Koakuma followed after Alice into the library. She tried to stay calm, but Shanghai's stare from over Alice's shoulder made it felt like she was being escorted to prison. Imagining all the fun things that could be done with handcuffs helped, but only a little.
Finally they reached another lounge area. The two sat down in chairs across from each other, Koakuma taking the one with holes for her wings.
A few moments passed as Shanghai flitted back and forth across the area. Koakuma wasn't really sure what Alice wanted to ask. Or perhaps it was more she didn't know what Alice wanted to ask first.
Finally Alice sighed. "Well let's start with the basics. I always assumed your interest in Marisa was more... work related."
Koakuma blinked. "Well there's some of that. As the Librarian demon I'm attracted to everyone who seeks knowledge. But it's more than that. She's got so many great qualities. She's fun to tease, and wonderfully clever in hilarious ways. She's an irreverent thief, and a general nuisance." Koakuma smiled at Alice. "You like her for those qualities too right?"
Alice frowned at the litany. "Somehow I don't think that's why I'm attracted to her. In fact those seem like a lot of her more annoying qualities."
Koakuma shrugged. "Well I suppose you'd say you liked her determined attitude and carefree nature, but they're the same thing right?"
"That's..." Alice's frown turned into a sigh. "Well that's arguable. Still I see what you're saying." Alice smiled a little. "And it is fun to sweep the rug out from under her."
"See. I knew you had fine taste Lady Alice." Koakuma replied.
Alice tapped her fingers against the table. "And I imagine you have an attraction towards Patchouli for the same reason. You enjoy trying to break her cool."
Koakuma felt a warmth run up her wings. "Well yes, that's fun. But well..." Koakuma couldn't help but grin foolishly. "She's also the only person who called upon me for my work skills, instead of just eye candy that could help around the mansion."
Alice's expression softened into a smile. "I see." Shanghai covered her cheeks and fluttered back and forth a bit as the puppeteer hummed in thought. "Yes Patchouli is uniquely romantic. Not always in a good way, but always unique."
Koakuma's headwings twitched a bit at that. "Yeah, the dragon heart was entirely her idea. Er, as was the tome of chocolate summoning. I sometimes wish she'd ask me for hints."
"I think it's a certain part of her charm," Alice replied. "It at least helps her stand out. Besides you'd have suggested a book on seduction spells."
Koakuma crossed her arms. "That's nonsense! I'd have told her to give you a book on binding spells."
Alice shook her head. "As if that was any better." Alice leaned back. "Still I think I see it now. Neither of them care about our status, for good or ill. They don't care that you're a lowly succubi, and they don't care that I'm Alice, The Girl of Death."
The puppeteer looked out into the distance while Shanghai paced, then turned towards Koakuma. The little devil fought to keep from squirming as Alice's gaze focused in on her. "And with that we come to the big problem. Where do we stand, Koakuma?"
Koakuma tried to focus on Shanghai. "What do you mean?
"You know very well what I mean." Alice put her hands on the table. "I'm quite aware you're trying to set up a group relationship between the four of us. And while setting up this coven isn't going to make that a certainty, the four of us being in close proximity will mean we'll have to start facing our personal issues sooner rather than later." Alice held up two fingers. "The first issue of course is the fact that Marisa and Patchouli don't exactly mesh well." Koakuma fought to keep from flinching as Alice pointed at her. "The second issue is that you are afraid of me."
Koakuma felt her wings twitching she tried not to let it show. "That's not..." As Alice's face fell the little devil could tell her lies weren't working. Koakuma felt herself shrink a little. "I'm not afraid of you exactly Lady Alice." Koakuma tried to avoid cringing at Alice's frown. "It's just... well you call my creator goddess 'Mom.' It's a little unnerving."
Alice's expression didn't improve, so Koakuma pressed on. "No honestly. I'm not worried that you'll kill me personally. It's just hard for me not worry about the in laws." Which was completely the truth. If Alice could stand Marisa's schizophrenic attention anything Koakuma could throw at her would be fine. Angering Lady Shinki on the other hand usually involved waking up with a sword in your head.
Koakuma sat and sweated as Alice stared into her soul. Possibly literally, given the magician's focus on creating life. Shanghai's glare muted the seriousness a little, and Koakuma was used to annoying people vastly more powerful than her. The stakes were rarely this high however.
Koakuma jumped as Alice slapped herself on the forehead then slumped onto the table. "Oh dear lord, I'm becoming my mother."
"Well that's not entirely true Alice. I mean, you'd need to go up a cup size at least before that." Koakuma ducked under the bullet that Shanghai fired at her, then smiled at Alice's glare. "You could also smile more."
Alice glared at her a bit more, than smiled. "I suppose I'll accept that for now." The puppeteer straightened up in her chair. "It still doesn't exactly fix things you know."
Now it was Koakuma's turn to sigh. "I know." The little devil looked up at Alice with her best puppy dog eyes. "But we can try to work things out right? I mean, we both share the same loves. And I know you're dying to learn the many ways doll strings can be used for-mph!" Koakuma flinched back as a plush doll smacked her right in the mouth.
"Yes, yes, thank you for showing me you're trying not to treat me that much differently from anyone else," Alice muttered. The puppeteer shook her head. "Well I suppose we'll see where we stand later. After all I'm still undecided on how much idiocy my mind can take." Alice mentally retrieved her doll while brushing off her mantle. Koakuma smiled to herself. Maybe she'd never fully get over the differences in their status, but Alice was still plenty of fun to tease.
Then she sobered up. "Ah, there's still the big problem. Do you think we should go back and make sure they aren't fighting?"
Alice looked down at the ground and raised her hands in supplication. "Mother might have to personally intervene to stop those two from fighting. If they can just keep it to words instead of danmaku I'll consider it a victory."
"Yeah..." Koakuma tried to gain some semblance of hope from the fact that at least the two liked fighting.
Today was turning out to be an odd day, Marisa thought as she stared up at Voile's ceiling. Better than the last couple of days, but still something of a mess.
"So I take it you're going to pretend I'm not here while we wait for them to return?"
Marisa looked down to see Patchouli frowning at her. "In case you hadn't noticed, I haven't had the best of days. I figured you weren't looking for a fight, but if you want me to bug you Patchy..."
Marisa's eyebrows shot up as Patchouli grimaced and nodded. "As Alice pointed out, we will be speaking with each other more frequently. Which means we should clear the air between us a little now."
"There's not exactly much to clear is there?" Marisa shrugged and leaned back in her chair. "You don't like how I borrow your books. I like reading. Won't this pact stop most of it?"
Marisa sat up straighter as Patchouli put down the book she was carrying and stared directly at her. "Marisa Kirisame. I have toiled for over one hundred years to build the greatest personal library of knowledge in the physical world. As one of the few magicians alive from the outside world I personally created entire tomes of spells by myself. At great personal cost I mastered the spells to stop my aging before my thirtieth birthday." Patchouli stood up. "Meanwhile you stole my books and spells. Then slapped together a magic potion that surpassed my achievements by accident!"
Marisa got the feeling Patchouli's issues with her might be a little bigger than what she previously thought.
"Er, well... I can kinda see where you'd be a little annoyed by that." Marisa shrugged and frowned. "But I won't apologize for doing everything I can to become a better magician. Especially since I started behind to begin with. I suppose not giving your stuff back when you asked for it might've been a little too far, but I'm not gonna hold back just because you don't wanna lose."
Marisa locked her eyes to Patchouli's as they glared at each other across the table. Fortunately for Marisa, Patchouli had the physical presence of a wet beach towel. Unfortunately Patchouli was used to having Flandre use her vampire intimidation tricks on her. Neither budged.
In the end Patchouli smirked. "Well I suppose we are similar in that one way. Whatever it takes to become the greatest magician alive. Though I imagine we have rather different ideas on what that means." Patchouli relaxed back into her chair, and Marisa followed suit. "But you understand my pride as a youkai demands I humble you at least once."
"Ha!" Marisa smirked back. This was more her style. "Sure, anytime. But you'd better be okay with the results, no matter how it ends."
"Hm? You think I'm planning to lose?" Patchouli replied.
Marisa wagged her finger at the elder magician. "You might know more about magical theory, but I know more about fighting and losing." She sighed. "If you fight Reimu a lot you gotta get used to losing after all."
Marisa shrugged. "Anyway it's okay to hate losing, but you gotta be able to take a loss." She frowned at Patchouli. "That's why Alice never goes all out anymore. She can't take a loss like that again. So if you do wanna go at it fine. But don't pick a fight in any field where you'll regret losing forever. I ain't gonna hold back no matter what's on the line."
Patchouli snorted. "I've bargained with devils Marisa Kirisame. Don't tell me how to hedge my bets." The elder magician sighed. "The only place I couldn't stand losing is the one thing that isn't a competition."
"Huh?" Marisa started then gave Patchouli a long look. They were in a contest right now? What could that be?
A few seconds later her cheeks flushed as the answer came to her. "Hey now! You aren't after Alice just because-"
"Don't even insinuate that nonsense," Patchouli snapped. "My appreciation for Alice is purely unrelated to you." Marisa shivered a bit as an evil smile spread over Patchouli's face. "However I would be remiss to not state that I find the idea of forcing you to beg me to join a more... intimate coven to be a source of great personal amusement."
Marisa felt her face getting even warmer. There was- This was- Alice wouldn't let- Well no she might... And what would Marisa do if Patchouli did...
"Well, you two haven't started a danmaku battle. I suppose that means your talk went well."
Marisa spun around, putting those thoughts out of her brain. It wasn't gonna happen, so she wasn't going to think about it! "Alice! You're back. Fun chat?"
Alice felt her eyebrow raising in surprise as Marisa turned to greet her. The black white witch had that unique expression that suggested someone had just embarrassed her. Meanwhile Patchouli was looking mildly amused. Perhaps there was some hope for this coven, if nothing else.
She dropped down into the chair while Koakuma moved to sit next to her master. "Well, I've made my decision. If we are all still agreed?"
Patchouli nodded. "Marisa?"
Marisa shook her head, then picked up her copy of the deal. "So we just sign then?"
"Sign your True Name." Patchouli frowned. "On that note you should probably look into getting yourself a real title or something Marisa, since your name is somewhat well known."
Alice looked askance at the document. "True name? I hope there's some sort of concealment spell on the papers."
"Of course." Patchouli sniffed. "The spell will alter our signatures to fit our pseudonyms afterwards. I won't even get to see them. Anything else would be far too dangerous."
"Darn. I was hoping to hear what name would make 'Patchouli Knowledge', seem like a reasonable pseudonym," Marisa commented. "Well then, if that's it..." The black white witch quickly scrawled some kanji on the paper followed by an arcane rune Alice had never seen before.
Patchouli blinked then nodded. "It seems I underestimated you again." The elder magician looked down and scrawled her own signature on the paper.
Alice stretched before picking up the pen and quickly writing out her own true name. First, the name she'd once had as a little girl, then her title from Makai, 'The girl of death'. As she finished the words glowed then shifted into "Alice Margatroid."
As the final glow faded Alice felt a strange tingle flow through her. It wasn't much, but she could feel her abilities being enhanced. It was a very strange feeling because it didn't come with any sense of increased power, just greater skill. She also somehow knew that Marisa, Koakuma and Patchouli were not only close, but in good health.
"Whoa." Marisa shook her head. "That's gonna take some getting used to."
"Hm... It's not too different from gaining a familiar," Patchouli remarked offhand. "On that note, I take it that the spell worked for you Koakuma?"
Koakuma smiled broadly. "Yep! I can tell you want to get a book to record the spell's effects down, Alice wants to start researching how to better flameproof your dolls, and Marisa wants me not to notice the interesting thoughts she was having right when we entered the room."
"What!" Marisa flushed crimson as everyone turned to look at her. "That's not what I was thinking at all! I was worrying about how I was gonna explain this to Reimu, not that nonsense Patchy was going on about!"
"Aha! So I was right!" Koakuma crowed. Marisa blinked then put her forehead against the table. Patchouli just coughed and hid behind her book.
Alice shook her head and sighed. "I see Patchouli's warning was perhaps not as explicit as it could have been." Maybe it was a good thing Koakuma was a little afraid of her. Still she could sympathize with Marisa's plight. "Well I shall leave you to thinking up your excuses to Reimu for a bit. Koakuma, could you show me to where the elemental enhancement treatises are?"
"Sure!" Koakuma replied sweetly. Patchouli waved as they walked away. Alice was pleased to note that her new power wasn't affected by distance.
They were about halfway across the library when Koakuma said, "I also noticed you really wanted to know what Marisa was fantasizing about. Would you like me to use some of my special spells to find out?"
Alice kept walking as Shanghai whapped the little devil upside the head with a book. It was probably safest to set limits quickly. Especially since they were now connected.
Still this was going to be an interesting couple of years dealing with everything. She was going to have a lot to write home to mother about.
Marisa landed just outside the shrine entrance and paused. She'd spent the flight over from the library trying to think up how to start the conversation, and in the end she'd thought up nothing.
Reimu appeared under the torii, broom in hand. "So, what are you doing here today?"
Marisa forced a smile. "Nothing much. Just felt like dropping by. You actually sweeping today?"
"I was, but I'm done with it." Reimu sighed. "I suppose you'll want tea then?"
"Yep!" Marisa nodded. Tea was a good idea. It'd give her more time to think up a response.
As she followed Reimu up through the torii gates she felt an odd tingling, but as she passed through it faded. It seemed the shrine still had some elements of holiness about it. Still that was the only oddity. She followed Reimu around back and plopped herself on the porch just as always. Reimu went inside to get the tea kettle, while the shrine's black and white cat wandered over and plopped down on top of her feet.
Reimu wandered back out and put down two cups of tea. "So, that's really you Marisa. For a little while I thought it was a tanuki playing tricks on me again. I didn't think you'd go the youkai magician route."
Marisa groaned and leaned back. Of course she couldn't hide it from Reimu. "Yeah... It wasn't really my idea, but mistakes happen." She picked up the tea and took a sip. "My immortality potion was all that and more."
Reimu sipped her tea before giving Marisa a sidelong glance. "I really don't understand why you think humanity and immortality can coexist."
"Yeah, yeah. I got that lecture from Sakuya already," Marisa slumped forward and looked out over the shrine gardens. "So, I guess things will be different, huh?"
Reimu opened her mouth, then closed it again. The miko actually seemed deep in thought. It wasn't a side of Reimu that Marisa was used to seeing.
Finally Reimu sighed and rolled her eyes. "How so? Incidents? You're still going to bust into my investigations because you're a thief. The shrine? My shrine is already infested with youkai, and I never let you near the holy items because, again, you're a thief. Donations?" Marisa chuckled as Reimu fixed her with a death glare. "You never give me those anyway."
Reimu tossed her hands in the air. "So what's the difference? Nothing's really changed."
Marisa laughed again before turning towards the gardens. "I suppose that'll do for now won't it."
"Just don't get too youkai like or I'll tell Sanae to exterminate you," Reimu said.
Marisa thought about that. "More youkai like then I was before? I wonder what I'd have to do. Hibernate maybe?"
"Or only drop by at night."
"Remilia been bothering you again?" Marisa asked.
"You have no idea," Reimu groaned. "Just two days ago..."
The two friends sat and talked together like always, on a perfectly normal day.