The light was beautiful.
It didn't just shine down on her, it suffused her, filling her with warmth and power. She began to feel other things, happiness, curiosity, and a strange sense of purpose. All these things rose within her, buoyed by the light. A light that felt so familiar. She tried to think of where she knew this light from. Who was the source of this power.
That's right. This was the light of her creator.
Just as she realized this the light began to fade. At first she panicked, worried that her new found consciousness would fade with it, but it seemed like her thoughts were getting stronger. She began to notice things, the hard wood she was lying on, the magical power surrounding her, and a distant voice saying, "Open your eyes, Shanghai"
Shanghai. That was her name.
The light went away and her eyes flickered open. She saw her creator, her mother looking down at her and smiling weakly.
"It worked," Alice said quietly. Then she passed out.
"Mother!" Shanghai cried out. To her shock her cry was echoed by another. Shanghai whirled to find another doll standing there, this one wearing red to her blue. A memory from her past snuck into her mind. "Hourai?" she asked carefully.
Hourai nodded once but didn't speak as she moved to Alice's side. The other doll carefully turned Alice over and checked her pulse. Shanghai moved close to watch, but didn't interfere with her sister dolls inspection. After a moment Hourai looked up. "Mother seems to be fine, but she never used me as a doctor so..."
"Yeah." Shanghai nodded. Then she started as she realized something was off. "Hourai! You're big!"
Hourai looked up in confusion, then started in realization. "You're big too Shanghai!"
Shanghai nodded in affirmation. The two dolls had vastly increased in size to well over a meter in height. Both were still shorter then Alice, but not by much.
Hourai was the first to break out of their surprise. "We should get Mother to that doctor, or to the temple. They can help her."
"Right. We should get a stretcher to carry her with." Shanghai stood to start gather materials to put together a makeshift stretcher, when the door busted in.
In the shattered door stood a black and white clad witch. "Alright Alice what the hell is going..." Marisa's eyes grew wide at the sight of the two dolls. "Dammit! You mavericks are here too!" Marisa grabbed her hakkero.
Shanghai immediately rushed to interpose herself between Alice and the weapon. Her master couldn't take a hit from that now! Hourai simply rushed forward, her human sized sword flashing towards Marisa's neck. Shanghai and Marisa both gasped at the deadly attack. Marisa tried to change her aim to incinerate her sister. "WAIT!" Shanghai screamed futilely. There was a flash of light. Shanghai cringed, then opened her eyes, expecting disaster.
Instead the two stood frozen, a hologram of Alice separating the two. The projection of Alice stared straight ahead, worry and fatigue etched on her face. The magical apparition began to speak, "Shanghai, I can only hope that you'll hear this. I know it's wrong to use this untried spell on you, but I have no choice."
"A week ago Medicine Melancholy broke in and stole eight of my prototype dolls. That would only be a minor annoyance, but somehow the poisonous magic within her and the enchantments I placed on them interacted strangely. They became doll youkai, and increased in size and power."
The hologram had the full attention of the three girls as it continued. "What's worse is that because of the mixture of magic and poison, these dolls can't be destroyed by normal means. Only if another vessel, a doll like you, absorbs their magical power can they be laid to rest permanently."
Alice looked down and bit her lip before continuing. "It's wrong to ask this of you, especially since I'm not there to help you myself, but you're the only one who can do this Shanghai." The hologram pointed to the worktable where a strange blue cylinder gleamed. "I've created a weapon for you, one that should make you the equal of any of my other creations, at least with your combat experience."
"You're Gensoukyo's only hope. Please, defeat these doll masters, and stop Medicine Melancholy's plans before she does something that can't be undone."
Shanghai walked over to the weapon and carefully picked it up. As she grasped the hand piece the cylinder lightly moved to encompass her wrist, allowing her to easily aim the weapon. She instinctively knew she could charge the weapon to produce stronger danmaku. With this she felt like she could fight, even without Mother's power flowing through her.
"What about me?"
Shanghai turned to see Hourai looking plaintively at the hologram of Alice. "Why didn't Mother say anything about me? Why didn't she leave me a weapon so I could help?" Shanghai's heart twisted a little at the pain in her sister's voice.
"Ahem." The two girls looked over to see Marisa covering up her 'cough.' "I think she probably didn't leave anything for you because she wasn't expecting to animate you too." Marisa pointed down to the ground where Shanghai had awoken. Sure enough, the circle there was only big enough for one doll. "I'm guessing Alice threw all of her power into that spell, and the overflow is what awakened you Hourai."
"So I'm an accident," Hourai said darkly.
Shanghai quickly flew over to hug her sister. "Mother loves all of us, Hourai! I'm sure she'll be happy when she finds out you're awake as well!"
Hourai relaxed in Shanghai's embrace. "Yeah. You're right." She embraced Shanghai a little longer then pulled back and looked at Marisa. "So is Mother going to be alright?"
Marisa moved to check, then nodded. "Yeah, it looks like she just burned through all her magic. She'll be out for a couple of days, maybe a week, but since she doesn't need to eat or drink she won't die." Marisa frowned. "Assuming all Gensoukyo doesn't get torn apart that is."
The two sisters looked at each other. Shanghai could see the same determination on Hourai's face that she felt herself. "Is it that bad?"
Marisa sighed. "I don't know. Everyone's kinda been containing the dolls where they've popped up, but given they keep regenerating someone's gonna get tired eventually. And no one's quite sure what'll happen when they break free." Marisa waved the two over and they helped the magician move Mother to her bed. "I think the sooner you go take them out Shanghai, the better."
"I'll go too," Hourai stated.
"You sure?" Marisa asked. "You might not have the absorption ability. And you don't have a weapon."
Hourai smiled darkly. "This sword will work just fine."
Shanghai nodded in thanks. It was good to have her sister there. She wasn't thrilled with the idea of fighting alone. "I'm sure Hourai will be a big help."
Marisa nodded. "Right." Marisa looked at the two. "I hate leaving the fun to other people, but shooting things that regenerate and come back stronger then before isn't really enjoyable." The magician waved her hands and a map of Gensoukyo appeared.
"Isn't that one of Mother's summoning magics?" Shanghai asked.
Marisa smirked annoyingly. "I only steal from the best." The magician started pointing at spots on the map. "I don't know where all the dolls are. Youkai aren't exactly talkative about their fights, but I can give you info on some of them."
She pointed at Youkai Mountain first. "We heard about this one first. Popped up in kappa territory. Nitori say's they've pretty much got it pinned down underwater, and the tengu are there as backup. So I wouldn't worry about it much."
"Maybe we should ask about waterproofing before fighting that one," Hourai said.
Marisa nodded. "I'll see about calling Nitori on that device of her's. She might be able to cook something up." Next she pointed at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. "Sakuya came to complain about the one that popped up here. Flandre kept it under control for a bit, but it gave her the slip in the end. They think the doll is in the sub basement, building up power. Still it'll have a hard time getting past that crew."
"Now for the bad news." Marisa pointed at Eientei. "Tewi showed up and said one started some trouble here. The rabbits locked the doll in a high security zone, but the damn thing somehow took over the security system."
Shanghai winced. "That's no good. So should we go there first?"
"Sorry, it gets worse." Marisa pointed at a spot near the village. "Apparently Yumemi and Chiyuri ware sneaking around Gensoukyo, and one of the damn things got on their ship. It nearly took over all the systems before Chiyuri smashed it into the ground. So now it's been converting the ship into some kind of factory."
"A factory?" Hourai asked incredulously.
"Yeah, these dolls seem dead set on either capturing or creating armies for themselves once they find a nice place. They probably don't like getting blown up over and over, even if it doesn't mean anything to them." Marisa shrugged. "So those are your choices."
Hourai scanned the map. "What about Medicine? Can we just go to the head of the matter?"
Shanghai nodded at her sisters suggestion. "Yeah, it seems like that would be better."
"If only we knew where that idiot was." Marisa sighed. "Reimu's out hunting for her, but none of my divinations have worked. I'll see about asking Patchouli but..." Marisa shrugged.
Shanghai looked over the map. "So, are you going to help us on site?"
Marisa shook her head. "I'm gonna keep an eye on Alice here. I'll try to get in contact with everyone so you'll have better information next time. And I'll see about getting a communication spell up for you."
"Thanks Marisa," Shanghai gave the black white magician a smile. Hourai just gave a nod.
"Hey, we've worked together before right, Shanghai?" Marisa smiled herself. "And it's good to be working with you too Hourai."
Shanghai looked at her sister. "So we should get rid of the one in the spaceship first?"
Hourai frowned. "Yeah. More information would be nice, but at least it's close. We should be done and back quickly."
"Good luck you two," Marisa said. "And if Yumemi and Chiyuri don't let you in, tell them Mimi-chan's doing fine."
Hourai gave Shanghai a questioning look, but Shanghai could only shrug. She couldn't remember everything from when she was a doll, but she remembered enough to know sometimes Marisa was just weird.
I've had this sitting around for some time, but I've been hesitant to post it, firstly because it's deliberately a rough work, and secondly because 's horrible design means no one will ever find it. However I'm forcing myself to put the finishing touches on it so having a release schedule here will help me.
In any case, Megaman players will see many different games being references, and hopefully Touhou players will see several bits of that unique world shine through as well.