|Louise & Yuka K.|
| Book: Be Careful What|
You Wish For, Chapter 6
|Written by||Vanishing Trooper|
Chapter 7 Be Careful What You Wish For
Be Careful What You Wish For
Author's Notes: And thus I bring the mandatory filler chapters! Well, not really a filler chapter since there will be expositions blotted everywhere, but don't expect any real action here. This chapter and the next one will be "Louise and Matilda" chapters and will be breathers between the end of the Fouquet arc and the start of the Albion arc.
After reviewing the reviews, I am very glad that all the references I threw in each chapter were appreciated. Even if some of them were overlooked…
Although, there are some concerns as to why I went ahead and made Yuka come from a future Gensokyo. The reason why is to get a clean break from Touhou as we know it today, make a fresh start and, as I already stated, to give Yuka enough time to finally be tired of her lifestyle there. There will be more cameos in later chapters from the Touhou side, particularly Ran, Adult!Chen, and Adult!Cirno, but don't expect anyone to start hopping realms. There will be no moving between Tristain and Gensokyo from anyone. The closest anyone will get is Mugenkan, the link between worlds if you will.
And once again, for the last time I hope, NO. Reimu, Marisa, Sakuya, and Sanae all lived, loved, and died as humans. Making any of them semi-immortal would have taken away something that made them unique in a world filled with fantastical beings in the first place, their humanity. There is a reason why Reimu's mom and Marisa's dad aren't around anymore even though Rinnosuke knew both of them. They lived and died as humans too and I saw no reason for the human heroines to do otherwise. Sanae was a descendant of a goddess but that doesn't mean that she can become a goddess herself, no one else in her family did. Sakuya is the unknown here. She wanted to serve Remilia till the end of her days as a human but we're not entirely sure if she really is human or simply a Lunarian sleeper agent or a clone of Eirin or- just forget it…
Yuka's powers! Yes Master Spark is not him strongest spell but it is the one he is most known for. It was as much character defining for him as it was for Marisa, nothing like a ray of raw magical energy that could vaporize you. Also, comparing Marisa's Spark to Yuka's isn't fair. Yes, they are the same technique but Yuka operates at a completely different order of magnitude of power than Marisa. It's like trying to compare Yukari's barriers with Reimu's when she was a teenager. Ultimate Magic he got from Makai is there but Yuka doesn't see the need to use it. There is simply no reason to unleash such a thing. As stated by Yuka himself in an earlier chapter, he's pretty particular about respect, and there are few things he respects more than power. He respects the power he got from Makai and will not dishonor it by tossing it around like a toy. As I have stated before, Flower Power and Physical Power will by Yuka's mainstays in this story.
Lastly, the Rawket Lawnchairs were made by kappa, not humans. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that Kappa made Rawket Lawnchairs, likely backed by some Moriya Shrine Conspiracy, could shoot down a Lunarian ship. In fact, they work so well that its effectiveness is considered as a design flaw by Nitori.
All that aside, please enjoy the latest chapter~
Chapter 6 Yukav
"So..." I flatly stated as I saw the sight before me, briefly cursing myself for forgetting to bring my parasol again.
"So~" Yukari repeated in a teasing tone.
"Can you please explain why you have-"
"-my master in your nefarious clutches and actively molesting her?" I asked while rubbing my forehead with my right hand. I entered Mugenkan and expected Louise to already be there since she was sound asleep before I left and it took me a while to conjure up a new door to the border of dreams. It was then that I noticed that I could sense Yukari nearby. I immediately flew to where I sensed Yukari in hopes to save my master the headache of having to deal with the border youkai by herself. Sadly...
"Yu-kaaa! Hey! Don't touch there! Auuugh! Yukaaa!" I was too late. My master continued to call out to me as she valiantly kept trying to release herself from Yukari's grasp. The border youkai blinked at me a couple of times, while still running her hands all over Louise, before giving a radiant smile and rubbing her cheek against Louise's.
"Because she's so adorable~! I want to take her home~! Can I? I'll give her back in a few days! I promise!" Yukari asked me like a child as she embraced Louise from behind before she started nibbling on her left ear. I did my best to tune out the noise of Louise's struggling and her embarrassed mewling while in the mercy of the border youkai.
"Denied. I cannot be sure if Louise's sanity or chastity will remain intact if I left her with you." I retorted while folding my arms and leaning back. Louise ceased her struggling and blinked a few times at me.
"Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chastity?" She sputtered out before slowly turning back to Yukari, who simply gave her a seductive smile and a wink. Louise went pale and resumed her efforts to free herself from the border youkai's embrace.
"Save me Yuka! Save your master! I don't want my chastity to be taken by another woman! Yukaaa!" My master yelled out in pure hysteria at the prospect of being 'taken' by another woman. I sighed before looking at Yukari with a serious expression.
"God dammit Yukari. Let my master go. Right. Now." I ground out. Both my master and Yukari froze when the saw the sky went bloody red and all the sunflowers in the field turned to them before they all gave out a faint red glow. Even the Border of Phantasm herself knew very well that she cannot possibly defeat me inside Mugenkan, no one can defeat me inside my realm. At the Garden of the Sun, I have infinite magical power because of my sunflowers. Inside Mugenkan? I. Control. Everything. Yukari gave a wistful sigh before unceremoniously dropping Louise on the ground.
"Augh! Hey!" Louise grunted and yelled at the border youkai, Yukari simply blew her a kiss in response. That was enough to get my master on her feet and scamper off to seek refuge behind me. Crisis averted, I commanded Mugenkan to return back to its regular state.
"So, this is Yuka's little master~?" The blonde woman asked as she craned her head to try to get a better view of Louise again. I dutifully made sure to block her view of my master and Louise made sure to hide as much of herself behind me as she could, even going so far as grabbing the back of my shirt.
"Yuka? Who is this woman? And why is there only half of her there?" Louise asked from behind me. I suppressed a very powerful urge to cringe when I saw the glint in Yukari's eye.
"Yuka dear, you haven't told your master about me~? Or about our relationship~?" The border youkai asked me in mock surprise and concern.
"Re-re-re-re-relationship?" Louise sputtered out before she started pulling at my shirt, trying to make me turn around to face her. Failing that, she walked up in front of me instead. Predictably, her face was once again very red because of what Yukari implied.
"D-d-d-do-d-don't tell me that you and that strange half-woman are lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo-" Louise continued her sputtering, being unable to even finish the word 'lovers'. I was concerned about the effects that embarrassment had on her cognitive thinking considering that I already told her during our little shopping trip that I have never fallen in love before. I chalked that up to being a side effect of her self-esteem issues that we were still working on. I was a bit amused at her calling Yukari 'half-woman' because of the way she looked though.
"Half-woman..." I repeated with a smirk. Yukari quickly got the meaning and huffed but remained only half-there. She wouldn't dare leave Gensokyo completely without the protection of the Border of Phantasm, even if it was to prove a point. Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, Yukari Yakumo is much more responsible now...relatively speaking.
"How rude~! Is that any way to speak to me, Yuka? After all, didn't we get to know each other ve~ry intimately over the centuries~?" The border youkai followed up, picking up her second wind.
"Yuka!" Louise yelled at me, her face becoming even redder than before. I shook my head and sighed at how easily my master can be led on just because of a few words. She can be such a maiden sometimes.
"No, Louise. That woman and I have no such relationship. What she really meant was that we are merely long-time acquaintances. The 'intimacy' implied was about our Danmaku Battle patterns and habits. She just makes it sound that way because she enjoys annoying people and loves the attention it gets her." I calmly explained. Louise eyed me suspiciously before she started rubbing her chin with her hand.
"Wait...so she's...like Kirche?" Louise concluded with a grimace. Ah! So my master came to the asme conclusion I did before, if only the other way around.
"If Kirche had the power to be able to shape nearly any aspect of existence as she wished." I said with a shrug. Louise gawked at me before turning to Yukari, who had her arms folded and was giving a smug smile.
"And also if she was old...really old..." I added with a vicious grin. The border youkai started coughing before she leveled a glare at me. She can be very sensitive about her age, I always made sure to make use of that whenever I picked fights with her back then.
"How rude...no kisses for you!" Yukari bitterly spat at me before turning her head away from me as a gesture of defiance.
"Will you stop implying things already? I want to properly introduce you to my master." I said in a bored tone. The banter was kind of fun, more for nostalgic value than anything.
"Fine, fine, fine..." Yukari said with a dismissive wave before adopting a more professional stance and expression. Louise noticed the sudden change in demeanor and unconsciously took a half-step back, nearly bumping into me. I took the chance to put my hands on her shoulders, both to keep her in place and as a reassuring gesture for my tense master. I felt her shoulders tighten up for a moment before finally relaxing. I ignored Yukari as she made a thoughtful sound while looking at the two of us intently and decided to get the introductions over with.
"Louise...this is Yukari Yakumo. One of the oldest and strongest youkai in Gensokyo. She is known as the Border of Phantasm and she has the ability to manipulate borders as easily as you find it to breathe." I said as I formally introduced Yukari to my master. I saw her tilt her head before turning back to me.
"Manipulate borders?" She asked quizzically. Right, I never explicitly stated what the fourth possibility of what Louise's true power was when we talked about it.
"Day and night. Life and death. Truth and lies. Love and hate. All of these have borders between them...and I can control them all." Yukari supplied, if a bit cryptically. I felt Louise tense a bit again as she seemed to have been able to interpret what Yukari said.
"Does that mean that you...are a goddess?" Louise asked hesitantly. Yukari blinked at the girl a few times before she started to laugh.
"I like your little master, Yuka." Yukari commented after she stopped laughing.
"Yukari is no goddess, Louise. Think of her as more of a force of nature or a force of reality. You know what, don't think about it too hard, you'll just get a headache." I said with a shrug. When it comes to Yukari Yakumo, it was always better to simply deal with what was in front of you instead of trying to comprehend whatever she was doing. I wanted Louise to have that sense of mind when dealing with Yukari in case she will need to do so again in the future.
"And this..." I started before patting Louise's shoulders.
"...is Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière. Third, and youngest, daughter of Duke Vallière of the country of Tristain. She is an aspiring magician who is enrolled at Tristain Magic Academy as a second year student. She has immense natural magic power but she is still trying to find out the nature of her true power. She is the one who summoned me and made me her familiar. She is my partner and master." I introduced Louise to Yukari properly with a hint of pride, though I will never admit it. Louise slowly turned back to me with her mouth agape and her cheeks slightly red before she quickly turned away. It seemed that this was probably the first time that she was given such an introduction and was rather embarrassed by it. The border youkai maneuvered her the gap she was leaning on closer to Louise, making my master tense up again, before offering her gloved hand.
"A pleasure to meet you Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière." Yukari greeted my master with the grace befitting her status as one of the most powerful beings in Gensokyo. Louise turned to me with a look of uncertainty. Considering her first impression of Yukari, I couldn't blame her.
"Go on, I'll keep you safe." I reassured my master. Louise blushed deeply at the directness of my words but meekly nodded before turning back to Yukari's outstretched hand. I made sure to give Yukari a particularly vicious grin, one that said 'I will kill you if you yank her into your gap when she shakes your hand'. I was sure that the border youkai got the message when she gulped unconsciously.
"A-a-a pleasure to meet you...Yukari Yakumo." Louise returned Yukari's greeting before taking the border youkai's hand hand shaking it. They continued on like that for a few moments before they let go of each others' hand.
"With that out of the way, time to begin tonight's lesson." I quickly said before snapping my fingers. Louise let out a surprised yelp when she teleported a distance away from Yukari and myself before five piranha plants emerged from the ground, surrounding her. "Wh-wh-wh-wh-what is this?" Louise asked me as she started to go pale while at each of the plants that surrounded her.
"Your next lesson. You already have experience in dodging so I decided to make things more interesting." I explained before snapping my fingers again. A full glass of red wine was once again in Louise's hands and she looked at me with absolute fear.
"Remember, observe the path where the projectiles are traveling instead of simply focusing on what is in front of you. Focus and move accordingly. Most importantly, don't be afraid." I reminded Louise of one of the most important aspects of dodging Danmaku before snapping my fingers one more time, beginning Louise's second lesson in the beginner fairy course.
"Well?" I asked Yukari as soon as Louise was too busy dodging for her life to eavesdrop. The border youkai hummed for a moment while staring intently at Louise's attempts at dodging the fireballs.
"She needs work on her awareness and decisiveness at dodging. Freezing up like that mid-dodge is a very big no-no." Yukari commented as she waved at my master who was clumsily dodging the fireballs while getting wine all over her dress. Clearly, my master still has much to learn at the art but that was not what I was asking about.
"Yukari..." I called out to her, making sure that she knows that I was serious.
"As you mentioned before during your heartwarming introduction for your master." I glared at the border youkai for her words and she merely shrugged at me.
"Please, you can hide it from anyone else but not me. We've known each other too long, Yuka. I could immediately tell that this little human girl has become important to you." Yukari explained in a sincere tone, before smiling at me.
"Although I already know that you will never admit that the girl over there has already become precious to you." The border youkai added with a mischievous smile.
"It's not like I'm teaching her Danmaku dodging techniques for her sake or anything, idiot." I deadpanned at Yukari.
"I refuse to further comment on that matter. Your assessment on my master's compatibility with border manipulation?" I pointedly asked the border youkai, changing the subject and making it clear that we will not speak of that matter again.
"Tsundere-Yuka..." Yukari muttered under her breath, loud enough for me to hear her. I glared at her one more time before she pointed to where Louise was. I turned to where she was pointing and saw that Louise was already on the ground and completely on fire while screaming for the horror to stop. I sighed before snapping my fingers, restoring Louise and the glass on wine in her hands.
"Again." I clearly stated to my master, who quickly turned to me with an incredulous expression.
"What? Don't I even get a break?" Louise yelled at me while clutching the glass of wine with both of her hands.
"This is a dream for you so you're not actually getting hurt, you should know this already. Begin!" I declared before Louise could further protest. I turned back to Yukari as soon as Louise started dodging the fireballs and saw that her left hand was covering her mouth and she had one of those annoying glints in her eyes again.
"Tough love?" She asked me teasingly.
"Your. Assessment." I repeated through gritted teeth. Yukari finally got the message and shrugged before looking back to where Louise was dodging the fireballs while keeping her head on a swivel. Good girl, she's learning. I repressed a smile while waiting for the border youkai's response.
"Honestly, I'm...uncertain." Yukari finally answered. I raised a brow at her words and her tone of voice.
"I wasn't just teasing you for fun, Yuka. I was scanning your master while I was doing that. Although, your responses were pretty amusing as well." The border youkai explained her previous actions.
"And?" I asked, prodding her to continue.
"As you have previously stated, your master has significant raw magical power. This is a given considering that she's someone that managed to bind you to a summoning contract." Yukari reviewed and I nodded in response, confirming that we were on the same page.
"Now, I checked the border of magic in regards to what primary elemental affinity your master has. This was your main concern after all." She continued. Now that got my attention.
"What did you find?" I asked her immediately after she told me that. The woman made a thoughtful sound as she placed her right hand on her cheek and closed her eyes, possibly gathering her thoughts.
"It was rather strange, yet refreshing." Yukari started, eyes still closed.
"The girl's magic is powerful in the most basic of forms but it is technically incompatible with the elemental manipulation that this world bases its magic system from." The blonde stated. That explains why Louise cannot seem to use any of the four common elements that magicians use in this world, her magical power simply cannot be used with those elements if you try to use their established casting methods. To put it in perspective, it is like a raw material that cannot be processed into a final product you wanted by any of the currently available manufacturing methods.
"Do you know what kind of magical element it would be compatible with though?" I asked. If Yukari could figure out that Louise's magical power is incompatible with fire, earth, water, and wind, then maybe she could figure which element it would be compatible with instead.
"Well...that's where things get weird." The border youkai said while scratching the back of her head.
"You see, the kind of magical power your master has is rather unique. It was made for only one element and one purpose. What exactly that element is, I don't know since I'm not too keen on this world's system of magic." Yukari explained. The mystery element must have been void then. It seemed to be the only explanation since the Border of Phantasm has encountered every conceivable magic type on Earth, both elemental and non-elemental. Hmmm...
"Does that mean that Louise's magic is non-elemental?" I postulated considering that my master's magic does not fit with any elemental affinities. Further discussion was interrupted by Louise's death wails. I turned to my burning master as she lied motionless on the ground before snapping my fingers again.
"Again." I stated, not even allowing Louise time to complain about her latest 'death'. I turned back to Yukari who was slowly shaking her head.
"If you give her infinite lives she'll never learn to dodge like her life depended on it because she knows at the back of her mind that you'll just restore her." Yukari scolded me, criticizing my teaching methods.
"And if I give her limited lives, she'll never learn to dodge for her life either since she would run out of lives before she figures out the patterns." I shot back. The border youkai sighed folded her arms and leveled a glare at me.
"Listen, I know that you haven't been the most socially sensitive being ever, but you can't just treat the poor girl like that. You can't just throw her into the jaws of the beast and expect her to simply use her instincts to be able to survive a Danmaku Battle, she's not Cirno you know. If you claim that you are teaching her, then teach her! Give her a limited number of lives. If she uses them all up, tell her what went wrong and how to overcome it. Use your dream world's properties to show her the mistakes she made by projecting them in front of her if you have to. If she's worth so much to you then you could at least teach her properly instead of doing...that..." Yukari trailed off when she turned back to Louise. I glanced back to my master as well since I haven't heard her scream in pain again. Louise was started to figure out the pattern I posed for this exercise and was only getting away with grazing burns, though she was still spilling the wine all over the place.
"Well...she might have talent after all..." Yukari muttered as she watched my master slowly adapt to the new challenge I posed to her.
"That she does, but I will consider your words for our future lessons. Now, where were we?" I asked, steering the discussion back on topic. Yukari glanced upward while rubbing her chin with her hand before looking back to me.
"You were declaring your undying love for me and was about to kiss me with unbridled carnal passion~?" Yukari replied with a wink.
"Ah yes, I was asking you if Louise's magic was non-elemental." I reminded her, completely ignoring her previous response. Yukari puffed her cheeks at me before facing away and huffing like a child that was just told off. Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the most powerful youkai in Gensokyo. She cleared her throat before looking back at me with mild annoyance, probably didn't expect my reaction to her teasing...or lack thereof.
"The answer to your question is both yes and no, Yuka." The border youkai answered, if a bit coldly.
"Please explain." I ignored it and decided to continue with the discussion instead.
"You see, your little master's magic is-" Yukari's explanation was cut off when we both heard Louise's death wails again. I turned and saw Louise, or what's left of her, writhing on the ground while being completely engulfed in flames. I sighed and snapped my fingers, restoring Louise.
"What happened?" I asked the girl since she was doing pretty well earlier.
"I-I-I got tired from all the dodging!" Louise yelled at me.
"Too bad. Again." I declared and Louise simply screamed in frustration before starting to dodge the fireballs all over again.
"I thought you said that you were going to consider my words for her training?" Yukari asked me flatly.
"I said that I would consider your words for our future lessons." I corrected her. There was a moment of awkward silence between us before Yukari simply shook her head.
"Like I was saying...your little master's magic is completely incompatible with any other kind of natural element. In the strictest sense, yes, it can be considered as non-elemental because of that. However, this particular kind of magic was tailored for a very specialized kind of system, so specialized that it can be considered as its own element." That would be Void, I suspect.
"Because of this, the applications of such magic are very limited but it has the advantage of being able to ignore most of the rules that other elements are restricted to. In a sense, you can consider it as an extremely specialized manipulation of the border of magic. Comparing it to non-elemental magic, elemental magic, or border manipulation, is not right or wrong...it is simply...different." Yukari finished her explanation. I silently considered her words for a few moments, the only permeating sounds coming from the piranha plants' fireballs and Louise frantic screaming and swearing. This is something I can have Louise and Matilda check on once we return to the academy. I also needed to speak with Professor Colbert about a slip of the tongue he made before we left. It might yield additional clues as to how to manage and control Louise magic.
"So…about that kiss…" Yukari asked while leaning toward me. I simply flatly stared at her before walking toward Louise. The border youkai was right about one thing, Louise could probably benefit from a few tips from me.
"And thus, I would like to congratulate you three once again for finally putting an end to Fouquet's reign of terror." Henrietta said to me, Louise, and Matilda. Officially, Matilda was the one who would go on record as the one who took down Fouquet, ironic but not untrue. Her accomplishment also had the added benefit of her and Louise being inducted as Chevaliers by the Princess. Louise tried to argue that I had to get a commendation as well, since I did kind of come up with the plan to get the thief, but I decided against it. I told my master that I needed no accolades for my accomplishments in this world. The Princess seemed to have taken a shine at my demeanor and offered the title of Chevalier to me anyway but I politely declined.
"I'm still not sure about this…becoming a Chevalier, I mean." Matlida muttered to me while the Princess was too busy embracing my master. It was understandable for her considering her past experience with nobles. Being inducted into nobility again was likely giving her some rather complicated feelings. I would also like to note that Matilda's makeover was quite the success. Amusing that all it took was a change in hairstyle and clothing and she looked like a different person. When they were all deciding what she should start wearing from now on, I made the suggestion of a white long-sleeved blouse with a blue vest and a black skirt. Everyone looked at me skeptically and I told them to just try it. They did and were impressed at how much it fit her. I smiled when they asked what kind of hairstyle would do. I suggested straight shoulder length hair that was parted in the middle and with the bangs of one side being longer than the other. They complied and were surprised at how much the hairstyle fit Matilda's new clothes.
Of course it did, I made her look like Shikieiki.
"Think about it this way, you get a perfect cover from now on and get extra income for the orphanage thanks to the stipend for being a Chevalier on top of what Louise's family is paying you for tutoring her." I pointed out. Louise said that it wouldn't be easy to convince her family to pay for a private teacher for her to help with her magic development. That was until I told her to point out to her family that this teacher was the one to defeated Fouquet of the crumbling dirt, which silenced any further protest from her house.
"I guess…" The woman finally said before looking back at Louise and sighing.
"A few days ago, I never though that I'd end up like this. It just went so fast and seemed…" She trailed off.
"Too good to be true?" I finished for her. She silently nodded in acknowledgement.
"I would think that, after everything that you have gone through, it was time for you to get a break. Of course, those would simply be empty words since I can't really understand your situation or feelings." I said with a shrug. We stood in silence as Henrietta continued to tell Louise how much she missed her dear friend and was worried sick when my master decided to go after Fouquet.
"Even if they were empty words…thank you." Matilda finally said. I glanced at her and saw that she had her head turned away from me.
"Oh! How I wish I could simply allow you to go back to your peaceful life at the academy. But sadly, I am in need of a favor from you Louise Françoise." The Princess said wistfully as she finally let go of my master. I briefly wondered why she seemed to be the target of affection by various women lately when I felt my master tense up.
"Anything Princess!" Louise answered immediately, I figured as much.
"Thank you, my dear friend." The Princess said before going to her desk and retrieving a parchment. She walked back to us and gave it to Louise.
"I want you to live in town for a while to check on some…unsavory rumors." Henrietta said hesitantly. I instantly felt hostile intent coming from Matilda after she heard that. I saw where this is going…
"Rumors?" My master asked, none the wiser.
"There have been rumors around town about nobles that have been using their position to oppress the local commoners. I want you to confirm if this is true or not." Henrietta explained.
"How terrible…" Louise muttered in a pained voice. I felt Matilda's hostile intent dissipate and turned to her. I noted that her previous look of anger was replaced with concern for Louise.
"And…" I spoke up, breaking my master from her thoughts.
"…what do you wish for us to do if we found these rumors true?" I asked the Princess. My master shot me an irritated look for speaking with her Princess so casually but I ignored it for now.
"I wish for you all to report it to me personally. I cannot tolerate such actions from the nobility simply because of their status over the commoners." Henrietta stated with a hard voice, making me raise a brow.
"So you are concerned about the daily lives of commoners and not just nobles?" I asked her. From past experience, I always saw most of the nobility as those who hold themselves on a pedestal compared to the commoners and would never care about those below them. The Princess slowly shook her head and looked at me sadly.
"The people must do everything they can for their country, and their country must do everything it can for its people." She stated. It seemed that the Princess was one of the exceptions to that stereotype.
"We will do as you command, princess!" Louise once again immediately stated and our course was set. We left Henrietta to her work and walked through the halls of the palace in silence until Louise started fidgeting before she finally spoke up.
"I'm sorry, Matilda. It seems that we have something to take care of first. You can go ahead and return to the academy first." Louise said with an apologetic tone. Louise was walking in the middle of the hall with me and Matilda at her sides.
"Don't worry, I'm coming with you." The former thief stated with a smile.
"You are?" Louise asked her in surprise.
"The Princess said that you needed to spend time in town to be able to confirm the rumors, right?" Matilda asked, earning a nod from my master.
"Have either of you lived in a city like this before? Among the locals I mean." She asked us with a raised brow. Louise tried to protest but couldn't find an argument for it. Oh, that's what she's getting at. Since Louise was a noble, she couldn't possibly know how to blend in with locals, much less live amongst them. On the other hand, I have no real experience living amongst humans of any sort outside my time with Louise, it had always been me, Elly, my sunflowers...and that weakling vampire who's name escapes me right now, I never really paid any attention to her anyway.
"No, and I assume that you have?" I asked her and the woman simply gave me a smirk.
"Who do you think I am?" She replied smugly. It seemed that recruiting this woman provided more use than we originally foresaw.
"Very well…you can come along. Where do we go first?" Louise asked her tutor.
"Hat shop." I immediately stated, making both Matilda and Louise look at me quizzically.
"Matilda needs a hat." I replied simply before walking ahead of the two women.
"You really don't have to…" Matilda said uneasily as she eyed the various hats inside the very shop where Louise and I got ours. The same young woman from before was tending the shop when we arrived and asked if we were looking for anything in particular. Because of the wide array of available hats in stock, I had asked her if they had a Yama's cap. Sadly, she had never heard of the thing so we opted to browse around the shop instead. Louise had already gone into the thick of things and was walking around trying to find a suitable hat for our companion.
"Yes we do. If you will be part of our little group, then hats will be mandatory." I stated with a friendly but resolute voice. Matilda seemed to have resigned to her fate she rubbed her forehead with her left hand and sighed.
"I can't believe I agreed to this." She muttered to herself.
"About getting a hat or about the situation at large?" I asked the woman as I tracked Louise's pink hair around the shop.
"Both..." Matilda replied dryly. I simply shrugged at her response, is she really that conflicted about becoming a noble again?
"It's not a bad deal. A life of relative comfort while still being able to provide for your sister and the orphans. Besides, we'll make sure that you get a hat that suits you perfectly, I assure you." I stated with a warm smile, and for the first time, a smile that she returned.
"I got one!" I heard Louise yell out from within the shop. Matilda and I blinked at each other for a moment before walking to where Louise's voice came from, her pink hair acting as a beacon in the midst of all the hats in the shop. I raised a brow at what she was holding up. It was a larger version of her own hat, one that would fit Matilda.
"Matching hats?" I asked Louise with a raised brow. My master huffed at me before waving the hat in front of me.
"What? You and Siesta have matching hats, why can't we?" Louise argued, she had a point though. Siesta and I had sort of a teacher-pupil relationship in terms of gardening and both of us had matching straw hats. Mayhap Louise had the same thing in mind when it came to her and her new tutor. Very well, let us see. I took the hat from her hands and placed it on Matilda's head. The woman let out a small 'eep' when I did out of surprise but recovered quickly.
"Perfect!" Louise exclaimed proudly as her tutor touched the new headgear. I hummed to myself while appraising the overall look that Matilda had with that particular hat. The woman noticed my scrutiny and blushed a bit before looking away from me.
"I would disagree, master." I said, earning a glare from Louise and a questioning look from Matilda.
"Make no mistake, the hat does look lovely on her and your gesture of getting matching hats with your new tutor is very sweet." I continued with glancing around the shops for viable replacement options.
"However it clashes with her clothes too much. If she had darker clothes or a cape, like you do, then it would be perfect. Unfortunately, the style of the hat does not fit with the style of her clothes. Something a bit simpler would work…" I muttered before turning back to them. I noted that Louise was giving me a flat stare while Matilda had her back to us.
"So what? Another straw hat? You already have that maid wear one, are you trying to mark the women you fancy by making them all wear straw hats?" Louise asked me in an irritated voice. We both glanced at Matilda for a moment when we saw her flinch a bit at Louise's words. I chose to ignore it and answer my master's question.
"No, I have no plans on marking anyone via hats. No, I have yet to see a woman that meets my 'fancy'. And no, a straw hat wouldn't fit either." I shot down Louise accusations, while ignoring the wistful sigh from Matilda, before walking to a different part of the store. Hats are important, they are extremely distinct and provide an easy way to identify someone. I can name every single notable denizen of Gensokyo because of the hat that they wore, while I can name the rest because of their lack of hats or use of other head accessories. I raised a brow when a particular hat caught my eye. I left Louise and Matilda and walked up to the particular hat stand that was holding it. Yes, this could work.
"I believe we have your destined hat, Matilda." I said smugly as I took the hat from the stand and showed it to the two women.
"What is that?" Louise asked me as she eyed my chosen hat skeptically. Matilda was eying me and the hat I chose and pursed her lips, I guess she didn't know what kind of hat this was either.
"This is called a fedora. Normally it is a hat for men but it can also be worn by women, particularly women who have a certain kind of class, confidence and style, attributes that Matilda clearly possesses." I stated as I adjusted the crease and the pinch at the top of the vanilla white fedora while making sure that the black grosgrain ribbon is secure and clean. I approached our hatless companion and offered it to her.
"Try it out." I said with a smile. The woman looked between my chosen hat, my master, and myself, before taking off the hat she currently had on and taking the fedora from my hands. She looked at the hat one more time before putting it on. I smiled at her new look. Yes, the fedora works. Too bad we couldn't add a tie and replace her skirt with slacks, she would have looked perfect with the Rawket Lawnchair hefted on her shoulder.
"Oooohhh…" Louise said as her previous protest was replaced with awe.
"Not bad, eh?" I asked my master while giving her a sidewards glance.
"How is that possible? It's just a hat! How can it make Matilda look so…so…" Louise trailed off as she slowly shook her head.
"I believe the words you are looking for are suave and classy." I provided, I glanced back to Matilda who currently had her head tilted down and pulling the front of the brim of her hat to cover her eyes. I noted the blush that still showed on her face. I guess she wasn't used to this kind of attention.
"Does it…does it really look good on me?" Matilda asked while hesitantly looking up at us.
"Why don't you see for yourself?" I asked back while nodding toward a nearby mirror. Matilda looked at the mirror and was considering it when Louise decided for her.
"Come on! You have to see! It looks wonderful on you!" My master happily said before pulling her tutor by the hand toward the mirror. Matilda gave me a look of worry but I simply shrugged in response.
"Is this...me?" I heard Matilda ask as she stared at herself in the mirror.
"It is! It is! Isn't it great?" Louise confirmed for her while nodding vigorously. I blinked a few times at my master's apparent enthusiasm, I swore the girl's eyes were glittering as she stared at the former thief.
"Is it really that surprising?" I asked her from behind. Both of them turned to me but Matilda turned back to the mirror to give herself another appraisal.
"It's just...I look so different...Is this really even me anymore?" She asked, her expression becoming a but sadder than before. Louise looked at me with worry and I gestured toward her tutor. My master knitted her eyebrows for a few moments before giving me a look of determination, her eyes alight with the same intensity she shows when she was resolute about something.
"Of course it is!" Louise declared, making Matilda turn to her.
"This is you! The new you! This is not Mathilda of Southern Saxe Gotha! This is not Miss Longueville of Tristain Magic Academy! This is not Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt! This is Matilda Chevalier de Tristain! Sister to a woman in Albion. Caretaker and provider to orphans. A Square Class Earth mage. And...my teacher..." Louise said with as much conviction as she could have mustered, though it did taper off and fizzle out into slight embarrassment near the end. I made sure that no one was around when Louise said 'Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt'. It wouldn't do for our new companion to blow her cover after less than a week. Even if someone did, they would probably have thought that it was the ramblings of an eccentric noble girl. After all, as far as the country is concerned, Fouquet was a man and was already dead. Matilda stared at my master for a few moments, her uncertainty faced by Louise's sincerity. The woman clenched her jaw before closing her eyes and smiling, her expression changing to one of relief. Louise let out her own 'eep' as Matilda wordlessly embraced her. Louise, on her part, waved her hands in the air for a few moments before simply returning the gesture. My master really was becoming the object of affection for a lot of women lately, hasn't she? Who's next, Kirche? Monmon? Siesta? Tabitha? No, not Tabitha...definitely not Tabitha. My thoughts on the matter were interrupted when I noticed the young woman who tended the shop approach us with a concerned expression when she saw the scene between my master and her tutor. She turned to me with eyes that asked if everything was okay.
"We'll take the fedora." I replied with a shrug.
"So..." I stated as the three of us stood outside the hat shop.
"So..." Louise repeated as she adjusted her cowboy hat.
"So..." Matilda repeated one more time as she glanced around the part of town we were currently in.
"Where to now?" I asked the expert. Matilda looked at me before turning her gaze to the ground and contemplating the question.
"I intended to go to an old acquaintance and ask for help in the matter. He owns a pretty popular bar that doubles as an inn. It would be the best place to gather information from the locals. People tend to be very open to questions after a few rounds of ale." She explained.
"Then let's go!" Louise stated with enthusiasm.
"We can't..." Matilda said with a sigh, making me raise a brow.
"Why not?" My master voiced the question in my head.
"Because of you, Louise." The former thief stated with a sad smile.
"Me?" Louise yelled in surprise that she was the hindrance to our plan.
"Please explain." I stated. Matilda looked between me and Louise before gesturing for us to start walking with her.
"Louise is a noble, a student at the most prestigious magic academy in the whole country, and she is currently wearing one of their uniforms." Matilda explained as we walked the streets. I see. Indeed, going into that place with nobility in tow would hamper out efforts in getting honest statements from the patrons.
"Would a change of clothing fix the problem?" I asked her.
"I would help, definitely. Getting Louise into simpler clothes would remove most suspicion toward her...on the surface." She replied with an awkward smile.
"On the surface?" Louise piped up with the question.
"Louise, dear. Even if we find you a suitable disguise, it will not change the fact that you are a noble. You will still have the presence of a noble and you will still act like a noble." Matilda explained as clearly and as kindly as she could. I saw Louise's expression sour at her tutor's words and opened her mouth to object. I answered for her...
"Then teach her how to act like a commoner." I simply stated, making both women turn to me. Once again, Louise had a scowl because I cut her off while Matilda had a surprised expression.
"I can't just teach a girl who has lived her entire life as a noble to perfectly act like a commoner! That's impossible!" Matilda yelled at me.
"Then improvise, you are her tutor after all. Besides, we have experienced first hand how good you are at planning with next to no prep time and your resourcefulness under stacked odds. I would have expected that this was well within your capabilities. Or are you saying that such a thing is impossible for Fou-for Matilda Chevalier de Tristain?" I stated with a smug smile, though I really needed to remember never to call her Fouquet again. The woman narrowed her eyes at me before giving me an irritated look.
"Fine! Come Louise!" Matilda stated as she took Louise's hand with her own, her razor sharp glare never leaving my eyes.
"What...what's going on?" Louise asked in confusion at her tutor's sudden outburst. Matilda turned to her student and gave her one of her Fouquet smiles.
"Your very first lesson under my tutelage, infiltration!" Matilda replied with a smirk before she started to tug Louise to walk with her.
"What? I signed up for a magic course and not espionage!" Louise protested as she tried to pull away from Matilda.
"Too bad. You asked me to teach you, and teach you I shall." Matilda responded with the same determined smirk as she and her student started a tug of war in the middle of the street. I noticed that we were attracting a lot of attention and decided to end the little incident they were making.
"This was a personal request from your beloved Princess, was it not?" I asked Louise as I folded my arms and leaned back. The effect was immediate as my master let out an 'urk' before turning to me with a conflicted expression.
"Your Princess gave you a very specific mission and it just so happened that Matilda is perfect in assisting you with it. Now think, would it be wise to turn away the one person who can really help you with this?" I asked, my stance not changing. Matilda might be Louise's tutor, the one helping my master uncover more things about her magic, but I'm the one that would teach her to think for herself and make the best decisions she can based on that. Louise stared at the ground and fidgeted a a few times, going over what I said even though she should already know what the answer is. I sighed and turned to Matilda.
"Should I come with you while you prepare?" I asked the woman. She considered it a moment before shaking her head.
"I'll be fine. We'll just get new clothes for her and I'll give her some basics on acting like a commoner. There is a an open area that way with a large water fountain, wait for us there and we'll go ahead to the inn that my acquaintance owns." Matilda responded while nodding to the direction down the street.
"I leave Louise in your care then." I said with a nod before making my way to our rendezvous point. I trust Matilda with Louise because I could find no reason why she would harm her. Betraying the trust that Louise and I put on her would not only cut her off from a stable income for her sister, it would also make her a wanted criminal again. And there was the little thing about me unleashing my full wrath upon her should she betray us. I hummed an old tune as I walked the streets, using my parasol as a walking stick as I did. Matilda would be the one who will do most of the work for this little royal request since she would have a lot of experience in gathering information due to her tenure as an infamous thief. Honestly, I was starting to doubt the need to accompany them. The woman was a square-class earth magician that gave me the most fun fights I have had in this world thus far and an expert at deception and thievery. The girl was a budding void magician that can cast point-directed concussive blasts at will and was being trained by me in dodging Danmaku, she could probably dodge throwing knives by now if she tried.
Honestly, I felt like an unneeded accessory for solving this incident.
Fear. Someone once said that fear attracts the fearful, the strong, the weak, the innocent. Fear was what others felt when they fought me. Fear was what others felt as I pointed my parasol at them before unleashing a Master Spark. Fear was what others felt as they saw themselves be consumed alive by my flowers. Fear was my ally. And now I felt betrayed by it. I have never felt fear. Never. Not when I first fought Reimu and Marisa. Not when I faced the hordes of Makai. Not when I traded blows with the goddess of the demon realm. Not when I faced the armies of the moon. In all my life, I have never felt fear.
Which was why the feeling I was having right now was rather novel.
I was sitting on the edge of the stone fountain, the designated area for our rendezvous, and was waiting for Matilda and Louise to come back. I spent my time lazily observing the goings on of the commoners as they passed by. It reminded me of the times when I basked under the sun in the middle of Garden of the Sun with my sunflowers and observed the comings and goings of the other residents of Gensokyo. It was then that I noticed an odd presence in the area. It was odd enough to make me raise a brow and put my head on a swivel. The presence I felt was not hostile nor was it oppressive, but for some strange reason, it made me feel...tense. I focused my senses and tried to narrow down the source of the strange feeling when 'it' decided to show itself instead.
"Tres Bien!" A clearly masculine voice that, for some ungodly reason was trying to sound feminine, yelled out. I turned to the source of the voice and I froze. Standing before me, doing poses and flexing fully developed muscles, was a man...or I thought it was a man. This...creature...was a tall and well built human male that seemed well into the middle of his life, if his receding hairline suggested, and was even sporting a mustache and a beard. All in all, one would think that he would be a soldier or working class man but...he was wearing a magenta tank top that was around five sizes too small for him and dark blue shorts that was also around five sizes too small for him. The creature turned to me and winked before it started another round of posing and flexing.
"Monster, you do not belong in this world..." I muttered under my breath while purposely looking away from it.
"Aaaahhn~! But it was not by my hand that I was given this flesh~! I was called here by a friend who wished to ask for my aid~!" The creature replied before doing more poses. I looked back at it in shock. It heard me? Impossible. I snarled at it and stood up, trying very hard to suppress the fear building up within me.
"Aid? Who would want the aid of one who parades around acting like something that it is not?" I said directly to the creature, making sure to show my killing intent. I was once again shocked when the creature did not even flinch and merely did another pose. Why? Why do I feel such fear when this creature is near me when it isn't even hostile? Why did it not seem to be affected by my aura of terror? What. The. Hell.
"Ooohh~! Perhaps the same could be said of all mankind~" The creature retorted. It was comparing itself to nobles now?
"Your words are as empty as your clothing! Tristain ill needs a citizen such as you!" I yelled, making a few heads turn. I didn't care. This man. This thing was not natural. It goes against everything that nature had intended and I don't like that. I can't even imagine what would happen if my master was to meet such a thing.
"Auuuhh~! What is a man? A delectable little pile of repressed emotions! But enough talk, have at-"
"Oh, I see that you've met." Matilda's relaxed voice cut the tension between me and the creature as cleanly as a slash from one of Youmu's swords. I turned to the woman and found her standing next to my master. Louise had traded in her school uniform for a simple brown one piece dress that was secured by a pair of shoulder straps. It appeared that Matilda took my statement about hats seriously since Louise had a matching beret on her head instead of her cowboy usual hat. Louise didn't look to happy about her new look, probably too 'simple' for her tastes, but it really did suit her.
"And who might you be dear~?" The creature asked Matilda while doing another pose and flexing its pectoral muscles. I shifted my weight and made sure that my feet were firmly planted on the ground. If that thing made any hostile move against Matilda or my master then I will rip it apart with my bare hands, consequences be damned!
"Scarron! I just change my look and you can't even recognize the girl that helped you out during you little treasure hunt folly?" The former thief was also a treasure hunter? It seemed that Matilda has quite the skill sets. The creature, identified as Scarron, blinked a few times before it started stroking its beard in a contemplative gesture.
"Mathilda~?" Scarron exclaimed as it stared wide eyed at Matilda.
"It's just Matilda now, Scarron." The woman said with a smile. Louise immediately hid behind her tutor as soon as she saw the beast. Good, it seemed that my master and I were of liked minds when it came to the creature. My wonderment on how Matilda could stand to look at such a thing without flinching was interrupted by Scarron, who was walking...well...posing and flexing...towards Matilda and Louise to get a closer look.
"Matilda, you know this...this..." I gestured toward Scarron but couldn't seem to finish my sentence.
"Why yes, Yuka. This was the acquaintance I was talking about." The former Crumbling Dirt stated matter of factly. Her words were met with varying degrees of 'What' between me and Louise.
"Yuka, Louise, I would like you two to meet Scarron, proprietor of the Charming Fairy Inn." Louise and I turned to Scarron who just flexed a few muscles at us and blew us both kisses, both me and my master instinctively 'dodged' the trajectory of the kisses like they were lethal Danmaku.
"Scarron, these are Yuka and Louise. They are...well, they are two people who have changed my life." Matilda introduced us to her...acquaintance...with a soft smile. Louise and I glanced at each other for a moment before looking back at Scarron and giving him curt nods. The creature turned to me, Louise, and Matilda in turn. Then, he just stood there in complete silence...he wasn't even posing anymore. I glanced at Matilda and nodded toward Scarron, the woman just gave me a somewhat confused shrug. I was arguing with myself mentally to try to check on the creature myself when...
"Tres Bien~!" The creature suddenly exclaimed as it went through various poses and flexes in rapid succession.
"This is wonderful news Matilda~! I am so glad that you finally settled down and started a family~!" Scarron exclaimed as it wiped a tear from its eye while flexing its triceps at the same time. A family? Oh, he thinks that we-we can work with this.
"Fa-fa-fa-fa-family?" Interestingly enough, the embarrassed stuttering came from Matilda this time, complete with her face becoming completely crimson, and not Louise. No, my master simply stood there as if her soul had just left her body.
"Why yes~! They changed your life did they not~? That could only mean that this strapping man is your husband and this adorable little girl is your daughter~!" The creature reasoned. I wasn't even sure how the man had come to the conclusion that the three of us were a family. Sure, I was willing to admit that Matilda and I could wrongly be assumed as lovers, but Louise as our daughter? The girl had pink hair compared to our green, that isn't even logical in any sense of the word. Still, a cover story is a cover story.
"Was it that obvious?" I asked the creature smugly while hefting my parasol on my shoulder and walking up to Matilda and Louise, who were both gawking at me. Matilda and Louise were about to yell their protests at me when I raised my left hand to stop them before leaning closer.
"If this, Scarron, believes us a family then I say we run with it. It saves us the trouble of having to come up with another cover story to be able to get into the inn." I whispered to them out of earshot. Louise glared daggers at me while Matilda was blushing furiously but looking down on the ground, possibly considering my words.
"Of course it was~! I have only seen Matilda give a smile of such pure joy when we uncovered extremely valuable treasure~!" Scarron started to explain. Normally one would expect that the joy shown by Matilda was derived from greed. However, after Louise and I found out her true reasons for seeking our riches, it was far more likely that she was happy because such a valuable prize would mean more funding for their orphanage.
"However~!" The creature suddenly yelled out as it went about doing a series of flexes. I had stood right beside Matilda, my parasol still on my shoulder, in order to allow Louise to find cover behind us. I didn't want my master traumatized by such a scene. She got the message and was currently standing behind me while clutching my shirt as she pressed her face onto my back. It reminded me of when Louise had met Yukari in Mugenkan.
"Matilda had freely shown a smile that eclipsed any I have seen before when she introduced you two~! Thus~! I can only come to the conclusion that she loves you both very dearly~! Ergo~! The three of you must be family~!" Scarron ended its deduction with a final pose. I actively glanced away from the sight of the creature's sweat on its body and the labored breaths that it was taking. Coincidentally, I glanced in Matilda's direction and saw that she held her fedora with he left hand and used it to cover her most of her face, though her intense blush was still obvious. I sighed at the unnecessary embarrassment that our companion was currently experiencing because of some misconceptions.
"I apologize if you have to deal with this for the rest of this little mission. You don't have to like it, but it is the most effective way on going about things." I whispered to Matilda, who just bit down on her lower lip for a moment before shaking her head.
"Your analysis is accurate. I apologize for saying those words to you earlier. I did not realize that you were the one that Matilda spoke of." I stated before walking up to the creature, ignoring my body's urge to purge the world of this abomination.
"Are you alright?" I heard Louise asked in concern from behind me, probably checking up on Matilda.
"I never said...I dislike it..." I faintly heard Matilda whisper from behind me as well. I then heard Louise ask what she meant by that, I was about to do the same but decided against it, I wanted this whole this over with as soon as possible.
"I apologize as well~! Had I known that you were Matilda's husband, I would not have attempted to seduce you~!" My expression visibly soured at its words. Seduce me? I have seen carrion more seductive than this creature.
"I...see..." I ground out.
"So~! How can I help Matilda's family~?" The creature asked as it started flexing its muscles again. And here we are. What to say?
"I brought my husband and daughter here to sightsee. You see, we live out in the country and we saved up money for a family trip." I turned at Matilda's voice and saw that she had finally recomposed herself. Gone was the embarrassment and the uncertainty, all that was left was the woman that stood against Yuka Kazami and held her own. Louise was correct when she said that the woman accompanying us was not Mathilda of Southern Saxe Gotha nor was she Miss Longueville of Tristain Magic Academy nor was she Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt. This was Matilda Chevalier de Tristain, the most formidable one of all.
"Alas, we were attacked by bandits just as we were about to arrive. Yuka, my husband, protected us but could not save our belongings nor our money." Matilda stated with a sad voice as she held onto Louise by the hand. My master gave me an alarmed, if confused, look and I merely shrugged after giving her a 'just go with it' look.
"Is this true~? Why did you not defend yourself instead Matilda~? You were more than capable of defeating a few bandits back when we were still treasure hunters~" Scarron asked, though worry was very evident in its voice. Did he know of her magic or her natural skill or both?
"Becoming a mother changed me, my friend." Matilda said simply, earning a nod of understanding from Scarron. Oh, she's good.
"We need a place to stay until we can get our heads together. We'll be more than happy to earn our keep while we're there." I followed up, earning an honestly surprised look from my master. She was probably thinking 'Yuka Kazami, doing menial labor? Impossible!' Oh Louise, you should know this by now. There is nothing I cannot accomplish.
"I can't possibly ask you to work after what you have gone through~!" Scarron protested, going as far as imitating a maiden that was about to faint. I really wished that Yukari was here to see this and scar her mind for the rest of her life. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I saw no reason why I should suffer through this alone.
"And I couldn't possibly ask you to take us in for free. Please Scarron, you know I hate owing anyone." Matilda responded with an wry smile. Scarron seemed to understand and began to consider it.
"Indeed you do not~ But what of your sister~?" Scarron suddenly asked. The creature knew about Matilda's sister as well? What else, that she was a former noble too? I was wondering why the formerly secretive woman would have revealed so much to this creature when I heard Matilda let out a wistful sigh.
"I wrote a letter to her. I told her that Mathilda has found herself a man, and is living happily and peacefully." Matilda replied with a sad smile. It seemed that being reminded of her sister tended to bring out certain...emotions from her.
"Alright, you win~! But remember that when I ask someone to work, as expect them to work properly~!" Scarron said with more enthusiasm, even going so far as to start posing again.
"Thank you, Scarron." Matilda said with a smile before the creature led us to the Charming Fairy Inn...while posing nearly every step of the way.