Taylor felt a warm smile slip onto her face as she stepped out of the library. She couldn't help but think of how much her mother would have given to spend even five minutes in Hakugyokurou's library. The accumulated works of the greatest authors and poets to have ever lived and more as they continued writing after their deaths.
In her hand she held a book of short stories that Edgar Allan Poe had written a short time after his arrival in Hakugyokurou that the spirit that ran the library had told her were chilling. The librarian had also promised to track down a transcript of Shakespear's fifty-fourth play which was apparently a return to form for him after a weak showing early in the 1700s.
She turned down the hallway and started floating towards her room. Navigating around Hakugyokurou was simple, even if it had taken her a little time to get used to it. Intent was what mattered, all one needed to do was keep a destination in mind and walk in any given direction and soon they would arrive.
No sooner than she had finished the thought she had arrived at her room. She slid open the door and stepped out of a traditional Japanese manor and into a room that appeared to be from a western mansion. The tatami mat floors and paper walls were replaced with wooden floors and glass windows.
As Taylor walked in the room lit up with magical lights that responded to her will. She passed the giant four post bed and went to the comfortably overstuffed chair next to the window open to the gardens. She paused for a moment before sitting down in the chair and with a thought the view from the window changed from one overlooking a Koi pond to one looking out over the endless forest of cherry blossom trees.
Satisfied Taylor sat down in the chair shifting around a bit in order to get comfortable. She shifted the magical light a bit closer and adjusted how much light it output and then opened her book.
Everything ready she began to read the first line only to be interrupted by two knocks at the door.
Taylor looked up, hoping that it had just been a mistake, then she sighed as the knocks repeated a second time. Setting her book aside, she got up and shuffled to the door, swinging it open to reveal Yuyuko carrying a package.
"Taylor! I'm glad I caught you." Yuyuko paused, her smile fading as she looked at Taylor's face, "Is this a bad time?"
Taylor smiled, the ghost princess was easy company to keep even if she had been looking forward to her book. "No, I was just settling down to read but it can wait. Come in." Taylor stepped aside so Yuyuko could enter.
Yuyuko stepped into the room looking at her reading corner, "Oh, is that Poe? I remember when Youmu tried to read that one, she couldn't sleep for a week!" She giggled for a second, "I should go drop by to see how that sourpus is doing, I bet he drew all over his walls again."
Even having already been in Hakugyokurou for a couple of months Taylor was still getting used to the fact that she could drop by and talk to people she had only ever read about while she was alive. Still at least she hadn't made a fool out of herself since the time she ran into Mary Shelly, that had been embarrassing.
"So, what is in the box?"
Yuyuko lifted the box, "It is a present for you, but before you open it I wanted to ask you something."
Taylor smiled, "Alright, what did you want to ask?"
"Well with Spring coming some people I know on Earth are having a little gathering and I was hoping you would accompany me and Youmu."
Taylor had remembered Yuyuko saying that she visited Earth somewhat regularly and she was curious what kind of place didn't mind ghosts dropping by. "Where would we be going?"
"Gensokyo, it is a location in Japan where supernatural beings like Gods and Youkai are able to live and interact with humans."
"Would it be a problem that I don't speak Japanese?"
Yuyuko giggled, "Taylor, the only language Youmu speaks is Japanese."
Taylor opened her mouth to protest then stopped herself, "This is another one of those ghost things, isn't it."
"Yep, you speak the language of the dead now. You can understand everyone and they will all hear you in their own tongue." Yuyuko's voice became a bit more serious, "If you focus a bit you can still hear what they are actually saying, it is an important skill you need to learn so you can listen to poetry."
"Then I would be happy to accompany you."
"Yay!" Yuyuko handed Taylor the present. "Well then, this is for you."
Taylor opened the present revealing a piece of cloth. Pulling it out it unfurled to reveal a kimono. The cloth was a blue so dark it appeared almost black with a few silver butterflies scattered around it like they were floating in the night sky.
Taylor turned towards Yuyuko, "It's beautiful, but I don't think I'd look that good in this."
Yuyuko pouted, "At least try it on before you say that. If you don't like it we can go find something else."
Taylor opened her mouth to suggest that they find something with pants but stopped when she saw Yuyuko's slightly glistening eyes. She quickly began to understand why she had never seen Youmu tell Yuyuko no once she started pouting.
"Fine, just help me put this on. I've never worn anything like this before."
Taylor looked at herself in the mirror. The kimono really was beautiful and she was willing to admit, albeit somewhat grudgingly, that it looked good on her as well. She still wasn't beautiful, her too wide mouth and The dark silk highlighted her pale skin giving her an almost ethereal glow, which she thought looked entirely appropriate given what she was.
She swirled the fabric a bit watching how the slight movements made the butterflies appear to dance playfully. She would have never worn something like this while she was alive, but perhaps that was why she should take the opportunity to do so now, after all she still didn't particularly like the person she had been. Still she made a note to find out where Yuyuko had gotten this. Just because she could see herself enjoying wearing something like this didn't mean she wasn't going to get some more practical clothes as well.
Taylor felt a warm weight on her side as Yuyuko pulled in tight wrapping one arm around her in a loose half hug. Looking in the mirror Taylor noted how the ghost princess' light blue kimono appeared as day next to her own kimono's night.
"So, how do you like it?"
"I'll admit, it doesn't look as wrong on me as I thought it would."
Yuyuko's smile was positively radiant. "Of course it looks great on you Taylor; you are the one wearing it! Oh, but you still need a finishing touch." She released Taylor and pulled something else out of the box.
Taylor looked down at what Yuyuko was holding, "I am not wearing that."
"Why not, Taylor we'd match!" She held up the mob cap she was holding, "And hat's like these are all the rage in Gensokyo."
"Yuyuko, no. I am putting my foot down about this."
Yuyuko pouted but Taylor managed to hold firm. Finally, she sighed, "Fine, but you should still put something in your hair."
Taylor thought for a moment. Despite how much she liked her hair the only thing she had ever really done with it was use it to hide insects so she wouldn't be caught unarmed. She paused for a moment, that idea had a bit of potential. Silently sent out a call and a moment later a large spectral butterfly flew into her room and nestled itself in her hair.
Yuyuko clapped, "Ooh! That is so pretty, Taylor!" Then she grabbed Taylor's hand and tugged her out of her room, "Let's go grab Youmu and head to Gensokyo!"
Lisa watched the video feeds her men were sending back to her. They moved quickly, neutralizing the security guards as they approached her target's manor. She smiled, soon she would find out who had been behind that damn book.
Getting Hollow Point established and keeping it under control was difficult enough before the book. Doing so now, with the Wardens breathing down her neck as their primary suspect for the distribution of the book, made it nigh impossible. But even more than that the book was a threat to the memory of Taylor.
While she did think Taylor had gotten a raw deal for saving the world she did not want her friend to be remembered as a monster. It was better for everyone if Skitter was just another forgotten casualty in the War against Scion. She would not allow this person to drag Taylor's name from obscurity and through the mud.
It had taken her a considerable amount of time and effort but after a month and a half of searching and no small amount of favors she had finally tracked down the person who was behind the distribution of the book. She had almost contacted the Wardens with the information but bringing them in would limit what questions she could ask. In the end she decided she would handle this herself and drop off whatever was left when she was done with the Wardens.
With her men now in position she gave the signal and they breached the doors and entered the manor. Quickly the teams moved from room to room finding the manor to be furnished but empty of life. Finally in the master bedroom they found a young blonde woman asleep on the bed.
Lisa allowed her power to start feeding her information as one of her men pulled out a syringe full of a tranquilizer and approached the bed.
Deep sleep. Has been asleep for more than a month.
Publisher's activity dropped off during that time. She is the target.
Lisa frowned and spoke over the radio to the commander, "She is probably a cape. Tranq her and use the brute restraints for transport."
As the commander relayed her orders, the man with the tranquilizer moved to jam it into her neck only to collapse as the woman opened her eyes. As the woman sat up in the bed two more of her men brandished their guns and ordered her to stand down. The woman responded by smiling back at them.
Slightly annoyed from being awoken.
Surprised someone found her this soon.
Amused by demands. Will kill if attacked.
Aware that she is being watched. Waiting to see what you will do.
She turned her attention to the man on the floor.
Dead. Cause of death… unknown.
No heart attack. No stroke. No abnormalities.
Shit, what the hell type of power killed without any sign as to how, and no beam or contact required. Lisa called over the radio, "Commander, order your men to stand down. If they open fire you all will die. Have the other teams leave the manor and prepare to patch me through to her."
Lisa was beginning to really regret having not just handed this mess off to the Wardens. She turned her attention back to the unknown parahuman, hoping to get a bit more in who was now inspecting the body as she stood from her bed. She felt a pit form in her stomach as the information started flooding in.
Hungry. Considering eating the body. Decided that doing so would be impolite.
Older than she looks. Over a thousand years old.
Not human. Used to be human.
Impressed that she was found before next week. Decided to reward initiative.
Either her power was on the fritz or something here was very wrong. Then the body of the dead man sat straight up and started gasping for air. A moment later he was crawling away from the woman as fast as he could.
Alive. Not being puppeted.
Lisa felt a spike of pain and stopped her power. What the fuck had she gotten herself into. Not seeing any alternative she started ordering her men to get out of the manor as quickly as possible, only to stop when a black void full of glowing red eyes appeared next to the woman and a second identical one in her own room.
"Fuck!" Lisa sprinted to the door only to find it impossible to turned around and saw the void gone and the woman standing before her.
The woman walked toward her and leaned in close, a predatory smile on her face. "Well now, Tattletale I presume." Another smaller void appeared next to the woman's hand. She reached into it and pulled out a file. "I presume that means this one is Khepri."
Lisa glanced at the file. The text was in Japanese but she saw Taylor's mugshot and another picture of her dressed as Weaver. She turned her attention back to the woman only to immediately look back down at the file. The text that had been in Japanese only moments prior was now entirely in English.
Lisa slowly looked back up at the woman standing before her. "What the fuck are you?"
She smiled enigmatically "Now that is no way for a young lady to talk, but I suppose that I can forgive you. You do seem to be going through a stressful time." The woman bowed her head slightly, "You can call me Yukari."
Lisa forced herself to calm down. Yukari had not killed and eaten her yet. Which, given what her power was saying about the woman, was something she should probably be grateful for. All she needed to do was to get Yukari to decide to leave without changing her mind.
"Yukari it is then. So then, may I ask what you are doing here?"
"So, you are not going to offer your guest some refreshments?"
Lisa bit back a scathing remark as Yukari smiled politely. That bitch was enjoying this. "I would but my door seems to be stuck."
"Ah well that is quite understandable." A void appeared and out of it came two chairs and a small table with a steaming tea set sitting on it. "I know it isn't normal for a guest to provide refreshments but come and sit. I find tea helps even the most difficult conversations go down easier."
Hesitantly Lisa sat at the offered seat but did not pick up the cup. "I'm sorry but I can't say I have ever found tea to be much to my liking."
"Oh? I could probably get my hands on some wine if you want."
Lisa decided against risking getting the millenia old cannibal who could apparently kill and resurrect people with their mind drunk and picked up one of the teacups, "Maybe I will find a taste for it today."
She took a sip and watched Yukari match her. The tea actually was surprisingly tasty. Though she wasn't finding it particularly relaxing in this situation.
After her sip Yukari set down her teacup, "Well the reason I am here was to learn Khepri's identity. I figured if I set down a trail and waited their companions would eventually follow trying to find the source of the book."
Lisa's power informed her that Yukari was telling the truth. "That cannot have been the easiest method for you to have found out."
"No, but it was an entertaining one. After all, it is resulting in this lovely conversation over tea." Lisa felt her smile strain slightly and took another sip to cover it. "Plus it afforded me some time to sleep. I have been much more active this winter than I have in quite some years. Though I will say, it was quite the surprise you found me so quickly. I suppose I should not have underestimated you parahumans."
"So you undermined a multi global coverup just to find out Khepri's true identity?"
Yukari laughed politely, "Oh, no. I am getting something very interesting out of that. I am just waiting for that particular seed to sprout."
"Would you mind telling me what that is?"
"I'm sorry but a girl must have some secrets. I'm certain you, of all people, understand the importance of secrets." Lisa unconsciously began loosening the reins on her power. "And I am certain you understand the consequences of trying to pry those secrets loose."
Lisa quickly took another sip of her tea to buy time and reestablished control over her power. As she did so a thought came to her mind, one that left her both afraid and slightly excited. "Are you planning on resurrecting Taylor?"
Yukari's smile faded slightly, "Oh you really do miss her. But no, I will not be bringing her back. I doubt she would thank me if I did."
Lisa took a deep breath. That was for the best. No matter how much she missed her friend, there was no place for Taylor on this Earth. Her coming back would only result in misery.
Lisa let the conversation drop and finished her tea, watching Yukari do the same. Once done Yukari set down her teacup and stood up from her chair. "Well, Tattletale, that was lovely, but I should probably be going."
Lisa stood up hiding her elation at surviving this behind a polite smile. "Thank you for the tea."
Yukari smiled back, "Keep the tea set, you never know when company might drop in on you unexpectedly."
Lisa felt the pit reform in her stomach but kept it off of her face. Another one of those unsettling voids opened up and Yukari approached it, before stopping and turning back towards Lisa.
"You know I just realized how rude it was of me to keep you while your men are surely waiting for your instructions. How about I do you a favor as recompense. Is there anything you would like me to handle?"
Lisa stopped herself from asking her to just leave. Slowly she started loosening her grip on her power to figure out what it was Yukari wanted from her. The woman smiled patiently and after a moment the information started coming back in.
Bored. Looking for something to do while she waits for her plans to finalize.
Lisa wracked her brain, what could keep this monster busy for long enough that she would finish her business here and fuck off to wherever it is she went when she wasn't making Lisa's life miserable. Well, no one knew where Teacher was hiding.
"There is this parahuman who goes by the name Teacher. I am certain he is working on some plan that would be a problem for me. Do you think you could do anything about that?"
Yukari's smile regained its predatory edge. "Well I was hoping to get some breakfast soon. I suppose that will do nicely. We will have to do this again some other time, Tattletale, it really was lovely."
With that Yukari stepped through the void and it disappeared behind her. Lisa collapsed into her chair, she had been through Endbringer attacks less terrifying than that.
Yukari felt comfortably full as she left what remained of Teacher's compound. As she stepped into the City a smile spread across her face. It was time, the air was thick with fear.
Yukari opened a gap to the grave of Taylor Hebert. Youkai existed in the space between myth and reality. They were informed by both, with full knowledge of the stories people told and the reality they represented, but they could be fully encompassed by neither. There was nowhere more appropriate for Khepri to be born than over the bones of the old.
Yukari stepped through, finding herself on a barren and rocky plain. In the distance she could see dark clouds and hear the thunder of their anger. In front of her was a small gravestone with weeds sprouting around it.
Over the grave stood a tall woman. She was wearing blackened armor of a western style with a flowing red cape and a gold circlet on her head. As Yukari approached she looked up from the grave and Yukari could see her golden eyes seeming to glow in the low light.
Khepri looked back down at the grave, "The one who made me lies here, and the one who killed me." She closed her gauntleted hand. "But I am alive once more."
"And now that you are, what do you intend to do?"
Khepri looked back at her, "I am Khepri, the Tyrant. The Once and Future Queen of all Parahumans. I will fulfil my destiny."
Yukari snorted, to be young and foolish again. "We are born from the stories of humans, if you provide an ending then you will fade to nothing."
Khepri's golden eyes flashed, "And who are you to tell me that?"
Yukari opened her mouth to answer before she realized what she was doing. She stopped herself and just smiled at Khepri, "Subtle. I knew you would be able to control minds but it is more than that. You are the embodiment of control. You can manipulate people at any level, can't you?"
Khepri snarled, "Yes, and you will tell me what I want to know."
Yukari felt the full weight of Khepri's power press in on her attempting to overwrite her mind and replace it with Khepri's own. But Khepri was too young, the attack too unrefined to ever hope to alter the boundary between her and Khepri.
Yukari smiled and Khepri's eyes widened as she took half a step back. "I was impressed with your earlier subtlety and had intended to give you some advice but if you are going to be so vulgar I think I will teach you a lesson instead."
Yukari walked forward, "You are young and you need to learn some tact before you can fulfil your 'destiny'." She snorted at the statement then manipulated Khepri's boundary between power and weakness.
"I have sealed away the majority of your power. If you can show me that you do not need such a crutch I will return them to you." She reached out and placed her hand on Khepri's chest. "Please give me a wonderful show."
Then she pushed, causing Khepri to trip backwards into the gap she had set behind the young Youkai.
With Khepri gone she opened her own gap and headed home. It had been some time since the last time she had caused an incident and it felt good to do so again. After all, what purpose did Youkai serve if not to cause trouble?
Yuyuko: Taylor you are a Touhou character now, the fans demand that you get a hat.
Taylor: Sticks the magical equivalent of a live grenade on her head.
I hope people get where I am going with Khepri. She isn't QA, she isn't the almost inhuman machine that killed Scion. She is the barely understood idea of Khepri spread across billions of people. Also don't worry she will get all her power back by the end of the incident. She just needed a bit of a time out first.