Sighing, you step away from the body and wait. Tampering with a crime scene when you haven’t seen the extent of the local law enforcement’s capabilities is a stupid move. They’d probably notice a missing finger and if they trace it back to you, there would be some uncomfortable questions in store.
“Well boys, let’s go! We have a criminal to catch!” With a cheer, Kotohime marches about and directs the guardsmen around. The village men lay out a sheet on the ground and roll the remains onto it. The guards and their intrepid leader quickly stomp off back to the village, leaving your group and Reimu standing in an open field.
Reimu quickly takes to the air and waves goodbye.
“Wait!” You shout. The shrine maiden stops and turns around, floating back down to you.
Red eyes stare, lips curled in annoyance. You can’t help but be nervous underneath the glare of the shrine maiden. “A-Ah, I was wondering h-how you were going to investigate?”
“She beats people up.” Minamitsu swoops in with an answer that raises Reimu’s hackles. The twitch in Reimu’s eyes spells certain doom that you do not wish to be in the path of.
“I ask.” Reimu asserts herself, objecting to the slander against her practices.
“While beating people up. Or after you beat them up. Sometimes before, but you usually aren’t satisfied, so you beat them up anyway.” Every sentence is another dagger plunged into Reimu’s composure. Luckily, instead of getting angrier, the shrine maiden seems to deflate into embarrassment, her eyes finding sudden interest in the empty field around us.
Even without Reimu’s unspoken acknowledgement, you would have believed Minamitsu anyway. From your interactions, you can tell that Reimu is a rather direct person.
You like that about her. She clearly draws the line and hands out obvious yet fair punishments. Her methods are miles above any backroom politics or insidious poisons you’ve had to deal with.
“That sounds interesting. Mind if I watch you work?” The others gasp in surprise once they realize what you’ve asked.
Well, not Yoshika, but she reacts to only a few things.
Reimu points to herself in disbelief, her eyes wide with surprise.
“Well, yeah. I’m interested. You seem good at your job, so I think I could learn something by watching. Is that a problem?”
The shrine maiden stares for a second before bursting into action. You’re afraid her neck is going to snap off given how vigorously she’s shaking her head. She’s like a little girl, trying to contain her burst of excitement by jittering in place. Suddenly, the brunette lunges forward and takes your hand before- Whoa!
Holy crap that surprised you. A quick shake of your limbs confirms that you are indeed floating in the air.
Reimu is nodding in pride while Yoshika is clapping in joy and drifting in a lazy orbit around you.
You haven’t done a thing. This shouldn’t be happening. You can’t notice anything that would be keeping you in the air. There’s no reason for you to suddenly be floating under your own power. You get the feeling that checking for magic wouldn’t reveal much, either.
What the hell? Screw it, you’re checking.
With your eyes filled with magic, you spin around and check around. Nothing to your sides, above or be- Holy shit, less spinning, less spinning! Midair somersaults are not fun!
You tumble in place over and over, the world reversing every which way as you spin uncontrollably. How stop? Stop! Don’t spin! Ugh, you’re going to be sick. Yoshika, Minamitsu, Reimu, tree, grass, sky, Reimu, Yoshika- can’t tell, they’re all a blur now. This really sucks. Flailing your arms only makes it worse and you can’t do-
You suddenly jerk to a halt after Reimu grabs ahold of your shoulder and hauls you upright.
“Ahahaha! Such grace!” Minamitsu’ mocking laughter grates on your nerves, but you can’t retaliate against the truth. Even if you wanted to, you can’t really tell which of the five phantoms in your vision is the real one.
You close your eyes and take deep breaths to shake off the effects the uncontrolled spinning.
“What did you do?” You glare at Reimu before looking back down at your own body. You have no idea why you’re floating and can’t figure out the first place to look. Any normal signs of magical flight are non-existent.
“Trade secret.” Reimu’s teasing words are going to haunt you for a long time. Another mystery of the Hakurei shrine maiden heaped onto the plate. “Ready?”
“What? No, not at all, I don’t- No, don’t go! Rei-aaah!”
You hate flying.
After your misbegotten attempts to follow Reimu into the sky, the shrine maiden swoos back down to steady and teach you. Through example and light taps with her wand, Reimu shows you the basics in controlling your supernatural flight. After twenty minutes of intensive instruction, you can reliably move through the air and stop your bouts of tumbling in place.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling. It’s nothing like ‘regular’ flight, if you compare it to when Yoshika was carrying you through the air. If you had to put it in words, you would say that you ‘are not falling’ rather than ‘flying.’
Flying is when lift can overcome gravity. You might move through the air, but gravity is still a factor. It isn’t when you float next to Reimu. Your gut is telling you that gravity should be dragging you down, but you can’t feel the slightest tug in any direction. You move where you want, with nothing to limit you. Or you would, if your control was better. As it stands, every shaky and unsteady jerk of movement stems from your mind and sense of balance thrown wildly off kilter.
Is this how Reimu flies? It’s…surreal. That’s a description coming from a kid turned necromancer.
When you regain your focus, you notice Reimu watching you with a smile; the nostalgic kind, filled with wonderful memories. It’s a beautiful, happy look, one that everybody deserves to wear if the world were perfect.
Then the moment ends. Reimu nods to you and flies up into the air. You follow after her and hold on to Yoshika’s hand for support. Training wheels, if you had to make a comparison. The zombie looked a bit sad before when you told her she wouldn’t have to carry you, but she’s all smiles now.
You notice something missing and glance back down. “Are you not coming, Minamitsu?”
The black-haired girl waves you off. “Nope. I should be heading back to the temple. Reimu’ll keep you safe. Don’t get yourself hurt, for our dear nun’s sake!”
“Yeah, I understand.” You lazily reply to the phantom as she flies off, back in the direction of Myouren temple. You can’t help but get the feeling that Minamitsu was running away, considering how little responsibility she cared about before.
Whatever. You aren’t going to dig into her excuses.
Reimu isn’t flying particularly fast, perhaps out of deference to your baby-like movement through the air. Actually, you think she just likes watching you flop around miserably if you ever let go of Yoshika’s hand. Maybe she’s a sadist. The red-eyes certainly give that kind of vibe.
“So, is this a permanent thing or what? The flight, I mean.” Better to get these questions out of the way before an accident happens.
The shrine maiden shakes her head and tosses a yin-yang orb that she pulled out of nowhere into the air. The spinning red-white orb stops abruptly some distance away before moving parallel to the ground in a slow orbit. Reimu sweeps her arm around, directing the orb as it picks up speed and begins whirling around in all directions, forming an invisible sphere around the shrine maiden. She points to you, then the orb, and then slams one hand down onto her other.
“It’s a leash, then.” A leash where, if you leave the comfort of Reimu’s company, you’re liable to go crashing down into the earth. Pretty straight forward message.
Reimu smiles and draws the yin-yang orb back. “Can be longer, if you’re good.”
After only another minute or so of flying, Reimu makes an abrupt dive and shoots towards the earth. No, not the earth – as you draw closer, you can see the gaggle of girls floating around closer to the ground.
And they aren’t just girls. They’re fairies.
Glorious. Go, go, Reimu! Stick it to those winged pests!
As happy as you are to see Reimu gunning after the fairies, they seem to be less enthusiastic. Although Reimu’s approach is silent, one of the fairies looks up by chance and notices the shrine maiden’s descent.
“Oh shit, it’s Reimu!” The seven fairies all spin wildly and gasp in horror upon seeing the Hakurei girl.
Then they start screaming. “Go, go, go!” The winged creatures buzz away as quickly as they can, stumbling into each other as they fly towards the safety of the nearby forest.
Unfortunately for them, Reimu is magnitudes faster. The slowest fairy, a cute little blonde one with a green dress, is snagged by the collar of her clothes. “H-Hey, d-don’t leave me with heeeeer! Nooooooo!”
Reimu holds the meter-tall fairy firmly by the shoulders, the little creature kicking its legs and flapping its wings to no avail. The shrine maiden barks out a few terse words. “The body. Spill it.”
“Waaaaah!” The fairy screams her head off, the high-pitched wail seriously grating on your ears. Yet Reimu is unflappable, her serious demeanor unaffected by the obviously distressed fairy. The shrine maiden shakes the fairy back and forth to try and wring out the information she wants.
The fairy cracks in short order. “R-R-Rumia! T-That b-blob of d-darkness! Her, her!” Reimu releases the fairy as soon as she gives up the name. The little creature wastes no time and flies, wailing all the while.
“That…is supposed to be intuition?” If anything, you would probably label it intimidation.
“Fairies always know something. They’re trouble.” Reimu wipes her hands and sets them on her hips, turning to you with eyes filled with suspicion. “Problem?”
“No, no, not at all. I was just expecting something…”
“What?” Reimu’s curt tone promises retribution for any offhand insults.
There really isn’t a good way to put it, now that you’ve started. “Uh, more refined?”
Oh shit evil glare - backup, backup! “That isn’t a bad thing! Go with works, right? I’m not the successful peacekeeper. What do I know?”
The Hakurei shrine maiden eyes you for a few seconds longer. “Fine. Watch.”
Command given, Reimu flies higher into the air, just above the tree line. She spreads her arms to her side and keeps her feet together. You follow her up and watch from a few meters away.
Reimu begins chanting – no, that’s not the right term. She recites. An incomprehensible stream of quiet whispers leave her mouth, hundreds of words per minute lumped together in a way you can’t decipher. Even after working magic into your ears, you can’t make out anything in the tidal wave of words. She seems to be pronouncing whatever is she’s saying clearly, but there’s too much for your mind to process.
“…ac-cess col-lect-ed ob-ser-va-tions…” The new voice breaks your concentration.
It’s Yoshika. Your zombie is slowly speaking, sounding out every syllable, but not speaking for your sister. She’s, well, you think she’s repeating after Reimu. You can’t imagine what else she would be saying with such focus. Yoshika is speaking far too slowly to keep up with Reimu, but the zombie is doing much better than you in any case.
Maybe that’s your sister getting off her lazy behind and helping. She’s picked through your memories in the past, so she should be able to parse the blather into something useful. Assuming your sister can access Yoshika’s memories, it would be much simpler than using yours.
At any rate, your attention is wasted on Reimu’s words. Time to focus somewhere else.
With your magically enhanced sight, you try and see what Reimu is doing, but it doesn’t make any sense. Normally, you can watch the flow of mana as a spell is being cast and infer what is occurring, but there’s no flow in sight. Much like whatever Reimu did to give you flight, things just are.
Red rectangles are spinning around Reimu. You’ve come to associate the patterns comprising the rectangles with the border. They appear and disappear seemingly at random, with no mana signature to speak of. Whatever Reimu is doing is not magic in the conventional sense that you’ve learned.
The shrine maiden raises an arm. Strings of red appear, stretched out far across the sky. Dozens of red lines that loop around themselves and span into the distance all extend from Reimu. She glances between all of the strings before reaching out and grabbing one.
In that instance, everything ends. The strangely-patterned shapes and lines disappear alongside Reimu’s words.
Then Reimu drifts off, as if all was normal. She’s flying in the direction of the string she had touched, towards the forest of bamboo in the distance.
You tug on Yoshika’s hand and get the zombie to fly alongside you. She’s still slowly enunciating words, her attention absorbed in Reimu’s previous litany. You’re struck by the strangest fear, that Yoshika will just stop moving, overwhelmed by too much information.
Hah, no, that won’t happen. You don’t want to draw Yoshika’s attention away from whatever she’s thinking about, but you’re positive something like that can’t happen. It’s a useless worry.
“Was that a trade secret, too?” You ask as you pull up alongside Reimu. She looks a bit tired with her skin glistening with a fine sheen of sweat, but the grin on her face speaks loudly.
It only takes another few minutes for you all to enter the bamboo forest. Reimu drifts closer to you and taps you on the shoulder. “Stay close. Don’t get lost.”
With her warning given, the shrine maiden continues to weave her way through the bamboo. It’s strange, to see the bamboo growing in such amounts. As tall as any normal tree and much denser, it’s a miracle you can even force a path through the shoots.
Despite seeing nothing but bamboo all around, Reimu remains sure in her direction. There’s no hesitance as she flies towards her goal.
Passing through another wall of bamboo, you find yourself in a clearing. It’s small; enough to fit what looks like a three-room shack in the center. Off to the side is a food stall with a couple of seats, placed right next to the path that cuts through the bamboo forest.
There are two people sitting at the stall. Two rabbits, to be precise. You recognize the purple-haired Reisen slumped over the counter, but the shorter rabbit sitting next to her is not someone you’re familiar with.
The shorter, black-haired rabbit immediately swivels on her seat once you enter the clearing. Her eyes lock-on to the shrine maiden immediately. “Howdy Reimu, what’s going on?” the little Rabbit calls out.
You, Yoshika, and Reimu land on the ground and casually approach the stall.
“Reimu’s here?” The door to the shack opens and Mokou steps out. You weren’t expecting to see the white-haired woman again so soon. She walks over to stand next to the stall and waves at you. “Hey, it’s you. Guess you were pretty eager to see me again. You guys want to buy some yakitori?”
“Is it poisoned?” Always important to check.
The white-haired woman laughs. “What? No way, I only poison my food for special guests.”
Somehow, you don’t think she’s kidding about that.
“In that case, I-” Your response dies on your lips. Your sense of danger is telling you to get the fuck out.
Reimu steps in front of you. Mokou tries to offer her some food, but the shrine maiden completely ignores the proposition. Likewise, the little rabbit’s jokes go unheard. Reimu has eyes for only one person in the clearing.
The shine maiden’s question, despite the magnitude, is asked in her usual quiet and curt manner. “Reisen. Did you murder him?”
The question is like the torch to the stake. The salesbunny that was slumped on the counter jumps to her feet, her ears jolting straight upwards. Reisen spins and backs up against the counter. It only takes one glance to see that she’s out of it.
You really hate it, hate them. It would only take a few spells to clear them all away, you think. If you catch these girls by surprise, it’d be ridiculously simple to kill them. Hell, depending on how you do it, you could net yourself some of the strongest servants in the world. Your own personal army that you could use to sweep away those fools who would dare laugh at-
A pair of cold hands clamps themselves over your eyes. “Master, no looking.”
What? What were you just thinking? That was…
After muttering a few basic protection spells, you pry Yoshika’s hands away and take another look.
Reisen has lost it. The rabbit looks crazed. Her eyes are blazing red, the magic radiating from them obvious when you’re protected against it. She’s shaking like a leaf, her arms clamped to the side of her head as she stares at Reimu in desperation. You think she’s whispering to herself as well.
The shrine maiden isn’t succumbing to any madness. Reimu’s own red eyes are unclouded. Her quiet voice, instead of fired up with annoyance like you’d expect, is tinged with sadness. “Guilty, huh?”
Reimu begins walking forward again but only takes one step.
Mokou, instead of leaning against her food stall, plants herself in Reimu’s way. She stands in front of Reisen and folds her arms across her chest. “Go away, Reimu.”
The Hakurei shrine maiden shakes her head. Her gaze steels itself as she grips her wooden stick tighter, a Yin-Yang orb appearing in her other hand.
From your position off to the side, you can see behind Mokou easily. The other rabbit is shaking Reisen’s shoulder, but whatever the little rabbit is trying to get Reisen to do, it isn’t working. The purple-haired bunny stands against the counter with one hand on her head, the other curled against her chest in a gun-like shape.
“Damn it. Fine then,” Mokou spits on the ground. “Reimu, I challenge you to a spell card duel.”
All emotion has fled from Reimu’s voice, leaving nothing but cold business behind. “This is serious.”
Fire erupts around Mokou. Despite the sudden and intense heat, nobody flinches. “I’m serious. You think I’ll let you hurt Reisen for no reason?”
“One card,” Reimu responds.
Mokou’s retort is instantaneous. “Four. I want four.”
“No. No stalling.”
“Then we’ll be doing this the old-fashioned way.” Mokou laughs and twirls her fingers, the fires surrounding her dancing with her movement. “Can you afford to let that happen?”
Reimu’s face twitches in annoyance before returning to a neutral state. “Tch. Fine. Four cards.”
The negotiation finished, Mokou leaps into the air immediately. She draws a slip of paper out of her pocket and throws it upwards. “Forgiveness – Honest Man’s Death.”
You take a step back and watch the magic explode.
This is a real spell card duel.
You had seen Reimu’s spell card before. You experienced what it was like first hand, but watching the duel in front of you is an entirely different experience.
Burning wings have erupted behind Mokou, the white-haired woman throwing all of her anger into her attack. Streams of purely magical bullets mix in with the heated fireballs and lances of energy that she throws at Reimu. The waves of bullets sway back and forth, every component of her spell card a beauty to look at. More than just magic, Mokou’s feelings and emotions are readily felt. She’s putting everything she has into the offense to try and bring Reimu down. To your senses, the magical barrage is a statement of will, an elegant conveyance of emotions and beliefs.
Yet, it’s obvious it won’t be enough. So, painfully obvious.
Reimu moves through the storm with contemptuous ease. She starts out slowly, simple shifting back and forth in the air, before picking up speed. The shrine maiden starts to fly wildly, drawing large circles around Mokou.
Reimu is taunting Mokou, there’s no doubt. The fiery spell card isn’t enough to keep up with the shrine maiden. The magical bullets struggle to follow Reimu’s movements. The streams of magic are not enough to catch her. The shrine maiden dips through Mokou’s barrage without a care.
Mokou’s rage-filled look could kill any normal human. The spell intensifies, but the addition of a few extra bullets isn’t enough to catch Reimu.
“Luck sign – Unfortunate Accident!” Suddenly, another burst of magic fills the clearing. Streams of colorful tear-drop bullets fly from the edges of the clearing inward, throwing a wrench in the shrine maiden’s easy flight. The little bullets swirl around in a random-like pattern. It takes a moment for you to realize the swarms of small bullets are forming larger shapes, drawing four-leaf clovers and rabbit feet in the air.
You drag your eyes away from Reimu to look at the source of the new spell card. The other rabbit is standing in front of the food stall and looking up, her card held in her hand.
“Tewi!” You hear Reimu shout over the noise the magic is creating. Despite the surprise of a new pattern of bullets raining down on her, Reimu adapts quickly. The shrine maiden adjusts her movements accordingly, jinking in all directions to avoid the barrages. Unlike before, her weaving isn’t perfect. You can see the occasional bullet glance Reimu’s body, the shrine maiden’s face twisting in annoyance with every hit.
The rabbit girl, Tewi, shouts back up at Reimu through cupped hands. “Four cards, right? Just think of this as one of hers. You’ll allow it, won’t you, Reimu?”
The shrine maiden’s response is swift. Talismans, needles, and Yin-Yang orbs fly, all launched directly at Mokou and Tewi. The two of them grimace in pain as all of Reimu’s shots land with perfect aim.
Spell card duels are simple. One person declares, the other dodges. A spell card requires concentration to keep in place, taxing the wielder the longer it’s in effect. This creates a time limit for the duels. Whoever gives into the pain or runs out of cards first is the loser. Byakuren’s simple explanation of Gensokyo’s non-lethal combat doesn’t match up with the reality at all.
At the rate this is going, you wonder what will happen. The situation is one giant clusterfuck, the sky filled with an ungodly amount of colors and projectiles. You’re fine so far, but a number of the ‘non-lethal’ shots have strayed far too close for comfort.
You can’t just stand around. Somebody is in the right, somebody is in the wrong, and you’re caught between them. What do you really want to do? What’s best to do in this ridiculous situation?
[ ] Shit has hit the fan, time to leave…
-[ ] And maybe Reisen should, too.
[ ] This isn’t your fight. Keep your head down…
-[ ] And Reisen’s too.
[ ] Two-on-one isn’t enough to take Reimu. Support Mokou and Tewi…
-[ ] By proxy. Good luck, Yoshika!
-[ ] Yourself. You have to try out those spell cards eventually.
-[ ] Your own way. It shouldn’t be illegal…
[ ] Two-on-one hardly seems fair. Support Reimu…
-[ ] By proxy. Good luck, Yoshika!
-[ ] Yourself. You have to try out those spell cards eventually.
-[ ] Your own way. It shouldn’t be illegal…
[ ] <Write-in>
If you choose to fight, the sub-options aren’t mutually exclusive. Go all out or choose only one, as you wish.
And man, that’s some ugly formatting. I should have figured out how to make the vote choices prettier. >>163958
Boom, exploding body! Hahaha, get’s ‘em every time. >>163969
Let’s see, how to reply…Yes. >>163979
To you, maybe, but my naïve and innocent soul is simply excited to see a plethora of voters voicing their opinions.
Honestly, I agree that it seems a bit strange, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. My super secret verification process tells me that all is well. If people really start to get antsy about vote-spamming or the votes spin wildly out of my expectations, then I’ll go and bother the power-on-high about it.