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He opened his eyes and saw that he was flying through the air. The day was almost entirely gone, now. That was... Misty Lake below him. He felt he was dangling. He glanced behind himself to see that Yuuka had him by holding firm the clothes at his back. He was being carried like a plastic bag.
They began to descend in front of Scarlet Devil Mansion, Yuuka lifting him to her side and stopping several meters ahead of Meiling. The gatekeeper had been chatting with a fairy maid, but now she wore a mask of terrible worry.
“Kazami... Yuuka...” she whispered. “Why are you here? ... Tea?” She was hoping.
Yuuka brought Gen’s motionless body before herself and said, “Obviously it’s for this lost property. Sorry—” she tossed him to the ground “—I play with toys rather roughly.”
“Gen...” Hong Meiling didn’t move for him, and seemed to have said his name without thinking.
“I broke it,” she said, “but not in a way that can’t be fixed. Now I’m returning it.”
“... Sanna,” Meiling commanded the fairy beside her, “get Lady Patchouli.”
“Oh, thank you, I was going to ask after her.”
Meiling did not answer, and did not take her gaze from the youkai of flowers.
The master of the library came from the gate, and between her crippled apprentice and the youkai that had brought him there, she gave attention first to the boy.
“Gen...” she spoke with disbelief, and her face was both concerned and frustrated. She next looked up at Yuuka, full angered.
“Kazami Yuuka...!” she hissed, “What were you doing at Muenzuka? The fall season isn’t yet begun.”
“Did you think he’d have done better if I hadn’t been there? Think he’d have survived?” Yuuka toed his body, and lightly kicked him so he was facing the sky.
“I know it!” Patchouli snapped. “Do you think I’ve taught him nothing!? You weren’t supposed to be there!”
“Ah~, terrible,” Yuuka spoke while frowning. “You really are like they say. You only think with books. Is it because you were born a magician? You’ve never thought about weakness?”
“My student is not weak! You’re like a last boss!” Gen looked at his Master as she shouted and wondered where her ire was born from. Was it just that Yuuka had meddled in her work? “I expected it to be tough on him taking the road and searching the mound, but you? And you have the gall to show him to me like this. How brazen!”
“Be happy he’s only shaken up and not dead.”
“‘Shaken up’...” his Master’s voice was quaking. She was staring at him, but hadn’t seemed to notice he was awake. She kept yelling at Yuuka, “Be predictable! Be more like a youkai!”
“No~” Yuuka refused. “Oh yes: you should also be glad I taught him a lesson that you wouldn’t.”
“You scum...” Patchouli looked like she was trying to contain herself. She was gripping her hand into a fist in front of her. “You’ve never nurtured someone else, so don’t lecture me.”
Yuuka shook her head.
“No, I take care of many children. You should be gentle—”
“Humans are not flowers!” Patchouli said this, and coughed. Wheezing, she closed one of her eyes and used the other to look hateful at this woman. “They...” she was having trouble speaking, “They don’t need to be tended to hand and foot. They don’t need to be so carefully raised. They can think. Humans are not flowers. He would’ve survived...!” She looked at Gen. He opened wide his eyes, as he saw hers were glossed and waving. She proudly, weakly, barely said, “... I taught him so.”
“I disagree.” The youkai now stepped on him. “In fact I’ve been thinking of just squashing him for a while now to save some oxygen for other living things. He’s that worthless.”
“How did that worthless human wound the almighty Kazami Yuuka?” the magician accused, noting the youkai’s somewhat damaged form and clearly ripped clothing.
“It wasn’t him, it was this,” Yuuka took off her foot and pointed at the ancient red grimoire on his belt with her parasol.
Patchouli was shocked. “The Red Skin...! Gen, you found the Rauðskinna at Muenzuka!? That book!?”
“Casting from it seemed to cast from his life.”
“It would—” Patchouli looked like she wanted to grab the tome, but stopped and calmed herself “—but that proves it was him. If he was too weak, the spells of that grimoire would’ve devoured him completely. Besides...” she locked eyes with Yuuka as she spoke, “the only reason he would’ve even used such a thing would be because you forced his hand. I told him to never use tomes of this sort, and he would only disobey me if it meant his life.”
Patchouli continued speaking, holding tight a book she had brought with her from the library, “My Gen has vowed to study under me. He wouldn’t die today, not even to you, flower harridan.”
“Excellent word,” Yuuka complimented. She then said, “It’s unfortunate we disagree on this point. Really, nothing was going to change my mind and I’m sure even the book-dumb you knew that. I’ve decided you need to be punished for being a poor gardener.”
“Try it,” spoke the mage, “I’m in no kind mood right now. You see, a weed’s sprouted on our lawn.”
[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM1KXXPROEE ]
“This... never gets old,” Yuuka spoke nostalgic, and was openly pleased. She smiled, and lifted her parasol.
“I told you, I’m in no mood.” His Master’s face was stone-like, severe, and refined in loathing. It was an expression he’d never seen. She was defying his every expectation. She ordered: “Meiling, take care of Gen. And, get out of the way... I’m going to kill this girl.”
She began an incantation.
Meiling, with a face telling recognition, ran between the two other youkai and grabbed Gen up, taking care with the arm she saw to be broken. She had to near Yuuka to do this, and she’d thought she’d moved fast enough to not be noticed, but the woman had clearly looked into her eyes as she went past. Despite herself, the brief connection made her feel sick. She brought Gen to one of the mansion’s outer walls, and shook the sensation off herself. She gazed down at the human, and then moved that gaze to his teacher.
Meiling had seen Patchouli like this a few times before. They were all times when Miss Sakuya or the Mistresses of the house had been truly threatened back in the outside world. She wasn’t sure Lady Patchouli felt toward Gen how she felt to those she could call family, but Meiling could tell this human had value in her eyes now. What Patchouli Knowledge valued, she always fiercely protected.
“You erred to meet me after nightfall,” spoke the magician now. “The lunar goddess of Ellada watches us in earnest. Moon Sign: ‘Silent Selene’.”
The card she held became dust, and moonlight dropped to her from the sky like fired from cannons. The light splashed down and then wrapped her body before rocketing up in what looked to be solid beams fanning behind her. Squinting, one could see individual bullets in these lines. Standing still, Gen thought she looked radiant like a goddess herself. She began to lift into the air, and Yuuka followed her ascent looking entirely unperturbed.
“A Western Goddess invoked with Eastern magic... Patchouli Knowledge, I enjoy your style.”
“Shut up.” Blue diamonds speckled in front of Patchouli, while the lines of light behind her started increase in number and form a circle of bullets around her like a reversed case. “Dodge.”
“Scary, scary~” Yuuka mocked as the barrage came. She did as she was told, and slipped through. Because Patchouli moved as well, it wasn’t an entirely simple matter of getting out the way. She had to keep track of the other woman’s movements, as well as those little speckles she had brought out to go along with the ring of moonlight. Those were real trouble, almost sneaking up on the flower youkai. She kept her smile up, and her movements were noticeably slow, but she was paying attention. She fired at the magician flower petals, and she dodged.
Once the card was captured, Patchouli had another readied.
“Moon Sign: ‘Sleep Forever, Endymion’.”
This time moonlight swam around the sky in waving and curving streams. In this almost hypnotic, sea-like curtain, movement was hardly allowed. To be in it felt like facing an astral flood. Patchouli Knowledge kept in place, and directed this beautiful chaos.
Yuuka focused on hitting her enemy, lasers grazing by her worryingly closed. She eventually slipped up, and so missed the chance for capture, but she was even hit twice more after this. She cleared the spell after a while and waited a moment though it became her turn. She fiddled with the cuffs of her shirt now, and whispered, “Wow~... tough, tough.”
Yuuka closed her eyes and slowly drew out paper from her sleeve as Patchouli had always done. She held it up, looked on it with a tiny frown, and said, “I won’t hesitate either. Simple Sign: ‘Little Spark’.”
The card disappeared. She aimed her parasol at the magician.
“This nonsense...” Patchouli complained. She quickly spoke to conjure several books she needed from her library, bringing them in through floating glyph-portals (it was something she could only do from this near the mansion). They followed her in the sky, and she launched an assault of straight and bullet shots from them all. Yuuka unleashed her spell.
Patchouli smoothly avoided a gigantic demonstration of Yuuka’s magical power: a too-large expulsion of her energy that seemed to bend the sky. Patchouli was able to dodge it because she knew somebody who stole it, and she dealt with them regularly. Compared to the “master spark”, though... this spell was stronger, wider, and more “pure”, she felt.
As Yuuka fired the main “gun”, the parasol spread smaller bullets out as well to keep the magician busy. Patchouli flew through them with practiced motions, and never let down her attack. She hit Yuuka enough to force her to put her card away, and the flower youkai sighed with a blend of satisfaction and disappointment. She began to twirl her umbrella in front of herself ‘round her finger, and lifted her free hand from which flowers grew, their heads sent out in strange and drifting paths toward the librarian. Her umbrella meanwhile spread circles of ordinary bullets, and so Yuuka’s non-declared spell was in full swing.
From the ground, Meiling abruptly spoke to Gen. “You’re awake, Sir Gen?”
He only hardly managed a reply of “yes”.
“Your qi... has become like that of a youkai’s.”
“Shit...” he answered, groaning and trying to lift his deeply hurting body, “did I turn?”
“No, it seems like your qi is only tainted. It’s dissipating. I think you’ll be human yet.”
“I messed up...” he spoke bitterly and sat up, resting against the gatekeeper, “and now Master Patchouli is fighting that girl.”
“She’s decided to fight for you, Sir Gen.”
“Nonsense. She’s mad over me, sure...”
“If Lady Patchouli loses this fight, Miss Yuuka will come to kill you.”
“Huh?” he looked back at Meiling over his shoulder.
“The flower youkai wants to know if Lady Patchouli has enough strength to raise a powerful human. She has a little interest in those,” Meiling explained. “So, if she wins, she’ll know you have no heights to reach, and will cut you down early.”
“Isn’t that just your speculation? Isn’t she only teasing?”
“Miss Yuuka is infamous for her teasing, yes... But she’s also infamous for unceremonious killing. You had better hope Lady Patchouli succeeds, Sir Gen. She’s fighting to save your life.”
Gen turned his eyes to the now colorful and bright night sky, assailed with Yuuka’s immense pink flowers, spokes of yellow energy, and interlocking circles of auburn and gold. It was apparent she was now using a spell card, and Patchouli seemed to be taking great effort to avoid being hit. He looked at his fierce Master, and felt he had much to think about.
Up above, the card was captured, to Patchouli’s exclamation of “Yes...!” She raised her left hand over her right shoulder and invoked the moon once more. Light touched her fingertips, and she turned herself in a graceful, full rotation. In four directions, moonlight arcs were shot from her turning, and then in four directions between more arcs came in reverse. Yuuka grazed between the spotlights with her parasol held close. Then, Patchouli brought up her grimoire, and fires flew out of it. In a pulse, a pulse, and another pulse, flame billowed out around her and engulfed the air in heat. Yuuka put on a sneer and looked at Patchouli, who only looked at her book. The flower woman flew to the right as the magician glided to her left, and she grazed the fires with hand full of petals, her own barrage unrelenting.
Patchouli Knowledge was not done. She shot a glance at Yuuka and returned to the center of their field of battle. Again she spun out lights, again she summoned fires, yet now both came with no mercy. It was a pattern she used knowing she would hit. And she did.
“Wow—!” Yuuka exclaimed as her hand and arm were bathed in fire. Patchouli only continued, moving next to aim her magic at the other youkai.
Yuuka pushed through, ended the round, and Patchouli drew another card.
“Fire, sunder metal and from its ashes deliver
Earth, drink of water and forge
Metal, ruin wood at its roots and sweat
Water, swallow fire and feed
Wood, grow from the soil of the earth and burn into—
Fire Water Wood Metal Earth Sign... ‘Philosopher’s Stone’!”
Yuuka gasped in joyous surprise, calling: “Your signature card already, is it!?”
“That’s Master Patchouli’s ultimate magic?” Gen asked.
“It’s her favorite, at least,” Meiling replied.
Patchouli did not answer her enemy. She shut her eyes and pointed to the stars as power flowed from her body and crystalized. Her sorcery crackled, and even from down at the walls, Meiling and Gen felt overwhelming natural force pushing down on them. In an instant, surrounding Patchouli manifested five stones of separate colors, each representing an element. The magician opened her eyes, showing dark circles had formed under them. She breathed out her mouth in loud rasps. Yuuka grinned, and faced a nature storm.
Gen stared upon a display of gorgeous, preeminent spellwork and might. From the crystals around his Master came all sorts of magic in all ways. It was near everything she had, put out to put the flower youkai down. Fire crashed into spirals of metal, collapsing into earth which churned over water and spat out lines of steel, which pierced branches that had choked the sky and bled out water, which came against and doused the fire, spreading over the cage of wood, which drove down to the earth below and gave way once more to flames. And all this was brought down on Kazami Yuuka.
“How wonderful it is,” she shouted as the majestic sorcery drew near, “magic of art and practice! I am very impressed, Patchouli Knowledge!”
She dove headlong into the craft and mess, grazing it all.
And Gen found himself once more entranced.
“When I came here...” he said, watching Yuuka narrowly avoid being impaled by a spike of metal, “... what convinced me to stay was Master Patchouli’s magic.”
“Really?” Meiling asked.
Yuuka was swallowed by water and crested out of it wearing a maniacal grin.
“Yeah...” Gen answered, “and now I remember what had me amazed.” The florist was pushed back by a soaring root system. She grasped at it from its top and pushed herself out its path, spinning in the sky with her parasol out and open. She held out her hand, and a storm of flowers met with the storm of nature.
“Lady Patchouli is too incredible.”
[ ♫: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lem4kX0iE7c ]
Meiling smirked at the human in her hands and whispered, “... She’s something else.”
The magician was buffeted by flower petals, and suddenly her magic came to an end. Yuuka opposing her was quite battered, and had this to say:
“Now, I’ll show you absolute, raw, and terrible power.”
Master Patchouli had a hand over her chest and was grabbing there. She had one squinted eye set on Yuuka, and her breathing had gone completely ragged.
Yuuka closed her parasol and took out her coup de grâce: one last spell card to finish this.
“Natural Magic: ‘Unleashed, Unbridled, Fantastic Twin Spark’.”
Again the paper vanished, and out from her image walked a clone of herself. The two Kazamis glanced at one another, then raised each their weapons at a mirrored pace, locked on Patchouli. As lightning arced over and between the umbrellas’ points, flowers endlessly bloomed at their backs, over their heads, threatening to block the sight of the moon. They rushed down, and the pair sent forth their natural magic, with force and spread to slay a mountain.
Patchouli pushed herself left, and stopped and started between falling flowers, dodging, but not dodging well. When the sweep ended and Yuuka prepared another wave, she began coughing in a fit.
“Lady Patchouli!” the two at ground both shouted for her at once.
She went through the next wave with eyes blearing, hardly capable of maintaining her own firing let alone keeping pace with the bullets and sheer magic. She grazed everything, but almost accidentally, and when this wave had passed she spoke loudly to Kazami Yuuka.
“I am... a magician of seven days,” she picked up her head, and withdrew a card from her sleeve, “my magic does not end with five.”
Patchouli Knowledge straightened herself and made steady her face. Wheezing through incantations, she finished, breathed out, and looked directly at the sparks gathering at the parasols’ points.
“Now”, said the librarian, placing a hand over her breast, “let me show you how I’d do it.”
Patchouli drew out something from her heart, and looking as closely as he could, Gen saw it was a star. His Master put a sun into her palm, held it up, and declared the name of her spell card:
“Sun Moon Sign...! ‘Diurnal... Spark’!”
Light came down and out, and it was all dazzling. Tempered through her book, from her heart’s sun and the moon above, it dashed around her and began to combine in front of her. Moonlight and sunlight both were radiant and gleaming, and he saw tears in droplets shining aloft at her cheek when his Master turned her gaze upon Yuuka impassioned, bringing up her hand.
When she cast, Yuuka cast, and their magic met violent and mad above Scarlet Devil Mansion.
His Master’s “spark” brought together luminescence that should never show at once, impossible and roaring with as much, if not more width and energy than the two rays and floral avalanche it pushed against. Patchouli openly grit her teeth, Kazami Yuuka (both) bared hers in a grin. Meiling hugged Gen to herself as power scattered everywhere, even all the way to earth.
“Do it, Lady Patchouli!”
“Ah...” the true Yuuka uttered when she noticed fluctuation where their attacks met. She smiled thinly, seeing Patchouli’s spell begin to swallow hers.
Like a fist breaking through ice, the Diurnal Spark tore through the twins. From great distances the deafening grasp for triumph could be seen and heard. The ancient sorceress had all her soul invoked, and reaching for the ancient flower. Errant light carved into the earth, clouds were cleaved in two, and those of Misty Lake looked on in awe at a spectacle rarely beheld. Her spell found, pushed, and consumed her foe in might overwhelming. An unearthly, massive bang resounded, shaking the world, and heralding Kazami Yuuka’s defeat. And, under Patchouli’s power and the burst of Yuuka fallen, the sky came to resemble day instead of night.
Patchouli came back to earth, panting heavily. She looked down on Yuuka and saw that she was sporting satisfaction on her face, although her body was smoking and her clothing was ruined. Ignoring her, she walked toward her student and the gatekeeper. When she stopped before them, she inhaled deeply, and exhaled as long. With a forcefully composed expression, she told her broken apprentice this:
“Gen... good work today.”