"Let's talk music. Do you like the Elton John song Rocket Man?"
"I don't like soft-ass shit."
"Oh, you don't. Well, I only bring it up because it's you. You're the Rocket Man."
- The Rock
"Game Over. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA."
- Count Dracula
Maria liked to wear green on the outside, and soon she'd be wearing nothing but green on the inside. Obscure shadows huddled between crumbling mausoleums in the royal graveyard. The perpetual witching hour rustled with the sounds of plant cells brushing frayed nylon. The smell of vanilla and embalming fluid dangled in the air.
Tan-robed grave keepers wearing decayed sun hats were kneeling in a circle around a pile of hedge clippings. They worked in careful coordination as they dug up small handfuls of black graveyard turf with dry withered hands and reached toward something under the brush. The groundskeeping ghouls were in peak physical conditioning for their centuries-old age, lending to their reputation as swift-moving corpses who had laid many a mortal to rest in hand-to-hand combat.
The shadow on the ground twitched when one of the grave keepers placed a palmful of rotten earth into the brush. The way it moved revealed the shadow was human, or at least half-human. Each grave keeper knew exactly how to tend to this fallen opponent while they communicated with each other only through dreary ominous chuckling.
Flickers of moonlight occasionally illuminated the parts of her that weren't completely engulfed under a quilt of leaves. A pair of athletic legs wearing ribboned socks flinched on the grass. The embroidery of her short skirt was rushed up to her waist. The seat of her black fighting bloomers was torn apart under her thighs to keep her open for business. Spine flat on the ground, knees bent, ankles flopped in opposite directions. Had this pose been one of her fighting techniques, she would have called it the Presenting Butterfly. The grave keepers had enough room to park a wheelbarrow in front of her lap if they thought it was necessary. Their purpose was to turn the courageous fighting maiden into a garden hoe.
The victim lying under the wrappings was unmistakably Maria, assuming you could identify Maria only by her lower half. The spry vampire huntress's energy attacks and triple jump dive kicks were no match for a half-dozen crusty monks who dabbled in gardening. Too bad she forgot the button combination that summoned all four Fushigi Yuugi gods at the same time and turned her invincible.
She'd proven to be ineffective in combat, but she still had untested potential below the sash. The greatest skill of any martial artist was their ability to become one with their environment, and the grave keepers were applying a demonic perversion of that same philosophy to their captive. Had they said anything while they were working, they have told their unfortunate adversary something along the lines of "Your body is strong but your resolve is weak. Now we must help you master the kung-fu that you do in your vagoo."
The question of whose battle technique was stronger had been solved and the only thing left was the ugly little matter of turning Maria's internal perks rancid. Although the fight was long over and it was clear who was the loser, the two sides almost appeared to be still engaged in competition. There was a certain dance-like logic to the way they were all positioned, with the nimble legs of an acrobat locked in the steady rugged arms of combat landscapers. Something about it could have been romantic if the stand-ins for Fabio didn't look like a bunch of mildew-covered terra cotta judo instructors
On the positive side of things, Maria was a perfect model for hand-crafted corruption. It turns out when her toned waistline and firm thighs weren't able to roundhouse everything that moved, they still offered plenty of durable storage space.
The grave keepers were disciplined and attentive as they performed Maria's pollination. Sometimes they would press the tips of their colorless fingers against the lower end of her waist and focus their unholy magic in zen-like meditation. They'd pat her near the navel and have a good chortle when they came out of the séance. Every time they reached into the darkness under her legs with another sample of moldy tumulus, their hands would resurface empty and dripping with clear flower sap. The clump of weeds may have grunted.
She rarely made a noise while the undead monks applied their subliminal art. Her mind lingered in cloudy dreams while her head ached from one too many karate chops. The lights were off upstairs while her downstairs was being converted into a fully equipped plant nursery. The few sounds she did make mostly consisted of "haa" and "ugh."
The interior of Renard's spawning facilities was like a moist lily pad completely unaware of the fact it was slowly being poisoned by a frog sitting in its leaves. Their days as a source of light and hope were finished, and now her loom was getting in the kind of shape that could support a miniature Granfalloon. She was a vase being filled with potting soil rich with the bonemeal of countless dead and the infants of countless insects.
Her hips tussled and pivoted like the edges of a bowl struggling to contain its vegetation. Her core reflexes were fearsome and feisty, but their efforts were for accommodating the vile curses festering inside her rather than resisting them. Her uncomfortable fidgeting and the spontaneous muscle convulsions in her legs made her almost seem like she was excited to become a cornucopia filled with asparagus that went stale in the 15th century.
One grave keeper stopped the wicked, unsightly thing he was doing and chuckled commandingly toward the others. Another grave keeper nodded and reached into the top of his robe, producing an ancient rusted urn. He twisted off the lid in a few turns and held the container toward the entire group. Their hands filled with ash-colored seeds that were long overdue to be planted in a sacrificial altar.
These seeds grew best in places that were warm, dark, and abundant with nutrients. There was only one area of Maria that met all the desired criteria.
The arms of the grave keepers reached downward again, and the heap of weeds gasped. The shaded underside of the huntress's thighs quivered from a sudden chill. Black clouds swept across the moon in the sky, covering the whole cemetery in virtual darkness and hiding the shapes huddled on the ground.
A terrible suspicion was starting to blossom in the back of Alucard's mind. Gliding through the empty graveyard like mist traversing between carved rocks, the vampiric half of his senses were on heightened alert for the first sign of anything out of the ordinary. He only stopped he almost tripped on something hidden in the grass.
It was a bleach white skeleton lying flat on its back with its knees bent away from each other. The construction of the bones was consistent for a female in early adulthood, but their unnaturally preserved state said her time of death could have been anywhere from ten decades ago to ten minutes ago. The skeleton was covered with the dusty remnants of a green charmeuse dress that oddly seemed like it was trying to be a Rococo era qipao, an appropriate choice of fashion for someone with a Spanish first name and French last name living in Romania. Perhaps this woman had known the famous Ramirez of Egypt in life.
The culturally-ambivalent getup was tied with scraps of a gold sash, and what few scraps were left were overgrown with a giant cluster of weeds inhabiting the skeleton's hollowed pelvis. In death she had become the mother of millions of plant colonies. The teeth in her skull were drawn into a weary but satisfied smile.
Alucard was already checking the ground for owl feathers. He should have been more leery of the crackling bones and the sudden rising wind over his head.
Death himself materialized in the cold air. Frail but imposing, withered but menacing, he was the ultimate authority over all mortality. The edge of his scythe pointed slightly toward the skeletal remains as he levitated like Hell wraith with certain samurai qualities (or however that one data log in Portrait of Ruin described him).
"Again, the rebel son steps in where he's not invited," he said in loathing disappointment. "You're too late to make a difference this time."
The ground rustled softly as the abandoned skeleton seemed to shift its hips. It quickly became apparent it was actually the dense bundle of weeds inside of the skeleton that shifted. Alucard watched on in surprise as they multiplied out of their bony bowl, grew longer, and stood up.
The figure in front of him looked like some form of swamp monster for the first brief moments, a faceless mass of vines and moss that were barely assembled like a humanoid. But the hives of greenery slowly weaved together to create the more compact shape of a young woman.
Something mimicking Maria's appearance stepped out from below the skeleton's ribcage. A versatile green afterimage of Maria, born from Maria's infested husk to be a vessel for Maria's corrupt soul. She was both one and many, a communion of demon plants merging their vines together on a microscopic level to create Maria's likeness. Whether this creature should be considered a clone or a daughter was questionable, but there was no questioning she was evil.
Her eyes were rosy red, her skin was watermelon green, her tangled hair shined emerald-gold, and her appearance was sultry and cheerful. She was nude by technicality, but the broccoli growing from her body was arranged in a way that it resembled a thigh-length green dress. Standing lightly on her feet with no unwieldy blossoms to hinder her movement, she was like a more wild variety of alraune with distinctively kunoichi-inspired assets. Eventually she would have a bestiary entry that gave her the name Banshiris and described her as "Spirit of a girl who got grew too many creepers in her crater."
"Do you still think you can stand in our way, Alucard?" Death snorted through the empty black space where his nose should have been. "Look. Even your pestilent fox friend has gone to seed."
The Maria-thing rubbed her leaves together to make a sound similar to demented giggling.
"Let's show this dhampir sapling what kind of thorns roses can pack." The resurrected garden crop smirked toward the reaper.
Author's note: I'm going to say this is the PSP/PS4/Android version of Maria. She's hot garbage and muh gurl Sexy Sega Saturn Maria would never let this happen to her (even if I specifically mentioned Saturn Maria's moveset.)
Author's note 2: I completely forgot what the animation for PSP/PS4/Android Maria's down + dash move looked like until I started replaying the Android game a couple days ago. How does she do that? Isn't she afraid of burning her bum?