"Don't struggle, it'll all be over soon."
Koakuma could feel her consciousness slipping away with each passing second. The ice cold hands of her mistress would not budge or let up from squeezing the devil's windpipe. Through her bleary eyes Koakuma could see her mistress's face contort into one of pure, sadistic glee. Patchouli clicked her tongue and continued to strangle her beloved familiar without any show of remorse. She was not herself at all, and if nothing was done, Koakuma would die a long and agonizing death.
But the little devil would not die here. Using what little strength she had left Koakuma gritted her teeth and increased her grip on her attacker's wrists. She reached deep into her psyche and managed to gather enough energy to allow for one spell. Desperate, she chose to will forth a quick surge of electricity through her fingertips. It was a pathetic attempt from one who wasn't skilled in magic, but fortune was on the little devil's side. Patchouli growled in annoyance as she faltered and released Koakuma from her hold.
"Tch! I didn't expect you to know some magic," Patchouli muttered before she was tossed off of Koakuma. She glared up at the devil with her dark red eyes. "Insolent devil..."
Koakuma gasped and scuttled off of the bed only to collapse on the floor. She coughed and greedily sucked in air as she massaged her throat. Turning on her side, the devil looked up at the figure of her mistress and raised an arm in defense.
"P-Patchouli-sama... What... Who are you? Where is my mistress?"
Patchouli chuckled and slid off of her bed to stand before the devil. With the dark mist following her like a demonic veil, the mage no longer looked as radiant and as warm as Koakuma once remembered. Coupled with the red eyes and the cruel grin, it seemed as if this wasn't Patchouli Knowledge at all. Koakuma glanced about as she tried to find her mistress, her true mistress, but no matter where she looked the only thing that looked remotely similar to Patchouli was towering over her. The monster in Patchouli's visage narrowed her eyes at Koakuma and gave a playful tilt of her head.
"Come now, don't play dumb with me." Patchouli twirled around once and opened her arms wide. Her tone became increasingly sardonic as she continued. "It is I, 'Patchouli Knowledge', a weak-willed, pathetic excuse for a magician. Now, what kind of name is that? It is a plant's name, and plants exist only to wither and die."
To prove her point, Patchouli reached out with her magic and latched onto a few potted plants with the dark mist. When the mage had been suffering from an onslaught of illnesses, Meiling had suggested to her that filling her room with pleasant-smelling flowers and plants would help alleviate her tension. They certainly brightened up the area then. The beautiful displays of scarlet, violet and amarillo buckled under the terrible force of Patchouli's magic and withered away. Anything green soon turned to black in an instant.
"I will say this though. Your mistress has much more mana than I ever believed." Patchouli raised her hands and ran them down her body. "Hmm... And it's amazing how curvy her body is underneath her robes. I'm tempted to indulge!"
"Stop touching her!" Koakuma cried from her position on the floor. "Who are you? Why have you taken my mistress?"
Patchouli shrugged her shoulders and sighed before raising an open palm to Koakuma. The dark, misty matter slithered away from the dead plants and whirled around the little devil to pick her up. Koakuma shrieked in terror as the mist held her in place and licked at her skin like an inferno would. It felt as if her skin was being flayed, but there were no whips or instruments doing it other than the dark mist. Just as her skin was turning red from the torture, Patchouli closed her hand into a fist and flung the familiar against the bedroom door.
Under the force of ancient magic combined with the body of a familiar, the door shattered and broke away. Koakuma howled in pain and arched her back as she landed on the library floor. Splinters were lodged in her arms from when she tried to defend herself. Sputtering, Koakuma turned over on her side and attempted to get back up on her feet. A large shadow fell over her and made her shiver.
"Very well, no more games. My name, my true name, is Malus Umbravi."
Koakuma turned her head and looked up at her mistress only to find that she had disappeared. She glanced about and discovered that the library had gotten much darker even though the day was still young. Speckles of black mist wafted about and gave Koakuma the feeling of being in a foggy, musty swamp. A dull creaking came from above and caught the little devil's attention. She flung herself forward and narrowly avoided being crushed under the weight of a falling bookcase.
"I had hoped to possess that blonde-haired girl, seeing as she seemed very healthy for her age, but instead I was forced into your mistress when she intervened," came Malus's cold, corrupted voice. Koakuma scrambled to her feet and held her wounded arm as she listened. "I've been in that miserable tome for centuries, just waiting for the right morsel to come along. And it was your mistress who offered herself up! It's more than I ever wanted!"
A flash of light appeared in the corner of Koakuma's vision. When she looked up, she saw Malus Umbravi standing on top of a bookcase. Koakuma knew that the figure before her was her mistress, but if she was truly possessed by this dark spirit, whatever it was, then she could no longer be Patchouli Knowledge. Despite the comely features, familiar voice and purple robes, it was Malus who was in charge. Even with that sorrowful fact in place, Koakuma knew that somewhere in there was the soul of her mistress.
"Oh, I see the fear and confusion in your eyes. 'Why', you cry. 'What are you', you whisper." Malus played with a lock of Patchouli's hair and chuckled at how Koakuma widened her eyes to teacup-sized proportions. "Curious? Very well, I'll tell you before I kill you."
Malus dropped to the floor and broke the floorboards under her weight. The splinters shot up and towards her body only to be repelled away in every direction. Koakuma uttered a cry of pain as one shard found its way into her thigh. She busied herself with taking it out as Malus advanced towards her.
"I was once a woman. A human destined to be as mortal as the rest. Was I afraid of death? Of course I was, but I spat in its face and ventured where most feared to tread." Malus crouched down to pick up a book that had fallen off of the shelves. She glanced at it before flinging it over her shoulder. "To oblivion with mortality! I broke its troublesome rules and became immortal! My memory is foggy, but I do remember wasting away in that prison your mistress created. Being forced to sit on a shelf and share space with undesirables is unforgivable."
Blood trickled down Koakuma's limbs from the multiple splinters imbedded in her body. She quivered in agony and did what she could to pull out the most demanding ones. She figured that for Malus, splinters were akin to papercuts. The worst was yet to come if Koakuma didn't act, but she had no idea what to do. She could never beat her mistress in a magical duel, so how could she beat Malus? Koakuma whimpered and fell against a bookcase for support as she mulled it all over before glaring up at her possessed mistress.
"W-what do you want?"
"That's... Actually a good question, little devil," Malus admitted. She rubbed her chin in thought. "I already have the body and power of the most powerful magician in this realm, and her library is filled with all sorts of resources with which I can grow ever stronger. I think I'll get myself acquainted with this new body and her assets," Malus giggled.
The vile spirit approached Koakuma and looked down her nose at her.
"But first, I'll need a dedicated assistant. Someone to do my bidding in this world."
"I serve my mistress," Koakuma spat. "Not you! I'll die before that happens!"
"Thank you for being so cooperative!" Malus cackled as she shot forward and grasped Koakuma's throat in her hand. She lifted the devil up and off of her feet with magical strength. "You'll be of more use to me dead than alive!"
Koakuma clawed at the hand on her throat and tried to shock Malus once again, but her strength had decided to fail her. She could no longer call upon her spells to defend herself with, and whatever flailing she could do was not enough to beat back her attacker. Malus took sick pleasure in watching the little devil's eyes bulge before she lifted her free hand up and formed an orb of sinister black energy. The hand clenched around the orb and steadily brought it forward to Koakuma's chest. Just as Malus was about to press the terrible orb against the devil's heart, something happened.
Malus gritted her teeth and recoiled as something wracked her body. She closed her eyes and dropped the orb to the ground where it shattered and dissipated. Growling, she tossed Koakuma to the ground and turned her back on her as her body began to convulse. Magic rippled across her figure and punctured the black mist around her with purplish flares of energy. Koakuma coughed and massaged her throat as she looked on in morbid curiosity.
"Run..." Malus shook and turned around with a pained look on her face. Patchouli stared back at Koakuma with her compassionate violet eyes, begging for her to follow her orders. "Run!"
As much as it pained Koakuma to do so, she obeyed the voice of her mistress and turned on her heel. She clambered up a bookcase and searched for the grand library's exit with desperation nagging at her. A whirlwind of energy blew down the bookcases around Patchouli as Malus regained her hold. Koakuma leapt into the air and spread her wings to keep her aloft as she continued to look over the library for the exit.
"Ah! Looks like this magician isn't as weak-willed as I thought!" Malus shrieked. "Yes, resist! I do so love entertainment!"
Then, there it was. Koakuma felt hope rise in her heart as she looked upon the exit to the library. It was a fair distance away and up a grand staircase, but with her wings and her mistress's last command giving her strength, Koakuma would make it. She flew through corridors of bookcases and down aisles as fast as her demonic wings would allow. Her retreat was obstructed by clusters of dark mist that forced her to take different paths.
Malus appeared in the corner of Koakuma's vision and pursued her with arcane flames at her fingertips. Pillars of fire erupted from the floor and tried to smash into the little devil, but she avoided them and flew higher. Without the cover of the bookcases, Koakuma realized she was an easier target. She shrieked and ducked back down into the aisles as she felt the chilling embrace of ice shards. A few shards found their way into her back and even drew blood.
"Stop running. I like my servants to be at least somewhat intact," Malus shouted.
Koakuma shuddered at the tone of voice and the senseless brutality Malus showed to her. She had to escape from the library, escape from the clutches of evil incarnate. After dodging as much magic as she could, Koakuma reached the staircase. She flew up the steps and heard the wood creak and break behind her as Malus followed. Splinters and nails exploded into the air when magic was thrown into the picture again, and it completely destroyed the grand staircase as well!
As soon as Koakuma reached the top of the staircase she flung herself out of the library and slammed the doors shut behind her. She had no experience with creating magical wards with which to stave off attackers, so she chose a different course of action. She knocked down pedestals and moved furniture against the double doors to barricade it. To seal the deal, Koakuma ripped up a scarlet curtain and tied it around the door handles.
She was tossed to the floor when a powerful force slammed into the barricaded doors. Dark mist seeped under the door only to be pulled back by some unseen hand.
"What? Why can't I leave?" Malus shouted from behind the doors. The pounding ceased after a moment. "Insolent cretin... Even when under my thumb you try to contain me. Very well, I'll spend my time breaking you before turning to your familiar, your friends, and your realm!"
Where there was expected to be another attack on the doors, there was only silence. Koakuma rubbed her temples and looked up from her sprawled-out position on the floor. The doors to the library held strong against Malus's battering and didn't look like they were going to be blown down anytime soon. Footsteps were heard retreating from the door as well as a string of curses. Either Malus had given up in her pursuit or Patchouli had regained enough control to set a personal boundary.
Koakuma hoped it was the latter.
"That should... That should hold her," she whispered as she tried to sit up. She gasped and fell to her side when she found that she had lost quite a bit of blood escaping. "Everything hurts... I need to get up, I need to get up!"
The little devil grimaced and curled up into a fetal position. She felt too weak to stand, but she couldn't just lie there and die after all she had gone through. With blood dripping down from her wounds and all kinds of shards in her body, Koakuma propped herself up and found her voice. She screamed for help and attracted the attention of a fairy maid. The fairy maid, alarmed by the sight of Koakuma wounded, cried out and flew off to find its superior.
In a few minutes Sakuya appeared right next to Koakuma holding a first-aid kit in her hands.
"Koakuma?!" she gasped, noticing how pale the devil looked. The maid gazed over her body and took notice of the multiple splinters and wounds. "Oh dear... How did this happen?"
"L-library," Koakuma wheezed. She curled up and soon fell unconscious. "Patchy..."
Sakuya turned her baby blue eyes to the library door and noticed the makeshift barricade there. She narrowed her eyes in confusion and speculation before turning her attention back to Koakuma. With a small sigh she reached into a pocket of her uniform and clutched a golden stopwatch. She needed some time to operate, and some time to come to terms with what was going on. Hopefully when the devil was patched up she could enlighten the rest of the mansion about what had happened to her.
After carefully removing every splinter and shard and bandaging up the wounds, Sakuya placed Koakuma in a nearby guest room and appointed the gatekeeper to watch over her. She left soon after to inform her mistress of the situation and to gather the rest of the fairy maids. There wasn't much information on the incident to properly assess it, but Sakuya knew that it involved the library, Koakuma, and Patchouli Knowledge. Remilia Scarlet expressed her concern and accompanied her servant as she gathered up the fairy maids. If her best friend was in danger, it demanded her immediate attention.
Koakuma, meanwhile, was oblivious to the hustle and bustle until she came to. She felt warm sheets around her and opened her eyes to look up at the burgundy walls around her. An IV line was attached to her arm and fed blood back into her veins while snow-white bandages kept anything from escaping. Groggy yet aware of her surroundings, Koakuma reached up and supported herself on a nearby end table as she sat up. She felt someone's shadow on her and blinked twice.
"Koakuma?" came Meiling's rough voice. She leaned over and got eye-level with the little devil. "How do you feel?"
"Tired..." Koakuma widened her eyes and sat up straighter than before. "My mistress! She needs help!"
"Shh, Sakuya-san and Lady Remilia are working on that. Let's focus on you for the moment, alright?"
"But I sh-"
Meiling placed a comforting hand on Koakuma's shoulder.
"Don't worry about it right now. Just focus on getting better, alright? You can't help your mistress in your condition, but you can help me. Would that make you feel better?"
Koakuma blinked and rubbed her arms. She brushed against the IV line and shivered at how it made her feel.
"I guess... How can I help you?"
She looked up at the red-haired gatekeeper and took notice of how energetic and attentive she looked. Meiling was usually the one caught sleeping at the gate or dawdling at a task, but it seemed that today she was here to contribute. Despite all the flak the guard received in her line of work, she would never do anything that would violate the safety and security of the mansion's inhabitants. If she happened to let someone past her when on duty, it was probably because she didn't perceive them as a threat. Meiling smiled wide and rubbed Koakuma's back before dropping her hands to her sides.
"Well, while Sakuya-san is getting things ready, you can tell me what happened. Sakuya-san says it has something to do with the library and Lady Patchouli, right?" Koakuma nodded. "Alright, do you mind starting from the beginning?"
The succubus rubbed her temples and tried to remember as much as she could. She remembered how the day had started as normally as any other. Her mistress was reading as usual, the fairy maids were doing their duties, and Koakuma was eager to be of service. Then came Marisa Kirisame at the worst of times and in the worst possible place. She had made off with a dark, forbidden tome and almost got away had it not been for the little devil's intervention. In the ensuing scuffle, the spirit that resided in the tome broke free of its binds and sought out a host.
And as unfortunate as it was, the host was Patchouli Knowledge herself.
"I was... Putting a summoning tome in the right spot, in the possessed chamber where all the other books go, when Marisa Kirisame snuck in and grabbed this black-leather tome or journal. I chased her down and we fought for a minute before this dark fog or mist came out from the tome and tried to swallow the thief up." Koakuma sniveled and wiped her eyes as tears threatened to fall. "P-Patchouli must have knocked Marisa out of the way because I saw the darkness seep into her and knock her out."
Meiling nodded and sat next to Koakuma on the bed.
"So the thief is involved in this... I should have noticed something was wrong when I saw her leave via the front gate," Meiling grumbled.
"There are so many people I could blame for this, but in the end I only have myself to blame for leaving that door open," Koakuma whined.
"What happened to your mistress after all of this?"
"She collapsed and was really weak and cold. She looked like she was in so much pain, but all I could do was put her in her bed and hope for the best. I stayed by her side for as long as I could," Koakuma cried. She shook her head and held her arm where the IV line was placed. "W-when she awoke, she looked like she had just had a brush with death, but in a few minutes she looked fine. I'm not sure if it was an act, but she got a little physical with me as if she hadn't just gone through hell!"
The gatekeeper blushed and narrowed her eyes.
"She... Got frisky? Oh, right, you two are in a relationship," Meiling commented. "Given what had happened to her, I'd say she was behaving strangely. Did she remember anything?"
"She said that she didn't really remember anything, and she didn't seem to care," Koakuma said. "I was caught off guard, and that was when she put her hands around my neck and tried to kill me..."
Aggression between residents of the mansion wasn't unheard of, but it never got anywhere near life-threatening. Meiling herself was the victim of a few pranks and punishments and took it all in stride. No matter if it was a friendly tussle or a knife to the back of the head, she knew that nobody was really trying to kill her. Even Flandre Scarlet refrained from killing anybody when she escaped from her quarters, although she did seriously maim a few fairy maids from time to time. For Patchouli Knowledge to try and kill her most beloved and dedicated familiar, things were worse than anyone could have believed.
"How could she do such a thing? That's not the Lady Patchouli I know," Meiling gasped.
"It wasn't her, Mei," Koakuma whined. "She wasn't herself. The spirit that was in that tome had possessed her and made her do terrible things to me." She lifted up her arms and looked at her white bandages. "I know my mistress is still in there, but she's being subjugated by this... Malus Umbravi."
Meiling gave a tilt of her head and frowned.
"Oh dear, this is really bad..."
"D-do you know who that person is?" Koakuma asked.
"No, but I know that any possession is bad, and if Lady Patchouli is being subjugated, that means there's a magician or spirit who is even stronger than she is! At her healthiest Lady Patchouli could take on the young mistress and even win!" Meiling held her cheeks and shivered. "Oh dear... What does this Malus guy want?"
"Actually, I think it's a she," Koakuma mumbled. The devil reached for her IV line and began to pull at it. "She wants to... I'm not entirely sure, but whatever she wants, it's not good. My mistress is in danger here, and I can't sit back and do nothing."
Koakuma pulled out her IV line and let it dangle down below a hanging bag of blood. Remilia probably wasn't too pleased that blood was being 'wasted' by re-entering a person's veins. Stars appeared in Koakuma's vision as she tried to stand only to be held down by Meiling.
"You really should rest," Meiling said. "Drink some water and-"
"I'll feel better if I'm doing something, anything to help out my mistress," Koakuma growled.
Meiling stood back and allowed the little devil to get up. Far be it from her to get in the way of someone who was so determined and loyal to someone they cared about. When Koakuma realized that she was in her small clothes, Meiling handed over her usual uniform for her to wear. Gratitude was exchanged along with a few concerns before Koakuma was ready again. She made her way to the door only to trip over her feet and stumble into Meiling's hold.
"Where's Sakuya?" she asked as she clung to the gatekeeper.
"I heard her come down the hallway not too long ago with the fairy maids in tow. Lady Remilia must be with them, I believe."
"What are they doing with the fairy maids?"
"I think they're going to go into the library and see if they can sort out the situation."
Koakuma gave Meiling an incredulous look.
"But, but they don't know what they're up against! Not even I know what Malus is capable of!"
"Oh come now, what's the worst that can happen?" Meiling said, ever optimistic. She had tremendous faith in Remilia and Sakuya if her confident smile was anything to go by. "Just you wait, they'll come out from the library with Lady Patchouli looking as fit as a fiddle, the burned remains of a dark tome, and tea and cookies to settle down with."
The little devil wished she could share in Meiling's optimism.