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Of course we’ll help. This is just as much our family as it is hers, right?
Yes. Of course. I
didn’t think had begun to doubt it was possible, but somehow we’ve come to a metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, we’re not there yet, but after days of stumbling around in the darkness, it’s at least in sight. As long as we stick together and make sure there is are no more miscommunications, surely everything will be alright.
I take her hand and shake it. “We have a deal, Mrs. Scarlet.”
“It’s ‘Miss.’ ”
“Oh, are you quite sure? Could have sworn I had the difference between ‘Mrs,’ ‘Ms,’ and ‘Miss’ sorted out. Words and I agree that we have a part to play here as well, considering that this involves us just as much as it involves you.”
She seems to have almost magically transformed: the traces of her sadness and fear disappeared, and in her eyes is resolve. She flashes one of those smiles that screams “I’m so charismatic.”
Or, possibly, “I’m trying to seduce you!” Probably the former, though.
“Flan, what do you two propose we do? I would assume taking that notification spell off of my name is a given.”
“Yeah. You won’t miss it?”
“No. Hearing voices everytime someone in Gensokyo uttered my name in everyday conversation gets old quickly. Not to mention those conversations between humans that were expressing disdain and hatred for me and this property. The spell’s detractions outweigh its usefulness.”
“How will you remove that, then?”
“Patchouli is the one who set it up for me, so I will have to ask her to remove it.”
As for what to do first, I think we should gather everyone up and talk. Let each person voice their worries, goals, and sides to everything. Now that everyone seems less inclined to resort to violence, we can try to settle this diplomatically.
Yes, that makes sense. I relay your idea to Remilia.
“I guess that would be best, but...”
She pauses. “I’ll need to think of how to go about it... Alright. I need a bit of time to think about how I’m going to say this to everyone, so why don’t you go tell everyone that you’re okay in the meantime? Also, let them know that we’ll be meeting in the Great Chamber in half an hour.”
First... well, I’ll tell Meiling first, since she’s closest.
I traverse the halls absentmindedly.
It’s hard to believe we’ve come this far, Words. I feel like a completely different person now. I almost want to think these memories from before meeting you are someone’s else’s. They just seem too different from my current self to be real.
...Time is a powerful thing. Perhaps even more powerful than demons, or fate, or scarlet mist or rebellions or youkai. Even more powerful than the sun and the moon and all of the stars in the sky. The strongest force of all.
I take a blue umbrella with me to match my dress. The sun blares down on the umbrella. If I were to drop it, would I burn? Last time, I did. Most of the days have been cool lately, though, so it might be different.
I assume we’re approaching the end of summer? I’m not really sure what part of the year we’re in.
Meiling spots me from her spot at the gate as I step through the mansion’s doorway. As I approach, she places her hands on my shoulders and crouches down in front of me so that we are eye to eye. I can see a spark of excitement in her eyes.
“You did it, Mistress Flandre,” she says, smiling widely. “I knew you could do it. I knew you would be alright.”
It becomes another hug. All of these hugs! I’m not complaining, though. I guess it’s to make up for all of the hugs I’ve missed.
“Thank you for saving Gensokyo. You and your friend.”
“Thanks for your help, too. I mean, you probably don’t remember, but you were really helpful before all of this time travel stuff. You didn’t want the family to break up, either, and that really... it really boosted morale, I think.”
“Well, I’m glad some form of me was of service to you.”
“By the way, Remilia wants us all to meet in the Great Chamber in half an hour.”
She raises her eyebrows in mock surprise, as if to say, “hey! You said her name.”
I nod and wink in response.
“I’ll... I’ll make sure to be there, then.”
I go back inside. Library next.
The Great Chamber... Remilia usually holds her house-wide meetings there, though I’ve never been invited to one. I remember spying on them a few times on the few times they had meetings, though.
This time is different, though. This time I get to be in there with everybody else.
I, uh... I have some bad news.
What do you mean?
After the battle in that other world, I met Yukari Yakumo. Do you know her?
I think she manages the barrier that protects Gensokyo from the outside world.
Yeah. Well, she said... she said that she would need to repair the hole that allowed me to get into this world. Once she does that, I will lose contact with you.
What? Why would that happen?
Because. My body isn’t really in your world, is it? I can only talk to you through telepathy and through those magical papers. When the barrier closes up again, I will return to where I belong.
Then why don’t we just bring you body over here?
It’s not possible... I’m... I’m sorry. Yukari did hint at there being a way for us to at least keep in limited contact, but she didn’t say what it was. We have “a few hours” to figure out what that method is, and then I’m gone.
...Fine. Fine! Give me all you’ve got, fate! You can’t keep us apart. We’ll figure it out. As soon as we clear up this thing in the Great Chamber, we’ll focus on finding out how to keep you here.
I find Patchouli and Koakuma at the usual place in the library. Patchouli is sipping away at her tea, a book in her other hand. I stand a few metres away from her, waiting for her to notice my presence.
Koakuma floats over to me, giving me a high five.
“ ‘Eyyy, kid, you survived! That’s great! This house has been so blue without you.”
“The Scarlet Devil Mansion turned blue?”
Patchouli slams her book down onto her desk. “Flandre. Sit down.”
“Good luck,” Koakuma whispers into my ear.
I sit down on the chair in front of Patchouli’s desk. She regards me with stern eyebrows.
“That was foolish of you. You should not have chased after that demon.” She speaks sternly, but I can see traces of a smile on her face. “But... I am glad you did. And I am glad that you survived. It wouldn’t do for you to leave us just yet.”
Uh. I’m pretty sure that was some sort of praise. I think. Maybe. I clap my hands just to make sure. “Thank you.”
One, two, three, four— oh, wait, I should probably say something important.
“By the way, Remilia wanted us to meet in the Great Chamber.”
Her expression hardens. “Ah. I see. Very well, then. I will arrive shortly.”
[Hey, this is a long update. If you need to take a break, now would be the best time.]
The Great Chamber’s doors are tall. Taller than me, taller than Meiling, even. If I had to guess, I would say ten feet? There are a bunch of patterns painted onto the doors; many different patterns of many different things. The edges of the doors are made of gold and lined with a bunch of multicolour crystals. They kind of remind me of my own crystals.
The doors are wide open. On the opposite end of the Great Chamber sits a great throne. The ceiling here is one of the tallest ceilings in the entire mansion. Thick round pillars stand in pairs on each side of the carpet that leads up to the throne. Behind the throne, the sun casts its beams through scarlet stained glass, making the already scarlet carpet seem
redder. Redder isn’t a word, is it?
A circle of chairs are set around the throne. Upon the throne sits Remilia, legs crossed, one eye close. Sakuya stands at her side and Meiling sits on one of the chairs. As I sit next to Meiling, there is a loud crack from across the hall. I glance over just in time to see Patchouli and Koakuma materialize in front of the entrance.
I guess teleporting is easier than walking...
Remilia smiles as the two take a seat. “You may sit as well, Sakuya.”
Sakuya sits down on the last chair, though she looks a little uncomfortable. It’s unusual, you see, because normally Sakuya stands at Remilia’s side, no matter what we’re doing. Especially in meetings like this.
“Good afternoon, my friends,” my sister begins, shutting her eyes again. She closes her eyes a lot when speaking. I’ve always thought she did it on purpose to give off a stoic aura, but I just thought: perhaps she does it to avoid people’s eyes? “As you can see, my sister is well again. This is truly a miracle after the damage she sustained in battle. I commend you, Flandre, for you bravery.”
Applause. I wasn’t expecting applause.
I raise my hand. Am I supposed to do that? “But don’t forget about Words, everyone. I wouldn’t have been able to have done anything without Words helping me.”
Another round of applause.
Remilia nods. “I have something important to bring up today. A significant portion of my words will focus on my experiences over the last few days, but it is important for all of you to hear what I have to say. It is a story about me, but it also about all of us. I ask that none of you speak until I am finished.”
No comments. Everyone watches her quietly.
She takes a deep breath, straightens her back a bit in her seat, and begins to speak.
“As we all know, three days ago, a plan was placed into motion that would lead to my eventual destruction. At the same time, I was preparing for my decade-old plan to be enacted. You may already know, but my goal was to escape the cage I called Gensokyo. Unfortunately, in that timeline, I failed. By the end of the three days, the demon Phantasm had managed to possess my sister. Wielding a powerful sword crafted by Sakuya and Patchouli, Flandre ran the blade through my heart, ending my life.”
“What?!” I exclaim.
“Please, wait until I’m finished.
“And so, in that timeline, I was dead. Do you know what happens when you use the Luna Dial to ‘time leap?’ You do not ‘travel’ through time. The Dial projects your memories onto a past version of yourself. In those final moments, Phantasm used the clock and sent both me and her back to the beginning of the three-day cycle.
“The second cycle began. Phantasm spent those next three days sowing lies in my mind. From her side of the story, she had not intended to destroy me or possess Flandre. She said that she was a demon bound strictly to contract, and all of her actions had been lined out carefully by Patchouli and Sakuya upon summoning. I believed her. How could I not? I knew nothing of demons or diabolism, and her words made perfect sense to my grief-stricken heart at the time. She was a master of deception, and I gave her my naïve trust.
“Finally convinced, I started the cycle over once again. This time, Words and Flandre were friends. I am not sure if the two of you ever met in the other two timelines I experienced. I did not even know of Words’s existence until that timeline. You, Words, were an anomaly, and not even Phantasm could have predicted your involvement.
“Time leaping is tricky. Memories don’t transfer very easily, and Sakuya had a special charm on the Luna Dial that intensified this glitch. Both times that I traveled, I had to be reminded of my eventual demise. Phantasm worked at her best, actively trying to help me remember so that I could continue with my plan before we ran out of time. It was that timeline that I had truly met Flandre for the first time.
“What I mean by that is... there was a whole side to her I had never known before. It was a surreal experience for me. It was as if a light had turned on. I could see her so clearly. I... I yearned for that side of her. I realized that she was still the sister I had used to know before the vampiristic curse that plagued us. Meanwhile, Phantasm pushed and pointed, trying to get me to ignore these newfound feelings in favour of the plan.
“Things got worse. Flandre and Words had been meddling too much, and relations with the rebel, Seija Kijin, turned sour. Phantasm urged me to start the timeline over once again. She was convinced that Flandre and Words would lose their memories and we would have the upper hand. However, Flandre managed to travel with me. Phantasm was upset by this, but she soon realized that while Flandre and Words stumbled around Gensokyo, trying to regain lost memories, we could act.
“Just like the first time so many years ago, I released the scarlet mist into the skies. The mist clouded over Gensokyo. It allowed me to see everything. I have always seen ‘everything,’ but only from a vague ‘this is to be’ perspective. Here, I could see everything in realtime. I was omnipresent. I was marvellous. Powerful. I could do anything.
“ ‘This is but a taste of the power I can grant you,’ the demon had said. ‘Once we get to the outside world, you will remind humanity of what fear is.’
“The temptation was too great for me. I had set out the Strings of Fate clearly for this night. I was guaranteed to win. Or so I had thought. That fateful moment... when my dear sister confronted me at the top of the clock tower... it could have gone both ways. It was then that, for the first time in decades, my hold on fate slipped. To me, the future is as almost as constant as the past is to all of you, but in that moment... I did not know. I could not have known. The future was closed off from me.
“It was my power that kept Phantasm at bay. As the control slipped from my fingers, she assumed control of my body. I became her puppet. Try as I might, I could not scream. I could not fight against her. She assumed perfect control. ‘Finally, finally, you’ve released the strings of fate... oh, how the tables have turned. I will return to you all of the suffering you’ve brought to the world around you.’
“She and Flandre fought. I wanted to scream with every blow of hers that met with my sister. I thought it would never end. Our bodies and minds contorted in all sorts of places they shouldn’t. Fate itself seemed to beg to me as we stretched the bounds of spacetime. I could see worlds and people I had never met, in places that have never existed, and I observed countless battles. It was the most horrifying thing I have ever experienced.
“But just like that, it stopped. And then the battle shifted. We entered a world where all was the same, and yet different. I can’t remember that world very clearly, but I remember watching my sister die. My own sister. For the second time, the demon had defiled her. I could not contain my rage. The strings of fate stretched into my palm once again, and using them, I crafted her defeat. I didn’t care how she would be defeated; the only constant was that she would fall to Words.
“Words trapped the demon in that realm, and then through some miracle, brought my sister’s soul back to this world. And ever since, I have not touched the strings of fate. Not once. It has only been a few days, but I already feel lighter. The strain of holding the future in sight for so long has finally lifted. I... I’ve forgotten what it was like. To be normal. To see things like all of you do.
“So, this is just... this is just my way of saying that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for making you all suffer for so long. I’m sorry I kept you out of the way, Flandre, in that accursed basement, for taking action against your library, Patchouli, for stealing your most prized possession, Sakuya. I’m sorry I put magical spells on my name to keep you all in check, and I’m sorry that I risked destroying Gensokyo – our home – for my selfish lust. I promise: I’m never going to assume control of other people’s fate ever again. You have my word as the Scarlet Devil and as Mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”
A grim silence descends over us.
Remilia sits there, unmoving, as if she were awaiting judgment by a court.
Sakuya is conflicted; she bites her lip, but her eyebrows are curved downward into a scowl. Meiling’s fingers are interlocked, and she is neither frowning nor smiling. Just... neutral. Calm. Like a slow-moving river.
Patchouli rises from her seat, steps up to Remilia, and places a hand on her shoulder.
“Hello, Remilia. It is has been an exceptionally long time, hasn’t it?”
The vampire glances up, staring at Patchouli with an open mouth.
“For the longest time, I have thought you were gone. I believed you were so utterly consumed by the desires in your heart that you could never be the same again. But, seeing you speak here, I can see the traces of the Remilia I had met so many decades go.”
Remilia slides off of the chair and stands next to Patchouli. The top of her head only comes up to Patchouli’s chest. “So... you... are you saying you forgive me?”
“Remilia Scarlet. If you truly wish to change your ways, you will have to prove it.”
“I... I know... I will do whatever I can. Like... removing that charm on my name. Could you do that for me?”
Patchouli takes Remilia’s hand and mutters a few words.
“The spell is lifted.”
“Thank you, Patchouli.”
“Wait a minute,” Sakuya says, staring at the stained glass windows above. “Is that really it, Patchouli? After all we’ve worked for? How can you trust her? How do you know it’s not another—”
“Look at me, Sakuya,” Patchouli snaps. “There is nothing more despicable than hatred. Hatred nestles in your heart. It festers. It grows into a powerful monster that controls every action you take. Hatred is like a demon. It possesses you, and it takes. It will continue to take until there is nothing left.
“I have given up on hatred. Flandre reminded me that we are a family and that families stick together. I may be foolish for wanting to trust Remilia, but I have seen something in her I have not seen in decades. I am willing to risk it this time. If not for me, if not for her, then for the sake of our family.
“But what of you, Sakuya? Can you let go of your anger and try one last time?”
The maid clenches her fists.
“Sakuya,” Remilia whispers. She reaches into her breastpocket, removing the Luna Dial. She holds the clock out to its real mistress. “This belongs to you. Take it.”
Sakuya snatches it up, holding it close to her heart. “You’re... you’re giving it back...?”
Remilia nods. “I realize how important this timepiece is to you. After all, I was there when you first got it. I should not have taken it. It is yours. It has always been yours. No more will I leech off of your powers.”
Sakuya drops to her knees, gripping the timepiece tightly. She begins to cry. For a moment, I had thought I was imagining it, but those are real tears on her face.
“I’m sorry, Sakuya. You’ve been at my side for over four hundred years. Your loyalty has been unmatched, and yet I have not returned the sentiment. A master who does not respect her servants does not deserve to have those servants. And that is why... that is why I am letting you off.”
Sakuya sniffs, glancing up at her mistress. “What do you mean?”
“I’m letting you go. You don’t work here anymore.”
“Don’t be stupid,” the maid snaps back. Her form shifts – a time-stop shift – and suddenly she is standing tall and proud, her eyes no longer wet and her face clear of any emotion. “I’m not leaving.”
“No, I insist, Sakuya. I don’t deserve you anymore.”
“It’s not about you,” Sakuya says, crossing her arms. “I want to stay here. This is my family, too.”
“No ‘but’s! I’m not going to leave your side, Mistress. I will serve you until I am no longer able. I need to keep a close eye on you, anyway, and make sure you’re telling the truth this time.”
“Fine! Stubborn mule,” Remilia grumbles. She’s smiling, though.
“But not as stubborn as Milady.” Sakuya is smiling as well.
What just happened? I thought they were mad at each other... Or, at the very least, I thought Sakuya was upset. They... they have a complex relationship, don't they?
I should ask about how they met, sometime.
Everyone seems joyful, somehow.
I didn’t think it could be so simple... Anger and conflict. They really blow such simple things out of proportion, don’t they? This whole conflict was stupid, but it became so intense... so powerful. That demon Phantasm was part of the problem, but the people here had a part to play as well.
Oh. But there’s still the matter of you, Words. I should... I should probably mention that.
I hop onto the throne, standing on it with my feet so that I’m taller.
“Wait, everyone! I have something to say.”
Everyone’s attention is brought toward me.
“Thank you, all of you, for being willing to keep us together. I don’t know what I would do without each of you in this house. It looks like this huge battle we’ve been fighting is finally coming to a close.”
Here, I pause to clap for myself.
“But there’s this one last thing I need your help with! You see, in a few hours, Words is going to disappear from our world. There’s no way to stop it, but we might be able to create a way to keep in contact from time to time, so... I need help finding out how to do that.”
“Words has to leave?” Remilia frowns. Koakuma coughs again.
“Do not worry, Remilia. We have a few hours. That is more than enough time. I’m sure if we all scour some of my books about diaboli—”
Koakuma coughs a third time.
“What is it, Koakuma?” Patchouli mutters dryly.
Koakuma gives me a thumbs up. “I know how to help you out, kid!”
“Why didn’t you just say so?”
“I was trying,” the little devil grumbles. “So, I’m not really from this world, either. You all know that. I’m not the same type of thing as Words, but I know one or two things about demons and devils and stuff like that.
“The problem here is Words seems to be a demon that is unable to exist in our world. Perhaps Words is just too big, or maybe our little whole in the barrier is too small. Maybe Words is already anchored to another world, just like how I’m anchored to this one. Whatever the case seems to be, those pages you write on still have a small part of Words bound to them.”
“Even if the barrier thing is completely sealed, a small, small part of Words will always be in those pages. In fact, you will probably be able to speak to Words even after this thing is over just by writing in them.”
“So we have nothing to worry about.”
“Well, no. If you run out of pages, that’s it. You can’t communicate ever again.”
I can use the remaining pages to communicate with you...
But once they’re used up... that’s it.
Sakuya winks out of existence for a few seconds, and then suddenly she’s back with a wooden table. On the table are tons of pieces of paper. Most of them have writing on them. My writing.
“These are all of the pages that consist of Words, including the ones we had stored for the creation of the weapon,” Sakuya says.
Patchouli steps up to the table, examining one of the pages.
“I am not entirely sure without a way to test it, but Koakuma’s method seems plausible. There are not very many pages left, however.”
“Why don’t you use them periodically?” Meiling suggests. “Every few months or years, write a letter to Words. That way, it’ll be like your time together never ends.”
Instead of saying, “Words was a friend of mine,” I can say “Words is a friend of mine.” I mean, we won’t be able to talk long, but a short correspondence here and there... it could be nice.
That... that sounds okay. It’s not being able to talk to you whenever I want, but it’s better than never seeing you again. I’ll still be able to talk to you once in a while.
Your time is almost up, Words.
I’ll give you a few more minutes to say your good-byes.
[ ] What will you say, Words?
This is our longest post, clocking in at roughly 4,400 words. There will be plenty of time for congratulations and sentiment very soon, but let me just say that I appreciate you all a lot. Thanks for reading this story, thanks for voting, and thank you for helping Flandre achieve her goals. Your continued interest is a big part of what gives me the strength to write the next update each time.