Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Insert Beatdown of a Different Kind Here (part 1 of 3)

This story starts off with the Society Agent Kyle laying in his room, listening to one particular song. The fact that he has been listening to this song on repeat for over an hour doesn't bother him at all. It had a mystical sound to it, which he loved. It was during one of the countless replays that Kyle heard a knock on his door. With a bit of annoyance that someone was interrupting, he sat up, paused his music and then said.

"You can come in."

His door opened and Aster came in. For a moment, she looked around his room. After all, it's rare for anyone but the leaders to come to Kyle's room for any reason. It was relatively empty save for Kyle's bed, a desk, which only held some notebooks and the stand for his Omni-weapon, and an empty trashcan. There was a closest, which was empty as he kept everything in his Astral Vault. When Kyle cleared his throat, Aster snapped her attention to him.

"Umm... That song you were listening to just now. It was Sora's Folktale, right?"

Kyle gave her a surprised glance before replying, "You know your anime. That was obscure enough that I didn't expect any other member of the Society to know it."

Aster gave him a grin as she responded, "Don't underestimate my knowledge of anime and manga kyaa~!"

He shrugged, "I guess not. So, you only wanted to ask me about the song?"

She kinda looked towards the ceiling in a thinking gesture. With a clap of realization, she said, "Oh yeah!...I've been wanting to talk with you about that power of yours."

Kyle's expression got serious when she said that. Shifting himself and straightening up, he asked, "Which power are you talking about here?"

"Umm...the one you used when you dissolved that misaimed fireball."



Aster was in the middle of reading a manga...don't ask which one, it's not important to the story. Anyway, she wasn't paying the usual chaos of the Library any attention until she heard someone shout.


Not knowing who that was directed at, she looked up for a moment. There was Kyle in his usual leisure wear, (sandals, sweatpants and a t-shirt), with a sports drink in his hand while eating some jerky. He also heard the shout, turning to face it with some jerky hanging out of his mouth. That's when both Kyle and Aster saw it, a fireball about the size of his chest heading in his direction. Kyle just gave it a blank stare as it sped towards him. However, just as it was getting close, he seemed to concentrate for a moment and then the fireball shrunk to nothing. Aster seemed surprised, but then turned back to her manga without a second thought.



Kyle blinked as the flashback faded. Aster looked at him expectantly. Massaging his forehead for a moment, he asked, "Anything specific that you want to know? I have a hard time explaining without specifics."

Aster took a moment to think and then said, "How does it compare to my powers?"

Kyle had a facefault for a moment before he started massaging his forehead again. Flinging both arms outward, he accessed his Astral Vault, pulling out a bottle of headache medicine and a sports drink. He popped a couple of pills into his mouth and then drank all of the drink in one breath. With that done, he returned the medicine and threw empty sports drink into the trashcan, which vanished as soon as it entered. Aster just watched Kyle throughout this.

Taking a few deep breaths, Kyle spoke up, "I'm not completely sure how my Energy Manipulation powers stack against your Elemental abilities because I don't know how they work in comparison. My power comes from the understanding of different types of energy and how they work. For all I know, your power could use energy that I don't even know exists."

"I see," Aster said, kind of disappointed. Then she perked up, clapped her hands and said, "If you know of the energy I control, maybe you could use it too!"

Kyle shook his head, "I have to do more than just know of it. I have to understand it. Recorded types of energy are easy to understand because they have already been studied. This includes types like Ki and Chakra. If I wanted to, I could use those, but I choose not to and instead just use my understanding to defend against them."

Aster seemed kind of dumbfounded, no surprise there, taking a moment before she responded, "I don't understand. If you can use those energies, then why don't you?"

"Personal choice for one thing. Not wanting to be a Stu is another. Power may be as versatile as the imagination of the user, but it's the user's will that keeps that power in check," Kyle stated sagely.

"Huh?" Aster was confused. She just stood there for a few moments in thought before she continued, "I don't get it."

Sighing in resignation, Kyle unpaused the song, laying down and letting it soak into his mind once more while remaining aware of an extra person in his room. To her credit, Aster stood there silently listening to the song and watching its effect on Kyle. Other than his eyes remaining open, you couldn't tell he was awake by looking at him. Of course, this is the Anti-Cliche and Mary Sue Elimination Society. Not even Kyle's room stays so peaceful for long. The song was starting another playthrough when Kyle's communicator started beeping.

Growling in annoyance, Kyle paused the song again and answered with a snippy, "Yes?"

"Well, someone's grouchy today," Adrian's voice came out of the communicator.

"Sorry, everyone seems to want to intrude on my music right now. How can I help?" Kyle apologized to the leader. Adrian's voice came through the communicator again.

"I know you've been restless recently. What, with the downtime you had since your last mission and Tash ordering you to slow down your training during it. Anyway, since it's been awhile, I've found a mission for you. All you need is a partner and whatever preparations you think you might need to do and then you're set to go."

Aster heard this and started bouncing on her heels, repeatedly shouting, "I'll go, I'll go!"

Kyle facepalmed for a moment before saying into his com-unit, "As much as I think this decision will annoy me later, I'll not waste any time looking and just take Aster with me."

He could almost hear sympathy in the reply as Aster went from shouting 'I'll go' to 'Yay!', "Alright then, glad that's out of the way. Your target fandom is called Touhou. Be careful, we've been getting some weird readings, though they haven't been listed as anything dangerous. How much time do you think you need for preparation?"

"Depending on Aster, all I should need is a quick meal before I go. I learned my lesson from my Street Fighter mission; never go on a mission without eating first."


Kyle and Aster exited a portal and found themselves on the border of a relatively normal looking forest. While they couldn't really identify the types of trees, the trees themselves weren't very tall so there was plenty of sunlight to see with. Kyle crossed his arms and thought aloud as Aster decided to take in some sights.

"Let's see, forest of normalish trees inside the Touhou Fandom. The only place that comes to mind is the Forest of Magic. Thankfully, we weren't put inside that forest. It has a reputation of being very unpleasent to even prepared intruders. Let's not go there unless we direly have to. Alright, Aster?...Aster?" Kyle stopped his thinking and looked around, not seeing the fae Society member. Just before he could have an 'Oh Crap' moment, he heard her call out.

"Kyle-kun, I've found a deserted building. Come quick, come quick!" With a quick facepalm, he headed in the direction he heard Aster's voice. Upon getting close enough to see the building in question clearly, Kyle paused in shock. It was an older style Japanese building with only one story and a wooden door on the front. Along the outside of the building, one could see various odds and ends that were common to most people; a kayak, a street sign, a refrigerator, several tires, the list goes on. Kyle knew instantly what this place was and who it belonged to.

"I don't think anyone's here. I've tried knocking and calling out to someone, but I haven't gotten an answer." Aster seemingly popped up right beside the still paused Kyle. Kyle snapped back to reality and flinched a little in surprise. Taking a breath, Kyle calmed himself and then walked up to the door. Trying the handle and finding it locked, Kyle said in a loud voice.

"Rinnosuke, you here? Rinnosuke?" When there was no response after a minute or so, Kyle pounded on the door for a moment or two. Of course, that was similar to what Aster said she did, but Kyle kind of hoped that the owner would respond to his name before trying force. Still, nobody came to the door and Kyle was getting annoyed. Deciding that he had enough of waiting, he took out his Omni-weapon from his Astral Vault. Of course, most people, including Aster, would think that he'd bust down the door or destroy it in some way. Instead, Kyle held the Omni-weapon over the keyhole and then turned it. He heard a click, prompting him to put his Omni-weapon away.

With a sense of confidence, Kyle grasped the doorhandle and opened the door. Aster was surprised, though that shouldn't be so surprising. Anyway, the door opened on rusty hinges, creaking as sunlight entered the building once more. In the newfound light, even more odds and ends like the ones outside were on display. One thing was also clear with the light; nobody had been in this place for a long time. The place was dusty and small animals fled at the intrusion. Kyle was suspicious about the state of the place. After all, he knew this fandom and he wouldn't believe that the owner of the building would just up and leave.

"Kyle-kun! I think something's watching us!" Aster was facing away from the entrance of the building, looking this way and that as she tried to find whoever was spying. Turning around, Kyle took a few seconds to look. After a moment, he concentrated and out of a hole in his Astral Vault, came a transparent green visor with a line leading back to the hole. He took off his glasses and put the visor in their place.

"Eh, Kyle-kun...What is that?" Aster said as she saw him with the visor over his eyes. She could see lines and text through the transparent surface.

"It's a personal HUD that lets me see in Augmented Reality by a connection to a computer system I keep in my Astral Vault," was his reply to her question. The visor was scanning as Kyle looked one way and then the other for this spy that Aster thought she felt.

"What's Augmented Reality? I don't understand," said Aster, obviously confused. Kyle closed his eyes for a moment as he felt a headache coming on.

"Alright then. This visor lets me see things that normal eyes can't. That's as simple as I can get it." After that, Kyle fell quiet as his visor continued scanning. Aster got a look of comprehension from this new information. Kyle's visor finally locked onto something to his right just as Aster shouted.

"Kyle-kun, over there!" He turned in response to both and saw what could only be described as a portal. Unlike the holes into Kyle's Astral Vault, which only appear black if visible, this portal showed a completely different location. On the other side of it was a woman that Kyle would describe as tall, meaning taller than him. She had long blonde hair with a pink mop hat on her head. Her clothing consisted of a dress that was combination of eastern and western styles plus oriental socks and shoes. Kyle recognized her instantly.

"Yukari Yakumo, the youkai mistress of boundaries," Kyle stated the person's identity to Aster as he let the visor return to his Astral Vault and placed his glasses back on his face. With a clear smile on her face, the woman on the other side of the spatial opening started waving for them to come to her. He was a bit weary of her, but Kyle wanted to know what was going on so he walked towards the portal. Aster followed behind him and then Kyle stopped them both short of entering.

"I'm assuming you can hear me through there. Yukari, what has happened to Rinnosuke? He's not in his shop."

Yukari frowned and sighed before she responded, "That Mary Sue you two are after dissolved the Gensokyo boundary. I can feel her power still lingering and until something can be done about it, I can't use my power while over there. Shortly after the boundary vanished, everything mythical faded from Gensokyo. There was no longer any distinction between humans, youkai, and everything else that lived here except for appearances."

Kyle crossed his arms as he said, "Wait a minute. The only way I can think of for a Sue to dissolve the Gensokyo barrier would be getting the better of you and that would mean defeating you in battle. That or she's more powerful than you are and I doubt even a Sue could be THAT powerful."

"It's nice to know that you think so highly of me," Yukari smiled at the implied complement. She sighed again as she continued, "Well, Spell Card Battles are a fair way to fight in Gensokyo, so it's not too big a stretch for me to lose. I was weak for just a moment after the battle was over and she took that chance to use a spell to send me to another dimension and then place a seal on Gensokyo to prevent me from returning long enough to fulfill her purpose. That's what I get for being lazy."

Kyle uncrossed his arms as the logic of that set in. Then something she had said just a moment ago hit him, "Wait, how'd you know we were after the Mary Sue that did this?"

She giggled, "You're familiar with my power, so it shouldn't be surprising that I know of the Anti-Cliche and Mary Sue Elimination Society. Isn't that right, Kyle?"

He nodded his head in concession to that. Kyle knew that Yukari could manipulate any boundary she wanted, both physical and metaphysical ones. Heck, one of her best spell cards was called the Boundary of Life and Death.

After a few moments, Kyle spoke up, "So, you were waiting for us? Why is that?"

Yukari frowned, "Though I can't use my power over there, I can still manipulate physical boundaries to and from its places. Thus, until that Sue is dealt with, I'll have to rely on the two of you."

Kyle facepalmed, "How is that different from how you normally handle problems within Gensokyo? You're always manipulating others to handle the dirty work for you."

"I'll admit to that... however, this time, I do it out of necessity. Look, I know it's your job to track down and capture Sues and Stus, but you'll find it much easier if you let me help you."

Kyle sighed in resignation as he had to admit that she had a point. After a moment, he asked, "What are you going to have us do?"

"First I will send you to the city where the Sue resides, " Yukari explained as a portal appeared a few feet away from Kyle and Aster. Through it, they could see a sprawling city with several skyscrapers. "Then, I want you to gather as many of the residents of Gensokyo that you know of as you can find. With what I have in mind, they'll all want in on it."

She paused, giving Kyle a look that asked if he understood. When he nodded, she continued, "Be careful, as that portal is the closest I can get to the city with my power. The sue's power may even affect you two when you get there."

Taking a moment, Kyle pulled the Omni-weapon out of his Astral Vault and then slid it into his outfit. Yukari quirked an eyebrow when she noticed that the Omni-weapon didn't produce a bulge where it was placed. With that done, Kyle moved towards the portal to the city with Aster following behind with a slightly confused look on her face. Before he entered though, Yukari spoke up one last time.

"One more thing. I added a temporary feature to that music device of yours, which'll help in finding the others. If you get close to one, their theme song will start playing."

Kyle turned around sharply and burst out, "WHAT! You tampered with my Mood Music Maker?"

Yukari giggled at the outburst, "It's just a temporary function and it won't interfere with it other than when you're close to a Gensokyo resident. Hmm, Mood Music Maker isn't really a creative name, is it?"

Kyle frowned as he turned back to the portal, "It wasn't meant to be creative, just descriptive."

Yukari watched as the agents entered the portal, which closed behind them. After a moment, she sighed, "I miss Ran and Chen... I've never felt helpless before. Now, I can only hope that they can do the job."

In the tallest skyscraper in the city, which could rival the former World Trade Center in size, of course, was the Sue that Kyle and Aster were after. She was about as tall as Tash, with platinum blonde hair and wearing a beige business suit. Her personal office was also her apartment, taking up the last five floors of the building. It was full of the most expensive furniture you could imagine as well as at least three refridgerators per floor, full of the most expensive drinks you can think of. Apparently, the term, excess, means nothing to this Sue. Currently, she had just finished a business transaction heavily in her favor and was rewarding her "effort" with a few bottles of white wine in a darkened room where the only source of light was a contained fireplace.

As she was celebrating, a cloaked figure appeared behind her and cleared his throat. When the Sue looked at him, he spoke in a monotone, "We have detected two Agents of the Anti-Cliche and Mary Sue Elimination Society, Miss Cerebrum Cerebellum Medulla Oblongata."

The Sue turned back to her wine almost dismissively, but then her voice, charming and deadly, asked, "Which ones?"

"Kyle Griswold and Aster Selene, ma'am," came the monotonous reply. Cerebrum spit out the wine she had taken a drink off and crushed the wineglass in her hand.

"Two of their most powerful Agents. Aster's too much of an idiot to be any trouble for you, but with the one who took down Deary and Kaylee..."

The cloaked man chuckled monotonously before replying, "I think you forget that I was equipped to handle him. His power and weaponry will mean nothing when facing me."

When he had said this, what light in the room reached into his cloak and glinted off of a barely visible metal ball.


Kyle and Aster found themselves several miles outside the city on a stretch of highway. Like in most movies with such a scene, the road was almost completely empty save a car or two passing by every few minutes. Kyle scowled at the distance to the city as he didn't know if Aster would allow him to carry her like he did with Tash in his previous mission. Aster was scowling the distance as well, but probably for a different reason... I don't know what it is, I'm not an omniscient narrator. Anyway, Kyle let his eyes wander from the city and then spotted a payphone at a nearby rest stop. Giving Aster a quick tap on the shoulder, Kyle rushed over to the payphone with an idea in mind.

He had picked up the receiver and was sliding his special paycard into a slot for phone cards when Aster came up behind him and asked, "Who are you calling, Kyle-kun?"

"A precaution," Kyle responded as he rapidly dialed a series of numbers. Aster merely gave him a strange look as he waited for the call to go through. When he heard someone pick up, he gestured for Aster to remain quiet.

"Hello... This is Kyle... Sorry, this isn't a social call... Yes... Touhou... As a precautionary measure... Who's available? ...Ouch," Kyle got a pained expression on his face for a brief moment. "Tell her that I may call upon her within the next few days... Alright... Standard fare then?... That right?... Just make sure she's informed... Oh, he just got back?... Tell both of them then... Yes, yes, standard fare all around... HE SAID WHAT!? ...Once I'm done with this, I'm personally coming over there and beating him up and about the head with a hard, blunt object... I don't care that he's currently catatonic! ...He'll still feel it when he comes back... Alright, alright, I'll calm down... Thanks for the sentiment... Alright, I'll let you do that in my place... I almost feel sorry for him then... See you later... Bye."

Kyle hung up the receiver with a sigh. Aster stepped out of the way as Kyle walked away from the payphone.

"Kyle-kun, who were you talking to?" She inquired. Kyle looked at her over at her before replying.

"A group I call on if I think I'll need their help for trouble. I'll tell you more about it if I have to summon one of them." He faced the city, sighing as he tried to mentally figure the distance. After a moment, he knelt down and motioned for Aster. "Normally, I'd be against something like this, but it'll be faster if I carry you."

For her part, Aster merely nodded and climbed on. She was secured in place as Kyle stood up. Taking a deep breath at the additional weight, Kyle started running and then activated his Accelerator. They shot off, blurring as Kyle raced towards the city. Aster was enjoying it, apparently, as she was screaming with excitement in Kyle's ear. By the time Kyle stopped running, they were within the city limits and just outside of a nice park. Just then, music started playing from somewhere on Kyle. Aster climbed off so Kyle could pull out his Mood Music Maker.

"Kyle-kun, what's that song?" Aster asked as Kyle looked at the device.

"Shunshun Shuugetsu~Mooned Insect. It's the theme song of Wriggle Nightbug. She's around here somewhere." He replied as he stared at the park.

"Then let's just find her," Aster spoke as she walked into the park. Agreeing with a nod, Kyle followed after. While walking along, they came across a children's playground.

"Mama, you look tired." Kyle and Aster looked over at a green haired little boy standing in front of his green haired mother, who was sitting down on a bench. The strangest thing about their hair, yes even more strange than the fact that it's green, is that two tiny spots of hair stuck up like insect antennae. Kyle recognized it almost immediately.

"Wriggle Nightbug?" He asked as he approached the bench. The kid and his mother looked at him.

"My maiden name is Nightbug, yes. I haven't been called that in years. So who are you and how do you know me?" The woman asked. Kyle took a moment to think about the answer so he could compare his knowledge of Touhou to what he was seeing.

"My name is Kyle and I'm familiar with Gensokyo," He replied. The Wriggle that he knew from Touhou was a Firefly Youkai who could control any insect at whim. She looked like a child and dressed boyishly, making it easy to mistake her gender. This Wriggle, however, was much different. Her appearance had definitely matured, her feminine figure easy to see through her shirt and jeans.

"Ge..Gensokyo?" She had a look of surprise on her face, but it quickly gave way as a look of sadness sprung up. "It's been... so long. All my friends... I miss them."

Then she started crying. She put her head in her hands and wept.

"Mama, please don't cry. Please." Her child said as he gave her a hug. Wriggle hugged him back as she continued to cry. After several minutes, she stopped crying and let her child go. Her sadness was still evident on her face when she turned back to the Agents.

"I'm sorry about that," she said.

"I should be the one apologizing. I didn't mean to bring up any painful memories," was Kyle's response. He sat down on the bench while Aster walked over to the playground.

"It's alright, you had no way of knowing," Wriggle answered with a shake of her head. Her child saw that the two adults were going to chat, so he followed Aster's lead and headed towards the playground.

"If you don't mind my asking, what happened to you after Gensokyo faded?" Kyle's voice was as calm as he could make it. Wriggle turned her eyes forward and waited a few moments before speaking.

"I was so confused. My powers were gone and I was no different than any normal human. My friends and I would still meet relatively often, but eventually those meetings became few and far between until we just stopped meeting altogether. When that happened, I just started wandering and I ended up here, in this city. After what seemed like years of trying to adjust to living like a human, I met the man who eventually became my husband. I've basically been a housewife after my first child was born...I love my children, but many times, I wish I could be back in Gensokyo with my friends again."

Kyle listened and deeply empathized with her. Several faces passed before his eyes, faces of people he used to hang out with, but separated from for various reasons. His eyes closed for a few moments and then opened them with a decisive look on his face. Standing up, he flicked a wrist and a piece of paper appeared in his hand. Turning to Wriggle, he held it out for her to take.

"Here, I'll let you have one of these." She took it, looked at it for a moment and then looked up at him. He continued, "Keep that with you and we'll be able to stay in touch while I'm in this city. I'm staying for a few days on business. Since it involves Gensokyo, I'll keep you informed."

Wriggle stood up and turned to the Agent, holding the paper to give it back, "I appreciate the thought, but I've given up on Gensokyo. It won't return and I accept that."

Shaking his head, Kyle pushed her hand back and replied, "Keep it anyway. If only so I have a way to reach you when I can prove that there's still hope for Gensokyo."

Sighing at his insistence, Wriggle merely nodded in acceptance and went towards the playground to get her child so they could go home. Shortly thereafter, Aster came back and gave Kyle a curious look. From aways off, Wriggle was escorting her child home when she turned back to look at Kyle and Aster. She saw Aster piggy-back on Kyle and then both of them seemed to just blur out of existence. Her child looked at his mother as she seemed frozen in time. Only one thought crossed her mind as she snapped back to reality.

..."There's still hope for Gensokyo". Please be right about that... please!


Several minutes later, Kyle and Aster were walking down a slummy street. Kyle was munching on some energy bars while Aster was walking alongside with a manga in her hand that was given to her by Kyle. Don't ask which manga it is, that's not important to the story. As they were passing an alley, Kyle's Music Maker started up again.

"Meiji Juushichi-nen no Shanhai Arisu, the theme song of Hong Meiling," Kyle spoke up, speaking the Japanese part a bit slower than the rest of the sentence, after listening to it for a few seconds. Aster looked up from her manga to give Kyle a look.

"You're pretty good with that, if a bit slow in actually speaking. Did you take Japanese classes?"

"Only for about a year or so in high school, but I'm also a big fan of several Anime." Kyle answered with a shrug. The music stopped while they were a couple meters away from the alley. Kyle stopped and had to put a hand on Aster's shoulder to keep her from going on without him. Aster looked up from her manga to watch him go back to the alley and hear the music start up again. "That Yukari is pretty clever. To keep us from having to do a lot of heavy searching, she made it like the game Hot n Cold."

Aster just shrugged as she sauntered back over. When she reunited with Kyle, they both strode into the dank backstreet. While about half way through, someone leaped out from behind a dumpster and put a knife to Kyle's back. Aster stopped walking but didn't look up from her manga as Kyle once again put his hand on her shoulder.

"Take out your wallets and drop them on the ground," came a female voice with a slight Chinese accent. Kyle turned his head as best he could to look at his attacker. She was a rather tall redheaded woman wearing a well cared for, if quite grungy, Chinese style dress. She wore a hat that matched her garb with a tarnished star on it. Kyle recognized her faster than he recognize Wriggle.

"H-Hong Meiling!" The moment those words left his mouth, the woman's eyes widened in surprise and then she lowered her knife.

"You know who I am...you even know my name... WHO ARE YOU?"

"My name is Kyle Griswold," was his response. He turned around to fully face her and Aster looked over at the woman before going back to her manga. "My current job is to restore Gensokyo."

"G-Gensokyo..." Hong Meiling breathlessly spoke. She collapsed onto her knees as the shock caught her in its grip. The knife fell effortlessly from her now limp fingers. At this point, her stomach chose to signal its hunger by growling, though she wasn't in a state to respond to it.

"Hey, are you ok? When was the last time you ate something?" Kyle questioned as he knelt down to check on her. Hong Meiling didn't seem to register the question for a few moments, but then she said.

"I... I think... about four days ago." Now, Hong Meiling is one of Kyle's favorite Touhou characters and to see her like this made him ticked. His face darkened to a scowl as he whipped an arm up and into his Astral Vault. Upon seeing this display, Hong Meiling almost fainted from the shock. When he pulled his arm out, he was holding...

"A b-b-b-baozi...!" Hong Meiling couldn't believe her eyes, weakly reaching up a hand to take it as Kyle was handing it to her. She stared at it for a second before taking a hesitant bite. As she chewed, it finally registered that it was real. Her lips smiled while she chewed, tears of joy welling up in her eyes. The sight of her joy melted Kyle's scowl almost instantly. Reaching into his Astral Vault again, he pulled out a plate of baozi and set it down in front of her. Meiling was taking her time with the first one, savoring each bite like it was the best one. When she finished it, she exclaimed, "Delicious! I haven't had food of my native land this good in years!"


Back at the Library Arcanium, Adrian was watching Kyle on the monitor, a precautionary measure since he was recovered from the Endless Abyss of the Night Sky. Currently, he was feeling a bit exasperated.

"He's been expanding his Astral Vault's stock again. I'll have to talk to him about that." At that moment, one of the members working at the massive computer spoke up.

"Sir, you'd better come take a look at this." Adrian quickly strode over to the Society member. "That reading we've been tracking within the Touhou fandom... it's getting stronger!"

Adrian frowned at the news, "the reading isn't of the Sue, that's already been checked." I've got a bad feeling about this, yet I get the feeling that Kyle and Aster can handle it. Whatever the case may be, I'll have a rescue team on standby... just in case.


Hong Meiling was finishing the last of the baozi as Aster bugged Kyle for another manga for her to read. Kyle sighed before he pulled one out of his Astral Vault and handed it to her, causing her to move away and start reading. Standing up with renewed energy, Hong Meiling bowed to Kyle for the meal.

"I'm in your debt for your assistance." Kyle waved it off and then replied.

"Anyway, can you tell me what happened to you after Gensokyo's barrier faded?" Hong Meiling sighed as she prepared to tell her story.

"It was many years ago. At the Scarlet Devil mansion, everything was chaotic. The fairy maids were in a state of panic because of their missing magic. I still stood at my post by the gate as it was my job to be the guard. I think my mistress, Remilia Scarlet, had a plan for dealing with this crisis, though I apparently wasn't included in her plan as the head maid, Sakuya Izayoi, had left in a hurry with Remilia's sister, Flandre. Remilia, herself, left the next day with the mansion's librarian, Patchouli Knowledge, in tow. She told me that all of the mansion staff had to fend for themselves. After that, I started wandering...getting work and food where I could get it, but it's been a lonely journey. Somehow, I ended up in this city and haven't been able to find a job to support myself since. I've only really survived this long because I met others who were in similar situations."

Kyle listened while doing his best to keep his temper down. As she finished speaking, Kyle made a decision. "Alright then. I'll hire you."

Hong Meiling snapped her head to look at Kyle in shock. It took a few moments for her voice to come out, "Y-you mean it? You'll employ me?"

Kyle rubbed the back of his head before replying, "Well, I don't really have money to pay you with, but I can give you food and stuff in compensation." He was caught off-guard as the Chinese youkai glomped him, taking him down while thrown off-balance. They got back up, Hong Meiling giddy like little kid at Christmas while Kyle could feel a headache coming on.

WIth a sigh, Kyle spoke again, "Well, this is a step in the right direction at least. Though, how am I going to find other previous residents of Gensokyo?"

The Chinese youkai paused at the question, but then she grinned and said, "I can help you with that. If you're looking for something, it pays to have friends in low places."

Kyle looked at her for a moment, "Those 'others' you mentioned before, right? You think it's possible that they'd know where other Gensokyo people are?"

She nodded, "One thing I noticed about Remilia and the others before they left is the fact that they looked the exact same without their powers. Having a network of friends like I do will make finding people from Gensokyo within the city limits easy. You can find useful things among the dredges and refuse of society."

The male Agent nodded in agreement to her last statement. "Classic 'diamond in the rough' scenario. Well, why are we sticking around here then? Let's get going!"

The gatekeeper youkai cheered as Kyle got Aster's attention. Within moments, they were out of the backstreet and on their way down the road.

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