Philosophy of a Hated Person
A mysterious visitor was in the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
Flandre knew this, because she had complete run of the basement, and she could hear everything that went on upstairs. Though she would never be able to articulate exactly what was wrong, she subconsciously knew that something wasn't quite right. The front door had opened and shut; this was accompanied neither by idle chatter with Meiling or anyone else, which would indicate that they were here with Remilia's permission, nor by explosions and exclamation of alarm, which would indicate that it was Marisa. For that matter, a vampire's hearing was naturally quite sharp, and she'd lived in the basement for the better part of five centuries, and she knew what upstairs sounded like. There was ... a sort of silence traveling through the Scarlet Devil Mansion, a non-sound. And nobody seemed to notice at all.
Flandre ran through the basement to beneath where she thought it was. When she got there, she heard —
... something? Nothing ...?
Her ears had picked up a soft sound. Her brain swore it hadn't heard anything.
Flandre frowned, staring upward. She couldn't detect its presence anymore.
Fairy-maids chattered aimlessly. There was some new gossip they'd gotten from the rabbits in the bamboo forest. Boys were mentioned once or twice.
A moment later, Flandre detected the ... whatever-it-was three rooms away.
It never occurred to her to try to raise the alarm or draw anyone else's attention to the matter, or indeed even do anything about it unless whoever it was came into the basement. Remilia had ignored every sound she'd made in the basement for the past five hundred years, unless either she came downstairs or Flandre went upstairs. For all intents and purposes, when Flandre was alone in the basement, she had no direct effect on the universe at large, and vice versa.
She scampered down the basement hallway, wings trailing behind her, and into her bedroom. It was really just a wide, open section of the basement, with a bed in one corner, a dresser in another, and various broken or destroyed toys lying around. Next to the bed, there lay a curved length of metal: the legendary sword, or possibly wand, known as the Lävatein. She picked it up, and hurried back to where she sensed It ...
... at which point it "disappeared" again.
"Hmph!" Flandre swung her fist at a wall in frustration, though not hard enough to actually damage anything. She flapped her wings; the prism-shards hanging from them jingled, and she —
"Wha! What's that!?" said a fairy-maid upstairs.
"Oh, that's just Flandre," said another maid. "She lives in the basement ... she has these sorta ... crystal thingies on her wings, and they jingle when she ..."
Flandre blinked, glancing at her wings. She gave them another flutter, producing another jingle.
She ran down the hall to the nearest junction, and now that she was paying attention, she noticed her wings jingled almost constantly as she moved.
Okay. So ... it could hear her, due to her wings jingling. And it made itself disappear when it heard her go underneath it.
She ran back to her bedroom and flopped onto the bed. She waited until she could sense it again, and then very carefully got up, making sure she made almost no noise whatsoever, and tiptoed back over to beneath where she thought it was.
Hmm. This was right next to the stairwell leading upstairs.
The entrance to the basement was rather heavily-guarded these days; Remilia was still annoyed over the time Flandre had made a hole in the basement door that was shaped like herself. Well, Flandre was perfectly happy to do absolutely nothing of interest right up to the point when mind-numbing boredom caused the fairies, who'd been hired as maids instead of guards in any case, to pay even less attnention to their post than Meiling did. For now, though, she wondered if they'd notice the visitor.
Nothing happened for several moments. She heard the sighs of boredom from the two guards, and felt the presence of the intruder standing next to them.
Then she heard: "Say, um, what are we supposed to do if Flandre breaks out?"
"Oh, well, there's this spell card we've got, it makes this distinctive noise that you'll hear all over the SDM," said the other guard. "And it'll still be heard even if we ..." Her voice took on a note of uncertainty. "... get ... knocked out of the spell card."
There was a slight pause. "So, um, how does that help us?" asked the first one.
"Well, er, we're standing right next to the door, so any blast would go away from us," said the second one doubtfully.
Flandre heard basement door open and shut. The guards took no notice whatsoever.
"And they think at the first sign of trouble we won't bolt down the hallway in opposite directions faster than a tengu?" said the first guard flatly.
"I think they're perfectly aware of that," said the second one, obviously nervous. "Patchy specifically said it would work from anywhere in the Mansion."
Flandre filed this information away for future reference, and then slipped back around a corner and carefully lay flat on the ground. She'd once overheard a conversation between Meiling and Sakuya, who'd mentioned that people tend not to look down or up when looking around corners. It hadn't fooled Sakuya or Mokou, but in the latter's case it was because it had worked on Kaguya.
She sat there carefully, waiting as she felt it drawing nearer, wondering what would happen when she came face to face. The presence rounded the corner ...
... and immediately disappeared.
And when her eyes opened, she was looking up at a girl with black shoes, a pair of lavender tentacles running up from heart-shaped pins on her ankles, a green skirt, a yellow shirt, a sphereical blue object on her chest that gave the impression of something that was tightly shut connected to the tentacles, grey-green hair, blue eyes, and a simple black hat with a yellow ribbon. "Hi!" she said.
Flandre felt a faint blush crossing her cheeks as she unsteadily got to her feet. "Um ... hi," she said, hefting Lävatein. "My name's Flandre."
"I'm Koishi," she said cheerfully, grinning, and she suddenly gave Flandre a hug. "You're cute!"
"Wha —" Flandre blinked, startled. She'd never gotten this reaction before. "Um ... th-thanks ...?"
Koishi giggled, and suddenly scooped up Flandre in her arms and began carrying her through the basement.
Flandre was completely nonplussed. Apart from anything else, most people she met were usually either terrified for their lives or cautiously ready for a fight. But there was also the fact that usually when people startled her like that, they ended up occupying a surface area rather than a volume, and generally found themselves confronted by a shinigami who shook her head in disbelief at their stupidity. Koishi, though, apparently had no such concerns, and Flandre was inexplicably lacking in sudden, deadly aggression.
Flandre narrowed her eyes, and peered at the strange closed orb on Koishi's chest. "What's that?" she asked.
"Oh. That's my Third Eye," said Koishi cheerfully, as if that explained anything.
Flandre glanced over her shoulder as they reached the bedroom. "Um, how did you know your way around here?"
"Well, it's cuz you do, kinda," said Koishi. She frowned as she looked at the various broken toys.
Flandre looked up at her sharply. "You're reading my mind?" she said, gripping Lävatein more tightly.
"Um, not really," said Koishi. "It's more just, your subconscious and stuff." She frowned. "Yours looks ... kinda weird, though ..."
"Huh?" Flandre didn't know exactly what that meant, but she glared at Koishi, and swiftly and suddenly completely failed to flip out and vaporize her.
She realized that whatever was going on, Koishi had completely negated Flandre's barely-controllable destructive urges.
This had far-reaching implications, the full extent of which she could only begin to speculate!
Koishi giggled. "Hey, you shouldn't frown like that," she said. "You know, you're so cute, I'm gonna have to take you home and make you one of my pets!"
"What!?" Flandre promptly jumped to her feet, suddenly realizing that she'd always known that Koishi's ... influence didn't affect her if she didn't want it to. "A pet!? I'm Flandre Scarlet, sister of the Scarlet Devil! I belong to no one but myself!"
Koishi tilted her head. "Then why are you sitting downstairs in the basement?" she said, grinning. "But, all right. I guess I'll have to get you the fun way!" She rose up into the air above the bed.
Flandre smirked, grabbing the Lävatein. "Looks like it," she said, also rising into the air.
Koishi gave a little giggle. "You look like you're really powerful! Even more powerful than that witch and the shrine maiden!" As she said this, her closed Third Eye seemed to twitch slightly. "If I could take you alive, you'd be a great pet who can do the work of ... of millions of spirits!"
Flandre laughed. "Yeah, right," she said, pulling out a card.
It was simply a small slip of paper, about the right size and shape to make a paper amulet. Words were written on it, in Flandre's somewhat scratchy handwriting.
Koishi smiled brightly, and pinched her thumb and forefinger together. A card appeared in her hand — it was blank, but Flandre knew what its name was meant to be ...
Flandre thrust the card forward. "Taboo 「Cranberry Trap」!" she called out. A black shadow formed around her, and a ghostly red image of herself faded into view behind her, striking a pose.
Koishi giggled, raising her card. "Symbol 「All Ancestors Standing Behind Your Bed」!" she said. She was then surrounded by strange shapes, resembling ghostly images of roses and dim stained-glass windows.
Flandre unleashed what was basically a cube of bullets around Koishi; the bullets then swooped down inward towards her. Koishi responded with several rays of light, aimed more or less towards Flandre.
"Wha!" Flandre dodged up to avoid them, glaring at Koishi as she seemed to dodge with very little effort, and let loose another cube of bullets.
"Silly!" said Koishi. She created a ring of larger bullets around herself, and launched each of them at Flandre in turn. Followed by another wave of light-rays.
"Holy shit!" exclaimed Flandre, immediately launching another cube of bullets.
At that moment, an odd noise came from upstairs. It sounded like some sort of song played with bells; it was ... well ... If you must know, it was the opening bars of "U.N. Owen Was Her?" It sounded like it was audible throughout the whole mansion.
Remilia Scarlet frowned as she heard the bells, and slammed shut the book she was reading. "Sakuya!" she shouted, as she took off and flew at full-tilt down the Mansion's hallway.
Fairy-maids were flying around in all directions in confusion. She grabbed one of the ones that had been guarding the entrance to the basement. "You! What's going on!" she snarled.
The fairy was terrified. "I-I-I heard her f-f-fighting s-something in her room!" she stammered, eyes wild.
Remilia frowned, released the fairy, and flew over to a hallway which passed directly above Flandre's bedroom. It did, indeed, sound like a heated danmaku battle. Two voices were heard, one of them Flandre's.
Sakuya Izayoi appeared in a flicker of movement; she'd used her time-manipulation to "teleport" to where Remilia was by stopping time and walking. "She's fighting someone down there," she said.
"Well, obviously!" snapped Remilia.
Sakuya flinched slightly. "Well, it was some sort of youkai," she said. "I saw her face, and it definitely wasn't human."
"She is Koishi Komeiji," said Patchouli Knowledge as she floated into the area. "I recognize her voice."
Remilia smirked, raising an eyebrow. "Is that so?" she said. Both she and Patchouli had taken an interest in that particular type of youkai for a brief time after Patchouli had remotely assisted the black-white witch in resolving the geyser-incident. "That makes things a bit more interesting. Do you think it's safe to approach?"
Patchouli considered this. "All things considered," she said, "no, but since we're already talking about a battle with Flandre ..."
Flandre lunged forward, dodging Koishi's giant heart-shaped bullets. So did Flandre. She was flanked by Flandre, who was also accompanied by Flandre. All four of her launched rings of bullets.
"Hey, no fair ganging up!" said Koishi cheerfully, without rancor.
"It's," "just a," "Spell," "Card," Flandre and each of her copies said in turn, and giggled. This was fun. She'd more or less gotten used to fighting Mokou and Kaguya, and Remilia was only a Stage 6 boss by Gensokyo's idiosyncratic power-scale. Fighting a new Ex-Boss was always so interesting!
And what's more, she called me cute ... she called me cute ...!
Koishi dodged bullets from three of Flandre's clones and crashed straight into a bullet from the fourth. There was a pop! and a discharge of magic, and all the bullets flying around the room disappeared into greenish sparks, which fell to the ground and made a noise like a thousand dropped plastic buttons.
"Ow!" said Koishi, grinning, and she whipped out that blank card again. "Response 「Youkai Polygraph」!" she declared, hands raised, and a pinkish sphere of light appeared around her. Flandre found herselves between the spokes of a veritable wheel of danmaku — spokes which left behind a trail of bullets as far away from the center as Flandre was. As each Flandre was.
Flandre launched several waves of bullets; they simly bounced off Koishi's shield. "Hey!" she yelled.
"Oh, this is a timeout-card," said Koishi. Her voice was slightly muffled by the shield.
Flandre drew back, carefully moving along the wheel. "Augh! Dammit, this is impossible to dodge!"
"That's because there's four of you," said Koishi pointedly.
Flandre ducked, weaved, and dodged straight into the dense bullet pattern.
There was another loud pop, and three of the Flandres disappeared, along with all the danmaku, which once again clattered to the floor.
Flandre quickly righted herself, and whipped out her next card as the trail appeared again. "Taboo 「Kagome, Kagome」!" she exclaimed. Lattices of green bullets surrounded her, and she also launched much larger yellow rings. "Am I just gonna have to wait here while you just sit there!?"
"Yep!" said Koishi, grinning.
Flandre heard footsteps approaching, and glanced towards the entrance to her bedroom. Remilia, Patchouli, Sakuya, Koakuma, and Meiling were there, looking somewhat confused, as if they weren't sure what to do. Well, except for Remilia, but Flandre knew that her sister always looked like she was the one in charge.
Fate Manipulation 「Koishi Komeiji」
Flandre continued flying around Koishi, dodging the bullets, which was much easier with only one trail. "This is boring," she declared.
After facing eight spell cards from the Sister of the Scarlet Devil ...
"Oh ... it is? Sorry," said Koishi. "Yeah ... I guess this one doesn't have much variety."
... she faces her opponent's ninth spell card, which causes her to become terrified.
Flandre frowned. "Yeah! It's taking too long!" she said, continuing to bounce danmaku off Koishi's shield.
Koishi then loses to the tenth spell card, despite moving close enough to touch her opponent.
"Oh well," said Koishi. "Time to switch over anyway!" There was a pop, and the shield and the bullets vanished. Flandre felt the same magical discharge as before, as both of their danmaku disappeared.
"Hey, Sis!" shouted Remilia.
"Whaddaya want!" Flandre responded.
Remilia smirked. "I bet you can't hold her off for seven minutes before using your timeout-card!"
Flandre laughed. Her sister didn't usually want to goad her into doing something stronger, but when she did, she knew exactly what buttons to push. "Yeah right!" she said, unleashing another lattice of bullets and several more yellow rings.
Koishi giggled. "Oh, I see what you're doing!" she said. "She thinks that'll make you push yourself harder! Anyway, Subconscious 「Rorshach in Danmaku」!"
Flandre grinned at the sudden complex spirals of danmaku which surrounded Koishi. "She was right, too!" she said cheerfully.
"Seven minutes," murmured Sakuya. "Say ... that's long enough for ..."
"Yes," said Remilia, grinning.
"Aha," said Patchouli. "I thought I sensed you doing ... something. Is anything going to happen when Flandre declares her penultimate spell card?"
"Maybe," said Remilia, grinning ... well, devilishly.
Patchouli shrugged. "Well, as long as she doesn't fail your little gamble by more than twenty seconds ..."
"Huh?" said Meiling.
"Remilia-sama needs six minutes and forty seconds for her fate-manipulation to work," said Koakuma flatly.
It wasn't long before Koishi collided with another wave of bullets. Both of their danmaku patterns exploded, and Koishi declared the spell card Rekindled 「Embers of Love」.
"Oh," said Patchouli, blushing faintly.
"What?" said Remilia, frowning.
Koishi launched out a pair of hearts, which left behind a short trail of energy. Flandre dodged easily, but they bounced off the ceiling and hit her from behind. There was a pop, and a shower of green sparks.
"Ow!" said Flandre, whipping out her next spell card. "Well, I got a love-card, too! Taboo 「Maze of Love」!"
"Uh-oh," said Patchouli, as Flandre began shooting out rings of bullets while trying to dodge more of Koishi's hearts.
"What's wrong?" asked Remilia sharply.
"It's, er ... that spell card," said Patchouli, obviously embarassed. "It represents the ... well, it's a more physical, er ..."
Reimilia noticed the suggestiveness of the shape of Koishi's spell cards, and smacked her forehead. "Oh for heaven's sake," she growled, feeling herself heat up from her annoyance. Of all the childish ...
Koishi giggled uncontrollably as she swooped through Flandre's pattern, behaving exactly like a schoolgirl who'd been caught at something naughty. But then she suddenly blinked, frowning. "Huh ...?"
Flandre was blushing, too. "Er ..." She continued to carefully dodge the ... hearts ...
Remilia glanced to her sides, and realized that Sakuya and Meiling were holding hands, while Koakuma and Patchouli clung to each other. "What ...?" she said, suddenly realizing that the warmth she was feeling wasn't due to rage.
"M-miss Patchouli," said Koakuma, "has anyone u-used two love-spell cards on each other b-before?"
"Er, well," said Patchouli, clutching the little devil close. "N-not ... this kind ..."
"Um ... S-sakuya-sama ..." stammered Meiling.
"Chi — Meiling," said Sakuya. "I ... er ... that is ..."
"Well!" said Flandre, as Koishi got nearer. "Um ... I ..."
"W-what?" said Koishi. Both of the two combatants looked confused, and were getting closer and closer to being hit by each other.
Remilia felt her legs wobbling. Her clothes felt uncomfortable on her all of a sudden, and she felt a sort of ... physical longing which she wasn't sure she'd ever seriously felt in life. Her heart pounded as she felt the waves of magic emanating from the two spell cards,
But she was nothing if not in control of herself. "You have got to be kidding me!" she shouted, and launched a set of red spikes out at Koishi and Flandre. There was a loud double-pop as she hit both of them, their danmaku vanishing in a shower of sparks.
There was a pause as those formerly affected by the mixed-up love-spells hurriedly moved away from each other.
"Thank you!" Flandre called down to Remilia.
A battle against an EX-boss lasts quite a while, assuming you're good at dodging. A battle between two Ex-Bosses is guaranteed to keep you occupied for quite a while. Sakuya and Remilia were all that was left of their audience; the others had returned upstairs several moments ago.
Flandre was dodging through a grid pattern of bullets. Koishi had made herself invisible, but Flandre could tell where she was by the fact that the bullets near where she was erupted into much larger flowers of light. "How are you hiding like this?" she said. She was also controlling two giant windmills of energy,
"Oh, I'm hiding in your subconscious," said Koishi. "That's how I snuck in here to begin with."
("Ah, mistress, it's been seven minutes since you made that bet," said Sakuya.
Remilia smirked. "Just as Flanned!" she said in English, and then added, "Keikaku Flandoori!")
"I ... see," said Flandre slowly, frowning. She was only vaguely aware of what the subconscious actually was, but Koishi didn't seem to mean any harm. In fact, any insult or injury Koishi did cause seemed accidental, which was something Flandre could readily sympathize and identify with.
She didn't ask, but she had a pretty good idea why Koishi's current spell card was called 「Philosophy of a Hated Person」.
"Koishi?" she said, still trying to dodge through the rigid lattice of bullets while also trying to avoid getting hit by Koishi herself.
"What is it?" asked Koishi, swinging around under the bullet pattern.
"Well," said Flandre, leaning backward ...
... and then she leaned too far into the rigid pattern. "Augh!" She pulled out her second-last spell card. "Sis, I think I won the little bet!" she said, without a whole lot of enthusiasm. "Secret Barriage 「And Then Will There Be None?」
And then she disappeared.
"Huh? Where'd you go?" said Koishi. There was a pop as she reappeared, sparks falling away. Flandre invisibly created small ball of light which spat out slow-moving large bullets in a trail behind it.
"That's kinda neat," said Koishi, frowning as if she didn't understand something. Her closed Third Eye twitched again. "I can't even see you anywhere!"
Flandre giggled. "I know, right?" she said. "Let's see if you can figure it out before the timer runs out!" She let loose another ball, which sent out a wide trail.
Koishi grinned. "Well, we'll see," she said, drawing her blank card again. "「Subterranean Rose」!"
Concentric rings of danmaku spread out from her, alternately blue and yellow, with rows of the glowing "flowers" flying out along them. None of them had any effect on Flandre, of course, because she wasn't there.
Flandre grinned inwardly to herself, philosophical ponderings forgotten. Well, time to turn up the "scary" a little .. she thought ...
So as not to ruin the magic by showing you how it's done, let's switch perspectives.
Koishi continued launching the rings, doing her best to avoid Flandre's danmaku, which abruptly disappeared. "Huh?" She glanced around in confusion; it hadn't been the pop of an ended spell card, it was just that this particular pattern had stopped for the moment. "Where'd you go?"
There was a sound like fluttering bat-wings. "Right behind you," said Flandre's voice in her left ear.
Koishi spun around. "Still behind you," said Flandre, and this time Koishi could feel the flapping of small, leathery wings, brushing around her face.
She tilted her head backwards, half-hoping she could catch sight of Flandre by turning upside down, and got a sudden impression of swooning in the arms of a tall vampire, fangs poised at her throat ...
Koishi jumped straight up with a yelp, then realized that Flandre had once again started the self-enclosing cubes of danmaku, just like with her first spell card. Great, something else I have to dodge, she thought, and then remembered that, this being a timeout-card, dodging was the whole point.
She felt invisible clawed hands grabbing at her, and tried to twist out of the way while dodging the bullets. She quickly realized that they were an illusion: there was nothing there. The illusion was cued to her location; in a sense, it was coming from her. She couldn't escape from the claws, any more than she could escape from her own legs.
A second later, several of the bullets hit her.
There was a loud explosion of light and noise, which threw Flandre for a loop since she'd been hovering right behind Koishi. Their respective "backgrounds" vanished.
Koishi sank down heavily and landed on the bed, gasping for breath. "Wow ... that was ... Whoa!" she said, grinning. "That was scary!"
Flandre landed in front of her, smirking. "Told ya!" she said cheerfully. She was overflowing with smugness, and she hadn't even had to annihilate her opponent.
Koishi giggled, though there was a strangeness to it. "You're ... really powerful ..." she said. "Even more than that shrine maiden and the witch ..." Her closed Third Eye twitched slightly ...
... and then opened.
It looked rather ... unhealthy. And bloodshot. Flandre stared at it, wondering just how long Koishi had kept it closed.
Koishi blushed. "Years," she said, and then suddenly darted forward and kissed Flandre on the lips.