Author's Notes: I RISE! A LOT has been happening to be IRL, hence the absurd delays in all of my writings. My mom passed away from the illness I mentioned some chapters back, got promoted in my IRL job, plus a lot of little things in between. Things have settled down now so hopefully I'll be able to shake the rust off with writing and get back into a somewhat respectable update speed again.
It's good to be back.
Disclaimer: Labyrinth of Touhou 2 is so much fun.
"Ugh…" I groaned out as I finally regained consciousness. I looked around and tried to move in order to get my bearings.
"Ugh…" I groaned out once more once I realized what kind of situation I was in. All around me all I could see was an endless sea of stars in any and all directions. It was almost looking at the emptiness of space except for the fact that there seemed to be several floating rock islands scattered everywhere.
It also seemed that I was on one such piece of rock.
In fact I appeared to be chained to it. My limbs were spread out with my wrists and ankles bound by manacles while my torso simply had chains wrapped all around it, holding me fast to the rock I was on. I was actually surprised when neither the chains nor the rock broke when I tried to break free.
"Oh! Look who finally decided to wake up!" A very familiar voice suddenly spoke out in a very familiar way. Odd that the voice seemed to come from everywhere all at once. Nevertheless, the one who spoke appeared before me after a flash of light.
"Tell me, did choose to possess Matilda because she has green hair?" I asked the evil spirit who was at the time inhabiting the body of the former thief. Mima blinked at this before giving me a smile. She shifted the chained crescent staff in her right hand to let the shaft rest on her right shoulder before starting to slowly float towards me.
"No actually. That was just a lucky coincidence." The evil spirit responded with a shrug of her left shoulder.
"So are you going to tell me what this whole thing is about or do we need to do more banter first?" I asked, trying to move things along.
"I don't really feel like banter today so we might as well get to the important parts. As you probably already can tell, this lovely little place is my own pocket realm. I haven't gotten around to naming it yet since I still can't decide on the actual theme for it. It's a work in progress, only started on it a few weeks ago." Mima answered while gesturing to the space we were currently in. It made sense considering how empty it looked.
"Very impressive for you to be able to create such a thing at such a scale so quickly." I idly complimented Mima.
"It wasn't easy. But I like I said, I learned a few things in Makai. So, what do you want to know? Better hurry, time is dilated here but it still marches on." Mima suddenly offered with a smile that I couldn't help but blink at.
"Wait. So you will answer what questions I may have?" I asked with a raised brow.
"So long as I actually know anything about what you will ask, sure." The evil spirit confirmed with a shrug.
"Why?" I asked the most obvious question of them all.
"Because let's just say that I'm tired of being ordered around by a nut case." She answered in a very bitter tone. So she was indeed under orders. Was it Cromwell or someone else? Why was she even following those orders in the first place? This was Mima after all. I decided to table those questions for a more immediate concern.
"Why are you presently in Matilda's body?" I asked. Mima's shoulders sagged and she gave out a tired sigh afterwards before responding.
"It's because of this." She indicated the black choker that Matilda was wearing around her neck.
"I'm not actually possessing this lovely little number directly. I'm doing it via this little artifact here." Mima continued.
"I don't understand. How did this transpire?" I immediately responded.
"I was sort of kind of sealed up in this choker a few hundred years ago." Mima answered a little too quickly before sighing again after seeing my puzzled expression.
"Let's just say that I had a little too much fun in Makai, ended up upsetting someone I shouldn't have, and got myself sealed in this thing as punishment." She continued with a stupid grin that I have seen far too many times on Marisa's face.
"Was it Shinki?" I asked.
"One of her little girls actually. But yeah, that's why I'm in here now." She corrected.
"And the great and powerful Mima cannot undo it?" I asked the next obvious question.
"It is a very good seal." She justified primly.
"Alright, that answers one question. However, I still don't understand why you have been running around causing all sorts of havoc around here in Matilda's body." I moved forward to the next important point.
"Heh…that's tied to the reason why we're having this conversation right now. Unfortunately, the one who most recently picked up my choker just so happened to be some sort of magic item empath. Bitch was immediately able to discern what the choker was and that I was inside it. Even worse, she could even impose her will on me because of her little power so I have to do everything she says until I can somehow get around it or else she might do something stupid and end up erasing my soul or something." Mima complained to me about her recent problems with being bound to a magic item. However, the ability she described was eerily similar to the ability of the of the Void element familiars. Could it be?
"I see. Have you been able to identify her at least? A name? A face? Who she works for, if any?" I asked. Even though I was certain that whatever name she might give would not ring any bells with me. I could at least bring it up to someone who might granted that she would not be taken care of in Albion.
"Nope. Crazy as she is, she is the smart kind of crazy. Hell I didn't even know that she was the one who picked me up until she put me around this girl's neck. Aside from hearing her talk a few times she mostly kept in the shadows whenever she interacted with me. At least it was enough to confirm that she was female…at least I hope so since no man should have that kind of voice. I asked swordie-mac-talks-a-lot-more-than-he-should and it told me that she is called Myoz-something-I-will-never-pronounce-properly-without-effort, otherwise known as the Mind of God. Kind of pretentious title if you ask me. Crazy tart probably has never even met a god in her life." Mima explained and thus confirmed that I was going to have to deal with one of my counterparts.
"I find it hard to believe that you do not know her true identity just because she was hiding in the shadows when she spoke to you." I pointed out. Mima was far too powerful and cunning not to have a way around something like that. She scoffed at me before shrugging once more and responding.
"True. If I wasn't bound to a magical artifact that she can dominate at will and tied to a mortal body that can't take my full power, yeah. Unfortunately, I'm not exactly at my best here." She countered with a valid point.
"Can't you break free of her domination? I'm certain that you are far more powerful than her." I asked her.
"Of course I am. That's the first thing I tried. Unfortunately, she seems to be empowered to ignore such things. From what the sword told me, as long as it's a magic item, that crazy bitch can understand and control it perfectly." She answered while wincing.
"Convenient ability." I admitted. If Marisa had such an ability back in the day, she would have been able to dominate all of her spell card duels by the sheer amount of magical things she has accumulated over the years of her life.
"A freaking cheat." Mima mocked the ability.
"So where does that leave us now?" I decided to address the elephant in the pocket dimension.
"Well, I sure as hell want to get away from her as soon as possible. Problem is I can't do it alone in my current state. This is where you come in 'ol buddy of mine!" Mima answered before giving me a smile that clearly said that she was scheming again.
"Please do enlighten me, oh great and powerful Mima." I drawled out.
"All you have to do is capture me in this body and take me into your custody. At which point, she won't be able to get to me without having to go through you too. As an added bonus, you get to have this woman and the sword back. If we're lucky, we might even be able to find a way to free me from this damnable choker too!" The great evil spirit of the Hakurei Shrine offered with a confident smile, completely ignoring my sarcasm.
"Kind of hard to do while being restrained. Why did you even chain me to a rock anyway?" I asked while demonstrating my current predicament by trying to move my arms.
"Well, I was originally hoping to go full-on evil mastermind on you complete with the whole 'I HAVE YOU NOW' speech but you woke up way too fast for me to be able to prepare anything good." Mima explained idly while gesturing to the chains with her staff.
"Oh, my apologies." I said with a quick nod.
"Nah, it's fine. Taught me that I should have already prepared all of that before I capture someone. Next time then." She waved off my apology as another lesson learned.
"So that means that you will free me from these chains now, yes?" I asked with a raised brow. To which Mima looked at me with a puzzled expression.
"No. Why would I free you?" She asked, genuinely seeming confused by my request.
"Why wouldn't you?" I turned the question back at her while giving her a more annoyed look.
"Becaaaause, the only reason why we can talk to each other freely like this is due to the fact that my little pocket realm here is beyond that crazy woman's influence over me. If I free you and we both end up back out there, she's going to know something is up. I can't let that happen. So, I have to play the bad guy a biiiit longer still. You don't mind, do you?" She explained while looking like the whole thing was more bothersome that it really was.
"So what's stopping her from just dominating you again afterwards?" I asked considering how…thorough…the Mind of God's control over magical items seemed to be.
"The sheer distance involved. If you can get me to another country, I can use that time to find a way to at least block her influence over the choker." Mima pointed out. Which made sense, especially if we could get her, Matilda, and Derflinger away from Albion without the empath knowing.
"So you will leave me here until I find my own way out and continue harassing the coalition armies until I 'capture' you." I guessed the rest of her current plan based on the information she had already provided me.
"Nope. I'm actually more interested in a conveniently placed magic door placed in the vicinity of where I caught you that seems to lead to a very familiar dream realm. I wonder what I might find inside?" Mima stated with manic glee while sporting a predatory smile. In contrast, I immediately glared at her with what she was planning to do. Depending on how long it had been since she caught me, Louise and her sisters might still be in Mugenkan. If Mima barged into my dream realm with the three of them still there…
"It would be wise for you to reconsider your current plan of action." I coldly warned my one-time ally against the forces of Makai.
"Oho~! Judging from that, it must be something REALLY good~! I'll go check right now!" She added after seeing my reaction.
"And after telling me this, do you really think that these chains and this realm will keep me from stopping you from invading Mugenkan?" I growled at her, already straining the chains that were binding me. At that, Mima blinked at me before giving me a smile.
"Goodness no. That's why I have this!" She said before snapping her fingers. In a flash of light, something appeared behind her. Something large. Something familiar. Something I saw in a book that Louise showed me in the hidden archives of the Tristain Magic Academy.
"Really?" I tiredly asked as I looked upon the silent form of Evil Eye Sigma floating right behind Mima.
"I know, right? I don't even want to think how she managed to get her hands on it after what Reimu did to Sigma but here it is! It's under my control for now but if you can disable it, we'll be able to keep her from getting it back too!" Mima excitedly suggested with a flourish of her staff.
"And you are expecting me to be able to do so?" I asked with a raised brow.
"Of course. I highly doubt that it can kill you." Mima answered while looking at me like I was an idiot.
"Just delay me long enough for you to do something stupid again." I completed the train of thought. I had heard that Reimu had a particularly difficult time defeating the death machine created by Rika. Then again, she was still young at the time and still needed that turtle in order to even fly.
"Stupidity to some is genius to others. What's important is that you're playing my game now, Yuka!" Mima taunted before she raised her staff with one hand and waved at me with the other.
"Mim-" I tried to call out but it was too late.
"Ta~!" Was her parting word before disappearing in a flash of light.
"Ugh…" I groaned out for a third time after seeing several red magic circles appear all around Evil Eye Sigma.
The first indication for Louise that something was wrong was when one of Yuka's doors materialized far slower than it usually did. The young Void mage glanced at her two sisters and found that they were frowning at the door as well.
"Louise, I assume that this is not normal?" Cattleya cautiously asked her younger sister. Louise was about to shake her head to confirm her sister's suspicion when a loud crash was heard from the other side of the door. All three Valliere sisters immediately stood up at that and backed away from it.
Both elder Valliere sisters pulled out wands from their sleeves with Eleanore taking out another from underneath her evening wear skirt.
"Runt." Eleanore called out to her younger sister while holding out her second wand for her to take. Louise gratefully took the magic focus as they all pointed their wands at the door.
"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid familiar! I told him! I told him it was a trap! Stupid Yuka! Now look what happened!" Louise cried out as something kept smashing against the other side of the door over and over again with increasing force.
"We can all take turns expressing our displeasure for your familiar's idiocy after we deal with whatever is trying to get through the door." Eleanore stated as she started focusing magical power.
The door started to develop several cracks after one last crash. However, no further crashes followed afterwards.
"It stopped? Why did it stop?" Louise asked worriedly.
"Maybe Yuka has dealt with whatever was trying to break down his door?" Though Cattleya asked the question optimistically, she cautiously kept her wand trained on the door.
"As convenient as that would be, I do not think that things would be solved-" Eleanore started before being interrupted by one more crash that finally destroyed Yuka's door.
"—so easily. Great..." The eldest Valliere sister finished as the three of them slowly backed away to put more distance between them and the dust cloud that got kicked up because of the door's destruction. A pregnant pause settled upon the flower youkai's dream realm as Louise and her sisters waited for the dust to settle, their wands ready to cast spells in a moment's notice. Suddenly, a silhouette slowly appeared that sent a chill down Louise's spine. The young Void Mage suddenly felt a great sense of fear and immediately reacted in sheer panic.
"Zero!" Louise yelled out her magic word and the whole area near the now broken door was engulfed in one of her explosions.
"Louise!" Cattleya called out as she turned to her younger sister in shock at her sudden display of hostility.
"Runt!" Eleanore exclaimed in equal surprise. However, it did not seem that Louise heard either of her older sisters as she continued to back away in fear of what just entered Yuka's dream realm.
"Zero!" She casted before taking a step backwards.
"Zero!" She casted again before taking another step backwards.
"Zero!" Another explosion and another step back.
"Zero!" Another step back.
"Ze-!" An unexpected slap from the second Valliere sister prevented the young Void Mage from casting another explosion. Louise slowly turned to her older sister and saw that Cattleya had an expression that showed that she just did something she never wanted to do. If she had bothered to look down, she would have seen that the hand that Cattleya used to slap her was shaking.
"Get a hold of yourself Runt. This is not how a daughter of the House of Valliere carries herself." Eleanore said firmly without moving her gaze or her wand away from the now larger cloud of smoke that was caused by Louise's consecutive castings of her broken spells. In spite of her tone and words, she would have been a fool by her own definition if she had not noticed how Louise reacted to the figure that stepped forth through the broken door and into Mugenkan. It was enough to scare Louise into casting her broken spells with abandon, even foregoing aiming by the sixth one, and risking willpower exhaustion even before seeing who or what the intruder was. The eldest Valliere sister resolved herself to not let whatever it was anywhere near her younger sisters if she had anything to say about it.
"We have to get away from here…" Louise whispered as her body started to tremble, fear-fueled adrenaline fading as she started to feel how much magical energy she just used. Temporary dream-realm-created body or not, she still felt drained. Both Cattleya and Eleanore looked at each other after noticing the urgency and fear in their younger sister's voice. They both turned to the dissipating cloud of smoke and weaved their magic as one. Walls of both rough and polished granite, which were twice as tall as a man, erupted from the ground around the smoke cloud. The final result was an overlapping wall made up of several smaller walls that were a few inches thick each.
"Your finish is still rough, Cattleya." Eleanore pointed out with a small smirk to try to alleviate the building tension they were feeling.
"I have a lot to catch up on, Big Sister. Making the surface of my granite walls smooth is not really one of my priorities when it comes to spellwork." Cattleya played along with her sister's banter but noted that Louise still seemed very frightened. That was when part of the wall violently exploded outwards. The cause of the damage was revealed to be a very large fist made out of heavy earth that quickly broke apart after fulfilling its purpose.
"Knock, knock! I'm here to pla~y!" A woman's voice called out from within the granite wall. Louise stiffened in recognition of the voice.
She knew that voice.
She knew it very well.
She, Yuka, and Ruukoto came all the way back to Albion in hopes of finding the owner of that voice and safely bringing her back with them.
"That was quite the welcome! I knew Yuka was hiding something nice in here, but I never expected anything quite like this." She just never heard that voice be used in the way it was being used at that moment. The owner of the voice stepped out of the hole in the granite wall and all Louise could do was shake her head. Part of her hoped that she was right in assuming that Matilda had been the Silent Harlequin, but now, she wasn't too sure if it was a good thing anymore.
"M-M-Matilda?" Louise called out to the woman who wore her tutor's face. She turned to the young Void Mage and smiled. It was a smile that made all three sisters feel uneasy. For the most part, the descriptions given about the Silent Harlequin were accurate save for the fact that she was not wearing a mask nor jester's cap at the time. In her right hand, she held a chained crescent staff. She also seemed to have some sort of sword strapped to her back. As to why, Louise couldn't really say yet.
"Oh-ho! Another one who knows her name! This Matilda sure is popular! Haha!" Mima said with a big smile. However, before Louise or her sisters could puzzle out what she was talking about, Mima leveled her staff at them and prepared to cast a spell.
"Think fast!" Mima said in a cheery voice before granite spikes erupted from the wall the sisters made and were aimed right at them.
"Done." Eleanore responded with a wave of earth from in front of them, catching the spikes and bringing them down to the ground. Louise and her sisters could hear the sound of clapping after the quick exchange of earth spells. They all turned to the source and saw Mima giving them a slow clap while her staff stood perfectly straight next to her with nothing visible holding it up.
"Who are you?" Cattleya finally asked, not really bothering to note how Eleanore managed to cast her spell a fraction of a moment before she did. The good thing about that though was she was now prepared to cast an earth fist in a heartbeat.
"Oh! Didn't you hear the small pink one? I'm Matilda~" Mima mocked before giving the three sisters a curtsey.
"You really are the Silent Harlequin then?" Eleanore asked as she and Cattleya slowly made sure that they were both between Mima and Louise.
"I had really hoped that they would have given me a better title but I guess it makes sense considering my clothes." Mima idly commented with a very un-ladylike shrug.
"You are not Matilda." Louise coldly stated. Both her older sisters had never heard her speak that way and it made them glance worryingly at her.
"Oh? If I look like Matilda, sound like Matilda, and have the same magic as Matilda, wouldn't that mean that I am Matilda?" Mima asked with a pout of her lips while glancing upward in mock contemplation.
"The fact that you had to ask those questions already makes your reasoning suspect. What are you? A Doppelganger?" Cattleya called Mima out on her lie before taking a guess as to what she was.
"A Doppelganger? You have those here? Nice!" Mima asked in surprise before she looked like she was very interested about Doppelgangers. When she noticed that she was not getting any reactions from the sisters when it came to the current subject, she just shrugged and dropped it.
"Well, it is an educated if incorrect guess. But no…" Mima said before once again giving the sisters a predatory smile.
"…I am no Doppelganger." She continued and started to reach out for her staff. Eleanore and Cattleya tensed and prepared to defend themselves and their youngest sister.
"Are you Mima?" Louise's sudden question made everyone present freeze. Mima raised a brow before looking at Louise more intently than before while her sisters glanced at her in slight confusion.
"Who are you little one?" Mima asked in a tone far more serious than what she had been using up to that point. Louise stepped forward between her sisters, enough for both her and Mima to get a good look at her.
"I am Louise Francoise Le Blanc de La Valliere. I am the one who summoned Yuka Kazami from Gensokyo and made him my Familiar." Louise clearly stated, her previous fear of Mima was no longer visible on the surface. It was a strange feeling for the girl. She was terrified at the feeling that Mima exuded when she was shrouded in smoke, but after she put a face to the fear she was able to slowly recover. She was still scared, certainly, but she wasn't paralyzed anymore.
Mima on her part blinked before narrowing her eyes, as if seeing Louise for the very first time.
"Oh-ho…is that so? I was wondering why Yuka is allowing humans in here after what Reimu and Marisa did to this place last time they were here. Pretty as you three are, I didn't think that Yuka would take in humans as pets or slaves. No, you three are something else to him. Now, I am starting to understand…" Mima murmured mostly to herself while shifting her gaze between the three sisters. She then smiled, as if realizing something, before taking a deep breath.
"Well, you are correct. Allow me to introduce myself properly. I am Mima, formerly the Evil Spirit of the Hakurei Shrine, formerly a student of magic of the creator of the demon realm Makai, and currently sharing residency of this lovely body with the human everyone keeps referring to as Matilda." Mima stated before giving an exaggerated bow to the three sisters.
"So she is the one Yukari was talking about when she spoke about the history of Touya's family." Cattleya muttered before gripping her wand a bit tighter. Mima noted this and how both Cattleya and Eleanore subtly shifted their bodies to a readier stance.
"My goodness~! It seems that I'm more popular than I thought if the lazy gap youkai has heard about me between her busy schedule of not doing anything productive~" The evil spirit said while cupping her cheeks with her hands as if she was embarrassed at the attention.
"And when you said 'about the history of Touya's family' I assume you are talking about the Hakurei Clan? I guess that shows just how long it's been…" Mima deduced before lowering her hands and looking almost wistful for a moment. However, the moment quickly vanished and she immediately went back to smiling at the sisters.
"But still…I was hoping to meet you at some point, just not so soon." The evil spirit mused and noticed how Louise's face tightened.
"Now, the next thing you are going to say is 'where is Yuka?'" Mima suddenly stated with a sly grin.
"Where is Yu—Hey!" Louise yelled after realizing what she was starting to say.
"Oh, don't worry about Yuka. He's just a bit preoccupied right now but he should be along by the time I'm done here." Mima answered Louise's question anyway with a wave of her hand.
"Done with what?" Cattleya asked warily.
"I'm sorry, you are?" Mima asked while tilting her head toward the middle sister. Cattleya blinked at the question and glanced at her two sisters. Louise just kept glaring at Mima while Eleanore shook her head slightly upon meeting her gaze.
"Oh, don't be like that. While it's smart that you are hesitant to give out your name to someone of my repute, Little Pink over there already gave me hers. Besides, it's not that hard to see the resemblance between the three of you." Mima pointed out before continuing.
"That said I hope I don't have to resort to less friendly means just to know the names of Big Pink and Flat Yellow." She said and enjoyed how both Cattleya and Eleanore blinked before glaring at her after realizing what she meant by her nicknames. Still, they both remained silent in spite of Mima's taunts.
"Oh, is that how it's going to be then?" Mima coolly asks before grabbing her chained crescent staff.
"Wait! You are a spirit right? Are you possessing Matilda? Is she still in there?" Louise quickly asked before the situation could completely break down.
"I'll tell you what, I know a way to give us all a chance to get what we want and have some fun at the same time." Mima said while grabbing her staff and twirling it around in her hands.
"If any of you can hit me, a nice clean hit mind you so grazes do not count, I'll do something very nice for you. Maybe I'll even answer some of your questions too." She proposed with a disarming smile, one that suddenly turned sinister a moment later.
"However…if you can't do that by the time all three of you drop, either because I beat you up so much that you can't move or by you own exhaustion, then I get to do what I want with you girls." She added before pointing her staff at each of the three sisters in turn. Her proposal was met with varying degrees of angry glares from the Vallieres.
"Oh, don't look at me like that. It's not like you'd be able to do anything about it anyway if you lose." Mima flatly stated while idly waving her staff in dismissal of the reaction to her proposal.
"So, are you three game?" Mima finally asked.
"And if we refuse to follow your terms?" Cattleya asked . Mima blinked at her before responding.
"Then I stop playing nice." She simply stated. The calmness in which she delivered the statement sent a chill down Cattleya's spine.
"Why are you 'playing nice' in the first place?" Eleanore brought up the point. From what she learned from Yukari's stories about Mima whenever she sat in on Cattleya's treatments, and from what the so-called evil spirit had shown so far, the eldest sister was relatively certain that she knew Mima's type.
"Because it would be boring if I just blast your lights out. I want to see what the human who made the Sleeping Terror her familiar can do." The evil spirit started to explain. Yes, this was a type of person that her parents told her about before. Individuals who achieve a certain level of power and pride would either feel like they have nothing left to prove to anyone thus had no more need to demonstrate their power, such as their mother…
"Besides, having her sisters as backup should be enough of a handicap to even things out." …or they develop to become individuals that must constantly prove their superiority over everyone at any given opportunity. Those types of people love to hear their own voice, especially if they are talking about themselves.
"Oh yes, It's not that hard to figure out considering your resemblance to each other." Mima continued after hearing Louise gasp at her correct guess. Eleanore had everything she needed to come to a reasonable conclusion about Mima's personality. Now she had to keep the evil spirit talking, either to buy time to come up with a plan or until Yuka to finally shows up to help them with the situation.
"You are as wise as the stories say. I am surprised that someone like you is working alongside petty rebels. How does that work anyway?" Eleanore said easily enough. Appeal to her ego and maybe even get some information about Reconquista.
"Funny story to that actually. But, yes, I am wise. Certainly wise enough to know when someone is stalling for time or fishing for information by trying to get me to monologue. Points for effort but I've been in the game for a very long time." Mima said and smiled at how Eleanore grimaced upon having her ruse unraveled so quickly.
"Don't feel so bad Flat Yellow. If you hadn't tried to dig for information about Reconquista, I would have talked a bit more. Just remember that those kinds of moves only work on megalomaniacs too high on their own power, usually power they never really earned." Mima added, showing her teacher side and ignoring how Eleanore glared at her for continuing to use that nickname.
"Will you allow us some time to prepare? We are not exactly dressed for strenuous activity." Cattleya requested while gesturing to her evening wear, trying her hand in buying some time.
"While I'm pretty sure you're just doing this to buy some more time, I still get where you're coming from. Fine, you have ten minutes." Mima allowed while waving her hand at them dismissively.
"You're going to leave me alone in here with her?!" Louise asked her sisters incredulously as they materialized their respective doors.
"Oh don't worry, I won't do anything bad to you while your sisters are away. I'm not going to jeopardize a fun showdown by taking a cheap shot at you. Now you better get ready ladies, clock is ticking." Mima assured Louise while reminding them of their very real time limit.
"Stay here and be safe Louise. We will not take long." Cattleya said before enveloping her younger sister in a hug.
"Oh, and don't bother calling for more help out there. I want to take on the three of you only. If anyone else joins in then the deal is off and that would just be a pain for everyone involved." Mima reminded, making both elder Valliere sisters wince. Eleanore was hoping to get her familiar to help them while Cattleya was planning on getting their parents. It would have probably upset Yuka but their need was great and…well they would not have been in this situation if he had not gone off on his own anyway.
"Don't do anything stupid while we're gone runt." Eleanore reminded before she and Cattleya exited Mugenkan to get ready. That left Louise and Mima standing in Mugenkan in awkward silence. The young Void Mage eyed the evil spirit, so many questions racing in her mind as emotions conflicted within her as she watched her tutor being used as nothing more than a vessel for a very powerful spirit. She wondered if the silence would stretch until her sisters came back but Mima decided to try to break the ice between them.
"So, how was your day?" Mima asked with a tilt of her head.
"So there I was, facing off against the last scion of the Hakurei clan! The foolish girl who had somehow bested my prized student-" Mima rattled off excitedly, all the while partaking of the tea that was meant for Louise and her sisters.
The young Void Mage glared intensely at the half-empty cup of tea in her hands as she tried to tune out the evil spirit jabbering with her tutor's voice.
"I thought 'how could Marisa lose to this kid?' I mean, she can't even fly on her own!" Mima continued, heedless of Louise's growing ire.
Louise tried to think of happier thoughts, even as her grip continually tightened around her tea cup.
"So I took it easy for a bit, maybe even have some fun, you know?" The evil spirit added with a wink after finishing off another cup of the sisters' tea.
Really, she did try.
"Grrrr..." Had anyone else been observing the proceedings, they may have inferred that Louise's tea should have started boiling with the way she was looking at it.
"Hey, are you listening?" Mima asked while gently nudging Louise's foot with the blunt end of her chained crescent staff.
"Aaaaarrrrrrrggghh!" That was all Louise could take as she screamed and threw her cup at Mima. The evil spirit deftly avoided the porcelain projectile but still had some tea spilt on her clothes.
"Something wrong Little Pink?" Mima asked amusedly while wiping the stain on her clothes with a napkin that she got from somewhere within her clothes.
"Why are you doing all this? Why all the theatrics?" Louise asked, her blood boiling. Mima simply shrugged her shoulders which made Louise slam her hands on the table and lean forward.
"What! Do! You! Want?!" The young Void Mage yelled out her question to a seemingly unaffected Mima.
"Ah ah ah! Remember the deal, you have to beat me first to get me to ta~lk." Mima reminded the young Void Mage with an exaggerated wink.
Louise clenched her jaw at the woman's tone. It disturbed her that such words and gestures were coming from Matilda, even if she knew that her tutor was being possessed. The young Void Mage very much wanted to raise her wand and let loose a broken spell right at Mima's smug face. It would have been so very easy to—
"Oh, look who decided to finally show up. Took them long enough." Louie's errant through was cut off by Mima's comment. She heard her sisters' doors materialize nearby just as Mima gulped down what was left of the tea she was drinking at the moment.
Eleanore was the first one to enter back into Mugenkan. Louise noted that her eldest sister sported her usual white blouse and purple skirt, though she was lacking her pink bow and Louise thought that her skirt was a bit shorter as well. Cattleya was next and Louise had to blink a few times in disbelief of what she was seeing at the moment.
"Cattleya…" Eleanore slowly intoned, as if struggling to decide what to say.
"Hm?" The second daughter of the Valliere asked with a tilt of her head.
"What..." The blonde trailed off with a look of confusion while gesturing at what her younger sister was wearing. Cattleya's eyes lit up with understanding and she tapped on what both Louise and Eleanore were staring at with pride.
"My riding breeches? Well, my dresses do not really make it easy to run. Brimir help me if I damaged one of them and mother found out. These do seem a bit tighter than I remember though…" Cattleya commented while feeling around her waist, the action accentuating her curves and making both Eleanore and even Louise's eyes twitch for very personal reasons.
"Why do you even own riding breeches?" Eleanore asked before pinching the bridge of her nose. The second Valliere daughter hummed in recollection.
"Father had a pair made for me by the family tailor when I asked him for riding lessons last year." Cattleya smoothly answered her sister.
Louise blinked at the actions of her sisters. Exchanges between Eleanore and Cattleya, like what they were displaying at the moment, was nothing new to Louise. However, somewhere at the back of her mind, something was telling her that there was something...off...about this particular one. It felt strange to her but decided to go along with it as they probably have a reason for doing this.
"A-nd...mother allowed this to happen?" Louise ventured a question since her sister was not treated for her illness by Yamame until recently.
"Do you think I would ever let mother know?" Cattleya asked her younger sister with a loving smile. Both sisters turned to their eldest when they heard a rather unladylike harrumph coming from her.
"Do you honestly think something like that would get past her?" Eleanore asked sarcastically.
"Then I must be thankful of her tolerance to some of my whims then." The middle sister answered innocently. Eleanore was about to respond when they were interrupted by slow deliberate claps coming from Mima.
"Okay, that's enough stalling." The evil spirit said with a slightly bored look.
"Stalling? What are you talking about?" Eleanore asked with an edge to her voice, seemingly very put off by the apparent accusation. Meanwhile, Louise's eyes widened as she started to piece everything together.
"Hm~? You think that I couldn't see through it~? Fufufu~" The evil spirit jokingly asked while looking like she was trying to contain her laughter.
"That is so cute~!" Mima almost squeed while cupping her cheeks with her hands. Louise heard her eldest sister grumble something unintelligible. She was even clenching and unclenching her hands into fists, over and over again. Louise spared a glance at Cattleya only to see her looking shocked and give out a sudden gasp. The reaction was accompanied by a slight breeze and a shadow in the corner of Louise's vision. The young void mage turned to the source and ended up mimicking Cattleya's gasp when she saw Mima within inches of Eleanore. Most striking was how the evil spirit's face was devoid of all expression and was seemingly staring right into her eldest sister's eyes.
"I will give you points for spontaneity." Mima whispered. It was most definitely a whisper. It sounded like a whisper. The problem was that, if it was a whisper, the Louise and Cattleya shouldn't have been able to hear her words...yet they did. That fact made both of them very concerned.
"You did well to hide your delaying tactic under the guise of banter, almost as if you two have done this sort of thing before." Mima added with a smile before stepping back and reaching out to her staff, making it fly into her hand.
"A-nd...and you are a lot more...p-perceptive than I expected. H-how troublesome." Eleanore admitted, desperately trying to maintain a modicum display of confidence, while very slowly reaching for her her wand.
"Please, I've been using that trick even before you were just a twinkle in your father's eye..." Mima teased as she finally relented from further violating Eleanore's personal space.
"Wait! W-what is going on?! H-how did you do that?! What are you even talking about?!" Louise suddenly cried out, partly out of panic and partly out of utter confusion on what just transpired between her sisters and the evil spirit possessing her tutor.
"Don't worry about it. You'll understand it when you grow up~" Mima addressed Louise with a playful wink. Louise didn't even have time to be offended by the casual dismissal as she and her sisters suddenly felt a sudden chill down their spines.
"So, are you three ready?" Mima asked. Louise almost recoiled at the way she was looking at them. She had seen Matilda angry, back when she was still trying to steal the Staff of Destruction, but what she was seeing at that moment…
"Or do you all want to find out what happens when I run out of patience?" Mima continued with an ice cold stare with dull red eyes and a small frown. No compassion. No empathy. No feeling. As if she wasn't even looking at a person at all. It was a face that Louise hoped Matilda would ever have to make again.
"May we have a few moments to plan?" Cattleya suddenly asked, gaining everyone's attention.
Mima's scowl faltered at the sheer audacity of the request. She narrowed her eyes at the middle sister, trying to see if she would crack.
Cattleya very nearly did.
"Fine." The evil spirit acquiesced with a huff before doing odd motions with her left hand. A large hourglass appeared floating at her side a few moments later.
"You have until the sand on top runs out, use your time well." Mima explained as the hourglass turned over to denote the start of their borrowed time. Louise and Eleanore looked at the hourglass before glancing at each other while Cattleya took a few deep breaths to try to calm herself down.
"Come on you two!" Eleanore suddenly said before grabbing her younger sisters by the arm and pulling them further away from Mima and into the giant sunflower field of Mugenkan. The evil spirit merely smiled at the decision and started to weave a spell.
"I think that she likely can still hear us from this distance, sister." Cattleya commented as Eleanore continued to drag them along. She heard her elder sister grumbling but she couldn't quite hear what she was saying. Louise remained quiet, still thinking of the way Mima looked at them, and just let Eleanore drag her along.
"Big Sister Eleanore?" Cattleya tried to no response.
"Eleanore!" The middle sister tried harder and got an answer.
"I know!" Eleanore yelled out, startling both of her younger sisters. The blonde stopped walking and turned around to look at both Cattleya and Louise in the eye.
"By Brimir, I know..." Eleanore repeated with a bit of a tremble in her voice. She was not unaffected by the sudden display of hostility by the evil spirit. That one moment made her realize just how much trouble the three of them were actually in. It was an incredibly sobering moment for the heir of the Valliere estate.
"But I am not staying anywhere near that monster for a moment longer." She bit out. Unfortunately, it was the wrong thing to say in front of her youngest sister.
"Matilda is not a monster!" Louise immediately yelled out, only to be met by a glare by Eleanore.
"Not a monster?!" Eleanore yelled as she started digging her fists into the sides of the young Void Mage's head.
"Not a monster?! Did you see what she just did?!" She continued as she ignored Louise's cries of pain. Eleanore was frustrated at the way Louise was acting. The little runt was not using her head!
She was also scared. Not that she would ever admit it. But she was very scared. For all three of them.
She wasn't alone in that regard.
"Eleanore! Enough!" Cried out before reaching out to get Eleanore's hands away from their youngest sister.
"You're hurting Louise." Cattleya pleaded as she looked into her older sister's eyes. The blonde took a deep breath, Cattleya slowly let Eleanore go after she felt her start to relax.
"So long as that woman identifies herself as 'Mima', then I will refer to her as appropriate." The eldest sister stated more calmly but with no less derision. Louise was about to rebuke but Cattleya decided to take things into her own hands before anything else happened.
"And I am certain that we will do something about that, won't we?" Cattleya said with a warm smile to both Louise and Eleanore. The effect was immediate as both of her sisters started to settle down, her calming presence once again preventing further arguments as she had done several times in the past. Eleanore gave Cattleya a glare for interfering, more out of habit than out of any real anger, before turning away from both of her sisters.
"...free that woman and the problem should..." Cattleya barely heard her sister mutter, making her smile, before once again marching off deeper into the sea of giant sunflowers. Cattleya was about to follow when she noticed that Louise was motionless and was just looking at the ground.
"Louise? What's wrong, dear?" Cattleya asked worriedly. Eleanore immediately turned back to check on their youngest sister the moment she heard Cattleya.
"What..." Louise whispered out.
"What was that? Speak up runt!" Eleanore demanded, ignoring Cattleya's disapproving frown. They did not have time for this drama. As far as Eleanore was concerned, riling her youngest sister up was preferable to her locking herself up in despair. Anger was more useful than anguish in her opinion. Unfortunately, Louise refused to cooperate with her as she looked at the two of them with an expression that broke both of her older sisters' hearts.
"What...what can we do?" Louise asked the question that neither of her sisters really did not have the answer to yet. Cattleya instinctively turned to Eleanore for a plan.
If there was anything that had been consistent when the three of them were growing up, it was that Eleanore was the one to turn to in a pinch. Cattleya was confident that she could give the blonde Valliere a run for her money with enough time and preparation. However, for something spontaneous like this? Cattleya truly believed that if anyone can think of a way out of it, it was Eleanore.
The eldest sister hummed and pouted at Louise in what Cattleya secretly called 'The Planning Pout'.
"Runt, what can you tell us about what that...woman...can do specifically?" Eleanore asked, consciously making sure not to reflexively insult the person who was giving her grief. No good would come from it nor would she feel any better if she did. Louise thought about it for several moments before shaking her head sadly.
"Nothing really worth mentioning. The only thing I heard about her was her history, the way she was involved with incidents in Gensokyo in the past. All I'm sure of is that everyone said that she was a very powerful mage, and since both Yuka and Yukari actually went out and said that she was powerful..." Louise trailed off. The implication of her words merely validating what they all already knew.
This would not be easy, even with all three of them working together.
"No! I refuse to believe that she is beyond us." Eleanore stubbornly declared. The way she said it made Cattleya blink and made Louise stare at her oldest sister in confusion and awe.
"Did you notice something we can take advantage of?" Cattleya asked hopefully, even Louise started to perk up.
"Maybe...Runt!" Eleanore muttered before pointing at Louise.
"Yes Big Sis Eleanore?!" The young void mage acknowledged in reflex.
"In any of those stories about Mima, was she always depicted as a spirit?" The blonde Valliere asked. Louise blinked in slight confusion before nodding in confirmation. Cattleya chose to remain quiet and let her sister elaborate on her point.
"Good. Look, as powerful as she seems to be, she is now inhabiting a mortal human body. That means she is presently bound to human limitations. If she goes beyond the limits of what her host can withstand, then her host could die." Eleanore pointed out.
"So it is possible that she may hold back in order not to harm her host?" Cattleya ventured hopefully.
"Maybe. However, from what the runt told us, her tutor was once 'Fouquet: The Crumbling Dirt'. That means that the evil spirit has the body of a Square Class Mage to work with. Do not forget that fact" Eleanore reminded everyone.
"So what is our plan then Big Sister Eleanore?" Cattleya asked with cautious optimism.
"Well, we don't know anything real about our foe, from what we've seen so far, she just seems content in using Earth Magic for now." Eleanore voiced her observation from earlier.
"The reports about the Silent Harlequin make it seem that way as well." Louise added with a nod.
"Earth Spells, Cattleya and I can deal with. We might even be able to take advantage of that fact. However, always remember that she certainly should be capable of much more than just Earth Magic." Eleanore added to make sure that both her sisters understand that their foe was much more than meets the eye.
"What do I do? Be the distraction again?" Louise asked with uncertainty. Out of the three of them, she thought that she would be the safest to be exposed to danger since her real body was sound asleep back at the inn. She thought that, since it worked against Yuka, it may work against Mima as well. Eleanore considered the suggestion before ultimately shaking her head.
"Too dangerous. Mima knows that you are Yuka's master so she may go after you specifically for that reason alone." Eleanore reasoned and held up a hand before Louise could even open her mouth to answer.
"And Not. A. Word. about anything else. Remember, she might still be able to hear us." She added as she knew that Louise might have ended up saying something they all would have regretted later on.
"Just stay out of trouble and let us go after her first. We'll improvise depending on what she decides to do. Just be ready to act when the opportunity presents itself. Oh, and don't try to do anything stupid alone, we are all in this together." Eleanore advised before giving a firm warning to her sisters.
"We are the proud daughters of the Valliere family. Let's show that spirit why it was a grave mistake to challenge us." The eldest sister stated with conviction, raising the spirits of both Louise and Cattleya. The second sister silently cheered at the way Eleanore took charge of the situation after she cooled her head.
That was the Eleanore she knew and loved!
"Hopefully she does not do anything that defies logical sense as a start." Louise muttered irritably. That earned her a scoff from Eleanore and a giggle from Cattleya. Then Louise blinked when she felt something very small land on her head.
"Time's up~! Ready or not~" Matilda's voice echoed from an unseen distance away. Eleanore and Cattleya tensed at the announcement before nodding resolutely at each other. They would protect their little sister no matter what.
The young void mage reached for whatever landed on her and took a look at it. It was a small piece of earth. She blinked again when she saw some more land on the ground next to her. That made her look up.
She immediately wished she hadn't.
Eleanore and Cattleya followed her gaze. Their eyes widened and their blood ran cold as they all dumbly stared at the impossibility hovering above them.
It was a boulder. Though to call it a boulder would be a significant understatement. The thing above their heads was easily the size of a small manor. How Mima was able to place it there, directly above their heads at a little over couple of hundred feet, without any of them noticing, none of them could answer. So they just stood there frozen for far longer than they all likely had intended to out of sheer disbelief.
Then it started to fall.
"Cattleya! Louise!" Eleanore cried out desperately to her sisters. Cattleya immediately pulled Louise between the two of them as close to each other as possible, effectively sandwiching the young Void Mage.
"Cattleya! One chance! As one!" Eleanore roared out as she and Cattleya raised their wands toward their oncoming doom. In the distance, Mima smiled viciously at her successful sneak attack.
"Here~! I~! Come~" The evil spirit said belatedly as she heard and felt the crash of the gigantic boulder on the ground.