"Yukari, isn't this enough?!" Reimu yelled back at her mentor whom was in the midst of channelling her own reserves into strengthening the barrier via Reimu.
The crimson barrier flickered dangerously as silver and violet sparks shot within each expulsion of power from the duo.
Yukari truly wondered, would this be enough?
Would it ever be enough to protect Gensokyo.
Her eyes remained ahead as Reimu continued chanting beneath her breath as she felt Yukari's power traipse around her and exit through her hands which were stretched out. Her gohei was hovering above her palms as the blasts of untainted energy melded with the Hakurei Barrier.
They'd been at this for several hours and Yukari knew Reimu would be at her limit.
She could see the weight of the exhaustion steeling over Reimu's form as she continued to focus her power's into strengthening the barrier. It had been a while since it became necessary to do this but given the current events in the Outside World, Yukari's precautionary measures were heightened.
The human world was in a state of dire panic and the last thing the perspicacious youkai wanted was to have any of the invasive components taint Gensokyo.
A virus had been rampaging the earth for months with millions around the globe on lock down. Over 30,000 had been killed with about 650,000 infected. The recovery of those infected was around 140,000 so it wasn't exactly appearing favorable.
The statistics were changing rapidly as each hour went by.
It was only four months in and the pandemic didn't seem to be easing so Yukari did what she had to do in order to protect Gensokyo.
Ran's vigilance was increased as the youkai ensured that she had the adequate amount of support to carry out the patrols alongside the barrier. That involved utilising the many species of youkai roaming in Gensokyo, including Shinki, Momiji, Sakuya and Keiki just to name a few.
Everyone had been cooperating effectively to ensure that the pandemic sweeping through the globe didn't affect them.
It helped that such measures in the Outside World had allowed less occurrences of people being spirited away into their domain since they were all on lockdown which eased the pressure on Yukari.
Still, it would only take one infected human from the outside to meet one of Gensokyo's natives and that would be enough to trigger the virus into spreading throughout the land.
That one individual with the virus would go on to infect 5 others.
Human diseases were disastrous and fickle at best, easy to spread, difficult to contain.
So the youkai had pulled out all the stops to ensure that Gensokyo was protected.
"That will do, Reimu".
Slowly, the remaining trickles of energy fizzled away from Reimu's aura as the brunette sighed out and floated down to where Yukari was, giving her limbs a shake to unwind the tension.
"I feel like I won't move for another 5 years" the priestess groaned as she sat down on the rock the blonde was balanced on.
Yukari smirked, "Well, that wouldn't be unusual since that is how long it takes you to act whenever there is an incident, my dear Reimu".
"Screw you" Reimu glared without any bite and took in a breath.
"Hmm, tempting but Alice might mind".
"And Eirin won't?" Reimu grinned.
"Indeed" Yukari chuckled before running her eyes over the expanse of the land, feeling the vibrations pulse softly within the Hakurei Barrier.
She was satisfied with its current robustness and tenacity, hoping it'd be enough to push out any invasive objects without much effort.
"Are things that bad out there, Yukari?".
The woman exhaled lightly and folded her arms across her stomach, her fan clicking slowly as she contemplated on how to answer that question. It was essential to keep Reimu in the know and the priestess was well versed with Yukari's moods now as it was. She hadn't even questioned the youkai when Yukari told her what they were going to do, following without putting up a fight.
Reimu was very much the priestess of Gensokyo now and acted like it so Yukari deemed it fair to give her that same level of respect.
"They are. The reaction time from the governments were delayed at best, desultory even. That, along with the connectivity of the modern world, while a good thing, has allowed the virus to spread at an alarming rate. The elderly and the vulnerable are the most susceptible to death but that doesn't exclude anyone else either. There have been a substantial amount of loss occurring from those without underlying health issues too. Nobody is safe".
Reimu shook her head in sadness, "Sounds rough. Is there nothing Eirin can do?".
"This is out of her hands, unfortunately. The diseases of the Outside World differ from those in Gensokyo. Finding a cure would be difficult. But the scientists have had some hope in that field so not all news is grim. Right now, people need to listen and adhere to what they are being told to do. Self isolate, don't leave home unless necessary. They seem like basic commands but humans have this incredibly selfish streak where they will defy such rules simply because they can" Yukari sighed, "It is..frustrating".
"Was that a thinly veiled insult towards me?".
Noting the teasing tone, Yukari humoured her protégé, grateful that she was attempting to alleviate her own dour mood, "As thinly veiled as this barrier used to be at one point".
"Wow" Reimu stated in mock disappointment whilst standing up and stepping to Yukari's side, "A selfish youkai calling a human selfish, what has the world come to".
They stood there and took in the sinking sunset illuminating Gensokyo, bathing the land in serenity behind the comfort of its barrier.
It reiterated a thought: that between them and the Outside World was just this barrier.
The only thing protecting them from the horrors of the human world.
"Hopefully things will improve in time, Reimu" Yukari answered with slight optimism.
As bleak as the situation seemed, the blonde knew that the Outside World would come together to try and halt the depleting scenario.
The greed and selfish desires would remain, as was human nature, but there were those that shifted away from such traits to aid the ones that needed help, to be a pinnacle of hope during distressing times.
Yukari simply hoped that more of such individuals would overpower those with ill intent, to capitalise on such a devastating scenario. Be it in a seditious manner, the dynamics of the world had indeed shifted to highlight the differences in wealth and opportunity.
For now however, this land was her priority and the beings residing in it.
It existed because the Outside World had started to eliminate them, and that had never stopped.
Not until the barrier was born.
Over at the Hakurei Shrine, Alice's musings were distracted when she saw Yukari's gap appear before her and Reimu saunter out, offering Yukari a crude goodbye that only the youkai would find amusing.
She shook her head with a small smile as she watched Reimu walk towards her to the veranda before promptly sitting down and collapsing onto her lap, "Comfy".
"Good evening to you too, Reimu" Alice chuckled as the priestess brushed her face against her stomach and entangled her arms around her waist, "I hadn't realised you'd be gone that long".
"Me neither" came a muffled variation of the agreement as Reimu nuzzled against the magician before pulling back slightly to see her lover, "We were working on the barrier".
Alice ran her fingers through the long brunette locks as her other hand massaged the stop of Reimu's scalp, the sounds of relief making her continue her ministrations, "Is everything okay?".
"It will be, I hope" Reimu replied, "I can't remember the last time I saw Yukari so serious".
"It isn't something we see often now is it" Alice noted, trailing her fingertips over the priestess's bare shoulder, "But it is understandable if the predicament in the Outside World is anything to go by. You need to be extra cautious, Reimu".
Reimu nodded before rolling onto her back so that she could look see the blonde, "It'll be fine".
"As much as I'd like to agree, humans are too prone to things like this so.." Alice stressed as Reimu grabbed a hand and squeezed it, "Please be careful".
The brunette gave a reassuring smile before pressing Alice's hand against her chest, the endearing blush appearing on Alice's face still making her weak. She understood both Yukari and Alice's concerns given that if the virus should somehow pass all the hurdles and appear in Gensokyo, things would be harrowing .
Everyone had already endured countless of incidents, the last thing they needed was an infection sweeping the land, an invisible enemy. The imbroglio in which the world beyond the barrier had found itself in was guaranteed to change history as they knew it.
Exhaling against her lover's hand, Reimu spoke again, "I will. I mean, if worst comes to worst then I'd just have to stay cooped up in the shrine with you. There are worst fates than that for me" Reimu chuckled as Alice laughed at her train of thought.
"I'm not sure if I miss your pessimism" she retorted and ran her hand over Reimu's cheek with her other hand still intertwined in her hair.
"Oh it's still there" Reimu reminded the woman, her eyes going to the entrance of the shrine where she could see the approaching party pass the gates, "We have unfortunate and loud company" she sighed with a forced frowned, "Where's Aunn, I need to set her on them".
"Reimu" Alice chided as the brunette pushed herself back against Alice's stomach again when the familiar voices grated her peace.
"Yo! Reimu! Alice!" Marisa beamed, "You can sleep when you're dead, lets drink!".
Alice waved the guests over as the Scarlet Devil Mansion residents followed the boisterous blonde, along with most of Reimu's past adversaries.
"Isnt this the time to be boosting morale and sticking together?" Alice stated softly as Reimu tightened her hold around her waist endearingly, "You never know when we might be forced to stay away from each other. I imagine its somewhat lonely in the Outside World at the moment".
"I don't like all of this, pretty face and logical, thing you have going on" Reimu said with a wave of her hand in Alice's direction.
"Flattery will get you everywhere" Alice smiled as her lover removed her grip and sat back up whilst taking the blonde's hand in hers.
"I was taught by Yukari, trust me it will work on you" Reimu grinned after taking a breath in and watched her friends clamber up and reach the shrine grounds, "You are right though, it must be a little lonely out there".
Alice hummed in agreement and rested her head on the brunette's shoulder, "All the more reason to make the most of the time we have here, with all those we treasure".
The number of said people had climbed drastically over the years and even to this day, neither had quite adjusted to it.
But it was a good feeling.
One that Reimu acted up with in a blasé manner but Alice knew the truth, knew that Reimu was grateful for all those in her life.
Squeezing the hand in hers once again, Reimu used her other hand to meet Marisa's enthusiastic high-five as her friend sat down and the party began.
The simplicity of such actions were something the Outside World were grappling with the loss off so Reimu did want to make the most of it.
Who knew when their peaceful paradise would truly become isolated.
Over at Eientei, Kaguya and co were in the midst of leaving through one of Yukari's gaps that would open up for them at the Hakurei Shrine.
The blonde waved back at the retreating figures before her attention turned to a few more gaps she had open.
They were peering into the Outside World.
It was quite a draconian sight.
Dreary and decrepit.
Yukari's face was pensive as she watched the carnage unfold scene by scene.
Staff having no access to hazard equipment and masks.
People fighting each other for products.
People being in places where they shouldn't be.
People in isolation.
It was a mess wherever her gaps led her to.
She wondered when the decline would begin and how much destruction would have been set in the stone by then.
Humanity truly was delicate.
"Yukari, we can leave for the shrine now".
Eirin's voice didn't quite reach the youkai who was sitting at the kotatsu, waiting for the doctor to finish up.
"Yukari" she said again and walked around the room to see what the blonde was so engrossed in and let out a sympathetic sigh.
Slowly, she rested her palms on the blonde's shoulders which caught her attention again, the youkai looking up at her slightly, "Hey, all done?".
"I am but.." she stalled before removing her hands and taking a seat next to the youkai, "You can't do this to yourself, Yukari" she motioned to the many gaps open, trying to exculpate her lover, "This is out of your hands as much as it is mine. The reaction from all those involved is the only way they'll be able to diminish the lasting effects of the pandemic".
"I don't have much faith in the humans of the Outside World, Eirin" she stated, violet eyes landing on a gap showing petulant greed and selfishness, "They'll end up wiping each other out".
"I'm inclined to agree, but during humanities worst moments have humans shown that they are more than capable of standing together. This pandemic will be no different. Unfortunately, the worst needs to happen before they realise and from the looks of it, I think they will have noticed now since they will need apply more stringent proposals in place to curb it".
Yukari dragged her eyes away and landed them on Eirin's, her countenance steady and stable, "Is that what you would have done?" she asked in curiosity.
The doctor smiled and reached over for the gloved hand that was looking for her own.
Yukari needed something solid to keep her grounded to, especially during moments where she felt helpless and this was one of those rare times.
She needed reassurances.
She needed someone else to utter the words of comfort even if they amounted to nothing.
So Eirin gave her what she needed, ensuring that Yukari was listening, soothing the blonde with her grandiloquent verbiage.
"Of course. Gensokyo's population doesn't even touch up on the population of most countries in the Outside World. It would be easier to manage here, where humans listen. Sometimes fear can be a positive thing" she chuckled, carefully running her fingertips over Yukari's wrist and back down over her knuckles, "I'd ensure that all protocols suggested in the Outside World were adhered to accordingly to minimise the deaths. It really does come down to communication, Yukari" Eirin said solemnly, "It comes down to the leaders and I'd say that the leader of Gensokyo can handle her land".
Yukari grinned at that whilst watching Eirin take her hand and hold it, like they were walking side by side, "Is that so?".
"Gensokyo's continued existence speaks for itself, sweetheart" Eirin simply responded with ease, knowing it was the truth.
Had it not have been for Yukari's prowess over sustaining the land, Gensokyo would have been long gone by now.
"So based on that alone, the situation in the Outside World would not be replicated here, Yukarin" Eirin said and then lulled the blonde in for a tight embrace, "Everything will be okay".
Yukari wrapped her arms behind the lunarian's neck and exhaled as she felt the woman's breath coat her ear when she said that.
She couldn't help but to believe the logical reasoning’s assuage her penchant of dark thoughts.
Should the worse case scenario occur and the pandemic shifts beyond the barrier, Gensokyo would be able to handle it.
She would deal with it, along with Eirin.
And Okina, Kanako, Yuyuko and Byakuren.
Gensokyo might have been more primitive than the modern world but that would work in their favour in this case.
Yukari knew that already as she relaxed against her lover, revelling in the stable arms wrapped around her waist, shielding her from the burdens of stress.
"Thank you, Eirin" she whispered whilst trailing her fingers down Eirin's back, soaking in her presence till she could feel herself revitalise.
"I'm here for you".
As resilient as she was, even Yukari had her fears and doubts.
She wasn't invincible, that was more Eirin's forte so she had to prepare in advance and have as many contingencies in place.
Eirin smiled against her lover's neck and remained tangled around her till Yukari was ready to let go and she'd wait, no matter how long it took.
The existence of Gensokyo was pivotal to all that had searched for it as a sanctuary.
So Yukari's worries were hers.
After a few moments of remaining that way, Yukari pulled away slightly and looked up into the expanse of the blues she'd fallen for and offered her signature smirk.
"There it is" Eirin laughed while adjusting Yukari's cap, her hair up in a bun, "Ready to leave?".
"With you? of course".
The other gaps around the youkai had closed and Yukari hadn't glanced at them, opting to keep her vision focused on Eirin and the future.
The challenges facing the Outside World were something that the people would have to fight and figure out and the times would show humanities true colours.
For now, she intended to protect Gensokyo as she opened up a gap leading to the Hakurei Shrine once she stood up with Eirin by her side, both taking in the rambunctious environment.
"Let's go" she smiled up at Eirin and let the woman lead her through the gap with their hands joined, ready to make the most of the peace they'd received, "We have the present to enjoy, do we not".
The statement was rhetorical as Eirin and Yukari made their way into the bedlam, the sort that was welcomed.
It never stayed that way for long, no world was always peaceful.
But that was how the residents of the land, world and universe dealt with febrile times.
Striving for a better future.
This was when the strength of its people shone the brightest, when darkness was hell-bent on flooding any source of positivity.