It is a dark night, the monsters outside moan loudly under the storm that continues to shower the land in a futile attempt to clean Gensokyo.
Inside the small hut next to the Human Village, Satori's and Aya's clothes hang above the table in the small living room, soaked and dripping water incessantly.
From within the tengu's room, Aya screams as though being tortured, and shortly after Satori shouts "hold still already!"
The tengu reporter lies on her bed with her arms and legs bound together with rope, covered by a make-shift pair of underwear made from white cloths, just like her satori friend, and both are soaking wet from the rain.
"I've had to do this to Orin and Okuu and even have had to force pills down their throats. You don't want me to get violent Shameimaru!" threatens the purple-haired girl with a small syringe on her right hand.
"NOOOO~! What if that thing is poison? Maybe it's an experiment! That Lunarian is INSANE!" screams the black-haired girl in a desperate attempt for mercy from her friend.
Satori glances flatly at the syringe with light-blue liquid inside for a moment, looks back at the crow girl, and then asks "so~? You injected me with THIS knowing just that? You risked my life with an experiment of that woman?"
"N-no! Th-that's not what I- Please, don't do it! I DON'T LIKE NEEDLES!" cries Aya out loud, begging for mercy in her mind.
The mind-reader sighs, places a gentle and friendly hand on the crow girl's cheek and says "look, that bruise is only getting worse. That bone isn't healing and the letter clearly stated we needed these shots. I took mine, so please take yours Aya-chan!"
The left side of the tengu's bosom is exposed and on it the bruise from the day before has expanded and turned darker, worrying the satori maiden even more after sighting it.
Frightened, Aya's breathing cuts rapidly as she tries to inhale, but then she looks at Satori's worried face and involuntarily nods, accepting to get pinched.
The mind-reader sighs with relief, leans closer, then softly says "alright, I'll do this fast. Please bare it for a little while. It's for your own good after all."
Shameimaru closes her eyes and grimaces while rapidly muttering "I'm ready," then the satori youkai positions the needle near her friend's leg, and when that needle pierces the skin the tengu girl cries out as though being mauled by a vicious tiger, or maybe one of those red zombies.
No point in keeping dates anymore. Back in my bedroom at Yuka's hut.
We are back here again, and the reason for it, well it's because we got captured by Byakuren and her minions, whom seemed like good little monsters. We spent three, or maybe more days sleeping in her ship, she treated us nicely, gave us deliciously warm food, and heck she was very sweet and nice. But I guess it was far too good to be true. She is as twisted, if not more, as everyone out there. She thinks being a zombie monster is a blessing, like that Tewi, and though she claims to care for the survivors, she doesn't mean that! We were expected to remain in our rooms like good little pets, and be catered to until she decided to punish us by ripping our skins and turning us into monsters. Well, after we found that out with some 'accidental' snooping from our part, hell fell on us as badly as ever. She sent her goons after us, we had to fight over and over, and then fight some more, run through insane twisted rooms, upside-down and corkscrew corridors. Ugh, but the worst part was when that Nue used my fears against me and had me cowering in a corner. Thankfully Satori was there and made me see the illusion for what it was, and after that, Hatate entered the room, and she and Nue started fighting! Seriously, I HAD to take a picture of that awesome scene. Um, anyway, we later came across one of the survivors in that flying ship, and he tells us how Byakuren had him and the other survivors under a spell. I wonder why didn't she do that to us? Anyway, she can kill them whenever she wants, and if she dies, they die with her. What a bitch. Well anyway, just before finding the exit we came across that girl that put a sleep spell on us. I had no choice but to kill her, sorta, and it tugged my heart a bad way when I saw her corpse smiling so happily. Was she really aware of what was happening to her? Ugh, so confusing. Anyway, on the deck, Byakuren and her minions forced us to use a LOT of power just to survive, and when we were about to win, that miasma Nyuudo comes. He was strong, but rather pointless, at least until he used the lasers, which were weak. He was missing something from before, when he was normal. Well, after we escape that ship and made it to the destroyed Myouren Temple in one piece, these rabbits and Nue come after us and forced us to fight, even though we were so tired already. Oh, and I saw Satori get angry. It was a little funny, but I didn't like that look on her face. Well, after we dealt with those, we made our way outside... onto a damned graveyard. We met this odd girl called Yoshika, a Jiang Shi, and she is not only immune to the spell thingy, but her bite causes other zombies to act like her. She claims it's temporary though. Seems she was working with Eirin. That Lunarian bitch. Um, I'll explain that outburst in a bit. Er, anyway, Satori and I tricked Yoshika into going inside the temple while we escaped, and wouldn't you know it, when fighting these nekomata, Nue comes from behind us and beats us up so badly she shamed our youkai blood. We are still hurt from that, even with Eirin's... Um, the thing is, we ended up hurt too badly, and that's why I had to come back here.
And that's why I'm also cursing Eirin. I HATE NEEDLES! The storm outside that's been hitting since yesterday is still on us, and we haven't been able to progress any further. On top of that, the bones that nue broke when she tried to drill a hole in the wall with our bodies won't heal. The next morning I hear a knock on the door and find these... NEEDLES in a baske, with a note that read "you'll need these to recover. Those bones can't heal on their own. Eirin," and true, I did inject Satori right away and she got all better... and then she turned to me! I tried running away, but that girl. She's something else! It's like she knew what I was going to do or say before even THINKING it, and even after I managed to go outside, she followed me, caught this grounded bird (myself), stripped me naked, tied me to the bed, then put that needle in my butt! IT HURT! But... I have to admit I started feeling better right away, and the bruise I had on my left breast is gone. But that does NOT excuse that nurse from giving us needles! Why couldn't it have been pills or juice! Juice is good! Um, wait, now that I'm thinking about this, I did cause Satori and me to get all wet again, which means that I owe her yet another apology. Hmm, maybe I'll call it even because ever since she woke up she's been comparing me to her Orin and Okuu a lot. She really loved them, it seems. I'm a little envious of them.
"Aya, you promised to cook today," calls the mind-reader from outside the door, "when are you starting dinner?"
The tengu reporter gasps and jumps off her bed, shouting "whoops! Sorry Satori-chan! I almost forgot!", then rushes outside.
Moments later, the black-haired girl wears a pastel-yellow bandana over her hair and a matching apron over her makeshift underwear while stirring a mixture of rice and vegetables being cooked in a pot on a small stove.
The semi-naked purple-haired girl sits on the table at the living room, watching her semi-naked friend cooking so contently, yet she glowers at nothing in particular as she asks "are you sure about that?"
The tengu girl nods, her lips turn to a frown, and then she says "I am certain. That master everyone keeps talking about has to be Remilia Scarlet."
Satori ponders; staring blankly as their drying clothes as she analyzes Aya's memory, then asks "well, when you link those letters, it does spell SCARLET, but what if it's just a coincidence?"
The cook twitches, then shakes her head and says "I don't think so. Just think about it. Look into my memories. That self-absorbed brat will do anything to gain power over anything she can."
"I don't know," says the mind-reader when she rests her chin on her hand after resting her elbow on the table, then sighs and adds "maybe it's her, but from what I can see, she was no pushover, and that probably hasn't changed."
"She's probably stronger now," sadly says the tengu cook as she places the finished meal on separate plates.
She takes the plates over the table, where forks are already set for use, and after she sits down to enjoy her meal she says "I wouldn't doubt the reason we are suffering so much is because of that pink-clad bitch with a swollen ego."
The satori maiden sighs and plays around with her food, looking sadly at the rice and slices of vegetables, then says "no, there's nothing wrong with the food. It's just that, if you are correct and we deal with this incident today, then that means I won't have to see my Orin, Okuu, or my sister Koishi like some... undead freaks. The thought makes me happy."
Aya sighs, though smiles while thinking of Gensokyo being back to normal, fairies playing tricks on human, youkai running around doing their daily thing, whatever it may be, humans busying themselves around the village, then says "that's why we have to storm that mansion and knock that damned cauldron Reimu was talking about."
Satori closes her eyes as she takes a bite out of her rice to see her friend's mental vision of Gensokyo clearly, smiles after gulping, and then softly says "yes. Let us end this nightmare, so we can go back to our lives and our loved ones."
At dawn, hours after the rain had stopped, the door to the hut opens up, and then Aya peeks her head to look around, twitching at the sound of a close-by moan and a snapping twig, yet keeps peeking.
"We have a fetus vampire, a human, and three fairy zombies on the way," whispers the girl.
From inside Satori whispers back "alright, I'll charge up. You come after me and blast that vampire."
The door slowly closes up, then the satori maiden bursts outside just before it closes completely and glares at the monsters.
The human zombie is one of the least disgusting females out there, with only bluish-grey skin and a small cut on her forehead, the vampire mutation's fetus-like head looks like the mutilated fetus of a cat that screeches and hisses when it senses the girl, and the zombie fairies are small, naked, and all three share a similar open hole on the stomach or chest.
They all rush toward the purple-haired girl, who hums as a concentration of light forms in front of her third eye, and long before they can even get close, five beams of light fly from the concentration and enter through their gaping, moaning and screeching mouths.
The tengu reporter bursts out the door the second the four zombies explode, gushing blood, guts, and several indescribable innards all around the mutant vampire, who along its disgusting slimy cat-fetus, screeches and roars in pain.
"Take THAT!" shouts the black-haired reporter after taking the front and shooting three more flashes at the fetus monster, killing it off for who knows how long.
"Let's move Aya," commands the mind-reader, and she and her friend speed off to the west, straight to the Misty Lake, and their final destination, the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
Inside the seemingly small hut, on top of the living room's table is a piece of paper with a message from Aya, which reads the following:
Dear Yuka or Eirin, or whomever else that's alive and sane that reads this,
Satori and I have decided to get out of here at the crack of dawn. Our destination is the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I figured out that the "master" these brain-rotten bastards keep talking about, is Remilia Scarlet. Her name has been written in separate places, but it reads the same. S-C-A-R-L-E-T. We are going there and storming the place; we are taking back our homes! We're going to have to go through that path near the Myouren temple, fight who-knows-how-many monsters along the way, and... What we're trying to say is, if any one of you feels like helping, then please do. We can only guess what kind of challenges awaits us in that mansion. HELP IS APPRECIATED! No more hiding behind bushes and watching us get the crap beaten out of. Help us take back our home, our Gensokyo! Yes, it is your Gensokyo too. We aren't Reimu Hakurei, gods-dammit all, and you are in this as much as we! But, if for some reason, whatever that may be, you cannot help us, then at least send us your prayers. That probably won't do much, but who knows. Maybe some god will listen and lend us a hand.
These are Aya Shameimaru and Satori Komeiji, and we are going to fight to get out homes and our lives back. Wish us luck.
Outside, the girls hide between the last cluster of trees before the very long unprotected trench that's on plain sight of the Myouren Temple and the flying ship, Palanquin.
They tremble violently at the rhythmic sounds of thuds and thunderous growling near them.
Genjii has left the Hakurei Shrine and is roaming about, currently guarding the path the girls need to take to reach the Misty Lake.
All the skin on his head has chipped off, what little is left of his beard is so stained with pieces of rotting flesh and blood, it looks like the none-existent skin under his chin is dangling there by a thread, its eyes have turned yellowish-green, and his teeth remain sharp and strongly set on those puss-spewing, rotting gums of his.
"S-s-so? Sh-sh-should we go around?" whispers the terrified tengu, while Genjii sniffs around, making a thunderous sound while at it.
The equally terrified mind-reader, whose skin is paler than usual, shakes her head and whispers "n-n-no. There's n-n-no cover a-a-ar-around. Bu-but we have to get past him."
Her reporter friend points up at the head of the turtle, almost ten feet above the ground, and asks "and how are we supposed to gets past THAT?"
Right on cue, the massive turtle turns around, showing its shell-less back and rotting skin, its stained bones and pulsating organs, then stops moving.
The girls look at each other with surprise, unable to believe some luck has actually befallen them, and having learned from past experiences, the girls quietly exit the safety of the trees and rush straight down their desired path.
As they do, they flinch when the giant rotting turtle yawns out loud, but keep running silently when they notice he is not turning around.
Up on the flying ship, zombie Byakuren smiles as she looks down from the edge of the deck and spots the two heathen girls running past the alerting turtle.
She bows her head and softly says "thank you Mister Genjii. You may sleep now," then stands firmly in place, sneering at the running girls, places her hands together, and then begins to chant softly and rapidly.
Back on the ground, just as the girls gain a good-enough distance from Genjii, Aya celebrates "yes! We're home-free!"
Satori stops abruptly, raises her arm to stop the eager tengu, then grunts and grumbles "you spoke too soon!"
In front of them stands the pale and rotting Shizuha Aki, spreading a yellow mist around her that instantly kills any plant it touches, and if the plants are already dead when she gets three feet of them, said plant turns to dust.
Her eyes glow an unnerving purple, her remaining bit of hair has turned frizzled and white, the skin over her forehead has fallen off, leaving her bloodstained skull bare, her mouth remains agape as a whisper escapes her like a tuneless incessant song, her shirt has been ripped open, the bit of strand of skirt left hanging behind her drips with a purple fluid that keeps escaping her torn derriere, and her skin, though still there, looks stiff and cold, though has an unhealthy green tone.
She moves by hovering two feet above the ground, and the mist she expels around herself seems to pour right out of the pores of her stiff skin and from underneath her sleeves.
She turns to the girls and remains stationary, though that incessant whispered song continues, then without warning she moves toward them, moaning to get the attention of some zombie fairies that were playing dead around her mist.
Aya and Satori take a few steps back, but know they can't run away without risking being seen by zombie Genjii, so they prepare themselves to fight as the tengu says "here she comes!"
"I'll take her, you take the fairies! GO!" commands the mind-reader, preparing herself for the battle against a zombified god.
Aya moves a few feet away from her friend and shoots a single flash, successfully getting all the zombie fairies' attention, save the one that died from the burst of light.
Satori focuses her energy in front of her third eye, and then sends three of those bright beams flying straight at the zombie goddess.
One of the beams goes into her mouth while the other two drill through her skin and expand within her, but just like the mind-reader thought, the goddess' body is tough.
Now the zombie girl hisses angrily and hovers fast after her attacker.
The mind-reader takes several steps back as she flashes Shizuha's eyes in an attempt to slow her down, and then finds herself running right after the reporter and shouting "MOVE! Don't get caught!"
The black-haired girl nods, then rushes toward the remaining five zombie fairies further right, knocking two after some skilled flashes on the face for each.
The purple-haired mind-reader keeps jogging backward while shooting one beam after another, keeping away from zombie Shizuha's mist.
She trips on herself and falls on her back, and just then the last beam she shot strikes the goddess on the forehead and pushes her back as she moans a pained lament.
"Yes! Just gotta finish her," whispers Satori, almost out of breath as she stands back up.
She gets on her feet to meet the zombie's red-glowing eyes glare and says to herself "she's pissed."
Shizuha lunges forth, raising her arms for the first time, gesturing as though already gripping the satori's neck, then is flashed from the side by the tengu reporter, quickly again from the front by her target, and falls solidly face-down on the ground only a mere step away from reaching the girl.
Her body, though downed, keeps spilling that purple liquid, now also from her grounded face and chest, so the live girls decide to walk away from it as fast as they can.
"Phew, thanks for the help," comments Satori, then lowers her eyes, blushes, and shamefully says "er, sorry I left you alone with the fairies."
"Nah, it's alright," cockily says Aya as she wraps her arm around her friend's shoulders and finishes "believe it or not, those fairies are feeling more like pushovers rather than actual threats."
As she says this, she gently squeezes the mind-reader's exposed shoulder and thinks "man, so soft. She must really be taking care of herself."
The blushing Komeiji giggles, looks away to the ground, then nervously says "um, th-thank you. B-but we are girls. We have to care for our skin at all times, right?"
The tengu blushes beet red, unable to believe she just though that so casually, but can't help but smile as she nervously replies "th-that's true Satori-chan," then skillfully changes the conversation by saying "er, let's keep our guard up. We should be arriving to the lake soon."
It doesn't take the girls long to reach the small forest before the lake, even with the fairies and the giant grasshoppers appearing out of nowhere and attacking relentlessly.
The girls know something must be terribly wrong when after walking into said forest the only sound they can hear is the scrunching of their footsteps on the ground.
"Careful," whispers Aya, pulling the mind-reader's arm to get her closer, then says "we are in Remilia's territory now. Who knows what she's got in store for us."
Satori nods, and soon after finds herself getting closer to her friend when a bone-chilling cold wind whooshes by them, then says "thi-thi-this is t-t-too cold. A-Aya, w-w-we should have brought c-c-coats."
The cold tengu shivers a bit, yet looks warm to the mind-reader, and when she turns her face to reply to the satori, she picks her friend and shouts "LOOK OUT!"
A large hoofed youkai with black shriveled skin, a large brownish-white horn on the left of its head; its prickled ribcage sticking out of the skin like some spiked armor and red bleeding eyes, runs to where the girls were, making no sound until it's just three feet away.
Now the girls can hear it bellow and snarl, how its hooves thump loudly on the ground with every step, but the creatures with the external ribcage ignores the living girls and continues on its way to the lake, bellowing louder as he does.
Just like that, it feels as though a veil lifts from the trees, and now the sound of the wind and the howling of nearby monsters reach the girls.
"What the heck's going on?" asks Aya while looking around in an alarmed state.
Satori looks equally alarmed, but before she can say her piece, both girls turn their attention toward the bellowing of the hoofed monster.
It bellows three times straight, followed by a jingling and icy sound, shattering glass, then the monster roars, there are three loud thwomps, and finally silence once more.
The girls firmly stand their ground as they stare toward the source of the noises.
The tengu reporter gulps, fearing what they may find up ahead, but as shaken as she and the mind-reader are, their resolve stands strong.
It's only a few more minutes until reaching the lake's shores, and after that, the Scarlet Devil Mansion and that accursed cauldron that keeps everyone in Gensokyo as undead monsters.
As they make their way to the lake, they can hear the many creatures surrounding them, however not one of them attack directly.
They either rush through and try taking a bite or a cheap claw-swipe, or just snarl as they pass by and keep moving forward on to the lake.
"Grrr! They're gathering ahead to ambush us, I just know it!" snaps Aya after flashing a greater fairy zombie to her temporary death beside herself.
"It's strange," begins Satori, moving out of the way of a fairy's bite and flashing and killing the little bitch before continuing "it's like we're not that important to them anymore. I'm getting a bad feeling."
The tengu stares at her friend, shivers when a sudden cold wind breezes through, then points forward and bravely says "there. We move straight forward and we get to that mansion. We do that and this all ends; we get our home back."
The satori nods and continues on the path pointed, thinking "she's as desperate as I am, and I want to end this already, but what is this feeling of unease?"
And finally, they arrive to the Misty Lake's shore and stare in awe and shock at the amazing and horrible sight before them.
The entire lake has been frozen solid and adorned with horrible icicles and icebergs filled with frozen undead monsters.
Fairies, vampires, severed body parts, splotches of blood, eyeballs, organs, each of those tall ice sculptures holds a variety of creatures and pieces of said creatures within, some only half-inside.
Though most of these horrible ornaments are scattered all throughout the frozen lake water, the girls notice what looks like a path leading forward, where nothing, save for the adorning ice-domes to the sides are near the trail.
Aya gulps as she looks around and notices not all monsters are fully frozen.
Some just have half their decaying bodies frozen in their cold prisons, others seem to be half alive, and pointing at the half-frozen hoofed youkai half-inside a glacier, the tengu says "th-that's the monster that almost trampled us just now."
Satori needs to narrow her eyes to notice the exposed ribs of the monster inside the ice, a terrible feeling fills her heart, but that's when both girls see it.
The shadow of the Scarlet Devil Mansion, looming over the ice; silent yet terrifying, something that unnerves Shameimaru and Komeiji greatly.
"It's right there," longs the satori maiden as she takes absent-minded steps on the ice, followed by her black-haired friend, then continues "it's so close. We can do this. We just walk through here and we're there!"
The girls fail to notice, but the ice is not slippery at all, yet they continue their absent-minded walk toward their goal, there where their hope for the return of their Gensokyo lies.
As they make their way through the ice their minds return to them, and now take better notice of the horrible icy ornaments and what they hold within.
The frozen monsters, particularly the zombie fairies, all seem to be looking at the girls as they make their way through the path.
Aya stops and says "just a moment," then walks toward one of the ice domes on the side of the path and inspects it, whispering "if there's something in here, I want to know now. Maybe flash it too."
But there's nothing, save for the rippling waters hidden beneath said dome.
Satori ponders for a moment, and then softly says "for being trapped inside ice, the water seems to be very agitated."
The dome explodes and the tengu shrieks, and now finds herself with her back pressed against the ice and crushing a sake bottle inside her backpack.
Her anxiety prevents her vision to focus on what's in top of her, but she knows she's pushing something back as she desperately calls "Satori! I can't see!"
The mind-reader screams and the sound of several other domes shattering tells the tengu they are in deep shit.
The blurry green and blue figure on top of her snarls, and finally the reporter's vision settles.
Daiyousei has no visible mutations, her skin is perfectly preserved, though blue in color, her wet ponytail dangles stiffly to the side, her lifeless eyes retain the once-beautiful blue iris that now look like stiff disks on a set of white orbs, and when she opens her mouth and spills some blackish water, she shows her new small, but sharp jagged teeth to the tengu.
Aya yelps with fright when that fairy thrusts her head with a snarl and snaps her teeth near her face, and when she fails due to the tengu pushing her back she tries again and again, snapping her jaws like a hungry lunatic beast.
"SATORI!" calls the reporter when she finds herself unable to push back the frozen greater zombie fairy that's only half her size, struggling hard to keep her away and surprised at the little monster's strength.
"AYA! I'm trapped!" calls back the mind-reading youkai, followed by a lout slicing thud and the girl's painful yelp.
The crow girl despairs and summons all the strength she can muster.
She grabs zombie Daiyousei by the neck and grips her tight, forcing her back and making her spit more of that blackish water, and with a grunt and a lot of strength the tengu reporter turns around and gets on top of the fairy.
The little monster grips Aya's left forearm, unleashes a set of tiny piercing claws and slides those little claws, cutting ten uneven blood-filled lines on the girl's arm.
The black-haired girl grunts and whimpers from the pain, but ignores it as best she can, takes her camera out of her pocket, and flashes the zombie several times straight on the face, killing her quickly.
Daiyousei's body twitches and chokes, so the tengu girl takes another flash after getting up to stop her from moving, then rushes toward her satori friend.
Seven great fairies, all like zombie Daiyousei, perfectly preserved, though their eyes are covered with a snowy film.
They have somehow frozen Satori's feet on the ice and are tackling her from behind, but so far the girl only has two cuts on her back.
"AYAAAA!" desperately calls the mind-reader when laying eyes on her friend, her eyes tearing up, probably from the anxiety and fear.
Seeing that face ignites the crow tengu to the point that she's no longer feeling cold or afraid, and in a blind fit of rage she silently rushes toward the fairies and shoots her flash.
That very moment, just as one of those fairies lunges to tackle the pink-haired girl from behind, said girl turns her body around as far as she can, which is surprisingly far, then flashes the little monster in the eyes, killing her and piling her body up with six more of her already dead zombie friends.
She grunts as she tries to break her feet free from the ice, then stops when she feels the warmth of Aya's hand tap her back, then the tengu glares at the fairies, flips her middle finger at them and furiously shouts "come at me you weak little shits!"
The remaining six fairies rush straight at the reporter in a straight line.
Seeing this surprising tactic, the crow tengu takes her fan on hand and swings it with all her might, making two small tornadoes that dance around each other, trapping the fairies and separating them.
Shameimaru grins vilely, shoots several flashes, then gasps when the last fairy she kills screams like any normal fairy would.
"What the heck?" asks the surprised girl.
Satori sighs with relief, holds her friend from investigating that fairy, then says "they are still zombies. I already killed three of those. N-now please, help me out of here."
Fury takes the tengu's eyes, but she calms herself down enough to kneel next to her friend and use very small and harmless bullets to break the ice around her feet.
The girls continue on their way through the frozen waters, now more alert to their surroundings.
More of those domes adorn the sides of the widening path, more and more accumulating as they go forth, but not just the domes, but the icicles and icebergs need to be kept under a watchful eye.
Some of the encased creatures move around the inside of their icy prison, and some, be it fairy or beast, rush to the ice walls in an attempt to attack the girls whenever they pass by, and fail, while some just watch and wait.
The duo keeps close for both warmth and security while keeping their flashing weapons held ready for any other surprise attack, but so far everything has been too quiet.
A light but sudden snowstorm hits the girls, forces them to close their eyes to prevent the flying bits of ice from getting in them, then it settles down, but visibility has diminished a lot.
"Satori-chan?" calls the tengu with a frightful whisper.
"Right behind you Aya," replies the mind-reader with a cautious whisper.
Their steps now crunch against the new carpet of two inches of snow that has set on the icy ground, a whooshing from the sides unsettle the girls' nerves, yet they keep moving forward.
A whisper reaches their ears, it comes with a loud whoosh, and then tengu girl yelps, frightening her partner, when something red flies above their heads.
It's a gush of blood that splats on a far iceberg to their rights and freezes on contact.
"B-blood doesn't fly like that, does it?" nervously asks Satori while looking at the frozen blood.
A large figure flies just above their heads, making both girls yelp with fright, and then they watch as the body of a large bird youkai thuds against the ice.
Aya stares at the creature, a red-crested bird with a long black beak that's hooked at the tip, with white hair-like feathers on its head, ice-blue feathers and long thin orange legs, then gasps loudly and says "that's not a zombie!"
Before either girl can reach the bird, ice thorns start growing from around it and swiftly encase it within, where its body will eventually decompose and become another of the undead.
The crow tengu shivers at the sight, but Satori forces her to look away and holds her in a warm embrace as she softly says "look away. Don't think for a moment that this will happen to us. We are strong."
The reporter chokes after letting out a loud sob, then she nods and says "y-yes, I understand. I m-mustn't. let myself. get depressed like that."
Both girls twitch when a woman's voice echoes around them in a whispering song, both soothing and terrifying, then Aya raises her camera and bravely commands "something's CLOSE! Keep a sharp eye!"
The satori youkai grabs her friend's hand and pulls her to run while loudly saying "they're stalling us! Move and do not look back! Just run!"
The girls run through the crunching ice and snow, feeling an unseen presence all around them that's keeping them on edge.
They jump between two narrowly placed icebergs filled with preserved and decayed zombie fairies that are awake and aware of the girls, all tackling the walls of the ice in an attempt to attack.
Finally, the girls reach the end of the frozen lake and stop, stare toward the sky with their mouths wide open, and after a loud gasp both girls exclaims "this is IMPOSSIBLE!"
A giant wall of ice now stands between them and the path to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, the very same building that mocks the girls from a safe distance, as if allowing itself to be seen through the ice for a moment before becoming a blurred shadow in the distance.
"NO~! We're so close! There's gotta be something we can do," exclaims the enraged tengu as she claws the wall of ice until her fingers burn from the cold.
"Stop it!" grunts Satori while pulling the black-haired reporter from the ice wall, then shouts "stop that and think! It's too thick Shameimaru!"
Aya's eyes seem to be lost in despair, her hands keep clawing the air in front of her, as if unaware of the mind-reader struggling to pull her away, then whimpers "but it's there."
The satori gives one final pull with all her strength, and she and the clawing crow tengu fall a few feet to the right, next to the largest icicle on the entire lake.
Both girls' eyes expand with surprise, unable to notice the ice burning the skin of their arms as they stare at the perfectly frozen figure of the spirit, Mima.
The main body's eyes are closed, the six snake-like faces are all unleashed, but they are all perfectly still in the center of the ice prison.
The surprised girls somehow manage to get themselves on their feet, and still staring at the frozen spirit Shameimaru whispers "f-frozen. The spirit, she's frozen," then looks at her mind-reading friend and asks "who? HOW can someone freeze an incorporeal spirit?"
The purple-haired girl's gaze is now aimed at the mocking ice wall as she manages to lift her violently shivering arm and whispers "Aya; l-look at that."
Inside the wall is the frame of the ice fairy known as Cirno, apparently asleep while standing on an imprint of herself in the ice with her arms adjacent to her waist and both legs placed together.
The ice makes a loud crack, but instead of breaking apart, to the girl's dismay, an almost invisible crystal gate opens up, and the fairy opens her eyes.
Her skin is ice-blue, her entire dress is stained with enough blood to make it look dark-purple, her eyes are yellow with a glowing icy-blue irises, her four lower wings look like thin icicles while the top two look like massive blades with hooked cuts at the tips twice the size of the little fairy's body, probably a big hindrance to that small frame, and after glancing around and noticing the girls, she whispers "SSTRONNNGHEESST."
Aya clicks her tongue, snarls at the zombie ice fairy, and then says "this little stupid weakling? Let's flash her and be done with-"
"Aya-chan! Look closer!" exclaims Satori, pointing at the zombie with a more straight hand.
Zombie Cirno hops out of the ice-imprint of herself and lands on the frozen water without showing signs of hindrance from her large wings, flapping them effortlessly as though testing them, then points back at the girls with her little right hand.
Amazingly enough, her hair shows no signs of decay; that is until she turns around to look at the imprint of herself she left behind on the wall, and the girls can now see she's missing a very large chunk from her back, where her skull can be seen from plain sight.
The tiny zombie raises her hands above her head and the entire wall behind her strengthens, eliminating her imprint and any possible weaknesses, then she turns around again, her little blue hands get encased in thick icicles that curve into hooks at the tips, then she threateningly whispers "SSTRONNNGHEESST!", while pointing the left limb at Aya.
The mind-reader gulps, takes a deep breath, and then says "I think. it would be very prudent. to RUN AWAY!"
"But the mansion! It's THERE!" exclaims the black-haired girl, staring with longing at that mocking destination that keeps eluding their reach as though purposely.
She turns her attention to zombie Cirno, snarls as she readies her camera, then says "like HELL I'm allowing this little fairy stop me now!"
Cirno's eyes glow, her mouth open as she frowns, showing her frozen and rotted gums and her shattered, yet sharp teeth, then takes a defensive stance as though conscious and knowing what she has to do.
The zombie ice fairy spins like a top as she moves toward the girls and forces them to separate to avoid getting mauled by her iced limbs or those massive blade-like wings.
"Don't just stand there and flash her," hurriedly commands Satori as she jumps away from zombie Cirno's spinning attack and flashes the little monster, though apparently doing nothing.
Aya shakes her head to recover herself from that shocking realization that the little ice fairy is now incredibly strong, then shouts "sorry! I'm coming Satori!", and shoots her flash from a distance as she runs toward the ice girl.
The mind-reader runs out of room to run and yelps as she drops to the cold ground, avoiding a solid blow from one of the bladed wings, but in doing so Cirno slams said blade on Mima's icicle.
"Ayayaya! Satori, get OUT OF THERE!" screams the tengu when the spirit inside the ice starts glowing.
Zombie Cirno rips her wing off to free herself, another grows almost instantly, and then she looks into the icicle at the waking spirit and whispers "SSTRONGHEST... SLHEEEEEEEP."
The broken wing merges with the icicle and Mima is put into her frozen slumber once more, an even the tengu stares at the event with fright and surprise, and says "holy shit. Th-this can't be Cirno!"
"Wake up," commands the purple-haired girl, tapping the tengu on her shoulder and sternly saying "this IS that weak little ice fairy you knew! And she's really strong against my flashes!"
The girls jump backward, avoiding one of those hooked ice claws, And after flashing the zombie together without doing much damage, Satori continues "see? I hit her with my beams; she swallowed one, but nothing! We're not even beginning to harm her!"
Zombie Cirno stops her advance, crosses her ice-covered arms in front of her face and stretches as though picking up breath, and then she uncrosses them and screams.
All around the ice, small and sharp icicles and glaciers sprout at random, threatening the girls.
"Danmaku!" shouts the crow girl, and she and the mind-reader shower the ice fairy with light-filled bullets.
Again, the zombie girl crosses her arms over her face, and just like that, the light-filled bullets bounce off her and scatter about.
Satori coldly commands "think of a fire spell! I know you've seen at least one!"
Aya stammers, looks around, then closes her eyes and concentrates while placing her fingers on her temples.
The mind-reader grins, lifts a spell card, and then shouts "Recollection: South Wind, Clear Sky -Fujiyama Volcano-!"
Soft magical flames rise around the mind-reader, then she sends a sudden burst of fire bullets after fire bullets, streams of flames, explosive slaves, and every single shot bounces off the zombie ice fairy's defenses.
"SHIIIIIT!" screams the black-haired crow before diving down on the ice to avoid the deflected fireballs, followed shortly by her satori friend after she cancels the spell.
"We have to retreat while we still can," shouts the mind-reader over the sound of exploding bullets.
"But it's there! Satori, it's over there! THE MANSION!" argues the desperate reporter, and then everything stops.
Zombie Cirno stands in place with her limbs free from the ice and looking around herself as though in shock.
Her precious ice kingdom is now full of holes from the fire bullets, many of the icicles and glaciers holding her trophies nearby have broken, releasing most of her captives, and as she watches all this mess, a single blue tear escapes her right eye.
She glowers at the girls, growls, then screams to the air, covering all the holes on all of the damaged ice surface with more ice, then the dumbstruck tengu says "holy shit to hell, she really DID freeze the lake by herself."
Before Satori has the chance to comment, both girls choke when a small force grips the collars of their shirts, lifts them up and throws them ten feet away from the wall.
The tiny zombie fairy had already reached them, and dusts her hands after a job well done.
The overpowered zombie fairy screams again after the girls crunch on the snow-covered ice with their bodies, then rushes at them again.
The live girls only have long enough to stand up before being punched on the stomach by the tiny terror and sent several more feet away.
Aya coughs as she recovers and tries to speak, but her friend beats her to it and weakly says "an attack from the mansion's gate guard?"
The angry glowering zombie takes Meiling's well-known fighting stance and hisses at the girls, then covers her forearms and shoulders with thick sheets of ice that seem to grow from her own cold skin.
The tengu reporter's mouth hangs agape when she sees that stance, wondering if the little zombie will be able to pull it off, but before the thought finishes processing, a tear rolls down her left eye as she subconsciously whispers "retreat."
The mind-reading youkai can't believe what she just heard, can't believe what she's reading, and then sees a fear in her friend's heart.
The black-haired reporter turns to her partner and shouts "dammit all Satori-chan, MOVE! RUN AWAY! We... we need help!"
Before the purple-haired youkai can reply, she and her partner are tackled hard from the side by zombie Cirno.
The ice fairy stares dumbstruck as her would-be trophies fly all the way to the west side of the lake, then calls back all of her defenses, all of which just suck back into her blue skin.
She walks over to the wall, stares at it until the imprint her frame becomes visible again, then she hops backward inside it, whispering "SSTROOONNNGHEEESSST," and closes her eyes as the ice gates close again.
And thus she resumes her icy sleep, guarding her frozen kingdom from the many new intruders that may, or may not to come to her.
The girls scream their guts out as they continue to forcefully fly above the frozen lake surface.
Though on edge of knowing they are going to impact hard on the surface, both ladies have managed to look over the wall of ice, and to their disappointment, the only part not covered by this colossal wall is the top.
And finally they fall. Their eyes flash upon impact and they can feel themselves sliding on the ice while their momentary blindness wears off, then everything stops.
Both girls stay put, gathering their thoughts and summoning the will to get up and move.
The first to start moving is Satori, who grunts and groans as she gets on her hands and knees before opening her eyes and looking around.
This side of the lake is clear of the icicles and icebergs that littered zombie Cirno's territory, but it is also colder, and visibility is hindered by a light snowstorm.
Sobs from nearby get the mind-reader's attention, then she immediately crawls toward the cries and holds her friend by the shoulders for support, then softly says "it's ok Aya-chan. Don't lose hope," and her voice starts to crack as she finishes "we'll find another way. There's always another way."
Aya remains on her hands and knees, unable to hold her emotions within her and crying her frustrations on the ice below her.
She snarls and clenches her fist, punches the ice, then cries "but we were so close. So close. So close to get there."
She sobs loudly and uncontrollably as her tears continue pouring out of her eyes, then cries "it was right there. I failed! We failed Satori! We-we..."
The sobs from the girls stop when a faint chant reaches their ears, and now both girls, still on their knees, raise their guard as they look around themselves.
"Do... can you hear that?" asks the mind-reader, sounding very worried as she looks around for a source.
The reporter nods, sniffles as she wipes her forearm across her face, then says "I... I think I know that voice. Um, it's, it's..."
She analyzes the voice as she tries matching it with people she may know, and then she gasps loud in shock and surprise and exclaims "it's Byakure-ARGH!"
Aya holds her neck with her right hand and uses her left arm to prevent herself from falling to the ice, chokes, feels something pulsating hard inside her mind, then screams softly once, twice, then grips her neck with both hands and drops on her side on the ice.
"Aya! Aya-chan, what's wrong!? AYA!" desperately calls the mind-reader, trying to get some response from her friend who seems to be agonizing from an unseen wound.
At the flying ship, zombie Byakuren keeps staring straight as she chants without stopping, and then raises her hands and smiles when she notices the girls have noticed her spell-casting, then raises her voice and starts chanting faster.
Back on the frozen lake the tengu girl writhes around the ground, kicking the snow by her feet with all her strength while gripping her chest hard, screaming out loud "IT BURNS! GET IT OFF! IT'S BURNING THOUGH MY BONES! SOMEONE STOP IIIIIT!"
The purple-haired mind-reader shouts "AYA, CALM DOWN! LET ME SEE! LET ME HELP YOU!", while struggling against the crow girl, trying to pull her arms apart to take a look at whatever is ailing her.
The tengu screams one more time, kicks Satori off, flattens herself on her stomach on the cold ice, removes her backpack and drops it, claws the cold surface, then pushes herself up, arching her back upward and turning her head to the sky, and then she screams.
Her scream echoes all throughout the lake, making the sleeping Cirno peek around with her left eye, then that terrible loud scream continues all the way through the small forest, possibly even reaching the Human Village.
The girl screams and screams until there's no more breath in her, yet she continues trying to scream.
Tears of pain escape her eyes as they lose all their focus, her lips twist into a terrifying smile, and just as the satori is about to cry from despair she sees the anti-flight charm glowing through her friend's shirt, and just like that, a pair of small black wings, half the size of Aya's real wings, grow forcefully from the tengu's back, and everything stops.
Shameimaru lets herself drop on the ice, breathing desperately and heavily, recovering herself from the inhumanely unbearable pain, then slowly closes her eyes, and her mind shuts off while her body begins its recovery process.
From the ship, Byakuren smiles satisfactorily and sinisterly says "see girls? Naughty ladies can't run away from their divine punishment. I hope you learned the lesson well," then turns around and walks away, as if all she did was swat a bothersome fly away from her face.
Back at the Misty Lake, the mind reader slowly gathers her thoughts, then takes a few quick breaths of air to settle her own heart before realizing the crow girl is not moving.
"Aya-chan! Wake up! Aya!" calls Satori, rushing over to her friend and picking her up from the ice, trying to make her stand.
She embraces her limp friend, whispering words of comfort before realizing she is completely knocked out and unable to hear a single word.
The mind-reader then sighs, looks around, and then cries to herself "it's too cold here. I better take her to shore and let her rest there."
Noticing the small wings, she brushes her fingers on the feathers, but stops when the tengu girl moans and winces, then decides to stop playing around and move.
Her plans are immediately put on hold when a whispering singing voice reaches her ears.
The mind-reading girl whispers "I'm sorry Aya-chan, but seems we got company," as she places her friend back on the ice as gently as she possibly can, then stands up and faces toward the source of the whispered singing.
Flying several feet in front of them is the terrifying figure of Letty Whiterock.
Her skin is blue, her left thigh has a horrible gash that keeps spilling thick blue blood, her eyes have been pushed in, her now-white hair has grown down to her thighs, her skin is open on the back from where three sharp icicles grow out of her very ribs to look like wings, and her clothes are gone.
She covers her chest with a white sash that floats around her, which appears to be unable to fall off due to some unseen force, and her lower extremities are covered by her own hair, though just barely.
She lounges in the air, making it seems as though she's resting on the bits of snow that cling under her bare skin, and as she stares at the satori maiden with those caved-in eyes, she smiles and coos, then resumes her whispering song.
Satori is nervous. She can't decide on what's the best course of action.
She knows if she runs with Aya, there's a pretty big chance they will both die or get frozen, but if she fights this undead yuki-onna then there's the chance that only she will die, and that she will leave her friend to deal with the monsters alone.
Courage and resolve fill her, her eyes seem to ignite with resolute fury, and with a brave voice she says "I'll take the third option. I'll fight you and walk out of here with Aya."
Zombie Letty smiles, hums in a friendly manner, then leans forward and shrieks a roar, blowing cold wind at the girls while showing Satori her sharp icicle teeth, but the mind-reader doesn't even flinch and remains where she stands.
She takes brave steps toward the monster, preparing her third eye as she does, and says "it's because of my weakness that you have been hindered. Aya-chan, today it's my turn to be strong for you. Wait for me, alright? I'll be back as soon as this creature is down."
And there she stands, only a few steps away from the ghostly-looking yuki-onna with the intent to protect her friend, and prove herself.
Satori squares off against zombie Letty, waiting to see what the frozen monster can do, then rolls to the left when the creature dives to her.
When the mind-reading girl turns around she can see the snow woman hiding her long fingers and deadly-sharp claws, making her hands look normal again.
"So, that's your game? You must have something more, you frozen creep."
Seems Letty understood the insult because she screeches a roar as she lunches toward the satori once more, this time bearing her claws and teeth at her while building up snow particles around herself.
The satori maiden cartwheels right and flashes the snow monster, making her scream and fall on her face on the ice, where the snow particles cut the frozen surface as though cutting through flesh.
Satori grimaces at the revelation, and then whispers "another hard battle. No worries. She won't touch me, or Aya for that matter. I won't let her!"
The zombie woman laments as she gets back up, but instead of flying again she remains on the ground, raises her left hand, and a golden trident rises from under the ice, breaking through it and splashing cold water around, and lands right on its master's hand.
The mind-reader gasps with surprise, then growls inward and readies her flashing beams for distant attacks.
The yuki-onna takes a single step forward and appears only three feet away from the satori youkai, but even as surprised as she is, said youkai girl bends down to dodge the swing from the trident and shoots three beams while hopping back.
Zombie Letty cries out loud when the first two beams enter her eyes, and then screeches when the third one enters her gaping mouth and expands from within her.
The purple-haired girl takes this chance to move closer and flash the monstrous woman five times before being forced to back away by a flailing trident.
She grunts as she jumps and moves around; avoiding the quick attacks by the frozen zombie, then slips on the ice and falls on her back.
Letty takes the chance and pounces on the girl, snarling as she gets her teeth close to her neck, then winds up to lunge at her prized meal with as much force as she can.
Satori holds the yuki-onna by the shoulders and manages to hold her back, grunting as she pushes back against the rapid snapping mouth and the strength of the undead ice woman.
She's frightened and wishes Aya was there to back her up, but she knows she's on her own so she must defend herself.
She glowers at the monstrous woman on top of her, grunts as her shaking hands keep pushing back for dear life, then she manages to flash her third eye and send the monstrous Letty screeching away.
The mind-reader is surprised when the monster starts to cry out loud, then watches as she holds herself, mimicking great pain, then realizes it's no mimic.
The right side of zombie Letty's skin sizzles out loud as it melts away, the creature screeches as her blue blood spills, her black organs break through her weakened ribs, and she drops on her knees after the sizzling sound stops.
Satori gets closer as she watches the creature writhe in pain and thinks "so, the light from our flashes really do actual damage to them. But why? It's just light. Yet look at her melt away into nothing."
The purple-haired girl decides to stop gawking and readies her third eye to finish the job, then Letty move blindingly fast and launches her trident at the satori, stabbing the fork on her inner thigh.
The girl screams and cries from the pain, quickly pulls the weapon off and drops on her knees, instinctively blowing on the wound that begins to burn and freeze as her blood spills.
She gasps and whimpers, squeezes her knee in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding and subdue the pain, then looks up to realize zombie Letty stands tall beside her, looking murderously hateful at the purple-haired girl.
The blue woman raises her hand, unleashes her claw, then she screams as she is blown away by Satori's large red bullets.
Komeiji breathes through her teeth as she unleashes one bullet after another after another, getting closer to the convulsing body of the zombie, and when she's one step away she growls "burn," then flashes the monster's face, killing her at last; though it is only a temporary death.
The battle is over, she has won, yet she can't smile.
Maybe it's the pain from her thigh, or perhaps something else, but she knows she can't celebrate.
She turns to face Aya, who still lies on the ice the same way the mind-reader had left her, then sighs and says to herself "she's still out. I better hurry before she gets too cold."
Satori walks over to her friend, picks the dropped backpack, then her friend's limp body princess-style, and then starts walking to shore.
Meanwhile, the flying Palanquin Ship burns, and though the zombie captain tries her best to cast a rain spell, it doesn't help against the raging inferno.
At the same time, zombie Byakuren spits an odd yellow goop at the booted feet of their attacker and says "you had your fun, survivor. Either leave, or receive your punishment now."
Yuka Kazami smiles, her clothes, her face, her vest and her bra are all stained with fresh blood, and with a satisfied tone of voice she says "pity I was too late to stop you. Heard that poor girl screaming all the way home. Oh well, I guess I can just blast you now and feel better about myself."
The zombie monk grins, lifts her hands, and then sweetly says "go ahead. When I die, the remaining survivors will die with me, and thanks to my spell, they will never revive. They will simply... ahh, die like the vermin they truly are."
The flower master's smile turns bloodily vicious, and after raising her parasol she happily says "oh, but I know for a fact that all of your precious survivors are already dead and turning," then takes flight, making herself look as though she's sitting on a chair.
The zombie woman gasps, prepares a spell, but Yuka's umbrella is already glowing as she says "hope your little ship is still flying when you wake up in, oh, three, four days. I lose track of these things."
She waves at the bulgy-eyed monk, blows a kiss, then sings "bye~"
Her yellow beam burns through the zombie monk and makes her disappear from sight, burns zombie Murasa to dust behind the monk, and breaks through the small roof of the ship, setting it on fire yet again, then drops to the ground below, shooting another massive beam at Unzan's face.
She lands on the temple's ground next to the unrecognizable, bloody remains of what was Genjii, which is now a mound of ripped and burned flesh gushing fluids everywhere, and with a smile on her face she says "what a good little turtle you are. You waited for me. Next time I see you, I'll get you a treat. Now then, auntie Yuka has something to do, so be good."
She glowers toward the Scarlet Devil Mansion, places her parasol on her shoulder, then begins her quiet walk forward.
At the lake's western shore, almost reaching the Youkai Forest, Satori rests her back against a tree while keeping Aya's head on her right thigh.
She gently brushes the crow girl's soft black hair while inspecting the trident wound on her own inner left thigh, then sighs with relief when the wound through her black pants now look like small skin cuts instead of holes, then whispers "good. I won't be a bother after all."
The tengu moans softly as she starts to move again, slowly flapping her forcefully grown tiny black wings, making the satori smile in relief.
"Mnh, S-Satori-chan?" softly calls the tengu before opening her eyes, then winces and asks "guh! M-my back hurts. Wh-what happened?"
The purple-haired girl softly shushes her friend and places a hand on the back of her neck to stop her from moving, then says "relax. Try not to move too much yet."
Ignoring Satori's advice, Shameimaru struggles with the pain on her back to get on her knees, manages to open her eyes, and then asks "Satori-chan, what happened to me? I remember... I was screaming, something hit me hard. What exactl-"
The satori maiden raises her hand to stop her friend, then says "Byakuren cast a spell on you. I'm not sure why, but she made Reimu's charm hurt you. And I'm not sure why, but..."
She points at Aya and twirls her finger, signaling her friend to look around, and when she does the reporter whispers "my wings. B-but, they're so small."
True enough, her wings are only half the size of what they should be, rendering them an useless adornment.
She moves them to test them out then curls up as she winces and hugs herself before grunting "hurt. Augh! It hurts to move them!"
The purple-haired mind-reader places her hand just beneath the wings, touching around the small tear on the reporter's shirt where they popped out, then says "the skin around them looks bruised. Try to keep them still for a while."
Aya replies with a gulp and a sob, and though she smiles her tears flow as she cries "some plan huh? That tiny ice fairy kicked our sorry butts, made us realize how weak we are, and what's worse, that wall!"
She looks down to the ground between her thighs and whispers "at least I got punished for risking your life back there."
Her sight rises again when she feels Satori's hand on her shoulder, then her friend pats her head as she would probably do to her pets, then says "don't think like that. I wanted to go in there as badly as you did, but we were unprepared."
The tengu sniffles, but before she can argue her mind-reading friend continues "nobody would have ever expected a wall of ice to block our path, but that's not what I mean. That zombie fairy. No matter how many times, or how hard we flashed her, it was like she was a whole shield."
Shameimaru gulps the rest of her sobs in and adds "y-yeah. She even rebounded fire, something I know for a fact she normally couldn't do before."
Komeiji nods and says "correct. There was something very strange about her, but now we understand, we can't harm her as we currently are, so we'll need another way to cross that wall."
The black-haired girl slams her hands on the ground, wincing after her wings move a bit from the shock, then quickly recovers with a quick breath and asks "and how do you suggest we do that? Even with your Recollection spell, the flames you can manage aren't intense enough."
The mind-reading youkai smiles as she nods, then softly says "that is correct, but while I was carrying you out of the lake I noticed something. Something that could help us go over that wall."
Aya raises an eyebrow and wants to question her friend, but before she can make one questioning sentence, the purple-eyed girl turns around to the left and points back at a tall mountain close to the lake.
A feeling of terror crosses the tengu as she looks up that mountain, and then shakingly asks "th-the Youkai Mountain? A-are you serious?", but she answers her own question when she realizes the mountain is close enough to the island where the mansion is, and yet...
"The only problem to my plan is thinking of a way of landing without smashing our bones to dust when we land," casually says Satori as she turns around to face her partner.
Though she nods, the tengu girl's attention is in the fact that they will have no choice but climb that mountain, which will very possibly lead them through the Tengu Village.
"I know you'd like to avoid it," begins the satori, "I understand because I wouldn't want to go near my home either, but if we want to beat Remilia, I'm afraid we are left with that one choice."
Aya thinks long and hard, imagines what she and her friend may encounter, but after considering it for some time she realizes the little mind-reader is right; that there is no other choice.
Reluctant, she nods with a feeling of sour defeat in her heart, evident on her frown, then says "The Scarlet Mansion will be in our reach after we climb that mountain, so I guess seeing the village like a zombie-infested hovel for a while will be nothing. W-we'll fix it all after we take care of that cauldron after all."
Satori breaks a smile and a quick giggle, managing to make the unnerved tengu smile as well.
Their smiles turn to frowns when something near growls and snarls, the girls stand up and ready their flashing weapons, then notice they are surrounded by what look like five white wolves, all missing patches of hair and skin from their bodies and legs, two of them having particularly nasty open wounds where their dripping guts hang by, and the one that appears to be the leader is missing the skin from around its left glowing red eye, as well as having the bones on its back bare through the thin decaying skin.
"Guh! Wolves!" exclaims the tengu girl while hiding the pain she feels from her back, then finishes "they are fast, but easy to take down... normally."
Hatate's scream turns everyone's attention to the left, where on the frozen lake waters stands the vicious zombie crow tengu, biting a piece of blue flesh from Letty's corpse and throwing said corpse away after taking her fill.
Her attire is riddled with tears from sets of claws, probably from her fight with zombie Nue, making herself look more intimidating.
Her mouth drips that oozing blue blood as she chews on her cold meal, then roars furiously after swallowing the flesh whole before rushing straight at Shameimaru with her claws readied for a quick kill.
Aya takes the front, launches a strong roundhouse kick, and then flashes her zombie rival before she crashes on the undead wolf leader.
Immediately after, she turns around and flashes Satori, saving her from two of those white wolves, killing one of them instantly while the other just yelps and runs away from the girls with its tail between its legs.
Even though her face shows her pain from the wings, she still raises a fist and celebrates "yeah! Crows a hundred, wolves zero!"
"Isn't that a bit too much?" asks the purple-haired girl before flashing one of the open-wounded wolves after it got too close to her friend.
Aya chuckles playfully as she regroups with her friend, winces when she presses her sore back against Satori's backpack, and then says "we crows have been playing around with the wolves for a while now. I actually was kind by lowering my own score."
Hatate and the wolves' leader are already up, the other three white monsters are ready to attack again, yet amidst this dreadful scenario, the girls continue to smile.
The mind-reading youkai flashes the wolf in front of her and kills it off, while at the same time the still-living crow tengu flashes the snarling wolf beside her to its death.
The third wolf growls as it pounces the girls from behind, and they screech and split up to avoid a blue cloud with icy-white sparkles just as the monster jumps.
It gets hit by the ice cloud, gets frozen immediately, then shatters into countless tiny pieces after hitting the ground, spilling its oozing dark blood from underneath the ice coating.
Both girls raise their head from the ground and ask "what was THAT?" simultaneously, then turn their heads toward Hatate and the wolf leader and gaps when they notice the undead tengu breathing icy fumes.
"She adapted," whispers Satori while staring amazed at the undead girl, then Aya blubbers and points forward, taking the amazement from the youkai girl's eyes and turning it to disgust and terror.
The white wolf snarls, black drool starts oozing from its mouth, its entire body trembles violently, and right before the girls' eyes it begins to grow, its bare vertebra seems to grow blades as its back hunches, then the skin on its chest splits up, spilling a foul smelling flesh-colored liquid from inside and growing two tentacles from within its ribs on each side.
The dumbstruck girls' faces turn pale after witnessing the transformation and the zombies take this chance to rush forth.
Both girls snap out of their shock, raise their flashing weapons and shoot simultaneously, blinding both Hatate and the wolf, then the satori picks the extra backpack and both girls run as fast as they can into the Youkai Forest.
As they go further inside the forest they start noticing how the trees look less and less natural, and how a brown mist, the same as in the Hakurei Shrine, seems to dominate their surroundings further in.
"But this wasn't like this when I left," cries Aya as she absorbs the state of the surroundings.
"I can see that it's changed a lot from what you remember last," replies Satori, hopping over a tree root she swears moved on its own, then continues "and this mist is like the one at the shrine! Maybe it's the reason why the plants changed so much."
"SHAMEIMARUUUUUUUU!" screams Hatate, reminding the girls that she and that wolf are right behind them.
They quiet down and speed up their run through the trees, ignoring their frightening looks under the always-dark sky and how some of those trees have flailing branches on their tops.
Several zombie fairies devoid of eyes and with black skins fly out of hiding and snap their rotting black-oozing mouths at the girls as they attempt to take bites, but the live girls manage to dodge the attempts and flash their attackers with ease, yet these just roar but don't fall.
Before either can complain, they are brought to a sudden stop when something dry and hard grabs their necks, then tosses them to the side after Satori automatically shoots a defensive flash forward and drops her friend's backpack.
As they get back on their feet Aya and Satori realize they are once again surrounded, though this time by a variety of foes.
Hatate and the oversized wolf, five black zombie fairies, a beastly youkai with a hole on its stomach and its chewed guts spilled out of it, and the zombie Minoriko Aki.
The harvest goddess' skin looks similar to that of the tree's bark, though slimy and sticky, her left eye looks like a glowing green orb, her right socket has been replaced by a dry vine that grows from within her, she keeps drooling something yellowish from her mouth, her shirt is stained with blood from the puncture hole on her chest, and her feet have large sharp claws.
Aya starts to shiver when she notices the beast youkai is the same one that attacked her when all this mess started, then nervously asks "S-Satori-chan? Wh-what should we do?"
The mind-reader looks around, probably feeling as nervous as her partner, and then whispers "whatever we can to survive."
Hatate grows three tentacles from the hole on the back of her shirt and snarls, the fairies dive down to attack, the beast roars and rushes toward its meal, and the wolf moves simultaneously with the undead tengu to strike.
In a desperate move, Satori places her hands in front of her third eye and focuses as much power as she can on it, then screams as she spreads her arms apart and shoots such a powerful flash the fairies drop and screech, Hatate and the wolf stop and back away, and the beast youkai rips though several of the fairies on the ground, spilling their raven-black blood all over the ground while still running forward.
Aya moves in front of her friend, flashes the beast on the face, then grabs the mind-reader and jumps high in the air, assisted by her new small wings, and makes the rotting beast miss its next claw-swipe and tumble on the ground.
Though hurting like hell, the still-living tengu uses the small black wings to soften their fall, while the satori maiden points at zombie Minoriko and asks "what is that one waiting for?"
"FAIRIES!", shrieks Shameimaru, and her mind-reading friend swiftly turns right and flashes the three remaining black fairies, forcing them to cover their eyes and back away as the girls land safely.
Both immediately duck to avoid another freezing cloud, and then are forced to roll apart when Hatate herself smashes her open palm on the ground, clawing the many dead leaves and dark soil instead of the girls.
The live tengu reporter gasps and shoots her flash toward a single black fairy, only to realize it's the zombie harvest goddess' hand.
The monster shrieks and backs away, her green eye glowing intensely at her attacker, then a thin black root rises from the ground and flicks the girl away.
Meanwhile, Satori flashes the three black fairies once more, killing two while the third one bites her long left sleeve, and while she tries to shake it off she screams "no! Get off me you little creep!"
She doesn't notice the wolf is spinning like a spiked ball toward her back, then when just inches from its mark, the girl turns around while desperately shaking the fairy, and when the monster hits the little black zombie instead of its mark it howls in pain as it is sent flying back.
The fairy finally lets go, but before the mind-reading girl has the chance to sigh, her black-haired friend's body slams against her own and both girls end up knocked on the floor.
They quickly get on their feet, stare at their large attackers, and then grin.
The fowl-smelling beast youkai is back on its feet and charging at the girls, but instead of jumping they both flash it eyes to blind him, let him pass between them so it knocks the fairy and wolf behind them down, then both rush forth and flash them all as much as they can before jumping away from another of Hatate's new ice clouds.
Aya clicks her tongue and rushes toward her undead rival, kicks her on the stomach, but gets caught by the tentacles, and as though having achieved victory the undead tengu shouts "Shameimaruuuuu, BIIIIIIIIITCH!"
Satori's bullets crash on Hatate's body, making her roar furiously and drop her living rival from her tangling tentacles and give up her attempts to rip Shameimaru in half, then she faces the mind-reader and screams "BIIIIIIIITCH!" fuming trails of her new cold breath around her cheeks.
The satori maiden gulps and yelps after the zombie tengu sets her sights on her, but to her luck, her own tengu friend manages to trip the screaming twin-tailed zombie from the ground and flashes her back several times before getting up and regrouping with her friend.
No thank-yous can be dispensed yet, at least verbally, when several vines holding odd overinflated black eggplants in their dry threads threaten to wrap themselves around the live girls.
They scream and run away, tripping on the mutant white wolf as it gets on its feet, but getting it tangled along with the bodies of the other monsters on the vines.
The wolf whips its tentacles, howls and whines as the eggplants burst and spread acidic juices all over their prey, and the girls turn around to look at the creature and simultaneously ask "it's whining?"
Zombie Minoriko appears near the trapped monsters and snarls when she realizes she missed her real pray, oozing that odd yellow drool that turns out to be the same acid from the eggplants, then she raises her hands and sends those vines and their unwanted prey away.
Hatate now stands next to the zombie goddess and both snarl at the girls in front; the zombie tengu hissing "Shameimaruuuu."
Aya and Satori stand side-by-side, glowering at the two strong zombies in front of them, then the black-haired tengu thinks "maybe we can have Hatate freeze the other girl. It would make our work a lot easier."
The mind-reader nods, nudges her head to their left, then both girls run to that direction.
Zombie Minoriko raises her hands and sends another vine after them, this one with a few purple pumpkins, and Hatate roars and runs after them.
Their plan is already failing, and seems they will be trapped by those vines or the zombie tengu if they keep running in circles away from the monsters.
Aya grabs her friend by the wrist and says "piss her off!", then throws her toward Minoriko's direction.
Satori screams with fright, but manages to compose herself in time to flash Hatate over the head and get her attention, landing like a mess on the ground afterward.
The undead shut-in tengu growls as she stomps the ground in a rage, then spits several of those ice clouds at random.
The mind-reader grins as she gets off the ground and runs behind a tree that's behind zombie Minoriko herself, and though the goddess notices what's happening, she's not fast enough to stop the vines from chasing the other tengu to stop the monster girl from harming her.
Hatate spits that cloud before the zombie goddess can summon her defenses, and traps her would-be zombie partner on ice.
She ignores what she did to Minoriko and storms toward Satori, but Aya jumps in front of her, smiles as she swings her fan, then showers her decaying rival with red bullet rings and flashes her five times.
The weakened zombie Hatate frowns, tries hard to stumble toward her hated target, but falls on the ground on her face and hisses "biiiiiiiitch," while trying to pull herself with her claws.
Satori walks to her friend's side, glowers at the persistent zombie, and then shoots her with her best flash, killing her yet again.
Both girls turn to the frozen Minoriko, flash her together, just in case, then begin their walk further inside the Youkai Forest.
"W-wait!" calls a voice inside the girls' minds.
They both look around with estranged expressions, then the crow girl points at her mind-reading friend, and asks "did you hear something?"
"Over here, by the vines. Please," calls the voice, then the clearly surprised girls look at the large wolf trapped by Minoriko's vines and the black-haired girl exclaims "it can TALK?"
The wolf has recalls its tentacles as he lets out a soft bark before telepathically saying "please, let me out of this. It's burning my skin and it just won't stop."
True enough, the eggplants keep growing on the vines and popping near the wolf and what remains of the black fairy and the beastly youkai, and sizzling noises begin when the acid makes contact with their skins.
"Whoa-whoa-wait a moment," demands Satori, who places her hands on her waist and asks "how come I couldn't read your mind before? Aren't you just another brainless zombie?"
"I wasn't thinking. I was acting on instincts," replies the wolf, then continues "I don't understand it either, but this thing that made me like this also made me incredibly smart."
Aya snickers and whispers "yeah, so smart you got beat by a vine," then sighs and loudly says "well, whatever. This is probably a trick to attack us while our defenses are down, so enjoy getting digested by eggplants."
"Come on Satori-chan. He's just trying to-" "Please! I'll make it worth your while!" interrupts the desperate white wolf, snarling when another acidic burst touches his stomach.
Before the tengu asks, Satori says "he's telling the truth. He's promising to leave us alone if we help him."
The reporter turns her head away and says "that's not good enough. Maybe if he promised that he AND his buddies won't attack crows again, then maybe, just maybe I'll help."
"It's you crows who instigate our fights," casually replies the wolf, making Shameimaru twitch and whisper "damn, he got me there."
He wines loudly again, then desperately says "please, I'm begging you. Release me, and me and my brood will never attack you again. I cannot promise the same about the wolf tengu, the deserters, and the black wolves. B-but we'll even help you if we can."
The girls ponder their options for a moment. True, he might attack them if they release him, but Satori knows he'll keep his word, and yet they are a little reluctant to do so for obvious reasons.
Finally, Aya sighs and says "alright, here's the deal. We release you from this hellish punishment, you keep your word about all that you just said, AND promise you will never attack us, not even now."
The purple-haired mind-reader stares nonchalantly at the wolf and adds "understand that you attacked us quite relentlessly back there. There's no promise you can make that we can trust."
The wolf nods, yelps when another burst of acid hits his body, and then says "I swear on my honor, I, nor my brood will ever attack you again."
The girls look at each other, nod after silently agreeing, then each grabs one of the vines surrounding the zombie wolf, and pull.
The wolf's legs are free and he immediately spins around to cut the rest off himself with his saw-like back, and then drops on the ground on all four legs.
Both Aya and Satori stare at it, both reaching for their flashing weapons, then the wolf bows its head, runs away from them to give them their space, then raises its rotting head to the sky and howls out loud.
His howl is greeted by several other howls that come from all over the forest and mountain, and then he looks at the girls and says "from now and onwards, the white wolves will not attack you, or your crow brethren, unless they threaten you. And keep in mind, our brood does not include those in your tengu ranks."
He bows his head to them and runs away, leaving the surprised tengu girl before she can whisper "thank you?"
Again, the girls look at each other in shock for some time, unable to believe what just happened, before silently deciding to finally move on into the forest.
Before continuing onward, the black-haired reporter rushes to where zombie Minoriko had stopped them before to pick her backpack up, then regroups with her friend to move further into the dead forest.
The deeper they walk into the Youkai Forest, the more they believe they have made a mistake.
The brown fog is thick, making it impossible to see far ahead, so the girls must keep their flashing items ready at all times, though having her backpack on hand makes holding her camera a bit troublesome for the tengu, and the trees have all lost their brown colors and turned dark blue instead.
Some of these trees have grown tentacles on their tops and side, but one good flash sets them straight, and so far, those black fairies have only attacked once, leaving the girls to guess whether the sounds they hear around them are their own footsteps, or something else.
"Man, this place is creeping me out a lot," comments Aya while glancing nervously around herself.
"Yes, it's rather unnerving," replies Satori while keeping her eyes on her friend, and then asks "and how are you feeling? Are those wings still hurting?"
The tengu girl stops for a moment to move the tiny black wings, winces a bit, then grunts "they hurt a little less now."
She gasps, blushes and twitches when the purple-haired girl places her warm and gentle hand on the bruised skin of the reporter's back and softly says "mm, it's healing. Try keeping them still for as much as you can so that there aren't any complications."
The blushing tengu nods once and the mind-reading girl removes her hand then says "well, let's get a move-on. My gut's telling me this place isn't very pleasant at night."
Aya gulps and starts looking around herself after hearing some leaves crunching on the ground, but when she fails to see anything she nervously says "y-yes, let's move then! The faster the better."
Satori nods, and as they resume their walk she asks "do you think we'll be able to find shelter around here?"
The black-haired reporter shakes her head and truthfully says "there could be, but they could be overrun by these monsters."
Fear takes the mind-reader, but she hides her feelings well, and for some time the girls continue their walk until the scent and sound of water graces their senses.
They hurry to the source and find the large river is still coursing through its path as usual, yet through the crystal-clear waters the girls can admire the few fish that swim there, and though they appear to look normal, there is a glow in their eyes that says otherwise.
The black-winged tengu sighs, then comments "not even the water creatures are safe," then she points up the stream and says "we keep following this until we reach the foot of the mountain. F-from there... we can start climbing."
The satori maiden wants to say some words of comfort, but knowing what lies ahead of them she asks herself "what possible words of comfort could I give her?"
Regardless of what she may be feeling, Shameimaru takes the lead and seems to quicken her pace.
Satori decides to look around for both keeping watch and learning the path they take, but then confusion becomes evident her eyes, then she asks "hey, is it me, or are the zombies around here too quiet?"
Those words seem to have triggered an alert inside the crow tengu's head, as she starts looking around while nervously saying "y-you're right. S-something's not right!"
Though they continue moving, they also look around themselves for any signs of anything that may be out of place, and doesn't take them too long to find something.
Black blood splattered all over the ground, the trees, rocks, pieces of organs scattered around, some stuck on the tree barks with reddish-black blood gluing them on.
"It's like this whole area was some sort of battlefield or something," comments the mind-reading girl as she keeps glancing around and walking fast.
She notices as everything begins to get darker and colder, how her own nervousness gets even worse, then she looks to her friend as though looking for some sort of support.
The unnerved reporter chuckles, then stops in place and anxiously exclaims "shit! She saw us!"
Before Satori can asks who, from behind the farthest tree walks Hina Kagiyama, whose only strand of aquamarine hair remaining on the crown of her head is tied by her large, red, frilly, blood-stained ribbon, and her Aquamarine eyes glow like flashlights in a cave.
Her skin has turned brown, it's dried and cracked, and pieces of it seem to have fallen recently from her chest, where a fleshy coat can be seen.
The left shoulder of her dress is gone, a large portion of her shirt has been ripped off, showing her rotten stomach through a hole on her belly, and though her skirt and boots remain, they look like they are in serious need of cleaning and mending.
She lifts her left leg and the sole from her boot dangles until she places it back on the ground, and then she opens her mouth at her visitors, as though trying to smile and showing them her three remaining teeth in her mouth, and then she hisses long and loudly.
Before the girls can shoot their flashes the zombie curse doll starts spinning around fast and unleashing black curses everywhere.
Aya and Satori swiftly hide behind a tree, letting it take the curses intended for them, and then the tengu shouts "she's going to kill us before we can even get close!"
"Use the new spell!" shouts the youkai girl as she prepares her long-range beams in front of her third eye and adds "when I shoot mine, stand behind the beams and shoot yours!"
The crow girl nods and readies her spell card while her partner prepares her spell, and yet she notices that even though the tree keeps getting hit with curses, nothing really happens to it.
Instead she notices how that black curse mist keeps gathering around in specific spots around them, but decides Satori's plan is for the best.
No hesitation and kill her quickly; thus ignoring the mist and preparing herself to jump into action.
Zombie Hina continues to spin around, raising her hands and arching her back like a terrifying ballerina, spreading the hole on her belly open wider and spilling some sort of thick greenish-red ooze.
Aya almost vomits when she sees that disgusting liquid spilling out of the spinning monster's exposed stomach, so she gets back into hiding and waits for her own stomach to settle down.
"Whenever you're ready," strongly says Satori after the concentration of light in front of her eye sparks.
The tengu nods and shouts "let'er have it!", and the mind-reading girl unleashes her beams, seven total, to her left, then those beams automatically rush toward zombie Hina.
The small-winged girl notices how the beams open a path through the flying curses, declares "Digital Telescoping, Candid Flash," steps away from the safety of the tree to aim the camera at the spinning zombie behind one of the beams, then that translucent frame reaches the monster at the same time as the satori's beams and Aya unleashes her own.
The reporter's beam is faster and forces Hina to stop spinning on impact, allowing Satori's beams to strike her directly, and she moans as her decaying body is punished by the light.
Shameimaru wants to celebrate their success, but feels a strong pressure pushing her hard against the ground and forcing her to release her backpack, then notices her purple-haired friend is also grounded.
"The mist?" questions the reporter when she notices black wisps in the shape of fairies all over her partner, and then she realizes what's holding her looks like a giant claw.
Regardless of what the mist may look like, the fact is that they are both trapped, and no matter how much they struggle to get up, they can't move an inch.
Zombie Hina's eyes glow brighter as she walks over to the tengu, reaches her in an instant, and before Aya has the chance to know what's next, the zombie's claws are already under her belly and pushing her away.
"Aya-chan," grunts Satori as she attempts to pull herself toward her friend, but Hina is by her side in one instance, and in the other the mind-reader is being kicked on the chest and sent rolling straight to her friend.
"Shit. It's not curses she's sending around," grunts the tengu girl as she wipes the blood off her mouth and pats the claw cuts on her belly.
"Ow! She hits as hard as Okuu, if not harder," whispers the satori maiden as she pushes herself back on her feet and coughs some blood to the ground.
They struggle to stand back up and gasp with horror at the sight of several black mist clouds around zombie Hina taking the shapes of Hatate, two-headed dragons, countless fairies, and what looks like a giant horned beast with a hunched back.
The spinning zombie is suddenly standing in front of the girls, and already has the purple-haired girl's left arm by the sleeve readied for a snarling bite.
A flash to the eyes sends the zombie hissing and spinning away from the girls, then Satori sighs with relief and says "thank you."
Aya flashes her camera again; managing to break one of the mist formations, then exclaims "you're welcome! Now help me get rid of these things!"
They manage to get rid of the mist-monsters while zombie Hina recovers from the attack, and as soon as she does and takes notice of what the girls are doing, she begins to spin again and unleash more black mist.
The living girls take notice of Hina and immediately rush to take her down, flashing her when in range yet doing nothing more than just illuminate the area.
Before either can point out the obvious reason for the ineffective flashing, both girls yelp and jump apart to avoid a metallic-purple mist cloud that the spinning zombie unleashes after a snarl, then they watch as that purple cloud hits a rock and turns it to rubble in an instant.
Satori gasps loud and exclaims "a death curse!" then zombie Hina starts shooting more and more, missing the girls by inches, making it look like she's doing so on purpose.
Aya pulls her fan out of her belt and roars "spin, you cursing bitch," she swings it, generating a large tornado that sucks in the mist and curses, and traps the spinning zombie inside, stopping her clockwise spinning with the counter-clockwise swirling tornado, then shouts "Satori-chan! Finish this."
The mind-reader starts focusing energy on her third eye, places her open hands behind it, and just as Hina moans and looks at the purple-haired girl, the potent flash strikes her eyes and she starts to scream and wail.
"WHOA!" exclaims the black-haired reporter, and then she grabs her friend and runs away from the zombie.
The spinning monster shrieks and roars as she spins erratically while swinging her hands around, making them grow in length with each swing and the claws at the end of them elongate.
The fleeing girls gulp with fright when one of those flailing clawed arms slices through a thick tree like it was made of butter, and while the unfortunate tree falls to pieces to the ground zombie Hina drops on all fours like a beast and chases after her attackers.
She grunts and snarls as she runs after her targets, and when in range she raises those sharp claws and roars.
Aya turns around in mid-run, spits the bit of blood left in her mouth at the zombie's eyes, confusing her and making her claw her own face, then flashes her as relentlessly as she can.
Satori takes notice and stops her run, joins her friend's attack and adds her own flash, then Hina swings her arms and strikes both girls with the back of them, sends them flying far away, then laments loudly to the sky and falls lifelessly on her face to the ground, where her arms slowly return to their initial state.
The girls grunt and pant as they get back up on their feet, and stare at the zombie's body as it twitches its last.
"That was. a close one," says the small-winged tengu between pants.
Satori holds her knees as she leans over to spit out a bit more blood, then raises her head to gaze at Hina's body and says "well. at least. we're in one piece."
An odd grainy sound reaches the girls' ears, and as they look estranged around themselves they notice the thick concentration of black mist is turning into floating grains.
"You IDIOTS!" screams a girl from the riverbank. "Do you realize what you have done?"
"Show yourself," demands Aya, but her demands are placed on hold when Satori shouts "GET DOWN!" and grabs her by the collar of her shirt and pulls down hard, almost stripping her of her clothes.
The grainy mist gathers in a particular spot, then bursts apart and spread all over Gensokyo.
Soon after, many monsters throughout the land roar furiously, and before their roaring finishes, a girl wrapped in a black hooded robe walks out of the river and shouts "now all of the darkness she had gathered has spread again!"
The mind-reader stares at the hooded girl and exclaims "one of the girls from the mansion! Please tell us, what do you mean?"
The tengu glances back and forth with a confused stare, while the hooded girl says "ah, the satori youkai from underground. Interesting. As for your question, I will make it simple for both your brains to absorb. Thanks to you, several of those mutated monsters roaming about have grown stronger, all because you killed the one that was absorbing the darkness the Master was beaming to them! Congratulations, you idiots!"
"Hey," barks the black-haired reporter, raising her fan and demanding "and who the hell are you to talk down on us like that? We were just defending ourselves!"
"Wait, she's one of those in the mansion when that magic virus was unleashed," calmly says Satori as she gets between her upset friend and the hooded girl in black.
Aya stomps her foot and shouts "that doesn't give her the right to speak to us that way! And we should be blasting her straight to hell right now instead of listening to her insult us further!"
Before the purple-haired girl can speak, the hooded girl sighs and says "I know, I KNOW! I'm SORRY! It's this damned mutation! It makes me feel so IRRITATED ALL THE TIME!"
The girls stare as the girl slowly pulls on her hood and revealing herself.
Nitori Kawashiro's skin has turned greenish, her hair has lost its sheen and lift, but her eyes and skin remain normal, save for a few green scales clinging on the little kappa's left cheek.
She glares at the girls in front of her, gestures her hand to signal the girls to follow her, and then walks upstream while saying "come. It's getting dark, and this forest and the mountain are very dangerous at night, especially now that you've unleashed the Master's power upgrades."
At first the tengu girl is going to ignore Nitori and go on her own way, but her mind-reading friend pulls on her arm to get her attention, shakes her head, then says "she's right. I can read her mind. We'll be dead if we don't follow her."
The winged girl stares into her friend's eyes and reluctantly nods, picks up her backpack from the ground, yet again, then grumbles "fine, but if she stabs us on our backs, I'll never forgive you."
During their walk upstream the girls are left speechless.
Whenever a fairy, a beast, or any kind of zombie monster approaches them an invisible force field made of warm light activates, and the offending creature is either sent running, or blasted into ashes in an instant.
"Your fight against Cold Death was a laugh you know?" comments Nitori, turning her neck around like some kind of owl, only to notice her guests are staring at the force field with awe, then sighs as she turns her neck around again and angrily explains "it's like your camera or the mind-reader's eye. That particular type of light hurts us pretty badly, so I managed to make mine into a shield that doesn't flash me by accident."
Aya chuckles, but then her curiosity striker her again and she asks "um, what do you mean about 'Cold Death'? What does that mean?"
A cheery smile takes the kappa's face when she realizes she wasn't being ignored, and then says "the ice fairy."
Satori's eyes almost plop out of her sockets with the mentioning of the fairy, and then immediately exclaims "what do you know of that ice fairy? We shot her with flashes, fire, bullets! It's like she wasn't even bothered by our attacks!"
Again, Nitori turns her head all the way around her back and happily says "the others challenge her to see if they can be the one that can defeat that little fairy, but her mutation was... different. Her skin and her eyes are encased in ice, if you hadn't noticed. Blocks out light and... well, anything."
She turns her neck around again and smiles wider as she says "not even the Master can best the fairy. But that's because the Master doesn't know, not like me. That fairy has a pretty pathetic weakness."
The girls stare at their guiding host for some time before excitedly and simultaneously asking "WHAT?" then the black-haired reporter adds "we hit her with EVERYTHING, and she just flicked us like boogers!"
The greenish kappa smiles again as she whispers "lasers," then chuckles out loud before adding "though that was before you let that darkness from inside Hina run free."
The satori maiden glowers at her host and demands "what do you mean? Out with it or I'll take a look myself."
"Don't FUCK with me!" screams the little kappa, snarling as she stops and turns around to face the girls.
She takes several deep breaths to calm herself down, and after straightening up and turning around to resume the walk she says "I am sorry. It's hard to keep myself in a good mood with this thing in my head, pissing me off all the time. What I mean is, with her new upgrade, that fairy may very well be what humans from outside would call a super human. Invulnerable, indestructible, ...untouchable!"
There is a long pause between them, making the walk feel a bit awkward, so the kappa breaks the silence by saying "but that's why we called her Cold Death before. Even without the upgrades, whenever she was challenged, no matter how strong her opponent, she always won, freezing their bodies and keeping them as trophies, testaments of her victory. Heh, perhaps now her victories can be called overkills."
Aya chuckles to hide her depression, sighs long and loudly, then says "and we were so close to that mansion, so close to ending this mess, and now we are met with a wall and an overpowered midget that freezes everything on sight."
Satori sighs as she places her hand on her friend's exposed shoulder and says "do not despair now. We still have a chance. Once we reach the top of the mountain, we can figure out a way to reach the mansion from above."
Nitori laughs hard, as though she's just heard the most hilarious joke and almost trips on her own feet as she does.
Understandably irritated, the tengu asks "what the hell is so funny?"
"I'm so-horry," laughs the greenish girl, wiping a tear from her left eye before continuing "you'd have to be able to fly to do that, and we all know you can't. Not with Reimu's charms so well-placed between those breasts of yours."
Both girls blush and growl at the little laughing girl and feel tempted to flash her in the eyes, but they stop when the girl says "yes, flash the eyes, eye-sockets, the face. It's our weakest points, but no, don't flash me or you'll never survive this."
Without realizing it, the girls are in a large village, where houses are built around small ponds and the floor is completely covered with shallow water.
Along with the new sight comes the realization that they are completely surrounded by several devolved zombie kappa, which have massive claws for arms, beaks for mouth, bald spots on their heads, and spiked shells on their thin green backs.
Some of the females have retained their more human-like looks, having scales here and there, like Nitori does, however most of them have their eyes bulging out of their sockets or hanging by their chins, while others have bloody wounds around their waists or chests.
All the kappa share one thing, and that is they silently glower at their own Kawashiro and her two guests.
"Don't worry," begins the robed girl, "they can't get close. My house has the same defenses as I do. Just get inside and ignore those idiots."
And so they enter the surprisingly large house without hesitation, but gasp at the sight inside.
Tables and counters littered with notes, pieces of machines and unfinished projects, rotting cucumbers scattered throughout the floor, but what really disgust the girls is the living room, where Nitori has tied several human zombies and has dressed them up like Marisa, and has them all sitting on individual wooden chairs.
All of them have had their faces caved in by something, have deep cuts all over their bodies, and one of them seems was beaten up very recently as its coagulated blood drips on the ground like a leaky faucet.
"Don't mind them," casually says the kappa as she moves into the house. "As in control as I may seem, I too succumb to my less civilized nature at times, particularly... when I remember."
Both girls know damned well, just by looking at the tied-up zombies, that the mentioning of Marisa may be a very unwelcome and disastrous mistake, and decide to take a mental note of it.
Later that night, after settling in the house and finding individual seats to rest on, the girls look around the kappa's house and can't help but be amazed of what they see.
Aya touches a rectangular grey machine with two antennas that vibrates for two seconds, stops for one, and then repeats, and Nitori walks in with two bowls of fresh cucumber soup and says "that's what keeping me sane. I have a small receiver lodged in my ear, and with these I can remain a thinking being, though the range is limited, and if I get too far I'll become a mindless monster, like the rest of them."
The girls stare at their host and smile, yet questions remain, evident in their eyes, but before either can ask the little kappa hands over the food and says "eat first. You can ask me later. And Satori, I know you can't control your mind-reading powers, so why are you giving me that look?"
After taking a surprisingly delicious spoonful of the soup into her mouth, the girl in question coos with delight, then casually says "that little machine in your head seems be able to block me out, though not completely. I've only seen fragments of your memory, so I'm not really sure of what I am seeing."
The little kappa smiles as her guests both express their delight over the food, then turns her head toward one of her counters and sighs "very well. But I must warn you now. Remembering what happens," she points at the beaten zombies, "drives me insane, so please, let us wait until you are done."
"Erm, what about the tengu? Can you tell me about them?" reluctantly asks the black-haired reporter after taking her last spoonful of soup.
The greenish girl gulps, sweats nervously, then looks at her notes while she thinks hard of a way to tell the news, then sighs and finally says "I'm sorry, but the entire Tengu Village was wiped out. One of the guards was bitten during his guard duty, and he unknowingly infected several of his coworkers. By the time they realized what was going on, the whole village was done for."
How she wishes she never asked, but now, at least, she knows not to hope to find any survivors up there.
Still, that knowledge pains her, even though she didn't really like that place it was still her home.
Aya bends her body as though hugging herself and looks away, so Satori places her hand on her friend's back and rubs her gently while whispering "I'm sorry. I never should have suggested we come here."
The reporter shakes her head and softly says "no, it's alright. There is no other choice. Be-besides, this is only temporary. Once we kick that cauldron, this nightmare will be-"
"Grrr! That damned cauldron!" rages the kappa, raising her hands to chest-height with her fingers semi-curled. "Marisa... Marisa, Marisa MARISAAAAAAAA!"
The girls quickly jump out of their seat and run to the door with their weapons ready as Nitori continues to scream and growl at nothing in particular.
The kappa grabs a wooden baseball bat that has a sharp kitchen knife tied to the tip, and with it she rushes to the cosplaying zombies and smashes their heads with it.
"Marisaaaaa! You bitch, you LYING bitch! AAAARRRRRGH!"
Over and over again she smashes the tied creature's head with her weapon, and just like that, she stops.
She breathes hard and fast through her mouth, slowly backs away from the defenseless corpse, then cries "that bitch! She swore the experiment was for Gensokyo! She swore all she wanted to do was make life-giving rain; rain that could cure illnesses, raise crops in an instant! She said it was to make our home a better place!"
Aya wants to ask but hesitates, yet as if knowing what was that which she wanted to ask, the kappa growls and exclaims "she tricked me into making her a damned immortality potion, but the stupid bitch didn't even read the warning in her own stolen book! She even had me take lady Kanako's blood! Do you know how ASHAMED I am of myself for falling for that?"
Satori wants to tell their host to calm down, yet her friend apparently reads her mind and covers her mouth while the kappa continues "then we all got SERIOUSLY hurt by stupid clouds! I even puked my own blood on the floor! That was AWFUL! And now I feel like an alien inside my OWN DAMNED BODY, and IT'S ALL! HER! FAAAAAAULT!"
Nitori drops on her knees, breathing harder and faster through her mouth, gulping the air whenever her lungs were satisfied, and then she drops her bat on the floor before she starts to cry.
"I hate her! I trusted her, but now I hate her. Screw her! Damn all the humans to hell!"
The girls watch from a distance as the little kappa cries her tears to the ground, then want to go to her and try to comfort her, but the greenish girl barks "don't!" and forces herself to stand up and sit near her counter, then manages to say "I could be dangerous for you right now, so keep your distance."
She clears her throat before calmly continuing "after we all mutated, Remilia... what a sight she was. Her mutation was limited. Anyway, she came into the room and kicked us around, enraged about Sakuya being dead. Her maid entered the room and eventually calmed her down, but she tipped that cauldron and spilled some of its contents before she settled. That's when Alice and Patchouli started acting weird. Like demented monsters."
"That's enough," sternly demands Satori, taking a step toward Nitori and calmly saying "you don't have to say any more. I think I understand now."
Aya nods and adds "yes, I think I'm beginning to understand as well. No more remembering, ok?"
The greenish kappa sighs with relief, breathes as though for the first time in hours, and after feeling recovered enough she straightens up and calmly says "alright then, I prepared a bedroom for you two. Once that door closes, I will not be able to enter, no matter how hard I try. It can only be opened from inside."
"Why all of that?" asks the tengu, to which Nitori replies "as good as my machines are, they are just machines. If they happen to fail I will definitely obey the Master's command and will try to kill you. Anyway..."
The little kappa hops off her seat, takes a measuring tape and starts measuring Satori's third eye.
"Wha-what are you doing?" nervously asks the mind-reader.
After taking one last measurement and writing it down, and taking Aya's camera right out of her pockets, to which the reporter complains about, the kappa girl says "I don't need to sleep, so I'll be working on something to help you two along the way."
She pauses for a moment to wait for the question while she looks inside Aya's backpack for the old camera, but decides to answer before it is asked.
"I will do some modifications to your cameras to make them more efficient against the threat of the undead. As for that third eye, I'm not sure what I can do, but I will try and find out."
The girls look at each other while their host places the cameras on another working table away from the living room, then the black-haired reporter says "um, thank you Nitori."
The little kappa smiles as she shakes her head, then says "down that corridor, the open door to the right. There's a bathroom in there. You two rest as much as you need, and don't worry about your cameras, they are on safe hands."
She turns around to look at the girls and continues "tomorrow I will help you as much as I can on your way up the mountain. You can thank me after I have done that."
The three girls share silent smiles before Aya and Satori bow their heads to their host, and then walk to their room.
Inside the metallic-colored room there are two large beds, an electric dome on the ceiling lights up the whole place, there is an old typewriter besides the farthest bed, a digital clock beside the closest bed, and further in is a metal door that leads to the mentioned bathroom.
The moment they walk through the doorway, the thick metal door behind them closes, then bleeps and hisses, signaling it's locked, and the girls slowly unwind as each picks a bed and lies down to rest, both wondering what will come next, and what should they expect in Remilia's mansion.
They also question the stability of their host, and yet by the look on Aya's eyes, it seems she's willing to trust her, and without saying a word Satori nods, then both take a quick relaxing breath as they ready themselves to sleep.
Outside the house, the zombie kappa move about, some trying to get close to Nitori's house, all waiting for the fresh meat within to come out and be devoured.
To be continued...
Characters, spell cards and scenarios belong to ZUN -Team Shanghai Alice-
Aya's "Digital Telescoping, Candid Flash" spell card was derived from "Telescoping, Candid Shot"
SEP 11 2011
What a long chapter. While I was writing it, I thought it would have been a very short one. Wow, I was wrong I see.
Well, I know, I did it again. Cirno is THE ZOMBIE, but at least you understand the reason. I tried explaining WHY she is so strong and resistant. Originally, I was going to make it EX Letty, but as I progressed through telling the tale, it ended up working better (story wise) by doing it as I did. Oh, and Yuka's participation was actually a happy little idea that just popped in my head during a dream, so I used it :D.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter, thanks for reading all the way down here, and thanks to Captain Vulcan for looking over at Cirno's description in the previews. I was a little doubtful of it at first. Also, thank you guys at the "Let's Danmaku" forums for your support.