A Different Demon-Sealing Record - Chapter 6: For Youkai, By Youkai
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Chapter 6: For Youkai, By Youkai
The orb burst open and surrounded Kotohime with crackling energy. She instantly fell to the ground and went still.
"Wha— What did you do to her!?" exclaimed Reimu.
"Oh, I'm just tucking her into bed for the night," said Mima. She gestured with her staff, and Kotohime floated closer to the woods behind her. "Unlike Noroiko, I'm genuinely not feeling murderous."
Reimu scrambled back onto Genjii's shell, split the Yin-Yang Orbs into four, and quickly took off.
"Thanks for showing up two minutes earlier, boss," said Noroiko, staggering to her feet. Her arm was limp; both of the ofuda Reimu had thrown were still clinging to her.
Mima rolled her eyes. "You're welcome for rescuing you at all, even though you were trying to kill them and get us both exterminated," she said. "Would you like to die anyway, or would you rather just book it into the woods?"
Noroiko made a rude gesture with her free hand, rose a few meters off the ground, and wobbled into the darkness.
Mima floated up until she was level with Reimu, and sighed. "Why the hell did I decide it was a good idea to attack a fourteen-year-old?" she said. "I know why. It's because when you become a youkai, your mind changes. When you cease to be human, human deaths become opportunities rather than tragedies. When you're no longer alive, the living hold no value." She glanced back into the woods. "In that light, I suppose employing a bloodthirsty, shortsighted idiot like Noroiko almost makes sense. Much less saving her from getting exterminated."
"W-what do you want?" said Reimu. She still felt mildly ill about the thought of killing Noroiko, and tried not to be grateful to Mima for preventing that.
Mima chuckled as she turned back to face her. "If you'd asked me that question about six hours ago, I would've said it was the Yin-Yang Orb."
"That would be rather difficult," said Genjii, "given that youkai are unable to touch it, much less wield it."
Mima peered down at him. "Just because I can't it wield it as a Shrine Maiden doesn't mean that I have no use for an artifact containing a hundred and seventy-one years' worth of knowledge and experience from a succession of youkai exterminators," said Mima, slightly patronizingly. "Besides, it would have meant you two were mildly out-of-the-way for my next step."
"What next step?" said Reimu cautiously.
"Well, I've had a ritual on the back burner to turn myself fully into a youkai," said Mima. "I can still —"
Reimu exploded. "A jinyou!?" This was the term for youkai who had once been human. She pointed her gohei at Mima. "I-I may not know a lot about being the Shrine Maiden! And, and maybe the Yin-Yang Orb is still using me instead of me using it!" she said. "B-but I do know one thing! A Human Villager becoming a youkai is the greatest sin there is!"
"Remain calm, Miss Hakurei," Genjii whispered urgently.
Mima smiled wanly. "Reimu," she said, "I've been dead for fifty-one years. That's almost ten years longer than I was alive. I'm pretty sure I don't count as a human who lives in the Village anymore."
Reimu fumed. "What could possibly be worth giving up being human!?"
Mima considered this, then turned back to the forest and called out, "Marisa, you should come out and hear this. I can see you in the dark, you know."
"Blahhhh." Marisa flew out of the trees, sitting on the stalk of a strange oversized flower. She looked basically like everyone had described her, with red hair, dark purple robes, and a matching pointy witch's hat.
Reimu couldn't sense the shadow of a curse, which wasn't a surprise, but Marisa also didn't seem particularly happy to be there. Which ... also wasn't a surprise, when she thought about it.
"In life, I was a magician," said Mima. "I mean, obviously. But one day, I took it upon myself to try to figure out exactly how Gensokyo came to be in its contemporary state, as a land full of youkai with the humans holed up in a single village. I won't bore you with all the details, but it took me everywhere from the history of the Shrine Maidens to the specific process by which youkai are born from and shaped by human fears."
"And what did you find?" Reimu asked, fully prepared to roll her eyes.
"What I learned that year was complicated, but ... no, that's not true." She grinned. "People always say 'it's complicated' when they think they won't like the answer." She floated off to the side, so she could face both Reimu and Marisa at once. "The truth is that Gensokyo and the Great Hakurei Barrier were created for youkai, by youkai."
"Wait, what?" said Marisa.
The night air seemed to grow colder. "That can't be right," said Reimu. "I mean, the Hakurei Shrine is one of the most important parts of the Barrier! ... Isn't it?" She looked down at Genjii.
"It is," said Genjii, and even he sounded uneasy.
Mima shook her head and smiled, not unkindly. "Did you think that the Human Village derived some kind of benefit from being backed up against a wall by monsters on all sides?" she said. "No, the inescapable conclusion is that the humans of Gensokyo are here for the express purpose of being terrified of the dark, in an environment where their fears could be manipulated. And you, the Shrine Maiden, were a contrivance in order to prevent humans from becoming extinct — though I confess I didn't realize that you were that much of an institution from the youkai perspective until Yakumo Ran barged in."
"No." Reimu shook her head. "That's just ..." She looked over at Marisa. "Did you know about this?"
"What, I'm just as surprised as you guys!" said Marisa.
"You don't really think I'm the first youkai who's ever been threatened by Yakumo Yukari before the Shrine Maiden could fly, do you?" said Mima.
"I don't believe you!" shouted Reimu. "How d-did ... how did it take fifty years before you figured out how important I was?"
"Well, I certainly knew the Shrine Maidens were important to the Barrier," said Mima. "That's something every Villager knows. As for the youkai perspective, I'd presume it's because Yakumo Yukari isn't in the habit of personally greeting every single living thing that happens to exist for any length of time in Gensokyo." She grinned wryly. "I was just off doing my own thing, I never stuck my neck out enough for her to bare her claws until now."
"Hmph." Reimu wanted to wipe that smile off Mima's face. "W-well, that doesn't change anything!" she said. "Even if youkai did make things the way they are, I-I'm still gonna protect the humans! And that means beating youkai and vengeful spirits that attack us!"
Mima just shook her head and sighed, still smiling. "You know, in times like this, I feel like my life took a turn for the worse ever since I died," she said.
"Aw, jeez," muttered Marisa.
"Um. Did it?" said Reimu, slightly thrown off track.
Mima inclined her head. "I suppose it's all part of the whole 'vengeful spirit' deal," she said. "I have only myself to blame, though; I mean, I did place a curse on myself so that I'd be unable to pass on, but so that I'd retain my magic, and then I specifically got myself murdered by your metaphorical ancestor in such a way that I'd come back full of hate and jealousy."
"You still did it, though," said Reimu.
Mima shrugged grandiosely. "Well, all I'm left now with is a needless need for revenge, along with the urge shared by all living things, to pass on my knowledge and legacy to a so-called descendant like Marisa," she said. "We don't actually have to fight, you know."
"What, you're just gonna let me exterminate you?" said Reimu.
Mima chuckled. "You know that's not what I meant."
"Then yes we do need to fight!" snapped Reimu. "You cursed a bunch of people, you blew up the Shrine, you almost got me killed a bunch of times, you put that spell on Kotohime, you're trying to become a youkai ..."
Mima shrugged. "Kawaji's going to have the nice, long, full night of sleep which I'd intended for you," she said. "And again, I don't see why the jinyou thing warrants shouting at a louder volume than the murder attempts. Which, I might add, happened before Yakumo Ran showed up and gave me a dose of arm-twisting."
"Oh well that makes it all better," said Reimu. "So, what, you're sorry, and won't do it again!? Yeah right!"
Mima sighed. "Oh well," she said. "This was what Noroiko was talking about, even if she was mindlessly repeating what I'd told her. But do you have any options besides murdering me or locking me up in a box?"
Reimu fumed, thinking furiously. In her opinion, it was a valid question ...
"Do not allow her to persuade you to flee, Miss Hakurei," said Genjii.
"I'm genuinely asking," said Mima.
Reimu exchanged a glance with Marisa, who looked approximately as uncomfortable with all this as Reimu felt. She swallowed, turned back to Mima, and slowly shook her head.
"Look," Mima said gently, "you obviously don't want to kill me any more than I want to pass on. How about we just take a Mulligan? We go our separate ways, and you come back if and when I've done something that actually warrants a double-execution, once it's plausible that you can actually defeat me."
"I ..." Reimu clenched her teeth, and gestured with her gohei. "No," she said, with considerably less force than she wanted. "I ... y-you still need to be ..."
Mima let out an exasperated noise. "Marisa?" she said.
"Yeah?" Marisa said, without enthusiasm.
"Would you please slow down the Shrine Maiden for at least two minutes?" said Mima, turning back toward the woods. The gentle tone had completely vanished. "I'm going to go finish the jinyou ritual, with a hostage at my back." She pointed the staff at the sleeping Kotohime, who rose off the ground.
"Yeah." Marisa flew forward so that she was between Reimu and Mima. "Later, boss," she said flatly.
Mima started floating into the woods, Kotohime trailing behind her.
"Hey!" shouted Reimu. She fired a burst of ofuda-bullets from the Yin-Yang Orbs. Mima promptly moved Kotohime into their path, and Reimu flinched and quickly dispelled them. "Ugghhh ..." She watched as Mima disappeared into the darkness, then turned her attention to Marisa.
"Well, she certainly abandoned all pretense of politeness at the slightest sign of friction," Genjii remarked.
Marisa shook her head. "Sheesh," she said. "Hey, can I make a different we-don't-have-to-fight offer?"
"What?" said Reimu.
"Well, I mean, I really don't wanna fight ya," said Marisa. "I mean I ... kinda do, you're the Shrine Maiden, and fightin' you seems like it'd be kinda cool, but it's like ... not right now, y'know? I don't feel like gettin' in your way while you're, uh, busy like this."
"Oh." Reimu blinked.
"Would you care to explain how you came to be allied with Mima in the first place, Miss Kirisame?" asked Genjii.
"Well, uh ..." Marisa snapped her fingers, sending out a small spark. "That's the first magic I could ever do. It's, uh, a star, 'n case you you can't see it from over there. A tiny li'l piece of nothing." She shook her head. "And my dad just yelled at me for just bein' able to do it."
"Really?" said Reimu.
"Yeah ..." Marisa shrugged, not meeting Reimu's eyes. "Then Mima comes along and she's all, hey, I can teach you magic! And I thought it was cool, I thought it was ... edgy and awesome bein' the bad guy, cuz if making a li'l spark was evil, I didn't wanna be good. Then that fox showed up."
"Yakumo Ran," said Reimu. "She said ... Noroiko said she threatened you."
"Yeah, well, they weren't gonna rub me out, cuz I'm a Human Villager," said Marisa. "But, like, she said I couldn't be a witch anymore, and anyway, that got me thinkin'. If even the biggest, baddest monster around thinks we're doin' something we shouldn't, what's even the point, right?" She laughed mirthlessly. "I was just ... kinda being a dumbass, basically."
"Your father was about to have a funeral," Genjii said weakly.
Marisa shrugged, looking away. "Ehh. I'm not ... too worried about that," she said. It didn't sound to Reimu like she was being honest. Marisa shrugged again, then flew her flower in closer to Reimu. "But ... I dunno. Look, how 'bout we both go 'n' kick Mima's ass?"
"You sure you can fight her?" said Reimu.
"Dunno," said Marisa, sidling up to Genjii. "I mean, I've only been sneakin' off to train with her since ... November or so, there's no way she taught me everything she knows yet. An' even if she did, she'd definitely have defenses against her own stuff." She gave Reimu a cocky grin. "But I think we could take her, right? 'Specially since she isn't gonna try to kill ya."
Reimu smiled faintly back. "Well, okay," she said.
Marisa grinned, and turned her flower around. "This way! I'll take us straight to the cottage!"
Reimu followed. "Is that where she lives?" she said. "Or ... you know what I mean."
"Nah, it's just this shack where she could teach me stuff without gettin' rained on," said Marisa. "That's how she put it. I just call it a cottage cuz, y'know, witches live in cottages. Dunno where she really keeps all her stuff."
"Oh," said Reimu.
"Right before all this stuff happened, she took out everythin' interesting except my futon and a dresser, and a crystal ball we were usin' to spy on your fights," said Marisa. "I think we were gonna fight you guys head-on eventually, but, like, then Yakumo Ran showed up."
They made their way over the treetops; Marisa lit the way with a trail of glowing stars. It felt strange to fly alongside someone who'd just been her enemy, although she obviously hadn't really been on Mima's side. Still, Marisa's heart seemed to be in the right place, or at least it had found its way back to approximately the right place.
After a few minutes, Reimu saw eerie lights among the trees. As they drew closer, she saw that it was a large clearing, lit from within. Marisa suddenly darted forward, and did a strange twisty aerial maneuver as she dived downward into it.
"Let's ... not do that, Gramps," said Reimu.
"Agreed," said Genjii, approaching at a more leisurely place.
"Hey, boss, I just beat the Shrine Maiden!" Marisa called out.
"Yes, I heard the sounds of combat all the way from over here," said Mima's voice, completely deadpan. "Your news of victory astounds me, Marisa. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it unbelievable."
A small shack was sitting in the clearing. Mima was in the front yard, waving her staff over an eerie multicolored sphere of light, wider than she was tall. Reimu had never seen a rainbow-colored puddle of oil before, but if she had, she would have thought it looked something like that.
"Psyche!" said Marisa, swooping down. She fired a stream of multicolored star-bullets down at the yard.
Mima chortled and casually avoided the attack, deflecting a few of the bullets with a twirl of her staff. "It only counts as a 'psyche' if the other person actually believed you, Marisa," she said. She flew up until she was twenty meters above the ground, and grinned towards Reimu. "I mean, setting aside the fact that you did take almost exactly two minutes, I'm disappointed in you, Marisa. I thought you were less mature than this."
Marisa laughed, and began zipping wildly over the clearing, firing lasers and stars seemingly at random.
"Wow, she's fast," said Reimu. "Glad we don't have to fight her." She activated Fantasy Seal, and began firing ofuda-bullets. This time, she just barely managed to fire from four of the Yin-Yang Orbs at once.
Marisa paused as she heard Reimu's Spell Card, then grinned. "Star Sign!" she said, and she activated a Spell Card with a golden and white aura. She began flying even more wildly, rainbow-colored stars spinning around her like a galaxy.
Mima dodged and weaved through the dual assault, a faint smile on her lips. At one point, a laser went straight at her, but she transformed into a mass of blue flame with a white skull, and reverted when the laser had passed. She spun her staff around, deflecting Reimu's ofuda-bullets and Marisa's stars whenever they happened to come too close, but she showed no sign of actually fighting back.
Reimu made her way towards Marisa. She winced as a laser passed through her leg, but she didn't even feel anything; Marisa had obviously marked her as an ally. "What's she doing?"
"Uh ... dunno," Marisa said suspiciously. "Usually she's shot back at least once by now."
"Oh dear," said Genjii.
Marisa shrugged, and launched herself forward, leaving behind a golden trail.
Mima simply glided out of the way. Then Marisa's trail exploded into stars, flying in all directions and spiraling around unpredictably. Mima burst out laughing, dodging through them and briefly changing into the flaming skull again. "Mixing other people's Spell Cards with your own, are we?" she said.
"Yes, we are!" Marisa said cheerfully. She resumed zipping around and firing stars again.
"Then we shall have to clip your wings in a moment," Mima replied, dodging even more quickly than Marisa's movements.
Reimu glanced toward the ground. The clearing was well-lit by Marisa's danmaku. The glowing sphere was still sitting there, apparently unaffected and unattended, but now it had begun pulsing, alternately brightening and dimming. She guided Genjii down towards it. "Hmm ..."
Suddenly, Mima slid in front of her with a smirk, placing herself directly between Reimu and the sphere. Reimu fired a stream of ofuda-bullets, and Mima furiously deflected them with her staff.
Reimu suddenly realized that she was moving backwards. "Gramps, what are you doing!"
"It's not me!" said Genjii. "She is ... exerting some sort of force against us!"
"Whoops!" said Marisa suddenly.
Reimu looked over and saw Marisa's Spell Card aura sputtering and winking out. "Marisa?"
"Uh, gimme a sec," said Marisa, who looked fairly winded. "Godsdamn Spell Cards take a lot outta me ... I can still shoot, though!"
She fired several lasers and stars towards Mima. Mima changed into the flaming skull to avoid each one, and each time, Genjii started moving forwards again. Reimu pulled out several extermination ofuda as she got closer; they wouldn't kill a vengeful spirit, but they worked faster than sealing-ofuda, and would keep Mima still long enough to finish the job.
Then there was an even brighter flare from the glowing sphere, and Mima quickly turned around and flew down towards it. Marisa's next laser struck Mima squarely in the back, and she plummeted to the ground and crashed into the sphere, which exploded in a brilliant flash of light and kicked up a cloud of gray smoke.
Reimu darted back out of the path of the smoke, and watched for several seconds. Then she said, "Did we get get —"
"Of course we didn't get her!" said Marisa. "Jeez, do you even know how this stuff goes?"
The smoke dissipated. Mima's hat and robes had turned blue, and her robes had emblems of the sun, moon, and stars printed in white in a pattern just above the hem. She also had a pair of bat-like wings that seemed to be made out of frayed blue shadows.
"Crap," said Marisa. "Of course she's got a super-transformation!"
Mima looked down at herself. "Well, that didn't work. Still just a vengeful spirit. I still think this is an improvement, though!" She rose back up to meet them. "Also, Marisa, you read too much Outside World manga. Where did you even get that nonsense?"
"Kourindou, duh," said Marisa.
"Be cautious, Miss Hakurei, Miss Kirisame," said Genjii.
Mima smiled towards Reimu. "Now, Shrine Maiden of Hakurei," she said, "do you still intend to fight me?"
Reimu gulped, then raised her gohei. "Th-that's right!"
"Me too!" said Marisa, raising her fists. Then she wobbled a bit and hurriedly grabbed onto her flower. "Whoa!"
"Damn," said Mima. "Oh well. As Kotohime found out, defeating you and sparing your life aren't mutually exclusive."
"Doesn't matter if you beat me!" said Reimu desperately. "I'll just come after you and fight you again!"
"Oh fine." Mima shrugged. "If you still insist on pointlessly exterminating me, I can just defeat you again and again and again." She held her staff out horizontally. "Orreries Night!" she said in English, and with a hissing roar, she was surrounded by a black and blue aura.
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