Disclaimer: I own none of the characters mentioned or used in this story, except for the one from whose point of view this story is told. Any and all of the other characters belong to Team Shanghai Alice.


Chapter 40: Revival and Retreat

"Would I be correct in assuming you are the one that came in here from the outside world just recently?"

"No, stop, you're wrong! I'm not the shadow!"

"Or maybe trouble does find you, you disgusting little pervert! Reimu, Marisa, and Nitori?"

"Well? Let's get this interview started!"

"Please… forgive yourself. And if you can't forgive, then please, forget. I will forgive you either way."


"Gah!"

What the… I was awake.

I rubbed my head in discomfort as I tried to even out my breathing. It was that nightmare again. I couldn't believe that I'd been hit with another case of it, making this the fourth time in as many nights. At this rate, I was just going to keep losing sleep over it.

Every night, it always started the same; I would see Hanako, her back turned to me. She'd look over, offering out a hand for a reason I did not know. I would try to take it, but the moment I did, a wall of thorny vines would close over me. And I'd start falling, falling through memory after memory of my time before becoming Hanako's soldier. Voices echoed everywhere, almost until I couldn't tell which was which anymore, until I plunged into an event. Fighting demons in Hell with Utsuho. Meeting the moon princess Kaguya. Making my way up the mountain to meet Kanako. If I had somehow been involved in it, it would show up. It made no difference what it was, and every night was different. And they would often times be twisted somehow. Not necessarily in a negative way, but they would sometimes be contorted, like I was watching the memory through my own eyes, but with the vision smashed in like cracked glass, or occasionally rippling as if I was viewing it with a pool of water, or in some ways I did not care to remember.

Yet at the end of the nightmare, there would always be a single memory that rang with perfect clarity; no distortions, no disturbances, no alterations save for being bathed in some sort of holy light. All of them would be some personal memory with that kappa girl Nitori. Asking her for shelter after my journey to Hell. Falling asleep next to her in Eientei. And just now, I had been given a replay of our conversation inside the waterfall of the Youkai Mountain.

Then, once that finished, I'd be pulled up, back to Hanako and the Saigyou Ayakashi. She would look at me with her empty black eyes without emotion. Her finger would stab me in the head just like before, and I would be shocked awake.

I sighed to myself. I was well aware that having a single dream in a similar fashion multiple nights in a row usually meant something was wrong, or I was being told something. But I had no idea what this dream was supposed to mean.

And for that matter, why did all of these dreams involve that Nitori girl one way or another? As if hitting me with wanging headaches at least once a day wasn't bad enough already….

"Nnh…."

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Tenshi was still here.

Our session the previous night hadn't been very long, but as our first 'official' one, it was certainly a night to remember. Her squeals of pain behind her gag were still fresh on my mind, as were the many marks left behind on her ass gained from a round of whipping and spanking. I took care to end our first session early, refraining form using too many tools in order to save them for the future. Also, our combined overall experience with such activities was still at the level of a pair of greenhorns, so continuing meant running the risk of causing severe physical injury to Tenshi, which I certainly didn't want.

Perhaps in the future, we would engage in these sessions more often, for longer periods of time. Maybe we would even pursue some even more… intimate activities than simple torture. I had made sure not to defile her too much, leaving her womanhood untouched. But one day, Tenshi would truly become mine.

As it was, however, Tenshi had wanted to remain bound and gagged the rest of the night, for reasons I could not quite discern. I had warned her that she would feel sore tomorrow morning, but she shook her head saying she didn't mind. So I left her wrists tied together, and the ballgag in her mouth. I hadn't dispelled the collar either.

She raised her hands with slight difficulty in order to rub her eyes, and sat up a bit, sleepy eyes questioning why I was awake at such an early hour.

I chuckled a little, a reassuring smile coming across my face. I had no intention of giving away any indication that my dream had affected me. "Ah, did I awaken you? Don't worry, it's nothing."

"She didn't seem satisfied with my answer, but she nodded anyways.

But before she could lie back down, I stopped her, and placed a hand down on the pillow, where her head had been. It felt wet.

"Goodness, you drooled a lot tonight," I commented, drawing an embarrassed blush from Tenshi. "Now I have another reason to remove your gag before allowing you to go to sleep."

Before she could make any noise in protest, I reached behind her head, undid the leather strap, and pulled the ball out. As I did, a trail of spit followed, with a couple drops dripping onto the bed.

She winced as her mouth snapped shut, and her hands came up to massage her cheeks.

"I told you so," I teased.

Then I glanced at the ball for a quick moment. I gave it a small lick, tasting the saliva left behind, and feeling the impressions in the wood gained from when Tenshi bit into it last night.

"It tastes of you," I teased, smiling as I breathed in the scent.

"Ah, m-master!" she whined. "Don't say things like tha-mph!"

Her collar did well in keeping her in place as I dove in, pressing my lips onto hers in a deep kiss. She remained tense for only a quick moment before relenting, pushing back as I toyed with her sense of taste. The feel and taste of her tongue were enticing, making me unwilling to part. Back and forth, our tongues rolled across each other, with me taking total control of my partner.

Then, without warning, my hands moved, one going behind her head, the other taking a nipple between its fingers and squeezing.

Tenshi's surprised squeak was lost amongst our mingling tongues. Her hands shot up, fastening themselves to my robe. I didn't stop, testing her sensitivity as I pulled outward. She gasped, drawing me closer and pressing her chest against mine, as if in a futile attempt to stop me.

I pinched harder, and twisted.

"H-hyaaahh!" she squealed at last, breaking free from my lips. It was a cry born of ecstacy through agony.

I smiled, my fingers pulling away. My tongue darted out for an instant to lick up the remaining saliva left behind.

"That was your punishment, naughty little Celestial. I'm not leaving this in for you next time," I said, shaking the leather and ball in front of her.

Alongside her heavy breaths, she looked at me with a pitiful expression, as if thinking it would change my mind.

It didn't work. She eventually nodded. "Yes, master…."

I smiled, and made to get out of the bed. But before I did, I quickly untied the knots binding Tenshi's hands.

"So you're going to the village now?"

"Yeah. I think I may be late as it is. I was supposed to be at the stairwell a little while ago, I think, so I need to get there now." As I spoke, I was disrobing myself, changing back into the outfit that had been originally provided for me by the boundary youkai. Special occasions required special clothing, and this outfit, in all its elegance and beauty, was perfect for that.

"When do you think you'll be back?" she inquired.

I paused in the middle of pulling my arm into the second sleeve of the dress shirt, thinking. "I… can't say. Supposedly, according to Sakuya, it took the three of them a full day to arrive here, so I don't think I'll be back until tomorrow by the earliest."

"Can't you come back sooner?" she whined again.

I laughed as I pulled the slacks over the dress shirt.

"I don't think so. But don't worry."

I finished dressing, pulling the single sleeve of the half-coat over my left arm and securing the belt around my waist. The cravat took some time to tie properly, but I eventually managed the task. I patted the chest pocket on my half-coat, and smiled; the pocket watch was still there. It was a nice memento, in some ways, reminding me that it was a supposed gift.

Once I was done, I went back over to the still-bedridden Celestial and knelt before her, taking her hand in my own.

"I shall be swift in my return for you. Be still; you will not be alone for long."

A pause. Then Tenshi slipped off the bed and hugged me. "I will hold that to you, Kaito."

"You have my word."


"Hey, what took ya so long! We've been waitin' forever for ya!"

"My apologies. I seem to have overslept."

"Sou nano ka~? But how could you sleep with all that noise last night?"

I winced a bit. That… was difficult to answer. I had no intention of indulging Rumia in my late night activities, yet at the same time, it felt somewhat rude to just leave her hanging.

"Oh isn't it obvious?" Medicine cut in, smirking coldly at me. "Human ears are terrible, after all. It's no surprise he was able to sleep through that."

I'm not sure if I like that answer I thought, though it did manage to get me out of having to answer the darkness youkai. However, my polite smile betrayed no anger.

"Ah, who cares!" Cirno, the ice fairy, blurted out loudly. "We wasted so much time waitin' for him! I said it'd be alright to go on without him."

"But it's my job to escort him," Mystia countered, coming out from behind my back. "You're all just coming along with him."

"Well why does he get ta be leader? I'm the strongest! I should be tha leader!"

"What are you talking about?" sniped Wriggle Nightbug. "You think you're the strongest? Please. That couldn't be further from th-"

BONK!"

"Shaddup, Wriggle!"

"Now now, let's not get violent here," Yamame Kurodani intervened, the earth spider attempting to come between the ice-blockhead and the firefly. She wasn't doing a very good job.

"We really need to get go-"

"You ice-for-brains! Get over he-"

"QUIET!"

BOOM!

The localized miniature earthquake was more than enough to shut them all the hell up.

I frowned at the lot of them, the Sword of Hisou stabbed into the ground, cracks spiderwebbing out from it. Gods, could these people not get along at all?

"Now that I have your attention…" I breathed, attempting to exhale out my spike of anger.

"Cirno, get it into your thick head! I had no intention of ever asking you, and only let you come along because you wouldn't leave me alone about it. Be grateful I ever agreed to bring you in the first place!"

"Ha!" Wriggle cried in victory. In a singsong voice, she continued "He chose me ove-"

"Wriggle!"

"Eep!"

My glare had jumped a level in intensity. This was really beginning to irritate me.

"I don't give a damn about how much you don't like Cirno. She's coming along, and that's that. So put up, and shut up, before I send you back to Hanako-hime!"

The idiot pair stared at me, silent. Then they glanced at each other, huffed, and turned towards opposite directions like a couple of kids in a cartoon show. I knew it wasn't permanent, but at least it was a temporary solution. I was the current leader, and they knew it. On top of that, I was stronger than both of them by a fair margin, and I had no qualms about knocking them inside out if situation called for it. So they either shut up, or I smacked them both silly. Their choice.

Not that it mattered, considering how stupid they were.

"Uwah~" Rumia sighed in amazement. "Kaito-nii is so cool~"

I grimaced mentally; that elder-brother attachment wasn't really necessary….

"Don't encourage him, or he'll freeze solid," Medicine quipped, seemingly unamused. But I could tell she was slightly impressed; Wriggle and cirno did little more than argue with each other on a day-to-day basis when they weren't trying to fight everyone else or each other in doomed-to-fail attempts in making themselves look stronger. The others were mostly fine – or rather, amused – with just watching them have at each other, and perhaps enjoyed kicking them down a few pegs if they were challenged. So far, I'd been the only one who could reign the little rabble rousers in, much to Yamame's relief, since she and I shared sentiments on trying to keep the two from blowing themselves up but was just a little too soft to get in the way of either of them.

"Now that that's taken care of…" Mystia breathed, wiping her forehead of nonexistent sweat. "Let's get going, hm?"

"Yes," I agreed, withdrawing the Sword of Hisou. "We have a lot of ground to cover."

"I'll lead us there!"

"No, I will!"

"You'll just get us lost!"

"Nuh-uh! You will! I'll-"

CRACK!

"OW!"

"Shut up, you two!"

The idiot pair grumbled loudly as they split up, rubbing their heads in pain. Cirno, in particular, would feel it later, since I had whacked her with a hammer as opposed to Wriggle being hit with a fist.

But she was an idiot. She'd be fine.

"It really is difficult, isn't it?"

I groaned, shaking my head. My own fault for taking Yamame's job in trying to control those two. But at least she understood.

"Oh yeah. It really is…"


"The village is really here, you have to believe me!"

"I know, I believe you, okay? So quit bawling already. But still, that doesn't explain this at all…."

The trip really had taken the whole day. On the way, we had passed quite a few things: a village named Mayohiga that served as a home for youkai; a large lake independent of the one that surrounded the Scarlet Devil Mansion; and a massive section of the Forest of Magic. Of the seven of us, Yamame was the only one who had no method of flight, indirect or otherwise, so I was left with the task of having to piggyback-carry her, being the largest of the group. Nothing really happened aside from a couple more argumentative break-outs from the usual two. At one point, I really wanted to shut the two up, except my hands were full. At this, Yamame was more than glad to help with several sharply-aimed shots of sticky spider silk, effectively shutting them both up for three whole hours. Unfortunately for both of them, this fell right on top of noontime, when we stopped for lunch (I didn't intentionally do this, to be honest), so the two of them were left hungry until they were able to work off the silk and ask us to stop a second time.

We spoke little, preferring to just fly in order to make the best of the time we were given. Admittedly, however, it was rather amusing, watching Rumia float into a tree on occasion. Why she concealed herself in such a thick bubble of darkness all the time, I would never know, since she couldn't see out of it at all, but it also served as a rather nice shield from the sun, so none of us really said anything.

Now we were at the end of the valley. We were ready to take what we had come for.

But the village wasn't here.

The seven of us were standing the middle of the exact spot where the village was supposed to be, yet there wasn't a single building or house in sight. The ground was perfectly fresh with green grass growing with impunity. It was like the entire village had simply chosen to suddenly pick itself up and vanish into thin air, leaving nothing but grass, a few trees, and fresh air.

Normally, I most likely would have said that Mystia was somehow mistaken. But that wasn't the case; aside from having been here once before, I could just tell something was here. Some kind of energy signature was left behind, indicating that the village was indeed here; it was just that something was concealing it.

"What I'd like to know," Medicine questioned, "is who would have enough power to hide the whole village."

I would have suggested Yukari at that, but decided it to be too obvious. Besides, if that really were the case, then I doubt I would be feeling this energy.

"It's gotta be that schoolteacher," Wriggle claimed. "She's the one guarding the village all the time, after all."

"Who?" I asked as Mystia nodded in agreement.

"She's this half-human that guards the village against fairies and youkai," Cirno explained simply.

"That is to say, I guard it from the likes of you."

The sudden inclusion of a loud, motherly voice turned us towards the direction from which we came.

Out from the trees strode a beautiful, sky-blue-haired woman perhaps no older in looks than Hanako herself. Her simple blue dress with the red ribbon at the end of the collar was, admittedly, fitting for a schoolteacher, despite it looking rather low-cut. But the strangest part of her outfit was her hat, which looked like some kind of pagoda or bento box sitting on top of her head. In short, it looked foolish.

"Ah, so you're the self-proclaimed guardian of the village," I greeted, stepping forward and bowing. "May I ask your name?"

"Keine Kamishirasawa," she responded, bowing with the same polite front I was putting up. We were enemies; courtesy was an unneeded formality. "What is yours?"

"Kaito. I am an envoy of the new mistress of Hakugyokoro, Hanako-hime. Pray tell, how did you manage to hide the entire human village like this?"

" 'Humans never settled here in the first place.' All I did was make it look that way," she answered. "Good thing I did, too, with so many suspicious characters appearing out of the night."

I made a mental note to next time tell Rumia to blacken any area we were about to investigate so moonlight would not reach us; with the moon only just waning, there was still plenty enough to see perfectly fine at night even if you were human.

"So you knew we were coming then?" I asked, somewhat amused. "I wonder who told you."

"A little bird did."

At that, I had an aching feeling that at least two of the others were staring at Mystia, angry. How nice; now dissent would be sowed within the ranks.

"Hmph," I scoffed. "It matters little. Though I wonder if the village won't show its face…."

I drew the Sword of Hisou and assumed a ready stance: dominant foot forward, weapon held angled towards the ground in front of me, palm facing downward.

"Once I defeat you."

Keine eyed the sword with some form of apprehension. "I thought that was the sword used by that Celestial."

"It is," I confirmed. "But Tenshi's not here right now, so I'm using it in her stead."

She didn't comment. Instead, she pulled out a card from her dress.

"宝刀は、王のすべての敵をダウンカットしなければならない! Land Sign: Three Sacred Treasures – Sword!"

She tossed the card above her. It shattered there, and reconstructed into the form of a glowing white sword. Once it came down into her open hand, it assumed the plain steel gray of a katana with an ornately designed hilt and red-white handle.

"Haven't used this in a while," she mused, taking a couple practice swings. Then she took a ready stance of her own: left foot forward, katana held two hands above her head and parallel to the floor.

"Good thing I can still remember how."

I smiled gleefully. "It would have been a shame if you had forgotten."

With the sword, I drew a quick circle above my head. "Circle up!"

The other six fanned out at my command, forming a small hexagonal arena around the two of us. This was one battle Keine wasn't going to get out of, even if she won.

"Now…." My face became murderous. "Show me your strength!"

I lunged, stepping into a shoulder-to-hip cross slash. The two swords clashed loudly, my weapon skating down the length of the other. I turned the momentum back inward, aiming to take a swipe at her side.

A loud clang resounded around. Keine shoved my blade out of the way before taking a wide swing at my head. I blocked, deflecting the swing and sending it above me. With a flourish and spin, Keine brought the katana up and dropped it into a crushing overhand.

KRANG!

A shock coursed through my arm as I blocked it. Geez, I'd underestimated her strength.

With some effort, I forced the blade to the side, allowing the schoolteacher's excessive weight on the katana drop her to the ground in surprise. My back foot lashed out, kicking her away before backing up a short distance. I gestured with one hand, bading her to come at me.

She was more than happy to oblige.

The battle steadily grew more intense as Keine's attacks gained ground, pushing me back around the mini-arena as she sought to dominate the battle with large power blows. Her style was like that of a berserker, largely emphasizing wide, powerful swings with the intent of knocking my guard out entirely, and batting aside my attacks with similarly large swings in order to create an opening. While they were easy to anticipate, my guards were proving insufficient, requiring me to parry or dodge them instead. My movements, by contrast, were those of a fencer, preferring the more fluid movements of grace and precision as I attempted to strike past her guard after finding a lapse in her defense. But my strikes proved useless, as she always brought her sword around fast enough to block.

The two of us tired equally fast after several fevered minutes of clashing blades. Parrying Keine's blows proved highly taxing, while her large plethora of of attacks was leaving her exhausted. Twice, she managed to smash me with the hilt of her katana, and once headbutted me in the torso. The Sword of Hisou managed to lick her cheek once, while the flat side rapped against her shin and arm once each.

I knew that, in theory, that I could use the multi-weapon function of the Sword of Hisou to gain unparalleled superiority over my opponent. But the sword form was my most comfortable stance, and I ahd no training in any other weapon. With no training, such a function would only prove to be a hindrance instead of an advantage. That aside, Keine's endless flurry of attacks flowed evenely from one to the other, only faltering if I managed to properly parry and strike back, giving me no opportunity to change anyhow.

I knocked aside a stab for my heart and attempted an underhand swing. Keine swept my blade aside yet again, bringing the katana up and around into another overhand blow, which she seemed incredibly fond of. In the nick of time, I managed to block, though my arm nearly crumpled, fatigue threatening to let the katana blade meet my head.

Damnit, I need to finish this!

"Grr…" she growled at me, pressing down on me with even greater force. "Give it up already. No matter how hard you fight, I'll defend this village to my last breath!"

"Ha!" I scoffed. "Then I'll gladly grant that wish for you!"

With all the strength I could manage at that moment, I gave a mighty shove, sending Keine's katana skyward. Before she could react, I stepped forward, ramming my shoulder into her chest.

I'm not gonna end here!

I had dropped the Sword of Hisou. My now-free hand swung upward, crashing into Keine's chin.

Her katana clattered to the ground as he flew and tumbled a few feet.

And I'm not gonna lose!

From my pocket, I drew a card.

The first three I had obtained before becoming Hanako's soldier were grayed out, unable to be activated. I could understand why; those I called 'friends' before no longer fit that category, and so I could no longer use their abilities for myself. I still kept the cards with me, though for no particular reason, but I was lucky enough to gain an entirely different card in exchange.

My sadist smile was back, as the shattered card began to fill me with power. "Quod immane in sepulchro misericordiam dormi glaciem! Frozen Hell: Frigid Coffin!"

I waved my hand once, and icy black-blue winds began whirling, buffeting the schoolteacher in a raging blizzard. With a howl, echoed by the winds as well as my own throat, they began channeling upward to a place high above my head, coalescing into a massive projectile of black ice.

"Die!"

My hands swept. And the frozen torpedo came down.

KRRSHH!

The ice vanished the moment it shattered, leaving behind a body far more damaged.

I picked back up the Sword of Hisou, and it vanished with a wave of my hand. Then I began rubbing the part of my arm where she had hit me with her katana handle once before.

"Looks like this is my win."

But the village still had not returned. How odd.

I strode over to the unmoving Keine, and discovered that she was still concscious. Her eyes were barely open, and she was breathing incredibly hard despite the missile of ice I had dropped into her, but she wasn't out cold yet.

The other six gathered as well.

"What do we do with her?" Yamame asked. Her expression grew dark. "Should I infect her with something nice?"

"No!" Cirno butt in. "Let me freeze her solid!"

"Quiet!" I boomed. "Don't do anything… yet. Stand her up."

Mystia and Wriggle obeyed, lifting Keine up by the arms and holding her so she knelt before me.

"So…" I said softly, leaning over her. "You will yield?"

Her face was still contorted in pain, but her lips twisted upward, baring her teeth in defiance.

"You shall not pass! Mokou!"

My eyes widened.

"Scatter!"

We split.

FWASHOOM!

When I turned back, I no longer saw Keine, instead staring into a ring of flames, a blazing firestorm surrounding her and a small area around.

That blasted bird!

"You!" I called out into the sky.

From above descended an angel incarnate, upon wings of flame. Her aura burned a fiery red-orange, with a single matchfire resting in her palm.

Her red eyes no longer held the warmth of a fireplace like the last time I saw them; they were glowing like freshly-lit coals, and they were glaring at me.

"You beg me for help, and this is how you repay me!" she accused.

My face registered shock.

That night….

"I…."

Ba-bump!

"Gah!"

"Please… help…."

The wings… the ruby….

No, stop! You can't hurt anyone anymore!

"Ngh, shut up!" I shouted out loud, clutching my head as the voice echoed around.

Damn it, what was happening? That voice… it sounded like me.

But I was Hanako's soldier, wholly and completely. That other side of me didn't exist!

I shook my head, one hand still held over an eye, and looked up at Mokou with a small smile. "I'm sorry, but the boy you met that night is no longer here."

Her eyes were wide with surprise for a moment. Then they narrowed in anger once more. "In that case…."

She dropped onto the floor with a resounding thud. From her pocket, she a card came out.

"地獄の炎、火のケージに鉱山の敵を火葬! Incarceration: Infernal Prison!"

Her open hand smashed the ground, white energy streaming into the grass.

At my feet, a humongous orange magic glyph appeared.

Shit!

FWOOM!

On instinct, I had taken flight, and none too soon; the moment I got more than a few feet above the ground, four pillars of fire ignited sucessively, all facing in towards the center of the glyph where I had been standing.

I floated there a couple feet above the fire with a strange reverence, feeling the heat beneath my feet. That card had nearly incinerated me!

BOOM!

"Argh!"

I nearly fell straight to the ground, but I caught myself before falling too far. Where the hell had that explosion come from?

"Uwooah!"

Crap!

CRACK!

I was thrown, my chin burning from the fiery uppercut I was just dealt. It took a second efore I could stop in midair properly.

I rubbed my chin a quick second, annoyed. Then I pounded my fists together. In a flash of light, I pulled them apart. My hands were coated in ice, with jagged spikes jutting out from where my knuckles were.

Mokou was a Hourai immortal, right? So this should be no problem for her.

"Come at me!" I challenged, flexing my frozen gauntlets to test them.

Mokou yelled in anger, flying at me with flame-charged fists.

"No way!"

The sudden appearance of a flying foot surprised both me and Mokou as it kicked the latter in the side and out of the way.

"I have a bone to pick with you!" Wriggle declared, the light under her wings burning brightly. I'd never seen it that bright before, but then I realized that a stream of card fragments was flowing into her hand. "That forest fire you started killed many of my siblings. You're going to pay for them with your life! 発光の昆虫は、私の敵を壊滅させるために一緒に集まる! Lamp Sign: Firefly Phenomenon!"

She raised a hand, fist clenced. Almost at once, tiny black bugs with lit backs all began to gather above her hand, merging together into a single entity of light and heat. There must have been hundreds of them, the hive mind beneath them drawing them all into one place.

"Eat this!"

The hand of judgement swung down, pointing at the recovering phoenix.

The ball of light exploded, a focused beam of white light shooting out at Mokou.

"Don't get so cocky, insect!"

A single wing of fire swept in, absorbing the heat laser as a lake accepted a river.

In a moment, the laser died away, leaving an unharmed phoenix behind.

"Tch, you thought such a weak attack could harm me?" she mocked. "How stupid!"

Wriggle cried out, furious that her target remained standing. With reckless abandon, she attacked.

"Hey, leave some for me!"

From behind me came Cirno, ice greatsword in hand, charging after the heels of the firefly.

I watched them go. I didn't think they would be able to do very much, but this proved something; they hated each other, but despite that, they had no problem fighting alongside each other. It was like they were a weird pair of rivals of some kind.

But that didn't matter; I would leave Mokou to them. I have some other business to take care of.

I began dropping back towards ground level. As I did, I saw Mystia flying up to join the other two, and Rumia following closely behind. It seemed fitting that such a group fought together. Really, what a crew. It was no wonder Yamame had so much trouble with them.

As I descended, I angled toward the ring of fire, towards the immobile body of Keine. It was surprising to see that the fire had not spread one bit in the middle of such a grassy field, but that wasn't my concern.

Instead, I was concerned with the fact that there was another person inside the ring now. And I was pretty sure it wasn't Yamame or Medicine.

"Kaito!"

"Wait there!" I commanded Yamame. "I'll take care of this."

I landed a short ways away from the body of the schoolteacher, watching as a young child shook her. I couldn't tell if Keine was conscious anymore, but considering how the village still wasn't back yet, I could only assume that she was, though only barely hanging on. The child's voice – female – seemed to be getting a reaction, however.

It was a very familiar voice as well.

"Keine-sensei! Keine-sensei!"

Who was this child?

"Ngh…."

The half-human guardian attempted to lift her head. What a strong force of will she had.

"Sensei!"

The brown eyes of ths schoolteacher could barely comprehend the child at her side.

"Sat… suki…?"

Satsuki? That was… ah, yes, she was the child of the village that I had met.

But what was she doing here?

"Keine-sensei! Are you hurt? What's going on, why is there fire everywhere?"

"You… have to run…" she gasped. "You cannot stay…."

"I'm afraid she can't run, Keine-san."

Black hair and a set of frightened brown eyes snapped back.

"Onii-san!"

"Hello, Satsuki-chan," I greeted, a false smile playing on my lips as I walked over.

"Oh no…" Keine breathed, just barely loud enough for me to hear. Her head dropped back down.

"Onii-san, help!" she pleaded, grabbing my clothes once I was close enough and tugging on them. "Keine-sensei's hurt. You have to help her!"

"I know…" I said softly, barely above the roar of the fire.

Ba-bump!

"Ach!" My knees buckled slightly. What the… that feeling again….

"Onii-san!"

I shook my head. Then I smiled, kneeling on the ground next to the young girl. "I remember something; I never told you my name did I?"

"No…."

"Well, I'm going to tell you now," I said, placing my hand on her head. "My name's Kaito. And I'm going to help your teacher, okay?"

It was a perfect half-lie, and my smiling face betrayed nothing.

The Sword of Hisou was drawn now, and I had it pointed at the back of Keine's head.

"O-onii-san, what are you doing!"

"I'm helping her," I answered coldly. "That's what you wanted, right?"

"This isn't helping! You need to get her somewhere safe!"

"I know…. This will send her somewhere better than here…."

I raised the sword, prepared to strike.

"Onii-san, stop!" she begged, pulling on my coat. "You're going t-ghk!"

Her sentence was cut short once my hand left her head and began restricting her airway.

"Don't worry," I assured, slowly tightening my grip as my smile began to lose its fake warmth, melting back into my sadist smile. "You'll be joining her soon…."

"Onii… san…" she gasped, small hands attempting to pry apart my fingers as tears of agony streamed freely down her face. "S… stop….

"You… promised!"

Ba-bump!

I gasped.

Wha….

I… promised her…?

Ba-bump!

"Argh!


"But if you've been a bad little girl, then I just might become a youkai, and eat you!"

"Eek!"

"Hahaha, I'm just kidding. Even if I was a youkai, I wouldn't eat you."

"You wouldn't."

"Yeah, I wouldn't. Promise. What's your name?"

"I'm Satsuki, onii-san."

"Satsuki, huh? That's a cute name. Well, Satsuki, if I were ever to become a youkai, I promise I won't eat you."

"Thank you, onii-san!"


I've… turned into a youkai…?

No! I was still human! That didn't-

Ba-bump!

"Gyah!"

Stop it! You've practically become one. You were trying to feed her soul to an evil ayakashi. You're not supposed to hurt her!

"Grr… shut up!" I shouted, dropping to my knees. "Get out of my head!"

No! I won't let you hurt anyone anymore!

"Ngh…." Goddamnit… the pounding won't stop… I can't….

"Stop it… stop it!"

"O-onii-sa-"

"Stay back!" I screamed, my arm knocking her away before returning to my head.

I'm the one in control. You need to get out of here, now!

No! This is my body, so you get out!

You are loyal to Hanako-hime, you bastard. Obey me!

No… you're wrong. You are loyal to her. Not me.

So….

KRRSH!

The sound of one's head snapping.

I opened my eyes wide to the hammer smashing against my skull, staring at the floor.

My teeth clenched. It was time to remove this curse.

Passcode: Evolve or die.

"Get… out… OF… ME!"

BWASHOOM!

Power burst through my body, finally erasing the side of me that I wanted dead for four days. A beacon of blue light speared into the sky, finally signifying the death throes of my inner enemy as my surge of spiritual power found a way out of my body.

Finally, the energy died away.

I was… free.

I stared up into the sky, unbelieving.

"Onii… san?"

That voice….

My head dropped, exhausted, looking down at the small child in front of me. Her eyes were wide as she stared.

"Satsuki… chan…."

The fire continued to blaze, but it might as well have not been there, for all it mattered. Everything felt silent.

And I embraced her tightly.

"Satuski-chan, I'm so sorry!"

I was all over….

My god, what had I done…?

"Onii-san…."

Her arms came back to return the hug.

"You kept your promise."

I was already crying, but at that, the tears began flowing freely.

But now wasn't the time for crying.

I took back control, remembering that we were still in the middle of the battlefield, and I had to get Satsuki somewhere safe.

And Keine too. Gods, how was I ever going to ask her and Mokou for forgiveness?

"Okay…" I breathed, releasing her. "I'm going to get you and Keine-san out of here, Satsuki-chan. Stay by her."

I pushed the young girl over to Keine. She looked at me with astonished eyes. "But what're you-"

"I may be human," I explained, cutting off her inevitable question. "But I can do many things humans can't do."

I closed my eyes in concentration, silently thanking the fates for allowing Patchouli to teach this to me.

With a flourish, I jumped, white wind billowing out as I spun in the air. In a single wave, the ring of fire was almost completely blown out, leaving nothing behind but a patch of burned grass and very fertile ground to represent it had ever been there.

As I landed, I quickly glanced around the area now devoid of any form of fire. Yamame and Medicine were still there, while a short distance away was the body of a burned-out Wriggle.

Seemed like Mokou was doing fine.

"Kaito, how did you do that?" Yamame called out, rushing over. "And the village still isn't back yet. Why?

I was looking down, not showing that my eyes were no longer red.

"I'm sorry…."

Once she was close enough, my palm lashed out, hitting the earth spider square in the stomach. The blue energy made a satisfying explosion, further cementing that I was back in control.

"But I'm not killing anyone today!"

My foot came flipped up, kicking Yamame in the chin with a leg wrapped in yellow-orange energy, just like how Reimu showed me so long ago.

She went flying as my kick came full circle and I touched back onto the floor. My head was spinning a little; I wasn't used to doing flips with that. I was going to need aerial training later.

"What the hell?" Medicine cried in shock. Her eyes flashed with anger. "You would turn on us?"

"I would?" I questioned coldy, almost feigning ignorance. "Sorry, but that side of me no longer exists."

Her teeth were bared, and she began excreting large clouds of poisong. She whipped them together into a salvo of condensed poison bullets the size of fists.

"Die, traitor!"

The moment she did that, the bullets fired. But I already had my card out, at the ready.

Utsuho, don't fail me now!

"Sol Deus, da mihi praesidium momento! Explosion: Blast Barrier!"

The card melted into my hands, and I thrust them forward in a protective stance.

A large kite shield at least my size, constructed as if from the hexagonal honeycombs of a beehive, burst to life. The poison bullets struck the shield and dissipated harmlessly against it, consumed by nuclear energy.

The instant that happened, the hexagons broke apart, then reassembled into a stacked deck in front of me. I stepped back, and kicked it once.

The entire deck blasted outward, scattering over a wide conic area in front of me. With such a wide spray, only one of the deadly energy blades managed to hit Medicine, cutting into her upper arm. But it was enough; she was momentarily stunned.

I was breathing hard; expending so much energy in order to regain control of my body had left me with little to work with. But that didn't matter; I had to keep going. Yamame wasn't quite down for the count yet, and she was still recovering, and Medicine could still very easily bog me down with poisons of her choosing. I needed to get out fast.

I turned back around, ready to run back to Satsuki.

KRAKOOM!

I shielded my eyes.

Where the hell had that lightning bolt come from? I thought the sky was cloudless!

I pulled my hands away.

As if descending from the heavens themselves, a woman came down to touch the ground. The most prominent feature about her – barring the fact that her physical figure was rather beautiful – was the long pink scarf with red frills wrapped around her arms, suspended in the air behind her head much like Shou's white cloth. Next was her blouse of similar color and design as her scarf, a long black skirt, and a black hat with a red bow and two long ribbons extending up and out like the antennae of a fish.

"Atmosphere: unsteady," she said, supposedly to no one in particular since her eyes were closed, but she seemed to be looking right at me. "Feelings: regret, doubt, but also with a strange protective instinct resting underneath it."

Her eyes opened to reveal a pair of irises colored a deep scarlet, and they examnined me gently. "You have changed. Before, you were surrounded with a cloud of malevolence and destructive intent. When I saw the bolt of energy strike the sky, I knew something had become different. I cannot fathom how you managed such a sudden change in so short a time, but it is a welcome one."

I blinked. "Who are you?"

"I am Iku of the Nagae clan, messenger of the Dragon Palace. I came out in search of the Eldest Daughter, who went missing many days ago, and thought that she may be here, as the atmosphere said she would be. Pray tell, why do you wield the weapon of the Eldest Daughter?"

"I do…?" Wait, did that mean….

"Yes. You are wielding the Sword of Hisou, the weapon of Tenshi of the Hinanai family, are you not? Yet she is not here. "Why is that?"

I didn't answer, unsure of how. Really, how was I supposed to explain to her that the one she was looking for had been taken control of by an evil ayakashi? "Um… I…."

Suddenly, Iku's eyes widened. "Watch out!"

In two swift motions, the scarf around her arms snapped to life, whipping out, wrapping itself around me, and pulling me in.

"Wah!"

Once the scarf uncoiled itself from around my waist, she repeated the same movements. This time, she aimed behind her, catching both Satsuki and Keine in one go and bringing them back the same way. The moment she finished, she produced a card from her blouse, and stepped past me.

"雷のグランドドラゴンは、あなたの壁の中で私をシールドする! Lightning Sign: Elekiter Dragon Palace!"

She spun once, and ended with one hand on her hip, the other thrust towards the sky, pointing up.

KRAKOOM!

A humongous bolt of lightning dropped from empy space, intending to strike the point exactly where Iku was. But before it did, a couple meters above her extended finger, the bolt split apart, encasing the four of us in a massive cage of blue lightning, impassible by anything solid that was much larger than a human head.

BZZZZZT!

"Gyaaaah!"

A well-roasted Mystia dropped off the shield like a moth that had unwittingly touched a blazing fire.

I stared at Iku with gratitude in my eyes; she had just saved me from being gored open by a diving night sparrow.

"I can only hold this spell for so long!" Iku shouted at me. "Take those two and flee from this place. We will meet up at a later date, when conditions in the atmosphere are more favorable."

I quickly nodded. "We need to hold them off for a quick moment. Mokou has to take Keine; I can't take both of them with me at once."

She nodded back. "It shall be as you say."

No sooner did she say that when the barrier of lightning began to dissipate. Just a second before it did, Iku dropped her stance, brought her hands together in front of her, and pushed out. Two orbs of lightning shot out of her hands, with a long bar of electricity racing between them as they spun clockwise, making their way towards the pair.

It was simple enough to dodge; both Yamame and Medicine simply dove to the side.

Then Iku spun, reassuming the same stance she had taken when casting her spell card.

A visible line of static charge appeared at Medicine's location.

KRAKOOM!

She barely managed to dodge in time, but that left her open to me as I blasted her with a volley of water. The bullets struck home, knocking her away a short distance.

Then another boom cracked the sky as another lightning bolt struck near Yamame.

At that, once the bolt disappeared into the air, a flash of white light burst out in front of me.

Whoa!

Everything seemed to stand still for a few seconds as the light continued to burn. Once it receded, I took away my hands to see what had caused the sudden flash.

Two new cards floated there, still glowing white hot from their sudden appearance.

"Wow…" I breathed.

Two cards? Today was my lucky day.

I swiped them out of the air, and quickly pocketed one of them. Now was as good a time as ever to use a new card.

"You truly are no ordinary human," Iku said in slight awe. "What are you?"

I smiled to myself slightly as I read the name of the card.

"An idiot with power, I'd say."

I dove over, snatching up the Sword of Hisou; I had a feeling I'd need it.

The hand with a card punched the air as I called out the spell.

"Benedicite, spiritus tonitrui augere mucrone delere me adversarius meus! Energy Sign: Electro Blitz!"

The card flashed white once more, and shot down into my hand like a bolt of lightning, striking through my body as if to zap my very soul. A shock ran through my arm, and the Sword of Hisou ignited with static charge, sparks of blue voltage jumping around on it.

I knelt for a second, assuming the stance of a runner ready to begin sprinting. Power was building up within me.

Unconsciously, I smiled.

"Start!"

BOOM!

My feet moved almost as if possessed, charging at Medicine with reckless abandon. My legs pedaled almost as fast as a racehorse, as if they were supercharged with electricity and I was being further boosted by a burst of Aya's wind.

The distance between us was covered in seconds.

"You ready for this!" I cried.

In a single swift motion, I dashed past Medicine, swinging the Sword of Hisou once.

KRRZZZT!

"Agh!"

I hadn't even felt the sword pass through her, but I could tell that Medicine's body was being assaulted by a wave of static shock.

Yet the spell card wasn't done. My legs continued to stamp the ground as I made a U-turn and kicked Medicine into the air.

"Take a nap, Medicine!"

I jumped after her, isolating her in a single location as I raced by a total of five more times, slashing her with each pass.

With my final pass, I whispered "Night night."

I touched back down just as Medicine hit the floor, her doll-like body jerking erratically from the immense discharge of electricity that I had unleashed upon her.

Whoa… that had felt awesome!

I turned back towards Yamame with a smile. To hell with running away; we could finish this here and now if we wanted to!

"Tell your master that we're coming for her," I commanded, pointing the sword at the earth spider. "And this time, we're going to win."

Yamame didn't move for a moment, stunned by the sudden display of power.

"Waaaa-augh!"

A falling blue comet smashed the floor with great force, bouncing once before coming to a stop.

"Cirno-chan!"

Down from the sky came Rumia, concerned for her friend.

"That takes care of you, you damn ice fairy!"

To my right, Mokou touched down, cradling her right arm. Her clothes indicated that she'd been in one hell of a fight, with quite a few tears all along her pants and shirt, and a couple of the charms she usually had in her hair were notably absent.

"I don't know how or why you changed so quickly," Mokou directed at me as bluntly as possible. "But if we take care of these last three, and Keine gets out of this alive, you can consider your debt repaid."

My eyes widened, and I nodded enthusiastically. "Thank you, Mokou-sama."

"Tch, where did that come from?" she questioned, apparently rejecting my formal address of her. "Just be glad I'm not killing you on the spot."

I smiled weakly. Either way, I was happy.

Then, something crossed my mind, and my skin began to crawl.

SHHRK!

That didn't sound pleasant….

My head snapped back over to the three soldiers that were still conscious, along with one that was unconscious.

What I saw wasn't good.

Four tendrils of darkness had spawned from the ground behind them, and were stabbed into the backs of each one. Their heads were down, as if caught in a trance, but all three were standing almost completely straight up. Medicine had risen back up as well.

I looked over, and saw the exact same happening with the last two.

Oh hell no.

"Run!"

I began a mad dash back to where Keine and Satsuki were, trying to get between them and Mystia before the latter did something horrible to them. Iku and Mokou, while confused, soon followed

None of the six moved as the three of us made our way over. The moment we made it, we formed a protective shield in front of them; my sword was raised, Iku's scarf was ready, and Mokou had fire in both hands.

"Onii-san, what's wrong?"

I didn't look at Satsuki, my eyes still on the six. "Something bad…."

As one, the group began to move, lining up a short distance away. Rumia stepped forward, and raised her head to us.

Her bloody red eyes were glowing slightly, but her face was neutral. The voice she spoke with was not her own.

"So… you would betray me?"

It was Hanako; she was using Rumia as her medium.

I grimaced. "I never wanted to be a part of your legion in the first place."

"Is that so…? Well then, a soldier that refuses to remain loyal is useless to me. I'm afraid bringing you back is no longer possible.

"The only punishment left is death."

The black tendril began to undulate, as if pumping something up from the ground. The exact same happened with every other tendril, and whatever was being injected slipped into their bodies silently, without trouble.

Oh boy….

Rumia's smile stretched to an impossible length. "Slowly, and painfully, you shall be one with me again, whether you want to or not!"

At that, her head dropped again, the link severed.

FWOOM!

All their auras flared out, signifying a surge of power filling them up. The air was filled with multiple smells all at once, making me feel like fainting.

And all of them began to change. In nightmarish ways I wouldn't have thought possible.

Rumia wrapped herself in a cocoon of darkness, and emerged completely jet black from head to toe, as if coated in a suit of armor. The only part of her that didn't transform was the red gem-ribbon on her forehead, which seemed to intensify in glow. From one hand grew a long black sword of pure darkness.

Wriggle's cape-like wing cover split in half, become a set of jagged wings like those of a bat. Her antennae extended outward, growing a couple inches in length. When she looked back up, her eyes had become compound, like those of an insect except with a teal glow.

Mystia sprouted an extra set of wing-like ears from her head, and her wings nearly doubled in size, becoming almost as big as Mokou's own fire wings. Her long nails extended as well, becoming twice as deadly as before. Her legs from the knee down suddenly became bird-like, talons ripping out of her shoes.

Cirno's seraphim-styled wings burst out, becoming at least the same size as the person itself. The two joined together above her head, forming an icy halo. At the same time, she almost seemed to age a little, growing in height as her hands and feet became wrapped in icy armaments shaped like dragon claws.

Six spindly spider legs sprouted from Yamame's torso, planting themselves firmly into the ground and lifting her up. The poofy underside of her dress seemd to cinch together, becoming the actual abdomen of a spider. Her arms reshape themselves into spider legs as well, barbed tips ready to impale the nearest prey.

With a shudder, Medicine dropped to the ground with a clatter, as if having lost all form of automation. Then, her doll companion suddenly materialized a control bar and floated above her, five strings taking hold of her head and each of her four limbs. Her head looked up, her face paled and eyes devoid of life.

Oh crap.

"Don't worry," Rumia said, again in Hanako's voice. "I'll give you a five-second head start!"

We didn't need that long.

"We must flee!" Iku cried.

I was already on it, sweeping Satsuki up into my arms. "Mokou, take Keine and run! We'll fight them another day!"

"Grrr… fine!" she growled, picking up Keine. "You better not die, or I won't be able to pay you back for this."

"Never mind that, just go!"

We split up, Mokou taking off towards one of the mountains, with me and Iku flying down through the valley.

"Onii-san, what's going on? How could you do all those things? Who were those people? And why are you able to fly?"

"I'm sorry, Satsuki-chan, but I can't explain everything yet. For now, we need to get out of here."

"Follow the valley, and you will reach the mansion of the Scarlet Devil," Iku informed me. "Take shelter there. We shall meet once again when the situation has settled. I must flee to the Dragon Palace. They will not harm anyone there, but you two, as humans, cannot follow me. I am sorry."

I nodded. "Don't worry about it. Hope we'll meet again soon."

She returned the nod. "The best of luck to you."

At that, she shot off towards the sky, heading off to a place only she knew about.

I gritted my teeth. This was going to be difficult.

I glanced back once, and immediately wished I hadn't.

Rumia, Cirno, and Wriggle were all chasing me. They were out for blood.

"You cannot escape!" Rumia shouted.

She swung her sword, and a wave of black energy blasted out.

Whoa!

I swerved to one side, allowing the projectile to fly past me. That was close!

Without looking back, I began taking an erratic flight pattern, swerving back and forth, left and right, in an attempt to make myself a more difficult target. It seemed to be working; dark waves and cannonball-sized blasts of ice courtesy of Cirno were flying by without so much as touching me. But it was all for naught; an energy wave cut into my legs once, and an ice blast crashed into my side, nearly knocking me towards the ground.

But as I continued to flee, I could see it; the lake. It was off in the distance!

My face began to glow with relief and happiness. "Satsuki-chan, look! It's the Scarlet Devil Mansion. We're almost there!"

"Faster, onii-san!" she urged. She didn't need to; I was already putting as much speed as I possibly could into my flight.

But… something felt wrong. My limbs were becoming exhausted. The places where the wave and ice blast had struck were feeling numb, and the rest of me was almost ready to drop.

No… I was so close... what was happening?

"Onii-san, is something wrong?" Satsuki asked.

"I… don't know…. I just feel… really tired…."

I glanced at my arms, and understood.

Several tiny black bugs had latched onto my skin, and they were biting into me, sapping away my strength. All this time, I had been watching for the first and second but not the third.

Goddamnit all….

No… I suddenly thought. I need to keep Satsuki safe!

Determination seized my body, refusing to allow a simple oversight get in the way of me keeping this child from harm. My teeth clenched, and I pushed myself to fly even faster.

We were over the lake now.

KRRSH!

"Agh!"

"Onii-san!"

Burning cold was plastered all over my leg, icy daggers stabbing where the blast had hit.

I can't… stop now….

Suddenly, my body was nearly ripped in half, shocks of agony tearing into me as a wave of energy cut into my midsection.

"AAAH!"

"No!" Satsuki screamed, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks as she pulled on my jacket. "Onii-san, don't die! We're almost there!"

Just a… little more….

We were over the island.

KRISH!

Another hit collided with my back.

I couldn't take anymore. And began to fall.

PO-KSSSSSH!

I hit the floor. Hard. And tumbled for a good distance before finally sliding to a stop. Before impact, I had completely wrapped my body around Satsuki, shielding her from the unforgiving earth.

We lay still.

With great effort, I raised my head slightly.

The gate was there, only a few steps away.

No… we were so close….

"It's the end of the line."

Goddamnit.

I looked back, barely able to sit up. The three were already there, nightmare incarnates about to consume me completely.

I hugged Satsuki a little more tightly.

Cirno came forward first, her right hand shining white-blue with icy energy.

"Don't worry; I'll make sure you don't feel how cold it is when I freeze you solid!"

She lunged.

And was suddenly blasted back, struck by a bullet of white wind.

She went flying, tumbling between her two comrades, whose eyes were wide with shock.

"I step outside of my library to find this? I'm sorry, but you are not to harm this boy and girl."

"You're on Scarlet Devil Mansion grounds now. Leave, or be destroyed."

Two feet stepped into my vision, one with a pink slipper, a long purple robe, and purple aura, the other with a black shoe, a white pant leg, and a white aura.

I almost couldn't bring the words to my lips.

"Patchouli… sama… Meiling-san…."

"No one deprives us of our prey!" Rumia cried. The remaining two charged.

The youkai of darkness was blasted back by another wind bullet, but Wriggle continued to charge, meeting Meiling halfway. The former threw out a few punches, but they were dodged easily.

The counterattack was incredible; with unmatched strength and speed, Meiling rained blows upon the firefly like an avalanche, fists enveloped in chi moving almost too fast to see. I couldn't even count how many times she struck before finally ending, only to finish off her opponent with something stronger: a spell card.

"レゾナンスとリング、色と風の鐘! Colorful Sign: Colorful Windchime!"

Meiling began to spin, a whirlwind of rainbow wrapping itself around her. The funnel cloud tore into Wriggle with unrelenting force, battering her with a storm of chi.

"Aaagh!"

The moment her feet touched back onto the floor, Meiling smashed her enemy with two palms to the chest. Blue explosions blasted out, knocking Wriggle out of the battle, and out cold.

Rumia was being kept rather busy with Patchouli raining arcane destruction upon her, dodging back and forth between the barrages of spells: water pillars, wind blasts, silver swords. She held nothing back.

"Annoying witch!" Rumia spat. How do you like this?"

She slashed the air twice, sending two energy waves arcing out in the shape of a cross. Any spells that hit them were cut through on the spot.

But they were too slow; Meiling dashed in front, waving her hands in a giant circle in front of her with strange slowness. A shield of rainbow chi was conjured, soaking the two deadly waves with not so much as a bend in its form.

"You shall not harm her!" she declared, gathering the rainbow shield into a single white ball and blasting it out. But she wasn't done; just as the projectile went flying out, Meiling stomped the ground, and went flying herself, leaping into a kick with her leg wrapped in a rainbow silhouette in the shape of a dragon's head.

Rumia dodged, stepping out of the way of the projectile and into a foot to the face.

Before she could even start flying back, Meiling's other leg swung upward, crashing down upon her target with incredible speed and smashing her into the ground. By the time she herself landed, a second card was in her hands.

"私は私の敵を殺すことができるので、山々のロックは、私の拳を祝福! Fiery Attack: Roc…."

Her hands swung down, unleashing a blast of chi in front of her. Rumia was stunned, unable to move.

The martial artist turned and rammed backwards, sending her enemy up into the air. Her fist clenched tightly as an immense amount of energy began to build within it.

"Killing Fist!"

Just as her enemy dropped in range, she punched upward.

BA-KOOOM!

The blast could have lit up the world; rainbow energy radiated out with a vengeance, as if intending to crack the earth itself under its destructive power.

Rumia didn't stand a chance; she was sent flying so fast at such great velocity that she had surely landed in the lake.

"Argh! I'll kill you bastards!"

From the air dived an enraged ice fairy, sword in one hand and the other charged with power. Her off-hand formed a large iceberg, and chucked it at me.

Patchouli countered with a quick blast of wind, shattering the ice as if it were glass. She backed up a step, making sure that she was almost standing on top of me and Satsuki.

Cirno howled with rage, preparing to bring a crushing blow down upon all three of us. Meiling was too far now, and couldn't counter in time.

But Patchouli already had a card ready.

"最も地球からもたらされた保護の柱は、発生! Earth Metal Sign: Emerald Megalopolis!"

She dropped the card into the floor, and waited. Cirno was ten meters away… five….

Patchouli waved her hand.

BOOM!

A circle of emerald pillars burst from the ground, shooting upward in a protective circle around the three of us. The one directly in front was perfectly positioned, a massive green fist punching into the ice fairy and bouncing her over our heads.

Yet it was not quite over; the sound of breaking earth indicated the spawning of several more layers, surrounding us in a veritable fortress of hardened gems that could be assailed from no direction but up. Twice more, the pillars smashed Cirno, as if playing a game of skipping a rock over water, only ending when a loud thud was heard from a body hitting the floor.

One by one, the circles of pillars began to recede from the inside out, dropping back into the earth with a steady rumbling. The moment the pillar was completely under ground level, the earth immediately above it stitched itself back together, leaving no trace that it had ever been there at all.

Once the last circle had gone down, it became obvious where Cirno had landed; just past the gate, face down, immobile.

Just like that, it was all over.

Meiling had walked back over, and together, the two regarded the ice fairy's unmoving body with a strange dispassion.

Then, Meiling opened the gate.

"That is the power of the Scarlet Devil Mansion!" Meiling declared, plucking the fairy off the ground and hurling her off into the night to join the firefly.

With little more than several thuds and some rustled bushes, Cirno disappeared.

Wow….

That had been… amazing….

Fwump!

"Kaito-kun! Kaito-kun, wake up!"

"Kaito-san! You have reached your destination, do not die on us now!"

"Onii-san! ONII-SAAAN!"


Author's Notes:

* The treasured sword shall cut down the enemies of the king!

** Slumber in this horrid sepulchre of merciful ice!

*** Flames of Hell, cremate mine enemies in a cage of fire!

**** Insects of luminescence, gather together to raze my enemy!

***** O Sun God, grant me protection for a single moment!

****** Grand dragon of lightning, shield me within your walls!

******* O, spirits of thunder, augment my blade to obliterate my adversary!

******** Ring with resonance, the bell of color and wind!

********* Roc of the mounains, bless my fists so I may slay my enemy!

********** Pillars of protection wrought from the hardest earth, arise!

11k words. I managed to overshoot my target of 10k by a fair margin. This is officially my absolute longest chapter up to this point.

And it feels amazing!

Holy shit, I can't believe I managed to do this. A lot goes on in this one chapter, but I pulled it all together into a single glop of everything I could possibly muster. This, this is my magnum opus. I can only dream of pulling something like this in the future.

Yet now that I've set such a bar, I wonder if I'll be able to pull it off again. That's going to be really hard... but I'll worry more about it in the future. For now, I'm going to kick back, play some League of Legends, maybe read some Homestuck, and rest up for tomorrow morning, because I'm gonna be heading out for some more training with my brand new bokuto at 6:00~ (yes, it's going to be on a school day)

But enough of that, on to some real notes...

So... many... flashbacks and references. I had to pull so many lines from past chapters, it's not even funny. On top of that, the Tales Of series and Final Fantasy seriously take the cake in this chapter (to the point where I will say here that all used moves that originate from either the Tales Of series or Final Fantasy are property of Namco and SquareEnix respectively). I honestly believe that it's a shame Mokou doesn't have more fire-based moves, which is why I gave her a new one (Jade, I'm sorry). Of my three options, Flame Burst lacked power, and Explode was too simple, so I went with the best choice there. Also, Frigid Coffin was just far too cool to pass up, so I put that in too. Haha, I even used the same incantations from in-game for this. How's that for ripping off an original game?

The Electro Blitz card was intended to look different; instead of using the Slice&Dice move, it was supposed to be Blitz Ace. However, all things considered, using Tidus' ultimate Overdrive and his EX Burst from Dissidia was simply too overpowered, to I dropped it in power level to something more reasonable. Two of my other cards, however, are going to be straight steals from two EX Bursts in Dissidia. You'll find out later.

I officially love Danbooru now. Sure, its advertisements... leave much to be desired (like being not-so-lewd) but on the other hand, some of the pictures there are simply far too amazing to ignore. Case in point, the many EX-forms of the six characters were all inspired by a single, very aptly named pool on the site called Touhou - Extra Stage Bosses. Look it up (though NSFW warning on that, though if you've been to the site before then you already know). Rumia in particular gets special mention for taking up maybe 20-30% of the pool all by herself.

That's all I have to say. Hope you enjoyed this chapter~

EDIT: Ahaha, I forgot to mention something; the Latin used in this chapter is not accurate, as I was unable to get in contact with egyptianpanda concerning the incantations, so the ones currently written are all from the dreaded Google Translate. On the other hand, Patcheresu was able to help me out a bit by correcting a small error in one of the cards, so my thanks go out to him/her. I really need to start learning Latin soon, so I can actually do this myself, but that's not happening for a while, so my apologies.