A Different Demon-Sealing Record - Chapter 7: Orreries Night
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Chapter 7: Orreries Night
As Mima activated her Spell Card, four metallic orbs materialized around her, connected to each other in a square of pale beams of light. They began spewing small black stars with purple coronas — more than Noroiko's danmaku, more than Meira's, even more than the Spell Card that Keine had used. Reimu couldn't even see Mima through it all.
Reimu was immediately put on the defensive. She didn't even know how it was possible to output this kind of firepower, much less how to counter it. She managed to get out a burst of ofuda-bullets every now and then, but they seemed to get absorbed by Mima's own bullets before they got anywhere near their mark. Reimu also noticed that Marisa had completely gone dark. Frankly, she was seriously reconsidering bringing Marisa into this fight; there was no way Marisa's skill could have been anywhere near what she was getting from the Yin-Yang Orbs.
Okay, forget this, she thought, and started pulling away. "Marisa, this way!" she called out.
From the depths of the bullets, she heard Marisa's voice calling, "Okay, right!"
This was followed immediately by a pop and a scream.
The star-bullets faded away to reveal that Marisa's flower was falling apart in midair, and she started to plummet, clutching her right side. Reimu cancelled her Spell Card and sent Genjii into a dive, feeling a completely different kind of panic from when she'd fallen, realized that her angle was too high, tilted downward further, felt herself losing balance, tried to regain it, Marisa was almost to the ground, there was no way Reimu could catch her in time ...
Marisa suddenly slowed to a stop, hovering a meter or two above the ground, and her hat fell off. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she was hissing between clenched teeth. "Ow," she gasped. "Ow ow owowowowow. Fuck!"
"Ye gods!" said Mima. She was pointing her staff at Marisa, looking surprisingly relieved. "That could have gone much worse."
"What? You're the one who was attacking us!" shouted Reimu.
Mima shrugged. "Well ... I suppose I can't argue with that in the literal sense," she said. "I just wasn't expecting Marisa to have put it together so poorly that a single hit would tear her apart." Then she grinned, and an orb of light appeared within the crescent of the staff, just like the sleep spell she'd used on Kotohime.
Reimu charged down and wrapped her arms around Marisa, pushing her out of the way just as Mima fired. The orb just barely zipped past her back.
"Double-ow," muttered Marisa. "Gods damn that hurts ... guess I wasn't ready after all. Ugh ..."
"You okay?" said Reimu, guiding Genjii to land.
"Never better!" said Marisa, with a glassy smile. "Ow!" she added as Reimu pulled her hand away.
Mima's danmaku had left a hole in Marisa's robes, revealing a nasty star-shaped bruise the size of her fist.
Reimu frowned at her. "You gotta get out of —"
Then Mima's dark stars started raining down on them. "You gotta get out of here!" screamed Reimu, ducking. What had happened to 'why am I attacking a fourteen-year-old'?
"Okay okay okay!" said Marisa. She jumped off Genjii's back and ran for the treeline, then stopped, turned around, and blew Reimu a kiss. "For good luck!"
Reimu blushed furiously. "Just go!" She split the Yin-Yang Orbs into four and sent Genjii back up above the trees, in order to draw Mima's attack away from Marisa.
She dodged to the side to avoid another sleep-spell, and almost immediately found herself completely boxed in from all sides. The only direction she sort of thought she had available was directly away from Mima, and even that was merely "sort of." It occurred to her that none of Mima's bullets had come that close to hitting her or Marisa on the ground; Reimu had been allowed to draw Mima's fire. Well, it wasn't like it was a surprise that Mima wasn't working furiously towards killing them or anything. Was this really a "super-transformation", or had Mima just switched to a different costume and added illusory wings? Had Mima been the one who ordered Noroiko to make the cursed Defenders act all dramatic? Reimu wondered if she should try calling Mima's bluff, but this would probably mean she'd take a hit.
Mima started firing out fast-moving star-bullets at random. Reimu clenched her teeth as she ducked to avoid one, then swerved to the left to avoid another sleep-spell. This placed her directly in the line of fire of Mima's danmaku, and one of them struck her shoulder. Reimu screamed, and nearly dropped her gohei as she grabbed where it had hit. Her shoulder felt like it was on fire.
Focus! Focus focus focus focus focus! She winced, tears in her eyes, using her magical senses to avoid the bullets. I can keep going after this! she thought. Chiyo could keep going after something like this! All the other Shrine Maidens could keep going after something like this! At least, that's what a part of her was thinking. Most of the rest of her was just screaming, OW OW OW IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS along with a few choice words that would have outright gotten her kicked out of Keine's classroom.
She dodged back to avoid another sleep spell, which stuck out like a sore thumb in her magical senses. She realized that Genjii had spoken. "Wh ... what?" she said, blinking away tears.
Genjii said, "I asked if you were all right, Miss Hakurei!" He sounded genuinely afraid.
Reimu shook her head. "I'm ... okay," she said softly. She didn't feel okay. "But ... there's no way I can take another hit, and no way I can ... hit her ..."
Reimu ducked under another a sudden fast bullet. "Gramps, I'm gonna go over her and attack from above," she whispered, just loud enough for Genjii to hear.
"Please do not place me in the line of fire, Miss Hakurei," Genjii hissed.
"We're already kind of in the line of fire no matter what," said Reimu. She leaned to the side to avoid another fast bullet, then back in the opposite direction to dodge a longer stream of the regular bullets. "But, I mean ... I think I have an idea." What she'd done once, she could do again ...
"Only do it if you're certain, Miss Hakurei," said Genjii.
Reimu peered through the bullets. She still couldn't even see Mima or the metallic orbs through all the dark stars. "The only thing that's 'certain' is, this is gonna hurt." She glanced upward. "Probably even if it works, I think."
"I suppose that's the best we can hope for at a time like this," muttered Genjii.
Reimu reactivated Fantasy Seal after a couple of false starts, and used the Yin-Yang Orbs to clear a path over her head. She guided Genjii up, stopping just within the circle of Mima's metallic orbs. Mima watched them approach with an expression of amusement on her face. Reimu could only get one of the Yin-Yang Orbs to fire as she tilted the Yin-Yang Orbs down towards Mima, while she gathered her flight-power into herself —
Mima rolled her eyes and pointed the sleep-spell up at her. A fast-moving bullet zipped out from behind, and Genjii screamed and fell out of the sky. Reimu fell six meters before she slowed to a stop just below Mima, who smirked and kept the staff trained on her. The angle of the Yin-Yang Orbs was now tilted too far down now to hit Mima, there was no time for Reimu to tilt them back up, and she didn't have the slightest bit of midair maneuverability to dodge.
So she reached into herself and twisted.
The world was filled with a pearlescent glow, and Reimu's hair turned black. Now that she thought about it, it felt ... quiet. Almost relaxing, even. Well, apart from the pain in her shoulder, but she felt like she could almost ignore that. Which probably wasn't a good thing, if it was a real injury, but ...
Mima's spell passed through Reimu with absolutely no effect.
Mima frowned in surprise. "What?" she said. "That wasn't just some kind of ... boundary ... boost?"
Reimu discovered that her cheeks were hurting. Oh, it was because she was grinning uncontrollably. Huh.
She lost her grip on whatever boundary she'd just twisted, and the glow vanished. Mima snarled, and charged up the spell again. Reimu quickly tilted the ring of Yin-Yang Orbs up and expanded it to hit Mima's head.
There was a thunderclap of Orreries Night failing as the first orb hit her. On the sixth hit, Mima reverted to her blue-flaming-skull form and dropped her staff, and with every successive hit, the flame began to shrink. After a couple dozen hits or so, the skull was knocked out of the air and tumbled into a corner of the clearing, with only a faint corona remaining. Reimu's Spell Card faded, and the seven Yin-Yang Orbs became one again.
Reimu blinked a few times. It had gone completely dark, apart from the Yin-Yang Orb. Literally all she could see outside of her immediate vicinity was the faint blue of Mima's skull.
"Miss Hakurei?" Genjii said shakily from somewhere below her. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," she said. "You?" She started to descend, until she could see Genjii floating up into the glow of the Yin-Yang Orb.
"I have recovered well enough to fly. That was exceedingly painful," said Genjii. "Ah ... your hair has turned black again."
"Yeah," said Reimu, landing on his back. She felt exhausted. "Wish I had a mirror ..."
Genjii shook his head, and began to descend. "What did you do?" he said.
"Dunno," said Reimu. "I just twisted some kind of, um, boundary, and I sort of ... felt really floaty all of a sudden. And Mima's spell didn't work on me."
"Yes, I saw that," said Genjii. "I have not observed such a thing before, in any previous Shrine Maiden. There are of course techniques for avoiding harm, or for deflecting spells, but to be utterly unaffected ..."
"Congratulations on awakening a unique power," Mima said as she popped up next to them, grinning mock-cheerfully. She now had six purple wings, looking even more ragged than they had before.
Reimu yelped and drew back several meters, pulling out a few extermination ofuda.
Mima followed after her. "Of course, it's clear that you can't simply pull that power out on demand for as long as you want," she said. "And I won't fall for that trick again." Reimu threw two of her ofuda, and Mima simply dodged to the side. "So I have a proposal."
"This had better be the kind of proposal where I beat you right away!" shouted Reimu in a panic. She rose up and fired several ofuda-bullets from her gohei.
"Nope," said Mima, blocking each of them with her staff. "But what do you say we dispense with danmaku? I have to sit still for a few seconds in order to initiate nap time, after all." She suddenly swooped up and grabbed at Reimu's arms. Reimu barely managed to dodge, and nearly fell off Genjii's back. "I also need one hand free to do the staffy thing," Mima continued. "So there's going to be a couple of seconds where I'll be a sitting ghost." She swooped forward again, and this time she caught Reimu's wrists, pulling them over head and lifting her off Genjii's back.
Reimu screamed and kicked at her; her feet simply passed through Mima's body, like ... well, like a ghost. "Put me down!"
Mima smirked in Reimu's face. "Bad news, I'm much faster than any human." Her staff moved through the air of its own accord, and smacked Genjii away, sending him screaming into the darkness. "In the end, you're just a little girl, playing at being the big, strong, adorable youkai exterminator." Mima started slowly sinking to the ground. "You couldn't even bring yourself to kill Noroiko. What chance did you think you had against me?" She stopped, and held Reimu about half a meter above the ground. "Here, I'll even lower you so that if you fall, you won't hurt —"
A yellow laser suddenly hit Mima from behind and passed harmlessly through Reimu. Mima dropped her with a grunt, and Reimu let out a yelp as the jolt ran through her shoulder.
Mima stared at the source of the laser, one hand holding her stomach where it had passed through her. "Marisa!?"
"Hey, boss!" said Marisa's voice. "Catch!" In response, Mima tensed up and spread her wings.
Reimu threw an extermination-ofuda at the back of Mima's head.
It seemed to pass right through her, but she twitched and went still in midair. Her wings fizzled out and vanished, and the staff clanged to the floor of the clearing. Reimu threw more and more ofuda until Mima reverted to her flaming skull form, and she kept throwing them until the skull hit the ground.
Reimu looked over at Marisa. "Th ... thanks," she said.
Marisa gave her a thumbs-up. "No prob!"
"Why'd you yell 'catch' like that?" said Reimu.
"Oh, it was a distraction for you," said Marisa. She grinned. "She sure caught it!"
"Haha ..." Reimu looked around, then down at Mima's skull. "Need a rock," she panted.
"What for?" said Marisa.
"Seal her," said Reimu.
Marisa nodded, and headed back into the woods, summoning more stars to help her see and leaving one floating near Reimu.
Reimu sank to her knees, and slumped over onto her back, which jolted her shoulder. "Ow!"
"Miss Hakurei?" said Genjii, from off to her left.
"Right here, Gramps," she said. "You okay?"
"My condition is reasonable, I suppose," he said, walking into the light of Marisa's star. "Fortunately, physical injuries are little more than a nuisance for spirits, divine or otherwise. She didn't even use any sort of magic that time."
Marisa came back with a rock as big as her head, and dropped it next to Mima's skull. "You all right?"
"Gimme a sec." Reimu sat up slowly. "Ouch."
"Yeah," said Marisa. She looked down at her own side. "Hurts a lot less now, though, just give it a couple minutes." She looked around the yard, and walked over to pick up her hat, which had been perforated by danmaku. "Well ... phooey." She glanced over at Reimu. "Y'know — whoops, uh-oh!"
Mima's skull had started to twitch where it lay, and the blue flames were intensifying once more. A faint purple and black mist began forming around it, and one of the ofuda fell off and crumpled.
Reimu quickly staggered to her feet, and pulled out eight sealing ofuda. She tossed them into the air, and they floated into an octagonal formation around Mima's skull, which was pulled up to hover between them. The mists swirled more closely around it.
"I call ..." Her voice was shaking. She took a deep breath, and started again. "I call upon the sacred power of Hakurei!" she said, and the ofuda began to glow and rotate rapidly, pale beams of light crisscrossing through each other and passing through Mima's skull. "Let this darkness be bound, so that it may not eclipse the light!" She raised her gohei and swung downward, and the skull vanished as the mist and flames were sucked into the rock, the charms attaching themselves to the surface. The remaining extermination ofuda fluttered to the ground around it.
Reimu sighed. It was over.
"Think that'll hold her?" said Marisa.
"It should," said Reimu. "I'll just have to keep it someplace safe. And ... refresh the charms in a year."
"I shall make it a priority to teach you how to send vengeful spirits to the afterlife by then," said Genjii.
"Yeah, that too," Reimu said softly, thinking of Noroiko.
"You really gonna ... do that?" said Marisa, looking slightly ill.
"Maybe," Reimu said softly. Well ... Mima was already dead, so it wouldn't quite be like killing her ...
Marisa shook her head. "Y'know," she said, "I saw on her face, right before you threw that ofuda ... I kinda think she realized she was attackin' a fourteen-year-old again."
"Oh," said Reimu. That made her feel even worse.
Marisa seemed to be in the same boat. "So, uh ... what now?"
"Oh ... um ..." Reimu let out a great big yawn.
Marisa also yawned. "Yeah, that sounds like an awesome idea."
Genjii said, "We should look for Ms. Kawaji."
"Oh, right!" said Reimu. "Um, Marisa ..."
Kotohime jerked awake. She wasn't sure where she was, or when she had gone to sleep, but she ...
... was pretty sure there shouldn't have been stars above her, or at least not giant glowing five-pointed stars and a wooden roof. Nor should there have been a spent anti-curse ofuda on her face.
"There!" said Reimu's voice.
"Sweet," said another voice she recognized as Kirisame Marisa.
Kotohime sat up. They were inside a small shack, and she was lying on a mattress that was ever so slightly too small. Pretty sparsely furnished, too. Reimu and Marisa were standing around her, and Genjii was poking his head in from outside; they all seemed to have taken a hit or two apiece, but they were all upright and breathing. Marisa was also holding ... was that Mima's staff?
"Oh, hi," said Kotohime. "I take it you won?" She looked questioningly at Marisa, who smiled fake-cheerfully and didn't meet her gaze.
"Yep!" said Reimu. "Oh, uh, Marisa's not a bad guy, she decided she wanted to quit after Yakumo Ran went to bother Mima and Noroiko." She looked positively exhausted.
"Got the names of everyone who got cursed, too!" said Marisa. There was a dresser against one wall; she pulled open one of the drawers, and produced a small, rumpled sheet of paper. "All fifteen of 'em after Meira 'n' Rika, and where they were gonna go hide!"
"Where'd did you get that?" said Kotohime.
"Oh, I wrote it all down while they were busy with other stuff," said Marisa.
"Sounds like you two have quite the story," said Kotohime. She chuckled. "Well. Like I said earlier, Reimu ... thank gods I lived through that. Uh, especially, thank Konngara." They walked out of the shack; they were in the middle of a clearing with danmaku scorch marks all around. Kotohime took note of a stone covered in sealing-ofuda. "Did you get Noroiko, too?"
"Oh, uh, no, she ran away after Mima put you to sleep," Reimu said uncomfortably.
"Rats," said Kotohime. She shrugged. "Oh well, now that we know what to expect, we can find her and exterminate her later."
"Yeah," Reimu said softly, staring at the ground. Marisa suddenly seemed extremely interested in examining the staff and casting some kind of spell on it.
"You don't have to do it yourself, you know," said Kotohime. Gods damn it, there's a reason the minimum age of the Defense Force is sixteen, and it has nothing to do with level of combat ability!
Reimu shook her head. "No," she said, lifting up the stone. "I mean. I'll probably have to ... to kill somebody sooner or later."
Kotohime put a hand on Reimu's unhurt shoulder. "I'm just saying, it can be 'later' if you want," she said. "Like I said before, you aren't alone out here." She took the stone out of Reimu's hands.
"Well ... okay," said Reimu. "I guess." She carefully climbed onto Genjii's back.
Marisa finished whatever enchantment she was doing, then straddled the staff and rose off the ground. "Not as comfy as my flower, but whatever works," she murmured.
Flower, thought Kotohime. "So what happened after my little nap?" she asked aloud. She summoned the cloud, and the three of them took off.
Reimu looked relieved at the change of subject. "Well," she said, "first, Mima started talking about how she was gonna turn into a full youkai. Um, she had this weird idea of why the Great Hakurei Barrier was created ..."
Kotohime did her best not to react to that, either. Well, most adults were at least vaguely aware that Gensokyo primarily existed for the benefit of its youkai, and there were certainly worse ways she could have found out ...
Noroiko sat under a tree, her arm hanging limply beside her, beads of cold sweat running down her forehead. She thought she'd heard fighting and a couple of screams a while ago, but there'd been nothing since then. Youkai-extermination ofuda lasted longer than one-time-curse-removal charms, and they hurt the entire time; she'd tried poking at them a few times, but they just stung her fingers. So she just sat there, waiting for them to crumple, wondering if she'd be able to run away if a youkai exterminator showed up in the meantime.
"Greetings, curse-demon." Yakumo Ran suddenly stepped out from behind the tree Noroiko was leaning against. Somehow, this was almost as creepy as those "gaps." "We are here to inform you that your co-conspirator has been sealed, and her apprentice has turned coat."
"Figures," said Noroiko. "Marisa did seem like she was about to flip out at us, y'know, ever since you showed up."
"Indeed," said Ran. She looked down at Noroiko's arm. "That said ... here." She fired a golden laser out of her hand; it fizzled and went out as it struck the ofuda.
"Tried that already," said Noroiko.
"Ofuda have their limits," said Ran. She fired a brighter, louder beam, and kept it going for several seconds. "We're just speeding things up." She cancelled it just before the ofuda started to crumple.
"Oh," said Noroiko. She waved her arm a bit; it still hurt, but not as much as it had before. "Wow, thanks, you've got great timing."
"You're welcome," said Ran. "As a shikigami, we are quite skilled at high-speed calculations." She repeated the process with the ofuda on Noroiko's side. "How's that?" she said.
"Yeah, good now, I think," said Noroiko, staggering to her feet. The pain was already fading. "So what now?"
"The situation is broadly the same," said Ran. "If the Shrine Maiden dies or becomes nonfunctional as a direct or indirect result of your actions within the next twenty-four months, you will die."
"Fine," said Noroiko. "What if I just pick on youkai exterminators near the Village?"
Ran narrowed her eyes. "That is extremely foolish and has an 80% probability of getting you exterminated by the humans," she said. "We have no objections."
Noroiko started to laugh, then coughed and winced, clutching her side. Evidently, she still had another minute or two before she was completely healed. "Tell your master she can ... open a gap in the boundary between 'screw' and 'you'," she said. "And also, the Shrine Maiden's safe from me for the next two years or whatever."
"Very well," said Ran. "In all seriousness, though, we really do think you should start considering the actual consequences of your actions. You'll live much longer that way."
"Don't you guys get tired of making threats?" said Noroiko.
"That wasn't a threat," said Ran.
"It wasn't?" said Noroiko. "How is that not a ..." She shook her head. "Whatever. I guess I'll just have to think about that."
"Please do," said Ran. "As you were then, Ms. Noroiko." She bowed, and vanished into a gap.
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