Enlightened Mind's Eye: Aboveground Incursion 1
I think it would be best if someone heard about this particular Incident from my perspective.
It began with a dream full of danmaku. Danmaku — the word for "barrage," and referring to a magical martial art where the most elegant one wins.
I dreamed of a mighty wind-goddess, sitting in the coils of a gigantic snake, holding the corpse of a Yatagarasu with the power of the sun in her hand. She held the three-legged crow downward, offering it to a giant slavering maw beneath her. Paper seals and sacred amulets of all colors flew around her, in complicated spiralling shapes, and then broke off in groups of four.
"I ought to be cautious," her voice suddenly boomed in my mind. "The mistress of this mansion can read minds — even that of a god such as myself."
When someone thinks about themselves, they think about their entire identity. When someone says "I am ..." their thoughts, on some small level, are already at every possible accurate way of finishing the sentence. As the goddess's voice said "myself," I found a mental image of a tall woman with short blue hair, a red dress with a circular mirror at her chest, and the name KANAKO YASAKA.
Then her voice said, "Uh-oh." The image vanished, along with the god's presence, leaving behind only images of danmaku and a very compelling sense that it had all been just a dream.
A few days went by.
I was eating lunch alone, feeling slightly perturbed, and I wasn't sure why. I pondered the dream I'd had, wondering what it had been about and where that name had come from. (At the time, I hadn't known about the major shift in the surface-world's faith the previous year.) That didn't seem to be what was bothering me, though. Something was ... missing, or absent, and I wasn't sure what.
Suddenly, Koishi appeared in the dining room, as if she'd been there the whole time and I simply hadn't spotted her until then. A side effect of sealing off her Third Eye was being able to make herself ... unnoticed. She wasn't exactly invisible; you just weren't paying attention, so to speak. Your brain filtered her out, as if she was background scenery you'd seen a hundred times before; some might become mildly uneasy, or get a feeling of being watched, but there was nothing conscious that you ever figured out, assuming she never did anything else. In short, she pushed your knowledge of her presence into your subconscious.
"Is it hotter in here?" she murmured (I realized later I should have paid this more attention), and blinked, glancing at me. "Oh, hi, sis."
"Hello, Koishi," I murmured distractedly, taking another bite out of the slice of toast. What was it that was missing ...
"You thinking about Okuu and Orin and the spirits?" said Koishi. Her closed Third Eye was "looking" fixedly at me.
"Pardon?" I turned towards her, sighing inwardly as I saw nothing in her mind.
"I dunno," said Koishi. "They were kinda sticking out in your subconscious. Kinda like ... this."
Something clicked in my mind. That was one useful aspect of Koishi's new abilities, at any rate: she could push the subconscious into the conscious, just as she could push her own presence into the subconscious. "I haven't seen either of them in a few days," I said, frowning. "Utsuho seems to have been at the bottom of the Hell of Blazing Fires, and Rin ... well, my other pets have seen her, but it's almost as if she's been avoiding me. And lots of the Evil Spirits which Orin was supposed to govern have been going Down There, as well."
"Oh," said Koishi, and then turned away and simply disappeared.
I sighed, and decided not to bother speculating on what she was going to do next. Another side effect was that Koishi didn't seem to think anymore. Everything she did seemed to be on subconscious impulse — and that wasn't the end of it. Everyone, from their birth, is socialized by their contact and experiences meeting with other people. This results in having a great many reflexive, "built-in" sets of behavior; you say "Excuse me" when you bump into someone, or "Thank you" in response to a compliment or a gift, or any of a hundred other things you do automatically without having to think. This was the other half of Koishi's behavior: she was still able to speak, and behave more or less politely. The second-most worrisome part was that the socialization seemed to be wearing off.
The most worrisome part was that her Third Eye was tantamount to her heart. Closing off her Third Eye was the same as entirely closing off her heart to anyone else.
I mentally pushed that aside, in favor of more immediate concerns. "Hmm." I frowned thoughtfully. Utsuho's absence was troubling in and of itself. Utsuho was one of my weakest pets — she barely qualified as a "stage 1 boss," by the scale used on the surface. Had something happened that Orin didn't want me to know about? The implications of that were all bad ...
My thoughts strayed back to the dream I'd had. Was there some connection? But that had been just a strange dream, hadn't it?
... unless that was merely what this "Kanako Yasaka" had wanted me to believe. When a god wants to manipulate your mind directly ...
My musings were interrupted by a ripple of alarm coming from the main entrance to the Palace. The pets and spirits were in a panic. Intruders! Attackers! Enemies!
I jumped to my feet, hovering several feet above the ground. "Attackers, hmmm?" I murmured. The attackers were a shrine maiden and a witch, both humans from the surface. And they seemed to be winning, though this was mostly due to the fact that all my pets and spirits were fleeing before they could get seriously injured. Which was a good thing, as far as that went — in the Palace of the Earth Spirits, there hadn't been any deaths in decades that were caused by anything except old age, and I would never forgive anyone who caused otherwise. Admittedly, the fairies were in much less of a danger, owing to the fact that they resurrected almost instantly, but even so.
And then there was Orin, showing off that she could unleash formidable danmaku even in her feline form. She didn't put up much of a fight, but that didn't matter to me a whole lot — as long as she didn't get hurt.
Several cats, ravens, and spirits burst into the room in human forms. "Miss Satori!"
"I know," I said, flying towards the door. "I'm going to the great room. Try to guide them towards me."
They didn't need to ask how I knew. After all, they knew, didn't they?
"And somebody take my plates away," I added.
Reimu Hakurei and Marisa Kirisame entered the great room, each accompanied by a set of floating objects with a sort of communication-spell, allowing them to (a) attack, and (b) each to communicate with a trio of youkai on the surface. Marisa also wore a backpack. I stayed back in the shadows, making myself as unobtrusive as I could, and remained unnoticed for the moment.
"Ever get the feelin' yer bein' watched?" said Marisa, idly looking up at the chandelier hanging in the center.
"It's probably that cat," said Reimu. "What a creepy thing that was ..." I wonder if we're nearing the one in charge of this place ...
"Yeah, I know, right?" said Marisa. We must be near the boss ...
"Yes," I said, approaching from the shadows. "You are, indeed, quite close to the mistress of the Palace of Earth Spirits."
The two turned to face me. "Huh?" said Reimu.
"Who is this woman?" I said, echoing both of their thoughts. "I am Satori Komeiji, the owner of the Palace of Earth Spirits. You both have come here, at the behest of your youkai friends ..." I arched an eyebrow. "... without clearly understanding why."
The two exchanged a nervous glance. "Um ..." said Marisa, not actually sure what she wanted to say.
Marisa was flanked by animated dolls, one of which said, "Watch out, you two! That woman's a satori!" The voice was that of one Alice Margatroid, whom Marisa had a faint crush on. Actually, when I paid slightly more attention, it wasn't just a faint crush ...
"Whut?" said Marisa, frowning and wondering if she was talking about some sort of enlightenment.
"Ah yes," said a voice from the yin-yang orbs flanking Reimu — that of Yukari Yakumo. "That race was ... somewhat informally exiled to the underground for her abilities, which frightened even the Oni."
This gave the two girls pause. They knew Suika Ibuki, and they'd just gotten done fighting Yuugi Hoshiguma — good old Yuugi, I thought reflexively — in the Ancient City of the Former Hell. They were two of the former Four Devas of the Mountain. Reimu and Marisa wondered what on Earth (or under it, ze) could frighten them.
"Whaddaya mean frightened!?" exclaimed the voice of that very Suika Ibuki.
"Well, all right, I suppose in they weren't frightened so much as unnerved," I said casually, facing Reimu's orbs. "Especially in the case of you and her."
"Of Suika and who?" said Reimu in confusion.
"The one you were just thinking about," I said, turning myself so that my Third Eye peered directly at her.
"Reading minds," said Yukari blandly, sounding like she wasn't concerned for her own sake.
"Oh, shit," said Marisa.
"Yes," I said. "Though I can't see the hearts of your companions. I suppose they're too far away."
Alice gave a barely-audible sigh of relief. "Marisa ... be careful!" she said softly.
"What I find most fascinating," I said, "is that neither of you have the sligthest inclination towards approaching this peacibly." I sighed. "And you always approach Incidents in this manner. Not that you seem to mind having youkai looking over your shoulders."
"Yes," said Yukari. "The youkai-hunters of the surface aren't particularly genocidal."
The two humans shrugged. In point of fact, even when they went on youkai "exterimination" excursions, which didn't even knock out some of their targets, they didn't usually turn down help from other youkai.
"Indeed," I said. "That's almost as strange as the fact that you made it here in the first place."
Reimu rolled her eyes and thought, That's what they all say. Marisa opened her mouth to protest that this is what the first three Boss-youkai they'd run into had also said and then hesitated.
"Oh, right," I said. "I suppose those you defeated before me would have said the same thing."
Reimu suddenly broke into a grin. She had tried to use her vaunted intuition to turn this situation to her advantage, and come to exactly the wrong conclusion. "All right," she said. "Tell me what I'm thinking now."
I looked her straight in the eye. "You're thinking of what danmaku pattern to use," I said.
"Yeah," said Reimu, grinning maliciously.
"You've used them often enough that you know them quite well," I continued. "In fact, one might say that you know them like the back of your hand."
Marisa was also grinning. However, her grin was a much more nervous one. She'd already figured out the dangers inherent in thinking about your entire battle plan in front of a mind-reader.
"You know everything about them," I said. "Strengths ... and weaknesses."
Reimu's grin faided. "Weaknesses ...?"
I shrugged. "Oh well," I said. "Four-card match each?"
"Um, right," said Reimu. She was trying not to show it, but she was starting to become as nervous as Marisa.
"I'll go first," said Marisa. "You win, we'll leave like we never came here. We win, you tell us what we wanna know about the geysers."
"Geysers?" I said, frowning. In point of fact, neither of them actually knew what they were doing here. Ah, heroes. "I know nothing about those. But I suppose it can't be helped. By the way, Miss Hakurei, this isn't the first time you've had someone else fight before you so that you could observe your opponent, is it? Something about a trip to the moon?"
"Um," said Reimu uncomfortably. "Well, she's the one who decided to fight first."
"Not like it matters much right now anyway!" said Marisa with a shrug. A thought she held dear to her heart was, Reimu always wins. She smirked, shifted her position on her broom. "Are ya ready?"
"Indeed," I said, rising into the air. "Ah, it is acceptable to invent your own Spell Cards on the fly, correct?"
"Huh?" said Reimu. "Um, sure, I guess."
"Provided that they are progressively more powerful than the last," said the voice of the youkai-magician Patchouli Knowledge from Marisa's dolls.
We both started with relatively simple patterns. Well, all right, perhaps "simple" wasn't the best term to use for them. The witch unleashed a double-spiral of small stars, briefly and only half-seriously wondering if I was going to try to eat one of them, and also directed the dolls to fire rainbow-colored rays; I sent out several complicated strings of smaller bullets, accompanied by larger red and blue bubbles.
And I could see where every star was going to go.
I couldn't resist a faint smile in spite of myself. I could see every gap, every safe spot, every point that was large enough for me to fit in. Oh, she wasn't quite familiar with the dolls' rays, but all that meant was that she had to think harder about where they were going, and anyway I didn't need to read minds just to dodge some stray bullets.
We were at a stalemate, however. Marisa was perfectly capable of dodging a pattern like the one I was using. She was much of the same mind, and considered throwing the fight just to move onto more interesting things.
"Good idea," I said, and flew straight into the rays from the dolls.
It stung a bit. It was like getting stabbed by sharp needles while getting hit in the face with a flashlight. All the danmaku I'd created shattered in a shower of sparks, as did Marisa's.
"What?" said Reimu, who'd also been getting slightly bored.
Marisa laughed, and flew backwards a few feet. "I was thinkin' of throwin' the round just ta hurry things along," she said. "Hokay, lessee whatcha got."
"Quite so," I said, and held up my hand. An ethereal card of light appeared in it, with text. "Recollection 「Terrible Souvenir」."
I must say I'm rather pleased with the effect of this Spell Card. To make a long story short, if my Third Eye's ability was a danmaku-pattern, it would be this Spell Card. A red sphere of light surrounded me, dozens of spokes of light shooting out in all directions and shifting around the room, with a slightly wider beam pointed directly at Marisa and following her movement. Behind me was a ghostly image of Marisa's face, accompanied by a running commentary of her thoughts.
"Huh, kind of an interesting — WHOA what the hell, is she reading my mind? I mean, uh, I knew that was going on, but (Are we broadcasting this live?)" That last part was in English. "Um, yikes, better watch out for this next one ..."
I tuned out Marisa's mental babble, and concentrated on dodging her attacks. After a moment, the slowly-moving spokes slowed down, there was the sound of magic building up, and then a harsh bolt of light shot down each spoke. Marisa yelped, barely dodging them, then let out another yelp, dodging to the left as I sent a wave of larger bubbles of light from my right side. "Gotta keep cool, just give an over-the-top reaction to make her overconfident ... oh damn."
"Yeah, I've always wondered about that," said Reimu.
A new voice spoke up from Marisa's dolls. "Bet this could be a scoop in and of itself, right, Shameimaru?" said the voice of Nitori Kawashiro the Kappa.
"Hmm? What do you mean?" said the voice of Aya Shameimaru the Crow-Tengu from Reimu's orbs. Marisa, simply out of habit, kept yelping in imitated-alarm as she dodged the spokes again, scooting to the right as I sent another wave of larger bubbles to my left.
"Well, I bet this is the first time anyone's had a firsthand look at the Madness of the Mind of Marisa!" said Nitori.
"I think I've gotten the hang of this, the wave of rings heads in my direction, so ..." Marisa, not understanding that I was simply alternating sides with my bubbles, floated towards my left, then proceeded to dodge straight into my next wave of bubbles. There was a louder popping noise, all of our bullets vanishing in a cloud of green sparks.
Marisa reoriented herself. "Okay, I got that wrong!" she said cheerfully, then broke suddenly into a nasty grin, whipping out a card. "Nitori said 'insane' — I'll distract her with complete and utter chaos!" Aloud, she said, "Magic Sign 「Stardust Reverie」! Nitori, get out yer rockets! If she's gonna read my mind, I'm gonna give her my insanity!"
"Right-o!" said Nitori. There was a click, and Marisa's backpack opened up; a set of rocket-launchers poked out of it, while the dolls slipped inside the backpack.
I had to make slightly greater efforts towards dodging her attacks this time: first, she would send out a complicated galaxy of stars, which coiled and uncoiled in a dense spiral pattern; then, she charged forward at me on her broomstick, leaving a trail of stars in her wake. Through it all, she was careful to avoid my own attacks. At the same time, her backpack's launchers fired missile-danmaku at me with a slightly delayed reaction; I had to be even more careful to avoid them. Reading her mind, however, was problematic, because it seemed to have become completely deranged, and most of it was in English.
I don't think I'll ever be able to forget it. Various names and concepts ran through her mind: The Juggernaut Bitch, X-Men, Rorsharch, "GLaDOS", portals, Colonel Campbell ... "NOOO, git outta mah head, Charles!" sang a comically-"tough guy" voice. A raspy male shouted, "I'm not trapped here with you! YOU'RE trapped here with ME!" A synthetic female voice added, "Don't believe me? Here, I'll put you on!" A gruff military officer, with a tone of voice used for delivering an order to a subordinate, said, "I hear it's amazing when the famous purple stuffed worm in flap-jaw space, with the tuning fork, does a raw blink on Hara-Kiri Rock. I need scissors! Sixty-one!" The synthetic female voice butted in, "That's YOU! That's how DUMB you sound!"
"WHAT!?" I exclaimed. In my confusion, one of the rockets hit me, and Marisa slammed into my stomach a moment later. Well, that was it for my first Spell Card.
"Marisa," said Reimu, who was feeling the same confusion I had, "what the hell." There was a chuckle from Yukari.
"She's been spending too much time on that, uh, computer-thing Yukari brought us," said Alice, in much the same tone of voice.
"There are some strange things in the internet," said Nitori.
Marisa grinned cheerfully. "Ah, well, you guys know how I am," she said, and turned to face me. "What's next?"
I sent out my next danmaku-pattern; it was simply a doubled-up version of my previous ordinary-pattern. Marisa shrugged, resuming her Stardust Reverie attack, though she had the misfortune to crash directly into one of my bubbles on her next charge.
"Huzzah, back ta normal-attacks, ze!" Marisa exclaimed cheerfully. "And ... not gettin' my thoughts broadcast to the whole damn world."
"I stopped that when you halted my Spell Card," I said. We resumed our slow dance, bobbing and weaving around each other's attacks. Marisa tried thinking about nonsense for another moment, but lost interest as she concentrated simply on dodging and attacking, and tried to think about random subjects instead.
I looked deeper into her mind, into her memories.
She had met pretty much all of her friends through combat. Both of them had, in fact. That was the thing about their Spell Card Rules — every battle became nothing more than a game, with one side playing at being the villain and the other side playing at being The Hakurei Shrine Maiden and the Heroic Ordinary Witch. Barrelling through the Underground in search of the cause of an Incident was pretty much just another way to pass the time.
Well, all right. Any game of skill they played, I could play better. I knew at least as much about the game as everyone else in the room.
And now that I had Marisa's memories, I had the individual patterns she'd faced!
I then realized I'd lost track of her missiles, and several of them hit me, knocking me out of my danmaku pattern.
"Looks like things're goin' my way, heh," said Marisa, grinning. "Sorry, Reimu, I guess you ... won't be ..." Her voice trailed off when she saw my smirk.
It was a particularly catlike smirk. Everyone who saw it thought of that. How appropriate for a crazy cat lady was also common. In short, though, gave the impression that you'd vastly underestimated me.
"Here's where it really begins," I said. I drew myself up to my full height, materializing another card. If they wanted me to be a villain, I was happy to oblige. "Prepare yourself for a trauma that will leave you sleepless! Recollection 「Trauma in the Glittering Depths」!"
"Wait, what?" said Marisa in confusion.
One of the clever parts of my power is my ability to copy the abilities of others. It didn't have to be the ability of the one whose mind I was reading, either; I could steal entire danmaku patterns from the memories of someone else.
That's not the clever part, though.
A rippling array of blue bullets formed around me, and a set of ghostly blue robotic arms appeared around me. As before, an image began hovering behind me, but instead of showing Marisa's thoughts, it showed her memories — specifically of Nitori Kawashiro.
"Oh crap, a human!" "Huh, I wonder who that is, ze ..." Flicker. "So, you saw through my optical camouflage?" "You were sposta be hidden?" Flicker. "I dunno, I'm lookin' fer a match, ze." "You're on, then! Behold my superior kappa technology!"
"Uh, Marisa?" said Nitori hesitantly.
"No worries," said Marisa, smirking as she dodged through what was essentially Nitori's danmaku. "I've fought ya enough times that it'll — Ow! What the crap!?"
My smirk deepened. The clever part of my ability-copying technique was that I'm not that good at it. Oh, it looked like I'd copied Nitori's danmaku-pattern more or less perfectly, but the minute you given yourself over to habit and muscle memory, it betrayed you.
Marisa reached into her hat, pulled out a small octagonal object — her mini-hakkero, which would boost her offensive capabilities — and then attached a small device to its tip. "Right then! Love Sign 「Non-Directional Laser」!"
"What!?" yelled Patchouli. "You're still using THAT!? You importunate feckless THIEF!"
Marisa giggled, ignoring Patchouli's protests as she held the mini-hakkero with the attached non-directional laser aloft. Amid the miniature galaxy, the device began firing a quartet of large beams of light at right angles to each other, sweeping around through the room. I carefully dodged the stars and the lasers, the ghostly arms reaching out to grab her.
The memories behind me continued. "Hey, Marisa, I wanna try out a Lunatic version of my Spell Cards!" "Heh, fine, as long as you don't mind me beatin' it down!" Flicker. "Kappa 「Monster Cucumber」!" "Okay, I can deal with that — just learnin' a new spell." Flicker. "Um, are we about ready to leave?" "Yeah, usually Remi's place is fun, but, eh."
"Wait, was that ... Did you go with her to an open-house at the Mansion?" said Alice, sounding mildly suspicious.
"Yeah, but neither of us enjoyed it that much," said Nitori flatly. The implication, Marisa felt, was that the problem was partly each other's company, and she sincerely hoped that Alice would take it that way ...
"Is it me, or do we never have fun together except when we're fighting?" "I think it's cuz that's the only interest we have in common, da ze."
That works, too, thought Marisa.
I reached out to grab at her with the arms again. Marisa smirked and stayed in place, planning on hitting me with the laser while we were both held in place, since I would have found it just as hard to dodge her danmaku as she could dodge mine. However, unlike in Nitori's Spell Card, the arms were also made of danmaku.
"Ow!" yelled Marisa, wobbling as all the bullets vanished in another shower of green. "Right, lesson learned: the nature of satori-cards are different." She took the laser off her mini-hakkero and slipped it back into her hat, sending out another ordinary pattern. "Nitori, opcam now!"
There was a bluish flicker, and then she vanished into thin air. Nitori's optical camouflage device had obviously improved; Marisa planned on invisibly timing-out my Spell Card. "Nice try," I said, "but I can still see you by your heart." I gave her another smack with the danmaku-arm.
"D'oh!" Marisa became visible again, shaking her head to clear it. "Damn! Okay, Nitori, you can switch out your missiles now. Patch, can you calm down long enough to get yer crystals ready?"
The youkai-magician grumbled. "Fine," she said darkly. The missile-launchers retreated to Marisa's backpack, and a quartet of red crystals took their place, firing fire-elemental bullets.
"Right, you control them," said Marisa, reasoning that I wouldn't be able to read her mind to predict them. I still, however, knew everything they could do, and was ready for their pattern-changing. She took out a card, pointing her mini-hakkero. "Love Sign 「Master Spark」!"
I almost didn't dodge the immense blast of light in time. The entire mansion seemed to shake. I gritted my teeth, grazing as close to it as I dared as the beam expanded, and then —
Several bluish water-elemental bullets flew towards me. I realized that amid the other stars Marisa was launching, I had nowhere to dodge. There was a sudden stinging pain as they struck me, my Spell Card shattering.
I regarded the crystals, which were now blue. "Very good," I said. "Interesting how multiple patterns can work together like that." I looked straight at her, materializing a card of my own. "Recollection 「Philosopher's Stone」," I intoned.
"What, goin' straight to yer next Spell Card?" said Marisa. "Um ... okay."
I began throwing out waves of variously-colored orbs, each looking like magic of a different element. Fire, water, wood, earth, metal — there was something in it for everyone. Meanwhile, the memories displayed were now those relating to Patchouli.
"ACCURSED THIEF!" "Heheheheheh ..." Flicker. "Hmm, a rat has snuck into the library." "Who you callin' a rat!?" Flicker. "Thanks fer givin' me that, Patchy!" "NOOO! Give me back my precious non-directional laser!"
Marisa was being more cautious now, forcing herself to watch my bullets rather than trusting her instincts, which hadn't worked out too well. She was realizing that she was at the point where she didn't seriously percieve her friends' spell cards anymore. They were all too ingrained into her memory.
Even on that thought, she ended up crashing into an earth-elemental bullet. "Argh!" She grimaced, determining to face the next spell card as if she hadn't seen it before. "Patchy, switch with Alice, right?"
"Er ... right," said Patchouli, once again sounding irritated, presumably because none of Marisa's memories were particularly pleasant for Patchouli. The crystals switched out, and were once again replaced by dolls.
"Oh. Hello ... Marisa." "Hi, Patchy, it's one of Remi's open-houses right now, so I'm here ta steal Sakuya's cookies instead of yer books!" Flicker. "C'mon, you gotta know somethin' about the mysterious energy all over the place outside, ze!" "I should rest now..." "Aww, useless!"
"That was me," Suika added cheerfully; she'd introduced herself to Gensokyo, according to Reimu and Marisa's memories, by spreading herself thinly over the realm and manipulating everyone into having an excessive number of parties.
"Right," said Marisa, getting out her last Spell Card. "Light Sign 「Luminous Strike」!" She was starting to feel tense. Part of it was that she knew we were nearing the end of the battle, but also because she was worried about what kind of memories I'd start broadcasting next.
She launched out several spirals of stars, and then jumped off her broom, pointed the handle towards me, and then fired a trio of great big yellow orbs, before hurriedly swinging back onto it. I dodged, easily avoiding the stars and bullets and carefully avoiding the shots from the dolls, found myself looking one of them straight in the eye —
The doll exploded, firing a bright red-orange beam of light, which struck me square in my chest.
Marisa was as startled as I was. "Alice! What —" And then it dawned on her: over the course of her assault on the Mansion, she'd forgotten all about some of the dolls' extra features. She (and therefore I) couldn't have known that Alice would use that particular attack.
"Clever," I said, smirking. "But now, of course, you'll never be able to use that trick again, since you've just remembered everything they can do." I brought out my last card of the duel. "Recollection 「Return Inanimateness!"
I launched out six ghostly "dolls" of danmaku; after a second or two, each of them simultaneously exploded into expanding clouds of bullets. The image behind me became of Marisa's memories of Alice. I fired another wave every few seconds.
"Hey, Alice." "Hi, Marisa." Flicker. "Marisa, come on." "Huh? What's up?" "Why don't you take a good look at the moon." Flicker. "This 'computer' thing is awesome, ze!" "I think it's time you took a break." Flicker. "Hey, c'mon, let's head to the party at the Shrine!" "What? Um ... okay ..."
"I can handle explosions," Marisa muttered to herself as she dodged my assault. She was faintly embarassed, though — her memories with Alice all seemed to be happy ones. I inwardly grinned. Ah, to be young and in love, even if neither of them had worked up the nerve to fully reveal it to the other.
Marisa was running out of ideas. Okay, can I influence what memories she shows? she thought.
The memory flickered to show Marisa at Alice's house during the Long Winter Incident, about five years previously. "Hey, we got somethin' in common, ze!" Marisa was cheerfully exclaiming.
Marisa grinned. Okay, good. Now let's try something wacky which has actually happened!
I narrowed my eyes slightly. This again? You already tried that, I thought.
The scene shifted to about eight years ago. Alice was inexplicably tied up and hanging by her wrists from the ceiling of Marisa's house, while Marisa poked and prodded at a grimoire. "Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do, ze," Marisa's younger self was saying.
"What!?" exclaimed Reimu.
"What!?" exclaimed everyone at the other end of their communication-system except Alice and Yukari. Yukari began laughing uncontrollably.
"What!?" I exclaimed, turning as if in shock towards the image. At the same time, I launched another wave so that one of the dolls was headed straight for Marisa as she charged forward.
It hit her in the face. There was a loud thunderclap and an explosion of light, and Marisa nearly plummetted to the ground with a cry of "Craaaaaaaaaaaaaap!" She came to a controlled but firm landing, and staggered over to a wall, leaning heavily against it.
I looked up to Reimu. "Your turn," I said, giving her my catlike smirk.
To be continued ...