|Louise & Yuka K.|
| Book: Be Careful What|
You Wish For, Chapter 5
|Written by||Vanishing Trooper|
Be Careful What
You Wish For
Be Careful What
You Wish For
Be Careful What You Wish For
Author's notes: Here we are! Chapter five! Not much to say aside from asking you guys how I handled the Fouquet situation.
Additionally, yes, Reimu and Marisa are long dead by the time this story happened. The reason why is simple, I had to make the story happen after a significant amount of time from the present to give Yuka enough time to finally get sick of her current lifestyle and want change. And yes, the Hakurei line still maintains the Spell Card rules even after Reimu passed away.
Other than that, please enjoy~
I own nothing!
Be Careful What You Wish For
"Munya~ Munya~ Munya~ Munya~ Munya~ Munya~" Louise kept repeating like a mantra as I looked down upon her sleeping form. She was currently sleeping on her back while both of her hands were reaching upward and seemingly trying to claw at something. Strange...her training for the night had already ended and I went off to wake her. I blinked a few times when I realized something...
I may have forgotten to stop the piranha plants from firing at her before I left.
"Louise..." I called out to her as I shook her shoulder. I heard the telltale sound of rattling metal that indicated that Derf was once again emerging from his scabbard.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." The ancient blade said with a concerned tone.
"I have to wake her up." I replied before I shook Louise's shoulder again, making my master scowl harder at my action. Derf simply did another one of his sword-shrugs before slipping back into its scabbard.
"Master, wake up. You're going to be late for school." I urged Louise from her slumber, she was not usually this hard to wake. Did the training in Mugenkan have something to do with it? True, Cirno did have trouble adjusting to the training regiment I gave her after I agreed to mentor her in regards to Danmaku Battles. However, Louise simply had to avoid getting hit by fireballs from three piranha plants and not have to survive for eight hours of me firing dual sparks at her. She did surprisingly well for a first timer too, only getting burned to a crisp around twelve times before she finally figured out the patterns. Judging from her screams of unbridled agony, Louise seemed very surprised at how flammable red wine was. "Loui-"
"WRYYYYYYYYY!" Louise screeched as she suddenly grabbed her pillow and smashed it into my face with all her strength...while still apparently asleep. I was certain that I saw her eyes light up with the fury of countless white stars for a split-second there.
"Haha! Oh wow!" Derf exclaimed from within his scabbard. My master's 'attack' did not hurt in any sense of the word, her explosive spells had more force, but it was still a rather...unique experience to be a direct object of her hostility. I would imagine that Louise would be quite the little demon if she ever consciously becomes extremely infuriated.
"Umm...Louise?" I called out to her, my voice still muffled by the pillow on my face.
"Agaa~" Louise muttered, I'd imagine she was still in a dazed state since my current circumstance prevents me from actually seeing her.
"Wha...what happened?" Louise asked to the room at large. I was about to calmly ask her to put down the pillow but Derf promptly cut me off.
"Something that highlights humanity's dominance over nature." The blade sagely said before giving a low chuckle. "Yuka?" Louise called out, finally realizing that I was in the room.
"Yes?" I said through my master's pillow.
"Why am I holding my pillow against your face?" My master asked in a deadpan voice, probably being affected by how surreal the situation she woke up to was.
"You struck me with your pillow as I was trying to rouse you from sleep. Apparently you were having a nightmare and lashed out at whatever was trying to disturb you." I explained the event that transpired mere moments ago.
"Nightmare...yes...I remember..." Louise muttered in response. I couldn't see her expression but I could feel her hostile intent and her magical power gradually build up. She might be upset...
"Oooh boy..." The six-thousand year old blade muttered in a nervous tone as I observed the continued rise in Louise's magic power. It would seem that my master's emotion is a predominant factor on how much power she can focus at any given moment. "I had a dream last night...a very strange dream..." Louise slowly said, the pillow against my face was starting to tremble a bit as she went on.
"I was in a gigantic sunflower field in the middle of the night...there were countless stars in the sky but the two moons were nowhere to be found..." Louise ground out, I opted to stay quiet since I was curious on her reaction to last night's training session.
"I turn around and found you, familiar...you gave me a glass of red wine and told me to avoid getting hit by fireballs coming from your chomping flowers..." Louise continued and...
"They are called piranha plants." I quickly corrected, my master responded to my interruption by pushing her pillow harder against my face.
"Chomping Flowers..." My master emphasized, enforcing her own naming scheme for my plants. "I was supposed to keep avoiding those great balls of fire without making the wine spill...I didn't understand...what did spilling wine have to do with catching on fire?" Louise asked as she finally pulled the pillow away from my face. I was unable to resist the urge to gulp when I saw my master's expression. She was giving me a flat stare but her eyes burned with the anger of a thousand suns. Without the pillow acting as a dampener, I was completely exposed to her rather massive aura of hostile intent. It wasn't anything I hadn't already been accustomed to during my many centuries of fighting but the fact that it was coming from Louise, the same girl who could give such expressive embarrassment and joy, was what truly unnerved me.
"I finally found out why after I spilled about half the contents of the glass all over my clothes...I got hit by one of the fireballs...then...then..." My master said before she dropped her pillow and grabbed the sides of my head. She leaned in closer and closer to me until our noses touched and I could feel her increasingly ragged breath on my face.
"It. Burns." She declared, emphasizing each word as she stared right into my eyes.
"It burned my clothes and my flesh...I screamed and I screamed...I begged for it to stop...after so long it finally did... and I was back to normal at the snap of your fingers...then you told me to try again...the glass of wine was mysteriously refilled and the chomping flowers fired upon me again...over and over and over and over again..." Louise continued before she narrowed her eyes on me.
"After countless repeats of that torture...I suddenly started hallucinating about you doing stupid effeminate poses before you started saying weird things in some weird language...things like...Toki wo tomare...and...Soshite toki wa ugokidasu..." I was amazed that Louise registered that while she was on fire. Yes...I really did do those poses and Louise was not hallucinating. I got bored and decided to emulate one of those characters from those books that came from the outside world. "So many times...I can't even remember how many times I had to go through that...hell..."
"Twelve." I quickly answered.
"What was that?" Louise snapped at me, her wand was in her right hand in an instant and was pressed against my cheek. She has already unconsciously improved that much with nothing more than the beginner fairy course? Impressive.
"Depending on your answer I may have to make you explode!" Louise yelled at me, her wand punctuating her threat by crackling with magical energy once. If she decided to unleash a broken spell anywhere near the magnitude that she used against that mystery golem then this entire room would likely be destroyed along with several others. I doubt that Louise would like to hear about that after she has come back to a more stable state of mind.
"Louise, calm down and let me explain." I said in the most soothing voice I could manage under the current circumstance. "No." My master replied immediately and her wand once again crackled with energy. I sighed and activated plan-b, a plan which involved removing Louise's wand from her grasp by virtue of a vine whip that I flicked from my left hand. The vine did not hurt Louise at all, it simply plucked the wand from her hand and thus made the readied spell fizzle out of existence. "Yes. You. Will." It was my turn to remind Louise just who exactly she was speaking to. Oddly enough, the girl did not back down. Her amber eyes met my red ones and neither showed signs of backing off.
"Traitor..." Louise said simply, her gaze not leaving mine.
"On what grounds?" I asked her with a raised brow.
"You said that you were my familiar, my partner. You even told the Princess that you would never allow me to come to harm even at the face of Armageddon itself. But what did you do to me last night? You made me burn! Over and over again, I screamed in agony and you just watched!" She yelled out at me.
"And?" I asked with a thinly veiled smirk.
"What?" Louise asked back, her brow twitching at my response.
"And, are you currently harmed? Do you have incurable burns all over your body? Do you still feel the unbearable flames of death that came from my flowers?" I clarified. I saw Louise's eyes widen before they narrowed at me. My master refused to answer my questions so I answered them for her.
"What you went through was a special kind of lucid dream. You did not actually experience any of that, but at the same time, you did experience all of it." I sagely said, rendering the entire room stone dead silent.
"You planning on making sense any time soon, buddy?" Derf asked after once again emerging from his scabbard. Louise made no comment about what I said and merely nodded at me to continue, her action reminding me of our proximity because her forehead bumped against mine when she nodded.
"The dreamscape that you were in last night...and several nights before...was my dream world, Mugenkan." I started. Louise was finally beginning to calm down when I pointed out that she had been in my dream world before.
"Mugenkan was something I came up with back home many centuries before, it was something I created partially on accident while I was trying to get a lot of sleep." I explained, earning another bout of silence across the room.
"Again...start making sense..." The six-thousand year old sword repeated. Louise settled on blinking at me several times, probably surprised at my sudden admission of having my own realm.
"Let me explain, there are several ways for a youkai to gain power. The means differ for each kind of youkai but the most common way to do so is to sleep and gather magical power. Since you are not doing anything, you don't expend any magical energy and it just ends up building up as you sleep..." I explained. I then noticed a dangerous gleam in Louise's eyes so I decided to cut off any delusions she might have.
"...and before you get any ideas, no, it will not work with humans. Trying to do what I did will just end with you dying in your sleep." I quickly added before Louise did something she will not live to regret.
"Back on topic...I created Mugenkan to ensure that I remained safe as I slept. As time passed, I even hired some help to make sure that no one comes in uninvited." That was Elly, my lazy scythe-wielding gatekeeper.
"So, the place where I kept waking up to sometimes when I sleep was this...Mugenkan?" Louise asked me.
"Yes, normally humans shouldn't be able to enter the border of dreams in such frequency as you have. I suspect that it has something to do with my summoning contract with you." I replied with a shrug.
"And you immolated me twelve times in your realm because..." My master went back to the heart of the matter, regaining some of her previous fire...pardon the pun.
"Tell me...what started happening after the twelfth cycle?" I asked with a smile. It seemed that Louise was becoming exponentially irritated at my complete refusal to give her a straight answer, too bad for her. This was something I wanted her to learn and figure out by herself.
"I finally started dodging everything those chomping flowers threw at me. The wine didn't even spill that much anymore either...then I woke up." Louise recalled her final cycle of the beginner fairy course. I decided to drive my point home by quickly by quickly grabbing the pillow on the ground, hopping back, and throwing the object at my master. Louise reacted immediately by twisting her body clear of the pillow's trajectory, the whole thing lasted about less than a couple of seconds.
"Wow..." Derf commented after witnessing what Louise had just done.
"Wha..." Louise herself seemed to be in disbelief at what she had just done. She turned to me and I gave her a warm smile. "And therein lies the 'why'." I simply said. Louise moved her body back to the more comfortable position of sitting on the edge of her bed while I put her wand on her desk alongside my violin case and pulled up a chair.
"The whole...process...that you went through last night was to address your concerns from yesterday. You were greatly concerned about your inability to move while in the face of certain death and I decided to do something about it. You just experienced your first lesson under Yuka Kazami's School of Danmaku Battles." I pointed out before folding my arms and leaning back into the chair.
"That was...Danmaku?" Louise asked hesitantly.
"Yes, the very basic of basics. The higher-end battles usually consist of hundreds upon hundreds of projectiles being shot between the participants until a winner is decided or until we simply run out of spells." I pointed out before checking my pocket watch.
"We shall continue our discussion later. I suggest that you start preparing for classes lest you wish to be late." I stated before I stood up and walked over to Louise' wardrobe to fetch her clothes.
"What are you talking about, there aren't any classes today." I froze at Louise's words. I slowly turned around and saw her looking at me with a raised brow.
"Excuse me?" I asked my master while raising my own brow.
"Because of what happened yesterday, Headmaster Osmond canceled all classes until further notice. I was half scared to death yesterday and I still managed to get that and you didn't?" My master asked me with an incredulous expression, I could faintly hear Derf snickering.
"Well..." I muttered before Louise's face turned a certain shade of red all of a sudden.
"And put down my panties when you talk to me!" She suddenly yelled out. I blinked a couple of times and looked down at my hands. It would appear that I was currently holding one of Louise's lace panties in my hands absentmindedly after my surprise at her previous declaration, Derf's snickering suddenly became louder. I sighed before putting the underwear back into its original place in the wardrobe.
"As I was saying..." I said before clearing my throat and sitting back on the chair I was previously using.
"I...may...have overlooked that minor detail due to my concern over your emotional state after the incident." I calmly stated while nodding to myself. Clearly, that was the reason. I looked at my master and she really didn't seem convinced. "Fine...I wasn't listening to whatever the silly humans were talking about after the fight." I flatly stated, thus earning a sly smirk from Louise.
"Oh founder~! Yuka has overlooked such an obvious announcement by the teaching staff~! For lorn~! All hope for salvation is gone~!" Louise poetically wailed in mock panic, even so far as pretending to almost faint.
"Save the children! Someone save the children!" Derf joined in the mockery. I simply shook my head as I rubbed my eyes with my left hand. I have to admit though, Louise recovers quickly for someone who just went through something like that.
"Are you sure you are well enough to be up Louise?" Guiche asked in concern as he took his seat next to Louise at the communal table in the academy's grand dining hall. I had accompanied Louise here because I was also concerned about my master's condition so soon after that incident. I had left my parasol in her room since I doubt that I will need to fight anything during breakfast which would warrant its use. She offered to have the servants serve me breakfast as well but I politely declined and simply stood watch behind her.
"I'm fine Guiche." Louise replied simply as Monmon sat at Guiche's side. Tabitha and Kirche were also already at the table but they were seated across us.
"But still…" The blonde muttered in a concerned tone. I was willing to give the boy the benefit of the doubt that his current actions was just part of his more chivalrous side, the need to protect the women that he knew. He and Monmon have become something that Louise could consider as friends after all.
"Hey Guiche, aren't you being a bit too nice to Louise? Don't tell me that there's something going on between you two~?" Kirche suddenly pointed out. She just had to, didn't she?
"What?" The three friends yelled at the same time. Guiche and Louise were as red as apples from embarrassment. Monmon was getting red as well, but because of a completely different reason.
"Guiche…Louise…don't tell me that…you two…" Monmon stated as she narrowed her eyes at her lover and her friend. "We're not!" The two people in question emphatically denied the allegations set by the redhead. Obviously, their synchronized defensiveness in the matter only made them more suspicious in the eyes of Monmon.
"Oh this is way too good." Kirche said to the ever silent Tabitha who was smartly ignoring the proceedings and was simply eating her breakfast while reading another book.
"I can't believe it…Louise and Guiche…why?" Monmon asked the two as she switched gears from anger to sadness. I shook my head and sighed, this was getting out of hand and it was just the start of the day.
"Monmon…" I called out to the blonde as I placed my hand on her shoulder. The girl turned to me with tears in her eyes, being emotionally vulnerable as she was, before she placed her own hand on mine.
"Mister Yuka…you won't betray me right?" Monmon asked me, looking for any sort of assurance. Wait…this situation…
"Louise and Guiche! Montmorency and Yuka! This is too good! Hahahahaha~" Kirche started laughing as soon as it happened. Monmon blinked at the redhead before tilting her head to the side in confusion.
"Romantic situation." Tabitha supplied. Monmon raised a brow and looked at where her hand was again…she promptly went crimson and pulled her hand away. I decided to prevent any further misunderstandings from happening.
"Monmon, I can assure you that Guiche is not cheating on you…" I stated before looking at my master and Guiche who were looking very relieved at my words.
"…with Louise." I quickly added, making Kirche laugh a bit harder. Guiche's previous smile turned into a look of horror, I simply shrugged at his reaction.
"I cannot guarantee Monmon that you haven't." I told the boy and honestly, with his track record with other girls, it was entirely justified.
"Guiche…" Monmon narrowed her eyes at her lover for the umpteenth time in who knows how long. I was no expert in matters of the heart but, practically speaking, if Guiche couldn't stick to one girl then Monmon should either find a way to get him to become loyal to her or simply leave him. A bit tough on Guiche if it was the latter, but still.
"Monmon, please! You know that I-" Guiche promptly cut off from defending his honor by Monmon.
"Could never lie to your eyes? That you are the only girl that I will ever truly love? That all others pale in the presence of your beauty and charm?" Monmon listed out Guiche's most frequently used lines, making the boy gulp. I noticed that Louise, being acquitted from Kirche's earlier allegations, was ignoring the lovers' spat and was starting on her breakfast. I looked at the redhead that started all of this and shook my head.
"I hope that you are proud of yourself." I said to her in a disapproving tone.
"I sure am, darling~" She replied with a wink before starting on her own meal. Tabitha had already finished her breakfast and was already completely absorbed into reading her latest literary interest.
"And…why is everyone here?" Louise asked in barely concealed irritation. By everyone, she meant Monmon, Guiche, Tabitha, and Kirche. The six of us were currently inside the office of the Academy Headmaster, an old human magician named Osmond, along with several of the academy's teaching staff. The man exuded the appearance of 'old' by having long gray hair, beard, and matching robes too. However, the old man cannot hide the fact that he still had the aura of a powerful spell wielder, possibly the strongest in the academy until Louise master's her own element…whatever it may be.
"Because we all followed you?" Kirche answered sarcastically. It was then that I noticed a small mouse run out from under the old man's robes. I raised a brow when said mouse stealthily made its way behind the old man's assistant and…started looking up her skirt. He's actually using his familiar to look up women's skirts? "After extensive investigation by Miss Longueville, we have acquired some information about the thief, Fouquet." The old man announced to the room at large and making the instructors in the room suddenly tense up. I made sure to keep one eye on the mouse that was currently running a circuit around the room, narrowly avoiding detection every time. Knowing the room like the back of your hand helps.
"Miss Tabitha, Miss Valliere…" Osmond called out to my master and Tabitha while he unfurled a scroll and showed the parchment to the two girls.
"Was this the thief that you encountered yesterday?" The old man asked seriously, leaving me out of the questioning even though I was the one who fought the intruder directly. Typical, dismissing me simply because I was a familiar. No matter, I simply waited for Louise and Tabitha to confirm what they saw.
"Yes, this was definitely Fouquet." Louise replied, her voice carrying the tension she felt the moment she recalled what had happened the day before. Tabitha merely nodded to the old man but it seemed that it was enough of an answer for him. I glanced to my side and saw that both Guiche and Monmon had worried expressions when they noticed Louise tone of voice. Kirche, on the other hand, was simply looking on in keen interest. A sudden movement on the ground alerted me that the mouse was on the move once again, headed to the direction of the woman, Longueville I suppose. The woman in question was glancing at me from time to time, probably in curiosity on what I was supposed to be. I found it strange that I felt something nagging at the back of my head. There was something familiar about that woman but I couldn't place it. Her magical power seemed above average on the surface but not as powerful as the old man, strange indeed. I had never met her before but maybe I caught a glance of her somewhere and simply dismissed her presence as I what I was doing with most of the teaching staff here.
My pondering was stalled when the old man started condemning the actions of the thief and declaring that the stolen artifact, designated as the 'Staff of Destruction', must be recovered at all costs. I narrowed my eyes when the mouse finally made its way toward Louise after it snuck a peek under Kirche's skirt. I wasn't about to let a dirty rat think that it could look up the skirt of the girl that summoned me so I decided to teach it, and its master, a little lesson in proper respect.
The old man abruptly stopped his tirade by suddenly coughing. One of the instructors, Colbert, went to his side and asked the old man to calm down. Of course, that wasn't the reason why he started coughing in the first place. As soon as the mouse started to get closer to my master's skirt, I silently sent it a pressure of hostile intent. The familiar froze in its tracks, like every other familiar I have encountered thus far did, and the old man's eyes narrowed at me. I simply gave him a polite smile before releasing my terror hold on his familiar. The only other person that noticed the silent battle was the assistant, Longueville. The mouse's eyes locked onto mine and it got my message: 'Louise is out of bounds'. The rodent quickly ran back to its master and promptly hid under his robes again. The assistant saw the whole thing and gave the old man a dry look. It seemed that she had to deal with that mouse before.
"Well? Will no one step forward to claim the glory of catching the thief that broke through our triple-square protection spell and made off with the Staff of Destruction?" Osmond declared but the entire room was completely silent. I did notice Louise fidget a bit when she heard that the wall she blew up had triple-square protection, apparently a very powerful kind of spell. Kirche softly coughed, making Louise narrow her eyes at the redhead. Said redhead simply smirked at my master, she knew about what Louise did to the castle wall from Tabitha, much to my master's chagrin.
Louise sighed and turned to me, I could see the fire in her eyes. She probably felt partly responsible for letting the thief get what she wanted and letting her escape, so she wanted payback. Good, I was looking forward to a rematch with the magician when she isn't distracted by a different objective. I smiled at my master, giving her all the answer she needed. She turned back toward Osmond and stepped forward.
"My familiar and I will go!" Louise declared, earning varying degrees of shock from the room.
"Louise!" Monmon called out, surprise and worry in her voice. I glanced to the side and saw Kirche step forward with a smile. "You have my wand!" Kirche declared, making Louise turn to the girl with her own surprised expression. That was not the end of it as Tabitha stepped forward as well.
"And my staff…" The petite girl declared. Kirche smiled at her friend while Louise wasn't sure what to think about Tabitha's involvement.
"And my rose!" Guiche declared in the way only he knows how. I turned to Monmon who was looking at me with eyes that said 'help me, everyone has gone insane.' I simply gave her an awkward smile and shrugged. The blonde sighed and stepped forward as well.
"And my potions and healing…" Monmon said with less enthusiasm as the rest of the group. Osmond nodded at each of their declarations with a proud smile.
"Then let us count on you five!" The old man declared. The instructors in the room quickly declared protests against sending out students to face a magician as powerful as Fouquet but Osmond silenced them all with a stern gaze.
"Miss Tabitha has the title of Chevalier despite her age. Miss Zerbst is well versed in flame magic befitting her Germanian heritage. Mister Gramont is quite eloquent at earth magic and has a particular skill at creating bronze golems. Miss Montmorency is very skilled at creating magical potions and adept at the use of water magic. And finally, Miss Valliere…" Osmond paused for a moment when he got to my master, probably trying to find something positive to say about her.
"…a daughter of the Valliere family, who are well known for having produced several outstanding mages and…" Osmond went on before glancing at me and smiling.
"And has an outstanding familiar! A familiar that earned second place in yesterday's evaluation fair no less!" Osmond declared. I got second place? I didn't really care for the pageantry and the competition of the fair. All I knew was that Tabitha's drake won in the end because of its high-flying acrobatics. Of course, once again, the old man left out the part where I fought toe to toe with the very thief they were trying to catch.
"That's right! He is the legendary hea-" Colbert suddenly cut himself off by coughing awkwardly. I narrowed my eyes at him. It seemed that yet another lead on Louise's magic has presented itself.
"Please allow me to accompany the children to the location where the thief was last seen." Longueville proclaimed, earning an approving nod from the headmaster. I pushed aside the nagging at the back of my head as I raised my hand to get everyone's attention.
"Allow me to speak." I said, more on declaring it than asking for permission, which got me a few glares from the teachers. "Yes?" Osmond asked for me continue.
"In what state would you like the thief to be recovered?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" The old man asked in mild confusion.
"Do you want the thief dead or alive?" I clarified with a cold smile.
"Alive if possible. However, if there is no other choice then…you may do what you must." Osmond answered with a bit of hesitation at the very end. And with that, the meeting finally ended. The instructors filed out of the room followed by my master and her friends. I opted to leave last when I noticed a very familiar scent. I stopped at the door and inhaled. Yes…this perfume. I never noticed it with all the other women in the room before because of their own perfumes. I consciously repressed the urge to start cackling like a madman.
"Louise, we need to talk." I told my master after I closed the door. She was eyeing me suspiciously when she saw my barely concealed smile.
Fouquet, you clever little thief.
"Yuka..." A voice I chose to ignore called out my name. I merely sighed and closed my eyes, trying to tune out the noise.
"Yuka..." The same voice called out again. This time, the person whom the voice belonged to decided to start nudging me as well.
"Yuka!" The person yelled out before slapping me at the back of the head.
"Yes Louise?" I flatly said while looking at her with a bored expression.
"Look, I know that riding in a wagon pulled by horses isn't your ideal method of getting around..." Louise admonished me in a soft tone.
"...but you can't just ignore everyone else and huddle in a corner like that." My master's voice changed from kindness to deadpan in the span of a sentence. Here we were, on the way to where Fouquet was last seen according to the investigations of 'Miss Longueville'. I have to say, her method of getting away and avoiding detection was both daring and cunning. Of course, Louise and I have a bit of a surprise in store for the thief as well. Normally, I would me more enthused about being able to smoke out a rat. However, as Louise stated, our current means of transportation prevented me from enjoying the little things. I mean, really? Sitting in a cramp box on wheels pulled by horses? How backwards can you be? I ignored my master's words and glanced at my companions. I was seated at the right end corner of the...box...with Louise sitting to my right side. Across us were Guiche and Monmon. The former was currently taking a nap on the latter's lap. Judging from how Monmon was gently stroking the boy's hair, she didn't seem to mind it at all. Kriche and Tabitha rounded up our group and they were seated next to each other at the other end of the box. Predictably, Miss Longueville was the cart driver since she was the one who knew where Fouquet was...ironic as it sounded.
"Louise, please..." I muttered to my master as I glanced up and saw Sylphid circling overhead. Aside from myself, the only other familiars that came along were Tabitha's drake and Monmon's frog. Guiche's mole was too big to bring along and Kirche's salamander would have likely burned down the cart with its tail...which was why I tried to insist that we bring along the lizard. Sadly, the creature seemed to still be deathly afraid of me so I was forced to scrap that idea. I also left behind Derf since I felt that the rusted old sword would be useless in a battle against the earth magician. That, and Louise and I discussed our plan in her room which meant that Derf heard everything. I wasn't about to risk having the blade ruin the whole plan because of a slip of the tongue...or steel or whatever. How I wish I could just break out my wings and fly for the rest of the way. Unfortunately, that would ruin part of the plan if I allowed our target to know that I had such an ability.
"Please nothing! I'm not going to have you sit there like a pathetic whelp when we have an important mission to do!" Louise yelled back while making the brim of her hat poke the brim of my straw hat.
"You two have a pretty nice relationship, huh?" Miss Longueville commented from the front of the cart with a giggle. This was the first part of our plan, make sure that she does not suspect anything from us. The woman already knows that I can take on her golem one on one. On top of that, she will need to deal with six other magicians as well, one of whom was a Chevalier...the initial designation for an aspiring magic knight I suppose...and was in command of a flying lizard. She had a plan, a woman that smart had to have a plan. Too bad for her, I've had experience dealing with the shady plans of Yukari, Eirin, Lunarians and the Moriya shrine, so I'm not too worried about it.
"Blasphemy! To think that I would have any kind of 'relationship' with this gardener!" Louise shot back to Osmond's assistant before continuing to use her hat to poke mine.
"Ora…Ora…Ora…Ora…Ora…" She repeated every time she struck my hat with hers. The girl is enjoying this part of the plan far too much, possibly her own form of payback for burning her so much in Mugenkan. The older woman giggled a bit more before glancing at us and up at Sylphid, probably reassessing everyone's threat level to her. Good, what we are looking for is that she believes that Louise and her companions were nothing more than a bunch of meddling kids who were biting off more than they could chew.
"So, how do you all plan to deal with Fouquet once we find him?" The woman asked our group. Louise was the only person I made the plan with so the others didn't know that the thief was a woman. This was a precaution against things like this. Longueville was fishing, both for our plan to apprehend the thief and to find out how much we know about Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt in the first place. Longueville turned to us when no one answered and started blinking when she noticed that we were all looking at each other awkwardly. I saw her lips quirk a bit when she realized that we didn't have a plan of engagement for the thief. Surprisingly, this was the moment when Guiche roused from his slumber. The young man rubbed his eyes to clear his vision before he yawned and turned to Miss Longueville.
"The thief is cunning and skilled, he got around everyone's backs during the evaluation fair even with all the people there not to mention Princess Henrietta's personal guards." Guiche started saying while stifling down another yawn. I nodded at the assessment that the boy made. It seemed like a given in face value, but a lot of people overlooked that fact in the face of the result of the thief's raid.
"And?" The secretary asked, prompting Guiche to continue.
"And, since we are facing an enemy that can outwit royal guards, coming up with our own intricate plan to capture him would be waste of time." The general's son replied, earning surprised looks for everyone except Tabitha and myself. I made a thoughtful sound as I continued to observe Guiche's deduction.
"What do you mean?" Guiche's lover asked the unvoiced question.
"Just as I said, my love. It would be pointless to try to outwit Fouquet so we need to be more...direct with our approach." The blonde explained. Not bad, sir Gramont. Since we had next to no information about Fouquet aside from our previous experience in fighting her and the unhelpful reports from her other hits, there is no possible way to effectively come up with a countermeasure against her...normally. I saw Louise made a sideways glance to me before she raised a brow, I merely shrugged in reply. Whether he realized it or not, Guiche just helped our plan along.
"Direct?" The masquerading thief poked further into Guiche's non-plan. The boy merely shrugged and gave an awkward smile. "Avoid any traps that Fouquet might have in store and hit him with everything we have once he shows himself. Mister Yuka has shown that he can keep Fouquet's impressive earth golem in check so the rest of us can focus on taking down the thief himself." Guiche explained.
"I like that plan. It'll give us a chance to show off our combinations~" Kirche chimed in with a smile while nudging Tabitha, who was focusing on her book. I could appreciate the<<<<<<?????
"I see...I worry about such a plan though." Miss Longueville said in concern like any good member of the teaching staff would. Louise shot her a dry look before quickly looking away. It seemed that my master interpreted the woman's worry a different way since she already knew who the secretary really was.
"I mean, Fouquet is a very experienced thief and supposedly a square-class earth mage as well. Even with Miss Valliere's familiar and the numeric advantage over the thief, it is not wise for a group of students to battle an experienced mage like him." The secretary made her case. If she hadn't been the very thief that we were after, Louise and I would have appreciated the gesture. Sadly, it seemed that the warning came off as more of a threat to my master.
"Regardless..." Louise ground out and getting everyone's attention while trying very hard to keep her cool.
"Fouquet stole something important from the academy, something particularly dangerous if it was called the 'Staff of Destruction'. We all volunteered to go after her and recover the stolen artifact and capture her in front of the headmaster himself. And I really, really, reaaally want to pay her back for almost squishing me with her golem before." Louise said with a nasty edge to her voice. Her wand was already in her hand as she was talking and it was already starting to crackle with magical energy. She'd likely try to blow up Longueville right here if she was pushed a bit further. We can't have that since we are technically playing by the rules. We needed to catch her in the act and recover the stolen object. If Louise killed the woman now, we would not only lose our lead to where the Staff of Destruction could be located, Louise would also be charged with killing part of the teaching staff for no reason. No one would possibly believe that the long-time secretary of Osmond would be the infamous thief with only my nose as the basis for incrimination. That being said, time to change the subject.
"Wouldn't we also have you to help us out, Miss Longueville?" I suddenly said, making my master glare at me while getting the attention of everyone else...particularly the woman in question. I decided that it was my turn to do some fishing. Fouquet already had the item that she wanted and managed to get scott free from any possible pursuers, there was no reason to come back later and resume her cover unless she had something else to steal or she had some unfinished business. The former seemed unlikely since it seemed that the Staff of Destruction was the only real artifact of value that was being kept at the academy. As to why such a thing was being kept in an institution of learning, I'm not too sure. Regardless, there had to be a reason why. What motivated her to stay there even though she should be long gone by now. I had my suspicions about her during our battle but I wanted to be certain about what kind of person she was outside the killing field. Besides, outwitting opponents is fun...especially if they are caught unaware that anything was going on in the first place. "What ever do you mean?" The secretary asked, taking the feigning ignorance route to start.
"I meant that will you not fight alongside the students and protect them from the infamous Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt while I face his massive golem?" I asked with a smile. The rest of our party , sans Louise and Tabitha, seemed to realize this and looked at the woman expectantly. Honestly, I really was looking forward to fighting her again. Her resourcefulness and creativity in using her golem and earth manipulation was the most skilled means of use of this world's magic thus far and I want to see more of it. Whether our rematch will end in her death or not will be up to her own skill and luck. "Sad to say that I might not be of much use in actual combat." Longueville sheepishly admitted, prompting several sighs of disappointment from the group.
"That's too bad, we could use all the help we can get." Monmon said with worry in her voice. The girl was the designated healer of the group since she was the only one who actually excelled at the craft. Of course that meant that she will need to save her energy in case someone got hurt and will not be directly involved in the battle itself. It was easy to read what the girl meant by what she said. She would rather have as much help against the thief as possible rather than have to experience healing her friends from possibly life-threatening injuries.
"I would disagree..." I interjected. Everyone looked at me curiously, sans Tabitha and Louise again, after I made that declaration. Longueville in particular was looking at me with a bit of surprise and worry.
"W-what do you mean?" The woman stuttered but quickly recovered. The second part of the plan is to give her something to mull over, a red herring if you will. Make her worry about something that isn't really there.
"Exactly what I said. I can sense that you are quite the talented magician yourself, Miss Longueville." I said with a smile. The compliment was also a snare, one that the woman in question didn't have to trigger herself in order to work. Tabitha must have gotten wind of what I was doing, or at least wondering why I was being keen on Osmond's secretary, as she put down her book and paid attention to the conversation in earnest.
"You can tell how powerful a mage is?" Kirche asked in keen interest before leaning forward and, possibly on purpose, gave me as good a view of her cleavage as possible without taking off her blouse. Regardless, she managed to trip the snare for me. I suddenly heard a yelp from Guiche and found that Monmon had pinched the boy's hand after he was seemingly mesmerized by the redhead's display.
"In a way. My nature allows me to be able to tell, to a degree, how much raw power a magic wielder has. Unfortunately, it is not as accurate as to be able to tell me their specialization or discipline. I can only tell if someone has talent for magic or if he or she has been using magic." I answered with a shrug, ignoring the minor lovers' spat in front of me. I turned back to Osmond's secretary and smiled, one that she didn't quite return.
"That brings up an interesting question..." I continued, my little trap nearing its completion.
"...what is your element, Miss Longueville?" I asked the woman with an innocent, if curious, smile. The woman tensed a bit at my question as the attention of the entire group was focused on her. Now then, shall we see how she handles this? I glanced at my master, who was looking at me curiously, if a bit tense. She was probably worried that I might exposed the plan prematurely. I just shrugged and patted her hat, she got the message and turned back to our cart driver.
"I guess I can't hide it anymore, huh?" The woman said with a wistful smile. I felt Louise's magical power spike and her body tense up. I quickly grabbed her wrist and gave her a sidewards glance. The girl gave me an incredulous look but I merely narrowed my eyes at her. There was something strange about the way she said those words...something unexpected. I couldn't feel any hostility from her at all.
"Yes, I am a mage...an earth mage." The woman who became an infamous thief admitted so easily to the very people who were trying to catch her. Was this some sort of counter-ploy? Did she see through my words? Was she expecting this all along and just waiting for the proper opportunity?
"An earth mage?" Guiche suddenly perked up when he heard that the beautiful secretary of the headmaster had the same element as he did. He quickly realized that being so happy about that sort of thing tended to go sourly if you have your jealous girlfriend sitting right next to you.
"Does that mean you can help us against Fouquet? You are a noble after all." Monmon pointed out as she unleashed the slimy fury of her familiar all over Guiche's face and hair. To Monmon's words, the secretary gave a bitter laugh before focusing her attention to the road.
"I am no noble..." She said sadly, with a hint of an edge. This was certainly unexpected...
"Let me tell you a story..." Longueville continued due to the lack of words from anyone else.
"There was once a duke who had two daughters from two different women. His wife had his mistress exiled from their lands and was forced to live in the forest. This did not stop the duke from seeing her mistress and her illegitimate daughter along with her other daughter. In fact, her two daughters got along extremely well, clearly not caring about their status and were only interested in being sisters." The woman said in a melancholic voice. It was painfully obvious that the story was about her and not something that was picked up from a bookshelf. Although, which daughter she was, I did not know. I felt Louise's magical power taper down as she started to calm herself after Longueville started her story.
"As the years went by, the legitimate daughter of the duke grew up into a young woman. The king of their land fancied her and decided to have her marry his son, the prince. The young woman, daughter of the duke, declined on the grounds that she did not love the prince and thus nothing would ever come from such a union. The prince understood her words and accepted her rejection with the grace befitting of a future ruler. The fact that the prince already had someone in mind as her future queen might have had something to do with that. The king on the other hand..." Longueville continued, her eyes glued to the road ahead. The rest of the party was silent as they listened to the story. I already surmised that the ending will not be nice considering how the woman telling it turned out.
"The king retaliated for the young woman's rejection. The monarch declared the entire family of the girl as traitors to the crown simply because his son was rejected...because he was rejected." The woman said with more force than I have ever heard her speak before.
"The king ordered the entire family of the duke to be slaughtered like the treacherous dogs that they were. The young woman never knew if the prince that was so kind to her ever tried to stop his father because she was too busy watching her family be cut down before her." Longueville paused for several moments after that, probably trying to calm down and gather her thoughts. It also gave the rest of us time to allow the story to truly sink in. I glanced around and saw that everyone had adopted pitying expressions. Even Tabitha lowered her head to the point where I was no longer able to see her eyes because of her hair. I glanced at my master and saw that she had a very conflicted expression, understandable considering the story was being told was and the fact that we already knew the other half of it. The older woman took a deep breath, getting everyone's attention again, before continuing.
"Salvation came in the form of a half-sister that the young woman had not seen in years. She helped her beloved sister escape from the hell that was once her home and allowed her to stay with her. It was then that the young woman found out that her half-sister's mother passed away years ago, leaving her sister alone. The whole thing finally caught up to the young woman and she finally broke down in the arms of the only family she had left in the world. Years passed and the two women eventually started an orphanage to shelter children that were orphaned during conflicts or because of the whims of the king. The young woman grew up but never forgot what happened to her family. She swore that if that was what the greatest of the nobility was like, that she would never consider herself as one of them ever again." The infamous thief said before taking a few more breaths.
"So no...I am not a noble, Miss Montmorency." Longueville said as she turned back to us with a sad smile. I took another glance around and saw that Kirche and Guiche had solemn expressions while Monmon had an expression of shock and realization. The quickly turned to me and looked at me with pleading eyes. I curtly shook my head, it was not yet time. I looked at Tabitha and found that she was back to reading her book. The only difference was her eyes were colder than little Cirno's Perfect Freeze. I glanced at my master and saw that she had her head down, her hat preventing me from seeing her expression. It seemed that I will need to rethink my means of apprehending the thief depending on how my master took her story. I started revising our plan in my mind as the rest of the trip continued in silence.
"Well?" I asked Tabitha as we stood before a nondescript shack at the edge of a clearing. According to 'Miss Longueville', this was where Fouquet was last seen. The secretary excused herself from our group to be able to lead the horses to a stream so they could drink and rest. Obviously she was preparing whatever she had originally planned for us once we got here. Although, I wondered if her little story was part of her plan or simply a lucky break thanks to Monmon. Speaking of, as soon as Longueville was out of sight, Monmon pulled my master a good distance away from us. She told Guiche and Kirche that she was going to consult Louise about an idea to apprehend the thief. It was easy to figure out that the blonde has already realized who Fouquet really was and was probably going to tell Louise about it. I had asked the remaining two members of our group to remain on lookout while Tabitha and I investigated the shack, Sylphid providing overwatch from the skies just in case.
"Empty." The blue-haired girl replied after she waved her staff in front of the shack, probably scanning it for life forms. I nodded to her before making sure that my straw hat was securely in place. I casually walked up to the front door, hefted my closed parasol on my right shoulder, before kicking the door down. Well, I actually kicked the door all the way to the other end of the house, but still. I waited for the dust that got kicked up from my sudden intrusion to settle down before scanning the residence. Aside from several dusty old furnitures, there was nothing particularly interesting inside. I was about to enter when I noticed that Tabitha did not move from her spot. I turned back to her and saw that she was looking at me intently. I smiled at the sharp girl before gesturing for her to follow me inside. The girl nodded and followed me in the premises to begin our investigation.
"Farce." Tabitha quickly stated as soon as she got to the middle of the shack. I couldn't help but chuckle at how direct the girl was sometimes. I turned to her after poking at a crate with my parasol for extra gold and saw that she was simply staring at me with the same cold intensity that I saw on the wagon after Longueville's story.
"I was wondering when you'd catch on." I simply stated as I walked over to the empty fireplace. I heard footsteps as Tabitha walked up behind me.
"Capture or kill?" Straight to the point as always. I was impressed at the fact that she asked such a thing without any hesitation, definitely more to this girl than meets the eye.
"It will be Louise's call. She already knows the truth and I will follow my master's wish, whatever it will be." I clearly stated as I stared at a box that seemed newer than the rest. "Irresponsible." The girl accused in a icy tone.
"I never said that I was..." I replied with a sly grin, making my companion narrow her eyes at me. I opened the suspicious box and found something wrapped in thick cloth. I lifted the object and found that it seemed to be a large metal tube. I raised a brow at the strange foci. I knew that the magic system in this world allowed for more...creative means of focusing spells but...
"Problem." Tabitha quickly stated as she turned back to the entrance. As soon as she did, a large boulder landed outside the door frame, seemingly trapping us inside.
"Yuka!" I heard my master call out to me from outside. It seemed that Fouquet has given her answer. I quickly grabbed Tabitha by the waist before walking up to the empty fireplace. I raised my right foot and kicked the stone fixture free from the rest of the house...along with the chimney. I walked out the the shack, parasol and Staff of Destruction in one hand and the little magician girl in the other. A moment later, a massive granite fist smashed into the shack from above. Too slow...something is wrong.
"Different." Tabitha said while pointing her staff at the golem that attacked us. I looked to where she was pointing and saw why. The size of the construct was still the same hundred feet. The difference came that it looked...armored. The shoulders, the joints, the hands, and the feet were all covered in tough spiked granite while the rest of it was made up of the same heavy earth that I fought against in the academy.
"Fireball!" The declaration of the spell alerted me to Kirche and Guiche who were running to where Louise and Monmon were. The ball of fire struck the back of the golem but was completely ineffective. This had become complicated, we'll need to improvise. Louise is required for us to execute the plan but having Tabitha's ice magic with us should be advantageous.
Kirche's fire magic is next to useless against the reinforced construct. Guiche's golems would normally be a good distraction but Fouqet is no fool to fall for such ploys. Monmon is our healer so no need for her to be on the front lines either.
"Take this..." I gave the Staff of Destruction to Tabitha, which the girl nearly stumbled after receiving.
"I'll take care of the golem. Have Kirche, Guiche, and Monmon take to the skies on Sylphid, give the Staff of Destruction to one of them before they take flight. I'll need you and Louise down here in case Fouquet shows herself." I stated the current plan to deal with the golem to the quiet girl.
"Kill or capture?" Tabitha asked me.
"It will be my master's call..." Was all I said before I charged at the golem with my parasol in hand. The woman of the hour has yet to show herself, probably manipulating the construct from a safe distance. Again, I was impressed at the amount of control she has over her magic if she could manage something like that. I had a feeling that this will be a fun fight. The construct took the first move by trying to crush me with a granite fist. I could finish the whole fight right here with a single master spark but...something...is nagging at the back of my mind again. Very strange. I would normally not hesitate to finish off an opponent once the opportunity arose. We were at an open field with no chance for me to hit any of the children with a spark. So why? Why is it that I felt like I shouldn't do that?
I contemplated the odd feeling as I met the granite fist with the tip of my parasol. I felt my feet sink into the ground as the fist did not shatter after I struck it, the new golem seemed to be much more robust than its predecessor. Possibly because this one was specifically made for combat and the previous one was not. I pushed my parasol deeper into the rock and was surprised when the entire fist exploded into razor sharp shards of granite. I squinted and used my arms to cover my eyes to protect them from shrapnel. That was a mistake as I quickly felt the golem's left fist hit me on the side. The force sent me flying several yards until I landed on the ground and rolled a few more feet before stopping. I stood back up and casually dusted myself off as I saw Sylphid take to the skies with Kirche, Guiche, and Monmon. Guiche was clutching the still-wrapped Staff of Destruction like it was made of gold. Good, that's four less things to worry about.
The all too familiar sound of ice striking snapped me from my thoughts. Tabitha was firing icicles at the golem's feet. However, instead of trying to destroy the construct, the Chevalier decided to use her magic to immobilize it instead. She must have known that direct attacks with ice against an improved version of the golem that shrugged off her icicles before would not work. Smart girl. Louise was standing behind Tabitha, wand in hand, while muttering something with her eyes closed. Good, my master is getting our surprise ready. I used my left hand to crack some bones in my neck before I started to advance toward the trapped golem. Unfortunately, the word trapped was only good for another three seconds. Massive earth stalagmites erupted from within the sheets of ice that covered the golem's feet, freeing the construct. The golem then turned to where Tabitha and Louise were and started advancing, its massive granite hands reforming into sharp stone claws. I was about to rush toward the golem when it did something I never expected.
The construct stopped and flexed its new appendages in full view of the two girls. Was it trying to...intimidate them? Both girls got the message and started running in opposite directions, probably Tabitha's idea. I made sure to take a mental note about the golem's behavior before rushing toward it. Almost as if it had eyes at the back of its head, the construct turned around and swung its right clawed hand at me. The wall of blades closed in and I met them with a backhanded swing of my parasol. The sharpened stones probably would have been very effective at slashing regular enemies to ribbons...but my parasol was not exactly a regular object. My trusted partner smashed through the stone like they were made of thin glass. My foe followed up by swinging its other clawed hand at me. I jumped clear of it and prepared to smash it as well when the golem's head suddenly tilted upward. The boulder that served as the golem's head suddenly opened up something that was probably its jaw before it started firing stone spikes into the sky...right toward the patch of sky where Slyphid was flying in.
"Hmmm..." I grumbled as I finished off the other clawed hand before I threw my parasol at the golem's head like a javelin. The force was enough to completely destroy the head but it was already too late. The spikes that were fired were not meant to hit the blue drake, only to spook it and its riders...and it worked. Guiche, being the strange kind of gentleman that he was, quickly wrapped his arms around his lover in a gesture to protect her from the oncoming attack. Unfortunately, those were the same hands that he was using to hold onto the Staff of Destruction. The cloth-wrapped artifact fell to the ground some distance in front of Louise.
Good, my master can secure it.
That was my line of thought when I saw the pink-haired girl run toward the object. I had already turned back to the golem for another round when I finally realized that we were seemingly outmaneuvered. I looked up at the giant made of stone and earth as it slowly reformed its head and hands, much slower than before. That was the indication that this little encounter is about to end...
"That...is as far...as this goes..." The ragged and tired feminine voice said from behind me. I turned and saw that the hooded and cloaked 'Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt' was currently holding my master from behind while pointing her wand to the right side of her head, my master's hat proving little protection from what might happen if the thief decided to kill her. If she decided to kill her...
I took the sudden pause in the excitement to assess the current situation. Fouquet's newly reformed golem was towering behind me. My parasol was thrown a good distance away so I did not have my main weapon. Tabitha was too far away from us to be able to cast a spell that would help Louise in time. Everyone else was still on the blue drake's back in the air.
Kirche's fire spells are nowhere near accurate enough to pick off Fouquet without hitting Louise as well. Guiche's golems were also useless in a hostage situation. I did notice that Monmon was already readying her healing agents in case the endgame did not end as we had hoped. Lastly, the woman had my master hostage and the Staff of Destruction was right at her feet. Well played magician. Well played...
"Here...is what...is going to happen..." 'Fouquet' started to say in a tired voice, probably running very low on magical energy after maintaining that combat golem for so long. I glanced at my master for a moment and smiled. She had her head tilted down, her hat covering her eyes again, but her lips were still moving. Good.
"Why...are you...smiling?" Fouquet asked with a rather upset voice. I found out how upset when the golem behind me took a step forward and smashed its fist down on me. I found myself lying on my face on the ground. What struck me as odd was that the strike did not hurt as much as it did before. Was it because the thief was starting to run out of power? The fist lifted itself from me and I waited a few moments before stood back up and once again dusted myself off.
"I was simply admiring your prowess at magic and at the art of manipulation." I honestly stated to the thief. Everyone else was at a standstill aside from Sylphid and Monmon, who was having Guiche hang on to a few jars filled with liquid of various colors. Tabitha was probably waiting for an opening to free Louise. I could even see Kirche biting her nail and angrily glaring at Fouquet.
"Although..." I continued as I looked back to the cloaked figure that was currently 'holding my master hostage' as said master was still quietly muttering something.
"I have noticed a few things that simply didn't seem to add up..." I stated as I folded my arms and leaned back. This had something to do with the nagging feeling I was having. Something was not as it seemed and I wanted to know what and why before I acted.
"Sure, an infamous thief would normally try to steal high-profile targets despite the risks involved." I stated with a bit more edge than I intended since I inadvertently recalled how Marisa stole my precious thing so very long ago.
"However, stealing something as dangerous as the Staff of Destruction, an artifact that could potentially cause countless deaths of soldiers and innocents alike, just didn't seem to fit the style of thievery from a former daughter of a duke who had to watch her entire family die in front of her because of something as trivial as an arranged engagement gone wrong. Especially if she was stealing in order to maintain an orphanage that was being managed by her half-sister, which obviously was not a profitable endeavor." I continued my reasoning. I saw the cloaked woman bite her bottom lip and hold my master closer. Louise did not react to the sudden force and simply continued her part.
"That is definitely not the kind of thievery I would expect from the secretary of the Headmaster of Tristain's Magic Academy." I simply stated. At this point, the only ones in our group that didn't know Fouquet's real identity was Guiche and Kirche. Predictably, I heard the faint sound of them gasping in the air before Monmon yelled at the blonde boy to be quiet. I saw a faint smile from Fouquet before she finally removed her wand from my master's head and used it to remove her hood. "Strong, practically indestructible, and smart. Just what kind of familiar are you?" Longueville asked me. Her glasses her gone and she had her hair down. Minor changes when you think about it but they were enough to give the impression that this was a different woman. To her question though, I decided to take a page from one Fujiwara no Mokou.
"I'm just a gardening nut who was summoned by that young woman that you are currently holding hostage." I stated and Fouquet simply chuckled before pointing the tip of her wand back to the side of Louise's head. Her smile faltered for a moment when she noticed the lack of reaction from me and Louise.
"Back on topic...what I don't understand is that why are you doing something like stealing an ancient destructive artifact when there are far easier marks. It was either that you were commissioned by someone to steal it for a price...or..." I narrowed my eyes at the woman before me.
"...someone is forcing you to steal it. Something along the lines of threatening you half-sister and your orphanage if you did not comply?" I postulated to Fouquet who shook her head slowly and gave me a sad smile.
"And what if it was the latter? What would you do if I was told to steal the Staff of Destruction or die trying? Would you try to go after the one who threatened me that my sister and the children in the orphanage would meet the same fate as my family did long ago? Would you try to be the hero for the tragic heroine who was forced to the life of crime simply to be able to feed several orphans?" She asked me, seemingly recovering from her fatigue somewhat. It seemed that the latter was the case. Someone was blackmailing Fouquet to steal the artifact and she needs to be either successful or dead for her sister and orphans to be safe. That seemed easy enough.
"No, I couldn't care less about you or your circumstances." I flatly stated with a smile, making Fouquet scowl at me.
"You also misunderstand something..." I continued with a more sinister smile.
"You assume that we are at a disadvantageous situation. You have to understand, you're not the only one who can spring a trap." I grinned as two giant piranha plants erupted from the ground on either side of Fouquet's golem before they used their jaws to hold the construct's legs in place. Louise stopped her silent mumbling and raised her head, along with her wand which Fouquet conveniently forgot to take off her because of all the excitement.
"Explosion!" My master yelled as she pointed her wand right at me. Louise was able to declare the spell as soon as she raised her wand because she was chanting the incantation silently ever since we got to this clearing. She was our trump card in defeating the golem, not me...not than I couldn't defeat the golem on my own mind you. Normally, being right in the path of an offensive spell would mean that you would be the one to get hit by it. However, Louise's explosions do not travel at a straight line. Louise simply picks a target and points and the concussive blast will hit it, bypassing anything else in its way. Of course, that is if it hits the target. I had to repress a sigh as my master's spell went wide to the right and high, detonating just above the golem's left shoulder. Thankfully, her extended incantations gave the spell enough of a power boost to obliterate a good third of the golem.
"Tch!" Fouquet pushed Louise aside and picked up the Staff of Destruction as soon as she saw Tabitha start her own incantation. She tried to buy time for herself by using what's left of her golem to fire volleys of stone spikes at my master and at Sylphid. I circumvented this my growing my wings and flying in between the spikes and Tabitha's drake. I swatted the spikes away with little effort and turned to the three passengers of the drake.
"What are you doing? What about Louise?" Monmon yelled at me almost hysterically. I pointed down to where Louise was and they all saw that she was doing fine. My master easily managed to dodge the spikes that were fired at her and was looking up at me with her mouth agape, probably surprised at what she had just been able to do. I called forth two more giant piranha plants and they went to work in tearing Fouquet's golem apart. As for the woman herself...
"So..." I said after I landed in front of my master who had recovered from her earlier surprise.
"So..." Louise repeated, putting up a front of dignity and courage. I smiled at her before patting her head.
"Well done, master." I stated as Sylphid landed some distance away.
"Louise! Are you alright?" Monmon yelled out as she and the rest of the group ran toward us. I turned back to Louise with my expression serious.
"How do you want to deal with Fouquet?" I asked her just as everyone else arrived. My master considered the question for a few moments before shrugging and giving me a smirk.
"Assist Miss Longueville in killing Fouquet." She said, earning a collective 'what' from the others except Tabitha. "Would that be an acceptable course of action?" I asked the blue haired girl. She nodded before walking in the direction where I threw my parasol to.
"Wait, what are you all talking about? Fouquet and Miss Longueville are the same person!" Guiche said in complete confusion. "I don't know what you are talking about. Fouquet sprung a trap and we were barely able to hold him and his golem back. It was due to the effort of Miss Longueville that we were able to win and take down the infamous Crumbling Dirt." I stated to the group before returning Louise's smirk.
"Wait...you planned all of this?" Monmon finally asked when she realized what we meant by that.
"Yes, I had known her true identity ever since the meeting at the headmaster's office. I talked to Louise about it and we decided that there was more to Fouquet than meets the eye." I explained.
"...explain." Kirche followed up.
"First of all, she never really tried to harm anyone." Louise answered the Germanian's question. "All the attacks she made on us back during the fair and here were all calculated to make sure that no one really got hurt." My master added with a smile.
"What do you mean by that? She has explicitly targeted us with her attacks and even struck Mister Yuka several times." Guiche reasoned.
"She only had her golem strike and hit me because she knew that I could take it. She targeted Louise and the rest of you because she knew that you could either avoid it or that I would be there to protect you. Note that she even went so far as to intimidate Louise and Tabitha into running before." I pointed out.
"So...she's not that bad. But she's still a thief!" Monmon firmly stated.
"But not by choice." Kirche muttered from behind the blonde. Monmon looked conflicted for a moment before Guiche took her hand and gave her a soft smile.
"I may not understand what Louise and Mister Yuka are really planning...but if it is something that would help Miss Longueville and those orphans then..." Guiche didn't get to finish before Monmon finally nodded.
"Now that we are all in agreement..." I stated, flexing my wings and ignoring Kirche's squeeing at the action.
"...I have a thief to kill." I said before taking to the skies and flying to where Fouquet ran off too.
"I continue to be impressed by you, human." I stated from within the shadows before emerging from the trees, making Fouquet turn around and point the staff of destruction at me.
"Stay back!" The woman shrieked at me as she waved the artifact at me. I raised at brow at the now unwrapped object. It was a bland green colored metal tube that looked very familiar. I made a thoughtful noise when I finally realized what it was. "Ooohh..." I said while nodding to myself. Honestly, it was a very long time since I've seen one of those 'Rawket Lawnchairs' that the kappa made to shoot down the Lunarian ships during that incident. Considering their effects, I can imagine why someone would consider such a thing as a Staff of Destruction. I was wondering how such an object could have made it to this world when I noticed that the panicked woman who was in possession of the artifact was slowly backing away from me.
"Either steal the Staff of Destruction or die trying. Those were the conditions that your employers made to spare your precious sister and orphanage, correct?" I asked her, making the woman flinch.
"I thought you didn't care about me or my circumstance?" Fouquet asked with fear in her voice.
"I don't. My master on the other hand seems sympathetic to your situation, as are her companions." I clarified before folding my arms and leaning back.
"W-w-what do you mean?" The woman asked me, biting back tears.
"I have an offer than you can't refuse." I stated with a warm smile.
When Louise slept, she once again found herself inside Mugenkan. She sighed and looked around, it seemed that Yuka still isn't here yet. They had camped at the very clearing where the final battle against Fouquet took place. Her familiar had managed to recover both the Staff of Destruction and Miss Longueville. The arrangement was that Miss Longueville will take credit for slaying Fouquet, along with the reward that came with it. Of course, such an event would be behind closed doors to prevent the people that put the woman in that position in the first place to find out what really happened and retaliate against her. In addition, she will stop all thievery from now on and instead will focus on becoming Louise's private tutor and help her uncover just what kind of magic she really had. The woman started laughing when she noticed that her teaching self killing her thieving self was more than symbolic.
After she had finally calmed down and accepted our terms, she revealed her true name. It was Mathilda of Albion. Everyone, including herself gasped at the revelation after they all connected the dots. It was decided that she would use that name from now on to prevent anyone from noticing who she really was. Along with that, she will get a haircut and makeover care of Monmon and Kirche to complete the disguise.
It had been a crazy day with way too much happening, but Louise was happy on how it turned out. They managed to recover the stolen artifact, the Rawket Lawnchair as Yuka put it, defeated the legendary Fouquet of the Crumbling Dirt, and Louise gained a square class earth mage as a private teacher. Best of all? No one died. Louise was still basking in their accomplishments when she suddenly heard the sound of something tearing.
"Hmmm? Who are you?" She heard a mature feminine voice ask from behind her. Louise turned around and saw a woman who was probably the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Long blonde hair lined with ribbons and wearing a stylish purple dress. Louise would have sworn that she was looking at a goddess if it wasn't for the fact that this woman was leaning out of a gap in the mid-air that had countless purple eyes on the other side.
"Wh-wh-wh-wh-" Louise stuttered out as the woman in question gave her a sly smile.
"Why hello there~"