It was a relatively quiet night in Gensokyo city. Which means, it was a chaotic and noisy night. Six-hundred discos were pouring hundreds of decibels into the streets, for the amusement of the ten-thousand tourists that stopped by every day, and hung around every night in their bulimic and urgent search for always more entertainment.
Every minute, one thousand cocktails and assorted liquors were sacrificed along with almost as many olives on the altars of the bar counters, in honor of both, following the democratic principle of equal opportunities, regular and occasional customers.
In a corner, some person dressed as a policeman was putting to sleep in the express way an overexcited drunkard who was convinced that a sharply-dressed man had stolen his wallet.
Outside the entrance of the Ensui bar, one of the quieter in the area, were standing two... rather distinctive figures: two women, one with long blonde hair, dressed in a tuxedo that was clearly too small for her, and another one, with short green hair and a piercing look, who was wearing a peculiar plaid jacket with a matching long skirt. All in all, the two could easily be forgotten among the undistinguished mass of people filling the street. Yet, those two women had something... special about them, that made them stand out from the crowd. Or that would have made them stand out from the crowd, if they hadn't been careful enough to choose a secluded corner, far enough from prying eyes... or ears.
The two were, right that moment, still plunged in an awkward silence, both waiting for the other to start the conversation. Finally, the green-haired woman broke the silence.
"So, had any luck, Yukari? - she asked - Found your darling little shrine maiden yet?"
"Not yet, Yuuka. This godsdamned city is as big as Gensokyo was... but there's much more people. And we've been looking for only a few days. You can't expect me to work miracles, not here at least", replied a very annoyed Yukari. She found herself neck-deep in that mess only three days ago, and being stuck with the sole company of Yuuka had already started to drive her crazy. The feeling of impotence that not knowing what the hell exactly happened and being stripped of a significant part of her powers entailed wasn't helping one bit in the increasingly difficult task of bearing Yuuka's insinuations and innuendos. She was starting to understand how it felt to Reimu having to deal with her.
"Aww, too bad for that. Well, if it can comfort you, you've still got me… I know you're more into youngsters, but-" Yuuka's insinuations were cut short from a slap directed to her face. "You say that one more time and you're sleeping outside."
Yuuka replied with a heartily laugh: "THAT's the best threat you can come up with? You're getting soft, Yukari. Maybe you don't feel confident enough when we're not on your turf, huh? Or maybe it's the absence of your darling teenaged love do-" this time, Yukari had toppled the table on her. "Shut. It. You speak about Reimu like that again, and I'll burn down your garden when we're back to Gensokyo. Is that clear?"
"…If we'll ever be back to Gensokyo, Yukari. If's the key word. But ok, if it pisses you off so much I won't badmouth your One True Love. Now, could you get this table off me?"
Yukari wordlessly complied, glaring coldly at Yuuka. "Oh, my offer still stands, if you're interested. It's winter, we gotta keep each other warm, y'know?" Yukari was actually about to strangle the flower youkai, who wisely decided to cut it out.
"Back to serious business, anyway. You'd had more luck in finding someone else from Gensokyo?" asked Yukari.
Yuuka hummed uneasily at the question, then spoke: "Well, yes and no. I have found someone, but contacting her… well, that's a whole other story"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well, it's Yasaka Kanako. And that means…"
"Bad news, I get it – Yukari cut her off – How bad?"
"Wow – mused Yuuka – You don't trust Ms. Native Goddess much, huh? And you're right. Apparently, she's currently a higher-up in the armaments sector. Some sort of big joint-industry that produces weapons."
Yukari's face remained perfectly still. If she was surprised, she didn't show it. Then, she said in a deadpan tone: "Seems like her kind of thing. I wonder if she's always been like that…" she trailed off. "Like what?" asked Yuuka, already half-knowing where Yukari was going.
"Like a… a… mmh, like a man, actually. You know, forgetful, immature, opportunist, violent… that sort of behavior"
Yuuka yawned – "Ahunggg… interesting."
Yukari pretended she didn't hear her: "Anyway, that's all you know about her right now?"
"Hm-hm. Nothing more, for now. Name of her company's Yasaka Industries."
"Ok. Apart from her, you've found anyone else?" asked Yukari.
"No. Not for now. Buuuut, I'm confident I will find someone else soon~" was Yuuka's answer.
"Oh. And what makes you so confident?" replied Yukari, having recovered at least part of her usual coolness.
"Just… my feminine intuition~" answered Yuuka, her annoying grin growing even wider.
Yukari deadpanned: "That sounded like something out of some cheesy two-copper-pieces comedy".
"Eh, whatever. Anyway, if there's nothing else I think I'll be going now. No offense, but I don't like this place. It feels like… like we're two old, rich, decadent dumbasses, retired from life, their hearts and brains empty from the weariness of living, looking for excitement in some dingy bar in a pastless tourist city, hoping to feel young again. As if they'd ever been young in the first place". And with that jarringly pretentious line, Yuuka got up and left.
Yukari remained slumped in her seat, thinking about Yuuka's last words. The metaphor was actually rather fitting. Not for the two of them, but rather for the average visitor of this city: someone born already old, who was trying to relive a youth they never had with the aid of loud music, dubious substances and strobe lights. Definitely not a city for the young. And it seemed the outside world was heading in that direction: a world full of old men and women who thought themselves to be young and acted like they actually were mature and responsible.
This time, she found herself agreeing with Yuuka: she didn't like this place. And she couldn't wait to be back to Gensokyo.
Yukari's reflections were interrupted by the waitress asking her to leave the table if she didn't want to order anything else. She quickly got up, paid the two jugs of beer her and Yuuka had ordered (and Yukari actually didn't drink). She felt like punching the waitress in the face, especially because one small beer costing 640 yen was ridiculous, but restrained herself, as it wasn't the right time to attract attention. Besides, the waitress herself had no fault for that. So Yukari allowed herself at least a little revenge against whoever owned the bar: she paid with one of her "special" 1000 yen bills, whose ink was mixed with habanero powder. That was an old trick she loved to pull during her trips to the outside world. It always worked, though this time she won't be around to witness it. Well, the situation wasn't ordinary, so she could let this fly for now.
After paying, she got up and left the bar. It was still not long past five, and since she had already spent an entire night out, she might as well keep looking for Reimu and sleep during the afternoon.
She knew that randomly searching the streets of the city would never turn some results, so she started thinking as she walked of a good place where to look for information on Reimu's whereabouts. What little she had managed to learn about this crazy city was rather disheartening: apparently the native denizens could be counted in not more than hundreds, pretty much the entire population of Gensokyo. The real problem was the myriad of tourists that swarmed the city every day. There wasn't a real government or even a police, outside of an ill-defined private law-enforcing company, the Gensokyo Risk Control Security (she was near-certain that she had heard that name somewhere before, but where or when she did kept escaping her), and she highly doubted that it would be forthcoming with information. The fact that its associates were nicknamed "Orcops" by the locals certainly didn't make them look better in her eyes.
So, GRCS was preferably out of question. Then, there was the possibility of resorting to a private detective. Which was another foolish choice: the less people knew about Reimu, the better. And Yukari had enough experience with private detectives to know that they weren't to be trusted, and tended to leech money off rich clients. And all the money she had was what Maribel gave her, which was barely enough to pay a cab if there ever was need to.
She could actually make some researches on Reimu's whereabouts personally. If she was careful enough, she could avoid drawing attention to herself.
But where to actually look? Maybe Yuuka was right after all: finding someone else from Gensokyo could be useful. They might have met Reimu.
Scratch that, she told herself. First, Yuuka's already doing it, and while she did have a very relaxed attitude, even in a situation like that, Yukari was actually content with letting her look for the others by herself. And second, she was still hoping that this disgraceful situation would be over soon. Very soon. And the sooner she found Reimu, the better.
She kept walking through back-alleys, without a clear destination in her mind. She was still annoyed with the way Yuuka acted: keeping her cool in that situation was admirable, but making dirty jokes about Reimu was short from unforgivable. And she was starting to come off as very creepy.
Arrrgh, what was wrong with her? Back in Gensokyo she would either have answered back in the same fashion or challenged her to a duel and stomped her to the ground. Now, she was getting upset over it. She. The Great Yukari Yakumo. Upset about a few sex jokes.
She needed to stop thinking like that. It didn't do her any good, and it certainly didn't help bringing Gensokyo back.
Ok, back to the task at hand. She recomposed herself and noticed that she had actually stopped walking and was slumping on a broken stone bench.
She quickly got up and got back to wandering aimlessly on the streets while thinking. From what she had learned, the outside world was pretty much the same she knew from the trips she went on a while back, before she was forced in this situation. Only, some little details in history seemed to have changed. And the most significant was the foundation of this "Gensokyo City", that dated back to 1884, exactly like the real Gensokyo, but had actually become a popular destination for tourists looking for cheap thrills only two or three years before.
So, knowing that, she wondered, where could Reimu be hiding? It's only been three days since the incident, and while in Gensokyo city it was easy to blend in, a teenage girl with no money, no properties, dressed like an old-style shrine maiden wouldn't certainly go undetected. Her researches hadn't yielded any results yet, which meant that Reimu was being smart and hiding. But she still had to eat, and sleep. So, maybe a charity…? Yukari remembered hearing about a "hostel" that took in the poor and homeless who needed a place where to sleep and something to eat. Sure, if Reimu had actually gone there, she would've needed to fabricate a reason for being there, and, for what Yukari knew, that girl couldn't tell a lie to save her life. But it was still the best place to start from that Yukari could think of, if not the only one.
"It doesn't hurt to try…" Yukari said, and with that, she entered a shop to buy a map. She bargained on the price a bit, and after she finally managed to get her hands on the map, she got out of the shop to hit the streets again. Yet, in the back of her head, something was screaming at her that there was some very important detail she had overlooked.
She was walking, holding the open map in her hands (how she missed the ability to use her gaps. They were showy, and very useful in that kind of situations), when the realization hit her. Didn't Yuuka say that Yasaka Kanako was currently working as industrial manager for an armament industry? If she managed to arrange an appointment with Yasaka, Yukari would put herself in a much better position to start her search, instead of searching the streets on her own.
And getting an appointment shouldn't have been hard: all she needed to do was look up Yasaka Industries' PR office's telephone number, call and tell Kanako that Yukari Yakumo was looking for her. Even if she didn't exactly like the brash and arrogant goddess, Yukari knew damn well that this wasn't the kind of situation where she could afford to be picky about help.
Off to Maribel's house, then. Well, if she was able to find it, since Yashima Street was nowhere to be found... the absence of buses or other means of public transport really didn't help.
Still, she felt uplifted, if only a little. Maybe this nightmare would be over soon. She sure hoped so. Yet, for some reason, there was something in the back of her brain which kept telling her she was forgetting something. Oh well, she'll have time to think about that once she got to Maribel's.
Meanwhile, Yuuka had left the bar and was happily strolling through a particularly large alley. She immediately noted the absence of any kind of vegetation with disappointment. Another point against humans. Hm, if I wasn't already busy trying to find where everybody's gone, I would really need to teach them to respect nature. Not that they'll ever learn. They only learn what makes them feel comfortable.
An old glove, abandoned on the edge of the road, dared her to pick it up. Sorry, little one. You're not the one I'm looking for.
Again, her gaze trailed off through the whole alley, but again, to no avail, as the little ones where nowhere in sight.
I guess it really can't be helped, after all. If they are not here, no matter what the signs might tell me, they're… not here. Yet…
A grin began forming on her face. They can't be drawn here, if they are really still aware of their true nature… but if they are here, this means…
She couldn't wait to see the smiles on their faces when she would come and welcome them back in her heaven. Too bad that they would be a wee bit disappointed at the news she would bring. Still, for how… tasty their teary-eyed, scared faces asking her for protection could be, it wouldn't do to leave them alone in such a tragic situation. By now, she could still trust Yukari. The purple one is strange, alien, but she seems to understand the common sense that runs this world. And she's never actually been a threat to my darling little buds. She's in this too…
Suddenly, her eye was swayed by something she spotted on the far side of the alley. Nothing important, apparently. A leaf, swept away by the wind. An old, browned cherry leaf.
She fixated her gaze on it. "There you are, little darling~", she cheerily said.
The leaf was a sign. A clue. Of course. She was telling her to find her younger sisters, who were still hanging on to the tree who birthed them. And there, her adorable little buds would be.
The impression was faint, the leaf was a sickly, weak and cowardly one, and its message unclear. But she was giving her a lead. Can't blame you. Even the mighty oak or the sycamore would grow up weak and sick in this poisonous air.
She tried smelling the wind, but the scents and odors of nature were drowned by the stench of the cars' oil and the alcoholic breath of the drunk hanging around. She felt stupid, like a deaf turtle trying to see in the dark with her ears, like a bat.
And she was neither, ironically. On second thought, her situation reminded her oh-so-very-much of that of an unfortunate daisy who just found out that she had a tamarisk as next-door neighbor. Yes, the metaphor was fitting. However, she wasn't as frail as a daisy, and if things took the wrong direction, her arrogant neighbors would find out that she too had her poison to spew.
Well well, I'm glad I finally managed to publish this fic! I actually had the first chapter ready for quite some time, yet I never got around to publishing it, partly because I couldn't find (and still haven't found) a beta-reader, partly because I was always unsure about how this chapter was.
Kind of to be expected, as it is something I wrote only because a strange idea suddenly popped up in my mind and it has been begging to be released for quite some time. Still, I'm everything but an experienced writer, and English isn't even my first language, so I'm sure there will be a lot of stylistic errors here and there. Nevertheless, I ask to anyone who should feel like losing some of her/his time reading this fic to not hold back and point out any mistakes, wrong wordings and bad structures. I shall be eternally grateful (which translates to: for a few days at least) to you!