Koakuma still had her doubts, but Meiling had done her best to alleviate them. Whoever this Malus Umbravi really was, surely the combined efforts of Sakuya and the fairy maids would be able to free Patchouli from this possession. During the Scarlet Mist Incident Sakuya had proved to all of Gensokyo that she was much more than an elegant maid. She was fast, deadly, precise, and a stern tactician. Her skill with knives was legendary, and her sway over the fairy maids, her subordinates, was enough to make would-be thieves and marauders think twice about snooping around the Scarlet Devil Mansion.
The maid was just the right person for the job. Koakuma almost found herself smiling and placed her confidence in the maid just as Meiling did. The little devil rubbed her bandaged arms and followed the guardswoman down the halls of the mansion. She craned her neck to look around for a few fairy maids, but it appeared that all of them were with Sakuya. Given that there were around a couple dozen or so of the little fairies, it was strange and even concerning to see them absent from the halls. Perhaps... Perhaps the situation really was dire despite Meiling's optimism claiming otherwise.
Soft humming and sipping could be heard near the doors to the library. Koakuma and Meiling turned a corner and looked over at Remilia Scarlet sitting back in a chair with a cup of tea in her hands. The vampire stared at the doors and the furniture piled up next to it for some time before she noticed the two workers. Sakuya must have moved the furniture from the door and used that entrance to get into the library, but not before making sure that her mistress was comfortable. That, or Remilia was complacent in her belief that Sakuya was powerful enough to combat a foe she was unaware of.
Regardless, seeing Remilia lounging around with a cup of tea when there was an incident did not bode well with Koakuma. Her smile faded and her eyes narrowed in anger, but she didn't dare to call out the mistress of the mansion for her complacency.
"Ah! And there's our most recent patient!" Remilia said with a smile as she lifted her cup of tea in greeting. "How are you doing? Sakuya said that you looked positively ruined when she found you."
"I'm doing better, Lady Remilia," Koakuma said, her pleasant tone forced.
"Practically jumped out of bed just to see how things were going!" Meiling chirped.
Remilia chuckled at that and took another long sip from her tea. The mansion was quiet at that time. There wasn't much activity there at this time of day other than what was going on near the library doors. Koakuma could only assume that the library was now host to a variety of noises, but when she went to press her ear up against the doors, she couldn't hear a thing. While the library was large enough to fit a second mansion within, sound did not do a good job of carrying itself amongst the aisles upon aisles of bookshelves. Silence was appreciated, but now it was unnerving.
"I wouldn't go in there if I were you, devil," Remilia said.
"You sent Sakuya in there with all the fairy maids, I know. Meiling told me."
"Yes, but don't worry. Sakuya is more than capable of carrying out her task. I have every bit of confidence that she'll be able to restrain Patchouli until she comes to her senses."
"Lady Remilia, I'm afraid you don't understand what's going on," said Koakuma as she moved away from the door and to the lounging vampire. She barely rose above the temptation to ball her hands into fists. "This is very, very serious!"
The cerulean-haired vampire scowled and got up from her seat. She chugged down her tea and deposited the empty cup on a nearby silver tray before standing before Koakuma. Though she was shorter than anyone else at the mansion, Remilia stood tall and held the authority. Meiling raised her hands in defense and looked on at the two devils with nervousness written on her face. Even the servants knew not to question Remilia's authority, but today was a dire day, and Koakuma would have none of it.
"Are you implying that I'm not taking this seriously?" Remilia challenged. One of her fangs glimmered in her scowl. "I know exactly what is going on, little devil. You wouldn't know, but this has happened before."
Koakuma raised her eyebrows and took a step back. She gulped and rubbed her arm in embarrassment as she gave the mistress of the mansion the benefit of the doubt. Just as she was about to apologize for overstepping her bounds, Remilia kept on talking.
"For as long as I've known Patchouli, I've known that she has a tendency to get into dangerous situations. Most of the time she escapes without a scratch, but sometimes she gets over her head and suffers from a curse, a foreign illness, a loss of mana or whatever." Remilia folded her arms across her chest and turned to the side with a scoff of disgust. "But what Patchouli is suffering from now is more serious than anything else she faced before. I've seen this behavior firsthand, little devil, so do not accuse me of not taking this seriously."
"B-but... You were sitting by wh-"
"While Sakuya does the hard work herself with the maids? Yes, so I am. I am entrusting Patchouli to Sakuya so she'll be able to attend to her should this happen again in the future." Remilia returned to her seat and softened her gaze when she looked up at Koakuma. "Normally, you would deal with this as you are her familiar, but she obviously attacked you and rendered you unconscious for the time being. My condolences, and I'll forgive you for your outburst as you are without a doubt woozy from the bloodloss." Koakuma bowed her head at this. "All we can do is sit and wait as this vile ailment is driven out of her body. And besides, I gave Sakuya the cure, so Patchouli will be fine in a week or so."
It was wrong to doubt Remilia, Koakuma realized. Despite all that she went through when she dealt with Malus, including the possession of Patchouli, the destruction of a few areas of the library, and the harm she caused, Koakuma's experience was insignificant compared to Remilia's over the years. This was her mistress's greatest and most trusted friend, and Voile was within her own personal domain. If it was within the Scarlet Devil Mansion, Remilia Scarlet, the manipulator of fate, was certain to know about it. She knew about the possession, the destruction, and more importantly, she knew who Malus Umbravi was.
At last, things seemed to be looking up after all that had gone wrong so far.
"With Sakuya-san and the fairies on the case, Lady Patchouli will be A-OK in no time!" Meiling chirped as she pumped her fists in earnest.
Koakuma smiled at this and was about to share in the guard's optimism when she suddenly lowered her brow in confusion and turned to Remilia.
"Wait a minute... Did you say that... that there's a cure?"
"Yes, I did. Patchouli made it herself and gave it to me just in case this happened again."
"Oh, so it's a potion?" Meiling asked. Remilia nodded. "That's amazing! A liquid cure for possession!"
Remilia glared at Meiling.
"Possession? What in oblivion are you-"
A loud crack echoed throughout the hallway as the doors to the library swung open. Meiling, who was unfortunate enough to be standing right in front of the doors, was slammed to the ground as the doors smacked into her body. The succubus and vampire both looked up and gasped as a lithe and familiar figure stood in the doorway with cold, dead red eyes. It scoured the room in a sort of trance before settling on Meiling's downed form. As if on instinct, the figure leapt on top of the guard and raised its arms to maul her, all the while unleashing a sickening screech.
Meiling raised her arms and defended herself as best as she could in her downed position. She was no longer smiling, and how could she when she had an unknown combatant on top of her? She screamed in terror and slipped her knees under the strange figure to push up and launch it away from her with her powerful legs. To her dismay, the figure bounced off of the wall and launched itself right back at Meiling as if the blow was like the bite of a flea. Koakuma reached out to try and assist the guardswoman, but before she could get to the figure she noticed a familiar flash of steel fly into sight and hit home.
The screeching stopped as the figure slumped over onto the hallway floor with a knife embedded in the back of its skull.
"Meiling!" Koakuma cried. She rushed over to the battered redhead and looked her over for any wounds. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah! Yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine!" Meiling babbled. She sat up and ran her hands over her body to check for anything abnormal. "What just happened?"
During all the confusion nobody noticed that the doors to the library had closed shut. It wasn't until the three residents heard the echoes of screeching and clawing at wood did they turn their heads and look to the doors. Bracing against the door with her arms outstretched was Sakuya Izayoi, the elegant maid herself. Either she had failed the task Remilia had given her or things had gone terribly wrong for her as her uniform was singed and cut in many places, and Sakuya looked anything but happy. Fresh cuts dotted her body and allowed droplets of blood to mar her otherwise impeccable uniform. Her silver hair was disheveled, her ruffled headband of authority was missing, and a dagger was clenched tightly between her teeth.
Sakuya held strong against the door and managed to keep it secure even as the handles jabbed into her back with every bump and bash. Something was behind those doors, and Sakuya didn't want to let them into the main part of the mansion. She looked up to the three residents gathered with pleading eyes. It was Koakuma who jumped to her feet first. The little devil moved to brace one side of the doors while Sakuya moved to the other. The two grunted and did what they could to keep the doors closed, but with all the force on the other side, they were not going to last very long.
Remilia, who had been struck with terror at the incident, managed to compose herself just enough to make a difference. She looked to the chair that she had sat upon and ripped out a leg without hesitation. Though it was vintage and such a lovely addition to the mansion, the chair's wellbeing came second to the residents' own. She tossed the leg to Meiling and ripped out another as the guard dashed to the doors and jammed the chair leg through the handles. Both Sakuya and Koakuma looked on in relief and backed away from the doors, for the leg was holding firm against the force behind those doors.
In time, the pounding and screeching died out and the doors no longer rattled.
"S-Sakuya-san," Meiling started as she noticed the maid's singed look. "Are you-"
"No, actually. I am not okay," Sakuya muttered after she took the knife out from between her teeth. She stood up straight and dusted off her uniform as if there wasn't any blood to be seen. "It turns out that the worst thing that could have happened, happened."
The maid twirled her knife around her fingers for a moment before sliding it onto a holster attached to her thigh. Everyone began to bombard her with questions, but Sakuya did not reply to any of them. Instead, she looked to the familiar figure on the ground with a knife in the back of its skull and moved to retrieve her weapon. She examined the torn wings, the tattered uniform, and the short stature of a once-living fairy maid before turning the poor creature over. Koakuma covered her mouth as she looked upon the face of the dead fairy maid.
Whereas all of the fairy maids of the Scarlet Devil Mansion were young and attractive with bright eyes, the dead maid before the group had pale skin and cold, dead red eyes. A fresh streak of blood ran down her chin from her lips while everyone gathered could see distorted veins underneath the skin. Oh yes, it was certain that she was dead, but it appeared that she had been dead for quite some time. Sakuya bowed her head in respect as Meiling and Koakuma floundered about for answers. Remilia moved over to see the body for herself, and when she realized what the fairy maid's fate was, she looked up at Sakuya with uncertainty.
"This maid... She was a zombie! Sakuya, tell me what happened!" Remilia demanded. "Is Patchouli alright?"
"Mistress, forgive me for this, but Lady Patchouli is not suffering from mercury poisoning. She is no longer herself." Sakuya massaged a bruised arm as she continued. "Something has taken ahold of her."
As Meiling busied herself with bandaging up Sakuya's cuts, Koakuma glared over at Remilia.
"Mercury poisoning? Is that what you thought?" the little devil barked. She grasped Remilia by the front of her blouse and shook her. "Lady Remilia, for goodness sake! You lead me to believe that you knew what was going on! She's possessed, not poisoned!"
"Agh! Unhand me!"
But Koakuma did not listen. She did, however, let up on her shaking, but only to fix the vampire with a betrayed scowl. No, Remilia couldn't have been aware of the possession, but she made the situation worse in her ignorance. She should have waited for Koakuma to wake before sending Sakuya out with her fairies. In doing so, the residents would be better prepared to tackle whatever this Malus character had to throw at them.
"You don't understand anything that's going on!" Koakuma continued.
"Koakuma, please unhand my mistress," Sakuya requested. She made her way over to the two devils as a roll of gauze trailed after her with Meiling scrambling to collect it. "Neither of us could have known that she was possessed. My mistress assumed it was mercury poisoning and we acted accordingly."
"You could have waited for me to come to!"
"Could you just calm down? Please?" Remilia begged with a frightened squeak. "Okay! I screwed up! I'm sorry! B-but I really did think it was mercury poisoning!"
Mercury poisoning was rare for many normal beings, but for Patchouli Knowledge it was quite common. Many of her metal-based spells involved the use of mercury, especially when the spell combined the elements of water and metal. They were dangerous spells and caused near-fatal amounts of harm to the caster if they weren't careful. Koakuma, despite her anger towards Remilia, understood her reasoning for acting so quickly and loosened her grip on her dress.
"You may be Lady Patchouli's most trusted friend, but I am her familiar, and this involves me just as much as it does you," Koakuma growled.
Remilia recoiled from Koakuma and brushed off her dress with a huff.
"I understand that. I also understand that things are more dire than just poisoning now. Possession... Well, that's a big problem," Remilia muttered. "Sakuya? Could you tell us what happened when you went in there?"
The elegant maid folded her hands across a silver platter and held it against her body, hellbent on appearing professional or composed despite her wounds and dirty uniform. Sakuya spared a glance over at the dead fairy on the ground and noticed that Meiling was busy tending to the body. Though fairy maids were expendable, each death was felt amongst the residents of the mansion. To be turned into an undead abomination and be denied a good death was something vile. After a moment of hesitation and building self-confidence, the maid nodded and turned back to her mistress.
"I will tell you what I can, mistress. The fairy maids and I moved into the library and found Lady Patchouli at her desk, and she was showing the symptoms of poisoning. Hunched posture, convulsions, hacking and coughing... The list goes on. When I attempted to converse with her, she was unresponsive." Sakuya glanced over at Koakuma and gave her a nod of sympathy before turning back to Remilia. "Just as you instructed me to do so, I ordered the fairies to restrain Lady Patchouli. As I approached her with the cure brew, she gave me this odd look, and it was only until this dark mist wrapped around her did I realize that this was not a mere poisoning.
"She used a strange kind of magic to push the fairies away from her and attacked me. I had no choice but to defend myself. She tore up floorboards and destroyed bookshelves trying to harm me. Lady Patchouli, even when at her worst, would never destroy her own library in the crossfire," Sakuya stated. She looked over at the dead fairy on the ground and closed her eyes. "After a few minutes of fighting, the fairy maids were all dead by Lady Patchouli's hand. She raised them from the dead like... like a necromancer would, and soon they turned against me. I was outnumbered twenty-five to one. Mistress, I was fortunate to escape with my life."
Remilia nodded and listened to every word, as did Koakuma and Meiling. For Koakuma, the story wasn't anything new to her, for she had been caught off guard by Malus just as Sakuya had. However, she did not know that necromancy was now thrown into the picture. In the eyes of many, necromancy was a dark art not because it reanimated dead bodies but because it disrespected their eternal slumber. Koakuma wondered if this was Malus's plan, to build herself an army of faithful, undead minions from the bodies of her fallen enemies. But an army was useless without a cause to fight for, so there had to be much more at stake.
When Sakuya had finished with her tale, Remilia bowed her head and scuffed the floor in a mixture of disgust and shame. After witnessing the relationship between her friend and her familiar, Remilia was inclined to lighten up a bit on her personal servant. She no longer pushed her so hard when the maid was exhausted, and she made sure that her own requests weren't too unreasonable. Plus, mistreating the servant who prepared your food and drinks was not the smartest idea, so Remilia figured it was high time that she started acting like a good mistress of the mansion. She looked up again and moved over to Sakuya to guide her over to a chair.
"Yes, you are very fortunate. I'm relieved that you're still alive," Remilia said as she pressed the maid down into the chair. "Please, rest for now." She glared over her shoulder at Meiling and snapped her fingers. "You. Get over here and finish bandaging her up."
"Hai! Right away ma'am!" Meiling chirped as she snapped a quick salute.
The red-haired guard jumped in front of Sakuya and grabbed a larger roll of gauze to work with. As Sakuya was experiencing the misfortune of Meiling as her caretaker, Remilia took Koakuma aside and looked up into her red eyes with her own. She folded her arms and frowned, not in scorn but in defeat. Despite the spontaneousness and disrespect of the outbursts and manhandling from the succubus, she had every right to do so with her mistress's life on the line. Coincidentally, with the situation as it was, there was no time or reason to hand out punishments.
"Little devil, I want to ask you something."
"Mistress Remilia, I... I apologize for my behav-"
"To blazes with that," Remilia grunted. "You and I are here now, and I have no choice but to listen to you. Please, if you know anything, tell us."
Koakuma remained silent for some time before finding her voice. She took a deep breath and clasped her hands together.
"I'm afraid I don't know much. Sakuya's experience is similar to my own in many ways, but there is one thing that I have to add." Koakuma gave a tilt of her head and said, "Whoever possessed my mistress... She said her name was Malus Umbravi. Do you know who that is?"
Realization spread across Remilia's features once that name was dropped. She tore her gaze away from Koakuma and gave a toothy grimace. For someone who was five-hundred years old, it seemed like a herculean effort just to remember one person out of the thousands she met. But the vampire knew who this Malus character was, and Koakuma could see it as clear as day. Remilia grumbled and shook her head before glaring up at the little devil.
"Yes, I know who that is. But this isn't the place." She looked down at the body of the fairy maid and sighed. "Somebody pick her up and follow me."
Koakuma looked up into the night sky and drew her knees close. She could see embers dancing amongst the stars in the sky and managed a sad smile. Up there, the celestial bodies had nothing to worry about. No necromancers, no possessed mistresses, and no unnecessary drama. The warmth of the nearby fire pit helped to soothe frayed nerves and put the residents at ease. With fire crackling and crickets chirping nearby, it was, ironically, a peaceful night outside of the mansion.
The residents had taken the body of the undead fairy maid and built a funeral pyre for her in one of the fire pits on the mansion grounds. They were unsure if it was the best course of action as another fairy maid would take its place, and under the employ of Malus in the library. The necromantic magic was foreign to them all, yet it seemed that burning the body was better than any other option for it completely disposed of a potential threat in a respectful manner. Plus, the warmth and silence of the event had a calming effect on the residents and allowed them to recollect themselves.
Sakuya, despite being told to rest by her mistress, moved around the pyre with refreshments and tended to the residents. She ignored the aches and pains running through her system and made sure that everyone was comfortable with their food or drink, or a glass of blood in Remilia's case, before sitting down and massaging her temples. Meiling cozied up to her and continued to see after her wounds. The guard figured that it would be better that she acted as the caretaker of the group after having her roasted marshmallow idea get shot down, vehemently so.
"I remember who this Malus character is," Remilia squeaked from her position in the grass. "Malus Umbravi... Feh, what a terrible latin name."
"What does it mean?" Meiling asked.
"Damned if I know," Remilia replied. She shivered and looked to the fire. "I was still in Italy when I met her. She was like that little black and white magician; curious, annoying, and eager to get into business that wasn't hers. In the outside world magic was rare and frowned upon by the masses, but for those who practiced in secret, the rewards were great. I wasn't one for magic, but Malus was. Every time that I met her on the street I felt this eerie feeling crawling up my spine. I don't know how to explain it, but it was like turning your back on someone who had a knife in their hand."
"Pardon the interruption, but was Malus a human?" Sakuya asked.
"Yes, she was, but she always strived to be more than that. She dappled in strange magicks and gathered resources for some grand ritual, but it never worked out for her. Her skill was with necromancy, and that was why I felt so uneasy around her." Remilia leaned back and sighed. She could feel the three servants' eyes on her, eagerly taking in everything she had to say. "Malus wanted to become a member of the undead, but she wanted to retain her consciousness. So, she figured out what I was and begged to be turned. When that failed, she tried blackmail, threats, and whatever she could find to persuade me to sink my fangs into her neck. I should have taken the chance and ripped out her throat, but I didn't. My failure to submit to her demands led to her finding out about Flandre."
Koakuma growled at that. She didn't like where this was going.
"That tenacious bitch was preparing something, and I didn't want to see it come to pass. Fortunately, I knew a magician who could assist me," Remilia said with a weak smile. She nodded at Koakuma before continuing. "Patchouli came from Salem at the right time. We put our heads together and decided that Malus had to be removed, but when we moved to stop her from using Flandre, we inadvertently fell into her trap. When Patchy and I killed Malus, her body underwent a drastic change and she became a lich. In that state she used the bodies of my countrymen to try and kill us all. We had no choice but to trap Malus inside of a book to keep her imprisoned."
"Didn't you try to kill her again?" Meiling asked.
"We did. Time and time again we hurled fire and spears into her body only for her to shrug them off. She just wouldn't die, and we didn't know what she was at the time." Remilia shrugged and looked down at her feet. "We panicked and shoved her into a book. Now she's out and taken control of Patchouli. She probably wanted to possess my sister..."
Silence settled between the residents. It was one thing to calm down a psychotic vampire with the power to completely and utterly destroy anything she put her mind to, but to face a woman who had the power to raise the dead and bolster her ranks with defeated allies seemed much worse. Flandre, despite her unpredictable behavior, never intended to kill anyone.
Koakuma rubbed her arms and looked over at Remilia.
"So... What do we do now? How do we save my mistress?"
"Honestly, little devil, I have no clue. But I'm not going to give up on trying," Remilia muttered. "Like you said. You're her familiar and I'm her best friend. If we're going to save Patchy, we'll need to work together. That goes for you two as well," Remilia said as she looked to Sakuya and Meiling. "Now, does anyone have any ideas?"
Again, silence. Koakuma and Sakuya shook their heads until Meiling jumped to her feet and looked down at the succubus.
"I have an idea!" she chirped.
"Meiling, this had better be good," Remilia grumbled.
"No no, it's good! Koakuma, didn't you say that Malus came out of some old tome?" Koakuma nodded at this. With a hopeful grin Meiling continued. "Maybe if we had that tome we could figure out a way to stop Malus!"
"That's... Not a bad idea, actually," Koakuma admitted. She stood up as well and frowned. "But the last thing I remember about the tome was that I locked it in my mistress's desk..."
"And to get it," Sakuya whispered, "one would have to go back into the library..."
The idea of going back into the library filled Koakuma with dread. With Malus controlling Patchouli's body and magical energies, who was to know how the library would look? Voile was Patchouli's realm; her sacred sanctuary. Now with a dark necromancer doing who-knows-what within, the library's sanctity would be thrown into jeopardy. Koakuma imagined the dead fairy maids patrolling the library aisles while Malus remained in the middle near the desk, and she would have to dive through all the danger just to get that tome.
Remilia sensed the unease amongst the residents and raised her hands.
"That seems like our only option at the moment, but we should wait before heading in there."
"Should we ask for the shrine maiden's help?" Sakuya asked.
"No. Absolutely not," Remilia hissed. She stood up as well and looked into the fire. "Reimu is not to know about this. She'll find a way to destroy Malus, but in doing so, Patchouli will be no more. For this reason I am not involving my sister in this incident either."
The three servants nodded and agreed with this. While the miko Reimu was famous for resolving incidents and approaching problems like a skilled mediator, when it came to threats she did not take any chances. To keep Gensokyo in balance she would completely destroy Malus if she found out about her, even if it meant ending Patchouli's existence. Such was her duty as a shrine maiden. Nobody amongst the residents of the mansion wanted her to do her duty unless there was no other option.
"Now, unless there are no further questions, I want Meiling to guard the library doors while we get some rest for the morning. When it comes, we'll go into the library and see if we can't find that damned tome..."