Master Spark: Da Coda
A Touhou fanfic.
Gensokyo was created by someone who isn't named Alice, doesn't live in Shanghai, and for the most part, isn't part of a team.
Summary: Marisa works out to be able to beat Reimu. Can she manage to get one of her few victories against the shrine maiden?
A friend of mine mentioned she was open to write a Touhou fic just after we found out we both had entered the fandom relatively recently. While discussing ideas I got this idea of writing a short, humorous story to get a feel for Gensokyo and how its inhabitants interact with each other. Naturally, being me, I'm also putting in a few personal challenges so I can develop as an author. That's a whole lot more fun than simply writing what you're already used to. Without further ado (there's a lot more of that after the fic), here is the story.
/ Another Duck
Master Spark: Da Coda
It's a typical autumn day, just before noon. I'm on my way to the shrine, since there's this new spellcard I wanna try out. I'm certain Reimu'll just shrug it off as yet another variation of my Master Spark, but this time, she will go down.
I land on the ground in front of the donation box. Reimu's sweepin' the wooden floor with quite rough movements, I notice. She doesn't seem too happy. Ah, well, all she need is a little match to vent, and she'll be back to normal.
"Oh, you. What do you want?"
"Aw, come on. What's with greetin' yer best friend with such a gruff tone?" I wonder what happened? This's worse than her normal mood swings to the south.
"I think little miss red-white needs some exercise to calm her down." I skip up the stairs to meet her on the same level. "Just sweepin' the floor isn't gonna m—" A sharp pain steals my attention from my balance to my foot. This is not good for my head, should I continue in the same direction, as there is a large, wooden box in front of me. Fortunately, I react quickly enough to put up my hands to at least save my forehead a red mark. Unfortunately, I hear a very distinct clonk, and a much less distinct rip. You see, in my hand is my ever trustworthy broom. Because I love it so, I've enchanted it to protect it from damage.
Reimu doesn't sound happy at all. In fact, she actually sounds a little bit scary.
"Do you know what you just did?"
"Err... no?" I offer her a smile as I scramble up. A few steps away from her seems like a good idea. By the look of her, my smile can't be all that convincin'.
"You scratched my donation box."
Unlike my broom, that box can be damaged easily enough. Judgin' from how she reacts to someone doing anythin' with it that isn't offerin' donations, this can't be good for my health. A few steps seems like a not good enough of an idea. Maybe a little farther's even better.
Up, up, and away! Well, I got my wish. But maybe this wasn't such a good time. Meh, I can't back down now.
A few large, glowing orbs appear and speeds quickly towards me. It's a spellcard I have faced many times, and I did anticipate it, so I'm not too worried. Since those orbs are homin', it's impossible for anyone but the fastest fliers to avoid them. I am one of those people. I dodge, taking full advantage of my speed and experience. Any less, and I'll get hit. It's not easy, and it'd prolly be hard even for Reimu herself.
Ah, it seems she doesn't want the shrine to be behind her while she fights, as she's movin' away from it while not advancin' on me. It gives me time to lay out a curtain of stars. It's time she shows what she's made of. Now that her back is clear, she starts makin' her way toward me. What's she plannin'? Hmm... If I can make her swerve to the right, she'll have little room to dodge. With another array of stars flyin' towards her, I pick out my second favourite item in the world: my mini-Hakkero.
"Love Sign—" The little furnace gets hit by one of Reimu's charms before I can even start the spell properly. That's actually lucky, since if I drop it after I activate it, there's gonna be a high risk I get hit by it myself. Another charm almost hits me in the head, but only manages to throw off my hat. Damn, I need to pay more attention here. Wake up, witch! I can fight even without my mini-Hakkero. Still... I make the decision to fly down to the ground and land so I can pick it up. Just avoidin' Reimu's barrage is a lot easier if I don't need to go anywhere special, so there are some very close encounters with her charms, but they only graze me.
Hey, my hat fell down here too. I'll just—dodge that bullet—run over there and... Wait, what was that faint snappin' sound I heard when I ducked? Ah, well, can't think 'bout that now. As I'm runnin', I feel something entangle my legs. Oh, no, I know what sound it was. The waistband must've snapped an— "Ah!"
Note to self: Grass doesn't taste very well, especially combined with dirt. Wet dirt.
Another note: Lyin' down makes ya an easy target. My head and side hurts thanks to that.
I'll prolly haffta mend my dress as well, not to mention cleanin' the grass stains out of it. To add insult to my injuries, my hat is just out of reach, despite my hands bein' stretched out towards it. To add even more insults, I see it being raised to the sky. Reimu's pickin' it up. I don't wanna bend my neck enough to see, but I guess she's placin' it on her head. I s'pose I don't mind it. Might be the only thing about the current situation I don't mind, so I'll count my blessings. One. There, done. I lower my head in resignation. The ground is slightly damp, sure, but at least it's soft, and it's not like my face will get dirtier.
"Oof!" My breath leaves me as someone sits down on my back. It takes me a while to get it back. "Why are you sittin' down on me? I'm hurt and I'm miserable."
"So you're the one miserable here? You're not the one having to deal with old gap hags showing up literally out of nowhere, drunken onis with no control over their strength, youkai who think beating you would make them look good, invasive tengus trying to take pictures of you in the bath, and worst of all, thieves who destroy your property!"
"Eh, it seems I came at the wrong time. Mebbe I should—"
"You stay here until you have paid for what you did."
"But..." This' a fine mess I'm in. I ache all over, and Reimu's mad as a hatter. "Hey! What are you doin'? Leave my skirt alone!" Worst of all, I can't do anythin' with her sittin' on top of my back, as I can't reach around her with my arms, and I can only flail my legs just as uselessly. With what she's doin', that's too embarrassin' anyway. "Ow! Stop! I give, I give!"
Another day, another experience. I've learned one thing: I'm not comfortable sleepin' on my stomach. But, and that's just the problem, I haven't even been able to sit for a whole day! It's tirin' havin' to stand all the time. My elbows are sore as well. And I didn't even get to use my new spell.
That Reimu didn't need to go that far. It wasn't that big of a scratch. I don't remember last time I saw her that sour. I should prolly stay away for a while.
But... Why did the waistband on my breeches snap? I haven't...
I look down and pinch my tummy.
Sigh. Maybe I have spent a little too much time readin' lately, and not enough gettin' around. What to do, what to do... I wonder if I have any books about slimmin' down? Or Patchouli? Wait, that's what I'm trying not to do. But then, she's not the expert of fitness around here, so that's prolly just a dead end. On the other hand, a run through the library might do me good.
Ah, there's that useless Chin—I mean, Meiling.
"Black-white! If you do not have an invitation, you are not allowed to enter."
Hey, she's not sleeping. Maybe she's not all that useless. Ooh, I have an idea.
"Ah, hey there, China."
"It's Hong Meiling! Not China!"
"And my name is Marisa Kirisame."
"What is your business here?"
"I came to borrow a book from Miss Patchouli."
"Then I will stop you. Lady Patchouli will be upset if you steal another book."
This I expected. I take off my hat and lay it down beside the road, along with my broom. I reach into a pocket and take out my mini-Hakkero. I must admit, this unnerves me somewhat, but it's the decision I've come to. I place the octagonal object on the brim of my hat.
Meiling looks at me curiously. Her confusion is understandable.
I then take a fightin' stance, similar to one I've seen Meiling take often. Granted, I'm not all that good with combat that doesn't involve a lot of flyin' around and dodgin' barrages of spells, but a proper spellcard battle against her would be too easy. This way I can get some exercise from it and still read the books I borrow.
"Are you planning on fighting me like this?"
"I thought I was gonna give ya a fair chance. Spellcards ain't yer forte, so I thought we'd skip them."
"If you want to get beaten so badly, I will grant you your wish. Prepare!"
She comes at me with a punch that grazes my hair as I move to the side. I must say, when Meiling moves, she moves fast. That's still one of my strengths, as long as I'm allowed to fly. We never specified any rules to this somewhat unorthodox fight, but I don't think she'll try to kill me. That just doesn't fit her personality.
My feet only just touches the ground as I weave through her attacks. The problem I'm havin' is that for each punch or kick I throw at her, she gets closer and closer to hittin' me while returnin' the favour. She also doesn't even seem to register my attacks as threatenin'.
A pink star forms in my hand. I throw it at the ground in front of me as I jump back. I need a new strategy here. Two new stars form in my hands. I cast them simultaneously in front of me in a cross so she'll be forced to back to avoid getting hit.
Even as I feel the energies of the two projectiles leave my hands I realise my miscalculation. She doesn't back down; she ducks under them and springs forward. I should've foreseen this! I should've— "Oof!" Ah, my loss.
The warmth of the sun on my back is the first thing I feel when I wake up. The cloth I'm lying on is too rough to be my own bed. Where am I? I open my eyes and only see black. Oh, my hat. I put it on its rightful place on my head as I rise up to look around. It doesn't take me long to figure out I'm at the gate of the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
"Ah, you're awake."
"Huh? Oh, Meiling." Right. That's what happened. She ended our fight with an elbow to my stomach with all her weight behind; took my breath away quite painfully. I'm still a little sore. Wait, I can sit normally. Someone must've given me somethin' for the pain. Prolly the same one who put me on this blanket.
"Yer awfully nice to someone who just tried to crash the gate."
"You offered me a fair fight and you lost. I have no reason to be cross with you."
She says it so simply that I just can't refuse the logic. The plan was to stay a while longer, but I just don't feel like it. Well, I'm not in a hurry anyway.
Okay, now I am in a hurry. Or at least, I'm stressed enough to feel like it. Ya see, it wasn't long before I got home that I realised I was missin' one little item. My mini-Hakkero. It's not hard to figure out where it went. I put it down just for the fight, and now I'm missin' it. I knew that China was way too nice...
It's not long to the mansion now. Should I put her out as usual, or stick to my plan? Not much thinkin' 'bout it, really. I can't give up so soon. I didn't grow up to be number two by givin' up.
"Meiling!" I land a few paces away from her.
"Oh, you're back. Didn't you get enough last time?"
That cocky smile pisses me off. I just want to blast it out of her face.
"I want what ya stole from me."
"I did not steal anything from you."
"Really. On an unrelated matter, I have a message to you from Lady Patchouli."
I cross my arms and wait for her to continue.
"She's willing to trade a few books you've stolen from her for a small item she picked up here some time ago."
"That little... I'll give her a piece of my mind. Move!"
"No. Unless you have those books with you, you are not welcome inside these gates."
"You give me no choice!"
I swing my broom down at her, but she merely steps aside. Before I can even raise my weapon of choice to a ready position she grabs one of my arms, and a moment later I feel myself bein' thrown far away. She's got some strength, that's for sure.
Well, I'm not a stranger to air combat, so I swiftly swing myself up to stand on my broom. I toss a few magical stars her way to get her to attack me. Down on the ground she's got more of advantage than up here. She doesn't dawdle, and since it's not exactly one of my usual barrages, she avoids the projectiles easily. It wasn't my purpose to hit her, though.
I meet her with a kick that she more or less ignores in favour of meetin' my face with her fist. I quickly sink down to let her pass above me. I'm spared an embarrassingly quick defeat, but my hat falls to the ground. I can't seem to keep it on these days, can I? Not even a moment after turnin' around I'm met with a flurry of attacks. Only my speed keeps me from bein' turned into a punchin' bag.
I really wonder if this is the same guard I used to make fun of. If I had this much trouble each time I visited, my library would prolly only have half the books it has.
No matter. She'll go down eventually, as soon as I can figure out how to beat her. I start to prod her defences with careful attacks so her counters don't catch me off guard. It takes me a while, and frankly, I'm not sure how long I can keep up with this. The stamina required for this is completely different from my normal battles. However, I'm eventually able to perceive small gaps I can use to get in actual strikes.
Now I just need to wait for the right opportunity. There! My punch goes past her block, but fails to connect with her chin. Instead I'm rewarded with a blow to my shoulder. Ah, you can't win them all, and I'm just beginnin'.
I say that, but after a little longer I realise I'm not makin' any headway. Wait, did she fumble that attack? I react on instinct, and manage to connect a kick to her stomach. My victory is short-lived, as she takes hold of my foot and use it to swing my entire body down towards the ground. I slow the fall as much as I can, but the impact still knocks the wind out of me. A fist rapidly descends towards my eyes, and there's no way I can dodge that. I can only close my eyes and brace for the worst.
Nothing happens. When I open my eyes to peek, I see Meiling's hand dead still just above my face.
"Your face looks funny." She giggles.
I'll bet. I was scared out of my mind there. I need a few moments to gather my wits. And my breath.
She offers me a hand. When I take it she pulls me up to a standin' position and pats my shoulder.
"I'm enjoying this."
She says so with a genuine smile, and it's a little hard for me to not get caught up with it. Still.
"'Cause yer winnin'."
I don't detect any malice or superiority in her tone, so I think she's tellin' the truth. She doesn't say anythin' else, and only walks back to her usual post to the side of the gate.
"Can I enter?"
"Hmm. No. I'm still under orders to not let you in."
Oh, well, I s'pose there's nothin' I can do 'bout it. I'm too beat up to try again. I pick up my broom and hat before I take off home.
I returned the day after, but my luck hadn't changed. I didn't bring any books, though. While I really want my mini-Hakkero back, I don't really need it until the weather starts to get cold for real. Besides, if I can improve enough to beat Meiling this way, I won't have any trouble gettin' it back anyway. Come to think of it, if I do it my way I won't have any trouble as it is.
I returned every day I wasn't too sore to think about it for a few weeks. I have said I didn't have much luck fightin' Meiling, but somewhere along the road I began to realise just how skilled she actually is outside spellcard battles. While I do manage to land a hit now and then, I don't think I've really hurt her. And she's always been smilin' while fightin'. What's up with that? Is she holdin' back? Or's she just enjoyin' herself? I can't tell.
I look down and pinch my tummy. I can't help but smile at the feelin'. Seems like my plan's been a success. Time to pay Reimu a visit again. But first, I need my little heater. It's startin' to get cold, after all.
It's quite easy sneakin' into Patchouli's library since I know when Meiling takes her midday nap. Let's see where my mini-Hakkero is. The most obvious would be the desk where the Patchouli's usually at.
It seems that I'm expected. I spot plenty of magical seals protectin' the bookcases, as well as large seals on the walls at the end of the corridors. This is a prepared battlefield, no doubt 'bout it.
"Marisa. Did you finally manage to get past Meiling?"
Damn, she spotted me while I was admirin' the scenery. "Oh, hey there, Patchouli! Nice to see you around."
"I don't suppose you brought me my books that you stole?"
"Hey, I'm not stealin' anythin'! I plan on givin' them back to you, so I'm only borrowin'."
"Well, then, if you can defeat me now you can give them back when you wish. If I win, you give them back today."
I give her a wide grin. When was the last time I said no to a challenge? "Bring it on!"
"Very well. Fire Sign: Agni Shine!"
Ya know, it was a while since I was in a real spellcard battle, but that's not too hard to avoid anyway. I avoid the flames with ease, although the distance between us grows. I wonder if she's tryin' to get me to back off? Before I can really figure her out, she stops her barrage.
"Marisa, remember this?"
She pulls out a very familiar object. My mini-Hakkero.
"Didn't you just love to do something like this? Love Sign:"
"Hey, that's my spell!" Oh, crap, gotta get outta the way. I'm in a large four-way crossing between the bookcases, so...
"Marisa! Hold it right there!"
When did Meiling get here? Did she notice me sneak in?
"Meiling! Get away from there!"
Why is Patchouli shouting at her? She's not in the... Wait, those seals.. They're not barriers? I make the decision to fly towards Patchouli, above the beam she's gonna release any second now.
The front of my skirt gets caught in the blast, and my legs feel very hot, but I'm out of the way of the Master Spark. I can barely make out Patchouli's face behind the glow, and she looks... horrified?
To solve the mystery I glance in the direction of destruction. From where I'm hoverin' it's easy to see the result. The beam goes straight forward between the bookcases, hits one of the seals at the back, bounces and continues along the edge of the room to another seal, and again. That makes it go through the middle of the room sideways, crossin' the centre, and repeats the process, but this time along the ceiling. It crashes down in the centre again where a large hole forms despite the protective seals.
And poor Meiling, she got caught in the middle. I know she's sturdy as few, and the Master Spark isn't for killin' people, but that had to hurt. A lot.
I shake my head to get my mind back on track. Patchouli's still in shock, so I sweep down and grab the mini-Hakkero out of her hand. It seems to snap her back to reality.
"Patchouli?" I put my hand firmly on her shoulder as I land behind her. She needs to answer something.
"Where you plannin' on hittin' me with that?" I put on one of the scarier faces I know. It's not especially hard, as I'm feelin' a slight bit of the rage that should accompany it. Just a slight.
"I... ah... I yield?"
I can tell she's terrified from the way she's shakin' and the size of her pupils. 'Cause of that, my anger simmer down significantly. I'm just enjoyin' her fear too much to remain angry.
"You should probably tend to Meiling. I'll be back for you later."
On my way out, I grab a few books from the desk Patchouli was sitting at. She had a good idea, after all, and I'll see what I can do with that.
A few days later, I'm headin' over to the shrine. This time I'll win for sure. I spot her sittin' on the porch, sippin' a cup of what I assume is tea. She looks rather tranquil, which is quite different from last I saw her.
"Ah, Marisa. Welcome."
"Care for a match?"
I don't actually feel like bein' polite enough as to actually ask for a duel, but she looked so peaceful and happy I just couldn't help it.
She doesn't respond verbally, but puts down her cup and flies up in the air, away from the shrine. There's no sign from her that she's ready, but we've known each other long enough to know when to start.
"Love Sign: Milky Way!" It's an easy card, but good enough to start off with.
As expected, Reimu effortlessly weaves through the spirallin' stars. I wait for her to begin one of her own spells.
We fight for a while, and I must admit, it's quite enjoyable. Pure, light-hearted fun. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't take all of my concentration to avoid the charms Reimu's throwin' my way.
Actually, scratch that. I'm movin' more on instinct than I used to. Even if I'm no better at readin' where the charms are headin', my reaction time have become better after my trainin' with Meiling. With this alone I should be able to match Reimu. We were never that far apart in skill.
Well, time to put my work into action. Let's see...
"Light Blast: Shoot the Moon!"
Several arrays of lasers coupled with streams of stars should get her to where I want. She's movin' down towards the ground, which is exactly where I want her. I follow down as well, so that I'm only just hoverin' above the fallen leaves. Just as my spell ends I stand up and start my new one.
"Love Sign: Master Spark, Da Coda!"
"Yet another variation of Master Spark, Marisa? Don't you get tired of using the same thing over and over?"
The beam is slightly above and to the left of Reimu, but will still hit her if she doesn't move. If my calculations are correct, she should dodge to her left—my right. She does, and right there should—"Ah!"
Somethin' hit me in the back of my head, but it was enough to cause me to fall down smack into the ground. "Ow... What the hell was that?"
"One of my charms."
Reimu walks up to me as if nothin' is strange at all. Then she sits down on my back. Sigh. Well, at least she's far gentler than last time.
"Want me to let you in on a secret?"
"Shoot." Maybe not the best choice of words, come to think of it.
"When you're testing a new spell, you tend to get so excited about it that you focus all your attention on the effect of it. For someone who knows about that little quirk you have, it's quite easy to exploit."
I mutter somethin' even I don't know what it is. I should know better than to leave such obvious openings.
"But I must say, you almost had me there. I didn't expect the Spark to come back at me from behind. Got my skirt singed as well."
I don't know if that almost makes me feel better or worse.
"Also, I wanted to apologise for what I did before. There was so much that had happened that week, and you were just there to pour the last drop in, so I kinda vented my frustrations on you. I'm sorry."
"If you're really sorry you can start by stop sitting on me."
I'm actually not angry about that day anymore. It was long ago, so it doesn't really matter. It's not like she can go back in time and undo it.
"But the ground is wet, and I didn't want to stand up."
How do you think I feel, moron? I wanted to bang my head against the ground, but I reconsidered.
Reimu stood up, then offered me a hand.
"How about a drink?"
"Sure, let's go with that."
I like to write and express my thoughts, so here they are. If you don't like reading very long notes and stuff, stop here. There's no story below this point.
I originally had Marisa smash Reimu's donation box to splinters, probably with a not-so-well aimed Master Spark, but that would give Reimu a legitimate reason to beat Marisa up. Relatively speaking. I needed something less, that Marisa also considered minor, but still enough to push Reimu's temper past the breaking point.
There was a lot more combat in this fic than I expected from the start. Much of it isn't the danmaku-style battles of your usual Touhou story either. I'm not sure if that makes it easier or not to write, considering battles are hard either way to get right, but I do find it a little more difficult to write a standard Touhou duel than the fights between Marisa and Meiling. I don't like to drag fights out, though, and shorter is probably easier.
So, there were three things that made this fanfic a pain (the fun kind of pain) to write, but they were also those three things I challenged myself with this time. Namely, first person perspective, present tense, and Marisa's language.
First person perspective is the one I have the most experience with. I've written two completed fanfics (Conflicts and the old BvI), and some incomplete stuff. On the other hand, it's still probably only a few percent of my total written material. It's actually quite fun to go so directly into the mind of the character, so this is more a matter of remembering what the character actually knows and perceives, and not using any god-given insights. It also means that if she's hit in the noggin hard enough to lose focus, she's not going to be able to narrate at that point.
Present tense is usually not recommended from what I've heard, and I've only really used it in outlines, drafts, and, well, BvI. This is more to challenge myself than anything else, and to see what the end result would be if I actually complete a fic like this. I'm probably not going to do more like this later on, except perhaps if there's a character in the story who's telling a tale. That's a good place to break the structure of that story, especially if it reflects the character's personality.
Marisa's language isn't exactly standard, but I don't know exactly how it should be written either, considering it's originally Japanese and doesn't have an official translation. She does have some kind of accent, and this is one way I interpret it. Well, if I write anything else I might just drop it and write standard English, since I'm not sure how well it works. Since she's the narrator, it appears everywhere, so it's easy to miss something.
Those three things together also gave me the opportunity to try a different form of indirect storytelling. Often, Marisa would remark on something, but she wouldn't narrate it or describe it in any way. Sometimes it would come up later, like how Meiling knocked her out the first time, or what the variation of the Master Spark actually was, but sometimes it was just left out entirely. In particular, descriptions of the spellcards were left out, in most cases since it didn't actually matter exactly what it looked like. I'm curious to see how that works out for you, dear readers. I do know that last bit has a tendency to create battles were combatants are just shouting attack names, so I tried to avoid the worst of it.
Also, I don't really know what titles they would address each other with (again, translation issue), so I went by feeling. And I resisted the urge to throw in more references like "pichu~n" or having Marisa mention that Meiling stole her precious thing, because it felt tacky. "Mukyu" felt better, and since it doesn't actually mean anything, it doesn't hit my gratuitous Japanese filter either. Speaking of that, words like "oni" and "youkai" are, to me, proper names (despite being lowercase) of the species with no good English names, and are thus left Japanese.
All in all, I've had fun writing this, and I hope you had fun reading it. Any comments, especially about the above mentioned subjects, are greatly appreciated.