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File 123021381154.jpg - (78.78KB, 1024x731, IcebergCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24891 No. 24891
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

========================================

The sound of crackling dirt echoed through the long tunnel, stretching for miles behind the few workers who labored tirelessly. How deep were they underground, anyways? One hundred feet? Two hundred? No one had cared enough to take depth measurements when they began, but for this endeavor it didn’t matter. If Daiyousei’s calculations were correct, and everyone prayed to whatever gods they could that those calculations were, the only thing that mattered was that this tunnel was as straight as an arrow. If they screwed up anywhere, even so much as a single degree off, they could overshoot the target by miles, and all this would be for naught.

The tunnel was barely tall enough for a small child to stand up straight in, and the narrow walls would make this passage a claustrophobic’s worst nightmare. But that didn’t matter. As long as Cirno could work in it unimpeded, it wouldn’t make the least bit of difference to anyone if the tunnel smelled of rotting carcasses and was lined with razors all the way down. She labored without sleep, sixteen hours of every day she was right there at the front of the tunnel, digging ten times faster than any of the others could manage, and out on guard the other eight hours. It was quite a shame, really, that their fearless leader was both their strongest warrior and their fastest digger. Any day now, that double-edged utility would have to be split one way or the other, and no matter which side she chose, their progress would be sorely diminished.

Cirno crouched in the center of the end wall, hundreds of rotating ice chisels in front of her working better than the world’s best auger ever could. Whatever dirt she herself did not freeze to the walls the two fairies behind her quickly packed in tight as she drilled. They had decided days previous that they couldn’t possibly carry all the dirt and rock out of here, not when they were so pressed for time. The only option was to drill a giant hole, shred the soil as fine as they possibly could, then pack it into the surrounding walls for support, using whatever magic they had on hand. They had only experienced one cave-in so far, and Cirno was so furious at herself for letting it happen that she worked twice as hard as before ever since.

A light at the other end of the tunnel started to approach the three diggers, growing slightly larger with each passing second. Aside from the glowing blue crystals that were Cirno’s wings, it was the only light to be seen. As the illumination approached, a figure formed out of the blackness, a small fairy not even two feet tall, carrying before her an immobile sphere of danmaku energy as a lantern. Dressed in white and pink, she was a stark contrast to the earthen tones of the other two workers, and Cirno was so encased in dirt and grime that the other survivors had almost started to forget what she once looked like clean. Realizing the additional luminescence, Cirno halted her digging and turned to face the new arrival. A pair of goggles fashioned from ice were the only distinguishing feature on her otherwise dirt-covered face. Spitting a stream of sand out of her mouth, she spoke.

“What’s our current length, Sophia?” she asked authoritatively, not wasting any time. Her voice was cheerful, but hard, as if the weight of the world had started to crush her spirits after a long string of misfortune.

“I didn’t come to measure length this time, General Cirno,” Sophia replied in a scared little voice. “Daiyousei wants you topside right away.”

“We’re behind schedule as it is,” Cirno answered. “I can’t just stop now. And please, no ‘General.’ This is no army, and there are no ranks here. We’re all exiles right now; I don’t want things made worse by introducing things like rank into our midst.”

Sophia nodded, but her next phrase was much more serious. “Daiyousei insists. She says…Says that Gensokyo has arrived.”

If Cirno hadn’t been wearing those goggles, her eyes might have either grown wider, or narrower, depending on how she choose to express herself that day. “The good Gensokyo or the bad Gensokyo?”

“I think it’s the bad one.”

Cirno scuffed the ground with a muddy boot, or perhaps a shoe encased in far too much dirt. “They’ve finally found us,” she whispered to herself. “All right, I’ll go take a look. Terria,” she focused on the fairy to her left, almost as tall as she was, with long brown hair, “you’ll be digging until I get back. Sophia, take her place on the walls. If anything happens, never stop digging, no matter what.” She floated into the air and seemed to encase herself in thin sheets of shimmering ice until she looked like a silver bullet, then shot off down the tunnel faster than even a real silver bullet could.

Leagues of tunnel passed by in the blink of an eye as she accelerated herself down the narrow tube. One of the fairies with stronger danmaku had placed rings of light every half-mile, and larger rings still every five miles. In retrospect it didn’t really matter—Daiyousei was one who knew all the length calculations—but it was nice to let everyone else know just how far they had come in just six short days. Twenty miles…Forty miles…Cirno lost count as she slowed her speed down and broke out of her icy shell just in time before the tunnel curved sharply upwards. The ice seemed to have cleaned her somewhat, but her skin and clothes were still covered with streaks of black and brown, and her hair was a tangle of mud; hardly what anyone would call “pretty”, but she had stopped cared about appearance ever since they had resolved to dig.

She had traversed this tunnel so many times she needed no light to fly upwards to the surface. The surroundings slowly changed, transitioning from pitch black to hazy black to a very deep blue. Cirno accelerated herself even faster. No time to waste now, not if “they” had finally found them. This would be a very long day for her, and wasting time flying through the tunnel wasn’t something she’d tolerate of herself.

As the tunnel leveled out to a more calm grade, shimmers of light began to run through the walls and ceiling. She must be in the ocean’s portion of the tunnel now, where the walls were made of her own elegant ice rather than the dirty rock and soil of Japan’s underbelly. She ran a hand across the wall as she flew, probing every cubic inch of the structure for any impurities or cracks, and reinforcing them all with just a subconscious thought of the mind. This was her creation, her magic, and it needed to be as strong as she herself was if they were to survive the impending apocalypse. Slowing to a walk for the last few feet of her journey, she ascended the few steps upwards and entered the main room of their fortress.

It wasn’t much of a fortress, really, but at the same time it was a stronger fortress than any before it. There were only two rooms: an outer circular common area, and the sleeping quarters inside of it. Not that anyone really had any desire to sleep, for fear that they would never wake up, but Cirno insisted to them all that they needed to keep their strength high and their spirits higher, and that meant giving their frenzied minds a break once in a while. Everything was cast in the frosty light-blue of Cirno’s hand-crafted ice, save for the few perfectly clear portions that served as magnifying-glass windows. While anyone else would have laughed at the thought of an ice fortress, the few fairies here knew better than any how powerful those walls were. A foot of Cirno’s ice was worth more than it’s weight in steel, and the walls of this freezing monolith must have been at least fifty feet thick, if not more. From the outside it was nothing more than an unassuming iceberg, but woe betide anyone in this world or the next that tried to break it.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
Expand all images
>> No. 24892
File 123021396584.jpg - (232.22KB, 536x750, CuteCockyCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24892
(…please wait coolly.)

Cirno walked briskly out into the common area, greeting the few fairies who were scattered around, finding ways to pass the time or whispering hushed conversations to each other. They greeted her back with revered words of, “Miss Cirno,” “My lady,” and one or two reluctant souls who insisted on calling her “General”. It made her sad, how soon they forgot that she was just a fairy like them, many of them far older than her, and most of them smarter as well. But even fairies needed someone to look up to, a symbol to follow, and Cirno had inadvertently been that symbol for years, even if she had never really known it.

Daiyousei was pacing back and forth nervously by the southeast wall, casting glances out the nearest window. Though she and Cirno were practically identical in dress, the green-haired elder fairy was elegant in appearance, despite the burn marks and frayed edges of her blue skirt, courtesy of battles still remembered by all. Cirno walked up to her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“You’ll walk a trench in the floor if you keep that up, Dai,” Cirno remarked, smiling. “Can’t you just take it easy for a few minutes?”

“I have to worry about all the things you don’t have time for, Cirno,” Daiyousei replied, brushing the hair from her face as she smiled weakly. “You can’t have all the responsibility, after all.”

“No worries, old friend. Just considerations.” Cirno looked out the window to a silent blue sea, a faint multi-colored shimmering visible in the distance. “How long have they been here?”

“An hour maybe, it took that long just for Sophia to get to you. I sent her as soon as I was sure it was them.”

“Any movement?”

Daiyousei shook her head. “Nothing since they brought up their barrier, but they’re too far away to tell.”

“I can fix that.” Cirno spread her fingers across the window and squinted through them, focusing. The view from the window shimmered and contorted as she adjusted the density and clarity of the ice, trying to increase the crystal’s magnification even more. Slowly the distant shimmering lurched into view, and they could see six figures floating within a large phantasmal ball of energy, talking amongst themselves.

Daiyousei gasped. “No! That can’t…that can’t be all of them already?”

Cirno nodded reluctantly. “Aya, Marisa, Yuka, Meiling, Chen, and Ran. All six we didn’t stop back in that Greenland/Icyland place. They’ve had time to gather together; did you expect any less?”

“Well, yes, but…Seeing them all here is just so, so different.”

Cino rubbed her dirt-encrusted chin, thinking hard. They still had hundreds of feet left to dig if this morning’s measurements were correct, and that still wasn’t taking into account the possibility that they screwed up somewhere along the way. But with the enemy this close, none of them could afford to have her keep digging any more, despite her protests. She was the strongest of them all in combat by far—she wouldn’t deny that—but their survival depended on more than just holding off their adversaries. They had to keep digging. And yet…someone had to fight. Someone had to buy the diggers time. And Cirno was the one who got them into this mess in the first place; it was only right that she get them out as well. There had been too many worthless deaths so far on her account. If anyone else was going to die, it would be her, and her alone. She had shown that she was stronger than any had thought. She had been strong in battle, strong in resolve, strong in courage. And now, she would be strong in death.

“Send three more diggers into the tunnel,” Cirno said seriously. “Take Michelle, Gloria, aaaand, Ivy. Tell them to bring Sophia back out. We need that thing finished now.”

“Okay, but…” Daiyousei inched closer to Cirno and dropped her voice, “that only leaves us with nine up here, including you and me. Are you sure we can defend with that many?”

“Nine?” A smile spread across Cirno’s face. “Perfect. My lucky number.” She began to walk away when Daiyousei called out to her.

“W-Wait! Where are you going?”

“Me? I’m going to go take a bath. You don’t think I’ll be fighting such strong opponent’s looking like this, do you?”

Daiyousei looked confused. “I thought you didn’t care about appearances anymore.”

“I don’t.” Cirno pointed a finger at the figures in the window. “But they do. If I show up against them like this, they’ll either think I’m tired, or that I’m inconsiderate. I plan to show them that I am neither.”

Daiyousei shook her head comically as she smiled. “Headstrong to the bitter end, hmm Cirno?”

Cirno crossed her arms in front of her with determination, smiling back. “And don’t you forget it!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The bitter cold water swirled around in circles as Cirno eased her sore body into the small bath she has just carved out of the ice not two minutes ago. She wished that she had gotten far enough in her training to be able to heat the water—creating heat was simply removing cold, and she controlled cold, right?—but for now all she could do was prevent herself from feeling the freezing sensations on her pale skin. The clear water soon took on a dark tan color as she scrubbed every square inch of her body, trying to cleanse almost a week’s worth of filth that had deeply ingrained itself inside of her.

After a few minutes of cleaning she froze the filthy water solid, carved a new hemispherical bowl a few feet away, and slowly drilled a small hole in the ocean wall to fill a new tub with clean water. Her clothes went into this bath, and she scrubbed these even harder than she did her skin. Had to be clean…Had to look good for her enemies before she died. What would it look like if she fought them full of dirt? They wouldn’t take her seriously at all, and if there was only thing she wished for in this crazy world, it was to be taken seriously.

The cycle of freezing the dirty water and washing in the clean water continued for two or three more rounds before Cirno finally slowed down and simply decided to rest, mulling things over while she floated aimlessly in the soothing liquid. She felt so small in this giant world. Her stature was small, her voice was small…her future was small, and her hope was smaller. So much fear and pain…so much death…She still didn’t know how it all went so wrong. Nothing was meant to turn out this way. Was it really all her fault? Was she the person to blame for the incident taking place right outside those walls of ice and magic? No, no! She couldn’t let such a thought enter her mind even for an instant. No matter what anyone said—not Reimu, not Yukari, nor even her friend Daiyousei—this was not her fault. She had done nothing wrong. They attacked her first. She had never fired a shot unless they did first…

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24893
File 123021403078.jpg - (298.90KB, 725x900, DominantCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24893
(…please wait coolly.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


It was at least six years ago, maybe even more; Cirno had never bothered to keep a good timeline. Gensokyo was peaceful, happy, serene. There hadn’t been once of those “incidents” in years. Everything was good. And then, one day, Cirno decided that she would train. Train herself, train her magical ability, train her mind…She would finally start working to live up to those boasts of being “The Strongest.” The road was painful, arduous, and seemingly without end, but she never gave up, never gave in, and never gave any quarter.

Day by day, month by month, her powers grew. She could freeze things faster, freeze them colder, freeze them larger. Manifesting ice from thin air became as effortless as breathing to her. Weather control, temperature control, even rudimentary control of thermal energy itself was well within her grasp. As the years passed by, there were some who grew worried. “She’s just a foolish fairy!” they said. “What if she starts another ‘incident’ merely by accident?” And thus the war began.

In truth, it did not start as a war. The shrine maiden Reimu Hakurei merely began to watch Cirno closely, observing her progress and actions. As one of the protectors of Gensokyo’s well-being, it was in the best interests of all if Cirno was kept in check. In the following weeks many conversations were carried out with Cirno on Reimu’s behalf, from residents all across Gensokyo: trying first to understand her, then to reason with her, then to stop her. Yet Cirno, as headstrong as she ever was, would not listen. She believed that they merely wanted to keep her down, keep her low to the ground, like the “pitiful fairy” she was. She trained even harder as their demands increased, proving to everyone that she would never stop her quest to become “The Strongest”.

On one fateful day, that brash tengu Aya Shameimaru decided to take matters into her own hands and stop Cirno with force rather than words. Surely a strong tengu like herself could handle a simple fairy, right? But Aya would be the first of many to realize that Cirno had not trained in vain, and the tengu was unexpectedly driven off. In a rage she reported the events in her paper; an action much more powerful than once believed. Before, not a single person in Genoskyo read the Bunbunmaru Times without as least two grains of salt on hand. But with the impending “danger” of Cirno’s ascension to power permeating through the hearts and minds of every male and female in the region? Chaos.

One shady newspaper article was all it took to set nearly the entire land against her. Only a small band of fairies still stood next to Cirno; a beacon of hope for their kind, proving that even the meanest of them could become great. Many in Gensokyo continued to reason with her futilely, and many more gave her outright threats. The few egotistical souls who thought they could, by physical assault, end Cirno’s “rumored world conquest”, as Aya had put it, would be sorely mistaken, as time and time again she proved that she was not the same annoying fairy they had grown to accept in the past. The land fell into turmoil, the smartest of them realizing that they has caused the very incident that they had tried to prevent.

It was at this point that the great Hakurei, and perhaps the even greater Yakumo, decided that “enough was enough.” Cirno had grown too powerful, too dangerous, too much of a liability. Together they opened the Great Border and forcibly shoved her through, along with the handful who were still loyal to her. The immortality of fairies would hold no sway in the outside world, where none believed in such fanciful things. Surely they would fade away into non-existence without the magic of Gensokyo to strengthen them. The incident would be ended peacefully, without bloodshed, and without pain.

Yet, perhaps even the gods themselves may err on occasion. Whether through random chance, some unforeseen oversight, or the simple spirit of a fairy’s heart, Cirno and her allies refused to die. Alone and in an unknown world without friends, yes, but still alive. Whence Yukari Yakumo realized her mistake, she immediately sent out a party to “retrieve” the fairies quickly, before their magical abilities destroyed the outside world.

But Cirno’s aims were never so brutal as that. She had never cared for conquest or glory or domination of all of Gensokyo, or even a part of it. Though her fights had more than once ended in the death of her opponent, she had never fought out of malice or bloodlust; merely self-defense. All she had ever wanted was equality. To be seen as the same as anyone else in Gensokyo. To never be looked down upon, nor be looked up towards, merely just to be looked at. They had never taken her seriously in her whole life…never treated her as anything more than a stupid little fairy. And even now, after all her hard work, they still didn’t realize any more than they had before. Why were they so blind? Why would they not simply bury their pride and acknowledge her as an equal? What had she done wrong, for them to treat her this way? Who was to blame for all this? Herself? Reimu? Aya? Yukari? Nobody?

…Everybody?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An uncomfortable shiver pulsed through Cirno’s fortress, more than enough to wake her from her inner stupor. No, no, not yet, not now, it was too soon! She leapt out of the water—no time to dress now—and hurried over to what would soon be the most important window in the world for her. Magic projectiles of every shape, size and color were rocketing from the figures inside the distant magic barrier, hammering the icy walls with brutal force. The fairies around the room began to quiver and whisper to each other hurriedly, fearing the worst. Daiyousei stared through the window alongside Cirno, paying no mind to her naked body, fluttering her wings anxiously.

“What should we do, Cirno? Battle stations?” she asked, biting her lip.

Cirno closed her eyes and placed a hand against the wall. Every cubic inch was an extension of her, a cold shield against heated emotions. This barrage…it was thick, powerful, and unrelenting. And yet…There was something wrong.

Cirno reopened her eyes and glared angrily out the window, her eyes as cold as the frosty barrier next to her. “It’s danmaku,” she replied harshly. “They’re mocking me. They’re mocking me!” She turned away from the sight and crossed her arms in front of her in disgust.

“They’re trying to provoke me. Get me to do something stupid. Force us to fight before we’re ready.” She stomped back towards the bath and freeze-dried her soaking wet clothes, putting them back on as she continued talking, loud enough for everyone present to hear. “This shield of ours can hold off even the worst danmaku for an eternity, and they won’t break through an inch of it. I won’t remove our defenses for an assault like this.” She returned to the window and began pacing back and forth in front of it. “But still…this is just gonna be a warm-up. Our last stand has begun.”

For minutes upon minutes the relentless danmaku curtains continued to pelt against the exterior sides of their Trojan iceberg, filling the sky with rainbows never before seen in this world. Daiyousei twirled a lock of hair absentmindedly, while Cirno continued to run a hand against the wall, replenishing the flaking ice chips the danmaku managed to break off, and slowly increasing the size of their window. The tension was high within the room, all of the seven remaining fairies looking out the window in fear. None of them had ever experienced a siege before, and half didn’t even know what a “siege” was. To them, seeing the bullets hit their only source of protection was like dying slowly, even though in their hearts they knew Cirno would protect them. She was strong…The strongest…She would keep them safe.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24894
File 123021407154.jpg - (98.41KB, 450x600, SmugCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24894
(…please wait coolly.)

The assault slowly waned, and then abated completely. Cirno watched the glass intently, waiting…waiting…waiting…

And then one of the figures, a woman in black with a floppy witch’s hat, riding a broom, inched forwards out of the barrier and held something in front of her, chanting. Cirno knew all too well what was about to happen, having been on the receiving end of it more that a few times before.

“It’s Marisa,” she said, voice laced with terror. The room was dead silent, hanging on to Cirno’s every word. Daiyousei inched closer, twice as afraid as Cirno’s voice was.

“Is she…”

“She’s Sparking,” Cirno answered quickly. “Back up, now. Away from the walls, AWAY FROM THE WALLS!!”

Everyone but Cirno dashed into the center of the room, huddling behind the doorway of the sleeping quarters as she planted her feet squarely on the ground and pushed her hands against the window, both eyes glued on the witch. The octagonal box Marisa clasped in her hand began to pulse and glow, sending rays of energy out of every little nook and cranny.

And then…sound. Sound and light! A deafening hum pierced through the eardrums of everyone present as a blinding white light erupted through the windows and filled the chamber. Sickening cracks could be heard over the humming as the entire room seemed to shift backwards unnaturally, like slabs of rock in an earthquake. Cirno clutched onto the wall as both it and her were pushed backwards five, ten, fifteen feet under the mammoth force of Marisa’s well-known “Master” Spark. The fortress shivered under the impact of the energy, sending chunks of ice flying throughout both rooms. More than one fairy let out a startled scream.

Cirno’s small body shook with effort. She had known that the beam was going to be strong, but she hadn’t realized just how hard holding the powerful laser back would be. She had planned for this contingency days ago: the Master Spark would hit the ice wall, instantly vaporizing half of it, maybe more. Cirno would then drain all the heat she could from the barrier, as fast as possible, keeping the ice frozen. As long as the ice remained solid, the Spark could not advance, no matter how much force Marisa poured into it. In theory it was supposed to work. But the strain! The impossible strain! Gritting her teeth together and squinting her eyes, she began to push back. Slowly at first, then slightly faster, inches at a time, the windowed wall was being pushed outwards…into the Master Spark. The incessant humming continued for ten seconds, twenty seconds, but the beam never broke through the ice, and Cirno continued to push the wall forwards, until it had finally returned to it’s original position. Sweating with the effort, she called a fairy forward as she spent a portion of her focus to make a new magnifying window off to the side.

“I need…ughh, I need you to tell me what, urrgh, what those six are doing,” Cirno grunted.

The nervous fairy nodded and quickly zoomed over to the new window, reporting everything she saw.

“Umm, ev-ulp-everyone else’s just floating inside the barrier, watching that Marisa lady, Miss Cirno,” the fairy replied.

“Grrh, how does she look? Tired?”

“It’s hard to see. I can’t really tell. Wait! Umm, someone else is coming out of that barrier, Miss Cirno! It’s that one girl, that flowery lady with the umbrella!”

Yuka. Cirno had met Yuka only once in her life before, but she had heard rumors, lots of rumors. The only rumor she was concerned about right then, however, was one that contained only two words: “Dual Spark”. She couldn’t hold back three Sparks…Not three. If Yuka was allowed to join her attack with Marisa’s, they would all die. No one knew whether they would resurrect in the outside world or not, but Cirno had never allowed herself to take that chance. One of them had to be stopped.

She had to do it. There were mere seconds to spare if Yuka was already out of the barrier. She hated herself for doing this to a weak-bodied human, but there was no other way. Visualizing the sea below her adversaries, she began to create darts. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands. Floating just beneath the surface of the water lay a bed of icy nails, ready to advance at the twitch of a nerve from Cirno’s brain. Opening her eyes, she whispered an apology to Marisa, one she prayed the witch would be alive to receive in the future.

“I’m sorry…but you shot first.”

The cloud of icy arrows blasted out of the water without a moment’s warning, engulfing the sky with diamonds as the sunlight reflected off the countless facets of the frozen bullets. The circular barrier couldn’t have cared less if it had a mind to think with as the barrage tinkled harmlessly against its magical constitution. Those outside of it were not so fortunate. The magical laser winked out of existence as dozens upon dozens of darts shattered against Marisa and Yuka’s skin, lacerating their clothes and piercing their flesh, sending drops of hot blood into the ocean below. Yuka was fast enough to dash back into the protection of the barrier within a split second, but Marisa was already too far gone, and her limp form slid off the broom as both began to tumble like broken dolls through the air.

Through the cracked remains of the broken window Cirno just managed to make out a blurry white shape—probably Ran—dash downwards and catch the broken girl before the ice fairy’s legs gave out, and she collapsed on the floor from exhaustion. Daiyousei came running over to her friend, cradling her head in her arms.

“Cirno! Cirno, are you all right?” she asked frantically. “What just happened? Speak to me!”

Cirno made a weak thumbs-up sign in front of Daiyousei’s face, but was too weary to say anything. Even though she could already feel the energy coming back into her body, she didn’t want to push herself unless she had to. But unfortunately, there was no time to rest. She had work to do, and no time in which to do it. Resting her weight upon Daiyousei she staggered back to her feet.

“Marisa is down,” Cirno replied emotionlessly. “Yuka might be out for ten minutes, but she’ll come back. ‘Scuse me now, gotta fix the walls.” Splaying a palm across the ice, she began to assess the damage that last attack had caused to her creation. She smirked; it had held much better than she had expected, though the damage was still pretty bad. Nothing a little restructuring couldn’t handle. And speaking of restructuring…

Concentrating her magical powers hard, she began to envision an apparatus in her mind, formed around the walls of ice. This fortress had to be modified for offense now, as well as defense. As she shifted the ice back into place and healed the cracks with webs of frost, she began to create something new. The front wall began to thin, the old ice reforming into thick hollow tubes. New reservoirs began to form out above them, filling with large pointed cylinders. Inside the fortress eight small holes opened up; one for each fairy. Daiyousei herself had come up with the plan, and Cirno had fallen for it like a lovestruck adolescent. Because after all, was there anything more absurd than shooting gigantic ice cannons at your opponent?

The fairies knew what to do, and each one of them took up a position in front of the holes. The ice around them cleared as Cirno morphed the entire defensive wall into one giant window, the blue ocean visible for miles in all directions, and their target clearly marked.

“General Cirno, are you sure this will work?” one of the younger fairies asked meekly. “I mean…”

“It’ll work,” she replied confidently. “We tried it before, didn’t we? I’ve got all the energy we need stored inside those icy shots. All you need to do is provide that little magic spark, and those bullets will go flying. No problem!”

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24895
File 123021413535.jpg - (136.47KB, 720x960, SuperiorCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24895
(…please wait coolly.)

They were nervous; Cirno could feel it. She was too, but she couldn’t let it show. They needed someone to look up to right now. She had never wanted to be that, but right now that was the only way they would survive. How small they all were; how fragile their lives were. To think that nine simple fairies would be challenging some of the most powerful youkai Gensokyo had to offer…no one would have ever seen it coming.

Cirno straightened the ribbon tied in her hair and stood as tall as she could amidst the small band of her friends. She needed to give them her confidence, her courage, her willpower.

“Daughters of Gensokyo,” Cirno shouted, causing every head in the room to turn to her. “Sisters, cousins, friends…to me! We stand here today because we refused to accept the places others thought we deserved. We refused to blindly submit under their self-appointed rule. They think that we are nothing…less that nothing! They called us children, even babies! Blades of grass in a field stretching to the horizon, Snowflakes in a blizzard, motes of dust in an empty room! But I say to you all, that without the simple blades of grass there would be no field!

“They chased us halfway around our world and this one. They chased us out of Gensokyo, but we did not die. They hunted us across the skies and seas of this strange world, but we did not die. They attacked us in the icy land of the country called ‘Greenland’, but we did not die. And now they have chased us here, up to the very walls of Gensokyo itself, and do you know what? We, are, not, dead!”

“Those six faces that you see out there, flying in the distance, they are not evil, nor are we. But they want us to believe that we are worthless, that they are better than we could ever dream of being. Well, I tell you that they are wrong! One life is as good as another life, and all should be treated fairly; not because of what we are, who we are, or what we believe in, but simply because we are! And they are not going to listen to us until we prove to them otherwise. That tunnel down there, that string of hope, that is our true response; not this battle up here. We are going to break through the underground of the Great Hakurei Barrier itself, to return to the Gensokyo we belong in. But we must defend; we must fight to give ourselves time, the time we need to finish what we have started.

“You all look up to me like I’m some kind of savoir, a messiah to all the fairies of the world. Please, don’t bow to me or give me honor; I don’t deserve it. I am a daughter of Gensokyo, the same as you. Alone, one fairy can do very little. But together, when we join our hearts in unity, in faith, we create something that no amount of oppression will ever be able to destroy. Though they take away our homes, our names, even our lives, we will never lose, and they will never win, so long as we remain together.

“So look to the new dawn! Look to the bright future that you will create with this day’s end! Remember that icy land! And let us all show these women what ‘mere babies’ are capable of!”

Though their voices were small, the cheers which emanated throughout the fortress interior were more full of spirit than Cirno had ever heard before, and probably would never hear again. Every face, including Cirno’s, beamed with hope and determination, burning with passion for the last leg of their quest. Cirno stepped back, looking like the commander of a warship, her arms folded confidently in front of her, her face cemented in resolve. It was time to bite back.

“Give them a volley. All guns, fire one!”

Eight glows of light burst from the backs of the gun barrels as each fairy primed a cannon with magic, releasing eight giant slugs of ice that barreled towards the distant shimmering sphere. Three shots went wide, one low, and one high, but the remained three crashed into their opponent’s shield, causing it to flicker for only a fraction of a second.

Cirno wasn’t satisfied. “Readjusting angles, standby!” Looking at the cannons in her minds eye, she nudged the five misplaced cannons ever so slightly, a degree here, just a few minutes there, trying to get the most of every salvo they would fire. “Second volley. All guns, fire one!”

A second set of bullets rocketed out of the cannons and struck the barrier: seven hits this time. “Still no retaliation,” Cirno worried to herself. But there was no time to wait; they had to keep the pressure on, keep their opponents on the defensive.

“You may now fire at will!”

The air slowly filled with the hiss of exiting cannonfire as round after round shot off into the horizon. As far as they could tell no actual damage was being done to the barrier, but Cirno didn’t care. This was nothing more than a diversion to give the diggers time, and as long as there was water in the sea they would have rounds to fire. So long as they kept them under fire…

Cirno had thought too soon. Viewing the window intently, she could see that slowly, but surely, the ice cannon’s shots were being diverted, curving off to the side unnaturally. No one was out of the barrier yet, thankfully enough, but without a threat of damage…wait. One, two, three, four, five…Someone was missing. Ran held Marisa’s limp body in her hands while Chen leaned over her shoulder, Yuka was busy pulling shards of ice out of her chest, and Meiling watched the spectacle with boredom…but where was Aya?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wind was bitter cold and cut at Cirno’s face as she sped through the air above the icy ocean below, dodging the gigantic bullets of ice her allies were firing as easily as if she were dancing. This was what she lived for: these few moments of exhilaration as the blood rushed through her veins during a battle. Years ago she had fought to prove that she was stronger than her opponent; today she fought only to show that she was equal to them.

And what an opponent today! Aya Shameimaru, the one who had started this entire ordeal, had finally come back for Round Two. It was her who had diverted the cannonfire before with her control over wind and air, but now her thoughts were all on Cirno. The tengu and the fairy whirl-winded through the air, exchanging playful banter before the inevitable clash of skill against skill.

“Come here for an interview, you paparazzi whore?” Cirno yelled at the cocky tengu.

Aya was noticeably miffed at the remark, but returned with one of her own. “Interview? Ha, I’m just here to report the facts, little fairy! It’s what you call field journalism; maybe you could read about it in a picture book!”

Cirno swept a flurry of icicles at Aya, who dashed away as fast as the blink of an eye behind Cirno, buffeting her with a blast of wind. “Well here’s a fact for your little pink notepad, Shameimaru!” Cirno responded as she spiraled back out of Aya’s immediate range. “They shot first. It was self-defense.”

The tengu cackled a sharp wave of mirth, rolling backwards on her black crow’s wings. “You got a rap sheet a mile long, Cirno! Murder, conspiracy to commit murder, treason, aiding and abetting…Come on, the criminal angle’s so much more dramatic! I can see the headlines now: Notorious Cirno Exterminated By The Valiant Shameimaru! Roll with it and I might even put in a good word for you!”

Every attack on Cirno was a repeat of the verbal abuse she’d been getting for years, but today was the day she was going to grin and bear it. As long as she kept Aya talking, the tengu could call her a disease-spreading transsexual prostitute for all she cared. Anything to buy those diggers as much time as they needed to get that tunnel to Gensokyo finished. But Cirno wasn’t about to take this filth without defending herself.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24896
File 123021450933.jpg - (535.37KB, 1009x717, AyaAndCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24896
(…please wait coolly.)

“I’ve got a follow-up article for ya!” Cirno retorted as the two dashed at each other playfully, the indifferent look of death in their eyes. “Equality Dies in Gensokyo: The True Story of Cirno’s Last Stand. Anyone with two ears and a tenth of a brain can see that this is just another powerplay by Hakurei, Aya! Oh sure, danmaku makes everything fair and square, but the minute anyone so much as tries to better themselves, there comes Reimu with a fistful of magic, spurting some crap about ‘peace’. Where’s the article on that, huh Shameimaru?!”

“We call that the opinion section, kid!”

Everyone had limits, and Cirno had just reached hers. With a surge of adrenaline she collected the vapors of the air into a thousand tiny pellets of ice, hurling them all at the tengu like dust in the wind. Aya was taken by surprise, but her ludicrous speed allowed her to sidestep the flurry with ease. The two combatants were soon locked in an epic battle over the shores of Japan, the air around them a completely different world.

One would have thought that Aya, being the master of the winds, would have total dominance over any airborne battle, but Cirno was not the fool she once was, and had come prepared The two dashed through the air violently, Cirno spurting forth curtains of ice every shape and size, and Aya meeting them with thick gusts of air. Their attacks spiraled and weaved in between the periodic cannonballs of ice, creating a spectacle that was so much like real danmaku it was maddening to watch. It was almost a match made in heaven: their speed was equal, their power was equal, even their sarcastic banter was equal.

“Not bad, kid!” Aya shouted from a lofty position above Cirno. “Keep this up, and you might finally get to see me at my full strength!”

“You’ve held back for so long, you don’t even know what your full strength is anymore!” Cirno yelled back as she rushed towards Aya with a gigantic blade of ice, missing the tengu’s skin by mere fractions of an inch. A hurricane-force wind sent Cirno reeling immediately afterwards, and Aya began to pummel the fairy ruthlessly with bursts of wind as hard as sledgehammers, laughing at her as each one struck the target, sending painful shivers across Cirno’s small body.

“Heh, you should thank me!” Thumph. “I’m going easy on yah!” Thumph. “Wind magic is invincible…” Thumph. “…But as least it’s gentle!” Thumph. “Now Yuka,” thumph, “she’d be ripping off your arms right about now!” Thumph. “Can’t you even fight back?” Thumph. “How’d you get so strong anyways?” Thumph. “Magic For Dummies?” Thumph. “Some strength if you’re losin’ to this!” Thumph. “Nothing witty to say?” Thumph.

Cirno reached out a shaking hand and grasped Aya’s left forearm, smirking. “You’re too close.”

In the blink of an eye, Aya’s arm became completely encased in ice, the cold crystals spreading across her body and wings like a contagion. She reflexively dashed backwards, only to be stopped by an unseen force. Cirno straightened her bow once more and looked as Aya struggled to break free from whatever it was that ensnared her.

“If you’re not going to let me fight fair,” the fairy issued, “then I’ve no choice but to cheat. Tell me something, Shameimaru. You’re the queen of the wind, I’m the queen of the cold. But when a cold wind blows across us both, who’s the one that rules?”

“Urgh…you wench…you, annoying, little…good-for-nothing…imp,” Aya replied through clenched teeth. Even when focusing all her power on controlling the air around her, she still could not move. Too cold…the air was too cold…and Cirno’s magical hold on her was as firm as if she had clenched an invisible hand around her. Cirno fluttered behind her, not allowing Aya’s head to swivel against the cold winds for even an instant.

“Personally, I liked you better without wings.”

A sickening snap and a shattering of glass was soon followed by a scream of pain from Aya as Cirno gave a mighty kick, severing Aya’s brittle left wing in a shower of frozen feathers. Reduced to a bleeding, ice-encrusted stump, the loss of her wing sent Aya into a frenzy, one strong enough to finally break free from Cirno’s grasp.

“Don’t you ever touch me again, idiot!” she shrieked like the bird she was.

Cirno shook her head and twitched two fingers towards her chest, taunting her. “Make me.”

The battle recommenced, but anyone could tell the tides had definitely shifted. Aya’s movements were erratic, fueled by fury and pain, while Cirno was the eye of the storm, relinquishing nothing. With every pass Cirno continued to freeze the air around her opponent, turning the tengu’s own wind against her. A frozen leg this pass, her chest the next, and for every wall of ice Aya broke off her body, Cirno took the opening to lace her with chilled arrows, smearing her prim and proper uniform with wet blood. Aya was helpless, but refused to admit it, not even to save herself and retreat. She continued to fight, losing ground every second, trying desperately to convince herself and the world that she was stronger than this piece-of-trash Cirno.

“You’ve lost, Aya,” Cirno said during a short swordfight between Cirno’s ice blades and Aya’s condensed streams of sharpened air. “A good warrior would have realized that by now.”

“A good warrior…would never, unnghh…stop fighting…even to death,” Aya grunted, tearing slivers of ice out of her shoulder as she tried in vain to shield herself with a wall of air. “I’m, nnnnh, not going…to lose…against you!”

Though Cirno knew the battle there was only a stall tactic, she shed a tear for the pitiful wretch Aya had become. This was no longer a fight; it was just a baby throwing a temper tantrum. Cirno decided to end it before Aya humiliated herself further. Closing her eyes in regret, she froze the air and water around her adversary in tandem, immobilizing her entire body in a giant lump of ice. She left her head exposed for only a few seconds more, to utter some final words to the ungrateful loser.

“No, Aya; this is over. Go back home. Have some fun. Create some rumors. Twist the truth. But don’t you dare make it up. My side of the story is already on your desk. Write it.” With a flick of the wrist she sent Aya’s defeated form careering back towards the general direction of Ran and the others, becoming just another bobbing chunk of ice in the sea below.

She rubbed her chest painfully; that had taken far more out of her than she would have expected. She knew Aya was going to take a toll on her, but she hadn’t wanted to waste so much energy against her when there were stronger opponents ahead. Keeping one eye on the rest of her enemies, she began to fly back to the safety of her fortress to check up on the diggers’ progress.

Wait…why were the guns not firing?

Cirno looked in horror as she saw her foolish mistake. While she had busied herself with Aya, someone else had flown in underneath and carved a hole straight through the fortress unimpeded. Who could have…no, no time. She raced through the hole like lightning and entered her fortress, just in time to see Daiyousei valiantly fighting against Hong Meiling. The green-haired fairy could do little more than shoot combined blasts of danmaku and cold energy at the gate guard to slow her down, while Meiling was rocking the entire fortress with punches as strong as explosives. The room was full of blood, turning the diamond ice into rubies, and no fairies save for Daiyousei were visible.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24897
File 123021463452.jpg - (503.86KB, 1280x1024, SwordCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24897
(…please wait coolly.)

Giving a frightened “Dai!” Cirno pushed her friend out of the fight, just in time for one of her wings to get cracked by a kick from Meiling. Facing her new opponent, the guard’s eyes were determined and uncaring. Cirno seemed to question both Meiling and Daiyousei at the same time as she asked, “What happened to everyone else?”

Daiyousei stuttered, giving Meiling time to answer. “Dead, Miss Cirno. I’ve taken care of them. Looks like we’ll be seeing if fairies regenerate in Gensokyo when they die outside of it, huh?”

Nonchalantly waving her hand, Cirno froze Meiling’s lower half into the ground, integrating her imprisonment with the floor and walls itself.

“Why are you here, Meiling?” Cirno questioned authoritatively. “The Yakumos are a given, Shameimaru and Kirisame I can see, even Yuka’s got a decent reason to be here, but you? What’s this got to do with you?”

“Promotions,” she replied, not visibly resisting her icy shackles. “Remilia made me a deal: defeat Cirno, and I get promoted from gate guardian to ‘Mansion Protector.’ I’d get to live inside, free meals, increase in wages, time off…and I won’t have to answer to Sakuya ever again. You don’t know what it’s like, do you? Answering to someone every day, always having to look up to everyone, getting treated like you don’t exist…I’d do anything to get up, get out, get anywhere except right here.”

Cirno lowered her head, sighing in sadness. “I know better than you think. But why’d you bring my friends into this? I’m the one to blame here; punish me, not them.”

Meiling’s eyes turned to steel as she glared at Cirno. “Oh, I’ll be punishing you more than enough. But I had to get your attention, didn’t I? Make sure you weren’t—“

Cirno barely had even a fraction of a second to prepare herself before the front half of her beautiful fortress was ripped away unceremoniously by some unspeakable force. Giant chucks of frigid debris were sent flying inwards, stopping a hair’s breadth from Cirno’s skin, but completely encompassing Daiyousei and Meiling and obscuring them from view. Tossing the ruined ice from her, she saw a red and green figure walking up the shattered mounds of ice like steps, a pink umbrella clutched in her left hand.

“Well, hello!” Yuka said cheerfully, waving her free hand towards the fairy. “Not too late, am I? Sorry about the mess, but this was the fastest way in! And where’d that China run off to now?”

Cirno looked to her left at a bloody pile of mush and green clothes pancaked under a frozen boulder. “I…don’t think she’ll be running anywhere for a while, Miss Kazami.”

Yuka shrugged her shoulders playfully; she couldn’t have cared less that she just killed someone. “Oh well, can’t be helped. I didn’t want her stealing all the fun, so this’ll do just fine, won’t it?” She opened her parasol and began twirling it over her head for amusement, looking at Cirno hungrily. “So, little Miss Cirno, destroyer of Gensokyo…how’ve you been? Up to you usual mischief I assume, murdering my precious flowers so?”

Cirno paused for as long as she dared to think. So this was Ms. Yuka Kazami, the Gardener of the Sun. Always cheerful, always smiling, polite in conversation…and a complete sociopath. It was said that the only things she cared about in life were her flowers and those who defiled them, but as a fellow soul who had been one-dimensionally characterized before, Cirno wasn’t about to take any rumors at face value, and certainly not with a youkai who has proclaimed and proven herself to be within the top echelon of power in Gensokyo.

“I said I was sorry, Yuka, and I’ll say it again just to make sure: I am very, very sorry that I accidentally froze your sunflowers that one time. Can’t we just forget about the past?”

Yuka laughed madly and wagged a finger at her. “Ahahaha no, oh no no no! You dear little fairies can forget about things all the time, but my flowers…My flowers never will. As long as a single petal remains, my flowers will never forget. And this flower,” she added as she pointed her parasol out towards Cirno like a sword, “this flower never withers.”

“So what do we do?” Cirno asked, knowing full well what Yuka expected of her.

“Do? We fight of course!” Yuka raised a finger to her mouth and looked up at the sky wistfully. “Now, if we do it this way, over much too quick. And that way’s no fun at all, not nearly enough payment for my poor flowers you slaughtered. Soooo…here’s what we’ll do!” She held up four fingers for Cirno to see, ticking them off one by one.

“First, no danmaku. Faaaar too inconsequential. Second, no magical abilities at all; you won’t control cold, and I won’t control my pretties. Third, one weapon only. I’ll use my parasol—“ she snapped the umbrella back into a folded position, “—and you can use, I don’t know, whatever it is you use. And fourth…” Her eyes grew bright and sadistic, folding her hand into a vicious fist. “The winner will be whoever rapes the other first. You know what ‘rape’ means, don’t you little girl?”

Cirno’s brow furrowed. So, it was going to be like that, was it? “To abuse, violate, defile, penetrate, or otherwise dominate in every meaning of the word.”

She clapped her hands together speedily like a little child. “Good girl, such a smart little girl! I can see we’re going to have a lot of fun together.”

Cirno picked up a sword-like shard of ice from the ground and held it in her hand, studying every molecule of water within the object. She altered it, reformed it, strengthened it, infused the cold blade with all the energy she could spare. There were strong metals in the world, both real and imaginary: steel, titanium, mithril, adamantium. Cirno had never heard of these metals before, but if she had, she would surely have said that the ice blade she held in her hands right now was stronger than they. The blade was angular and efficient, long yet light, sacrificing pure crushing power for finesse. She would need every inch of range she could muster against Yuka; one wayward strike from her brutal parasol would be all it would take to decide the battle.

Cirno drew her sword into a ready position, unwilling to attack first. Without any real combat experience to go upon, she wouldn’t rush in until she knew how Yuka fought. She would have to dodge, dodge and defend, defend and parry, until she saw an opening, an exploit, something she could use to her advantage. Waiting, watching, waiting—

Yuka dashed forwards with wicked speed, her parasol sweeping forwards in a violent arc. Cirno drew up her sword just in time to block, and almost wished she had dodged instead. The force of the impact sent shivers throughout her entire body, especially the sword, and brought her to her knees immediately. So this was her power! Yuka wasted no time, however, and drew her off-hand forwards to grab Cirno’s head and hurled her into the air.

“Three dimensions!” the green-haired woman pealed. “Yes! Everything’s more fun in three dimensions!” With an ice-cracking leap she jumped into the air and began twirling like a spear towards her target, who quickly regained her bearings and dashed out of the way. Yuka took mere moments to fix Cirno’s position in her fiery eyes and immediately gave chase.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24898
File 123021471055.jpg - (251.58KB, 492x640, BattleWornCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24898
(…please wait coolly.)

To an outside observer the battle looked harmless. Cirno pirouetting this way and that through the air like a small bird, and Yuka either matching her speed for speed, or else anticipating her movements and cutting her off. It looked like a simple game of tag, really. But to Cirno and Yuka, this was war. Yuka’s wanton destruction of the frozen fortress had put the true fear of death in Cirno, and she wasn’t about to start clashing blades until she was ready. But the blood had already long since boiled in Yuka’s veins. She wanted an opponent. Someone who could stand up to the full force of her abilities and counter in turn. Very few had yet satisfied her bloodlust. Perhaps Cirno…perhaps she would be the one to please her.

Parasol met blade once, twice, three times in quick succession, Yuka just barely missing her fourth attack as Cirno circled around and attempted to get out of range. The pressure never relented; no matter how far Cirno retreated, Yuka was always right there in front of her, wielding her umbrella like a warhammer and laughing with emotions no soul should ever laugh with. Neither weapon showed any signs of wear, but the berserker force of Yuka’s attacks threw Cirno off balance all the same.

Cirno began to see a pattern in the youkai’s attacks. She was fast, she was strong, and she was skilled, but was she was not was defensive. Her methods were wild and unrefined, leaving a dozen openings for anyone risky enough to exploit them. For any normal swordsman such a style would have killed them years ago, but so intimidating was Yuka’s offense that no sane soul would dare try to attack her weaknesses. Cirno was no madwoman…but she knew how to fight like one.

Cirno fell back outside of the parasol’s range and began to aggress, slowly at first, taking advantage of her blade’s improved range. Parry a wayward swipe, then quickly riposte with a jab to the stomach. Dodge a lightning thrust, and take a bloody slap at her leg. Bit by bit, Cirno drew blood that Yuka’s weapon was incapable of drawing. She healed within a minute, but it didn’t matter. The fairy was winning.

Except…she wasn’t. Yuka never slowed, never winced, never dropped that smile for even an instant. She wanted this. She was enjoying it. She began to speak in a cruel voice fit for demons, licking up her own blood and spitting it at Cirno as she spoke in between advances.

“You see…you see? This is war…This is death…This is life! You can live without living for ages until you experience death without dying! Draw blood…paint blood…bathe underneath a sky filled with red flowers. Say you’re sorry…say you’re sorry…never saying you’re sorry until you write it in blood. Feel my death, then feel my life! Only you can kill yourself; only I can kill me! You become me to fight me, fight me to kill me, and then I never die! Never die…never die…never die…”

Cirno missed a block, and the parasol connected with her right leg. Bone snapped, skin tore, muscles severed. Only Yuka with her barbaric strength could have made a parasol cut like an axe. Another failed parry; her ribs splintered into white toothpicks. Yuka pulled Cirno’s blade deliberately into her side and held it there as she crushed Cirno’s left shoulder with “the flower that never withers”, her insanity giving her the power of giants.

Cirno’s attacks slowed, her left arm dangling useless by her side, her brain piloting her body like a ship’s captain who has no choice but the sink along with his vessel. Yuka beat her into submission, the fairy barely even able to dodge now. The fight was meaningless now, but Yuka continued to bruise Cirno again and again, extracting every last bit on pain she possibly could.

“You—will—remember—every—single—petal—of—every—single—flower—you—killed!” the witch Kazami screamed, each word accompanied by a sickening slap across the cheek, her face bleeding by the time she was finished with the sentence. Cirno couldn’t fight back anymore, could barely even move. It was all over now. Unless…

“And now…” Yuka grinned, strangling Cirno with her right hand as she hung the parasol across her extended forearm with the left, flexing her open fingers ominously. “Your virginity. I will be taking it.”

There was no warning. No preparation. Nothing that could possibly be called “foreplay”. Lifting Cirno high, Yuka thrust her tense fingers under Cirno’s skirt, not even bothering to remove her underpants before this perverse attack. The fingernails tore through fabric, lips, skin and flesh like water, never pausing, never slowing an iota. Cirno’s body became liquid pain as Yuka penetrated her most private areas, clawing at her insides with nails made of steel. This was not rape; this was torture. There was no pleasure, not even the illusion of it. Only pain, only agony, only the mad, lustful, drunk laughter of this green-haired woman who was stealing from Cirno the one experience in life which should be the greatest thing anyone should ever experience. Blood flowed from Cirno’s defiled orifice, slithering down Yuka’s arm like a snake, lubricating it as she slid her hand in and out. In and out. In and out.

Her red eyes gazed into Cirno’s dull blue ones with an air of complete and utter dominance, her lids just barely lowered in the haughtiest of haughty manners. She smiled with a pleasure only she could comprehend.

“You lose.”

Cirno gritted her teeth through the agony that was consuming her soul, the pain of this penetration a thousand times higher than the pleasure normally experienced. Her world was nothing but fire, a cold fire she could not control. The cold fire of a shattered ribcage. The cold fire of a dangling leg, barely attached. The cold fire of a now-dead arm. The cold fire of her insides being ripped apart by this, this thing. The cold fire of her heavy sword, still clutched in a rigid hand.

Her sword.

There was no warning. No preparation. Nothing that could possibly be called “foreplay”. With a determination born of suffering itself Cirno curled her hand forwards, tensed her good arm, and struck. The blade swung upwards, under Yuka’s legs, through her red checkered skirt. It pierced the flesh of her womanhood, and kept going. It separated the bones of her loins, and kept going. It traveled upwards through her stomach, her lungs, her heart, and kept going. It burrowed upwards through her neck, through her brain, and kept going. With one last scream Cirno ripped the sword through Yuka’s skull where it remained lodged, the whole of her body impaled upon this shaft of steely ice.

Cirno looked at Yuka’s glowing eyes, the fire quickly being replaced with dying red coals. She managed a weary grin and twisted the blade for emphasis.

“You lose more.”

Blood bubbled from Yuka’s still-smiling lips as her consciousness left her and she tumbled to the ocean, her hand slipping painfully out of Cirno’s womb in the process. Cirno’s eyes could barely focus as she watched the rapist fall, fall, fall to the icy waters below. It was over. She was more than half-dead, but it was over.

Limping painfully back to her shattered fortress, she nudged the broken walls with what was left of her mind. Daiyousei…where was she? Meiling’s crushed body still lay immobile under a pile of ice, but Daiyousei’s was nowhere to be found. Rummaging through the piles of debris, she stumbled upon the now lopsided entrance to the tunnel below, and on a weary whim followed it downwards. Every bump into the walls sent a new wave of pain through her battered body, but she couldn’t bring herself to manifest an icy transport for herself this time. So tired…she was so tired…but she couldn’t stop. Not yet. There was one last thing she had to do.

(Little Cirno is preparing…)
>> No. 24899
File 123021479020.jpg - (719.60KB, 1500x1269, DyingCirno.jpg) [iqdb]
24899
(…please wait coolly.)

Cirno fought with her tongue to find the words to say. “Aya…Aya’s down, Marisa’s down. Yuka, Yuka might dead…Meiling is dead. Yakumo’s…coming. Barrier…where, barrier?”

A friendly hand led Cirno to a shimming wall of transparent energy at the end of the tunnel, barely even noticeable from the air around it. So this was it. The Great Hakurei Barrier. Even hundreds of feet underground, the Hakurei family had been smart enough to seal Gensokyo from below as well as from above. But it was weaker here. It had to be. And that meant it could be broken.

“Stand back,” she ordered to those behind her, placing a finger on the ethers of the Border. “It’s going to get very cold down here.”

It was a fundamental law of heat and energy, she had been told. Energy liked to be in equilibrium; cold areas tried to get warmer, hot areas tried to get cooler. When the difference in temperature was greater, so too was the influx in energy needed to create that equality. And when Cirno said that she was going to create “Absolute Zero” to crack the Border itself…well, it was all a matter of physics, right?

The air grew bitter cold as Cirno began to draw the heat out of the Barrier. The wet dirt around them froze into a slick surface, cracked and refroze, until even the breath of the fairies itself crystallized in midair. Not cold enough. The survivors huddled around each other, fluttering their wings in a vain attempt to stay warm. Not cold enough. Cirno’s palm glowed brightly with all the stored energy she was siphoning from the heat around her. Not cold enough. All thermometers in the world would have malfunctioned by now, the readings too low to chart. Not…cold…enough!!

Everything broke all at once. Cirno’s wings broke. The iced tunnel broke. The dirt in front of them broke. But most importantly, the Barrier broke. A gaping cavern spanned out before them, carved from the release of Cirno’s stored heat. Where were they in Gensokyo, anyways? Hell? Makai? It didn’t matter; Gensokyo was Gensokyo. They had made it. Now it was over.

“There,” Cirno said tiredly. “Gensokyo. Quick, before the barrier closes! Get though, all of you. Get to Keine Kamishirasawa, she’ll…she’ll protect you. She can fix all this; she has to. Go!”

One by one the fairies walked past Cirno and into the Gensokyo underground, shaking her hand and uttering heartfelt words of thanks, even hugging and saluting her. Nine. She had saved nine besides herself. Daiyousei…was nowhere to be found. Cirno looked back down the tunnel in sadness and began to walk away.

“Wait! Cirno?! Where are you going?!” one of the fairies yelled back at her.

Cirno looked over her shoulder, smiling weakly, tears dotting her face. “I…I have to apologize to Miss Ran for breaking her nice barrier. Gotta leave a good impression, you know? Don’t worry about me; go! I’m buying you time, go!”

The protests of the fairies faded into silence as Cirno left all she had fought for in the safe hands of their motherland. It was always going to be like this; Cirno had always planned for it. She had never wanted to draw others into this, but she had, and the only option was to save them. She didn’t deserve saving now. She had tried to get Gensokyo to listen to her, and they hadn’t. Well, perhaps they would listen to her in death, now.

Not unexpectedly, Ran Yakumo waited for Cirno as she emerged from the tunnel onto the melting ice, the broken forms of Meiling, Marisa, Yuka, and Aya lying on the ground behind her, and Chen standing faithfully by her side. She looked at Cirno like a mother who hated punishing her children, but knew it was for the best.

“Cirno the fairy,” Ran announced calmly, folding her arms inside her sleeves. “By the democratic votes of over four-fifths of Gensokyo, in accordance with the laws of the land, I have been ordered to execute you on sight, using any means necessary.”

Cirno nodded in comprehension. “Okay. Just so’s you know, I’ll be resisting. Oh, and I’m sorry for breaking your mom’s nice barrier.”

“Do you care to leave an epitaph?”

Cirno needed no time to think. She had spent most of the walk through the tunnel thinking about this one answer, and she had made her decision. It was clichéd, it was curt, and it would most likely be misconstrued. But it was who she was. And she was going to die being herself.


“I’m the strongest.”

========================================

11,564 words. This story is officially a “novelette.”

I promised to have this done by Christmas. I try to keep my promises.

This is a one-shot story. There will be no continuation.

I do not deny the presence of errors both grammatical and continuous.

A Scarlet-Stained Memoir will return on December 26th. I am taking the day off. I ask you to do the same. Enjoy the holiday with your friends and family. Remember the reason for the season.
>> No. 24901
File 123022645847.jpg - (408.41KB, 1024x768, 873431.jpg) [iqdb]
24901
HOLY
SHIT
AWES⑨ME
>> No. 24903
>>24901
This.
>> No. 24904
Merry Christmas Mr. U.N. Owen.
Here I thought I was done receiving gifts, boy was I surprised at what was waiting to be read on the SDM board ... This was simply amazing, a welcome present.
>> No. 24905
File 12302355994.jpg - (17.78KB, 244x320, manly tears.jpg) [iqdb]
24905
>> No. 24906
This was marvelous.
>> No. 24907
Excellent work. My hat's off to you.
>> No. 24912
File 123024201661.jpg - (167.00KB, 695x1949, 1230188172785.jpg) [iqdb]
24912
Happy it didn't turn out like this.
>> No. 24913
>>24891 >>24892 >>24893 >>24894 >>24895 >>24896 >>24897 >>24898 >>24899

I see what you did there. And I liked it.
>> No. 24914
I've got nothing clever or witty or silly or solemn to say. It wouldn't feel right.

This was good.
>> No. 24918
File 123025209794.jpg - (126.54KB, 460x1280, CirnosLastStand.jpg) [iqdb]
24918
U.N.Owen, this was amazing.

As a thank-you and late present, I give you this.

I hope you like it as much as we liked the story.
>> No. 24920
>>...the one experience in life which should be the greatest thing anyone should ever experience.

You want to make Mr.Farmer like that don't you U.N. Owen? Don't you!?

*sigh* It's a good thing I love Cirno so much.
>> No. 24921
That was superb.
>> No. 24923
File 123025597012.jpg - (28.86KB, 500x282, ocelot.jpg) [iqdb]
24923
SPLENDID, BROTHER!
>> No. 24924
Meanie. You made me cry.
>> No. 24926
Absolutely magnificent, thank you sir.
>> No. 24927
File 123026266410.png - (34.22KB, 700x700, OHNO.png) [iqdb]
24927
SUDDENLY
>> No. 24928
File 123026526250.jpg - (270.41KB, 595x731, 2507344.jpg) [iqdb]
24928
Manly tears were shed in abundance; undoubtedly a new high water mark for Touhou Project literature. This is the best Christmas ever.

I am now officially excited about 200⑨
>> No. 24929
U. N. Owen, I must offer my congratulations. You are the first author on this site, as well as the first author in several years, to truly move me to manly tears.
>> No. 24930
File 123026798248.png - (348.66KB, 640x451, 1197161522450.png) [iqdb]
24930
>>24918
Oh my god... it's too awesome...
>> No. 24937
File 123028844970.jpg - (44.27KB, 673x365, cirno_kaminaglasses.jpg) [iqdb]
24937
Great story, I loved it!

"Row Row Fight the Power" is now playing in your head. Manually.
>> No. 24939
Fucking incredible.

I haven't been reading your main story, but I think I'll be starting now.
>> No. 24940
File 123029155720.jpg - (9.49KB, 212x238, 1228807573415.jpg) [iqdb]
24940
>>24939

Forgot my reaction image.
>> No. 24945
File 123030205668.jpg - (28.05KB, 438x308, You lose more.jpg) [iqdb]
24945
>>24918
>> No. 24972
The joy is mine as much as yours, when I see people enjoying my work this profusely. A writer can have no greater gift then when he sees his work being appreciated. The honor is mine, good sirs, to write for you.

>>24901
I approve of Patchcon Cirnos teaching people how to celebrate.

>>24913
I didn’t catch that until right after I posted it. Indeed, nine. Funny how random chance just happens to work that way, isn’t it?

>>24918
A…A picture? A picture for…for me? Drawn for my story? In…one, one day? I, I…th-thank you, thank you so very much! I don’t know what…what else is there to say? It’s…It’s beautiful. I can’t thank you enough!

…I thought I forgot how to cry, but…

>>24920
>You want to make Mr. Farmer like that don't you U.N. Owen? Don't you!?
Do I? Do you?

>>24924
Then my work is complete. I have attached you to a character, made her come alive for you, and you have cried for her loss. I pray that my skill may continue to do such things as this. Do not weep, but be joyful that you have a heart with which to weep.

>>24929
Perhaps I succeeded more than I thought, then.

>>24937
>cirno_kaminaglasses.jpg
You haven’t seen anything yet…

>>24939
Don’t be taken aback if you find the tone of writing to be a little different than this. You’ll probably be reading with your brain more than your heart in A Scarlet-Stained Memoir.

>>24945
I could see this becoming a meme. But I wouldn’t be worthy if it did.
>> No. 24973
It's...

Beautiful.
>> No. 24976
File 123035716342.jpg - (652.01KB, 1025x778, CD.jpg) [iqdb]
24976
Amazing.

Thank you, U. N. Owen.
>> No. 25003
>>24972
I am speechless, in the face of the amazing work that this is...

Words cannot describe...

I have to leave it at that. Any attempt i could make at leaving a worthy enough comment to this would not hit its mark.
>> No. 25046
File 123053528495.jpg - (48.76KB, 208x163, All that she left behind.jpg) [iqdb]
25046



                                SEE YOU, ICE COWBOY...
>> No. 25563
...And this is why it is nice to be literate. Cirno was always one of my favorites. My hat is off to you, sir, you deserve nine bottles of aloe vera for this.
>> No. 25564
File 123224063783.png - (134.45KB, 320x240, vlcsnap-77310.png) [iqdb]
25564
This is the best Touhou related thing I have ever read.

I feel somewhat bad that I was mildly turned on by Yuka's rape, and that I was pleased by Marisa dying first.
>> No. 25567
>>25564
Scratch that. This is probably one of the best literature related things I've ever read.
>> No. 25568
>>25567
And once more: I actually feel really fucking bad for being aroused then.
>> No. 25570
Call me crazy, but for some reason I really wanted to see Cirno fail spectacularly. I enjoyed reading it, have no doubt, but felt absolutely no empathy for the fairy's plight. Guess I'm just weird.

I do find it funny how Meiling still gets reduced to a joke, but that's just my personal bias talking.
>> No. 25573
I wonder. When this was first being proposed,

Did anyone else read "Stand" and think of JoJo?
>> No. 40036
Wow such a great story. Pretty much left me speachless after finishing it.

Great work.
>> No. 40037
Woah, it was a shock seeing being bumped up to the top page.
Not that you're wrong, but...
>> No. 40038
Yeah sorry bout necroing it. Came from an external site (with a direct link to this story) and didn't noticed the date of the last post.

So again sorry.
>> No. 40042
Well since it has already been bumped and I haven't commented on it yet... Great short Owen! Absolutely fantastic. And it's long as hell too! Good job!

>Yeah sorry bout necroing it. Came from an external site (with a direct link to this story) and didn't noticed the date of the last post.
Do I maybe know you? Youtube?
>> No. 40043
Not (>>40036) here, but my introduction to THP was via being linked to this thread.
Can't remember where from, but I was looking up the Strongest Day, having learnt about it too late.
>> No. 40044
i read it some time ago, and i loved it, now that it has been necro'ed i too can say "Incredible job Owen".
From time to time i open it and start reading at random just like i do with a good book...
>> No. 40050
@40042
Well yeah i have a channel/account there with the same name; its pretty much my standard posting name around the internet.

@40043
This thread is my first time here at this site too. Came across this story while reading about touhou at Tvtropes.

A shame i didn't read it sooner.
>> No. 40060
>Well yeah i have a channel/account there with the same name; its pretty much my standard posting name around the internet.
Huh? Are you sure? I just sent the link to the archives to a hlpb -something guy a short while ago on youtube. He wanted ASSM but the first page seems to be missing... I thought he wandered in here instead...
>> No. 40064
@40060
No youre right, i forgot my youtube account was made before i changed my default name to "deathcaster" (where it hasn't been taken) at youtube i have my old nickname "legolas66106".

Heh should really type in my usernames once instead of relying on those auto-login cookies.

So no that deathcaster ins't the same as this one, sorry.
>> No. 40068
>>40064
Yeah, you know. You don't need to make @ here. If you want to get the attention of people just click on the No. 40064 or so in the post.
>> No. 44000
I was referenced to A Scarlet Stained Memoir, and read to Chapter 14 in 5 days, including this short. U.N. Owen, you did an epic job and should feel proud.

I finished it two weeks later, having been forced to be a counselor at a camp with no internet. I despaired while waiting.
>> No. 44116
Having just had the luck to stumble over this, I just wanted to thank for your hard work in this Owen. I've always had a soft spot for Cirno which made the story even better to me. The ending manged to be both heart warming, and damn sad at the same time.
>> No. 44117
Glad you enjoyed it. I agree it is a great short. Please, do sage next time ok?(just write sage in the email box) Some of us have the thread on our watched list so we're still gonna see your comment.
>> No. 44118
>>44116

You brain-dead fuck.
>> No. 44119
>>44118 You don't have to be so mean. Yea sure bumping, but some people don't know how to use sage. Though I guess learning the hard way is the best way...
You see >>44116? This is what happens when you bump a story as old as this one. Try to be more careful next time~
>> No. 44120
I miss Owen. We really drove him crazy with our votes.
>> No. 44122
I think he said something about still being around a while ago. I miss him too.
>> No. 44123
>>44119
When posting, type "sage" into the Email field, but without the quotes.
>> No. 44136
>>44120
>>44122
Indeed yes; I still poke around from time to time. I miss you guys too, but I’m just too busy to write much these days. And actually, you guys drove me more sane with your votes; it just didn’t feel like it at the time. Looking back on it all has given me perspective on what I did right, what I did wrong, and how I can improve in the future. So thanks for that.

>>44000
Thank you; it was definitely hard work writing that much that fast. I’m glad you enjoyed it, as well, though getting stuck in the middle couldn’t have been fun. My condolences.

>>44116
You’re very welcome, stranger; more people need to try and break away from fanon Cirno in my opinion.

And apparently bumping this sparked discussion about necrobumping and such on the main board, sooo… hooray, I guess?
>> No. 57454
>>44136
Necrobumping you say?
>> No. 60532
I'll be nice and sage, but that was, to use the word properly for once, epic.
>> No. 60533
File 140136669985.jpg - (66.80KB, 436x348, didieiydf97e5.jpg) [iqdb]
60533
>>60532

ಠ_ಠ
>> No. 60534
File 140136714591.png - (31.37KB, 300x375, yukari.png) [iqdb]
60534
>>60533
But in all seriousness, it's a pity this board is so dead.
>> No. 60537
>>60534
Since nobody actually expects this story to continue, isn't it good that newfags can discover and read this one-shot/short-story/ spin-off/wordhyphenword?

That said, fuck you.

>You lose MORE.jpg

Hehehe, never gets old.
>> No. 60538
I suppose it's for the best that this story stops where it does; I couldn't imagine any possible continuation that could do justice to it.
>> No. 60539
We need more badass Cirno
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