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Better By Her

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The sand felt warm beneath her feet as Reimu revelled in the late afternoon sun that encompassed the pristine area around her. 

It was such a strange sensation yet one she could adjust to and enjoy to the fullest. 

Perhaps under alternative circumstances. 

For now, the priestess was content in admiring the location that Yukari had opened a gap to in order for her to visit. 

Her long hair fluttered backward with the oceanic breeze and it felt so dissimilar from that of Gensokyo's. 

The air was different. 

To experience it as a parting gift felt sentimental and Reimu knew she was going to treasure this time long after she was gone. She had lived a life that not many priestesses has managed to despite the various struggles along the way. 

Needless to say, being here right now with Alice was how she wanted to remember this final moment. 

It wouldn't be long till she was called away and she could feel it in her fragile body as she stepped over the soft sand, not going to the shoreline just yet. She felt her form sink in when she pushed down with her feet, chuckling to herself at the way the sand covered them, the grainy texture rather unusual. 

Try as she may, even Reimu knew it all would come to an end so she wanted to monopolise this moment with Alice as she turned around and gave the blonde a grin. She waved, motioning for her lover to come to her so that she could erase the mask of distraught she was trying to hide. 

Reimu wasn't quite ready to leave her. 

Nor was Alice as she sat up and walked over to the brunette, taking her in. 

The sight would have been picturesque almost if it wasn't for the underlying lugubrious atmosphere given their impending parting. 

A multitude of brilliant colours that formed the setting sun behind Reimu lit up her expression, the silhouette elegant, ghostly almost. 

It was far too befitting. 

Reimu threw her arms around the blonde as her bones groaned in protest due to the sudden movement, knees buckling but Alice caught her in her arms and carried her. 

A jocular smile made its way onto Reimu's countenance as Alice tried to scold her teasingly in being careful before they both chuckled, sharing a lingering kiss. 

Being careful now seemed redundant so the woman didn't dwell on it and held her wasting lover near her as they took in the ethereal sunset skimming up in front of them. 

Soon, nightfall would commence and a morning star would fall. 

Reimu had already began her decent, after all. 

They remained that way till the very process began, just sinking into the scenery, conversation and anxiety. 

Anything to delay Reimu's departure, anything to memorise every lingering and miniscule detail of the present. 

But try as she may, Alice felt the unutterable presence of something formidable and grievous around them. 

She didn't really register the soothing sounds around her of the location they were residing. 

In any other circumstances, it would have been quite a sight.

To behold the Pacific Ocean in all its glory from a slice of paradisiacal luxury in the form of a remote beach on the unmarked islands that scattered around Japan.

She tried, heavens knows how she tried to keep that smile on her face as she refused to remove her eyes away from Reimu.

Alice attempted to remain chary around the woman in an effort to protect her given her failing health but Reimu was determined in living as vibrantly as possible and it was infectious. 

Vacillating between Reimu's demeanour during her ailing health had been a grapple in itself so to see her like this, larger than life, was disconcerting but understandable. 

The fragility of the priestess in her arms was a stark reminder as to what was to come, what would happen and right in front of her. She wouldn't have had it any other way despite both Reimu and Yukari's pleading to not be around Reimu when she was like this.

Alice wanted to spend the last moments of Reimu's life with her, like this, as the priestess enjoyed the denouement of life with a parting wish from Yukari.

As was in Reimu's nature, it was something so unexpected yet so quaint that Alice couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her lips, prompting Reimu to frown at her in a mock manner before the woman doubled over in a fit of sporadic coughing. The convalescent woman caught her breath as Alice rubbed her back as efficiently as she could from that angle, attenuating her from the aftereffects. 

Alice detested that sound, each one like a grating reminder in the confines of her tortured mind as to what was to come.

The end.

But not yet, she buried that thought as Reimu reassured her that she was okay before she suggested something. 

"Can we go in, Alice?".

Reimu's crimson eyes bore up into her own, the many years worth of action and confrontation finally taking its toll on her and etched into her orbs. 

It was inevitable but that didn't mean Alice didn't despise it to the hollows of her bones.

Reimu was dying.

She would be as good as dead within the next 20 minutes if what Eirin had relayed to her was true. 

The lunarian was never incorrect in her diagnostics. 

"Of course" she smiled, blue eyes dimming with every look of the girl she had fell in love with, now a woman that would still be leaving the world too soon, "Anything you need, Reimu".

"Then I have another request" Reimu grinned, bringing a frail hand to cup Alice's face, stroking her damp cheek, "Smile".

"Reimu.." Alice chuckled weakly.

"Hey, you said anything" the priestess's riposte reminded her as she looked around the untarnished location, "We're here together in a place like this. I want you to have happy memories"

Alice kissed Reimu's palm, "All my memories with you are where my happiness lies".

Reimu smiled, keeping her hold around the blonde's shoulders with her other arm, not that she needed to as Alice had enough strength to keep them like this forever if needed be. 

But they didn't have forever and each glimmer of a tear floating down Alice's face that was being illuminated by the rising moonlight was a stark confirmation of it.

Reimu's deteriorating organs within her evinced to what was to happen. 

Her brittle bones were a reminder.

Her myriad of scars and long lasting injuries were proof of the ineludible. 

Forever had come and gone and this was the last time they would get to feel each other like this. 

She sighed, pressing her forehead against Alice's cheek before looking up at her again, "Then let's make this last one the most memorable, Alice" she offered, her eyes twinkling despite losing their shine.

Alice was about to break fully; biting the inside of her cheek. 

Why, why did it have to be the last?

Her mind was clutching at straws, peeling them down till they ceased to exist in an effort to find a way to prolong Reimu's death. 

Desperation festered in her thoughts long before her lover's death sentence was handed to her. 

But now, now it had consumed her as she relayed from one idea to another in trying to save Reimu.

Perhaps her mother could do something, anything to postpone Reimu's death.

Maybe Eirin could have recreated the Hourai Elixir. 

Yukari should have been able to separate the boundary of death from Reimu. 

Bargaining with Eiki came to mind to not collect the priestess's soul. 

Seeking Seiga for an amulet to ensure Reimu lived after death was another possibility. 

Keiki could craft a form for Reimu to habit. 

Even she herself had consider moving her lover's soul, embedding it into a doll to save her. 

But it never worked that way, human mortality was always going to be a bane on those that had longevity on their side. 

Fealty for their loved one would eventually reach its denouement

But knowing this couldn't have prepared the blonde to watch Reimu's body degrade as each year swept by and as much as she rationalised with herself that this was bound to happen, that it was ineluctable, she couldn't accept it.

"We can do that. I love you so much, Reimu" she breathed out as the wind fluttered around them.

It was warm.

Unlike the cooling body in her arms.

Reimu leaned up before Alice lowered her face to lessen the burden of that action, "I love you too, Alice. This isn't the end you know, not for you so, let me make you happy again".

"Find a way to live forever" Alice managed to quip with a choked sob as Reimu laughed.

Really laughed.

Goodness, how Alice had come to crave that laugh which was often buried beneath the pococurante yet caring priestess of Gensokyo.

Reimu nodded and ran her hand down the slope of Alice's neck before pressing her palm over Alice's heart, "In here I have, right?". 

The earnest tone Reimu stated that made Alice falter, squeezing her eyes shut before opening them again, "From the moment I laid my eyes on you when you came to Makai".

"Then don't forget that, Alice" Reimu soothed, her breath catching in her throat, "I will always be with you".

"You promise?".

"On my honour as a priestess" the brunette grinned as Alice lightly moved her forehead over the other woman's, bumping it so gently to chide her.

Reimu felt like she was going to snap in her arms already and the last thing she wanted was to speed up the process of her dying, "That's quite an honour".

"Only for those I love, I'll have you know".

Reimu smiled, Alice broke again.

"Alice" she called out softly, resting her hand over her heart, "Let's go".

Right, Reimu's wish.

Alice shook her head and looked over the horizon of the island. 

It truly was beautiful.

To think that the Outside World still had places like this, untainted by humanity, pure.

Alice was relieved given what Reimu had desired. 

Of course it would be Reimu's wish to see an actual body of water.

Not like the lake of Gensokyo, or the lifeless sea of the moon. 

This patch of paradise was thriving and they could hear the wildlife around them. The bristling of the trees within the land was comforting as the multitude of insects and animals parading throughout provided a wonderful soundtrack to sink into.

The sea, so vivid and sparkling under the light of the moon that took over the horizon was breath-taking and the way Reimu's eyes lit up when she took it all in was worth it.

Worth Yukari's kindness, worth everything Reimu had given up just to ensure Gensokyo's balance. 

Reimu was at peace.

Her goodbyes were done, it was just Alice left.

But not yet, Reimu wasn't ready to say goodbye to her just yet and she wanted to savour this moment with the magician that had charmed her heart.

She had no regrets about the life she had lived considering all the friends she had made, the lives she had save and the love she had found.

And what better way to phase out of reality than in Alice's arms under the night skyline.

The sand beneath Alice's boots were soft as she took steps towards the shoreline, the small waves lapping at her feet. 

She wasn't concerned about her boots or clothing, it meant nothing right now.

Reimu wanted to feel the sea, a living sea.

So that was exactly what she was going to get the opportunity to do. 

Slowly but surely, Alice waded in deeper and deeper till she was waist in with Reimu still up in her arms. Her white kimono was safe from the waves given Alice's height. 

The salt in the air from the sea infiltrated their noses and Reimu breathed it in, relishing in how raw and real it felt.

In the arms of the woman she loved, under a beautiful moon with an endless sight of sea encompassing them.

How else could she think of wanting to go?

Reimu had long accepted the outcome of her death and as difficult as it was to comprehend it at one point, it felt like a breeze now.

She was comfortable.

The warmth of Alice's body contrasted with the chill of the night, it was perfect.

She could hear the waves, feel the gravitational pull of the moon taming them, controlling them which prompted her to think back to her time there too.

"The sea of the moon wasn't like this".

Reimu's soft voice fluttered up, leading Alice to look at her lover, "Because it had no life in it?".

"Because you were not there with me".

Alice flushed, shaking her head at just how Reimu could retain being such a charmer when she was about to embark death.

"Even now, your honeyed tongue strikes again".

"Well, it took a few years to perfect but now I know what to say" she replied easily, capturing the blonde's face between both of her palms, "It's even easier with you cause it's the truth."

Alice couldn't hold back the tears again, the clear droplets cascading down her face to drizzle onto Reimu's chest, "How are you going to say something like that before you're about to leave me, Reimu, you're cruel" she chuckled, a sound so hollow yet so emotive, "Honestly, what am I going to do with you".

"Well, for starters, you could kiss me" Reimu smiled, wiping Alice's tears away with the pads of her shrivelled thumbs. 

And who was Alice to ever deny Reimu, the once pugnacious girl she was enamoured with, now the quietened woman she had spent most of her life with.

From the fateful meeting in Makai, to reuniting in Gensokyo. 

So she kissed her, taking Reimu's breath away and in turn, filling her lungs with the intent of savouring each gasp.

Their kisses were both delicate yet ardent as Reimu's fingers coiled around the long blonde strands while Alice pressed her fingers into her waist and thighs from how she was holding her, a throne which Reimu was often perched upon. She pulled the priestess up closer to her chest, feeling the thinned lips meld with her own as their mouths embarked in a dance which had spanned many decades. 

It felt like their first kiss but they knew it would be the last.

The vestiges of everything they had built together.

Being aware of this, Reimu soaked her fingertips with Alice's skin, filling her soul with the remnants of the doll maker that had wound strings around her, making her heart dance whenever she even looked at her with those gentle blue eyes.

How she would miss those eyes. 

How she would miss Alice. 

The brunette's body shook, a slight tremor that was enough to make them stop as one of Reimu's hands dropped given the lack of energy and strength. She gasped, both with the need for air, the pain within her body and the feeling of the sea brushing up against her knuckles.

What a discombobulated range of emotions that she was experiencing and it made her laugh. 

She was going to die.

"Hey, Alice?".

"What is it?" she replied softly, lips roseate and cheeks wet again as Reimu lifted her hand up, the one that had been in the sea.

She brought it between them, the glistening droplets on her frail fingers illuminated despite the darkness that enveloped them.

"Thank you".

Alice bit back a sob, watching the way Reimu's hand continued to judder, "Please, not now..don't take her away from me again!" she screamed to herself. 

It took every fibre of resistance to not shout it, she didn't want to inflict anymore pain upon her lover.

Not when she was about to leave her. 

"What for, sweetheart?" she sighed, pressing a kiss to the brunette's hair before looking at her, "You have nothing to thank me for".

"I do, Alice. I don't have any regrets right now. You're the reason for that" Reimu exhaled and cupped Alice's cheek again, leaning closer and inhaling in her fragrance for the last time, "I love you, something that will follow me to wherever I end up. I know it".

"Let me come with you" Alice breathed out as she cried.

Reimu's body was becoming cooler, colder than the darkness imbued wind around them.

"Please, don't take her away from me!".

"You'll come to me one day, that day isn't today" Reimu teased playfully and met the blue orbs she had fallen n love with, "Besides, who is going to keep an eye on Marisa if you come with me? Gensokyo will be blown apart and then Yukari will get annoyed".

They both shared a laugh, Reimu's maudlin, Alice's elegiac. 

"She would want to follow you too, Reimu" Alice reminded, "I think everyone would just to be with you".

"Who has the honeyed tongue now?" Reimu grinned, a dribble of blood exiting between her lips.

"Hm, you're responsible for that" Alice professed, concealing a gasp at the sight. 

Reimu swallowed back the cough, her tone becoming soft yet comfortable, "I'm glad I could be a good influence on you in some way" she replied, "Hey, I love you, Alice, don't ever forget that". 

Reimu felt even more lighter in her arms as her hands decended from Alice's shoulders, eyes flickering in indescribable pain. 

Alice's heart felt like it was going to collapse within itself, "I love you too, Reimu, so much. Please..don't leave me".

"Wouldn't dream of it" Reimu answered quietly and smiled as her eyes watered before offering one final kiss with whatever strength she could muster up.

It was bittersweet, bloodied and baleful.

"Goodbye, Alice". 

It was the last kiss that both of them would ever taste. 

Reimu's head dropped to Alice's chest for one final time.

Alice screamed into the open air.

She screamed.

Shaking Reimu slightly, Alice muttered for the woman to wake up, to not leave her yet, to come back. 

But her words were drowned out by her cries and the gentle sway of the waves around her waist. 

Reimu's now lifeless body remained in her arms as she cried with everything she had within her.

Even if she knew this moment was coming, nothing dulled the pain of her heart being ripped out.

The strings had been cut between them.

Reimu was gone. 

Behind her back on the shore, a small gap remained open to give them privacy but large enough to remind Alice that Yukari was still there in the shrine.

That she had felt Reimu's demise right to the very core of her being since she was linked to Reimu that way. 

She wondered if the youkai could feel her grief too, the piercing sensation reverberating within her till she became numb with her dead lover pressed against her chest. 

The blonde could feel Alice's affliction. 

Yukari wept silently as Eirin approached her and pulled her into her arms.

Her lamentations were as silent as her sobs but the magnitude of the loss of Reimu could be felt in her essence.

Violet eyes shimmered against Eirin's chest as the woman held Yukari tightly, their eyes on the sullen form of Alice in the ocean, unmoving through the gap 

A spark had bedimmed around Gensokyo as the Hakurei Barrier flickered, losing a tone of its crimson shade.

The eyes and hearts of the many that had met Reimu looked up as the dreary night sky of Gensokyo suddenly felt heavier, like it was going to fall down on them.

Reimu was gone. 

She was inimitable, she would be immortalised. 

Marisa sat outside the shrine, gripping the life out of her Hakkero as Nitori did her best to comfort her whilst coming to terms with Reimu's death. 

She had never seen Marisa cry.

The residents of the Scarlet Devil Mansion remained idle in the patio of their home, watching the moon in the distance of the Hakurei Shrine. 

Emptiness surrounded them as Sakuya's blue eyes glistened. 

Youmu was reduced to immobility at Hakugyokurou as Yuyuko's sombre expression told her all that she needed to know about where Reimu was now heading to. 

Maybe they would see each other again soon. 

At Youkai mountain, Sanae and Aya, along with Kanako and Suwako offered a few parting thoughts as they reminisced about the character Reimu was. 

Sanae's body slumped against Kanako's, eyes matching the consistency of the lake. 

Byakuren's heart ached at the presence of Reimu disappearing as the occupants of her temple simmered at the news of Gensokyo's defender. 

The cemetery appeared more livelier now. 

Yorihime and Toyohime were at Eientei with Reisen and Kaguya as the news of Reimu's death reached them, their many escapades with the prickly and seditious priestess becoming a fond part of their memories. 

Reisen couldn't accept it, not yet as Kaguya comforted her, staving away her own grief. 

Gensokyo felt empty. 

At a standstill, desolate without the priestess that had altered its foundation to provide a home for all species. 

Alice didn't believe the land would ever feel that kind of light again, forever to be shrouded in a moribund atmosphere.

Reimu could not be replaced by any other priestess that Yukari most likely had lined up. She knew they would never harbour the level of illumination that the brunette provided for one reason alone. 

Looking down at the brunette's face, she was convinced that it had gone with Reimu, never to be seen again until she joined her.

Then one day, maybe one day, Alice would reunite with her again and feel that spark.

Till then, Alice sought comfort from the waves Reimu was so mesmerised with as she held her. 

Sinking, drowning as the tides pulled them under.