Çhäpťęř II: Ä Vî§îť ťö ťhë Mäñ§îöñ
It was a cloudless day in the Outside World. The orange sun lit in the sky upon a thick and lush woodland, filled with tall and green trees. A large gap opened before three women exited, and the gap closed behind them. The maroon eyed ghost glanced at her surrounding as her swordswoman had her hands on the hilt of her katana, deep blue eyes scanning for possible threats.
“So this is the place that you talked about.” Yukari opened her parasol, breathing in the forest air as she played with the red ribbons decorating the accessory. “Lovely. Let us take a walk, shall we?”
“Indeed.” Yuyuko chuckled and lead the way, the two trailing behind. As they travelled, her mind thought back to the conversation back at Hakugyokurou.
The two youkai could feel the tension in the air. Yuyuko continued to weep, making the blonde woman reached to her side and gave her a one sided hug, murmuring reassuring words. It was only mere snippets, but Yukari could hear her talk about how she could not save the souls.
“Yuyuko, my friend.” She said gently, squeezing the ghostly hands softly. “I need you to tell me anything you know. I promise you will be able to save them.”
She made sure to emphasize the word ‘promise’. The other slowly recovered, sniffing before clearing her throat. “I apologise, Yukari-chan. I didn’t mean to break down like that.”
“It’s alright. I believe it’s a natural reaction when someone is unable to save the one they love.”
“‘The one they love...’” A bitter chuckle was heard from the pink haired princess. “I suppose that is true. Well then, perhaps I should start at the beginning.”
The ghost paused, noticing something did not feel right. Once again, she glanced around her surrounding, taking in every detail as she continued forward. The phantom beside the the gardener appeared to be restless, unable to sit still.
“This is your first visit to the Outside World, correct?” A nod was given Yuyuko. “Why don’t you take a look around? What do you see?”
“I see..” Youmu closed her eyes, sensing the surrounding area before opening them again. “This forest is nothing like when we explore outside of Hakugyokurou. While Gensokyo is always bright, here it feels dark. Over there, there were always birds chirping whilst the fairies plays around, but here, it is too quiet.”
“A profound observation, gardener.” Yukari twirled her parasol, giving them a playful smile. “It’s as if there is no life in this woodland. Just like the infamous Aokigahara*, this place seems to be devoid of any life. Any sensible person would’ve known to run, but then, since when are humans sensible? Have you ever been there, Yuyuko?”
“The Suicide Forest? Why, yes.” Maroon eyes gleamed, as if remembering a pleasant memory as she opened her fan, slowly fanning herself. “A couple of times. I’m always attraction to these places, remember? So many lost spirits can be found there. Perhaps I should bring you on my next visit there, Youmu-chan. Would you like that?”
“I-I’d rather not, mistress.”
“Aww, don’t be like that. I assure you, the place is fun!” A pause. “Well, as fun as a desolate forest can be, I suppose.”
“The way you phrase it makes me feel even safer back at Hakugyokurou.”
“Maybe you should bring a souvenir instead. The place it, after all, at the base of Mt. Fuji.” The Border Youkai piped in.
“Indeed! What type of spirits do you like, Youmu-chan? Maybe you’ll finally have an apprentice to learn your skills.”
“Yuyuko-sama!” The blue eyed woman protested, face turning red in embarrassment. The ghost princess chuckled, satisfied with the banter, though it would seem that Yukari was not pleased yet as she continued to tease Youmu.
“Pray tell, what kind of skills will she be able to teach?”
“Why, cooking, of course!” Came the immediate answer as Yuyuko nodded in agreement. “Cooking must be perfected first and foremost. Then, surely, come the others.”
“Yuyuko-sama, Yukari-sama! Please stop it.”
A sigh was heard as they trekked deeper into the forest. As Yuyuko looked back at her gardener, she saw that though her expression was back to impassive, the phantom that hovered near her was still red in the face. Silently giggling, the trio came to a stop in front of an old, rusty gate.
“So, this is the mansion?” A nod was all it took to confirm Yukari’s doubts. The blonde stepped forward, intending to open the gate when she slammed into something unknown. She stumbled back, shocked as the ghost and half-human helped to steady herself.
Yuyuko asked, concern and a slight tinge of shock in her eyes. “Are you alright, Yukari-chan?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you, the both of you.” The youkai straightened herself and picked up her parasol, twirling in her hands. She had an amused glint in her eyes as she reached out her pointer finger, smirking when a near transparent wave rippled in thin air. “I had a feeling this was the cause. Yuyuko? Youmu?”
“What is it, my friend?”
“Try placing your hand here, if you please.”
The two youkai nodded and mimicked Yukari’s movement. It was proven useless though, all of them reached the same conclusion as she did. The ghost princess brightly smiled, maroon eyes turning red before reverting back to its original colour.
“Why, this is mighty curious! Do enlighten me, Yukari-chan.”
Yukari’s hand, followed by the others, returned to its side. Closing her parasol, she muttered. “My best guess is that this border is designed to keep the youkai out, so that there will be no interference from the supernatural.”
“Does that mean humans can enter?” A nod was given. The pink haired woman hummed before asking, confusion glittering in her eyes. “But, what of the nations? Aren’t they considered as the supernatural as well? How did they enter the mansion?”
“That’s what confuses me.” The blonde woman shook her head, apparently mystified. “Nations, while they’re immortal, there are also certain features that made them human. Perhaps it was that human trait that allowed them to enter. But then, I should be able to pass through as well.”
“I have a theory. What if this is the work of the mastermind? He could’ve created a border that grant access to the nations that he recognises and keeps others out.”
Yukari gave it a thought, and nodded. “Plausible theory, my friend. But if we were to test this theory, we will need-”
The trio paused. The bodiless spirits that hovered around Yuyuko shivered, making the princess frown. before she could say anything, however, a pair of voices reached their ears as footsteps echoed behind them.
“Get off me, tomato bastard! Be serious for once, goddamnit!”
“But Roma~…Wait, who is that?”
The three youkai turned around. Approaching them were two men, both wearing what it seemed like military uniforms. The man on the left had dark brown hair with an odd curl on top of his front bangs and fair skin. He appeared to be attempting to pry off a tanned man with a lighter shade of brown hair, who was hugging him, while simultaneously walking forward.
“It appears we have guests.” Yukari grinned, again opening her parasol and twirling it. “This should be interesting.”
“Indeed.” Yuyuko lightly giggled, still fanning herself as pale, ghostly hands started to glow. “Shall we give them a little scare?′
“That won’t be necessary, Yuyuko. If your theory is proven correct, then they shouldn’t be able to enter as well.”
“You’re no fun.” A sigh was heard amongst the youkai. “Youmu-chan. You do remember our conversation**, don’t you?”
“Hola, chica!” The tanned man grinned as they came to a stop, while the other stayed back, watching. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know this place is dangerous?”
“Yes, I am well aware of that fact.” Youmu replied, sarcasm biting her words. “Why do you think I have a katana with me?”
“My, Youmu-chan! I didn’t know you have it in you.” Yuyuko piped in, giggling as the silver haired woman resisted the urge to sigh. The man continued to flirt with her swordswoman, oblivious to the comment. She was pleasantly surprised when the man with the odd curl spoke, clearly directing to her.
“I know you, don’t I?”
When she finished her story, once again, she started to cry. The spirits turned purple, a colour well attuned with sadness. Yukari was silent the whole time, mind reeling with the information given. Of all the nations, Italy was willing to do that? She almost did not believe it, if it wasn’t for the fact that her oldest friend, who was a ghost and always so cheerful, weeping with her hands covering her face.
Making up her mind, she asked. “Yuyuko, have you ever seen the mansion from outside?”
“Well,” The other cleared her throat, as her voice was hoarse. “I have seen how the outside looks like through the window.”
“Good.” The Gap Youkai nodded, standing up. “I’m going to call your gardener. We are going on a field trip.”
“Oh?” She tilted her head, puzzled. “I’ve always known that normal humans can’t see me. Have we, perhaps, met somewhere before?”
“No, It’s- argh, how the fuck do I explain this?” He scratched his head, trying to find the right words to say. “I’ve seen you before, in my dreams. You’re with Veneziano, right?”
“Vene- Oh! You mean Italy-chan?” She smiled brightly, like she was remembering an old friend. “Yes, I have indeed. You must be the brother he talks about. Konnichiwa, my name is Yuyuko Saigyouji, but you can call me by my first name, Yuyuko. This is my gardener, Youmu Konpaku.”
She gestured at the green dressed woman, who was stepping back unconsciously from the tanned man, obviously feeling uncomfortable though she tried to hide it with a stoic expression.
“R-Romano. The idiot beside me is Spain.” He muttered, a slight tinge of pink on his cheeks as Yuyuko gave a polite bow. “You say he’s been talking about me?”
“Of course. During our time together, he always talks about his mean big brother who calls his friend a ‘potato bastard’.” The pink haired ghost could not help in a tease, lightly laughing when he looked away, muttering under his breath. However, Romano glanced back at her as she continued, a soft but sad smile gracing her lips. “But, know that he speaks fondly of you. I fear he may never act the same way after this incident.”
“Yeah, no shit.”
“Roma, who are you talking to?” Spain, who was nearing the silver haired woman as she backed off even more, asked, confusion lacing his voice. “You know there’s no one there, right?”
“No one- Look carefully, tomato bastard!” He wildly gestured at both Yuyuko and Yukari as well, though it may seemed like he was waving in thin air in the other’s eyes. “There’s someone right here! Are you fucking blind?!”
“Don’t bother, as long as he doesn’t believe in the superstition, he will never see any of us.” The blond youkai, who had been watching in amusement, finally decided to enter the conversation, a hint of melancholy in her voice. “Faith, unfortunately, can be hard to obtain once it is lost. As the world of science continues to expand, people’s belief in legends gradually fades, until even nations will lose sight of myths, believing that they were just stories.”
The Italian slowly calmed down as she bowed, a playful smile on her lips.
“I believe introduction are in order. Konnichiwa, my name is Yukari Yakumo, otherwise known as the Border Youkai. It’s wonderful to meet a fellow nation.”
“’A fellow nation?’” Romano narrowed his eyes in suspicion. He pointingly ignored Spain’s question. “What are you talking about? What are you?”
“A magician never reveals his secret, my friend.” Yukari played with the ribbons on her parasol as she gave a devious grin. “All will be reveal in due time. But alas, let us get back to the matter at hand, shall we?”
“Ah, how could I’ve forgotten?” The two youkai turned back to the gate as the ghost princess exclaimed, the nation following their gaze. Besides them, Youmu tried to avoid conversation with the Spaniard. Note on the word ‘tried’. “What can you tell us about the barrier, Yukari-chan?”
“Nothing much can be told.” She shrugged, softly yawning. “I’ve been analysing the border while you were having your talk. It’s just as we discussed. And, Romano?”
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Try placing your hand at where mine is. Right here.”
Skeptical, as he saw her hand in thin air, Romano tried to follow where the blonde hand’s was. He stumbled backwards, almost tripping when he felt a wall as well as seeing rippling of waves spreading outwards. The Gap Youkai helped him steady himself.
“What the hell was that?”
“That, my friend, is a barrier.” Yuyuko explained, glancing at them. “I believe my theory is correct, Yukari-chan.”
“So it would seem.” Yukari twirled her parasol, sighing. “Let us recollect the information we have. The border is designed to keep the youkai out, immortals alike.”
With this being said, she briefly glanced at the Italian. Yuyuko nodded in agreement.
“This is to avoid any unnecessary trouble, no doubt about it. Because no one will be able to enter, the game continues on. But I have a dark feeling... That even if Italy-chan managed to get everyone out, they will still be trapped within the border. And thus, a ‘restart’ occurs once again.”
“There is another fact that we overlook.”
“What is it, my friend?”
“The barrier is at least several years old.”
“Several years, that means... Since the... I see...”
The Ghost Princess of Hakugyokurou closed her eyes, looking as if she could cry. Romano cleared his throat, feeling left out from the exchange and wanting to distract the ghost.
“How did you meet fratello if you can’t enter?” He asked. “And how can you remember the loops as well?”
“Why, that’s because time in between here and Gensokyo, time flows differently.” Yuyuko chuckled, wistful expression on her face. “I believe that, due to Gensokyo existing in a hidden reality, time continues to flow in one direction while this world is caught in a repeating cycle. Perhaps, because of this, I still remember vividly, from the first moment we met until now.”
Maroon eyes gazed sadly as she said nothing more, and he nodded, satisfied with the answer. Suddenly, the ghostly orbs that hovered around the princess turned a dark red. Yuyuko frowned, laughing bitterly.
“My, these spirits seemed to think that they can do what they wished if no one supervises them. Youmu.”
“Yuyuko-sama?” The half human, tired of the flirting, drew her katana as she yelled at Spain. “You ought to cease your pathetic attempts to court me if you wish to keep your limbs.”
“Whoa! Relax, chica.” Spain wisely obliged, backing off to stand near the Italian,who proceeded to push him off when he tried to hug him. Yuyuko gave a grim smile at the swordswoman.
“Do ensure that there aren’t any riots going on. Find Red-White if it gets too serious.”
“Yukari, if you please?”
The youkai, due to being in deep thought, absentmindedly waved her hand. A ripping sound was heard, and the nations went slack when a gap pinched with red ribbons at the ends opened. Without a thought, Youmu entered the gap, causing the Spanish man to yell as it closed.
“Tell your friend to calm down.” Quietly, she gently cupped one of the red spirits in her hands, murmuring. “Youmu merely needs to take care of some trouble. And he’s annoying the spirits with his incessant nagging.”
With that being said, Romano promptly smacked the back of Spain’s head with his hand, causing an argument to occur. Soon after that, Yukari snapped her fingers, smirking.
“I have come across two conclusions!” Then she noticed how everyone were busy. Glancing up at her oldest friend, Yuyuko shook her head. “What? Too soon?”
“It’s nothing, my friend. What is it?”
“Like what I said earlier, I have come across two conclusions to solve this problem, maybe three.”
Her voice caught the Italian’s attention as he paused in the middle of his sentence, turning to face the Gap Youkai.
“Well? Tell us then.”
“Roma, for the last time, who are-”
“Shut up, I’ll explain later.” An eyebrow was raised. “Well?”
“As I was saying, the first method requires me fetching my shikigami, Ran. I will need help to disable the barrier completely, for this border is very delicate and complex. The mastermind is obviously good at boundaries as I am. This, however, will take a while. The second method is that I will open a gap in the barrier for all of you to enter, and then find Ran to help me in disabling the barrier.”
“And the last?” The pink haired ghost asked. Yukari sighed, shaking her head.
“Never mind the last. Which method do you prefer?”
The older youkai closed her eyes as a disappointed frown was directed at her. Yuyuko knew exactly what the last method was. Romano seemed to think before nodding.
“We’ll go with the second.” He said. “We need to get to my fratello as soon as possible.”
“Indeed.” The ghost agreed, as the spirit in her hands slowly turned back to its neutral white. She let it float back to her side. “Open the border. I believe we have spent enough time here.”
“Alright then.” The blonde woman placed her hand on the border, and the near invisible barrier began to glow purple. Slowly, but surely, a hole formed in front of them. Violet eyes opened, satisfied with the task as she took a step back. The nations stepped back in shock, but maroon eyes merely twinkled with amusement.
“Sometimes, I forget just how powerful you are, Yukari-chan. Perhaps it was because you like to spend your slothful days by sleeping that it caused me to come to this conclusion.”
“You wound me, my friend. Do not compare me to the shrine maiden.” She pouted, but smiled afterwards. “Be careful, all of you. I sense multiple curses inside and one of them, while it will only renders the immortals human, will also severely limit your abilities. Please be cautious when you use your manipulation of death, Yuyuko.”
Romano cast a questioning glance at her, but she ignored it.
“Understood, my friend. Let us go.”
The Italian entered the barrier, Spain following shortly behind, no doubt asking questions already. Yuyuko, with some of her spirits deep red in colour, was about to enter when a hand on her wrist stopped her. Looking at her, the blonde woman placed something in her hands, securing it by closing the fingers.
“I admit, I was planning to give this to him myself but... It appears that fate is too cruel for that. So can you do it?” She asked, face unreadable but violet eyes revealed everything the ghost needed to know. “And please... Keep him safe.”
“Of course.” A smile was given as she sighed in relief. “I am, after all, one of his citizens, remember?”
With the last words spoken, the pink haired ghost entered, and the barrier closed, leaving the three in a courtyard of a haunted mansion.
Elsewhere, at a certain western style mansion, a teenager with light blue silky locks reaching just above her chin, appearing to be only fifteen years old, glanced out the window as she paused, staring at the bright blue sky. She wore a white dress, but the unique feature about her was the two batlike wings spouting from her back. The silver haired woman, wearing an elegant french maid outfit, who stood beside her paused as well.
“Milady? Is something wrong?”
“Can you feel that, Sakuya? The strings of fate is moving... Something is happening. Try to find out what it is, can you?”
The maid beside her nodded and disappeared in an instant. She glanced back to the sky, a noticeable frown on her face.
“What could this be? Is this inside of Gensokyo, or no? Nevertheless, I’m sure the shrine maiden can feel it too.”
Phew! Took me three days to finish. Betcha know which part of the game this is. :)))
Otherwise known as the infamous Suicide Forest. Apparently, due to how thick the forest is, anyone can easily find themselves lost in the forest. So, it became a prime spot for... ya know, people with suicidal tendacies. Even the authorities tried to lower the death rate by placing these sign post, asking them to think about what they had to lose. But so far, it wasn’t really effective. I remember this one article I read, it said that there’s actually a guideline on how to kill yourself. I was like, ‘What the actual fuck?’
“Youmu-chan. You do remember our conversation**, don’t you?”
Just as Yukari stated, as long as there isn’t belief, the supernatural can never been seen. But, due to Youmu being half human, this caused her to be visible to the nations. Poor girl, probably not used to flirting too, being surrounded by girls and the dead alike.
Next chapter will be coming up soon, probably!