Soooo... Here I am, with another totally late chapter.
Which I had a few reasons for, actually, with the biggest one being that my computer crashed on me and took all the data with it, and the last bit of motivation that I had. Since I've kept this chapter so long from you, though, I'll keep this brief, and tell you the same thing I've told both Zurocha and Scourge From BloodClan recently.
Lately, I've been lacking time and motivation for writing, especially when it came to NBP, less so for HoH. I love writing, and I love NBP - I've thought about the plot and the characters and all so much and for so long, too long to just abandon it. But whenever I tried to get some NBP done, I've been sitting in front of a nearly blank screen, and it filled only very slowly. Whenever I did find the time for NBP, though, I've been lacking the motivation, and when I found the motivation for it, I've been lacking the time.
But my muse is back now, the motivation is as well, and the time for NBP has long come. So yeah, ready for (hopefully) more frequent chapters again? This arc is nearly over as well, the arc that had been pretty hard to write so far due to the different kind of fights I have introduced.
Since it is pretty late right now and I do have school later, I'll just skip the "review time" this time, okay? I've never intended for this chapter to appear this late into the weekend, I've meant to update earlier. If people want me to do it, I'll come back and edit it in, okay?
Anyways! This chapter is a little less action focused than the last ones, with no detailed fight since, come on, we had enough of these, and it weren't the last ones. A breather concerning the fights was long due. At the same time, though I hadn't meant to at first, this chapter does contain several important points regarding the future plot, including the introduction of one of the main antagonists of "II-Negative Mind"!
Who could it be, though? Well, that's for me to know, and for you to find out! And that aside, can anybody guess yet how all of this leads to the dark future we've seen at the very beginning of this book? I'm sure not, though there is a hint in this chapter. No major one, though.
Let`s start this totally late chapter already, shall we?
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Touhou/Project Shrine Maiden, as it belongs to ZUN. However, Chôzen Gekido (and his respective personalities), Nanatsu no Taizai, Yume Gekido and Yajû Gekido-Shisô do belong to me, as for I have created them. This goes for all of the other OC's as well.
Chapter 7: A postponed finale
"So this is it... This is the godforsaken land..."
I let my gaze wander around, gaze shifting from one to the next object, taking in every detail, analyzing and observing - I didn't want to, really didn't, but I couldn't do anything against it. Routine, a subconscious list that fulfilled itself.
Just a routine.
My life had always been nothing but routine. Everything kept repeating, my brain and body memorizing what they had to do, eventually working in standby rather than at full power and full awareness. They didn't have to with the way that everything was always the same.
Whenever it seemed like I had done it, like I had finally escaped the ever repeating cycle with my own power, I was just sent back into it. Slight changes don't mean that everything will change.
Slight changes don't mean a thing.
But do I even want a change any longer? That aside, I know what will break me out of this cycle.
Yes, I know the reason why I am punished like this – I'm punished for someone's else fault, someone else's terrible deeds.
Yes, I know why I am in this ever-repeating cycle of indifference. And I do know what will definitely break me out of it. I know the one person that is able to change my life forever.
But I do not want to meet this person, as this person is the one at fault for my punishment, the one I am facing it for.
I hate this person - I hate this person so much, I'd rather stay forever in this cycle of ever-repeating torture. Approaching this person? No, not by choice. I'm not saying that I'll never meet this person, fate has cruel and strange ways when it comes to things you'd rather avoid.
But as long as I can think on my own, I will work against fate. I'll fight the vortex, fight the pull, will not be pulled along by the river of fate, will be a stone in the current, standing strong against it for as long as I can.
But the ravages of time will weaken the stone, down the river of time and fate will nature work against its own creation, and pull the stone away from home, away from where it was created.
"Indeed it is. This is what the humans in Gensokyo refer to as 'the godforsaken land', the Youkai refer to as 'the land no god wants', and the fairies just call 'the area' . Even they aren't as dumb as to go in here... They feel that nature ends here." spoke a fragile voice from below, belonging to the girl that was only nearly a fourth of my own height, "You seem unimpressed."
Letting out a deep sigh, I tilted my head a little and glanced down to my companion, to the doll to my left. Medicine Melancholy stood small as ever, Su-san sitting on top of her head and holding onto her hair. The doll was frowning at me, though there was a hint of indifference in her expression that reminded me of my own face the few times I had seen it in a mirror or when I had passed a window in the outside world's shopping districts.
"I wouldn't call it unimpressed." I replied simply, taking my gaze away from her to once more take in the new surroundings, the swamp that - according to Medicine, at least - was considered alive.
She hadn't been kidding at all when she described the swamp.
Even though my body was immune against it, I could feel the deadly miasma that filled my lungs with each breath and tried to burn through them like acid. Too bad my body just canceled that effect.
But, despite the fact that every breath was hard, it didn't hurt. Quite the contrary - It felt great for me. It felt like the deepest breath of the clearest air you can imagine. Like your lungs being cleaned of all constrictions.
Could I do so, I'd stay there forever, just to experience this feeling.
And the atmosphere didn't really scare me off, either.
The godforsaken land was a dark place, colors of everything around way darker than they should be. If anything, it looked like a shadow was cast upon the land, casting it in darkness. Dead was the land, and dead were the plants – Though 'undead' fit it better.
They did look dead. The earth was of a pale shade of gray, pale as ash. The lily pads floating in the dark and yet clear water were of a dark gray, their oh-so-pretty flowers a shade of dirty white, in clear contrast to the purity that lily pads in other regions of Gensokyo had. They represented the tainted land quite well, rotten in the core, protected by a veil of fake innocence.
Disgusting - and yet so beautiful.
Working against the darkness cast over the land, and yet only helping it's gloomy appearance, were pulsating red vein-like lines that connected everything – The ash-gray and warm trees, the sizzling water and whatever else was part of the swamp. I even spotted a few at the bottom of the body of water that was the closest to me.
They were everywhere in the godforsaken land, tinted it into a weak crimson light that was too weak to really illuminate the swamp, and only seemed to further increase the suspicions that the miasma that, according to Medicine, leaked from Makai into Gensokyo had turned this area into a sentient being.
It didn't seem unlikely. Miasma had done stranger things, especially when it comes in touch with large amounts of magic. They aren't made to meet.
And of course, there was this weird feeling that nothing around me was natural, nothing meant to exist. In fact, it felt so unnatural that I began to feel a slight paranoia, the feeling of someone watching me. With all the fog around that, obscuring the sight of those who did not have eyes like me, would surely mean death once they stepped into one of the huge ravines or the bodies of water, this paranoia only seemed to further increase, not knowing what was lurking beyond the next wall of fog, and not knowing what lay beneath the blankets of the white threat.
The fog was thick – I estimate that a normal person could probably see about 28.17 meters. With my glowing eyes, though, I could see about 46.39 meters, the green light burning through most of the fog in my field of vision, creating a clear cone-shaped area in front of me.
That aside, the fog was without a doubt the result of miasma mixing with the acid waters, and thus just as acidic. Thus the reason that every breath was a sure step closer to death for a normal person.
If the swamp was alive, this paranoia wasn't so far from being the reasonable though, I guess. Staying here for too long would surely damage the mind – Of a normal person, at least. I don't think that my mind can be further shattered than it already is.
"Why again did you want me to see all of this? I can see that you weren't kidding around when you described the godforsaken land, and how it resembles my powers a lot…" I spoke, gaze falling onto the large shallow body of water close to me, "I don't need to drink the water to feel that it is nothing but acid now. The miasma has completely changed it."
Oh yes, and how beautiful it was.
Acid truly was an amazing thing. It worked just like my powers, ending things without leaving back a trace of them ever having existed, save for the memory of those who knew about them. Truly amazing, frightening and yet oh so beautiful...
The godforsaken land was beautiful for someone as wicked, broken and twisted as me.
"You resonate with this area. Your powers go well with it, just like I suspected." offered the doll as reply, spreading her arms, "Welcome to your aspect of death – Death by acid."
I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes – Something I hadn't had in a long while – and sighed at the nearly solemn tone of her voice as she spoke, proud with herself that she had found this area for me. It didn't seem like a present or a favor, not like a good deed – And yet it felt like one.
Did she want me to feel happy? Why would she? It's not like our relationship was the best...
"This area is a pretty amazing location. Until now, I have pretty much been the only one to be able to survive here, the acid killing living beings. For some reason, it does not hurt my inorganic body." she stopped shortly, glanced towards me, a sick smile on her lips, "Or rather, it does not want to hurt my body. This area has accepted me as one of it's own kind, has welcomed me."
She turned completely now, facing me, the smile growing absolutely twisted as she pointed a finger at me, waving it slightly.
"And now I've confirmed that it welcomes you as well. Do you know what that means?" her voice was barely a whisper by now, blending into the 'comfortable' silence of the godforsaken land, soothing and unsettling at the same time, sending a sensation that resembled a cold shiver down my spine, "We're one of a kind, the two of us. I'm poison, you're acid. I kill and leave lifeless bodies behind, you kill and leave nothing behind. In a sense, we both create different kinds of beauty."
As much as I wanted to – I could not disagree. She was right, in every way. We two were very similar, differing only in me being organic and her inorganic, and in the remains we left when we killed.
'Cause sometimes, I too felt like a doll.
"I see now. And I can't disagree." I replied, voice indifferent as usual, face indifferent as usual, even though I was a mess inside. This one encounter with Medicine, just by me being here – I felt things I hadn't felt in a long, long time. Emotions were awoken that had never made sense to me before, and did not now either.
Was this true happiness? Was this the feeling that you had, the warmth that you felt, when someone cared for you?
Could this shunned doll be a kindred spirit?
"I thought so." smirked the creepy doll, turning away from me again, facing towards the depths of the swamp, "Follow me."
"Where to?" I asked immediately, not waiting a single second to hesitate. I did not hesitate. Hesitation only brought pain.
"To meet someone. Someone in this swamp is awaiting you. In between your last visit and this one, I've gone to meet her and tell her about you... And now she is very eager to meet you." replied Medicine simply, no emotion but amusement betraying her voice.
I didn't move from my spot.
"Didn't you say that until now, you've been the only one to survive in the godforsaken land, me being the second one to be able to?" I inquired, but did not raise an eyebrow. I did not do that.
"And I didn't lie." Medicine had stopped now, smirking at me over her shoulder, unrestrained madness tainting her perfect doll-face, "We two are the only beings."
"Then how?" I shot back immediately – and Medicine began to laugh cruelly.
"Because she isn't exactly alive... Nor dead. She isn't undead, either." snickered the Doll Youkai, turning to face me, "She is not existent."
This time, I did frown. Was this doll sure that she was making sense anymore? Had the fog, which just her head was sticking out of, some effect on her sanity? How does something not exist, and yet be? This person had to be, if Medicine did talk with it – And yet it didn't exist?
"How is that supposed to work?" I growled, "How can something that isn't existing interact with that which exists, without being existent?"
Medicine's cruel laugh became hysteric, strangled breaths and shrieks escaping the little being. Had I been someone else, this laughter would surely have invoked fear within me – It was unnatural, even more so than me or the doll itself.
"Just because something does not exist, doesn't mean it never will! Just because something is not exist, doesn't mean it isn't real!" roared the doll in laughter, madness unrestrained and free. (1)
"She was denied life! Denied existence! Dead before born, erased from existence before she existed! She's the betrayed one, the tragic one, the nonexistent one. A girl denied existence, a girl denied life..." continued the mad doll, turning away from me, and once again moving deeper into the fog.
And for some reason, I followed this time.
Anyone else would've turned and made a run for it. But I didn't. Instead, my curiosity was awoken, Medicine's words sending a chill down my spine.
Being denied life... A girl being denied life...
Where had I heard that before?
"Where do we meet this person?" I dared to ask after a few minutes of silent walking, passing poisonous plants with red-glowing blossoms and even stranger mutations of plant life. As time passed and we moved deeper into the godforsaken land, things around us began to differ, colors turning gradually darker, plants growing bigger, in some cases fusing with other plants to create complex structures and pulsating lifeforms.
The strangest thing I saw was some kind of pulsating fruit. I didn't even have to look twice to see that it was alive, different from how normal plants are alive. Conscious is perhaps the best word for it. After all, it did have an eye at the bottom, an eye that followed me as I walked past it.
A reason for this wasn't hard to figure out if one paid at least a little attention - but then again, I was probably the first being in a long time to go this far into the godforsaken land. At least the first being (Medicine Melancholy aside) that would survive and be able to tell others.
The reason for these stranger mutations, darker colors and increasing signs of the swamp actually being a sentient being... It was the growing amount of miasma, more focused.
We had to be close to the heart of the swamp, of the godforsaken land, as the miasma in the air had such concentration that it was blocking out nearly all of the already few rays of sunshine that entered the godforsaken land.
It was getting colder. The fog was creeping around my feet, Medicine completely vanishing in it occasionally, only to reappear when a strong breeze of wind that came from ahead, from where the land was even darker, and brushed the fog away.
The gusts were warm, unlike the air and the fog.
The swamp was breathing.
It was a sentient being.
"We're meeting the heart of the swamp..." I muttered eventually, realizing who Medicine was taking me to. Or rather, what.
"Very observant. I knew you'd figure it out, but I didn't think you'd do so until we're at the heart." snickered Medicine, her voice feral and her tone amused. She turned her head to look at me, I heard the rustling of her clothes and the slightly wooden sound of her neck, though her expression remained hidden from me due to a waft of white fog in front of her face.
"You know... What's it with you and your attentiveness? I've noticed it, even though you're good at hiding it." asked Medicine, the sound of wood implying that she had turned her head away again to 'see' where she was going, "Your eyes are betraying you and your emotionless face. Your eyes, so full of pitifulness and yet so emotionless, the green glow of them gloomy and lifeless... They tend to move, to wander. They see, they take in, they note and memorize..."
Medicine let out a sigh somewhere in the fog, wherever she was.
"How far back does your memory reach? What little things can you remember? Things that others didn't notice, or if they did, already forgot?" asked the doll.
And she had a point.
When I didn't reply immediately, she sighed again and swung one of her little arms, pushing away another waft of fog, allowing me to see her again.
"We're nearly here. She is just behind the wall of bushes ahead." she called out instead.
And, as if the land had heard her voice, it reacted. It changed. It probably had heard her, if the heart was really ahead, and a non-existant person.
Another strong blow of wind, this time long, hot and strong enough for Medicine to hold onto my right leg with her little fingers, followed her words. It was a breath, this time I was sure.
The bushes ahead of us rustled, shook wildly, wood groaning and leaves sighing. I watched, perhaps a little impressed but otherwise emotionless, as the bushes rose, strong branches lifting them off the ground, revealing that their roots had fused to the branches.
It was like a curtain being lifted, a stage opening up for the play, as the bushes rose and created an arch of pale gray-green leaves and gray wood, and fog was pushed away. An impressing sight was revealed, beautiful and imposing, and yet terrifying and creepy.
I had never seen such beauty in my life before, had never seen anything like it. My skin crawled in both fear and amazement, at the sight of the crimson-glowing beauty that shone through the darkness, the clearing tinted in a mixture of black and red.
The clearing was small, fitting maybe about ten people - if not for the large flower in the middle. If not for the beauty that it was.
It was a crimson-glowing flower that was the source of all the red lines that I had seen in the swamp, the lines turning out to be veins or roots after all, connecting to the flower's stem. The flower was closed, a pulsating bulb of violet to red shaded petals that glowed in crimson ever so often, each pulse that moved up turning the clearing crimson.
This was the heart of the swamp, the heart of the godforsaken land, a flower so imposing and beautiful that it's mere sight could be called not from this world, the otherworldly glow pulling on my very soul, gently caressing it and soothingly whispering for me to follow it to this other world.
I was craving to touch it, craving to learn everything about it, and did not understand why. I never had such desires before.
"Medicine. You really have come, and brought a guest, just like you said."
The voice was just as otherworldly as the flower, coming from within the bulb, from the heart of the godforsaken land. It was the voice of the godforsaken land.
"Like I promised." replied Medicine smugly, letting go of my leg and walking into the clearing, stepping through the arch of wood and leaves, spreading her arms like she wanted to hug the flower she approached, "And, did I promise too much? He's it, the one that does not die from your touch and your existence, the one that is embraced by it instead. See how the miasma is filling him? See how the acid is welcoming him? How the fog embraces him like the one it had been searching for many hundreds of years? He is it, he is the godforsaken land's kindred spirit! Your kindred spirit!"
Medicine stopped in front of the pulsating bulb, bathed in it's crimson light, letting the beauty surround her. Not that Medicine herself was not a sight to behold, even if in another way. Looking innocent like a child, possessing the mind of an adult, and the cruelty of sadist.
An interesting, although creepy mixture.
Don't trust her.
"Step closer, come to me. I've observed you since you stepped into my land. I'm interested in you, not just for your immunity to acid and the miasma. Medicine is right, I feel that you are a kindred spirit to me. We are alike in so many ways..." whispered the otherworldly voice to me, sultry and far away, yet so close, a cold shiver and goosebumps moving across my skin.
I did as I was told, did not hesitate or waste a thought on it, moving one foot in front of the other one, stepping into the clearing, basking in the crimson light of the pulsating flower as well.
But that changed quickly.
The pulses became faster and the light stronger, the frequency speed up, but the direction changed - the crimson pulses moved down the bulb, from the tip to the ground.
And then, it happened.
A slight twitch at first, the seventh petal from the left shaking shortly. The length of the pulses increased after that, each brighter and bigger than the one before. The red lines on the ground began to glow as well, obviously transfering the power they were given elsewhere.
Twentysix pulses after the twitch, then the first petal parted from the bulb, falling to the side like a limb that lost it's strength, a wing of a bird that stopped struggling, letting the last bit of life fade from it's body. After the petal had begun to move, the others followed.
The bulb opened up, releasing a slight waft of the same fog I had seen all around, though it quickly dissolved in the last remains of the crimson light. But with the fog followed something else, something leaving the safety of the bulb, breathing in the fog, the miasma and the acid in the air - it was the core of the flower, the true heart of the swamp, of the godforsaken land.
It was a woman of otherworldly beauty, just as beautiful as the flower that it was part of. Her body was fused to the stigma of the flower, her perfect and flawless legs fusing to the flower's center just below her bare knees. She wasn't terribly tall, but not small either, though I could not be quite sure about her true height, with the lower half of her legs missing and replaced by a flower.
Her body was mostly bare, revealing large amounts of very pale, albeit flawless skin, not a single single damage and not a single scar on it. Perfect white skin, pale as snow. Short hair, not quite reaching her shoulders and yet brushing on them as she rose from the slightly tilted position she was in, was topped of with a very large ribbon of red and white that reminded of the Hakurei Miko, with two large cherry hair pins holding her hair in place.
The only article of clothing other than her ribbon was a dress-like blouse, though it was not properly buttoned up at the front, and was lazily hanging off her shoulders, held in place only by her arms, which she had crossed in front of her chest to cover it up.
What really struck me and finally captured me were her eyes. They were the most beautiful thing about her, and just like the rest of her, seemed so otherworldly, just not from this world.
Her eyes, which she opened as she rose from her tilted position, were of a deep amber color, void of emotion, seemingly growing darker as she moved, only to eventually, as she was upright, change into a lavender color - but other than the color, nothing changed. They remained deep, void of emotion and focus, almost as if she was blind, staring straight ahead, straight through me, and were so different from her big smile.
"I've been waiting for this moment ever since Medicine had told me about you... You have me intriqued, something that has not happened in a very long time..." giggled the heart of the swamp in a soothing tone. Intriqued was the right word - I was intriqued when the flower beneath her shifted, tilting towards me, allowing her to lean towards me.
One hand left it's position in front of her chest, traced up the other arm in a soft, slow movement, only to be then extended towards me.
Her hand was like silk, soft and gentle, sliding over my left cheek, caressing it in careful movements. Call it weird, but it was that moment that she extended her arm to me that I already saw a habit of hers - she kept her index finger bend a bit, unlike her other fingers, as she reached for me. It was not the result of an old wound or an incident - It was a habit.
I know what habits look like, how they differ from forced actions. I spot them, memorize them.
Sometimes, I exploit them.
"So you are the non-existent one?" I inquired, slightly amazed at how soft and calm my own voice sounded, relaxed, in contrary to it's usual emotionless nature.
"Non-existent one..." laughed the heart of the godforsaken land softly, shaking her head a bit, smiling all along, "No. Although I have been refused existence, being not allowed to be in a natural way, forced to this unnatural, parasite-like existence I am bound to... I do have a name. A name that I've given myself, based on the species I should have been and somehow am, while also being this parasite that I am, a being that has invaded the land and fused with it with the help of the altered miasma of Makai, that also should not be..."
She leaned even closer, her breath tickling my face, her luscious lips merely inches from mine.
"That should not be, just like the two of us..." she added, a cold shiver moving down my spine as her breath hit my lips. I spotted Medicine over the shoulder of the heart of the godforsaken land, saw how she stood smugly aside the flower's roots, arms crossed and smirking - yes, she had reached her goal, had found a place for me to be, a place where I was accepted.
Where we were accepted by a kindred spirit, that, just like us, had never meant to be.
"Eyes up here..."
The luscious whisper made me turn my gaze back to her face, still hovering so close to mine. Her hand was back, again gently caressing my face, the tip of her bended index finger drawing small circles onto my cheekbone.
"My name..." she whispered, breathed, leaning in so that her lips shortly touched mine - not in a kiss, not in a bite, but yet in an intimate manner - which send a new spark throughout me, another thing I had never felt in this intensity.
"My name..." she repeated again - I was melting to the voice, all barriers I had ever build up slowly breaking apart - and removed her lips, our foreheads touching as she closed her eyes and tilted her head a bit into my direction, true happiness on her face now, lips curled up into a bright smile that was testament of the excitement she felt for having found someone like her in me, a kindred spirit.
"My name is Rin Satsuki, and I am the one that was not allowed existence. I am the Kirin that never was."
So. much. Pain.
Everything is black, yet there is so much pain. My head hurts . At least, the spot where it should be - I'm not quite sure it is there... It's numb, throbs, hurts.
Die... I wanna die... Just want to die... Make it stop… Kill me…
"Is he still out of it?" I heard someone ask – But why was that person so looooud? My head hurts, I can't really stand screaming right now...
"Probably. But, seeing as he is scowling and distorting his face, he seems to hear us. Either that, or he has some really weird spasms that look a lot like the typical signs of a hangover – Irritation, increased noise sensitivity and the expressions and reactions that come with someone talking really loud in their surroundings!" replied someone else, voice increasing towards the end on purpose – I know that voice. That's the sadist of a pharmacist, Eirin...
Were they talking about me? Who is that with Eirin... Meh, probably Reisen, why am I even thinking about it? Not that I'm sure that I'm thinking. I may be missing my head, after all.
"Heeey, Gekiddoooo, do you hear meeee?"
"Stop screaming at me, Eirin, damn it!" I roared upon hearing the pharmacist scream right into my ear. Despite my body still struggling to come alive, I managed to open my eyes and glared at the lunar pharmacist and – true my suspicion – Reisen.
...Only to shut my eyes again as the surprising brightness - Then again, it probably was my eyes being sensitive to light due to the hangover - and curse at the pain.
"Lively as ever, Chôzen." snorted Eirin with a smug smirk as she dodged the punch that I had thrown into her direction, smirk growing when I winced at my headache acting up again. My body went numb and before I knew, I lost balance.
Being on top of a way too small, round table that wasn't supposed to act as bed for someone, this didn't mean anything good.
The hand that had meant to support my weight and assist me in regaining my balance slipped over the edge of the table, and all my weight followed it – The next thing I knew, I hit the ground, the pain flaring up again.
"Nice one. I give nine points for that stunt. You have to work on the landing a bit, though, it wasn't nearly as bad enough for the full ten." snorted Eirin, the sarcasm in her voice more than obvious. I managed to open my eyes and push myself up into a sitting position, glaring at her – And, even though I hadn't meant to, Reisen when she moved a bit, resulting in her cringing away.
"Ah… The eyes of a feral beast, the eyes of a predator, intimidating and cold, silently promising pain and danger. Quite the glare you got, Gekido." Eirin didn't seem to be fazed in the slightest by my glare. That wasn't really a surprise, though – She could be more dangerous than me if she wanted, I guess. And she had experienced the grudge of Mokou for many hundred years now, with her being close to Kaguya – I wasn't nearly as threatening as a mad phoenix, I bet. Not with this headache.
"Whatever." I growled as I turned my glare away, ignoring the pain and pushing myself up onto my feet, only to then nearly fall over as the hangover really kicked in.
Got to be the worst one I ever had. Nausea, headache, loss of balance – Name it, I experienced it.
Suddenly, a hand was in front of my face, proudly presenting a completely white pill to me.
"Here, take it. It cures the hangover… I originally meant to develop something to counteract tiredness, but ended up with this. I could explain how it works to you, but I don't think that you are interested in highly complex functions of the body and reactions to the ingredients of the pill." offered Eirin, nodding towards the pill inside her hand, "Or don't you trust me?"
"I usually don't, especially since the whole thing with the Butterfly Dream Pill and Alice... You're suspicious." I admitted openly, knowing that she'd take it as a compliment, if anything, "But these are times I do trust you."
She waited until I had taken the pill from her hand and swallowed it, not in need of water or anything to down it. The pill had no taste, a smooth surface and went down my throat without as much as a problem. I didn't even leave an aftertaste of any kind.
"Well, knowing a genius like me has its perks, right? Pros and cons, of course." She laughed, her hand sinking down to her side, "Anyways, the pill is entirely safe. It doesn't matter to you, anyways, since your body will negate long-term effects before they really kick in. It's really special, I learned that much. I'd love to dissect you and have a look into your body to see if it is your metabolism that counteracts the long-term effects, or your natural ability to negate, but I fear you won't let me… And I'd never do such a thing without your consent."
I merely let out a grumpy huff to acknowledge what she had said, waiting for the effect to kick in. I really needed the hangover gone – I wasn't entirely assured that my head was there, after all, and not feeling your head is one of the worst things possible.
"Anyways, the pill is entirely safe for most kinds of Youkai and for humans as well. Like I said, complex reactions of the body to the ingredients, yada yada… Should you ever ask me for some, you need to remember one thing, though…" smirked Eirin, becoming a bit nervous, "Don't give one of those to Oni. It has… side-effects. Undesirable side-effects."
"Can't be as bad as a sober Oni…" I muttered, thinking back to the one time I did experience a sober Suika, shortly after I had first awoken without memories. Had been scary as hell, let me tell you that.
"Worse. A lot worse." Eirin shuddered a bit as she replied, hugging herself as if she felt a chill. I rose an eyebrow at that, confused as to what would make Eirin shiver in fear, which she saw.
"This pill… The basic effect that it has is to clean the body of any traces of alcohol. At the same time, it fights the symptoms of a hangover… Give an Oni one, and they will sober up in about a minute. The more alcohol you have in your system, the stronger and faster is the effect. Think of it like an avalanche…" replied Eirin, "At the same time, the pill has a side-effect on Oni… Basically, it makes them hallucinate. And what is worse than a hallucinating berserker?"
I shuddered as well this time, thinking of a gigantic sober Suika fighting Youkai Mountain because she thought it was picking a fight.
No thank you very much!
The effect of the pill was slowly kicking in by now, I could feel my head again from the chin up, the numbness and the headache slowly leaving. At the same time, though, I realized another thing.
With the pain from my headache gone, and the numbness of the last traces of alcohol in my system, another pain made itself noticeable.
"Aw crap!" I cursed, somehow holding myself back from more colorful words as my back suddenly started to ache and throb, "The hell?! Who stabbed me in the back?!"
"Nobody." replied Reisen, sweatdropping, "You kinda… fell asleep on that table, if you don't remember."
I turned to look over my shoulder at the table in question – taking note that Mima was no longer underneath it, meaning she had woken up before me and left – and shuddered. Yeah, the table wasn't exactly big or anything. No wonder my back hurt like hell.
As I did this, I also took notice of something else – And sweatdropped heavily.
The canteen was in a bad state. And with bad, I mean a really bad state.
Literally nothing was left in a good state. Even the floor had a few holes and burns in it, testament to the fight that had broken out the night before.
Splintered wood from broken tables was everywhere, the bar had a huge part of it missing - which, for some reason, was protruding from the ceiling above it - and the walls were cracked, and broken glass was lying around. shattered tankards lay in between, along with the one or other bottle, and Suika's gourd, with the owner clinging to it like it was a pillow.
One of the chandeliers had come down at some point during the night, and lay now shattered on the ground, someone that looked suspiciously like Sanae trapped underneath. Not that she was awake.
And of course, there were the other participants of yesterday's party. A few of them were awake and seemed to already have received their treatment, like Yamame, who was sitting on the bar with Kisume on her lap – Others weren't as lucky, though.
Aside from Mokou and Kaguya in the corner at the only intact table aside the one I had laid on - fine due to their immortality, each death returning their body to perfect health - most of those who were awake and had not received a pill from Eirin were clutching their heads or their stomach – And judging by the smell of bile, some of them had thrown up as well.
But then, there were others, who were not awake yet, still knocked out, like Marisa, who was hanging over the bar near Yamame. The Aki Sisters lay in the ground in a pile of bodies – Guessing from what little I saw of those underneath them, Letty, Nitori and Hina – and Komachi, who sat against the bar, knocked out, on top of an equally unconscious Mystia.
Poor Mystia, though...
Still... Must've been one heck of a fight that broke out after I fell asleep. Which brings me to the question of my own sanity - I mean, come on, how sane could I be for sleeping on THAT table?!
Guh... My head still feels like it's about to split in half. I hope Eirin's medicine will kick in soon.
...I'm good at comforting myself, really.
Still, the damage done to the canteen is enormous, huge, with signs of it lying around everywhere in shape of broken objects and hungover and defeated participants - Man, that fight must've been truly epic! Now I regret falling asleep, I could've been part of that! I missed that, too!
...Not that any of the actual participants would remember the fight, with how hungover they are. Say what you want about Mima, she knows how to throw a party!
"Hm? Still here, Gekido?"
It was Eirin's voice that pulled me out of my thoughts, making me shudder in surprise, and then turn my head into her direction. I must've spaced out for several minutes, as Eirin and Reisen had moved on to treat someone else, namely Merlin Prismriver and Wriggle Nightbug.
I watched as Eirin handed Merlin the same kind of pill she had given me a moment ago, Wriggle having already swallowed the one Reisen had given her.
"You should really head back to your room, Chôzen... I've met Nanatsu last night when I was on the way to the infirmary, and she didn't look too happy about you not being there. She heard from someone about the party Mima was throwing in here, and I guess she kind of put one and one together." chuckled Reisen uneasily.
I chuckled in the same manner.
Damn, I was in quite a problem, wasn't I?
"Chôzen Gekido, do you have any idea what kind of problem you're in?!"
I groaned against the cool surface of the table, not daring to lift my throbbing head a single inch.
How I had ended up with my head throbbing and on the partially broken table, with me sitting on my knees, hands bound behind my back with chains, aside it? I kind of don't know.
All I remember is opening the door and stepping into the room I shared with Nanatsu, Rumia and my daughters. Nanatsu had looked up from the book she was reading by the table.
And then, two red streaks in the air that grew closer, then a sharp pain as a fist impacted with my stomach, my body pathetically giving up on remaining upright, the rattling noises of the chains on Shi no Taizai behind my back as my hands were trapped in the cold metal, followed by someone yanking on my hair, then lifting me up and throwing me across the room, right onto the table, which immediately gave in under the weight, one leg breaking.
When I had tried to get up, the hand reappeared and yanked on my hair, pulled it up, and then slammed it down on the cool surface of the table, the whispered threat of god-knows-what happening to me once I would try to get up.
Yeah, that's how I ended up like that.
"Damn Yume, your mother always manages to surprise me again and again. Dad didn't even stand a chance." I heard Yajû guffaw somewhere to my right, over where the futons were. Not that I could disagree with what she had said – I had never stood a chance at that moment, with how furious Nanatsu was.
And just when Eirin's pill had finally begun to work, too... The headache I was feeling now was not going to be cured by it!
"Mom, go easy on Dad..." I could heard Yume plead, although I knew it would fall on deaf ears with the way that Nanatsu had gone 'Third Sin – Ira' one me.
I could feel the heat of her burning scythe-turned-battleaxe uncomfortably close to my back...
"What do you have to say to defend yourself?!" roared Nanatsu into my left ear, making sure to apply more weight to my head so that it definitely would not be able to move away from the table.
"Watch it, Chô. Everything you will say will be used against you." laughed Rumia from the other side of the broken table, though I could not see what she was doing there, "Joke aside, didn't I tell you not to go to a party?"
"Come on, it was free food! And free booze!" I called out, even though I knew that this had to be the worst thing to say. I was reassured of that when Nanatsu put even more pressure on my head.
"So you can be bribed with free food and free booze?! You're that easy to have, eh?!"
"I told you she'd use it against you." commented my other wife, probably shrugging the same nonchalant way she always did when she said something like that. At least her voice sounded like she'd do so.
"Nanatsu, please calm down..." I begged, the position slowly growing uncomfortable. Then again, it could've been worse. She could've tied me up and let me dangle from the ceiling upside-down. With her hidden sadism, it was not an entirely unlikely thing.
"Yeah, calm down, 'natsu. He learned his lesson, I'm sure."
Oh, you did not sound convinced at all, Rumia.
But at least Nanatsu seemed to be calmed down by it, relaxing a bit, her hand letting go off my head and finally allowing me to rise – even though I did so very slow and careful, fearing she might lash out again.
Instead, though, the moment that I was sitting upright a wooden hammer and a box of nails was shoved against my chest roughly – not that I could hold them, my hands were still bound behind my back, after all, and so, the hammer sled down my right leg, followed by the box of nails, which immediately fell over and spilled most of it's contents onto the ground.
"Fix the table!" she commanded, before nodding down to the nails on the ground, "And pick those up!"
"Yes, Nana..." I groaned, leaning forwards, just a bit, so that she could unwrap my hands. She really did so without another word, thus finally making me relax. The worst part was over. Now I just had to pick up the nails and fix the table...
I sent a glance around the room as I picked the nails up. Either Rumia had moved, or I had been wrong about her position, as she was sitting comfortably on the couch, grinning smugly at me, arms spread across the backrest, with Yume and Yajû on either side of her. Yajû was smirking, too, while Yume looked rather worried on the other hand.
She had never enjoyed displays of violence, much unlike Rumia and her daughter.
Nanatsu had apparently really calmed down somewhat, having flopped down on a chair on the other side of the broken table and having picked up her book again, which she had thrown aside to attack me, and was now flipping through it, apparently trying to find the page she had been on before. She was still huffing a bit, but she didn't seem like she'd explode again, or be violent once more.
"Never a dull moment with this family." commented Yajû with a snicker, and though this reminded me of Yume having spent time with Yûgure the day before, I decided not to ask.
Not Yajû or Yume, at least.
The wilder daughter of mine was reading some kind of book, which was already highly unusual. At least until I managed to get a glimpse at the cover, and thus the name. It was a book about the weapons of Gensokyo, both about those build and those used in here, a book I was sure that it was from Yuuka's collection at Mugenkan. I think I saw it back when we invaded Mugenkan to find out what Mima had planned... And that was twenty years ago.
Did this mean that Yajû was thinking about picking up a weapon? It probably was for the better with her lack of magic, and though I knew that she was the wild one and that she'd always be the one to search for fights, I didn't quite like the idea.
She was, after all, the one that had to be protected.
"Yuuka was here this morning, by the way." began Nanatsu only a few seconds after I had spotted the book, having just flipped a page, but without looking up, revealing that she was still a little pissed after all, "Don't look at me like that... Yes, it's already noon. In fact, if you didn't go through the main arena, the fight between Utsuho's team and Yuugi's team should've already started a while ago. They relocated it from this evening to noon while you were gone. They got the arena fixed a little earlier than they thought, and decided that they didn't have to wait until sunset."
Okay, she had me. I really didn't go through the heart of the arena, the room which the battles were fought in, to avoid more reasons for my headache, knowing that the volume would've been a problem. But the fight was already in full swing? Damn it, I wanted to see it! I knew I had to fix the table as fast as possible and leave if I wanted to see the rest of the fight right then.
"Really?" I asked aloud, then placing two nails between my teeth, picking up the hammer and a third nail, only to then murmur around the nails, "What'd she want?"
"Drop off this book." replied Yajû instead, looking up from the book I had suspected to belong to Yuuka, "She heard of my lack of magic, and said she knew what it was like. I'm not sure about the stuff she ranted about after that, but I think it had something to do with her 'knowing what it felt like without magic', and how to counter that."
She looked down at the book.
"This contains some pretty neat stuff. Did you know that there was a Youkai at one point who wielded a gun-sword? Just how awesome is that?" she added, eyes sparkling in excitement. I rolled my eyes – she really reminded of her mother.
"She also wanted to inform us that she'd be dropping by later with Mima, and that she'd bring along someone else as well... Actually, they should be here any minute now." muttered Nanatsu, before she suddenly glowered at me over the top of her book, "So you better fix that table fast... We don't want our guests to sit at a broken table, right?"
I had to bite my tongue to hold back the 'you were the one who broke it'-comment.
"Actually, you were the one who broke it, 'natsu, and you're the one who is more talented when it comes to craftmanship. So shouldn't you... URGH!" Rumia was interrupted by a seat cushion hitting her in the face, bouncing off it and flying high up into the air, but not without leaving a nice imprint on the Angel of Death's face.
The only ones able to throw a seat cushion with enough velocity to actually hurt someone, at least the ones that came to my mind at that moment, were Yuuka, Nanatsu and Yume - and with Yume too reserved and shy to do something like that, and Yuuka not even in the room, it was pretty obvious as to who threw it, right?
See? That's why I held back on the comment.
"Your mother is on a rampage." commented Yajû, leaning past her writhing and cursing mother to poke her half-sister in the side, "Wonder if you'll ever end up like that, Yume. Would be pretty terrifying..."
I watched as Yajû leaned back and sunk deeper into the couch.
"And they say that my mother is nuts. Push your mother's buttons, and she'll... UGH, FU...!"
Yajû joined her mother in cursing and writhing in pain when another seat cushion flew through the room and impacted with her stomach, causing her to double over and drop the book she had been holding.
Nanatsu really was pissed this time.
"Language, young lady! I did not try my best to help Rumia to raise you with manners for you to pick up your mother's foul and colorful vocabulary!" bellowed Nanatsu, the third seat cushion already in hand, holding it like a frisbee.
Wait, why is she pointing that at me?!
"I'm working! I'm doing my best! Going as fast as I can!" I sputtered, realizing I had stopped fixing the table to watch the chaos unfold before me, and quickly turned back to the broken furniture, picking up the hammer again, and hissing as my tongue came in contact with the sharp end of one of the nails, which I still had between my lips.
"Good boy." snorted Nanatsu, relaxing back into her seat, dropping the seat cushion back onto the chair to her right. I huffed and rolled my eyes after I made sure she wouldn't see it, and rolled my shoulders. My body still didn't feel like it should, although it probably didn't have anything to do with my hangover anymore, or with the night on that table.
Fixing the table after that was only a matter of about two minutes. After ensuring that the table and the leg were in right position, all it took were the nails and a few hits with the hammer, and then the table looked – well, not as good as new, but it would do.
If one ignored that the leg looked a little broken. It would hold as long as no one put lots of weight on it.
"Done." I huffed as soon as I was done and rose from my crouched position, admiring my half-assed attempt at fixing the table.
Remind me again, why was it always me who ended up fixing things that others broke using me? Like, when Kanako destroyed the roof of the Moriya Shrine twice during fights with me, or when Yuuka threw me into the Moriya Shrine.
How come it's always the Moriya Shrine that ends up broken, by the way? And why was I always included in it when it did? Some cruel running gag of fate, perhaps?
Nanatsu looked up from her book, rose an eyebrow at the table.
"It will do." she admitted, though she didn't look too happy with it, but went back to her book nonetheless, "The wood is not exactly the best, though. But that's what you get when you use wood from when the Moriya Shrine broke that one time."
Definitely a running gag of some higher entity. But it does explain a lot.
"Yukari's work, I assume? It would be fitting for her to use stuff no one else would use." I conceded, shrugging.
"Yeah, like trains, street signs, other people's weapons, weaknesses, thoughts, past problems and failures, things one wouldn't expect to be a weapon... For example, icecream…"
"Good to see that you're back. I was kinda worried when you were so quiet."
"I guess so." muttered Nanatsu, finally looking up and putting her book aside, "Anyways, Yuuka and Mima should be here any..."
"The party has arrived!"
We all looked at the cheery Yuuka in the doorway with a frown. Seeing her this happy, I knew that something must've happened today for her to have such a good mood. And when something good happened for Yuuka, it's most certainly not good for someone else.
I learned what it was when she stepped aside and pointed behind her.
"And look, I brought the colorful lights for our party."
Although it weren't exactly lights that Yuuka was referring to, what she was pointing at certainly was colorful. Standing behind Yuuka was a noticeably less amused Mima, her clothes torn and ripped, her hat having large claw-gashes in it, and her cape missing. To say that she looked a little beaten up was an understatement, and the fact that she was beaten blue and green, which Yuuka had referred to as 'colorful', certainly didn't help the beaten appearance of the spirit.
"G'day." was all that Mima grumbled as she flew into the room, growling to herself.
"What happened to her?" sniggered Rumia, drawing everyone's attention to her – only to remember that her face didn't look any better than Mima's, with the imprint of the dangerous projectile – the seat cushion, which was a dangerous projectile in Nanatsu's hands – still in her face.
Then again, virtually everything was a dangerous projectile in the hands of a woman with such incredible physical strength, which made Nanatsu, Yuuka and Yume to very dangerous individuals, even if the latter one only in a limited way due to her shy personality.
"That annoying brat happened." growled Mima as she flopped down on a chair, letting her head rest on the recently fixed table.
"Remilia." I translated for the others who hadn't understood, a little amused at my friend and enemy's state, particularly amused at the claw marks and cuts all over her arms and face.
"She wasn't too happy about Mima's idea of 'redecoration' of her lounge yesterday." replied Yuuka, not even trying to hide her amusement, "And she certainly didn't like it when Mima used magic to restore the Scarlet Devil Lounge, and made everything scarlet in the room blue. Including Remilia's scarlet nails."
"I like blue a lot more than red!" shouted Mima without raising her head, trying to defend herself. That she childishly hammered her fists onto the table didn't help.
"But it isn't your lounge." countered Yuuka – and won the argument with that, as Mima rose her head and opened her mouth to say something, failed to find a retort, and just collapsed back onto the table. It groaned loudly under the spirit's weight, and I shuddered. Thankfully, it did not break again.
"Could be mine if you'd let me start a war with the brat..." muttered Mima under her breath, not daring to say it out loud and turn Yuuka's wrath upon her, and I was sure that I was the only one who heard it.
"That aside..." began Nanatsu eventually after looking at the defeated Mima for a moment, turning to Yuuka now, "Didn't you want to introduce us to someone? That was the entire point of your visit, if I understood what you said this morning right."
Yuuka rose an eyebrow, but then shrugged.
"She was interrupted. She..." Yuuka was interrupted by the door opening, as if on cue. A pale, slender hand on the doorhandle was the first thing that I saw, followed by an arm of the same unnatural pale shade of skin. It reminded me a lot of the pale skin of a vampire.
What followed that arm was, to put it simple, a second Yuuka.
Tall, pale skin, green hair, pink parasol strapped horizontally across her lower back – Yuuka.
But she did not wear the same clothes as Yuuka, her style clearly different from the Flower Youkai's.
The clothes she wore were from the outside world, pretty recent, I could tell that much with a single glance after having lived there the last twenty years. A simple white tank-top with a back flower design on the left covered her upper body, accompanied by a pair of light blue jeans, and a pair of sandals to top her appearance off.
This was not Yuuka, and yet looked so much like her that I'd mistake her for the Flower Youkai any day.
Before I could send a confused glance towards the real Flower Youkai, the other Yuuka who had just entered the room spoke up after a heavy sigh.
"I'm sorry I'm late, but I was interrupted." she spoke, her voice soft and soothing, very formal and gentle, as she closed the door behind her and turned to face us, "I ran into Hina Kirisame, and we..."
To my shock, causing not only me to cringe, it was Yume who had exploded like that. It was so out of character for her that I actually turned my head to look at her.
I didn't have to turn my head for long.
Yume and Yajû had both jumped up after Yume's cry, with Yume having dropped into what was definitely a defensive stance, one that I knew from Nanatsu, who must've taught her. Yajû, on the other hand, didn't stop for such a thing, and instead charged, rushing right towards me. She nearly knocked into me, and before I really had understood what was going on, had leapt onto the table.
Recognizing the tactic - knowing it from my past fights with and against Rumia, who Yajû had learned most things from - I understood that she had tried to get the advantage by having a higher point and falling towards her enemy after a jump from the table. However, I could only cringe as the table gave in under the weight of the girl, the broken leg I had half-assed nailed back onto the table snapping apart, resulting in the opposite end of the table rocketing upwards.
Mima's cry of pain filled the room as the end of the table slammed into her chin and knocked her backwards, followed by Yajû's strangled gasp of surprise as the table vanished from beneath her feet, resulting in her falling sidewards off the table, falling on top of Nanatsu.
The situation wasn't over, Yume taking her sister's place in an attempt to assault the Yuuka-lookalike. I was still too shocked, things were happening too fast, my quiet daughter turning into nothing short of a berserker, her steps uncharacteristically loud and heavy as she charged past the flipped table like a train.
The other Yuuka must've been too shocked as well, was caught off guard when Yume slammed into her with the enormous force of the Taizai-Bloodline, and pushed her up the wall.
To say that I was shocked at the display of violence that my older but until now much shyer daughter showed to us, the wall cracking under the force that the Yuuka-lookalike was slammed into it, then pushed up against it, Yume's hand around her throat, leaving her to choke and fight the grip, was an understatement.
"What did you do to Hina this time!?" roared Yume, her voice uncharacteristically loud and threatening, her eyes cold and hard with anger.
Out of character.
The Yuuka-lookalike merely sneered, having finally caught on as it seemed, and stopped struggling against Yume's grip. A malicious grin had spread across her lips as she eyed Yume with her left crimson eye, her right one covered by her own hair after the impact with the wall had disheveled it.
"You didn't win, so I don't have to stop bullying her. Now that you remind me, you still owe me a little something, ain't that right?" sniggered the younger Yuuka, the Yuuka-lookalike, all of the politeness and gentleness gone from her voice, replaced by maliciousness and a sardonic undertone.
That was enough.
Before Yajû got a chance to untangle herself from Nanatsu and rejoin into the fight, I had used a burst of negative energy, released through my feet, to jump from my seated position across the room, right to the two fighters. I had to interfere, I knew that, but the problem I was faced with as I stood aside them was the next thing I had to worry about.
Wanting to break up the fight, I had placed a hand on Yume's shoulder in an attempt to push her away from the Yuuka-lookalike she hated for some reason, and the other, bony hand onto the shoulder of the green-haired girl.
But neither of them, not even Yume, was paying any attention to me.
Instead, the Yuuka-lookalike even rose a hand and slammed it forward, hitting Yume in the face with her palm, fingers curling around the head of my older daughter, nails trying to dig into her skin - But with no result, Yume's resistance to attacks, which she had inherited from Nanatsu along with the Shinigami's strength, kicking in.
The two combatants just stood there, each with a hand dangerously placed on the other one, glaring each other down, Yume's expression uncharacteristically hard, and the Yuuka-lookalike's with a hint of amusement.
Knowing that this could only get more dangerous, I tried to actually force the two apart - Only to learn that both of them possessed physical strength that surpassed my own, both probably nearly on a level with that of Nanatsu. My attempt was futile.
Thankfully, the situation was saved by Yuuka, who had moved right after I had, appearing in my field of vision on the other side of the two fighters. I quickly let go and fell two steps back, knowing what was to follow. I didn't even blame Yuuka for anything when she suddenly swung her right arm, using her own incredible physical strength, and slammed her hand into Yume's upper body, right at the height of her sternum.
A strangled choke, that was the only thing that escaped Yume as she was thrown backwards through the room, slamming into the side of the flipped table, finally releasing the poor thing from it's disfigured existence as it shattered into a thousand pieces of wood, only to bounce off it and hit the wall on the far side of the room.
Yuuka wasn't any more gentle with the other combatant. From the position she had ended up with after she had slammed Yume through the room, body turned to the right, she made a quick and powerful step backwards, her elbow hitting home, slamming right into her lookalike's face, sending it into the wall again.
The room looked like a tornado had gone through it, with two walls broken and cracked, and the remains of the poor table scattered throughout it, as well as Nanatsu and Yajû on the ground, the bruised Rumia on the couch, Yume resting nearly unconscious against the wall under a huge hole in it, and Mima crying in the corner as she held her throbbing chin.
If anyone would've walked in at that moment, he would've thought that a battle royale had errupted in the room, or had been moved from the canteen to here.
"... what the shit just happened?" muttered Rumia as she took in the sight in front of her, apparently still trying to understand what was going on before her, and thus asking the question that nearly everyone was asking themself at that moment.
The whole thing wasn't over, though, as Yume had regained control of her body, and had picked herself up from the wall, ready to charge right at the two Yuukas again.
"Stay where you are!" I bellowed at nearly exactly the same moment as Yuuka, both of us having moved to threaten Yume. Not that I liked the idea, but I didn't like the idea of my quiet daughter going all berserker either, which was why I had lifted my bone hand and had charged it with unstable negative energy, a green orb hovering in front of my palm, green lightning moving in between my hand and the orb. Yuuka had also turned and had drawn her parasol, pointing it at Yume with her right hand, while not taking her left hand away from her lookalike's face.
Yume had stopped and now just stood there, eyes darting in between me, Yuuka and the Yuuka-lookalike, a mixture of uncertainty and anger in them. Nanatsu and Yajû had untangled as well by now and sat on the ground, curious at the situation, while Rumia was still frowning, and Mima had finally calmed down and had turned her head to look at us.
I didn't lower my hand, but carefully let my gaze wander from Yume to the Yuuka-lookalike on my other side, trying to understand the weird situation we now were in. Seeing that the Yuuka-lookalike was holding her face, blood dripping from her broken nose onto her hand, and down onto her white tank-top, I turned my gaze back to Yume.
"Yume?" I spoke, not even surprised at the seriousness in my voice, "Care to explain?"
Yume shifted her gaze to me, eyes still hard with anger, before glaring back at the one who had awoken this anger in the first place.
Seeing Yume like that made me worry, since it was so unlike her to express any anger or violence, especially in such a way. I would've expected it from Yajû, who after all was the daughter of Rumia and Insanity, but this was the shy Yume we were talking about.
"That's what I like to know, too." agreed Yuuka, her dangerous gaze shifting back and forth between the two fighters we had just seperated, her eyes seemingly radiating a more dangerous crimson than usual, before staying on her lookalike, "Hanabira?"
The lookalike reacted to that, obviously since it was her name. She turned her gaze to the one she looked like, and huffed.
"Nothing you have to worry about..." spat Hanabira, cold and spite, "Just collecting a debt."
"One of your stupid deals again, then? I was expecting such a thing when I saw you and Yume fighting..." grumbled Yuuka, her eyes hard and threatening, "What was the bet?"
Our gazes shifted to Yume, who was still in the same aggressive stance, though I could see that she was now more cooperative than a moment before. Her eyes were still cold, their lack of actual color added to that giving them the appearance of silvery ice, or cold mirrors, perhaps even frozen moons over a lake at night.
"Based on the outcome of that fight, she'd either stop bullying Hina Kirisame, or I'd tell her my last name and where I had my strength from." growled Yume, her eyes narrowing a last time at the Yuuka-lookalike, before she rose to her full height, dropping out of her fighting stance.
"We lost." chimed in Yajû in a displeased tone, though surprisingly more relaxed than Yume. I didn't miss the odd glance that Hanabira and Yajû shared though, which, for some reason, ended with Yajû glancing down at Hanabira's left hand, which was covered up to the elbow in a long leather glove.
"At least you held your end of the bargain up, Yume." chuckled Hanabira, her glance wandering from the irritated daughter of mine to my first wife, "So you're none other than the daughter of the one being that could possibly rival the physical strength of Yuuka Kazami... Now I see where you got your strength from. You're last name is Taizai then?"
"Gekido. 'no Taizai' is a title, not a name." I corrected her, even though I felt that Yume would not be too happy with it, even though she seemed to owe Hanabira that. The Yuuka-lookalike nodded in amusement, before glancing towards Rumia, obviously answering her second question herself, knowing that, if Yume and Yajû were half-sisters, Yajû's mother would be my other wife.
"Yes, this explains why I've never met you two before... You haven't been in Gensokyo." spoke Hanabira, although seemingly to herself, her gaze wandering from Rumia back to Yajû, and then Yume, her grin growing more nasty, "How sad. I bet we would've had lots of fun together."
I knew I didn't like her from exactly that moment on. That would be the second girl of the newer generation of Gensokyo that I didn't like, Yûgure being the first. Why I didn't like them? They corrupted my little girl, changed her, caused the fragile girl to be different from her true self, made her embarassed and came to close, or corrupted her pure heart with blind hatred.
Speaking of Yûgure, I knew that I would have to keep an eye on her, though I didn't plan on heading to the Scarlet Devil Mansion that day, wanting to continue what I had begun the day before - meeting old acquaintances, friends and enemies.
Sad, as I really wanted to hear what the sisters had to say about their fight the day before, especially Flandre's and Koishi's view on the fight, and of course that of Meiling and Sakuya. But one had to set priorities, and there were too many people I had yet to meet again, while I had seen the two pairs of sisters each and every day since my return now.
But before that, there was a situation to be taken care of, a situation to be defused.
My gaze met that of Yuuka, the Flower Youkai apparently just as irritated and serious as I was. We both knew that we had to defuse the situation somehow. And she knew what I was asking for, knew what my gaze meant, and yet did not do a thing, just continued to stare at me.
I didn't know why, but I was about to find out.
"Keep her under control." I spoke, not quite commanding, and nodded to Hanabira, the Yuuka-lookalike. At the same time, I dared to move from my spot, not caring that all the attention of the room now was upon me. With quick, secure steps, I crossed the room, passed Nanatsu and Yajû, as well as the broken table.
Ending up in front of Yume, I stared her dead in the eye, let her know, with a gaze alone, that I wasn't only disappointed, but also confused and irritated. I had always been sure that she was the calm one, the one to think before she acted, the pure and innocent one.
And yet, she had let the rage, the anger and the hatred cloud her mind.
She cringed as I rose my hand, and without a word, laid it onto her left shoulder, on purpose using the bony hand to give her a scare that hopefully would pull her back into reality. She really didn't seem to comfortable with the dead and long past rotten hand on her shoulder, and finally dropped the last bit of hostility to lower her head in shame and embarassment, knowing her faults.
"Yume." she cringed again when I spoke her name, turned her gaze away, not able to face me. I let out a deep sigh and closed my eyes, let the situation sink in. And with each second that passed, Yume began to grow more uncomfortable, fidgeting under my hand.
"Yume..." I began again, let the disappointment clearly flow into my voice, "I think it's best if you go for a walk. You should clear your head."
She knew it was not a suggestion, as much as it sounded like one. But it was not a punishment either. Instead, it was a command out of concern, worried about whatever had gotten into her.
I hope she knew that, at least.
Being who she was, she did not complain or fight it. Instead, as soon as I lifted my hand from her shoulder and released her, she brushed past me, not once lifting her gaze to meet mine.
However, as I turned to watch her go, I noticed that she did lift her gaze to meet that of the other people in the room. The first one she glanced at was Rumia, being the closest to us, though all she got from Rumia was a short nod. As her gaze wandered to Nanatsu, she got the same response - a short confirmation in shape of a nod, telling her that she should listen to me.
For a short moment, Yume's and Yajû's gazes met, but it remained at that, no reaction from either of them, save for Yume turning away again, this time to meet Mima's gaze. No exchange of any sorts happened between the two, same going for Yuuka as Yume turned to meet her gaze as she walked past the Flower Youkai.
Only as Yume and Hanabira locked gazes did I see another reaction. Curiosity and confusion from Hanabira, a look that was neither only pity for the broken nose, nor fully irritation from Yume, though a hint of anger was mixed into it, a short flash of something that looked - though I wasn't sure due to the fragment of a second that I saw it in Yume's clear eyes - like disdain.
And then, finally, after Yume had passed her as well, the young Shinigami left the room, the door falling nearly soundlessly into the lock behind her.
She wasn't angry or irritated, wasn't sulking or anything like it. She was embarrassed at how she had lost control, and was aware of her guilt because of it.
Silence reigned in the destroyed room after Yume had left, no one, not even Hanabira daring to move. No one but Nanatsu and Rumia dared to look at my face, though the only thing I could read in their expression was support and reassurance that I had done the right thing.
It still didn't feel right.
Swallowing the anger that was welling up inside me, anger at myself and anger at this girl named Hanabira for causing something like this in Yume, I closed my eyes, balled my fists and took a deep breath.
I had to calm down, for my own good. Picking a fight now was not what I should do, as this would not be a friendly fight. And the last thing I wanted was for Mima or Yuuka to become my enemy again, losing their trust and friendship.
Picking a fight with Hanabira would trigger that, I was sure of it.
The sight I opened my eyes to, though, immediately sparked the anger anew. Hanabira had turned back to the door she had entered through, the very same door that Yume had just left through - and I knew what she had in mind.
Yuuka knew, too.
Her hand slammed down on her lookalike's shoulder. Immediately, Hanabira turned her head to glare at Yuuka, her nose still bleeding a bit from the elbow Yuuka had slammed into her face.
"I'm not going to tell you what to do, you should know that best yourself." spoke Yuuka, voice cold and threatening, "But let me still give you an advice. Do not follow her, do not fight her, do not interact with her. Do not do that to yourself. You'll just turn the anger of four beings at you, and even your mother won't be able to save you from that."
Four beings - I knew that Yuuka was refering to herself, Nanatsu, Rumia and me. I knew that she did not approve of what Hanabira had done, and would not do if Hanabira continued to do that.
I watched as Hanabira's gaze, not changing from the glare, turned to Mima for a second - But Mima stared right back at her, just as serious as everyone else, not blinking once. Hanabira seemed to understand that Mima was confirming what Yuuka had just said, nodded once to the evil spirit.
And left the room, after all.
The door slammed into the lock this time, quite unlike how soundless it had been when Yume had left. Silence fell upon the room anew, Yajû's nervous gaze darting from one to the other, never staying on anyone for long, and not daring to meet anyone's serious gaze.
The mood was serious, was bad, and anything but comfortable.
"I... Uh..." Yajû hesitated, especially when all the attention in the room was suddenly upon her. She rose slowly, carefully, almost as if any wrong, fast or unexpected movement would cause a beast to lunge at her. The first thing she did as soon as she stood was to take a few steps away from Nanatsu, who had been right aside her, and only after bringing a few steps between her and the Shinigami did she turn back to us.
"I'll go after Yume and see if she's alright..." informed us the young Angel of Death, but didn't wait for any confirmation or reply. In a matter of seconds, her steps being the only thing that resounded in the room, she had walked over to the door, had pulled it open, and had left as well.
For the third time, the door closed, this time neither soundless, nor loud. And with the door closing behind Yajû, only Nanatsu, Rumia, Yuuka, Mima and I were left in the nearly destroyed room.
I cast a glance around, wondered who would speak up first. Yuuka wasn't facing me, staring at the wall to the right of the door. Mima hovered in the corner she had retreated into to tend to her chin, and was now staring right back at me, though she glanced over to Yuuka ever so often. Rumia was nervously glancing around, being the only one to be not fully involved into the situation; while Nanatsu still sat by the broken table on her knees, looking down at the ground right in front of her, apparently trying to understand what she had experienced just now, how Yume had not quite been herself, as well.
Raising an eyebrow, I turned to Yuuka, finding that, while the Flower Youkai hadn't moved, she had closed her eyes.
"What for? How is this your fault?" inquired my first wife, snapping out of her own thoughts to glance at the Flower Youkai. Yuuka turned to her in return, their gazes meeting, though neither of them carried any emotion within their gaze.
Yuuka didn't respond. Instead, she let out a growl and balled her fists. I knew she was angry, and had a pretty huge guess why, which I found confirmed as she suddenly whirled around, pulled the door open with nearly enough force to rip it out of it's hinges, and prepared to leave.
"I shouldn't have brought her here. I should've known better than to try and find someone she can socialise with. She's a lonewolf, a sadist worse than I am. She doesn't want friends, she doesn't see friends in anyone. She always just sees enemies or playthings in other beings... It was stupid of me to think that I could change her, that I could finally do her a favor, that I could be what I am supposed to be for her..."
Yuuka's growl wasn't only in anger. I could hear hurt and concern, regret even, and a hint of sadness. All of these were a dangerous mixture, especially when it came to someone like Yuuka - but I knew that no one, no even Mima, could help her with it.
"Mima!" snapped Yuuka all of sudden, though she didn't turn to the evil spirit, "She's your little girl, so I leave the explanation to you. I need some time alone."
The door slammed close behind Yuuka, though she did not use enough force to damage it, thankfully. The door was pretty much one of the few things that was not damaged in the room after what had happened.
Mima let out a deep sigh seconds after Yuuka was gone. I could understand why - this friendly visit had, after all, turned from one second to the other to a fight.
"So that was your daughter?" mused Nanatsu as she turned to face the Akuryou in the corner. Mima let out another sigh as she rose from her position and hovered over to us, flopping down on the ground next to the broken table on one of the discarded seat cushions.
"Yeah... Hanabira Kazami." replied Mima, crossing her arms in beneath her chest and closing her eyes, a grumpy expression finding it's way onto her face, "It's obvious that she is related to Yuuka, with the way she is a nearly perfect copy of her."
The evil spirit gestured to herself once, but then crossed her arms again.
"I'm just a soul. Even with Gensokyo's magic-influenced way of reproduction, there isn't much I can pass on. Hanabira's skin is a little pale, her hair is a shade between mine and Yuuka's, and her ability was influenced by me, but there isn't much else that flew into her from me. She's like a younger Yuuka. Even behaves a little like it... A little worse." mused the evil spirit as she slumped her shoulders.
"And yet, she and Yuuka don't get along. Even in her younger days, Hanabira refused to accept Yuuka. She's only called her 'mom' to mock her, has never gone to her if she needed help, she always came to me. As much as I'd like to deny it - Yuuka is right, Hanabira is my little girl. Not by my choice, though." she sighed and leaned backwards, using her hands to support herself.
I rose an eyebrow, not at the fact that Hanabira was indeed the daughter of my two crazy enemies, but that Hanabira was behaving this hostile towards one of her own mothers.
"Something must've happened for their relationship to be this bad." mused Rumia, but Mima shook her head.
"No. Hanabira has always been like that toward Yuuka. Neither Yuuka, nor I understand why. To be honest, I think that Hanabira doesn't know either." retorted Mima, leaning her head back to look at the ceiling, "It's just part of her, much like how she enjoys to make bets, and how she looks down on others."
Suddenly, Mima sat up, her expression shifting from worry and concern to seriousness. Her gaze met mine, and I knew that Mima's next words would be harsh but well thought through, saw it in her eyes.
"One day, it will be her downfall. And I hope it will come soon. Not because I want to see her hurt or depressed, but because, if that little world she lives in shatters apart, she might understand that she's been living far from the reality, that she isn't as high and mighty as she thinks she is." a crooked smile flashed across her face, "Somehow, I hope that it is one of your daughters that will shatter her world, and then help her pick up the shards... Much like you did to me, Gekido. Hanabira needs that just as much as I did. Like mother, like daughter."
Somehow, that crooked smile was infectious, and I found myself smiling and shaking my head in disapprovement of Mima's humor.
"It will need time, trust me in that, Mima. Give it the time, and it will solve itself. Especially if your daughter tries to interact with Yume again. We didn't think of it so far, but it seems that Yume isn't as innocent and reserved as we thought." chuckled Rumia, smirking towards Nanatsu, "It seems she inherited her mother's fighting spirit and aggressive nature, after all!"
Rumia barely had time to avoid the seat cushion.
"I guess so... Though nearly twenty years is quite a time already, isn't it? Hanabira is nearly as old as long as the time you've been gone is." replied Mima, watching intently at the banter that errupted now between my wives, the cushion being thrown back and forth, thus allowing the mood in the room to relax finally.
"Stop moping around, it's like I said, give it time!" laughed Rumia, getting into her 'pillow fight' with Nanatsu, "By the way, something else I've meant to ask you..."
I rolled my eyes at the childish way that the seriousness was gone, especially when Rumia suddenly involved the evil spirit into the pillow fight. And even though I let a smile appear on my lips, it was fake, a lie.
My mood hadn't become better at all for some reason, the way that Yume had reacted so out of character for her still on my mind. This wasn't just about Hanabira, and I knew it. Felt it. Something else was bugging her, and even though I felt like she had to solve it herself, partially to get stronger and become more independent, I also wanted to find out what it was. Badly.
Aside Hanabira, though, there was only one thing that came to my mind when it came to problems for Yume. Only one other person, that was.
"Do the rules say anything about summoning your Shikigami or anything like it?" I heard Rumia ask the evil spirit. I immediately froze and shuddered at the thought of Rumia exploiting such a loophole, but thankfully, was saved by Mima shaking her head.
"Yukari set up the rules this year, Rumia. While she has Shikigami herself and would've probably loved to use them, she knows that it would be cheating. That aside, not only does she trust her own powers more than those of her underlings, but also knows that you have a Shikigami. That alone could've been a major problem for her planned fight against you, and thus, she set up the rule that Shikigami, while based on one's own power, are help from outside, and thus not allowed." explained Mima, unaware of how much relief she caused in me.
Rumia, on the other hand, pouted, not too pleased with the answer.
Shaking my head at the childish reaction from my second wife, rolling my eyes again, I reached for the doorhandle and opened the door.
"I'll be heading out. I want to see the rest of the fight, even if it's only the end." I announced, and, not waiting for a reply of any sort, closed the door behind me, leaving Rumia, Nanatsu and Mima to their pillow fight.
I knew Nanatsu would win as soon as she'd get tired of it, or Mima'd try to cheat using magic.
But I wouldn't be around to see that.
I had to pay a visit to a certain Lounge, after all, as it seemed...
3rd person PoV
A sharp hiss escaped the young Angel of Death's lips as her back was slammed into a wall, and that not in the most gentle of all manners. Her shoulders hurt almost immediately, though that had to do with the fact that she was being held by them, pushed up the wall just two corridors away from the dorm. Her feet were useless like they were, hanging inches above the ground, they didn't even as a weapon, as she tried to kick her aggressor's shin, though without result.
One moment, she had been following Yume, trying to find her, and the next, she rounded a corner, only to be hit with the force of a falling tree.
"What do you know, it's the little freak."
Yajû forced one of her eyes open, finding the crimson orbs of utter danger, the eyes of Hanabira Kazami, hovering in front of her. The amusement she found in them, mixed with a hint of threat, did not bode well for her.
"You're a freak yourself!" spat Yajû back, once more struggling against the grip, seeing a chance to kick the other girl. It didn't do anything, the other Youkai not caring a single bit.
Once more, Yajû was the weak one. And since she didn't know what she had done the last time, she couldn't get away.
"Is that so?"
Yajû found herself surprised when the grip vanished just as fast as it had come, causing Yajû to fall on the ground. Her legs, not expecting the landing, gave in and she found herself falling onto her knees, coughing, more in surprise than in actual breathlessness.
The moment of recovery was cut short when the sound of fabric and leather sliding over skin caught the young Angel of Death's attention, followed by a glove hitting the ground in front of her. The glove was long and black, long enough to reach up to the elbow, and the inside was made of a soft fabric, as if to go easy on the skin it covered.
Yajû was still in the process of catching on when a hand slammed down on the back of her head and grabbed her hair forcefully, yanking her up. A cry of pain escaped her before she had the chance to get herself under control, and she closed her eyes in pain.
"If I'm a freak, then only because you turned me into one! Look at me!" yelled the youngest member of the Kazami into her face, her hand tightening the grip onYajû's hair, "Open your eyes! Look at me, look at what you've done to me!"
Knowing it was best to listen to the command as she was too weak to fight back, and that mysterious and malicious glow wasn't likely to save her a second time if it really did belong to that one judge, Yajû opened her eyes to look at the sadist.
What she saw was the horrible sight of twisted, burnt flesh. It was the left wrist of the Youkai, a ring of burnt and twisted flesh that separated hand and arm, a sight that, up close like that, woke disgust inside the Angel of Death.
Disgust, and, deep down, a twisted sense of excitement, knowing that she had been the one that had done it to the Youkai. A twisted sense of excitement that Yajû herself did not comprehend, as it wasn't her excitement.
It was more like it was the excitement of someone else, which simply shared it with her.
"Happy now? That is what you sick little freak did to me. Second degree burns, Yajû... Second degree, nearly third. And, according to Eirin Yagokoro, these are no normal burns. If anything, I can be happy if they ever heal at least a little bit... It wasn't fire that burnt me, it was raw dark magic." the voice of the sadist was sweet and soothing, though anger and a hint of amusement were mixed into it.
Yajû found herself being yanked again by the sadistic Youkai, this time with enough force to pull her up onto her feet. Hanabira's face appeared before her own, the sick smile on her lips scaring Yajû more than any horror movie ever had.
"How'd you do it? How did you do this without the smallest amount of magic? Even now, I feel no magic from you! And yet, at the moment that you've did this to me, I've felt enormous powers at work, and they were radiated by you!" roared Hanabira, and suddenly, Yajû was with her back against the wallk again, this time held by her throat against it, but thankfully not in the air.
"I don't... I don't know!" Yajû managed to bring forth as she struggled against the grip, "I'm powerless! I'm weak! I don't know what it was!"
Hanabira rose an eyebrow at her, frowning.
And then, suddenly, Yajû found herself on the ground for a second time, this time holding her throat in actual breathlessness. As she heard the sound of leather and fabric on skin this time, she knew it was because Hanabira had bowed down to pick up the discarded glove and put it back on.
"I've had my theory about this as well, and it fits perfectly with the truth." chuckled the sadist above her, moving her hand inside the glove experimentally, "So, Yajû, I have a proposition to make."
The young Angel of Death let out a growl and rose her gaze to meet the Youkai's gaze, the crimson eyes that looked down at and upon her.
"Let's make a deal, right here, right now." began the Youkai in a sweet tone, bowing down to be nearly on one level with the Angel of Death, "I'll keep this whole thing a secret. That's what you want, right? I overheard you telling your sister that she should not tell anybody about this."
"What do you want?" growled Yajû in return, narrowing her eyes at the aggressor. Hanabira rose an eyebrow, but then smirked.
"Profit numbs the feeling." hissed the Youkai back, tapping a finger against Yajû's nose, "I don't want anything. We're merely making a deal."
Yajû wished she could bite the finger off at that moment, but held back.
"I'm not telling anyone about those powers of yours, or about that little 'incident' we had." repeated the Youkai, just as sweet as before, "In return..."
Hanabira rose all of sudden, turned on the spot away from the Angel of Death, and pulled her parasol. She opened it, though they were inside the arena and not outside, and let out a chuckle.
She began to leave casually, surprising Yajû at the sudden turn of events, her giggle resounding the whole way down the corridor and around the next corner.
"In return, Yajû, you have to promise me that we'll have another fight, no holding back, as soon as you have unsealed your true ability, no matter how sick or twisted it really is."
The Angel of Death stopped everything, frowned as she watched the strange Youkai leave. She didn't even get to have a say in that deal of theirs, was just supposed to accept it like that?
It wasn't like she didn't like the deal, however. This was, after all, what she had been looking for - someone to not hold back or treat her different because she was virtually powerless.
But what was that what Hanabira had said? The power that had hurt the Youkai, Yajû's own power? A hidden power, a power she didn't know about?
The Angel of Death rose from the ground, rubbing her sore neck. Not only was the Youkai gone, but the chance of finding Yume had decreased greatly as well.
Another unlikely thing.
The Angel of Death sighed, rolled her sore neck and her shoulders. That didn't go as planned, even though she wasn't sure of what she should think about her encounter with her sister's rival just now.
But she did know one thing. With her sister god-knows-where and Hanabira gone as well, she might as well go somewhere else. The Scarlet Devil Lounge didn't seem to be a bad idea for her, especially since Yume could be there.
It wasn't unlikely, with the Scarlet Devil being their closest 'relative' in Gensokyo outside their family.
Little did Yajû know, however, as she turned right at the intersection, heading to the stairs to the Scarlet Devil Lounge, that Yume was not as far away as she believed her to be.
In fact, Yume was in the bathroom of that story, standing in front of a full-length mirror, hands resting on the wooden frame, eyes glued to the silver and cold surface that reflected the bathroom she was in. That reflected the entire room.
Just like with every other mirror, she did not possess a reflection in it. Just like with every other mirror, it ignored her, reflecting the room behind her, but not her. The reflection wasn't even distorted where she should be in it, it was just everything around her.
And no, she certainly was not a vampire.
But why didn't it reflect her? Why couldn't she see herself? Why was she limited to what she could see of herself from her point of view, and to what others told her about herself? Why was she forced to hear descriptions of herself, rather than being able to have a look at herself, like others did?
It was the reason why she was so self-conscious! She never knew if she looked fine, pretty or other things! She did not know how she looked like!
Frustration took her over, frustration about her own self, frustration about her powers, her shy personality, and about what had happened earlier, her lack of control earlier that day.
In her frustration, she let out a deep whimper and let her head fall forwards. She expected her forehead to rest against the cool surface, wanted to 'cool down' in a literal sense.
And suddenly, found herself falling.
She gasped, fingers sliding across the wooden frame of the mirror, seeking for support. That mirror hadn't been a mirror after all, but a doorway? How had she not realized that?! She must've really been out of it for that to happen!
Her fingers failed to find enough support, and another gasp escaped the young Shinigami as they slipped past the wood. She tried to regain her balance, but failed to - and fell. Hit the ground in the other bathroom.
The ground wasn't soft or anything, being made of dark-blue tiles, much like the bathroom she had been in. Who had that great idea to put a bathroom that looked identical to the other bathroom right next to it, just mirrored, anyways? Yukari Yakumo?
The young Shinigami cursed to herself, deciding that she had already gone past enough limits in one day and that one more didn't hurt. Rolling onto her back, she sat up, using her hands to support herself.
And shuddered at the cold that the floor seemed to radiate. In fact, the whole room seemed to be a lot colder than the other bathroom. A lot colder. A lot colder as in, her warm breath being visible against the cold air.
Yume let out a sigh and rose from the floor, dusting herself off, anything but happy with how the day was going for her.
And that was when she noticed it.
The 'doorway' wasn't a doorway after all. Even now, she could see clearly that it was a full-length mirror.
She wasn't in a similiar room, or in a completely different room.
She was in the same room, just a colder and slightly darker version of it.
For Yume Gekido no Taizai, mirrors were not solid.
Nanatsu's earlier assumption should be confirmed as soon as I entered the arena, the fight between Utsuho's and Yuugi's teams was already in full swing, I saw it long before I reached the railing and looked down upon the arena from my spot in one of the upper stories.
The battlefield was a large beach, complete with water in one corner, greenery in the opposite one, palm trees scattered across the beach. The water was splashing back and forth as if it belonged to an ocean, occasionaly trapped in valleys in the uneven sand, reflecting the magically increased rays of sunlight in the battlefield.
Not exactly an area that would benefit any of the fighters, especially since all of them were from the underground, and not used to such an exotic scenery.
A few glances across the battlefield, scanning it for the combatants, should confirm that.
I spotted Yuugi first, she wasn't that hard to spot with her being so tall, standing near the middle of the battlefield in what was something in between a defensive and an uneasy stance. I frowned at first at the uneasy hint to Yuugi' otherwise so perfect defensive stance – then spotted the reason for it.
Her bare feet on the sand.
She was not wearing her clogs, probably because they were hindering her movements in the sand, and thus stood with bare feet on the sand. The hot sand. I know that Oni are really resistent and can stand great heats, but Yuugi clearly wasn't used to the feeling of the warm sand on her feet. Also, it wasn't the heat that was the problem.
It was the sand itself.
When Utsuho shot out of the shade of a palm tree, I knew that much. Yuugi had spotted her the moment that the hell raven appeared from the shade to leap at her, shifted in her stance and turned to the hell raven, but the sand underneath her feet shifted and caused her stance to be messed up, the Oni not used to the ground beneath her being unable to handle her strength and weight.
Her hook missed Okuu due to this shift, allowing Utsuho to use her wings to brake her leap, her intention clearly to stop in front of Yuugi and use her control rod on the Oni. But that revealed the problem that Utsuho had with the area – Upon the movement of her mighty wings, the sand beneath them was whirled up, hindering both of their sights and movements, with Utsuho being forced to land and rub the sand out of her eyes, and cough out what she had inhaled.
Yuugi immediately tried to exploit this, slammed her right foot down on the sand to reinforce her stance, then slammed both of her palms into the hell raven's gut, throwing Utsuho backwards through the battlefield to impact with one of the palm trees, breaking it.
With the palm tree gone, I could see further into the green area of the tropical battlefield from my position, thus spotting another fighter.
A single glance towards the large board on one side of the arena confirmed the suspicion I got from the sight of Rin on the ground, unmoving – She was already knocked out, probably had been defeated by Parsee, if the green burns on her exposed skin and arms were any indication.
Speaking of the emerald-eyed Hashihime, she was standing at the side of the beach in the shade of a palm tree, her gaze on the battle that was taking place in between her and the 'ocean'. There, Ryoko Jigoku and Shiho Kumo were duking it out, the berserker ex-queen trying over and over again to move into close combat with the spider queen, with Shiho keeping her at bay with gravity manipulation.
Out of all the remaining fighters, Ryoko and Shiho seemed to have the least problems, though I couldn't tell how much problems Parsee and Rin had with the terrain before I arrived, since Parsee was now relaxing in the shade of a palm tree (she seemed to be unable to stand the heat, though) and Rin was unconscious.
Ryoko's only problem seemed to be her sight. I believe she had told me before, but she couldn't stand bright light, which the battlefield now was bathed in. Being the ex-queen of nocturnal Youkai, was it really such a surprise that sunlight didn't go well with her eyes?
Shiho's problem was a little different, though she was also the only one to be able to counter the disadvantage. With her lower body being that of a spider, her legs ended in sharp stumps, and thus tended to slip deep into the sand, leaving her to stumble to the side whenever Ryoko got past her defenses.
She eventually came up with the way to counter this, though, from one to the other moment moving with more grace and with less problems: Her feet were hovering slightly above the sand, not sinking into it, obviously using a thin layer of inverted gravity to prevent them from sinking into the sand again, and thus allowing her faster and more fluid movements, actually on par with the beserker-like ex-queen.
At the same time, the sand that was a disadvantage for her was also an advantage for her. Ever so often, whenever Ryoko came at her in a charge or a leap, sand suddenly shot up into the air in walls, pillars and even complexer shapes, a mixture of inverted gravity and anti-gravity obviously the reason for that, and thus either blocked, deflected or even disoriented the ex-queen.
It would be only a matter of time before Ryoko would succumb to Shiho's abilities, I knew that much. Ryoko was at disadvantage, the limited sight she already had and her movements hindered by the sand that Shiho used against her, allowing Shiho to land an attack ever so often. No, if that would continue, Ryoko would soon be defeated as well.
And that would leave Utsuho to fight against three foes all by herself, with Rin and Ryoko defeated. And that would probably leave us to fight Yuugi, Parsee and Shiho in the finale.
I leaned against the wall, eyes still glued onto the battle, watching as Yuugi slammed one foot down on the ground and whirled up a cloud of sand that blinded Utsuho.
What an unlikely turn of events. Say what you want, but Utsuho's team clearly had been the greater threat with their raw power and different roles – Utsuho in close and far combat, Rin as support and Ryoko in close combat was a frightening mixture.
Not that Yuugi in close combat, Parsee as the brain of the group and in far combat, and Shiho as support wasn't.
But I had been more afraid of Utsuho's team, and now they were losing. I had actually prepared to see Utsuho's team in the finale, but with the way it looked right now, it seemed like we'd be facing Yuugi's team instead.
Yuugi's team... Hm...
It would probably be best to send Nanatsu against Shiho, Nanatsu would be able to stand her ground against the gravity-manipulating spider queen, and should be able to break through the defense of the queen. That left the question of who would fight Parsee, and who would fight Yuugi respectively – Me, or Rumia?
Parsee wasn't that dangerous when it came to combat, she was more of a tactican than a fighter. She'd not be easy to win against, but would definitely be the easiest one to defeat of the group.
At the same time, I had fought Yuugi before – And had lost. She was a force to be reckoned with, and unless the terrain would be to her disadvantage like now, definitely the biggest threat, even more so than Ryoko would be. A few hits from Yuugi, just two or three, could mean the end of the fight for one of us.
So should Rumia fight Yuugi then, and I'd take on Parsee? That didn't sound like a solution as well. Whoever would go up against Yuugi would be in a problem, safe for Nanatsu, who possessed quite an amount of strength and resistance as well. So should Nanatsu fight against the deva of the moutain then? If so, who'd go up against Shiho?
I had won against her before, but that lay twenty years ago, and had not been a serious fight. And one should not forget that she surely had trained with Ryoko. Would I be able to defeat her a second time? And even if so, that would leave Rumia with Parsee again.
This certainly was a confusing thing, one that would keep me awake all night, I knew that much already when I watched the fight. But the last one seemed to be the only at least somewhat intelligent solution – Me against Shiho, Rumia against Parsee, and Nanatsu against Yuugi.
Since I had pretty much expected to fight Utsuho's team from yesterday up to now, I had spent a few thoughts on how to fight her team – before I had too much to drink and passed out.
There was no way around it – I'd have to fight Utsuho in such a case. Utsuho was strong in close cobat, in far range combat, and had immense destructive power – The only one with equal abilities was me. And that aside, I had won against her before.
But that led to the problem of that setup – Who'd fight against Ryoko, who against Rin?
Ryoko and Rumia had a past together, and would clearly know each other's fighting style and weaknesses. It could either be a short, or a long battle in between them because of that, but without a certain outcome. Sending Rumia out against Ryoko would mean that we'd rely on luck – If Rumia'd lose, we'd be in quite a problem.
But sending either Rumia or Nanatsu against Rin would be overkill. Rin was anything but weak, but was more of a support than a fighter who would be able to stand on it's own. Rin would have to rely on either Utsuho or Ryoko to defend her, more likely Utsuho. We could probably exploit that to get rid of Rin first, allowing the one that fought Rin to support either me against Utsuho, or the other one against Ryoko.
So in a sense, I had to approach the whole thing from a different point of view – It wasn't Rumia against Ryoko and Nanatsu against Rin, but Rumia and Nanatsu against Ryoko and Rin.
But that was something I could worry about once the finale would come closer – For now, it was still up to which team would win this round. Only after I knew the team we'd been facing for sure would I be able to plan ahead correctly.
Until then, I was forced to watch and speculate, wondering which team we'd been facing. It really looked like it would be Yuugi's team at that moment.
"Unmasked, yet still masked. It stays on even after it was taken off. What a formidable mask."
I cringed madly at the voice behind me, had been too lost in thoughts to have noticed the girl that had moved through the crowd and had stopped the moment that she had seen me, a curious expression on her otherwise emotionless face, eyes narrowed at me – Which was the thing I saw first when I turned around.
She wasn't exactly tall, but not too small either, about Koishi's new height perhaps. With waist-long lavender hair, and eyes of the same color - eyes that were practically void of emotion - she really gave off a vibe that I would call 'expressionless' or 'void of emotion'.
Her clothes stood out too, though. A blue plaid blouse, adorned with buttons of various, apparently completely unrelated, shapes, covered her upper body, while a salmon skirt, which reached down just below her knees, covered her lower body.
Strange about the dress, though, was it's appearance. Not only did it's shape remind me of a pumpkin, but so did the holes that it had in them, which were essentially alternating in the shape of a smiling and a frowning face, though with one mouth below, and one above the yes, which in return would mean that, if looked at upside-down, each of the smiling faces would be a frownign one, and vice-versa.
That alone gave me a headache.
But then, there was also that mask on her head, covering her right eye with it's left cheek due to it's odd position.
"And you are...?" I inquired eventually, deciding that this girl gave me the creeps.
"Hata no Kokoro." she replied simply, no emotions betraying her voice, no emotions in her eyes as she looked up at me, "And you are Chôzen Gekido, carrier of the mask of no more future, the mask of nihilism."
I rose an eyebrow, a cold shudder going down my spine. Yeah, she really gave me the creeps. After all, she knew about the mask I had long gotten rid of, the one I had shattered. The mask of no more future was the object that had first laid the nihilism upon me, though it had served no further use after that, just a mask that was fused to my face.
The day that I had been trapped in the time-space distortion by Utsuho, I had shattered the mask, releasing my face from it's invisible clutches – Nothing had changed with it, but it had been my sign of release, of changing my life.
It's 'curse' was still upon me, however, and would never vanish – It was the nihilism's might. Though I was no nihilist anymore, the powers were still upon me. They were my negation abilities.
"You know about me." I stated, not even questioning it, seeing no point in it. The secure way that Hata no Kokoro, whoever she was, had spoken my name, I knew she knew about me.
"No. Not much." she replied, narrowing her eyes at me again, "I only know what the mask tells me about you. Name, gender, a few informations."
She tilted her head a little, took a few steps to the left, began to round me, her narrowed eyes still resting on my face.
"Nobody sees it, nobody knows it is there. But I see it. The mask of no more future is still upon your face, even though not physically anymore. A ghost of the past, a never fading memory. It won't influence you, it can't. It never has." Hata no Kokoro continued to pace as she spoke, rounded me, "Even I can only see it when I narrow my eyes..."
"You are associated with masks, I see?" I huffed, not quite comfortable with the entire situation. She creeped me out.
"Yes." she replied, simple as that, nothing more, as she came to a stop in front of me.
A sudden gasp from the crowd caught me off guard and made me turn around, back to the battle. Even Hata no Kokoro perked up and leaned to the side to glance past me, apparently interested in what had happened as well.
It was Utsuho.
Utsuho lay on the ground, face-down in the sand, her cape laid over her like a blanket. Her right arm, and with that the control rod, was buried in the sand in a way that only led to the conclusion that Yuugi must've slammed it in there like a fencepost.
Utsuho didn't move, had just received a direct blow of Yuugi's elbow to her face.
And had won against Yuugi in the same motion.
Yuugi was laying on her back on the ground in front of Yuugi. Her arms were spread out to the sides, hands open, legs extended, eyes rolled into the back of her head. She wasn't moving either, but unlike Utsuho had a clear reason for it.
Her head was slammed through a solid rock half as big as I was, a deep hole in it around Yuugi's head.
Utsuho, as result of Yuugi's elbow and her control rod buried in the ground, had fallen forwards, slammed into Yuugi, and had dragged her down with her – And her head right into the rock. Guessing that she must've suffered from the one or other blow to the head with Utsuho's control rod before, that had been the thing to finally knock her out.
But Utsuho was defeated as well now, since she wasn't moving anymore as welll, face-down in the hot sand.
With that, it was up to Ryoko to fight against both Parsee and Shiho, and the spider queen alone was able to cause enough problems to the ex-queen.
No, there was no way that Ryoko could win that all alone. So we'd fight Yuugi's team the next day.
I turned back to Hata no Kokoro to continue the 'conversation' where we had left off – Only to find her gone.
"She must've left while I was gone... Wht the hell had that been about, anyways? If she knows that the mask of no more future is not important anymore, why would she even bother to talk about it?"
Scanning the crowd for her in hope to get some answers, I turned left and right. A few familiar faces did come into view – but neither of them was the weird girl I had jut met.
"She's just another weird one, forget about her. Come on, let's..."
"What is that?!"
Aya's surprised gasp rang through the arena, echoed around thanks to Yukari's manipulation of her voice, attracting my attention to the battlefield anew. And I blinked in surprise, not quite believing what I was seeing, just as Aya, and nearly everyone, was doing at that moment.
Utsuho had lifted her head and was leaning onto her buried control rod, blinking in confusion. I could've practically voiced the 'Unyu?' at the same time as her, even though we could not hear it due to the barrier.
Utsuho was not defeated.
I watched, still shocked, as Utsuho's control rod opened up at the end that surrounded her arm and released it, allowing her to pull it back. She turned a bit and began to dig out her control rod with her hands, smiling confusedly as she did so.
My left eye began to twitch in disbelief. Utsuho hadn't been defeated by Yuugi's elbow to the face, but had been affected by her birdbrain and in a moment of airheadedness not understood why she lay face-down in the sand?!
Oh why is it that this genius is an airhead at times?! How can it be that someone who calcuates the power output and failure percentage of a nuclear reactor in mere seconds is an airhead who ocasionally fails to understand?
How can it be that she is so slow at times? Why god, why?!
With her control rod freed of the sand at least somewhat, Utsuho jumped up in glee and put her arm right back in it, the control rod reacting to her arm and curling around it. I found myself confused as to why Utsuho would do that, since her control rod was still buried partially.
Don't even try to understand Utsuho, I was reminded of that once more a second later.
BGecause what followed next assured me that she could work more miracles than Sanae could – Either that, or Sanae had woken up and accidentally created a miracle right then.
Parsee, having seen that Yuugi was defeated and Utsuho still on her feet, had decided to attack Utsuho, even though she knew she stood no chance. Then again, she probably hadn't meant to defeat Utsuho to begin with, but distract her.
That didn't go to well when the 'miracle' happened.
Just when Parsee had gotten close to Utsuho, the hell raven suddenly let out a laugh and...
Pulled the trigger of her control rod.
Not only I facepalmed at that.
Sand exploded outwards, a gigantic explosion of fire and sand filling up part of the arena, a shockwave sending Parsee flying backwards and rolling across the ground. At the same time, Utsuho was propelled up into the air, laughing all the way up in mad glee, wings spread and carrying her up even further because of it.
At the highest point of her flight, she performed a backflip, spread her arms to the side as if she meant to perform a trick in a circus, and began to spawn orbs of nuclear energy around her, though for no reason other than show as it seemed.
She began to fall, legs close by one another, the heavy congealed matter that surrounded her foot reflecting the light. She fell at increasing, nearly insane speed.
And finally, defeated Parsee by landing on the hashihime's back, using the bridge princess' body to break her fall.
And the crazy part about it, the miracle? She had defeated Parsee merely by accident, had never meant to land on her, had just meant to free her control rod.
Utsuho, you're mad.
"Holy shit... I don't think Parsee is gonna stand up again after that..."
"Not until she had a long stay in the infirmary. You don't get hit in the back by a falling god, or congealed feet, and stand up after that."
"Not unless you're an insane person that had it's soul split two times."
"...I take that as a compliment, you guys."
"The battle has just taken an unlikely turn! Utsuho Reiuji has just defeated both Yuugi Hoshiguma and Parsee Mizuhashi! Does this mean that Utsuho's team will be the one to move on into the finale, after all? Shiho Kumo is the last standing member of the other team! Can she turn the tide again after all, and win? Can she alone let her team move on into the finale?" yelled Aya from her spot at the judge's table.
I managed to sneak a glance towards it, but it wasn't easy, as I was currently a few stories right above it. Only by leaning onto the railing and looking right down was I able to see it.
"It would be interesting." mused Akyuu, glancing towards her fellow judges to her left.
"And not unlikely! I mean, c'mon, Kumo's gravity manipulation and all that sand? She could cause a damn sandstorm, for all we know!" roared Sly's laughter through the arena mere seconds later, fading out only when the man took a swig from that suspicious bottle he carried around on his person. From my spot above him, I could shortly see the contents of the bottle, and once more shuddered as I spotted the light-green, sizzling liquid.
Just what was that stuff, anyways?
Not wanting to waste another thought, I chose to look at the fight instead. It had turned a little awkward while I had looked away, with Utsuho trying to find a way into the fight Ryoko against Shiho, trying to turn it into a two-on-one, and Ryoko not letting her.
Even in a fight, Ryoko was hogging the queen of arachnoids all to herself.
If Ryoko, however, wasn't going to let Utsuho join the fight after all, possibly even attacking Utsuho to keep the fight against Shiho for herself, then she'd not only cause problems for her team, but would eventually even cause it to lose after all.
Shiho was going to exploit that, she wasn't all innocent and fair, I knew that, and Ryoko should know that, too.
A sudden pain in my upper body reminded me that I was still leaned over the railing. With a heavy sigh, more of a grunt actually, I let myself fall back, all while thinking happy thoughts about thankfully not having been bumped into by someone, and thus thrown over the railing.
Only to take one step back too much without looking, and bumping into someone.
I cringed at the sound of someone falling over behind me, falling into the crowd, and the sound of a head hitting the ground. With a cold shiver going down my spine, I slowly turned my head to look at what I had done this time.
It was a red-haired girl dressed in, at least from what I could see with her lying on her stomach, a black and red long sleeved shirt, as well as a dark red skirt and red and black boots, with a red and blue capelet above it that seemed to cover part of her face - though that could have been her capelet having slipped out of palace during her fall.
The people around her were looking at her - but nobody bowed down to help her up. Bunch of mannerless idiots. Then again, those around us were all Youkai, and that girl seemed to be a human, and some Youkai still refused to accept humans as equals - the other way around too. Thankfully, it's never been really bad in Gensokyo, just a little unfriendliness or distrust.
Seeing as how it was my fault that the girl had fallen over, I knew it was only natural that I should help her up. So, stepping over her, I bowed down and reached for her shoulders - she was smaller than me, so it wouldn't be too much of a problem to pick her up.
"I'm sorry..." I quickly began, pulling her up and dusting her shoulders and capelet off, "I wasn't looking where I was walking and I... HOLY SHIT!"
As I apologized, I had finished dusting her off and had turned her around - and nearly dropped her when I saw the most shocking thing in my life since Mima's Onryô shape.
A neck, as in, a neck that I could see down into. No head. That girl was missing her head.
But a second ago she...
I glanced past the limp body in my arms, one eyelid twitching madly even before I spotted the motionless head on the ground.
Oh holy mother of all that's holy...
I just... I really accidentally just... killed someone...
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my...! What do I do now?! Dammit, I just... I didn't even mean to! I wasn't looking where I was going and... I just killed someone by walking into them! How is that possible? Doesn't matter! This is... I killed a human! What do I do now? Will I be hunted? Will I be punished?! I will never be able to look Shikieiki in the eye again! Or any human! How will I sleep at night, I...?!"
I cringed madly, snapped out of my panicked state to look at who had called out to me.
And found that it was the head of the girl I had just killed, flying right in front of me, anger on her face.
"Dude, how rude was that? That happened before, but this has to be the rudest time yet!" roared the head, nearly sending me into panic again. That was actually only stopped by her limp body suddenly moving, the arms slamming into my chest to free the attached body.
I nearly fell over the railing when I slammed into it, but didn't really care about it. I was slightly, only 'slightly', distracted by the floating head and the body that was now walking towards it.
The headless body grabbed the head and put it back where it belonged, right onto her neck. With that done, her head spun around once, tilted left and right, before the entire girl, both head and body, turned to face me.
And with the frown she was displaying, she didn't seem to like what had happened after all.
"A... A Dullahan?" I muttered, realizing what was going on before me. Dullahan, the Youkai species also known as 'headless knights', were actually not just knights, but more human-like in appearance, with their heads being able to disconnect from their body.
Though I had yet to see one with a head able to fly. But there was always a first for everything, right?
"A Rokurokubi, actually. Sekibanki is my name." corrected the girl, stretching her limbs, before she walked up to me and looked me up and down.
"The long-necked ones?" I murmured, remembering the Youkai species with the ability to stretch their necks.
"Rokurokubi, yeah. Though I cannot only stretch my neck, but also detach my head." she proudly declared, before narrowing her eyes, sweatdropping, "As you just experienced."
I sweatdropped, too.
"Anyways!" she called out, stretching her arms and fingers again, before smirking at me, "You're that one combatant. Not too hard to remember, you're one of the few males around. Nice fight against Mima, by the way, she had that coming, especially after she and that rabbit of good fortune thought it was funny to use my head as a ball."
I rolled my eyes. That really sounded like something Mima and Tewi would do.
"Thanks." I replied, unsure what else to say. I still had to calm down after what I had just experienced. I mean, I thought I had just killed someone. You don't recover from such a thing just like that.
Sekibanki rose an eyebrow at my short reply, but then glanced left and right, as if she was searching for someone.
"Say..." she began, still looking around, "You haven't seen this girl with masks, by any chance? She's about my height, has lavender hair and..."
"Hata no Kokoro?" I inquired, remembering the girl I had seen earlier that day only too well. She was creepy, after all. Nearly as creepy as Kayako, dare I say.
"Huh? So you know her?" asked the Rokurokubi, confused.
"Not really. She appeared behind me earlier all of sudden, creeped me out and was talking about masks... And then, just vanished." I answered, shrugging.
Honestly, somehow, I didn't really care about anything at all today after the first few events of the day. Namely, me waking up in the canteen after the party, the beating by Nanatsu, and the whole thign with Yume. Somehow, these things had an effect on me that made me numb to the world, continually on my mind.
Which reminds me, hadn't I been about to head somewhere else? I had to meet someone, someone that would surely help me understand Yume's strange behaviour.
"So you met her..." sighed Sekibanki, reminding me that Kokoro was the topic right now and not Yume, "Sorry about what happened... Whatever it was. I don't know Kokoro well either, I met her just recently, but she... Well, she's kinda awkward with people. She isn't very good when it comes to interactions, especially when she's with other's who 'wear masks'."
I rose an eyebrow at the way she put it, but didn't question it, kind of understanding what she was saying. That aside, she never got to explain it further, either, even if she had wanted to. The one to interrupt was Kagerou, the werewolf that I had met along with Mokou the other day.
"Yo, Seki!" shouted Kagerou as she suddenly appeared out of the crowd, regarding me only with an amused glance, "Do you have a minute? Wakasagihime wants to ask you something, and you know how she can't exactly move around freely and come ask you."
She sent me a glance all of sudden, a smirk on her lips.
"It's like this weird saying goes... The bone doesn't come to the dog, but the dog goes to the bone." snickered the Wolf Youkai, obviously a pun at how she was a wolf.
What a weird saying, though. If I'm right, on the other hand, that was merely the translation of a saying that I had heard from Rumia before, in an other language... So it had a German origin? I still remember it's meaning though, which, according to Rumia, was that 'you had to pursue your dreams, as they won't come to you'.
"I get it." sighed the Rokurokubi with a hint of amusement, turning away from Kagerou only to wave at me, "See ya later, Chôzen. Sorry we didn't get more time to get to know each other, but a pretty princess needs the help of a headless knight~"
Before I got the chance to question that, either, head and body of the Rokurokubi separated, with the body vanishing into the crowd, and the head flying above it, almost as if to direct the body through the mass of humans, Youkai, Yurei and Fairies. Kagerou herself only gave me a short wave, and as fast as she had appeared, disappeared into the crowd again.
Okay, what was it with me running into people who were always in a rush or didn't have the time for smalltalk? I'd enjoy to meet a few of them for real, to hear what's been going on in Gensokyo.
I guess that would have to wait until after the tournament, though. The whole tournament was crowding so many people together, no one really knew what to do and when to do. And with the fights distracting everyone from smalltalk, there was hardly a chance.
For now, I should too let the excitement get the better of me, let the rush of adrenaline fill me, and just enjoy the abstract and yet majestic, sometimes colorful and flashy, other times dark and silent fights of the tournament, especially tomorrow, when the final fight of the tournament would include me.
I turned on my heels, knowing where to head, focusing on a staircase not too far from me.
Before I'd get to enjoy it, though, there was one last thing I had to do...
"...and with this, Utsuho Reiuji's team won the fight! After the unlikely turn with Utsuho Reiuji defeating both Yuugi and Parsee, this is hardly a wonder however!"
How impressive... Aya's magically increased voice reached all the way here where I stood, in a dark corridor in the upper level of the arena, just a few corridors from where the Scarlet Devil Lounge was. Yukari really thought everything through when it came to the design of the arena, as it seemed.
"Ya have to give it ta Kumo, though, she fought until tha' very end. But even she didn't stand a chance 'gainst the combined forces Reiuji and Jigoku. Which, ironically, both come from hell." snorted Sly, his voice magically enhanced, too. I rolled my eyes at his stupid joke, but didn't think about it any more than necessary, that wasn't what I was here for.
Still, Utsuho's team, after all. That ensured one heck of a final fight, that for sure. It meant that Utsuho, Rin and Ryoko would be our enemies the next day, which I had actually suspected to begin with after the whole thing with Remi and Flan's teams happened.
It didn't mean it was going to be easy, though, that for sure.
"Okay people, that's it for today! It's getting late, so you best head home!" I heard Rinnosuke shout after what seemed to have been an eternity since Sly's comment, "Hope you're all excited for the big finale tomorrow, when Chôzen Gekido, Nanatsu no Taizai and Rumia Gekido-Shisô clash with Utsuho Reiuji, Rin Kaenbyou and Ryoko Jigoku. Are you all ready for the big clash tomorrow?"
The arena nearly shook under the roar of the crowd, and I rolled my eyes in amusement. Oh fun times were about to arise.
Actually, there was one thing that would be even funnier, and it would happen any moment.
It was the reason I was leaned against the wall in a dark corner of a corridor, waiting for a very certain person, which I knew would separate from the rest and leave before the others would, to enter the corridor I was in.
I didn't even have to wait long for that person to enter, nor did I have to plan ahead what to say. I had done that the first time, right after I found about this person's secret, cause I had known I would have to use it one day.
"Good evening, Mephistopheles. Are we heading home?" I called out, causing the person in question to cringe madly with a loud shriek, especially at the hostile way I had pronounced this person's name. The person whirled around, hands immediately lighting up in dark-blue flames, more in defense than in aggression.
I would've reacted like that as well if I was caught off guard by someone who had found out my darkest secret.
Pushing myself off the wall, I let all of my disgust through, not even trying to contain it. Stepping out of the shadows allowed the person to recognize me, though it didn't seem like that calmed my current companion down at all. If anything, it didn't help at all.
The fear was obvious in Mephistopheles eyes now, since I had just called the demon by it's name. It didn't seem to like the idea of someone knowing of that name. Not at all.
"What... What do you want?" growled the demon, it's eyes narrowing in fear and distrust. I rose an eyebrow, though making sure to look obviously skeptical.
"Such hostility. This could end up in a fight if the mood doesn't relax, and if I were to shout, somebody would definitely hear your name, which you..."
"What. do you. want." brought the demon forth between clenched teeths, much to my amusement.
I took the last few steps that divided us, then abandoned all amusement, both the real and the fake one, and glared Mephistopheles deep into the eyes.
"I know your dark plan, Mephistopheles, and I'm sure as hell won't allow you to continue with it."
(1) The very same thing is said by 3D/Dead Draw Domination of the RWBYquest, a choose-your-own adventure-style story based on Roosterteeth's RWBY that is taking place on tumblr, for those who know it (or don't).
*ahum* Sorry for the cliffhanger, guys, but we want to keep it a little dramatic, after all, don't we? Now, remember how I said that one of the main antagonists of the story is introduced in this chapter? Well, what do ya know, who could it be?
Rin Satsuki or this mysterious 'Mephistopheles'? Or is it Hata no Kokoro, after all?
And then of course, there is the thing with Yume, Yajû and Hanabira as well, right? Anyways, I know I said that the last members of the "new generation" were introduced last time, but Hanabira was already introduced before... Just not by name. Plot reasons, as you saw.
Oh, and what's with Yume in that bathroom, I wonder?
Anyways... Like I said before, it's late already, and I'm leaving this here and get some well deserved sleep.
So, I'm saying it again, as usual.
So long, guys and gals~
We'll meet right here again for the big finale of the tournament, Chôzen's team vs. Utsuho's team... when "the klaxons blare again"!
NOTE: I come back to fix any mistakes (should I have missed any, didn't get to check) once I am awake and back from school.