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The last thing in the world I expected when I opened my eyes was to be greeted by a mass of black hair. I pulled an arm from under the blanket and ran my hand up to my forehead to brush back my hair, when I realized that it wasn't my hair that was in my face. A cold dread ran through my body as I slowly shifted myself away from the back of whoever it was I was with, when I caught a slight glimpse of something just at the edge of my vision. It was sitting propped against a wall, a gohei. It was about this time that it dawned on me that I might not be in my room at all anymore. The person in front of me shifted slightly and began to turn. I noticed two things immediately: First, it was a girl, and second, it was Reimu.
I was laying on whatever kind of floor bed it was she slept on. I think it was called a futon, but that's not something I need to be worried about right now. My first worry was what I might have done with Reimu, and while the thoughts themselves weren't wholly unpleasant, the fact she might disagree with my opinions on the matter was something that worried me quite a lot. I realized I'd been holding my breath since she turned, and slowly exhaled through my nose. I began to slowly slide myself from the bed and blanket. Thankfully I had realized that I was still dressed in what I normally wear to bed--a t-shirt and jeans--and wasn't going to have to run naked from the scene. It was much harder to squirm my way out without making too much commotion than I'd thought it would have been. Once I was prone on the tatami floor, I slowly got to my feet. My first order of business was to look around for my hat, since I always leave it nearby when I went to sleep, and if I was here, well, why wouldn't it be too? I didn't get too far in my search before Reimu started moving again. Afraid she'd wake up at any moment, I looked around for a door, but only saw walls. It took me a few seconds to remember that this shrine probably didn't have doors like I knew them, and once I realized that, I recognized the sliding doors almost immediately. Who knew that anime and manga would one day save me from being murdered by a shrine maiden. I slowly made my way over to one of the sliding doors, carefully stepping the whole way. My escape nearly realized, I slowly slid one of the doors open and slipped out once I had opened it enough. Sliding the door back closed, I felt a slight relief. At least now if she woke up I could pretend not to have woken up in her bed. I was safe now. Of course, that's what I thought.
"Who are you?"
Oh double shit.
I didn't want to turn around. Part of me felt that if I stood still long enough, I might be able to pass myself off as a statue. Well, a statue made of flesh and polyester at least. I heard the sound of footsteps on stone, something that started rather suddenly rather than gradually approached. I turned my head out of curiosity and confirmed my suspicions. Black and white, just as expected. I was screwed now.
"I don't come by for a few days and that girl goes out and gets herself a man to pass the time. Wonder if she's passing on the shrine maiden business already." Marisa said, straightening out her skirt and dress from her flight. She didn't seem hostile, angry or all too concerned, which I should be thankful for. Maybe I'll be able to get away from her- Wait, what did she say?
"I-uh, you've got it wrong. I- We, uh.. didn't... I don't think we did. I mean... uh..."
I was tripping over myself trying to explain, regardless of how convinced I was that I was innocent. I've no idea why I woke up here with Reimu, though I don't know what I might or might not have done following the point where I suddenly shifted realities. I'd think it would have been rather difficult for me to sleep through teleportation, but then again I'm the kind of guy that can fall asleep next to a construction crew and not wake up until all the hammering, sawing and banging had stopped and the crew had gone home for the day. Marisa just smiled, as if she knew the truth and was amused by my sad lies.
"Descendants have to come from somewhere. You should be happier, she normally treats everyone else like they don't matter."
Somehow I'm sure, I knew deep inside that if Reimu did find out where I had been, she wouldn't be quite as indifferent towards me. No, I'd definitely get the 'special treatment' that would most likely end with a shallow grave.
"Look, Marisa," I said, without even stopping to think of an excuse for how I knew her name if she asked. "I'm not with Raymoo," shit, I said that wrong and I know it. "I'm not from Gensokyo at all, actually. I woke up, and I was in Reimu's bed. I'd rather not have her know I was here, or that I exist at all. I'm sure this would be good for both our health, my physical, and her mental."
Marisa looked like she believed me. For a little while at least. Damn it.
"That was a great excuse, you almost had me there for a second." She said with a smile. Before I could get anything else in edgewise, Marisa had hopped past me and slid open the shrine door, calling inside loudly. I was frozen with a combination of shock and fear, and it didn't occur to me that I should run for my life until Reimu opened her eyes and looked at the door where Marisa and I were, me stuck staring like a deer in the headlights of a semi truck. I think Reimu said something at this point, but I sure didn't hear it over the sound of my own heart in my throat. If I ran now, I might make it away, but then again, that would just be even more suspicious and probably lead to a Bad End. As much as I resented the idea, I decided to stay and at least try not to act like a suspicious guy.
"You're surely a lazy shrine maiden if you're sleeping until mid-day. Look, you even have a worshiper here at the shrine and you're not going to be able to fully appreciate his presence if you sleep through his donation."
I think that last part caught both of our attentions, for opposite reasons. Marisa was covering for me at the very least, does that mean she believed me, or was she just screwing with my head? Or is she screwing with Reimu's? I have no idea what's going on anymore. Not only that, I don't even know what the hell I'm supposed to donate, the loose change in my pocket? Before I could gather my thoughts on how I would squirm out of this new problem I found myself in, I was ushered away by Marisa, who slid the door closed behind her.
I didn't want to ask about why she said what she did. Maybe she had her own reasons for it all, but I was already way over my head with this whole business to begin with. Waking up in Reimu's bed, being caught fleeing the scene by Marisa and, of course, the whole part of apparently being in Gensokyo to begin with. I guess it was finally setting in that my life as I knew it was pretty much over, because I slumped to the floor and sat my head in my hands. I didn't think anything like this could ever happen, and now it has, what do I do? I can cook for myself, but I doubt they have modern grocery stores here. That aside, I don't know how to farm either, so I'd have to find some way to survive until I pull things together, but what if I never manage to make it on my own? I'd have to live some life of servitude, and-
My mental rantings were interrupted by a sound. It took me a while to realize that Marisa had called my attention. I looked up at her from my position, I must have looked pathetic. She had a somewhat serious expression this time, which was quite the opposite of how she was coming across before.
"You're really from the Outside, aren't you?"
I blinked. She believed me after all? I simply nodded.
"Hmm, first time I've seen a fresh outsider. Usually they're sent back before I get to see one." She said, crouching slightly as if to get a better look. "You have weird clothes."
Well, that was a rather unexpected. Then again, they probably don't have orange slogan t-shirts and jeans in Gensokyo, or at least not as many as the outside world. I tried to think of something to say in response, but I just couldn't. This whole situation overwhelmed me to the point of silence by now. I just nodded again.
"I'll handle Reimu. I told her you were here to donate so she'd get up quicker, she's going to be pretty upset when I tell her I lied."
Almost as if on cue, Reimu appeared in her usual outfit. She really did wear those separated sleeve things, apparently. Not as if I really expected all that much different. Marisa stood and turned to Reimu and motioned into the shrine as she walked into it. Reimu looked a little confused but followed anyway. I knew when Marisa dropped the bomb, because there was a fairly angry sounding shout of 'WHAT!?' followed by some hurried explanations in Marisa's voice accompanied by the sounds of what I could only imagine was a heated chase around the building. I'd always thought the whole donations thing was just a joke among the fan base, but I guess a world shaped by the fans takes on some of their expectations.
I suddenly had a pang of clarity. A world shaped by the fans? A world powered by belief and faith would naturally mirror the beliefs and faiths of those thinking of it. Everything so far had seemed like doujin material itself, and this made me think that this could all just be a byproduct of my mind. Perhaps my own expectations of Reimu and Marisa are the trigger behind this event, and deeper still, my own fantasies are what created the situation I awoke to. I felt like I just discovered irrefutable proof of God, that my whim could cause situations, actions and people to occur as I wanted them, turning Gensokyo into a big fantasy playground. Just like that, though, the clarity left me as I realized that if Gensokyo really did exist as the fans willed it, it would not only take many more than me alone to change anything at a whim, but we'd all most likely have already known for sure of it's existence. The realization didn't upset me much however, since if it really were possible for me to influence the existence of Gensokyo, I'd surely ruin it all somehow.
Some time later, after Marisa and Reimu had settled their little issue, I had been brought back into the shrine where a rather frazzled looking Reimu was drinking some tea while an equally frazzled looking Marisa sat nearby.
"So, you're from the Outside?" Reimu asked, as if she needed any extra confirmation. I suspected that Marisa most likely explained the situation, and left out the part about the bed.
"That's right. I woke up in y- uh... on your shrine's grounds."
Well, I wasn't lying technically.
"Well, guess it can't be helped that you'd come here then. At least you didn't wander off and die. I hate having to clean up the remains that sometimes find their way to my shrine."
I definitely didn't need to hear that. It seemed like a confirmation that I wouldn't make it anywhere here, which while may be entirely true, didn't have a positive impact on my mood.
"That said, I can't send you back to the Outside."
Reimu took a sip of her tea before continuing.
"There's a certain gap youkai-Ah, youkai being... how to explain it..."
It seems that she's used to having to explain these things to outsiders, since I would imagine it to be fairly rare to expect an outsider to know all the things one would need to survive in Gensokyo.
"I know what youkai are. Or at least I have a slight idea. They're like... well on the outside they're mostly Japanese versions of monsters and supernatural creatures. Kappa, Oni, Tengu, things like that."
There was a slight change in Reimu's expression when I said Oni. I didn't think of it beforehand, but I probably dredged up some annoying memories of Suika she had when I said that. Having thought that now, though, I thought she was supposed to mooch off the shrine? I realized now that I hadn't seen her yet, whether that was a good thing or not.
"As I was saying, there's a certain gap youkai that can easily get you out. Though, no one knows how to find her, and the only chance of talking to her is by contacting her shikigami. If you are lucky, you might be able to meet her when she decides to drop in somewhere and make herself a nuisance. Right now though, the barrier that contains Gensokyo, this land, is going through a cycle. There was an incident recently where it weakened. Following this weakness is a great surge of strength. It happens every 60 years or so from my understanding, and as it's passed the Border has strengthened. I can't send you back myself for now, since the Border is too strong for me to affect."
That's news to me. I thought Reimu had some influence on the Border being the shrine maiden she is, but I guess this might be expected considering all the official statements she doesn't train. Would she still be able to do it even with training? It was pretty useless to consider as it was, since it'd probably take her 5 years anyway to train herself to the point she might need to open the Border.
"When's the soonest it will be weak enough for you to send me back?"
Oh my god, I'm going to die here before then.
"So, what about this Yu- kai?" I caught myself, but ended up with yet another weird pronunciation. I could still play it off though, more so than if I had actually said Yukari. "The gap one? Can we find her shikigami?"
As much as I could probably get this whole returning issue done and over with if I simply used what I knew, I would probably have a hard time convincing Reimu and Marisa of why I know the things I do about Gensokyo. I'm sure it'd be hard for me as well. After all, when you're looking someone right in the face that you thought only existed in a couple of games and a bunch of fan work until this morning, how do you tell them they're not real? How do you tell yourself that?
"Maybe. She stops by the human village every once in a while. She's pretty obvious in a crowd, she's the only one with nine fluffy tails."
Yeah, that would probably stand out in a crowd, even in Gensokyo I'd imagine. I'd worry about the details later though, since any planning would be wasted if I couldn't get to a safe place to stay until then.
"So what do I do until then?"
"Well, you can probably stay in the Human village, though I don't know what you'll do about housing."
I figured as much.
"If you walk down the road leading to the shrine long enough, you'll find some other people before nightfall, if you're fast enough."
That didn't bode to well for me. Not that I was a slow walker, but that the nearest other people are that far away. It was still early afternoon, and if it would take until nightfall at best to reach the village, that's roughly 6 hours of hiking through unfamiliar roads and terrain with the possibility of being sideswiped by a youkai at any time.
"There's one thing that's been bugging me though," Reimu said, her expression unchanging. "You seem to already be familiar with some aspects of Gensokyo. Every other outsider would be a little shocked or surprised to find out such a thing, but you seem to take it fairly easily."
Damn it. I was hoping this question wouldn't come up. Marisa's expression reflected some surprise, as if she'd never thought of it herself until now and suddenly came to the same realization. I should have figured out an excuse for this question first in case it came up, but it was too late for wishful thinking now.
"Well, uh, there are legends and such on the outside, as well as people that believe in them. I happened to be one of those people that believed in the rumour of Gensokyo. There was a few other people, including two girls named Maryberry and Renko."
Reimu didn't react. I wasn't sure if it was because she didn't know about the two that I named, or because she was still considering if she believed it or not. All things considered though, it wasn't exactly untrue, even if Renko and Maryberry weren't part of my world itself, per se.
"So that's how it is then? Nothing I can say about that I guess." Reimu said, sipping at her tea again.
"Too bad you can't fly." Marisa said, finally joining this little conversation. "You'd be able to get to the human village long before nightfall if you could just soar over the trees."
I feigned a rather pitiful act of being somewhat confused by Marisa, since I felt it would be something a 'normal' outsider would do in such a situation. I had no reason to believe people could fly here from personal experience outside of games, even though I expected it to be true regardless.
"Fly? How does one go about that?" I asked. I tried to make it sound like I had no idea what she was talking about, but at the same time tried to see if I could glean some kind of hidden secret to levitation. Marisa seemed a bit lost of an explanation and turned to Reimu as if to ask. Reimu, however, showed no interest in the subject and sat quietly drinking tea.
"Well, it's not exactly something that can be explained, it's more something that you just can or can't do." Marisa said while adjusting her hat. "Best way I relate is that if you want to fly strongly enough, you will eventually."
That made a moderate bit of sense. After all, with a world putting so much stock into the powers of faith and spirit, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to assume that all these special powers were an extension of willpower and belief. I made a mental note to try out a few things once I reached safety, flying being one of them.
"I should probably try to get to the village now. The longer I stay here, the less time I have before dark and I don't want to get caught by anything dangerous."
I stood up from where I sat and started towards the doors. I lamented my lack of shoes as I slid the doors open and stared into the outside world. Marisa and Reimu were already talking about something else behind me, so I considered it best to continue on without interrupting. I stepped outside and slid the door shut. That's when I caught a glimpse of black out of the corner of my eye. My boots were laying on their side just beyond the edge of the porch-thing I was standing on. I didn't really care to understand what they were doing here, I was just thankful to have them. After sliding them on and lacing them up, I felt significantly better about the long trek ahead of me.
I wondered though. I remember falling asleep in my bed, and I ended up waking up in Reimu's. My boots were here, but outside, while they were downstairs by the front door back at home. I was wondering how many other things of mine might have made the transfer with me, and decided that a quick once over of the area would probably be of some benefit if there was anything else of mine that landed here. It was around this point I realized the difference in weather for the first time. There was still snow everywhere where I lived, but here in Gensokyo, it felt like early spring. I was somewhat relieved by this, since I could imagine that winters here would probably be much worse than Outside. After all, there are no Cirnos or Lettys in the Outside world.
During my scouring of the shrine grounds, I managed to find and recover my hat, which helped my morale somewhat. Now I felt somewhat like a part of Gensokyo, wearing a hat just like all the other main characters. When I caught myself thinking that however, I had to remind myself that I wasn't a real character and that such delusions would probably get me killed. I also managed to find my book bag, still packed with a notebook, two pens, my PSP and DS, and several games for both, but no adapters. Just as it had been for the last two months. I also surprisingly found my house keys and with it the little pen light I kept attached to the key ring, and my mp3 player. I felt a brief twinge of irony holding my mp3 player and realizing that I had several whole IOSYS cd's worth of touhou music on it, which would be quite fitting to enjoy while walking the countryside. Unfortunately though, I wasn't able to find my headphones on the grounds and decided it would be best not to waste any more time. Even if what I had couldn't help me much, having some familiarity in a strange world was something I was thankful for. As an added morale boost, I could probably also pawn some stuff off at Kourindo if I needed to to get a jump start on my 'new' life, even if it was just a transient phase until I was able to leave.
With most of my personal effects in place, I circled back around to the front of the shrine and started on my way down the road. I felt uneasy leaving a place I knew to be moderately safe and venturing out into the unknown. I looked back at the shrine, almost hoping I would see someone coming out to tell me not to leave alone and that I would be getting a personal escort. No one came of course, as I turned my head back to where I was walking I thought I saw someone trying to hide behind one side of the large gate that stood over the road, a woman with green hair. I didn't see anyone when I looked closer though and chalked it up to either my imagination or a youkai already. Despite the circumstances and the situation I found myself in, I felt rather optimistic about the whole thing now, especially since I managed to get away from the shrine without incident.
It's not every day someone finds that they've managed to materialize in a world that's only existed in fiction. I was somewhat looking forward to spending time here, because I realized when I do finally manage to leave this world, I'll be able to live knowing that I crossed the Border of Reality and Fantasy and survived to return.
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