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Beep. Beep. Beep.
In a small bedroom somwhere, an alarm was going off, heralding the start of yet another school day. A teenage girl was in the bed groaning, pulling her pink covers over her head in a futile attempt to muffle the incessant beeping. Finally, she slid an arm from under the warm layers of blankets and pushed several wrong buttons on the radio clock before successfully hitting the snooze button and disabling the alarm. Then, just as she was thinking that she should probably just get up, turn it off, and get ready for school, she fell promptly back to sleep.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Five minutes later, the alarm was going off again. She didn't wake up. In fact, nothing could wake her up now. For some reason, her spirit had escaped from her body and was on its way to an unknown realm in the wilderness of Japan, to a place where monsters and magical beings took refuge from the hostile world of science. To Gensokyo, the Illusory Country.
Two young looking girls were in a messy little house in the woods, staring at a little doll that was lying on a worktable. On one side was someone who looked remarkably like a witch. She wore a black and white frilly dress and a purple ribbon that dangled from a single braid of her golden blond hair. Thrown absently to her side was a witch's hat, black and wide-brimmed, and a broom. The other girl looked more normal. Her plain blue dress and red hairband didn't make her seem as inclined to the magic arts as her companion, but that impression was counteracted by the two dolls that were floating about her head, apparently controlled purely by her will.
The two stared for at least half a minute at the inanimate doll before one of them, the witch, said, "So, Alice. Is this gonna to work or not? We've been waiting for a long time now."
Alice glared at the witch before pointing at the text in a book that was lying next to the doll and replying, "Marisa, did you forget what the book said? It takes on average an hour for this spell to work. The speed with which the doll is animated is dependent on many things and more often than not, it takes longer than the twenty minutes we've been waiting."
Marisa sighed loudly and sat down as she complained some more, "Geez, the only reason why I helped you was because you said that you would give me something it if it worked. Why do you want to create an independent doll anyway? Doesn't controlling an army of normal dolls work perfectly fine?"
"Of course, you wouldn't understand. Just think of how exciting it would be to have a doll that you could talk to! Or how about-"
Alice stopped talking abruptly. The doll was starting to move. The witch got back up out of her seat to watch as it rolled over as if it were sleeping. Then suddenly, the eyes of the doll opened and it sat up. It looked around briefly before its eyes set upon the two magicians that were peering down at her. The newly animated doll opened its mouth.
It looked from Alice to Marisa and back to Alice again. Meanwhile, the two friends were staring back, apparently speechless with what they had accomplished. The doll, which could now pass as a miniature human, stood up and demanded, "Why the heck is everything so big? Am I dreaming or something?"
The response to it received was most definitely not what it had expected. Rather than answering the questions, Alice suddenly squealed with delight and grabbed her newest creation from off her worktable and examined it from all angles. As she checked what changes had occurred from the spell, she exclaimed to Marisa, "I can't believe it worked! Look, it's moving and talking without me even doing anything!"
This, of course, didn't make the doll too happy and it struggled in Alice's hands as it was flipped to the side, upside down, and all sorts of other disorienting positions. Amidst being handled, the doll screamed in a high pitched voice, "Put me down! Ow, you're crushing me!"
Finally, the witch intervened and convinced the doll fanatic to put it back down on the table. It dusted itself off and grumbled a bit before turning to the two again. Alice still had a creepy fanatical expression on her face while Marisa just looked exasperated. Looking quite confused and disgruntled at the same time, the doll demanded, "What is going on here?! Who the heck are you two people? Where am I? And for the love of God, will you please explain to me why everything is suddenly so big?!"
Alice looked like she was about to overenthusiastically say something stupid, but Marisa kicked her in the shin before she could. While Alice was hunched over, the witch attempted to answer some of the questions.
"To answer your last questions first, everything isn't big - you're just small. You're in the house of a crazy girl named Alice who likes to collect and create dolls and control them with magic. That's her," explained Marisa as she pointed to the girl who was still on the floor rubbing her shin. She continued, "I'm Marisa, another magician who helped bring you to life."
The doll couldn't bring itself to believe any of this and retorted as if it were proof of the stupidity of her statement, "If I were just brought to life, then why do I have seventeen years worth of memories? And besides, that's preposterous. Magic's not real."
Marisa took in this new information, the seventeen years worth of memories part at least, and wondered why that was so. Before she could come up with an answer, though, Alice's head and upper body popped up above the worktable again. The "crazy girl" brought up another pointless issue that only furthered her impression as a doll fanatic.
"Hey, what should I name you? How about Venice?"
The doll made a disgusted face as it shouted at Alice, "Don't just give me random names like that! I have a name already. It's Cassandra!"
As this was going on, Marisa was flipping through the spellbook they had used to animate Cassandra. There had to be something in there that explained why she had memories though she was supposedly just created. Finally, in faded text and in a part they had overlooked, Marisa found something that seemed relevant.
"Hey, listen to this. 'This spell is designed to summon the soul of a dead person into an inanimate object. The process is very much like normal reincarnation where the spirit retains none of its previous memories. However, in rare cases, this spell has been known to attract the soul of a living being instead and the result is quite unlike the usual. This rare product will have all its memories from its previous body and will not need to relearn anything. Be warned, though, as the body that is left soulless will die in little less than three hours.' "
Cassandra and Alice listened intently as Marisa read the words. At the mention of the death of the original body, the doll started to feel uneasy and panicky.
"Oh, no... I'm going to die?"
Marisa snickered before asking sarcastically, "What happened to magic not being real? And technically, you aren't dying, just your other body. You'll still live on in this body."
Cassandra stamped her foot on the table and pouted. In an annoying high-pitched voice, she said, "That's not much better! Send me back, I wanna go home!"
In unison, the two magicians sighed. Marisa plugged her ears and Alice seemed to become less enthusiastic about having an independent doll around her. She rolled her eyes as the doll continued to make demands on being sent home. Finally she snapped at her, "Alright, we'll send you home! Just shut up!"
This outburst not only surprised Cassandra but Marisa as well. The witch raised an eyebrow questioningly as she remarked, "Gee, I always thought you were too timid to shout at someone. Anyway, since you said we'll be sending her back, I assume you know how to do it?"
Alice's reply was a blank stare. Marisa stared back. Cassandra stared at both of them and frustratingly said, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me..."
In less than a minute, a large part of Alice's spellbook collection was dropped onto the worktable where even the doll could reach them if she felt like reading them. And she definitely did. With the time constraint of only three hours, she was especially motivated to find something that would safely separate her soul from the doll and send it back to her original body that was still sleeping soundly in bed. Alice and Marisa were doing a good bit of reading as well, and notably faster too since they didn't need to struggle to turn each page. Cassandra looked at the side of one of the towers of books at the titles after scanning through yet another weird book, this one titled The Anthology of Souls. At the very top, there was a title that caught her eye, simply called Exorcism.
After a tedious climb up the tower of books she pushed the smaller than usual book off with a bit of struggling and jumped back down. In the few minutes that had passed, Cassandra had found out that her new and hopefully temporary body felt no pain or fatigue, which was good for this sort of thing. The book she had pushed down was remarkably small so that even in a doll's body, she was able to scan the book like normal. Towards the beginning of the book, she found something that actually seemed helpful. She called to the other two, "Hey, this sounds useful! 'Exorcism is the act of sending spiritual objects back to their rightful places, be it demons back to their original realms, dead souls back to the Netherworld, or even lost spirits back to their rightful bodies. Of the few people that truly know the art of exorcism are priests and priestesses of various religions, most notably the Shinto shrine maiden.' So, any holy people around here or are you people atheist or something?"
Alice and Marisa looked at each other, both with the exact same person in mind. The witch grabbed her broom and put on her hat as the doll fanatic grabbed a startled Cassandra and all three of them went out the door in a hurry. As soon as Marisa mounted her broom, Alice practically threw Cassandra at the tail end of the it where she instinctively caught on. A split second later, they were in the air at a dizzying height with Marisa straddling the broom handle, the doll holding on for dear life to a few of the strands of straw at the brushy end, and Alice... flying without any support? Cassandra puzzled over this - or she would have if she weren't so busy trying to make herself heard over the sound of the wind roaring past their ears.
"Where... are... we... going?!" she shouted one word at a time, though it was barely audible. Simultaneously, the two shouted back the same two-word answer, "To Reimu's!"
Cassandra had just enough time to wonder, Reimu? Is she a priestess who they plan on getting to exorcise me? before they were already landing. She looked down and saw a stone courtyard and a shrine with a person dressed in red an white sipping something from a small teacup. This new stranger looked up the new arrivals just as they landed. Marisa dismounted from the broom and called out to her friend, "Hey, Reimu. We came to play!"
From behind the witch came the doll with a annoyed looked. She smacked the witch on the knee (which didn't hurt at all) and contradicted her with, "No we didn't, Marisa!"
"That's a neat trick. Since when did you learn how to make your dolls talk, Alice?" asked Reimu, smiling at what she thought the doll maker had commanded the doll to do.
Alice shrugged. Marisa grinned back, scratching the back of her head. Cassandra pouted.
"So you want me to try to exorcise Venice? I don't know..." inquired Reimu, still sipping her teacup that never seemed to empty. Cassandra whined in that annoying high-pitched voice that Alice and Marisa were quite acquainted with already, "Not Venice! Cassandra! And please, can you at least try?"
It only had only taken a few minutes to explain to Reimu what had transpired. The girl had invited them in where the two magicians did most of the talking as the doll took a good look at what her exorcist looked like. What she saw didn't please her too much. The girl looked young and inexperienced, probably still under twenty-one years old. On top of that, the shrine was messy and the courtyard was covered in dead leaves, a sign of laziness or procrastination. Or both. The only things that prevented Cassandra from openly expressing her disappointment were the fact that she looked like a Shinto shrine maiden, a supposed expert on exorcism according to the book, and the aura of confidence that emanated from her. Cassandra sincerely hoped that that confidence wasn't overconfidence.
Reimu put the teacup down and stood up, stretching as she complained off-handedly, "Man, setting up for an exorcism is such a pain. But on the other hand, I can't just watch idly by as a fellow human is in need. And besides, I can't say no to a cute little doll like you anyway."
As she walked outside, Marisa called out to her to ask if she needed any help. Reimu waved her off, saying that the witch couldn't possibly help. Meanwhile, the last comment that the shrine maiden had directed to Cassandra sparked some curiosity in her. Turning to Alice, whom she assumed had made the body that she was currently inhabiting, she asked, "Say Alice, what do I look like anyway?"
"Oh, that's right. You haven't seen yourself yet huh?" Alice remarked as she pulled a small mirror from seemingly out of nowhere and stood it up in front of the miniature girl on the floor. What Cassandra saw was truly unexpected. Actually she wasn't sure exactly what to expect but it definitely wasn't this. The looking glass reflected an image of a girl with rosy cheeks, deep blue eyes, long brunette hair with a thin, light blue ribbon tied to it. Her body was covered in a dress not unlike what Alice was wearing - simple and pale blue. These features in and of themselves were not so unexpected, but together, the image that the reflective glass created was not that of a stranger but of what Cassandra usually saw in a mirror. If only the clothing matched what she usually wore, she could have sworn that not just her soul but her whole body had been transported to this strange place.
Abruptly the mirror was lifted out from in front of her, removing its mesmerizing image from Cassandra's gaze. Alice stowed it away and smiled at the little doll's expression of surprise.
"Not a bad piece of workmanship huh?" she asked, obviously very proud of her own handiwork, "Of course, I'm the one who made it."
"Yeah... it's great," replied distractedlyCassandra, the image still in her mind. She shook her head violently. It's just a coincidence, she told herself. A few more minutes passed and Marisa, who apparently had followed Reimu anyway, showed up at the door again.
"Well, Reimu says she's just about ready. Oh, and Alice you should come too. Apparently we are of some help at least."
The three of them - or two and a half of them if you want to be really mean - made their way down the steps of the shrine all the way into the forest where Marisa explained that Reimu had drawn the magic circle and prepared some other "thingymabobs" required for the exorcism. Less than an eighth of a mile from the bottom of the steps, they reached a clearing where Reimu was putting the finishing touches to a magic circle at least ten feet in diameter. In the center of all the intricate patterns was a hexagram with just enough room for someone to sit in the center. There were also three other smaller hexagrams inscribed in the magic circle which Reimu was working on now.
"Aaaaaand done!" exclaimed the shrine maiden as the last of it was completed, "Alice, Marisa, go stand in one of the three smaller hexagrams. Venice-"
"Whatever. Cassie, go sit down in the center of the big hexagram. And make sure you don't accidentally mess up the design or I'll have to waste more time fixing it."
All four girls took their places and Reimu continued to explain what was going to happen, "Cassie, just relax and close your eyes if you wish. Marisa, Alice, you two will be sending your spiritual energy to the center where it will mix with mine. Don't send too much at a time because mine needs to be the dominate energy so I can control the exorcism. Also, if too much energy is received by the one being exorcised, the spirit may be utterly destroyed instead of displaced. Got it? Then, let's begin."
Cassandra gulped as she heard what might happen if this went wrong. She closed her eyes and prayed for success. Behind her tightly shut eyelids, she could see nothing, could hear nothing, could feel nothing. Minutes passed slowly and still she kept her eyes closed. Then a bright light from seemingly in front of her started to shine. A light so bright that the darkness in front of her eyes became a bright redness and at the same time, she felt her consciousness leaving her. With an almost inaudible sigh, the doll in the center of the magic circle, which was now glowing a bright white, collapsed on its side and didn't move.
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