecked the possibility of it all by themselves.

Reimu felt Marisa?s lips move against hers. She was saying her name. Reimu cupped the back of her neck, and their kiss deepened.

Around them the air chilled with fear. The minute hand moved. Two minutes to go. Reimu?s hands couldn?t stop shaking. The only warmth left in the world was pressed against her. Marisa tasted of alcohol, and her breath, her tongue, the softness of her lips intoxicated her. It wasn?t enough. Reimu wanted Marisa so close even the end of the world wouldn?t tear them apart.

Finally, they broke away. They pressed their foreheads together, and Marisa?s breath shuddered. ?I love you,? she whispered.

?I love you too.? Reimu felt tears run down her cheek, and couldn?t tell who they belonged to.

Marisa kissed her again. Once, twice, three times, whispering her name over and over. Forty seconds left.

Then Marisa pulled away. ??I should?ve told you earlier,? she said. ?I?m an idiot.?

Reimu reached up and touched her cheek. She?d never felt so in love with anything before, not even Gensokyo. ?I?m an idiot too,? she said. ?I?ll die if I lose you again, Marisa.?

?You won?t.? Marisa covered Reimu?s hand, and held it in place. She smiled, determination showing through her terror. ?I?ll find you again. No matter where we end up, I?ll find you and drag you back to me, kicking and screaming. I promise.?

Their lips touched one more time. Five seconds.

??Not if I find you first,? said Reimu. At the very last moment, she was fearless.

The clock struck midnight.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then darkness cascaded over them, and Reimu lost her ability to see. An invisible force tugged at her.

It tugged, and tugged, slowly wrenching her away from Marisa.

?No!? Reimu clung on. She could hear Marisa yelling too. ?Please!?

They were ripped apart. Reimu reached out, and felt their hands brush for an instant. ?Marisa!? But they couldn?t grasp each other. ?Marisa!? Reimu?s stomach lurched, and she screamed as she tumbled backwards, her fingers combing through cold air.

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2014, 10:04:48 AM »
Epilogue: They Say Falling is Just Another Kind of Flying
(AO3 Mirror)

The noise was devastating. There were cars, motorbikes, towering adverts playing the latest pop hits as they screamed slogans, and an endless sea of people standing beside the road. Their eyes were trained at the signal, waiting for the cue to swarm across the world?s largest crossing.

A woman stood amongst them, bored. She checked the time on her phone, then crossed her arms impatiently. The noise put her on edge. She fiddled with the cuff of her suit ? a typical office lady uniform ? and considered taking a different route. Reimu Hakurei had finished work for the day, and was supposed to be heading home.

But she couldn?t focus today. Ever since that fateful night several years ago, Reimu had found herself constantly distracted. Tokyo was a familiar city. She was sure she?d been born and raised there, and yet it terrified her. The noise, the rush of people, the skyscrapers and the stench of exhaust fumes were overwhelming. Some days she wanted to crawl somewhere dark and tight, and cower like a child.

Ever since that night, when she woke up in bed with a sense of panic and unreality, and found a neat, violet envelope on her bedside table, addressed to her in cursive letters. Even now she could remember its contents, so burned into her memory they were from reading the letter over and over:

I?m sorry. I know this isn?t what you wanted, but your magician friend was right. The shrine?s location saved you both. You might be confused for a few days as you adjust to things, but this is for the best. Unlike the residents who left through the border, the outside world has accepted you, so you don?t have to suffer as they do. You can enjoy your new life to the fullest.

M. Hearn


She almost threw it away, thinking it was a prank, but something deep in her subconscious told her to treasure it.

After that, nothing was the same. She went about her daily life, as always, but she would find herself in parks, walking aimlessly around shrines and temples with a lump in her throat. And then there were the dreams: bright, vivid dreams of flying through the sky, dodging bright lights that bloomed like fireworks across a stunning mountain landscape. And in her dreams there was another girl, sometimes sitting with her as they drank tea, or flying alongside her.

Getting through the day was always difficult after one of those dreams. There would be a gaping hole in her heart, and Reimu would be plagued by the thought that there was something important missing from her life. She would stare out the window, unable to focus. After work, she would catch a train and walk through a random part of Tokyo, staring at stranger?s faces in the hope that they held some kind of answer.

Today?s wander had brought her to Shibuya crossing. It was five-thirty in the afternoon, the peak of rush hour. Reimu felt sick, but she didn?t want to go home just yet. Her dream last night involved facing the other girl in the dead of night, a huge fake moon hanging behind them, and it had tormented her all day.

Finally the traffic stopped. The signal changed, and the crowd spilled into the road. Reimu walked briskly, turning her head left and right as she went.

A woman in a large black coat walked passed her. Reimu glimpsed her face for only a moment, and froze. Her mouth opened. The shock smashed into her like a lead hammer.

There was no time to lose. Reimu spun around and chased after her before she even knew what she was doing. ?Excuse me!? She pushed through the crowd. Angry yells followed behind her. ?Marisa! Marisa!?

She?d never heard the name before, yet it fell from her lips naturally. The woman in the coat stopped, and Reimu nearly collided with her. ?Marisa!?

The woman gawped at her. There was a dress poking out from beneath her coat, and Reimu could see what looked like a lanyard. The coat displayed the logo of a well known pharmaceutical company. The woman?s hair was black and straight, but not naturally so.

The woman tilted her head, and stared at her. Around them the crowd rushed by.

?...Reimu??

The End

Hello, and thanks for reading until the end! This is hungrybookworm.

I thought I?d take this opportunity to talk about this fic a bit, since the epilogue?s so short. This is the longest fanfic I?ve written in ten years. How crazy is that? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an ask on tumblr telling me what you thought of it.

Now to give credit where credit?s due. This fic grew out of a different story ? a one shot about Reimu getting hit by lightning and dying. Unsurprisingly I got really depressed writing it so I had to stop (I?ll probably have another shot at it someday), and a few days after that I read a short story on my favourite Japanese doujin novel circle?s website: Gensokyo Will Collapse Next Weekend (only available in Japanese sorry). It?s an extremely short, extremely sad story about Gensokyo shutting down with one week?s notice, and Reimu and Marisa drinking tea on the porch one last time. Unlike most stories about Gensokyo going down, there was no gory violence or explosive battle or anything. It was gentle, simple, and effective. Afterwards I was dying to try writing my own gentle Gensokyo apocalypse story. I borrowed the ?advanced notice? idea, but expanded it to a month instead of a week, and went from there.

This story was supposed to be around 5,000 to 8,000 words long. The part that makes up chapters one to four was supposed to be around 1,500 words long, and the stuff in chapters five and six was going to be the bulk of the story. But I had way too much fun thinking about how everyone would react to Gensokyo shutting down, and how Reimu especially would take it, and before I knew it the story just grew and grew. Chapter 3 was by far the hardest to write ? making Reimu?s decision to stay in Gensokyo plausible was insanely difficult, and I rewrote the scene with Sanae a ridiculous number of times. I was tweaking lines up until the moment I posted it. Sanae was originally going to confess her love to Reimu in the scene too, but I cut it to keep things simple. Sorry ReiSana fans!

I feel like doing some one shots featuring people being happy next, so expect a handful of those over the next few weeks. I?m keen to do another long chaptered Touhou story, and I have a few ideas lined up. Not sure which to go for first though. I am writing a lot of notes for a Double Dealing Character retelling/what-if story at the moment, so it?ll probably be that.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions and leave feedback! Again, thanks for reading the story right until the end! See you next time!

Kilgamayan

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Re: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2014, 03:54:08 PM »
Thank you for this wonderful piece.
[22:40:12] <Drake> "guys i donwloaded esod but its not workan"
[22:40:21] <Drake> REPORTED
[22:40:25] <NaturallyOccurringChoja> PROBATED
[22:40:30] <Drake> ORGASM
[22:40:32] <NaturallyOccurringChoja> FUCK YEAH

[22:28:39] <Edible> Mafia would be a much easier game if we were playing "spot the asshole"

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2014, 05:14:24 PM »
Thank you for this wonderful piece.
I'm happy you like it. Thank you!

an unmatched sock

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Re: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2014, 01:25:38 AM »
I really like it. I like touching stories like this. Although, I did expect the one loophole to work since it was brought up.

A very good story, nonetheless! Thanks for writing it.

hungrybookworm

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Re: The Fall [Complete] - A Gensokyo Collapses ReiMari Story
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2014, 08:59:54 AM »
I really like it. I like touching stories like this. Although, I did expect the one loophole to work since it was brought up.

A very good story, nonetheless! Thanks for writing it.
Thank you! Touching stories are nice, aren't they :3 I was actually half expecting a reader to bring up the Hakurei Shrine's location before Chapter 5, but no one did. And yeah, ofc it was going to work! I wasn't gonna end the fic with them all dying. That would've been a bit much, haha.