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A minute after she had broken out of the observatory, reason returned to Flandre. It had been stupid to leave like that. In a few moments, the mansion grounds and skies would be filled with search parties of fairy-maids, but that didn't mean much. What were they going to do even if they did find her? Fight her? The idea was so ridiculous that Flandre smiled in spite of her situation. For a few seconds, as she flew away from the scarlet mansion in bat form, she considered actually leaving forever. It was a tempting idea, but even she knew that she depended too much on other people to prepare her food. And where would she shelter when daylight came? No, she would have to stay.
Sighing inwardly, she turned herself around and headed back to the mansion. Spots of light dotted the grounds and lit parts of the sky. The airborne search parties were the only ones she had to worry about and she easily evaded the bright lights that the fairies were carrying with them. She noticed that there were no splotches of light near the mansion itself so she landed on the roof and returned to human form to think about what she should do. Should she apologize to Remilia? No. Remilia should be apologizing to me! Flandre decided, And I'm not going back to the basement. No matter what.
She lied down on the wooden roof, stretching and looking up at the stars and the full moon. An ancient memory stirred -- the last time she had seen the night sky. It had been a full moon that time, too. Remilia had been with her. And their parents.
...Parents? Flandre shook her head. What were parents again?
Flandre jumped at the unfamiliar voice. She got to her feet quickly and faced the person who had interrupted her thoughts. About ten paces away, there stood a solitary person. The speaker was silhouetted against the lights of the search parties, but even so, Flandre could make out a ridiculously large and wide-brimmed hat on the stranger's head and what looked like a broom held to her side.
"You are Flandre Scarlet, right?" asked the stranger, "I'm supposed to find you and get you back home."
Suddenly, a bright light appeared, illuminating the surrounding area and momentarily blinding the vampire. When her eyes adjusted, Flandre saw not the mysterious silhouette, but a grinning witch with a bright sphere of light held in her hand. Holding the light source up, she took a good look at Flandre.
"Well, you match the description I got from Remilia. Short, blonde, wearing red..."
"Who are you?"
"Me?" The witch paused in her examination of Flandre and her grin grew wider. Standing up to her full height -- which wasn't saying much considering she was only slightly taller than Flandre -- she declared loudly, "I'm Marisa Kirisame! The most talented magician in Gensokyo!"
"Sakuya, who exactly was that self-proclaimed 'most talented magician' that you brought instead of Reimu?" inquired Remilia. The two of them, the vampire and the servant, were back in the observatory again, watching not the moon but the search through the gaping hole Flandre had created. The former was sitting the in the armchair that she had been occupying previously, with the latter standing on her right side, ready to act on her mistress's orders.
"When the miko refused to help, she suggested that I tried the black-white living in the forest instead," replied Sakuya. "Because of the urgency of this, I wasted no time trying to change her mind and found the witch she was referring to instead."
"I see. Was there a reason for the shrine maiden's refusal? And Marisa's readiness to help?"
"My lady, at this hour, you must not forget that most humans are already asleep. When I woke her up, she was more than a little grouchy," explained the maid, "As for Marisa, she's a strange one. When I arrived at her house, the lights were still on and she seemed to be researching something. I suspect she thought this would be a perfect opportunity to test her experiments."
"I see," said Remilia. She fell silent for a short while, apparently thinking about something. After a while, she asked another question, "Do you think she can defeat Flandre, Sakuya?"
"Honestly, my lady, I do not know."
Remilia chuckled a little. "Well, we shall see. Now, that tea you were making for me and Flandre, it ought to be done by now right?"
"Yes, I'll bring it right away."
The only reply Flandre could think of to reply to Marisa's declaration was a simple, "Oh."
Most talented magician sure sounded impressive, but Flandre still wasn't too worried about her abilities. She had learned long ago that nobody could match her destructive capabilities. Not even that shrine maiden that had beaten her, who had relied on superior defensive spells and dodging rather than overwhelming power. This grinning witch certainly was interesting though. There was absolutely nothing about her that stood out much. No wings, no claws, no fangs, no anything that made her look as impressive as she claimed to be. Was she a human? It would sure explain her weirdness.
Marisa looked a little taken aback at the lack of awe to her grand introduction -- or at least it was grand in her mind -- but she didn't let it bother her for too long.
"Getting back to the matter at hand," she started, "Would you mind going back into the mansion?"
"I don't want to," responded Flandre immediately, but after a slight pause she added, "At least... not yet."
"Look, I was told to get you back as soon as possible--"
"I said I don't want to!" the vampire exclaimed before opening her wings and flying up and away from the roof. In her haste to put some distance between her and the annoying witch, she forgot that she was supposed to be avoiding the search parties, but it didn't matter. As she had predicted, though they pointed at her and said things like "There she is!” they did nothing to stop her.
Before Flandre had gotten even a quarter of a mile from the mansion, however, a thin and bright white laser suddenly shot over her shoulder, missing the left part of her hat by mere inches and heating up the air noticeably near her left ear. Wheeling around in mid-air, she saw that the witch had found her again already. Riding her broom to chase Flandre, Marisa had one hand on the handle of the broom and the other hand extended outward at the vampire, holding a small magical artifact that she had just used to concentrate and create the magical laser.
"That was a warning shot!" shouted Marisa, "Go back to the mansion or I'll force you back!"
Again, at the strangest of times, Flandre smiled. This human was either brave or stupid to challenge her. Perhaps both. From out of nowhere, she materialized her trusty Laevatein, the wand of destruction. If this human wanted a fight, she was going to get a fight.
Marisa sensed its power before she saw it, the legendary Laevatein. A magical artifact of great power, it was rumored to have been created and used by a god in ancient times, so what was a vampire doing with it? Well, it didn't change much. Remilia had said that there was a very high chance that Flandre would not go willingly, so Marisa was prepared to fight. As soon as she felt the wand's presence, she started channeling her own spirit energy through her own artifact, the mini-Hakkero to prepare her attacks, and adjusted her seat on her broom in anticipation of the quick movements and dodging she would need to do.
Moderation was not Flandre's strong suit. Swinging the metal wand through the air fiercely, she created hundreds upon hundreds of glowing red needles that darted every which way. She didn't even bother to aim them at her target. Within seconds the airspace in front of Marisa was thick with the magic, threatening to engulf the witch in its deadly power. However, Marisa just smirked and dove straight into the midst of it, grabbing her hat to prevent the wind from blowing it off. It was like a shifting labyrinth of destruction inside, but with great precision and deft movement, she maneuvered herself closer to the source of the magic and took careful aim with her mini-Hakkero.
Flandre hadn't been paying attention to where the witch had gone. As soon as she had disappeared into the depths of her magic, Flandre was confident that she had already won. That was until another laser, exactly like the warning shot just seconds before, suddenly burst from the crimson sea of needles and hit her in the left shoulder. The force of the magic knocked her off balance, causing her to lose control of her flight and fall the thirty meters to the ground. The impact sent up dust everywhere, but when it settled, it was quite clear that Flandre was far from being finished.
"Ha...ahahahahaha..." She laughed softly as she slowly picked herself up. When she turned around, Marisa could see, even from her height, that all traces of sanity had left the vampire. "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! TABOO 'LAEVATEIN'!"
It was unmistakably a spellcard declaration. Instantly, the wand in Flandre's right hand engulfed itself in scarlet magical energy which lengthened itself until it became an impossibly long sword. As if to test it out, she slammed it down to her side, leaving a long jagged gash in the earth. Then, with superhuman strength, she pushed off from the ground and flew at an alarming speed at the witch while swinging the magical blade, her face contorted with insane laughter.
It was with instinct rather than conscious will that allowed Marisa to dodge the vampire's insane attack. With barely a millisecond to spare, she accelerated out of the way, but with almost no time for breath, Flandre was already diving back down for a follow up. Tch, she's fast. Acting quickly, Marisa pulled a card from her dress and activated her own spellcard.
"Ritual Sign 'Orreries Sun'!"
The card in her hand emitted four spheres of spirit energy, each a different color, before disintegrating into nothingness, and with her will, Marisa directed them between her and the still-laughing vampire just moments before it was too late. The Laevatein sword crashed into the makeshift barrier, sending sparks everywhere but deflecting Flandre's momentum backwards. Unfazed, she lunged forward again, slamming the sword against the orbs again and, this time, successfully cutting through two of them and breaking through. Marisa was prepared. In the time it had taken for Flandre to break through, she had put some distance between them. From both hands she fired multiple green bolts at the vampire, who dodged them easily. A few feet away from slashing distance, Flandre saw something unexpected -- Marisa was grinning. And then the two remaining orbs from Marisa's spellcard slammed into her back.
She was oblivious to the pain, but the impact made her lose her grip on the Laevatein. It immediately lost whatever enchantment Flandre's spellcard had given it, turning back into a metal stick as it fell through the darkness and made a dull thunk as it hit the ground. Now Flandre wasn't laughing, though her expression was still void of sanity. Marisa was unsure of what to do next, but whatever she was planning, it wasn't fast enough.
"Taboo 'Kagome Kagome'" Flandre hissed in between clenched teeth.
Another spellcard. With no time to react, Marisa suddenly found herself enclosed in a green cage of magic. Flandre slowly approached the trapped magician.
"Kagome kagome, the bird in the cage," she began to sing softly, "When will you come out?"
The witch fired a spirit bolt at the cage, trying to disrupt it, but immediately it reformed itself, leaving her as trapped as ever.
"In the evening of daybreak," Flandre continued, "The crane and turtle slipped."
Looking back at the vampire, Marisa saw that both of her hands were holding yellow orbs of pure destructive power that were steadily growing in size. It looked like she would have no choice but to use that.
"Who is behind now?" concluded Flandre, and with that she threw the yellow orbs at the cage.
"Magicannon 'Final Spark'!"
The spellcard disintegrated and Marisa felt her magic reserves being drained dry by the mini-Hakkero as it released it all in one tremendous blast. A giant rainbow laser, nearly fifteen meters in diameter, spewed forth from the artifact, easily destroying the cage and the destructive spheres of yellow. It slammed into a surprised Flandre with full force, causing her to careen through the night sky uncontrollably for a great distance before she slammed into a tree with enough force to split the trunk halfway. Then gravity took its turn and slammed her to the ground where she stayed, unmoving.
Marisa landed on the ground, breathing heavily. Throughout the whole fight, she hadn't taken a single hit yet her body was shaking from the stress she had just put it through. The last spellcard had forced every last bit of spirit energy she had left through the mini-Hakkero, which now felt dead in her hand. She pocketed it again and went to find Flandre. Two steps forward, however, something glinted in the darkness, grabbing her attention. It was the Laevatein. She pocketed that too before walking up to where she saw the vampire fall. Despite all that she had been through, there wasn't a single indication of injury on her body. Her dress was slightly tattered now, but besides that Flandre looked like she could have been sleeping.
With a great sigh, Marisa threw her limp body over her shoulder and started to make her way back to the mansion by foot. There was no way she could use the broom in this condition. Flandre didn't weigh too much. She was perhaps less than ninety pounds, but for Marisa, who was hardly any heavier, carrying the girl back to the mansion was a huge strain for her already overworked body. As she trudged up the hill, she passed some lingering fairy-maids from the search who offered no help, instead preferring to whisper among themselves about what they had just witnessed. Another human had beaten Flandre? Two exceptions to the rule? Unthinkable. Marisa didn't mind too much about the unhelpfulness of the maids, though, and the snatches of hushed conversation that she heard only served to boost her already somewhat bloated ego. Eventually, she arrived at the giant iron gates that stood in front of the main entrance of the mansion. They were locked.
"Damnit, now what the hell am I supposed to do?" the witch muttered. As if in reply, a loud snore issued from what she had taken to be a moss-covered rock. Except now that she looked at it closely, it was rising and falling slightly, perfectly in time with the snores coming from it. She nudged the lump of green with her foot but that did nothing more than to draw a small grunt from it. Finally, after two more nudges that yielded the same results, she kicked it. Hard.
A brilliantly red-haired girl sat up from a strange sleeping position, rubbing her bottom as she tried to determine what had just smacked her. Taking far longer than was normal, she finally noticed Marisa.
"You're not trying to get in are you?" she mumbled sleepily, rubbing her eyes as she asked. Marisa raised an eyebrow.
"Who the heck are you?"
"Me?" the redhead asked. She stood up and dusted off her green Chinese-style dress. "I'm the door guard to the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Hong Meiling. You were trying to get in, weren't you?"
"No, I was trying to wake your lazy butt up," Marisa retorted, "Now I'm trying to get in. Open the gates."
"No," Meiling replied instantly, "Not unless you have business with the mistress."
"Business, huh?" Marisa repeated. Apparently, this lazy door guard had missed the entire series of events that had just happened. Probably slept through it all, though Marisa couldn't see how that was possible from what she heard. How could anyone sleep through an exploding wall, hundreds of maids swarming the grounds, and a huge airborne battle? Well it didn't matter. There was an easy way to get in. Marisa shifted Flandre from her shoulder to her arms, carrying her like she was cradling a rather large baby. "Why don't you take a look at who I'm carrying?"
Meiling was still trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes as she approached the witch and her unconscious companion. She looked. Then, she rubbed her eyes some more, blinked a few times, and looked again.
"Oh, it's Flandre," Meiling said matter-of-factly. And then something clicked in her head. "Wait, Fl-Flandre!? When did she get out!?"
"Does this count as 'business' with your mistress?" Marisa asked sarcastically.
"Y-Yes, of course! I'll let you in right away!"
The door guard fished a small key out of a pocket and fumbled with the lock a bit before unlocking the gates and pulling them open. Marisa stepped through and headed to the front door as Meiling swung the heavy gates shut again. A loud click told the witch that she was now locked in. Geez, what a slow person, Marisa thought to herself as she made her way down the curvy path to the double doors in front.
The front entrance doors were huge. Marisa grabbed a ring hanging from one of the two brass lion heads mounted on the door as doorknockers and only had to knock once before the doors immediately opened, revealing the head maid. Sakuya's eyes widened as they took in the scene in front of her: the witch, completely unharmed, with the vampire, who now had frayed clothing, unconscious in her arms. Without waiting for an invitation from the momentarily stunned Sakuya, Marisa marched in and kicked the doors closed.
"Are you gonna take her or not?" asked Marisa, "She's getting pretty damn heavy."
"Give her to me," replied a voice from behind Marisa. She turned around to see Remilia standing in a doorway. As she moved out of the way to allow the magician through with her sister, she addressed her servant warmly, "Sakuya, you may take a break until tomorrow night. You've done enough already tonight."
Sakuya curtsied in reply and, instead of disappearing into thin air like usual, walked away to leave the other two alone. Marisa turned Flandre over to her sister's hands, who turned back and started to walk away down a long hallway.
"H-hey!" called Marisa. Remilia glanced back.
"You can leave now," she said back, "Thank you for your help."
"Wha--? Don't I get a reward or something?"
"A reward? I never said anything about a reward," Remilia replied. She started down the hallway again with her sister.
"You mean to tell me that I risked my life just now for nothing?" demanded Marisa. The elder vampire didn't reply, leaving the black-white magician in the entrance hall with nothing to do but go back home. Whatever, she thought to herself, I'll just pick out my own reward later. She smirked a little at the thought and left. Mounting her bamboo broom, she forced her slowly recovering magic to levitate it and, with a lot more effort than usual due to her low magic reserves, moved it upward and forward toward the Forest of Magic where her little house was, tucked away in some dark corner.
Remilia carried her sister lower and lower, down to the basement, back to the little undecorated room, one hand holding her and the other a bright lantern. The iron door was still lying on the cement floor where Flandre had left it earlier today, complete with blobs of reformed metal through the hinges where she had melted it. Remilia laid Flandre down on her bed and stood back, wondering what she should do next. If she really was going to end it, now would be the best time before Flandre regained consciousness. Kill her now and she would never have to worry about something like this happening ever again. Kill her now, while she still had the resolve to do the unthinkable. Procuring a wooden stake from her dress that she had gotten ready specifically for this moment, Remilia took a deep breath. It was now or never.
Something stopped her. Was Flandre... were those tears? The lantern light reflected off some drops of water running down her cheeks. Remilia wiped one of them away and at her touch, Flandre mumbled something.
"... all my fault... I'm sorry..."
Remilia felt a tear slide down her cheek as well. She couldn't do it after all.
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