It was the beginning of summer.
The cherry blossoms had long since bloomed. The hot, muggy and overall oppressive climate of summer in Gensokyo was in full swing, as villagers down in the human village sought ways of cooling themselves down, from wearing as little clothing as socially acceptable in public, to resting their feet in the river, to leaving the windows open – and stuffing them to the gills with anti-youkai and fairy wards to compensate for them being open. All over, the heat and mugginess was being felt. The long days did the mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion no favors, the Buddhists were trying to resist the urge to go for a high-altitude cruise on the Palanquin Ship to seek relief from the heat, and on the Youkai Mountain, the horseflies... oh God the horseflies. In fact, the doctor of the Bamboo Forest was busy formulating and selling insect repellent, since just because you're a youkai or a celestial or a goddess, that doesn't protect you from biting ticks and mosquitoes. It wasn't even July, and already she'd gotten many cases of Lyme disease and West Nile from careless bamboo cutters and the like. It was so hot, even the fairies didn't feel like playing, and instead lounged on the shores of the Misty Lake, where Cirno made them crushed ice baths to stick their feet in. If there was one area where she wasn't an idiot, it was making sure her fellow fairies didn't succumb to heat stroke.
When it wasn't hot, it was storming cats and dogs. Torrential rain, lighting, and strong winds were a common feature of the monsoon season in Gensokyo, and it wasn't unusual for a building in the human village or two to collapse during these storms and the streets left as impassable mud the day after. For the mistress of the mansion, it was even more depressing, since when the sun didn't keep her inside, the rain did, and so morale dropped significantly there as a result. It was also hard on Yuuka's flowers, which often died from literally drowning in the soil they were planted in during these storms.
One such storm had wreaked across the valley the night before. This morning, however, the clouds had dissipated, and as the sun rose over the mountains to the east, the haze left over from the night burned off and revealed the tile-blue sky above. One feature missing from the sky that many had grown accustomed to was the portal to the Netherworld; instead, it had been moved to a remote corner of one mountain, so that Yomou could still come and go from the village as needed. This made for an unblemished ceiling of cerulean as far as the eye could see.
As the sunlight rose above the mountains, slowly but surely it trickled down the mountainsides and tickled the outside walls of the Hakurei Shrine, where the shrine maiden was still asleep in her futon. The light creeped into her room, and soon licked her face. This was enough to stir the groggy girl from her slumber and prompt her to turn and face away from the light. It was too early, she thought, given how early the sun came up in the summer, she wanted to sleep in more. Soon, though, it proved for naught, and she had no choice but to wrench herself off the floor and face the day ahead.
As she got up, Reimu rubbed the sand from her eyes and looked around. No freeloader youkai to be seen, it seemed. For her, that counted as a success, given how often her youkai-extermination shrine somehow managed to attract rather than repel them. So, she could just focus on getting through with her chores: cleaning the floors and counters, checking the donation box, sweeping the walkway, and, of course, her daily offerings and prayer to the god whose name she didn't even know, much less what they looked like. It was a routine she'd followed ever since she was a child, the only significant breaks occurring during incidents, like the recent Lunar incident, the scars of which were still visible on some of the hillsides. Now eighteen and technically an adult, she thought constantly about what life ahead of her would bring, such as who would she marry, or prepare to hand the torch of the shrine to, and how much more different other things would become. For now, though, she simply focused on the now.
She got ready for the day, washing herself, brushing her teeth, unfrazzling her hair and getting the fussier aspects of her shrine maiden's dress into place, before making and having breakfast, which typically consisted for her of some fruit, leftover rice and fish from the night before, and, of course, the morning “cuppa.” You can't resolve incidents or hold up danmaku battles without a healthy dose of caffeine running through your veins, especially when facing down hell ravens and goddesses and the like.
After breakfast, she got down onto her chores. She started by filling a bucket up with water and wiping down the tables and counter tops, before moving on to sweeping and mopping the floors throughout the shrine. After that, she took the broom outside, set it against the wall, and opened up the donation box to see if there was anything. Surprisingly, there were a few gold coins; she would have thought that with all that rain yesterday no one would be in the mood to go outside, much less haul up here and make offerings. She took the coins out and placed them in the repository inside the shrine before sweeping the front steps, then working her way down the steps beneath the torii until they were free of leaves and detritus blown in by the storm.
It took her until about eleven before she got through with everything. Normally, at this point, she would have lunch, then take a brief flight above Gensokyo to patrol for possible incidents before spending most of the rest of the day in prayer unless a guest decided to show up. Today, however, seemed different. The sun was shining, the air was crisp an pure from being cleansed by the rain, and unlike most days the temperature was pleasant. There was a mild breeze working its way down the mountains, and from her perch the whole valley seemed to open up like a book.
She looked on, and reflected. “You know,” she mused, “it's been so hectic lately with all the incidents. Perhaps I should just slow down, and take everything in... the birds, the sound of fairies rustling in the bushes, the gentle breeze...” She thought it might be nice to hit a new café that opened up in the human village that made some really good tea and biscuits. She had enough funds to get her through the next couple of weeks at least, so she felt she could afford it. However, rather than fly there, she decided it would be best to walk and enjoy the slower pace to take in the day.
So, she got ready to go out. Being a youkai extermination shrine maiden, she never left the shrine unprepared, and even on short trips she was always ready for a high-class spell card bout. She grabbed a pre-made deck of spell cards off the shelf as well as her yin-yang orb, and stuffed them inside a satchel she kept underneath her dress, since she didn't want to look like she was looking for trouble unless she was (which is more often than you'd think, given how boring the shrine gets). Aside from those, she also got some basics together, like her purse, some chapstick courtesy of Eirin, and other bits and pieces, before setting off. She resisted the urge to run down the walkway that also served as a runway and made her way down the steps, taking care not to trip and fall.
The shortest path between the shrine and the village was lined with wards to keep the path clear of wandering youkai who might try to torment the humans as they made their way to give offerings, and these often had to be changed due to weather damage and the like. Because of the rainfall the previous night, she looked around and already knew she would be busy the next couple of days doing exactly that, but that wasn't her concern now. Days like this were rare, she reckoned, so why not take advantage? There's always tomorrow, she thought to herself.
Looking around, there seemed to be nothing particularly amiss. The closest thing to something resembling an incident she could see or hear was a fight between two fairies over a piece of food, but that was normal and none of her business. Fairy scuffles usually ended quickly whenever they so much as heard her coming by anyway, so she paid it no mind. She looked up at the sky, which slowly started filling up with small, bandy clouds as the moisture from last night evaporated and drifted upwards. There were no signs of any evident spell card duels, even though it was the perfect day for them; the skies were clear of fighters and the only things flying around were birds, and perhaps the occasional Aya taking pictures for her newspaper. For all intents and purposes, it was a perfect day as she strolled down the path.
All that serenity was slowly broken, however, as a faint humming noise could be heard emanating from the northwest. At first, Reimu brushed it off as just some huge bugs, but as it grew louder it seemed to almost have some electrical effects added to it.
“What's making that noise?” she wondered as she attempted to look for the thing making it. Her attention slowly turned to the sky, which had what appeared to be a subtle distortion forming and electrical bolts coming from it. She thought it could be a spell card duel before looking closer and realizing that whatever it was seemed to be a distortion in space-time, much like the Netherworld portal. If that's what it was, she realized, this was deathly serious; ANY threat to the Hakurei Border was treated with all the urgency of a confirmed nuclear attack occurring on the Outside.
The distortion soon ripped open and revealed a circular wormhole with a flowing fishnet pattern and dark blue/purple energy radiating inside. Without hesitating, Reimu sprinted down the path and took to the air, towards the wormhole, ready to face who or whatever opened it. As she rose above the valley below and barreled straight towards the wormhole, she thought to herself “and here I thought today would be boring, but turns out, there's an incident after all.” A mild smirk drew across her face as she drew closer to the anomaly.
The wormhole, however, soon intensified. As she approached, Reimu slowly realized she was losing control of her flight and was being pulled in. She tried to turn around, but the force was too great. Soon, she was flailing about trying to escape its pull, but it was too late; she was already past the event horizon.
“Wha-wha- no, I can't let it – gaaah!” She tumbled around before, swiftly, she was sucked in and disappeared within the void.
And so began the adventure that would change her life and that of the rest of Gensokyo – and worlds beyond – forever.