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Under Your Spell

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It happened on a seemingly ordinary day.

There was no foreboding feeling in my gut, like my kind are blessed (and cursed) to have as I approached the Hakurei Jinja. The winter weather, which had been harsher than usual, had relaxed today, only soft snow falling in a friendly manner.

The only warning I could've had was the way Reimu looked at me. Concern, maybe. Or was it judgement?

She crossed her legs and hugged the blanket closer around her shoulders. "I expected you'd come around here before the storm."

"I stayed underground with Yuugs while the blizzard blew over," I said, loosening my scarf and sitting beside Reimu on the porch. "Nice girlfriendly winter bonding."

She laughed lightly, but it lacked the depth that her usual laughter had from my clumsy wit. "You two have been a couple for a while. Things going okay?"

"Only about thirteen hundred years," I said with a laugh, "Of course we're fine!"

"Thirteen hundred years," she sighed. "So...weren't you and Kasen-san a couple?"

I winced. "So that's what you were thinking about?"

"I thought you two were married." She shouldered me lightly.

I didn't shoulder her back. Palms sweaty, I took a drink before I began to tell her the truth about Kasen.

You're a story that I hoped I'd never have to tell
You're a lesson that I wish I'd never learned so well

"It wasn't like...a real marriage, y'know?" I said with a shrug. "It was purely political."

I felt my gut tighten slightly at the thought of the wedding, the way she forced a kiss on me that I didn't want, the way she touched me the night after as I begged for her to stop.

"Then why did you two marry?"

"You know how we were slaves of the tengu? And Yuugs and I led the rebellion against them?"

Reimu nodded.

"Well, after we finished off a few officials, other officials came in and offered a peace treaty, with Kasen as a prize. I had no choice but to take her hand. If I hadn't, then the war would've continued. I couldn't sacrifice more of my people for some petty bullshit."

After all my years of giving up and letting go
All I wanted was to give you what you've never known

" never really liked her, then?"

I laughed-a bit harsher than I meant, sure, but it was honest in its delivery, so I didn't have any regrets. "Kasen was everything an oni shouldn't be. She was comfortable with lying. She kept secrets. She was always so...oddly reclusive. And she was violent."

I know now
You can only hurt me 'cause I let you get to know me so well

"Aren't all oni violent?" Reimu sipped her tea. "You and Yuugi fight all the time!"

"That's just friendly sparring," I replied.

"But sometimes, you seem really angry!"

"It's different!" My voice shook, echoing and coming out a lot louder than I intended. I bowed in apology.

Reimu cleared her throat, hesitantly placing a hand behind me, leaning closer. It was almost as though she wanted to put an arm around me, but she didn't know how, so I took her arm and wrapped it around my shoulders, resting against hers.

"So...what did she do?"

I know now
I love you cause only you can turn my heaven to hell

"At night...any night that I was in her living quarters. When I was ordered to be, that is. She...used to tell me that we were required to consummate our marriage. I never wanted to. So she forced me. She had these...charms that she got from the tengu that weakened me, so she could do whatever she pleased. She claimed that, because she was a handmaiden of the tengu royals, she had built up a tolerance to them, so they didn't affect her like they affected others of my kind." I took a deep breath before continuing. "It wasn't a fight." Feeling a tear escape my eye, I rubbed it away. "It was abuse."

Reimu stroked my hair slowly, almost hesitantly, probably knowing that I was close to tears. And when wasn't I? I always wore my heart on my sleeve.

Kasen didn't. It's how she could get to me so well.

I know now
I want out from under your spell

"How long...did this go on?" Reimu asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Longer than it should have," I said with a bitter, spiteful laugh, as biting as the winter air had been all month. "Yuugs picked up on the fact she was hurting me pretty quickly. After all, we were girlfriends. And best friends. She knew me better than anyone, and she knew I was using the paints and makeups of that time to hide the bruises, that I was drinking and smoking a bit more than usual, that I always seemed so...tired and distracted."

"If your kind is so honest-not that I'm accusing you of lying, Suika, I just was curious-then why didn't you tell the others? I'm sure other members of your clan would've defended you."

"Kasen had threatened me." I swallowed a lump in my throat. "She said that...if I told anyone about 'our little secret,' as she always put it, she would kill me, and Ooe-san would be dissolved back into the war I was working so hard to keep from happening again. The tengu would reign supreme once more."

You're the promise that degraded every hope and dream
You're the whisper at the end of every hopeless scream

Reimu didn't say anything for a while, just watched the snow fall to the ground before us, the fairies playing in it in the distance, throwing snowballs and giggling.

Whenever I thought about Kasen, I felt like there shouldn't be any happiness left in the world. I hated faking being okay. I hated how dishonest and dirty she made me feel, and how dirty and dishonest she was being. I never thought someone could call themself an oni and be like that.

After all the years of turning love to empty rage
All you wanted was for me to help you turn the page

"But did you love her?" Reimu asked finally.

"I don't know what to call what my feelings were." I laughed, feeling another tear trickle down. "Maybe I was just sick in the head. Maybe I was afraid of her. But there was this part of me that had this...odd attachment to her. I wouldn't call it love, because I hated her. I wanted nothing more but to strangle her, to let her feel just what the strength of the oni feels like. But at the same time, I felt myself becoming...oddly defensive of her." I swallowed. "Yuugs started asking me-rather aggressively, really-about the scars and bruises I'd have. She'd lick her fingers and rub off my makeup to show what was going on. And I couldn't lie, but...I could omit details. So I would leave. And I felt like such a bad friend, but…" My shoulders started involuntarily shaking. "I couldn't let her die."

I know now
I didn't see the bruises that I should've seen the first time I fell

"How did this all end?" Reimu took a sip of tea with her free hand.

"Well, you know about Minamoto no Raikou?"

"The one who attacked you? It's a pretty famous fairytale among humans."

I couldn't help but roll my eyes.

"I know that the story is bullshit, though." Reimu sipped gingerly. "I're still alive. Clearly, he didn't decapitate you."

"He tried. He and his men pretended to be travelers who were lost. I let them into my place. We partied. They drugged me. They subdued me with this...helmet-looking thing to weaken me. But even with that, they just...couldn't quite kill me, so they dragged my unconscious, bleeding body to the capitol." I started picking at a hangnail on my thumb. "Y'know Jizou?"

"Not personally. He's the buddhavista who didn't want to obtain buddahood so he could stay on earth, right?"

"Yeah. That guy. Well, there was a statue to him outside of Kyoto, and he didn't want impurities brought into the capitol, and my bleeding, almost-lifeless body was pretty much as impure as it came. So Raikou's men just took the helmet, pretending my head was inside, and I was saved by the local kami."

"So where did Kasen go during this?"

"She lost her arm in the battle, then escaped." I shrugged. "And now that brings us to today." I let out a tiny smile. "And I'll get my revenge."

I know now
No one will listen to the story that I have to tell

"Have you talked to her yet? Like, in person?"

I looked at my skirt, playing with the folds. "In passing. She looked pretty scared, but I don't know why. Perhaps she's lost her ways to dominate me."

Reimu squeezed my shoulder and offered me a bit of her tea. "Is there anything you want me to do? I can always…" She lifted a few spell cards out of her sleeve.

I know now
I want out from under your spell

The tea was delicious as it was warm, and it filled my insides with something resembling a hug, almost like the sake from my gourd, but sweeter because it came from a friend. Once I chugged a little, I wiped my mouth and grabbed her spell cards, earning a hand slap.

"Let me finish her." I gave her a grin. I tried to look easygoing, but Reimu shifted her body back a little. I must've looked terrifying to make her blanch.

Then she sighed. "You're right. I suppose this is your demon to defeat. I'll be sure to keep her at arm's length."

"I know you need to be civil with everyone, with your job and everything." I gestured toward the Hakurei Jinja. "But you just listening to the truth means the world to me."

I know now
I only loved you 'cause I knew you'd never treat me so well

"Of course I listened! You can't lie." She bit her lip. "It just makes me...I don't know, a little anxious, I guess? Realizing someone I thought was my friend did things so horrible."

"Hey, it's not your fault! You didn't know."

We simultaneously fell into silence again.

I know now
I loved you because through you I've become somebody else

"If you ever need backup...when you do fight her, that is...just let me know, okay, Suika?" Reimu gave me a reassuring squeeze of my arm. "I'm always here for you."

I felt my cheeks grow hot. I'm an oni. I'm strong, and I rarely need backup. But the fact that someone cares made my heart swell.

"Thanks. I will."

Before I could say more, I heard the crunch of footsteps up the steps to the jinja.

Familiar steps.


Reimu went pale at the sight of the pink-haired hermit, as did I. I squeezed her hand, then let myself disperse, the sensation of the molecules of my body spreading apart almost comforting.

I would defeat her.

I will defeat her.

But for now, I wait. I build alliances. I learn to trust again.

And then I will destroy her.

I know now
I want out from under your spell