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The Reinterpretation of Scarlet Devil - Chapter Ten

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It was a beautiful day over Gensokyo. In the distance, the Boundary reflected sunlight in a rainbow light show. Trees rocked back and forth in the breeze. Birds were circling above the lake, skimming the water to catch their lunch. I watched them, just having just finished lunch myself. I sat in one of the Scarlet Mansion’s guest bedrooms, looking out the bay window. Clutching a pillow to my chest. Wondering if this was the last time I would admire the country I loved.

The crisis wasn’t over. It was further from over than when I started this stupid quest. And this time, the problem didn’t have a solution. No act of bravery, no overcoming of personal weakness, no sacrifice could save the day. Gensokyo was doomed. There was nothing anyone could do about it.

I squeezed my eyes shut, beat my fist once on the bedpost. It hurt my hand, but it felt good in other ways. I needed to make my frustration known. I punched the post again. And again.

“Say something,” I said. “There’s no reason to stand there, staring at me.”

Remilia stood in the doorway, had for a while.

“You never turned around,” she said. “How did you know I was here?”

“Saw your reflection in the window.” I looked back at her. “Another thing the stories got wrong, huh?”

“Apparently so.” She stepped into the room, closed the door behind her.

“Why are you here?” I said. “We’re done talking. You told me everything I needed to know.”

“I told you everything I wanted my servants to hear,” she said. “But there’s more I need to tell you, and only you. And I have a question.”

I looked back out the window. I didn’t want to talk anymore. None of it mattered. We were all going to die, or be left in a life that wasn’t worth living. But Remilia was the mistress of the house, and used to getting her way. If she wanted to speak with me, I couldn’t get away from it. Only endure it.

“Ask,” I said.

“Patchouli once described to me what a miko is,” she said. “She tells me that you act as spiritual guides and counselors. Is that true?”

“More or less.”

Remilia crossed the room and climbed up onto the bed with me. She sat across from me, her legs folded under her. This girl couldn’t be five centuries old, even with the bat wings and red eyes. She didn’t look a day over eleven.

“Then I ask for your counsel,” she said. “What should I do?”

“I thought Patchouli was your advisor.”

“For intellectual problems. Not moral ones.”

“Vampires need moral advice?”

She shook her head at me. “Let’s not start that conversation again. It didn’t end well last time.”

“You brought it up,” I said. “Besides. I don’t see how this is a moral problem. More like a kiss your butt goodbye because there’s nothing we can do kind of problem.”

“Is that how I came across? No. There is something we can do. I just don’t want to do it. I hate even considering it.”

Remilia pulled her blouse partway off her shoulder, showing me the skin over her heart. There was a small patch paler than the flesh surrounding it.

“Why are you showing me that?” I said.

“Because you can’t give me advice if you hate me.” She pulled her shirt back up, covering herself. “Nor can I take advice if I hate you. I forgive you, Reimu. Will you forgive me? For tricking you. For feeding on you.”

I looked out the window. “I have no reason to.”

“Yes you do. Not because I deserve to be forgiven. Not because I can excuse giving into my vampire’s lust. But because, if you don’t, it’ll kill you from the inside out. A miko should know that.”

“I do.” I closed my eyes. “Tell me what you have in mind to stop Flandre.”

“Very well,” she said. “Patchouli left out a bit of the research she’s done. The reason why the vampire stories say you can only kill a vampire with a stake through the heart. A vampire’s heart is the organ that digests the blood sucked from humans. Destroy that, the vampire can’t eat, and it dies.”

“That can’t be the whole story,” I said. “Those tales said the vampire died instantly, not slowly of malnutrition.”

“You’re right,” she said. “But fiction has a way of making symbolism into literal fact. For instance, the death of a vampire. What happens when a vampire dies?”

She sat there, looking at me as if waiting for me to say something.

“Well?” she said. “What happens?”

“You’re asking me?” I said.

“Of course. You’re the one who witnessed it.”

I shook my head. “But you’re not dead. I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Then maybe this will explain.”

Remilia moved. With that unreal vampire speed, she knocked me back on the bed and was on top of me. Holding down my arms. Sitting on my chest. Just like last night. I panicked. My voice caught in my throat.

“Relax,” she said. “This won’t hurt.”

She went for my neck, the same spot where she’d bit me last night. But she didn’t bite. She nuzzled her nose gently against my neck, inhaled deep.

“I can smell it,” she whispered. “The bandage is changed, the skin washed. But it’s still here. Your blood—” Then she gagged hard, her mouth opening as if she were going to puke. Nothing came out. She backed off me with one hand over her mouth, coughing and hacking. I climbed off the bed, putting some space between us.

“What are you doing?” I said. “Ask permission before you sniff my neck!”

Her coughing fit died down, but she still struggled to catch her breath. She had one hand on her belly and her face was paper white, like she’d gotten food poisoning and was trying not to chuck her last meal all over the bed.

“If I had asked permission,” she said between breaths, “would you have let me?”

“No.” I said. “Are you okay?”

She swallowed, her eyes moist. “I don’t know. The smell of blood nauseates me. It’s like I went from craving it to being allergic.”

“Maybe you’re just allergic to me.”

“No.” She wiped her eyes dry. “I have no memory after you stabbed me. One second you’re on top of me. The next I’m lying in my own bed, and Sakuya’s sitting there, crying her eyes out. She begged me to take some of her blood, so I could draw strength and recover. I tried, but I couldn’t keep it down.”

“You haven’t been feeding off Sakuya all this time?” I said. “I thought that’s why humans lived with vampires.”

“I promised not to feed off her when we first met. She wouldn’t be any good as my maid if she suffered from chronic anemia. But don’t you see? I can’t drink blood anymore. That means I’m not a vampire. I’m not really youkai, and I’m definitely not human. I don’t….” She looked away. “I don’t know what I am.”

“The death of a vampire,” I said.

“Yes.” Remilia stood up on the bed, putting herself on eye level with me. “This is my only hope for rescuing all involved, including Flandre. It’s painful irony. To save my sister, I must kill my sister.”

“But you’re not sure if it’ll work,” I said.

“No, I’m not. Destroy her heart, and it might regenerate into an ordinary blood-pump like mine did. Some of her vampire traits might go away. Or they might not. She might die. She might even trigger the mini-Armageddon we’re trying to avoid. That’s why I’m here, Reimu Hakurei. I need you to tell me if I should take the risk of murdering my sister.”

“You want me to make that decision?” I said. “What makes you think I have that kind of moral ground?”

“Because,” she said. “Last night, you killed a part of me. But you did it with no anger. No malice. You were trying only to protect yourself, not to hurt another. That’s why I hesitated when feeding. The emotions that make blood taste good simply weren’t in you.”

“No,” I said. “It’s too big. I can’t—”

“It gets better.” She hopped off the bed, sounding a light thud when her feet hit the floor. “I also have to ask the help of two human women who I have a very tenuous truce with. I could say, I know we were mortal enemies yesterday, but do you mind helping me solve a family dispute that’s threatening to destroy the whole country? I can’t imagine that going over very well. Can you?”

“No,” I said. “Not at all.”

“That’s why I need the advice,” she walked past me, heading for the door. “If you need time to think it over, that’s fine. Come see me you’re ready. I’ll give you as long as you need. But Flandre won’t.”

She left the room. I waited until her footsteps were out of hearing.

“You can come out now, Marisa,” I said.


---


The yellow-haired girl poked her head out from under the bed, a curtain of blankets hanging around her neck.

“She knew I was heres?” she said.

“If she did, she didn’t let on,” I said, sitting on the bed. “What are you doing down there, anyway?”

“Looking for stuffs to steals,” she said. “Finding nothings, thoughs. Sakuya keeps the places sparkly spotless.”

“I’m sure her small army of fairy maids has something to do with it.” I patted the blankets beside me. “Come up here.”

She climbed out from under the bed. She was still wearing the jacket and slacks. It was awful and hilarious to be rummaging under furniture while wearing something so expensive. She sat on the bed’s edge next to me. Our feet didn’t reach the floor, and our legs kicked free.

“Wells,” she said. “What happens nows?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s the same thing, isn’t it? The same dilemma that sent us out here.”

“Yeps. Do somethings with a good chance of dyings, or do nothings and die for sures. So we gonna helps Remi or whats?”

“We should. But I don’t want to.”

“Why nots? Better not because she bit yous and can’t get over its.”

“It’s hard. What she did hurt me. Not just physically.” I lay back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling. “I know there are bad people in the world. I know there’re people who lie and kill and rape and cheat. But that doesn’t make it sting any less when it happens to me. And I don’t want to help a person like that just for the asking.”

Marisa nodded, making a thoughtful hmmm sound. She took hold of my arm and slid the sleeve up, showing my skin.

“What are you—OW!”

She brought my forearm to her mouth, bit down on it hard. Her jaw muscles clenched. I yanked my arm away from her, used the other to knock her off the bed. She tumbled to the floor. I sat up and retreated to the other side of the bed, out of chomping distance.

“What was that!” I yelled at her. I looked down at my arm. She hadn’t broken the skin, but her teeth marks were in deep. “Why does everyone bite me? Do I taste good?”

“Theres!” said Marisa, standing and pointing a finger at me. “Just like Remi nows! So you hate me toos?”

“I said it wasn’t the physical that bothered me!” I said. “Remilia bit me because she wanted bad emotions to feed on. You bit me just because you’re an idiot.”

Marisa tapped her chest. “Bad feelings here toos! So angry at yous! Let Gensokyo dies instead of forgiving someones.”

“You can’t talk,” I said. “It didn’t happen to you.”

“Doesn’t matters! Both Remi and mees bit you nows, and for bad reasons. So hate us boths, or forgive us boths.”

“That’s not fair,” I said. “My relationship with you is diff—”

“Blah blah blahs!” she yelled over me. “Forgive mees only ‘cause we know each others so longs? Don’t want it like thats! Do it right or not at alls!”

I wanted to keep arguing, but we both quieted when we heard a pounding coming down the hall. Stomp stomp stomp!

“Reimu Hakurei!”

Hong Meiling burst into the room, slamming the door open. Unlike me, a stab wound in the leg wasn’t slowing her down at all. She wasn’t wearing her beret, making her look ready for a fight. I had forgotten how imposing she was. Not just her good looks, but her height and muscle. She could break me with her bare hands, and she seemed to be here to do just that.

“You!” She jabbed a finger at me. “I have a score to settle with you!”

“No you don’t,” I said. I got off the bed and stood by Marisa.

“Under Remi’s protection nows,” she said. “Can’t hurt her, China-girls.”

“Don’t call me that!” said Meiling, holding up both fists. “And don’t think me that much of a fool! I know I can’t attack you directly as long as you’re the mistress’s guest. But if my honor has been infringed, I can challenge you to a duel.”

“A duel?” I said. “What if I decline?”

Meiling laughed, one hand over her mouth like a blushing maiden. “That’s the beauty of it! Refuse me the satisfaction of a noble confrontation, and your honor is forfeit. You’re no longer worthy of the mistress’s esteem, and therefore open game. Either way, you’re mine!”

Ah. A loophole in youkai politics. No doubt Patchouli had fed this idea to Meiling, including some of those words, like infringed. China-girl couldn’t have come up with it herself, and the mansion’s librarian still had some ill feelings for me.

I wouldn’t humor either of them. I could simply say nothing, neither refuse nor accept the challenge, and lock Meiling to indecision. I could run to Remilia for help. But I was sick of playing youkai power games. I looked Meiling dead in the eye.

“I will not fight you,” I said.

She laughed again, this time in triumph. She moved forward, grabbed me by the shoulders and lifted me off the floor. Her grip squeezed my arms and shoulders together, compressing me in uncomfortable ways. Marisa grabbed her by the arm, trying to pull her off me.

“Noes!” she yelled. “Didn’t refuses! That’s not what she—”

Meiling made a quick kick and knocked Marisa’s ankles out from under her. Marisa toppled to the floor in a pile of blonde hair and expensive men’s clothing. Meiling still had me in her lift hold. She swung me around and threw me out the bedroom door. I sailed through it and slammed into the hallway wall. White lights exploded in my eyes. Most the air in my chest came out me in a cungh noise. I collapsed to the floor, limp.

Meiling came stomping out of the bedroom. She wrapped one iron hand around my neck, pinning me to the wall. She was going to lift me up and break my neck. Or shake me around until all my bones snapped. Or reach down and pull my intestines out through my navel. Whatever gruesome way she chose, I was going to die in the next few seconds.

Her grip was tightening, cutting off my air.

“This is what you get!” Meiling yelled into my face.

Yes, this is what I got. This was my punishment for not forgiving.


---


It wasn’t fair! It just wasn’t fair!

Why should I have to forgive somebody for wronging me? They hurt me! I had the right to be angry! I could hold a grudge forever if I wanted!

These were the complaints my heart was screaming into my head. My childish, little girl’s heart. The heart that thought the world owed me everything and I owed it nothing. My head usually took these demands in stride, giving my heart what it wanted. But this time my heart had to back down.

It had to let go. It had to give up its fear, anger and pride.

Had to.


---


Meiling still had one hand around my neck, was pulling back the other to punch through my skull. But she stopped. She noticed the tears coming from my eyes, running down my cheeks and over her hand.

“What?” she said. “Why’re you crying?”

I brought my hand up and put it on hers. I didn’t try to pry her off me, but touched her as I would if comforting a friend.

“I didn’t refuse you,” I said, my voice thin. “Just said I wouldn’t fight you. Just stating a fact.”

“What’s the difference?”

I looked up at her, blinking the tears out of my eyes. “Remilia asked for my aid in rescuing Flandre. I’ve agreed to help her.”

Meiling’s face changed, as if she’d been slapped. Her grip on my neck loosened, and she let me go. I sat back against the wall, catching my breath.

“A request for help from the mistress overrides a challenge from her servant,” said Meiling, standing up straight. “Very clever. But don’t think you’re safe. I’ll find a way.”

And to emphasize that point, she punched the wall right above my head. I felt the vibration go down my back. The plaster cracked and crumbled under her fist, salting bits of it into my hair. She pulled her hand back and shook it out. She turned and walked off. I watched her go, saw her disappear around the corner.

As soon as she was gone, Marisa bolted out of the bedroom. She peeled me off the wall and hugged me tight.

“So sorry, Reimus!” she said. “Biting and yelling at yous, really mean just nows.”

“It’s okay,” I said, hugging her back. “I forgive you. So long as you forgive me, for being such a thick-headed, stiff-necked, hard-hearted—”

Marisa laughed. “Every times, Reimus. Every times.”


---


It wasn’t hard to find Remilia. Even halfway across the mansion, we heard when she started playing the pipe organ.

On the ground floor was a big theater room. Rows of seats spread out in a semi circle before a raised stage. On the stage was a biggest musical instrument I had ever seen. Dozens of brassy pipes of various length and size lined the back wall, stacked and beveled. Below them was a huge console of knobs, pedals and boards of piano keys.

Remilia sat at the organ, her back turned to us. She played a song melancholy one moment, manic the next. Her hands danced over the keys, reaching high above her head to strike keys on the top board. Her feet stomped the pedals below, giving changes to pitch and tune.

Marisa and I came into the room. We walked past the rows of chairs, stopped at the base of the stage. Stood and listened to her play. She didn’t notice us or ignored us, kept running the organ like a master performer.

Her song could have gone on, but she let the notes fade away. She pulled her hands from the keys, lifted her feet from the pedals. She spun around on her seat, turning to face us.

“Hello,” she said.

“Wows,” said Marisa. “Remi’s got lots of talents.”

“No,” said Remilia. “That was procedure, not talent. You can become good at anything if you have centuries to practice.” She looked back, up at the organ. “That song was Septette for the Dead Princess. The composer’s name escapes me. My rendition of it is weak, since I’m missing six performers.” She looked back at me. “Have you prepared your advice for me, Reimu? Or have you decided withhold it?”

“I’d better not,” I said. “Giving you advice will keep Patchouli from using that China-girl to kill me.”

Remilia tilted her head at me.

“My advice is this,” I said. “That the most powerful beings in the mansion head down to the vault immediately and stop Flandre, or die in the attempt.”

She smiled. “That’s fine advice. I thank you for your counsel, Reimu Hakurei.”

“You’re welcome, Remilia Scarlet.” I nodded to her. “In return, I ask a favor. I don’t know what help I can be, but let me go down with you.”

“You’ll be nothing but baggage,” said Sakuya, standing in the isle behind us. “But you still might be useful as a meat shield. Every last-ditch effort needs an expendable member or two.”

Marisa yelped, but Sakuya’s appearance didn’t surprise me. I was getting used to it. I turned to her.

“I have to die sometime,” I said. “May as well save Gensokyo when I do.”

Sakuya smiled, bowed to me.

“Let’s go now,” said Remilia, hopping off her seat. “We’ve wasted enough time. Reimu, Marisa. You two come with me. Sakuya, get Patchouli and Meiling and meet us at the vault. Tell them it’s time to save my sister’s life.”


---


It’s strange. Accompanying a group of people all strong enough to kill me, and some who had reason to, to an unknown danger that I probably wouldn’t survive. Yet I felt no fear. I felt no regrets over my life’s mistakes. I felt no loss over the coming years I’d never get to live. I was doing the right thing for the right reason. I could stand tall, look my fate in the eyes and do what needed to be done.

I felt good. Better, maybe, than I had ever felt.

Remilia led Marisa and me to the stairwell. Sakuya met us on there, along with Meiling and Patchouli. Again, I expected a sneer or angry comment from them. But neither glanced at me or said anything. They looked how I felt. Happy to be doing what should have been done long ago.

Remilia and her servants moved slower than they could have, letting me keep up with Marisa helping me limp along. The six of us went below the ground level and into the dungeon, passing the cell Marisa and I were kept in last night. At the end of the dungeon was a staircase that spiraled down deep into the earth.

“There’s no light from here on down,” said Remilia. “Mages, light your torches.”

She held out her hand. Just above her palm formed a small but bright flame, blue at its base and red at the tip. Patchouli held out her hand palm down. An ingot of crystalline ice hung from her fingertips by barely visible threads, glowing fractal blue light from its heart. Marisa set up her trademark hatlight. She had no hat, but kept the little white ball lit above the crown of her head.

With half of us carrying light sources, we went into the depths.


---


Down the stairs, descending around and around. The air was cool and damp. I didn’t know how deep underground we were, but we couldn’t go much farther. Soon we’d hit the lake’s water table.

“This is simpler than I thought,” I said, dropping down one stair at a time. “I expected more security. You guys told me about a vault door, but I didn’t think we’d just walk down to it. Shouldn’t there be more locked doors? Magic traps? Maybe big, muscled fairy guards or something?”

“Of course not,” said Remilia. “If Flandre wanted to escape, none of that could stop her. The vault door is only meant to keep people out.”

That didn’t make much sense to me, but I kept quiet about it. If someone had locked me in a hole in the ground, I’d do everything in my strength to break free. Then again, I hadn’t been living there for four hundred and ninety-whatever years. Maybe a prisoner would think of her prison as home after so long.

The stairway finally ended in a long, rectangular room. Dark shapes and their shadows flickered and jumped under our magical lights. My eyes took a minute to know what they were seeing. But I understood the smell immediately. I put a hand over my mouth, hoping I wouldn’t throw up my lunch.

There were thick, heavy wooden tables caked over with dried blood. Dark spatters were all over the floors and walls. Meat hooks hung from the ceiling, but nothing hung off them. More hooks were on the walls, most holding butcher and carving knives and other cutlery. There were two wood stoves at the room’s center, both with smoke pipes leading into the ceiling. They were covered with empty pots and pans, but neither was lit.

“It’s like a slaughter house,” I whispered in awe.

“It is,” said Sakuya. “This is where I prepare Flandre’s food.”

Oh no. Oh please no.

I couldn’t handle that. Not now. Not ever. I had to pretend it was cow’s blood on the table, maybe pig’s blood on the floor. She had cooked only beef and pork and poultry on the wood stoves. Because the idea of Sakuya bringing her murder victims down here and....

I gagged, choked down my bile.

I couldn’t take it. I was going to break down. I was going collapse to my knees and start crying and blubbering. They’d have to carry me out of here, because I wouldn’t have the wits to do it myself.

Something squeezed my arm.

“Reimus,” Marisa whispered. “Stay with mees.”

I inhaled sharply, and the world came back into focus. The scene was disgusting, but not enough to shut me down. I could have fainting spells all I wanted later. But for now, I had a job to do.

“I’m fine,” I said, squeezing her back. It felt good having her here. She was warm, assuring.

On the far wall was the vault door, locked like it was guarding a bank’s gold or a government’s international secrets. A huge handled wheel stuck out of the door’s center. On the wheel’s hub was a big knob covered in numbers and tick marks. A combination dial. On the knob was a regular-sized keyhole.

“Stay back for now,” said Remilia. “Sakuya, come forward if I wave for you. Patchouli and Meiling, be ready.”

The five of us were silent. Remilia walked up to the door, past the tables and woodstoves. The magic flame in her hand cast flickering orange over the vault door, making it seem like a living thing, shifting and shaping in her presence.

“Flandre!” she yelled at the door. “Come to the door, Flandre! I need to talk with you.”

No voice came from the other side. No sound at all.

“I know you can hear me, Flandre,” said Remilia. “If you don’t answer, I’ll have to come in there. I’m here with Sakuya, Meiling and Patchouli. The four of us can open the door, no matter how hard you try to keep us out.”

I wasn’t sure that was true, based off what Remilia and her servants had told me. She was using psychological tricks on a child. Declaring her dominance, demanding obedience. I didn’t like to think Flandre was that kind of personality, such power backed by a childish mind.

“Last chance!” said Remilia. “Answer me now! I won’t ask again.”

The response came in a whispered word.

Why?”


---


Both Marisa and I stopped breathing. The voice behind that why was so sad and weak. Like a sick little girl on her deathbed, asking her parents why she had to suffer. Why she was cursed to such a short, painful life. They didn’t love her enough to save her from hurt. God hated her so much that He damned her to this living hell.

Sakuya was suddenly shivering, her arms wrapped around herself. Patchouli and Meiling were stone still, pained looks on their faces. Out of us all, only Remilia was unfazed.

“Why what, Flandre?” she said.

Why did you bring strangers here?” said the voice. “Those two. The witch and the priestess.”

Flandre could see us? How did she know what we were? We weren’t dressed like ourselves.

“They’re my friends,” said Remilia. “I want them to be your friends, too. They’re here to help me, and help you.”

Why are they holding each other?”

Remilia looked back at Marisa and me, uncertain.

“The priestess hurt her leg, so the witch is helping her stand.”

No,” said Flandre. “Priestess burns witch. Witch curses priestess. They’re supposed to hate each other.

“These two don’t,” said Remilia. “Listen, Flandre. We’re going to help you undo the spell, so that it doesn’t hurt you. We’re coming in. Stand away from the door.”

No!” Flandre moaned. “Don’t come in. I’m not done yet.

Remilia took out a key from somewhere in her dress. She pushed it into the keyhole on the combination knob, turned it once and left it there.

Don’t come in!” said Flandre, her voice rising from a whisper to a yell. “I said DON’T COME IN!”

Remilia ignored her. She turned the combination knob right, left, right again. She took hold of the handled wheel and started spinning it to the left.

NO! NO! NO!” screamed Flandre. The door shuddered under heavy blows, as if a giant were beating on it with both fists. Remilia kept turning the wheel, even though it was jerking her arms back and forth. One final turn, and the wheel spun free.

“Sakuya! Meiling! Patchouli!” she yelled over the noise. “Help me push!”

The three servants all ran to Remilia. Sakuya and Meiling stood on either side of her, throwing their weight into the door. Patchouli stood a few feet back, getting ready to cast some spell. Even with Flandre resisting from the other side, the four of them would force the door open.

Flandre must have felt herself loosing ground, and she stopped pushing back. The door swung inwards. Sakuya and Meiling all fell forward into the blackness of the vault. Remilia was buried under her two servants, collapsed on top of each other. Patchouli stood still, one hand up to the ceiling. She was ready to cast, but wasn’t sure if she should.

You will all STAY OUT!” Flandre screamed.

The air rippled for one second, and exploded. A massive blast of energy burst from the vault, throwing everything around like a tornado. Even at the other side of the room, Marisa and I were both dropped to our backsides. The butcher’s tables toppled. The knives on the wall hooks flew free, raining spinning blades around us. One caught me in the shin, but only by the blunt edge.

Remilia and her servants were knocked back under the magical gale. Patchouli fell flat on her back and tumbled towards the stairwell. Meiling sailed into the smoke pipes of the wind stoves, breaking them both in a loud crash of sheet metal. Sakuya twisted away from the vault door, limbs flailing. Her head hit one of the overturned tables. Two throwing knives came out of a holder from under her skirt, more bladed projectiles coming back at Marisa and me. One of them clattered on the stone floor. The other caught Marisa in the arm.

Remilia got the least of the blast. She was covered by Sakuya and Meiling until just before the spell let up. She slid back on the stone floor a ways, riding up her dress. Her left wing caught on a meat hook that had fallen from the ceiling.

The spell ended. The room was in scattered ruins. Remilia at her servants were all down. Flandre had beaten them in a single shot.

And YOU TWO!” she yelled. “GET IN HERE!”

Marisa and I were both pulled forward, as if the spell were running in reverse, and only for us. We lifted up off the floor and tumbled though the air, towards the vault. One of the meat hooks on the ceiling nearly stabbed through my head, but it only raked over my scalp and took some of my hair with it.

We both flew into the vault and dropped to the floor. Marisa cried out in pain, probably landing on her wounded arm. No sound came from me, except desperate wheezing as I tried to catch my breath. My head burned where the hook had scraped me. Already I could feel blood welling in my hair.

“Now,” said Flandre, her voice close. “We need some privacy.”

I looked back at the vault door. I had to get up. Had to get out. I saw Remilia standing, running for the door, even with a huge metal hook impaled through her wing.

Then the door slammed shut, and all was black. Remilia pounded and shouted from the other side. But she was too far away to help. We were in Flandre’s world now.

“There we go,” she said. Smug, satisfied. “I’ve always wanted to try fresh human.”


Forward to Chapter Eleven

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