On the surface level, the life of Kirisame Marisa, Ordinary Witch, was remarkably simple and, to other people, easy going.
To outsiders, the blonde haired girl's life was as followed: Wake up, breakfast, battle smallfry youkai and fairies, lunch at the Hakurei Shrine, 'borrow' a few books from her fellow magic users, then head home.
It was simple, in a way, and there was a very good reason for that; because Marisa wanted it that way. Simple may get boring at times, but that was where Incidents came in handy. Simple was routine, and routine could help with ones peace of mind.
For Marisa, this routine still had a few differences from day to day. Sometimes, she could only get out of the Scarlet Devil Mansion with two or three books. Sometimes, the fairy known as Cirno would put up a very good fight. Just because Marisa did the same thing every day didn't mean the results were the same every time.
How did the saying go? That insanity was doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results? Yeah, that didn't exactly apply to Gensokyo.
So, what was Marisa doing right now? Laying on her broom, high in the sky, soaking in the sunlight, alone with her thoughts.
For some reason, Marisa just couldn't get motivated today. A part of her wanted to claim she didn't know why, but that would have been a lie. She knew pretty damn well why she was in such a slump, and it all had to do with something her longtime friend and rival, Hakurei Reimu, said a few weeks ago.
It was a rather simple comment she'd said, used mainly as a jab at Marisa's casual, if not unreliable, attitude. She understood that, really.
What made the comment sting just a little too much was the fact that it was about her 'friendship' with one Patchouli Knowledge.
The relationship between Marisa and Patchouli was... rocky, to say the least. Not just because Marisa constantly stole -sorry, 'borrowed'- Patchouli's books, but because, for a time, they were an item.
Let it be known that there was a lot of emphasis on the word 'were'.
Whenever Marisa thought back to those days after the Subterranean Geyser Incident and after the Reversal Incident with a great deal of fondness. There was just one major caveat.
To anyone who claimed to know Marisa, they would say that she has a bad habit of 'stealing hearts'. She had this kind of charisma that drew people towards her, much like Reimu did, with the main difference being that Marisa took that attention in stride. The result of this was Marisa having an impressively large circle of friends, some of which even developed crushes on her.
Marisa was thankful for all those bonds, don't get her wrong, but... her heart was always set on one person, and one person alone. It had been for years now.
Sitting upright on her broom, Marisa faced the second largest forest in Gensokyo, the Forest of Magic, and flew off.
Within minutes, Marisa had touched down at where the trees ended, where a small, western-style cottage sat in the middle of the clearing.
Keeping herself hidden behind the treeline, Marisa peeked out, watching the movement of shadows in the window. She watched as a young woman dressed in light blue with short blonde hair went about her life rather cheerfully.
That girl was Alice Margatroid, and in case it wasn't obvious, this was the person who had stolen Marisa's heart long ago.
Marisa turned, pressing her back against the tree, and sighed deeply. How long had it been since they had last had a conversation? A year? Two, maybe? Yet, even now, Marisa felt as if she couldn't take a step closer.
Attempting to steal her nerves, Marisa tried to circle around the tree, and approach the house.
The force of the memory hit Marisa light a freight train. At that moment, as she staggered back, she could have sworn she saw a blonde haired child glaring at her with tears in her eyes. Yet, just as quickly as the spectre appeared, it was gone.
Marisa let out a sharp, shallow breath that she didn't realise she was holding. Again, that memory burned her mind. Again, she couldn't get any closer.
Hadn't it been well over a decade by now? Couldn't she finally take that step?
Looking dejected, Marisa mounted her broom once more, and flew off, unaware that she had been seen.
A light drizzle began to fall over Gensokyo, despite the fact that the sun continued to shine strongly. It was the sort of weather you'd most attribute with spring, despite the fact that it was currently still the height of winter.
Marisa, thoroughly soaked to the bone, landed in the more quiet district of the Human Village. The humans of Gensokyo were certainly use to seeing people flying around by now (if only because something strange happens literally every other day), but it was still considered polite for those that could fly to land somewhat discretely.
As it so happened, this 'discrete' area was right in front of one of Marisa's favourite places in the village; a small book rental known as Suzunaan. Breathing a small sigh of relief, Marisa let herself in.
“Yo, Kosuzu!” Marisa greeted casually. “Hope ya don't mind I wait out the rain, do ya?”
Seated behind the counted was a girl with light red hair, by the name of Motoori Kosuzu. It was her family that owned Suzunaan, so logically, Kosuzu would be its main employee, compounded by the fact that she had the uncanny ability to read anything that is written, no matter the language.
“Ah, Marisa-san!” Kosuzu exclaimed. “Welcome. Of course you can.”
Marisa removed her hat, and shook the water off it, making sure not to get any on the books. “Man, this rain came out of nowhere, huh?” she commented. “Must make business slow.”
Kosuzu shrugged in response. “Well, slow business means more reading time, so I'm not complaining,” she commented. There was a moment's pause, before Kosuzu spoke up again. “Say, Marisa-san... Is everything alright?”
Marisa's brow twitched, though she managed to keep that fact hidden. “What... what do you mean?”
“Well, Reimu and that rabbit she's always with these days,” Kosuzu elaborated, causing Marisa to sigh in both relief and... irritation? “Are they actually an item now?”
“Even if they don't openly admit it,” Marisa said. “Trust me, those two definitely have it for each other.”
Kosuzu let out an almost dreamy sigh. “Man, I wish something like that could happen in my life,” she mumbled. “I've always dreamt of a love story like that.”
“Sounds like someone's been getting into Agatha Chris-Q's romance works,” Marisa snarked. Agatha Chris-Q was an author that, for lack of a better word, exploded onto the scene with numerous mystery novels over the past few years. No one really knew who they were, and they were doubly confused when the author started dipping their toes into other genres, such as the aforementioned romance novels, yet everyone had to admit, they were still well written.
That being said, only a select few people even knew of the existence of Chris-Q's more 'raunchy' works. Marisa had the 'pleasure' of happening upon one that had been poorly stashed away one time, and she'd never been able to sleep the same way since.
“But what about you, Marisa-san?” Kosuzu asked. “Haven't you wanted a romance like theirs?”
Marisa's expression turned solemn, as she mindlessly browsed the books on the shelf. “It's not that... I don't want something like that,” Marisa muttered. “But, it's not like I deserve an experience like that.”
Kosuzu looked equal parts concerned and confused. “What do you mean?”
Marisa's finger fell upon an unnamed book, which she took from the shelf. “What, you think my life's all sunshine and rainbows?” she snarked, casually flicking through the pages of the book. “Hate to break it to ya, kiddo, but as chummy as I am with folks, I have a terrible habit of hurting others at the same time.”
“That...” Kosuzu hesitated slightly. “That can't be true, can it? You're the happiest person I know.”
“Well, you know what they say about that,” Marisa laughed drily. “The brightest people hide...”
Then, a strange, dull pain shot through her chest, like a hand shooting through her, and holding her heart out her back. The book feel from her hands, and she staggered back a few paces, brushing her back against the opposing shelf. She reached up, and felt where she thought the wound should be, and found nothing.
“Marisa-san! Are you alright?” Kosuzu called out.
“Y... yeah, I'm good,” she responded. “The heck was that?” Hesitantly, she picked the book back up, and flicked through the pages. “What the? It's blank.”
“Blank?” Kosuzu repeated, moving over to Marisa's side. “How could that be?”
“Ain't this one of yours?” Marisa asked. “How's it being blank a surprise?”
“Marisa-san, I'll be perfectly honest; I've never seen this book before in my life,” Kosuzu admitted. “I know every book that comes through this shop, and this isn't one of them.”
“Then, where'd this book come from?” Marisa said, as she gave it another look over. It's cover was pure white, and the texture, she wanted to say was leather, yet also not quite. She'd hate to think it was bound by human skin, but banished the thought on account of it being far too white.
Kosuzu took the book from Marisa's hands, and gave it her own once-over. “Yeah. Completely blank,” she concluded. “I can't even see any remnants of text on it. It's like it's completely new.”
Marisa wanted to comment on it more, but felt a painful headache coming on. “No, I think I'm done with things for today,” she muttered. “I'll be back tomorrow to check that book out, 'kay?”
“Ah... Okay,” Kosuzu responded hesitantly. “Marisa-san, are you sure you're alright?”
“Yeah, just... not on the ball today, that's all.” With that, Marisa donned her hat, and stepped outside into the pouring rain.
That night, after returning home, Kirisame Marisa was plagued by... let's call them 'unpleasant dreams'.
She stood in a dark room, the smell of burning books permeating the air. Smoke filled the air, heavy enough that no light could pass through.
Marisa tried to call out, yet her words died in her throat. A voice could be heard, masked by the crackling embers; no, perhaps two voices? One was talking, and the other was... screaming?
Panicking, Marisa tried to find the source of the voices. Before long, she happened upon a pair of silhouettes, one lying on the ground, and the other standing over them.
The shadow turned, and before it faced her, the world faded, and Marisa woke with a startled gasp.
Sitting upright, Marisa wiped the sweat that had formed on her brow. “What a nightmare,” she muttered. “Haven't had one like that in... I dunno, ten, fifteen years?”
Fifteen years. Back when she and Reimu were first starting out. Those first four Incidents that hardly anyone in Gensokyo could recall were, in her opinion, some of her favourite memories.
A shame, then, that the final part of those memories was so tainted by misery.
Changing into her day wear, Marisa stepped outside, breathing in the morning air. Judging by the freshness, she'd say it was quite early in the morning. Perhaps a morning flight might help clear her head.
Of course, that was before she picked up the faint smell of smoke on the air. Marisa quickly scanned the sky from her doorway, and saw no signs of it. Yet, the smell persisted.
Marisa shot up into the skies, and looked into the distance.
“There,” she said. “It's coming from the village, huh? A youkai must be getting too big for its breaches.” With that said, Marisa flew off towards the trouble, unaware of what was fated to unfold.