Çhäpťęř III: Mëëťîñğ Äğäîñ Øñçë Möřë
The Hakurei shrine maiden swept the dry leaves on the stone ground, humming rather cheerfully. She wore a her standard miko uniform, consisting of red skirt, a sleeveless red top with a white collar, tied with a yellow ribbon as well as a pair of white detached sleeves which expose her armpits. Her long brown-black hair was tied back by a large red bow at the back of her head, and a couple of red tubes on her side bangs.
Her happy mood was due to one explanation. An incident had not occurred in a long time, and she felt rather pleased with that fact. If it was possible, she wanted for it to last throughout the year. She grinned at that thought of that happening.
Of course, there was the minor incidents she had to handle. The youkai of darkness, Rumia, tried to ‘play’ with an outsider who accidentally spirited into Gensokyo at which she had sent out back into the Outside World, after beating her up. Then, the idiotic ice fairy, Cirno, had challenged her to a fight once more, at which, again, she beat her down until she left, claiming that she would come back to challenge the maiden. Again.
A major incident, however, that had not happened for six months now. The last incident was when the Lunarians replaced the real moon with a fake moon. At which, of course, she... Did not really beat them to the ground, though she did asked them to stop whatever they were planning. At least that incident was resolved.
Optimism. She liked it. It certainly helped with the stress of her job.
A whoosh was heard as a black and white witch descended from the sky, jumping off her broom as she gave a loud and cheerful greeting.
Reimu Hakurei paused, glancing in something akin to annoyance at the person she called her friend. She was having a good morning, and with the arrival of Marisa Kirisame*, the infamous kleptomaniac witch, all hopes of having a peaceful day went crashing down.
“Marisa. Have you come to drop your stolen items here again?”
“Aw, c’mon. Don’t say stolen. Borrowed, they’re borrowed, da ze.”
“I’ve received complaints from the Scarlet Mansion. Again.” Reimu said sarcastically, placing her free hand on her hip. “Something about the stolen tomes. Oh, sorry. ‘Borrowed’.”
“Yup.” The Monochrome Witch nodded and gave a thumbs up, as if she was proud of her achievements. “They can have it back when I kicked the bucket, da ze.”
“Sometimes I just wonder...” A familiar tingle went down her spine as her famous Shrine Maiden of Paradise intuition told her something was stirring. She glanced around her surrounding, noticing how the shrine ground she stood on looked... off, somehow. Besides her, the witch asked, a curious look on her face.
“What’s the matter? Famous intuition ringing again?”
“Yeah.” Putting her broom into the temple, she searched for her gohei**, which was where it always was. “I’m going to take a look around. I swear I will beat up whoever’s behind this.”
“That you will. See ya.” The black and white witch grinned, sitting down on the front porch, dangling her legs. “I’m just gonna chill here, da ze! Oh, where did you keep your food?”
“Don’t ransack my home, you freeloader!”
“It’s locked.” Romano sighed in frustration before kicking the mahogany doors, which did little favours in opening. “Damnit.”
“Why don’t we look around?” The Spaniard asked, earning a nod of agreement from the ghost. “Maybe we can find another entrance to find your hermano.”
“And I suggest we split up to cover more ground.” Yuyuko piped in. “I do not sense any malevolent spirits lingering about. It seems that the attention is directed within the mansion.”
“Still,” The dark haired Italian gave it a thought, before shaking his head. “We stick together and go around the house. Keep an eye for anything suspicious.”
They nodded, and followed as he started walking along the left side of the manor. Spain, walking on the right of him, curiously nudged the nation’s rib, asking when he received grumbles as a response. “So, who was it you keep talking to? And what was that... hole?”
“I’ll tell Yukari-chan that.” The pink haired ghost giggled lightly as she cupped another deep red spirit that hovered around her, before briefly glancing at them. “Tell him that what he saw was a gap. Yukari’s ability is to manipulate boundaries, hence why she was able to create gaps whenever she wants. It’s her.. preferred method of transportation. Usually people does not have the natural means to see it, so he must’ve started believing in the supernatural to be able to see that. Give it time, and he will be able to see me as well.”
“I’m not a messenger.” Romano silently scowled but relayed the information. The brunette’s olive green eyes widened as he began asking excitedly, causing the hot headed Italian to groaned as he tried to answer his question as best as he could. Yuyuko’s laughter increased as she watched the banter, pleasantly chatting with the ghostly orbs that came with her, who all returned back to their pale white colour.
“I am curious, though.” The Italian glanced at the ghost princess that was gazing at him expectantly. “Just how did you know about all this? My brief encounters with Italy, the mansion, the time loops.”
He opened his mouth to answer, but no sound came out. Clearing his throat, and telling the Spaniard to quiet, Romano muttered. “I.. I don’t really know. All I know is that I’ve been having these dreams. In some dreams, I keep seeing fratello trying to save his friends, breaking these clocks. In others though, I saw him talking to you.”
They came to a stop as he continued. “I saw how curious he was the first time he met you. I saw how you made him smile for the first time ever since he got stuck in the damn loops. God, my brother is such a pain in the ass.”
“He must be so lucky to have you.”
“What?” His cheeks flushed red as he stammered. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve heard about these types of bonds before.” Glancing up at a tree, she reached out to a flower as it landed on he palm of her hand. “It appears that Italy-chan must have kept too many memories that he transfered some to you, whether it was intentional or not, I do not know. He was alone because he carried a burden that only became heavier with every repeating loop. I’ve seen scenarios when he tried to convince his friends to leave, when he tried to prevent deaths of his beloved ones... when he cried by himself with no one to comfort him. If you were not here to share that burden, I fear that he would have been broken a long time ago. He is lucky because he is not as alone as he thought himself to be.”
Yuyuko placed the flower behind his ear as he stared, a mere breeze was felt as ghostly hand made contact with his skin. She stepped back, the playful smile back on her glowing face.
“So, let us together convince him that he is not alone anymore, yes?”
Feeling a rush of determination, he nodded, and started walking again. The two exchange stories, Romano, with Spain piping up even though he could not see her, telling about the other nations of the world coming to help the trapped nations, and Yuyuko explaining her abilities as well as short stories about her homeland, Gensokyo. At some point in the conversation though, the Spanish man was able to see her, exclaiming happily as he started flirting with her. Smiling nervously, she peeked a look at the Italian, silently asking for help.
“We’re not here to fool around, tomato bastard.” He said as Spain rubbed the back of his head, moaning in pain.
As the trio entered an orchard at the backyard of the mansion, the conversations went on before the dark haired Italian paused. He glanced around, earning looks of confusion as he asked the ghost.
“Yuyuko, do you sense souls?”
“Why, yes. Of course I- Hold on.” She closed her maroon eyes, before pointing at a particular direction. “I sense a number living souls in that direction, all of which are underground.”
The three shared a look, running to where she pointed to, hoping to finally find Italy and the rest of the nations.
A nation searched around the remains of the burnt ladder in the basement. He wore a blue military uniform and black boots, his auburn coloured hair had an odd curl dangling outwards. Frowning, he knelt to the ground in an attempt to see properly as he murmured under his breath.
“No... It’s not here, after all.” He stood up, sighing as he deeply thought aloud. “Where did I hide it again? Is it on the third floor?”
Furrowing his eyebrows when the memory resurfaced, he shook his head. “That was two loops ago when I hid it there. Maybe not. There’s too many loops to remember. ”
Feeling his inner anxiety reaching out, he slowly took deep breaths, leaning against the cave wall as he did.
“Deep breaths. I’ll remember if I calm down. OK, there’s that one piece where I hid it with America. I just need to find that first. It’s at... Ummm..”
All of sudden, he jumped when a familiar voice shouted.
“I found you, Veneziano!”
Sharply, Italy glanced up. Standing up on top of the burned out exit route were three people who were not supposed to be there.
“Romano, Spain and... Yuyuko... What are you doing here?!”
“My, it was certainly a good omen when the door refused to open, isn’t it Roma-chan?”
“Yeah, we were just loitering around here.” Romano knelt on the ground, peering to see his brother clearly. “I finally found you, fratello. What the hell have you been up to?”
Italy stammered, struggling to find words to speak. The Spaniard followed his movement, sighing in relief when he saw the auburn haired Italian unharmed.
“Ita! Thank God you’re OK.” Then he frowned. “What are you doing alone? Where’s the others?”
“What are you doing here?!” Finally finding his voice, he yelled at them angrily. “You’re not supposed to be here!”
Unfazed with the tone, the dark haired nation asked. “What did you do with the clocks, Vene? Did you break all of them?”
“T-the clocks? How did you know about that?” His eyes wandered to the pink haired ghost. “You told them, didn’t you?!”
“Do not falsely accuse me, Italy-chan.” She shook her head, a spirit behind her turning a light shade of purple. Impatiently, Romano yelled, effectively diverting the attention away.
“Answer me, fratello! Did you break the last clock?”
“N-now Roma, I know you’re happy to see him.” Spain held back the man when he was dangerously close to falling down a high cliff. The ghost too knelt down, smiling sadly down at the blue dressed Italian. “Try not to get too excited, alright?”
“I’m coming down, Veneziano! Fuck, tomato bastard, let me go!”
This was not part of the plan. He was supposed to find the missing pieces, get the key and open the door. None of this was supposed to happen. Feeling frustrated, Italy wildly motioned for them to leave, a rare angry expression on his face. “No! Don’t come down, no matter what! Just leave! Go home!”
Out of breath, the Italian huffed, glaring at them. A moment of silence passed heavily upon them, before it was broken by his older brother’s question.
“...Try saying my name.”
His expression faltered, taken aback by the soft tone. Furrowing his eyebrows, he answered. “Romano..”
“No!” He yelled, causing the other to jump in fright. “Say my full name!”
“Your full name?” Confused, the auburn haired Italian responded, trailing off when he finally realised what his brother meant. “Italy Roma..no...”
“That’s right! I’m Italy too.” A warm smile graced Romano’s lips, followed by Yuyuko’s gentle laugh and Spain’s bright grin. “Now, I may not know everything, but I plan on carrying at least some of the burden.”
“Do you remember that promise we made, Italy-chan?”
Promise? What promise? He wanted to asked before a certain memory flashed before his eyes.
“And I promise to be there with you, until you find the ending you desire.”
“You haven’t been alone, fratello.” Romano said reassuringly. “You have broken quite a few clocks, right?′
“Y-yeah.. But how..”
“The flow of time got fixed, that’s how we got here. But that wasn’t the only problem, you know!” The Spaniard began gesturing as he explained. “There’s this huge barrier that blocks us from coming in.”
“If it wasn’t for Yukari’s ablilty, we would never be able to enter.” The youkai mused. “Now that I gave it a thought, in the past time loops, the other nations of the world probably tried to enter too, before being blocked out as the deaths continue, helpless to do anything...”
“Chica? You know it’s not the right time to be saying that right?”
“I’m a ghost, and, as Yukari would say, deal with it. Death, after all, is part of my nature.”
“It’s not just us that’s coming.” The dark haired Italian smiled. “The entire world is coming to help you guys.”
He took a deep breath and shuddered, opening the dam of emotions as tears lingered at the corner of his eyes. Spain patted his back with comfort as Romano spoke.
“You are such a pain in the ass, fratello. I’ve been trying to find you for ages! I-I couldn’t call you, and when you finally answered, you hang up. An-and sometimes I felt this shock, like half of me disappeared. Every, single, time. You. IDIOT!”
When the initial shock of seeing them had wore off, the gears in Italy’s mind started to turned. At first, he had thought that the ghost was the one who told them, but after seeing her sincere reaction, he overlook it. Perhaps it was because he had too many memories, that he unconsciously gave some to his brother.
But why, He thought, Why did he have to come here? If fratello is here, if something happens to me-
Flashes of the first time loop surfaced from the dark parts of his mind, forcing him to take a step back. From up above, the Italian frowned, noticing how silent his brother had become. Tentatively, he called out.
“I’m sorry, fratello.” The trio flinched at the lack of emotions in auburn haired nation’s voice. “I have to go. Please, go home.”
Another chapter done. Good job, me! *pats myself in the back*
Marisa Kirisame** From the number of fanfics I read that features her, she’s been known to talk like South Korea.
Gohei** otherwise know as the Purification Rod, is often used by shrine maidens to bless or sanctify a person or object in various Shinto rituals.
Ahh, they finally meet. As you can probably realised, I changed the dialogue a bit. It’s because that now we’re entering the game, my mind limits itself to writing rather lame words to go with the dialogue. Which is annoying, since I want to write longer and, possibly, better chapters as well.
Besides, I need to change so that it fits the plot better.
Oh, and one more thing. Does any of you know where I can find a novelised version of the game? I need a reference point because frankly, I don’t remember much.