Family (chapters 25-26)

Chapter 25: The end of the struggle

All the kids almost held their breath as Yukari looked back and forth between Reimu and the others. After doing so a few times she let out a soft giggle.
“If your plan was to surround me, you did a pretty bad job at it”.
Marisa just smiled at the provocation.
“Who said anything about surrounding you? We are only here to shield the kids and their mothers, the one who will be fighting you is Reimu”.
Yukari blinked in surprise, then turned to face the shrine maiden.
“My, I didn’t expect you to be quite so foolish”.
Without changing her stern expression, Reimu replied.
“The word you’re looking for is ‘considerate’ Yukari. I simply don’t want them to get hurt in the fight”.
“Hmm, don’t you think someone who fights me alone stands a much greater chance of getting hurt?”
At those words, a dark, eerie smile spread across Reimu’s face.
“You are not the one who I worry will hurt them”

It took a few seconds for the full meaning of those words to sink in, but when they did Yukari’s eyes widened slightly in surprise.
Noriko, who heard the conversation, didn’t fully understand it though. She turned her face towards Alice.
“Mom, what does mother mean by that?”
Alice voice was tense when she replied.
“She means that she could unintentionally hurt us if we tried to help her fight. She will go in with full force, without holding anything back”.
Noriko swallowed, only now fully realizing what a threat Yukari must be. The thought that she had challenged her to a fight earlier made the hair on her neck stiffen.
She quickly gazed around at her sisters. They were all being held by their mothers just like her, and everyone had their eyes turned towards the two combatants that were about to clash.
Suppressing her fear, Noriko turned her own gaze towards Reimu, silently begging her to be alright.
Yukari expanded her magic circle behind her, this time activating it completely. The air around her started to crackle with tension as an enormous amount of magic power began to build up.
“Big words for a small shrine maiden. I hope you wont regret them later”.
Reimu conjured up her yin-yang orbs and started to rotate them around herself.
“I won’t”.
With that, they both started attacking simultaneously, as if on cue.

In the blink of an eye, the air between them was filled with bullets. All the kids gasped at the sight, it was far more intense then anything they had previously witnessed.
It was impossible to keep track of it all. It was massive, scary and somehow beautiful. Yet the two fighters effortlessly weaved through the curtain of bullets, neither one even coming close to taking a hit.
Marisa, Sakuya and Patchouli created and upheld a barrier to prevent stray bullets from hitting the group of observers, each of them barely moving as they silently observed the battle unfold.

Reimu released several amulets that quickly homed in on Yukari’s position. As the youkai shielded herself from them with a barrier, Reimu quickly followed them up with several colorful spirit orb bombs that surrounded Yukari and exploded.
When the youkai emerged from the blast, she was greeted by the sight of Reimu’s fist inches from her face. Not having expected a melee attack, she didn’t react fast enough and a crunching noise was heard as the fist landed squarely in her face.
Sending her opponent flying backwards, the shrine maiden didn’t waste any time. She waved her gohei, and the white paper on it’s tip suddenly started to glow red and extended like a whip.
The newly formed red whip snared itself around Yukari’s ankle and Reimu quickly pulled on it, sending her opponent zooming towards her and meeting her with a roundhouse kick. The force of the impact sent Yukari flying again, this time straight into the ground with a loud bang.

The whole thing had not taken many seconds to play out, yet Sachi saw it almost as if in slow motion.
It was hard to believe what she witnessed, she knew her mother was strong but she had never before seen her fight seriously.
The words of her teacher echoed in the back of her mind, “Someone who has been able to win against adversaries that vastly exceeded her own strength, precisely because she took the fights seriously and gave it her all, every single time”.
The girl quietly whispered to herself.
“So this is what it means to fight someone seriously”.
Okuu noticed her child saying something and turned to look at her.
“Hmm, what did you say?”
Sachi returned the gaze.
“Now I understand sensei’s words from back then, about mama”.
Okuu flashed a brief smile and gave her daughter a wink.
“Keep watching, your mama is about to show you something pretty cool”.

Yukari emerged from the dust that her impact had spread through the air. She wiped dirt of her face as she climbed to Reimu’s altitude again.
“I do not remember you being able to hit quite so hard Reimu, in fact I can’t remember you ever using melee attacks like that in any fight you’ve been in”.
The shrine maiden replied with an expressionless face.
“People change, Yukari”.
The youkai grinned.
“Perhaps, but to what degree? I am not so much referring to your punch and kick, but rather to the curious fact that I was unable to enter one of my gaps to avoid crashing into the ground just now”.
She made a gesture and the air next to her rippled a little, but nothing else happened.
“In fact, even now I can’t seem to open any gaps. What exactly did you do when your gohei was glowing red?”
Reimu smiled.
“Let’s just say that I have prevented you from running away. I’m gonna keep you here until I’ve beaten the crap out of you”.
A dangerous glint could be seen in the youkai’s eye at those words.
“If I can’t run away, then I’d better stop holding back don’t you think?”

After she finished her sentence, Yukari launched a massive storm of bullets. This time though she didn’t stop at just that, she also fired a stream of lasers in every direction and conjured up several much larger projectiles. The term ‘bullet storm’ was inadequate to properly describe it.
Yet despite the fact that there appeared to be no way to dodge it all, Reimu still seemed to float right through the storm unharmed. Even the bullets that looked like they hit her arms and legs just seemed to pass through without leaving any marks.
The shrine maiden responded by sending out multiple waves of amulets in every direction that all turned towards Yukari.
The youkai hit them with wide sweeps of her lasers and they lost their momentum, slowly drifting through the air.
They didn’t stay that way for long though, as Reimu waved her gohei again and a gust of wind blasted through the area.
All the amulets were caught by the wind and, like autumn leaves, swirled around Yukari, attaching themselves to her wherever they landed.
Reimu quickly snapped her fingers and the amulets all burst into flames.
While her enemy struggled to free herself from the raging flames, Reimu conjured up more yin-yang orbs (she now had a total of 8), had all of them launch streams of needles straight at the youkai, all while bombarding her with more regular bullets and spirit orb bombs.

Not letting up on her attack for even a second, the shrine maiden continued to bombard her opponent until a storm of bullets came flying at her.
As soon as she saw this she dispersed the ring of yin-yang orbs, sending them flying in different directions, and charged straight at her target with a barrier held in front of her.
This barrier was a little different then most, as it’s surface was covered in a yellowish-red light that seemed to disintegrate all the bullets that touched it.
She used it to charge straight through the middle of the bullet storm and, once she could see the youkai’s face, spun around and delivered a devastating uppercut.
The force of the impact sent Yukari flying straight up, right into a web of strings that was now stretched between the 8 yin-yang orbs.
The orbs quickly moved around in circles, binding her with the strings. Once she was completely tied up Reimu quickly encased her in a box-shaped barrier that was sealed shut in all directions.

As she hovered in front of the barrier, Yukari coughed and spat where she hung in the center, tightly held in place by the strings.
The youkai glared at her, struggling to catch her breath.
“This is beyond your capability Reimu, you should not be able to do even half of those techniques. Just what the hell did you do?”
The shrine maiden gave her a cold stare in return.
“As I told you before, people change”.
“Ha, not to this degree they don’t”.
Reimu leaned a little closer.
“And what if I told you that you still haven’t seen all my tricks?”
The youkai’s face shifted to a slightly amazed look for an instant, before she coughed again and spoke.
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“It means that I am well aware that something like this isn’t nearly enough to beat you, so I prepared a special gift for you”.
She waved her hand and the yin-yang orbs became transparent, revealing what they had kept inside them all this time.
It was 8 small stars, the same kind that Okuu created with her nuclear energy manipulation ability. All of them were brimming with energy, their light shining menacingly.
Yukari, for the first time since they had seen her, lost her cool demeanor.
“But, but that’s impossible! There is no way you should be able to do this!”
Reimu extended her hand, reached through her barrier and touched one of the orbs. When she pulled her hand back she was holding something, a round, semitransparent ball of light.
She then moved around the barrier and did the same to the other orbs, collecting a small light ball from each of them.
She then moved a bit further away from the barrier and held out her hand with all the light balls.
“These are the ‘eyes’ of those stars, in other words the core of their structural stability. Once I crush these, the stars will all explode. I think eight mini-supernovas should be enough to knock you out for a significant amount of time”.
As she spoke the light from the stars increased in intensity, illuminating the whole basement with a bright light.
Yukari was, perhaps for the first time ever, at a complete loss for words. All she seemed able to do was stare at the shrine maiden in front of her in disbelief.
Reimu face didn’t change as she slowly closed her hand around the light balls, very slowly squeezing them harder and harder until she finally made one final push and crushed them all in her hand.

All 8 of the small stars seemed to convulse as they violently imploded in on themselves, and then it was as if time stopped for a moment.
Everything just seemed to stop moving, and everyone in the room could do nothing but stare at the stars that were collapsing.
Then came the explosions.
The blast completely filled the space inside the box barrier in the blink of an eye, the intensity of it so strong that the temperature in the room increased several degrees and a powerful gust of wind knocked everyone on their backs. The barrier creaked and cracked under the intense pressure, but it held together and contained the massive explosion.

Noriko slowly opened her eyes. Her ears were still ringing and she felt dizzy, but she wanted to know what had happened.
Her eyes were met by the sight of the cracked and scorched barrier disintegrating and falling apart, revealing a blackened, limp humanoid figure falling to the ground, landing with a thud.
Black smoke stared to drift through the still very hot room and she saw cracks in the floor, ceiling and walls.
In the middle of the room, a solitary figure hovered silently in the air with it’s back turned. She slowly drifted down to the ground, right where Yukari had fallen, and inspected her.
Apparently satisfied that the massive explosion had caused the desired effect, she turned to face her family as they were all getting to their feet.
Her expression was soft and kind when she quietly spoke.
“Are you alright?”
Noriko didn’t pay much attention to what the others were saying, she just silently nodded.
Reimu’s eyes became moist, and tears started to drift down her cheeks.
“Good, I’m glad you are all ok”.
Then her hands went limp, she dropped her gohei as she collapsed down on her knees and started to fall backwards.

Noriko’s eyes widened as she saw her mother fall. She felt like she wanted to scream, but the sound was stuck in her throat.
She wanted to reach out and grab Reimu’s hand, but it was as if she was paralyzed.
Fear, sadness and frustration swelled in her chest and she felt completely powerless to do anything other then watching as the parent she loved plummeted to the ground.
Then she blinked, and suddenly Sakuya was just a few paces behind Reimu. The maid quickly closed the distance and caught the unconscious shrine maiden before she hit the floor.
Carefully picking her up in her arms, Sakuya hurriedly brought her over to the others.
Alice stood up, looked Noriko in the eye and said “Alright, go over there with Patchouli, and stay there for now”.
Slightly confused, Noriko obeyed. She saw that the other parents were all doing the same thing and called out to her sisters.
“Come on you all, they need us to be over here so hurry up”.
Her siblings joined her, all rather confused, and stared at the limp form of Reimu resting in Sakuya’s arms.

Alice, Okuu, Orin, Remilia, Aya, Suika and Flandre all gathered around her and they all put one hand on her.
The shrine maiden’s body started to glow with several differently colored lights, all of them seemingly getting absorbed by one of the hands that touched her.
Sachi turned to Patchouli.
“Sensei, what are they doing?”
Their teacher (showing a very uncharacteristic face), turned towards them and spoke.
“In order to fight Yukari, Reimu absorbed a part of all your parents powers”.
She paused for a moment, letting the enormity of her words sink in, before she continued.
“All the spells and attacks she used where a mix of their powers as well as her own. That’s why she could do things she would normally not be able to do”.
Sachi looked like she had figured something out. From force of habit she put her hand in the air, as if they were in class.
“Sensei, she used mommy Suika’s density manipulation to turn the parts of her body that got hit by bullets into mist right? That’s why they seemed to pass though her like that”.
Patchouli nodded.
“Indeed, and she also used Suika’s strength to land those heavy hits. There were other things too, like a barrier covered in Flandre’s destruction energy, Aya’s speed and wind, Alice’s strings combined with a few other things to make them stronger, Orin’s zombie revival and fire used on the amulets and Remi’s destiny alteration to prevent Yukari from using her gaps to run away. And of course, Flan’s ultimate destruction ability used of the suns created with Okuu’s power”.

All the kids fell silent, everyone realizing what a titanic effort it must have taken to control all those powers at the same time and use them in such advanced ways.
Sachi, being able to do a similar form of magic manipulation, now understood why Reimu had collapsed.
“Sensei, w-will mama be alright?”
Patchouli turned towards her with a serious look.
“They are extracting their powers from her now, that should relieve the pressure on her body and mind. After that there isn’t much we can do other then nurse her and wait for her to wake up. Nobody has ever tried something like this before, so we can’t really tell anything for sure at this point”.

Rena, who was supported by Izumi to be able to stand, spoke up.
“I want to help her, I can fix her with my ability”.
Patchouli turned towards the young girl.
“You might be able to heal her body, but her mind will still be exhausted. In any case you are not doing it tonight, you barely have enough energy to stand”.
Rena shook her head.
“No! I want to help her now!”
Akane turned to her sister with a concerned look.
“Rena, I understand how you feel, but you can’t do it right now”.
“Why?! Why can’t I help mama when she fought so hard to save us?! I wanna help her now! I wanna help her now!”
A sharp noise rang out in the room, silencing Rena’s desperate cries. Noriko stood in front of her sister, her hand still shaking from having slapped her cheek.
Rena looked at her older sister in silent disbelief as Noriko opened her mouth.
“Fool! What good will it do to hurt yourself as well? Do you think mother tried so hard and even hurt herself so that you could just waste her efforts?”
As Noriko continued her hands trembled harder, her eyes teared up and her voice became shakier.
“She gave it her all to save us, from an enemy none of us could fight. Please, don’t let it be in vain!”
Slowly, Rena’s eyes teared up as well. It didn’t take long before she was crying loudly.
Noriko embraced her sister, crying herself, and just held her firmly, slowly rocking from side to side.

Momoka anxiously glanced around and noticed something.
“Hey guys, it looks like they finished draining their powers from mama”.
Everyone turned towards Reimu as Sakuya stood up, still holding her in her arms.
Momoka carefully approached, her ears folded down.
“W-will mama be ok?”
Orin turned towards her daughter.
“I can’t really say for sure. This is the first time I’ve seen anyone do something like this”.
Momoka lowered her head and let her tail hang limply.
Orin got down on one knee and patted her daughter’s head.
“Don’t look so down, that won’t help anyone right now. All we can do is to try our hardest to nurse her back to health, so let us all focus on doing that”.
Momoka lifted the tips of her ears a little and looked into her mother’s eyes. Seeing that her plan was working, Orin gave the final push.
“It’s not going to be easy, so we really need to make sure we work hard”.
As life returned to Momoka’s eyes and tail, she wiped her tears on her sleeves. She then walked over to Reimu and grabbed her fingers with her hands, a determined look on her face.
“Don’t worry mama, I will definitively make you better!”
Smiling to herself, Orin turned to Sakuya.
“Come on, lets get her to a bed shall we?”

 

Chapter 26: Aftermath

It was decided to leave Yukari where she was at the moment, seeing as Reimu had KO’d her for the time being, and seal of the basement.
The focus of the entire household shifted to taking care of the comatose Reimu. The shrine maiden’s room was turned into a nursery and every family member partook in her care.

After basically being forced to rest up for two days, Rena did all she could to heal her mother. But just like Patchouli had said, only the body was healed.
Reimu was in a very deep sleep, she showed almost no response to stimuli and her eyes did not react to light.
The only sign of life from her was her pulse and breathing, always keeping the same pace.

Noriko did not remain in Reimu’s room for any longer periods of time the first week. When Alice asked her about it, Noriko confessed that it was just to painful to see her in that state and that “I can’t take care of her if I collapse in tears”.
At this, Alice had tightly hugged her child and whispered to her “She won’t mind your tears honey, they are proof of your love”.
In the weeks that followed, Noriko’s time spent nursing her mother increased threefold.

It was hard for Akane as well. Her keen sense of other people’s emotions meant that she could feel everyone’s sadness wherever she went, and it almost made her depressed.
It wasn’t much better for Rena, as she had been unable to restore Reimu and felt powerless because of it. And of course, Rena being sad mad Izumi sad as well.

Since Reimu didn’t even show reflexive response, it soon became necessary to come up with a way to feed her. She needed nutrition after all, and was unable to chew or swallow.
Marisa and Patchouli came up with the solution of making a long, thin, flexible tube that they slowly inserted into her mouth and down the esophagus. They could then pour liquid food all the way down to the stomach. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked and didn’t cause any complications since they had made sure to keep the airway unobstructed.
Another issue was the fact that Reimu could not use a toilet, so that had to be taken care of as well.
They basically ended up having to use diapers, as no other option provided a better solution.
Marisa and Sakuya insisted on being the only ones to handle that particular part of her care, saying that Reimu wouldn’t want more people then necessary to have to do something like that.
However, their main reason was that they wanted to keep Reimu’s dignity intact. They felt it was important to maintain the image of her as the strong head of the family, both for her and everyone else sake.

In terms of sheer amount of time spent caring for her though, nobody could compare to Momoka.
The red haired, cat eared girl got up earlier in the morning then anyone else (so early in fact, that Sakuya had started making her breakfast on the evenings and leaving it out for her to eat the next morning).
After getting dressed and eating, she spent the whole day nursing her mother. She brushed her hair, made sure her hand and toenails looked good, washed her with wet towels, cleaned her teeth, made sure to shift her position every so often so she didn’t get bedsores, and massaged her body often (she had asked Patchouli to teach her everything that was important in a situation like this).
She also went to bed later then everyone else, at about the same time as Marisa (who was sleeping in Reimu’s room now so that she would never be left alone).
Momoka was the only one among the children who didn’t express sadness. Instead, her golden eyes burned with a strong determination.
She could sometimes be heard whispering to the unconscious Reimu, “Don’t worry mama, I won’t give up. No matter how long it takes, I will take care of you until you get better”.

Remilia, who had been closely observing the kids, felt like she had to do something to lift their spirits.
She called Akane to her room for a private conversation and told her an idea.
“Since Momoka works so hard every day, it won’t be long before she herself gets very tired. Now, don’t you think Rena could use her ability to keep your sister in good shape? I think that would give both of them some peace of mind”.
After thinking it over, Akane agreed that it was a good idea.
Remilia smiled a little to herself as her daughter left the room. The reason she had not told Rena this idea directly herself was because it allowed Akane to be the one to tell her, which would allow her to be the one to cheer up Rena (and in the process maybe feel a little better herself).

After she had left, there was a knock on the door. Remilia looked up, thinking Akane might have come back to ask something.
“Come in”.
The door slowly opened to reveal Sakuya standing there, an uneasy expression showing on her face.
Since this was quite unusual, Remilia didn’t know what to expect.
“Well, what is it?”
Sakuya entered the room and closed the door behind her. She slowly approached the chair her mistress was sitting in, then kneeled down and bowed her head.
“Milady, there is something I have to tell you. It’s about myself”.
Slightly perplexed by her behavior, Remilia could do nothing but wait for the continuation.
Sakuya lowered her head a little more, then spoke in an unsteady voice.
“The truth is, I am not a human. I am a dhampir, who also used to be a vampire hunter”.
She paused for a moment, unable to look her mistress in the eye, before continuing.
“I’ve never told you about this. The reason is simple, I was scared. Scared that I would lose you the way I lost my human friends when they found out what I was, scared that I would once again be alone. But most of all, scared that I would forever lose your trust”.
An ever so light sound could barely be heard as a couple of tears fell from Sakuya’s face and hit the floor.
“But I realize now, I’ve been thinking about it the wrong way all along. It was me who was afraid to fully trust you.
If I had trusted you, I would have told you everything a long time ago”.
More tears fell, forming a tiny puddle on the floor.
“I am a failure as a servant and head maid, I could not bring myself to trust the one who saved my life and to whom I swore eternal loyalty. I will accept any punishment you deem me deserving of”.
Having said what she came to say, the maid now simply remained in her current position, awaiting her mistress’ response.

After about a minute, Sakuya heard Remilia’s feet hit the floor as she started walking towards her.
Closing her eyes tightly, she tried not to think about what was going to happen, but it was next to impossible. All kinds of horrible scenarios formed in her mind, one worse then the other. So when her mistress stopped right in front of her, Sakuya was trembling.
She then felt Remilia’s hand on her head. It wasn’t a hit, like she had expected, but a gentle caress. Opening her eyes in surprise, she slowly raised her head.
She was greeted by the thing she had least expected, her mistress was smiling at her.
“At last, after all this time, you finally opened up to me”.
Sakuya blinked several times, to make sure she wasn’t seeing things, but Remilia’s smile was warm and very much genuine.
“I’ve always known you where a dhampir. I’ve tasted your blood on several occasions you know, there is no way I could have missed something like that. I also know about your past, a part of it at least”.
The maid blinked in surprise at those words, so Remilia elaborated further.
“That vampire that knocked of your mask, he was an enemy of mine. I had planned to take care of him myself, but you guys got to him first so I hid and watched the battle. I saw everything that happened to you after that”.
Sakuya could hardly believe the words coming out of her mistress’ mouth. Completely unable to respond properly, Remilia kept smiling and continued.
“I tracked you down afterwards because you caught my interest and I wanted to see what you where like. That’s when I found you in that alley. I never told you what I knew because I hoped that you would one day feel like you could tell me yourself”.
Sakuya was astonished to see that her mistress was the one who was crying now, while gently caressing her cheek.
“I’m so, so very happy that I was able to earn your trust”.
“Milady…”

It was like time stopped for a short moment, everything around them stopped and the only thing they saw where each others faces. Then the moment passed and they both found themselves entangled in a tight mutual hug and a passionate kiss.
They stayed that way for a long time, neither of them caring to keep track of time. When they finally separated they where both panting hard, but kept a hold of each other.
Then, Sakuya let out a small giggle, followed by a short laugh from Remilia. It wasn’t long before they where both laughing hearty.
When they had calmed down a bit, Remilia wiped a tear from her eye and tried to ask a question.
“That thing you said you realized earlier, what made you come to that conclusion?”
Sakuya chuckled a little.
“When I heard Reimu saying she entrusted us with the care of her children before Marisa blasted through the barrier, when I saw everyone’s trust for Reimu in the basement that she would definitively win and protect them all. I may have been blind to the true nature of trust before, but even I could see it clear as day at that point”.
Remilia patted her maid’s head.
“I must remember to thank Reimu when she wakes up. She’s made me see things in a new light as well”.
They both fell silent for a moment, just looking into each others eyes.
“She really is a special person, isn’t she?”
“Indeed she is milady, we absolutely must make sure to take care of her until she wakes up. Everyone needs her to come back”.

Kazehana was sitting in a chair next to the table where Marisa was brewing some sort of medicine. She was looking at Reimu where she lay in her bed, Momoka currently busy with cutting her mother’s fingernails.
Reimu’s face appeared to be both peaceful and troubled at the same time, it was hard to find the exact words to describe it. Kazehana leaned back and turned her face towards Marisa.
“Why did mama do what she did?”
The witch turned to look at her.
“Are you asking why she saved you?”
“No, that I can easily understand. I meant, why did she fight alone? And why did she do something that hurt herself so much?”
Marisa put one hand on the young girl’s shoulder.
“Because she wasn’t just thinking of trying to win the fight. I believe her exact words were ‘the kids all need their mother’s, right now and in the days that follow. We can’t afford to risk anyone of you getting hurt in this fight’. Of course, I believe she was thinking of our well being as well”.
The witch turned back to her glass tubes with a small smirk at the corner of her mouth.
“I’ve always known that she prefers to do things alone, but even I was slightly surprised by her conviction and complete devotion to her family”.
Kazehana sat in silence for a bit, then turned to Marisa again.
“There was no right choice to make in that situation was there?”
Marisa sighed.
“No, there wasn’t. Your mother simply chose the alternative she felt would have minimal consequences”.
The young girl turned her gaze towards Reimu’s sleeping face again and asked her last question.
“One thing bothers me though, her decision to absorb everyone’s powers. You all said that this was the first time anyone attempted something like that, how could she possibly be sure it would even work?”
Marisa put everything she was holding down on the table, placed herself in front of Kazehana and put her hands on the young girl’s shoulders.
“That was the easiest part for her. When we asked her she simply said ‘I have to make it work, there is no other option for me’.”
After a brief pause the witch looked deep into the girls onyx eyes.
“Remember this, that is how strong her love for you is”.
Kazehana’s lower lip trembled, then she threw her arms around Marisa who responded in kind.
“I want my love for mama to reach her as well, I want her to return to us!”
“She will, just keep telling her your true feelings every day. Even if it doesn’t look like it, I’m sure she can hear you”.

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