A Shadow From the Past - Approach
200 years ago, a port town in France—
It was another merry morning, as expected from the largest port town in the country; people chit-chattering, carts strolling down the street, and even the sun smiled brightly at its restless inhabitants. Nothing unusual. Or so how it looked nowadays, of what used to be the center of the deadliest plague befallen Europe.
People had decided to forget that dark past though, and soon flooded the once abandoned town right after an oriental traveler came back alive from what they used to believe as the devil's nest. They plague had dissipated! They shouted in joy as they shattered down the huge stone wall surrounding it with their hammers and reclaimed the town to its previous glory. After several years of reconstruction their dream finally came true; now the old tragedy of the black death had disappeared into a mere page of history.
Meanwhile, back in the current time, the oriental traveler from before, who decided to stay in the town and made it her home, strolled happily down the crowded market filled with merchants and alike. She hummed happily as she browsed the goods on display, a paper bag on hand ready to be filled with this week's groceries for her 'sisters'.
Yes, 'sisters'; that's how she told everyone. The truth was a bit different though, but we would talk about it later.
Ever since the red-haired girl settled there she had been living with two survivors from the huge disaster, as how she explained about two little girls staying with her, helping them with their daily life. The little girls had never been seen outside though, because they were too weak to leave their house that situated on the edge of the town; she said it was due to the side-effect of the plague.
That was why Meiling, the oriental girl in our story, had to do all the chores related to going out of the mansion, like how she was shopping for groceries right now. Anyways, she was on a great mood because the market had some goods from her homeland China in stock today. Maybe she could cook a Chinese food for her 'sisters' today. She tapped her chin in thought.
"Let's see… How about a simple fried rice? Rice, rice, rice… Ah, there it is! They really have some! And what do I need next? Hmm…"
Meiling thought loudly as she put ingredient after ingredients into her bag, smiling widely as she did. Not long enough she got everything she needed in hand. Well, everything but one. She frowned and approached the merchant.
"Excuse me, do you have any garlic?"
"Sorry miss, they're sold out. A customer just bought 'em all."
The merchants pointed casually to the group of people leaving his stand, and Meiling narrowed her eyes to get a better look at them. That's weird. A shady group of men covered all in hood, buying a large quantity of garlic? …could they be merchants as well? Garlic-dealers? As if feeling her stare, one of the man stopped and twirled, catching the girl in surprise. Unable to mask her embarrassment, Meiling stood there scratching her cheek, an awkward smile on her face. Much to her dismay, instead of turning away and left, the man approached her.
"I'm sorry, do you need anything?"
Meiling gulped, taking a moment to observe the man in front of her. Well, he was quite attractive, with purple eyes and hair, a somehow knowing aura radiated from his gaze. But, wait! She didn't have time to check him out! The Chinese girl mentally slapped herself back to reality, letting out an awkward laugh.
"Um, well, uh, yeah. Ha ha, I need some garlic for my cooking, actually."
"I see. And we just brought you a casualty for buying every last of them."
"…well, not really. I can look for them in the other stand—"
"Hey, Knowledge! Stop flirting with the ladies or I'll tell your wife! We have work to do, y'know!"
"I'm not! I'm sorry, my master like to let his mouth running. Oh, and here. You can take some of the garlic. We don't really need that much."
"Alright, I'm coming! See you later, and have a nice day."
And then he left, disappearing into the sea of people, leaving Meiling with her own thought and some garlic on her paper bag.
"You're spacing out."
Meiling woke up in the kitchen she knew so much, a pan on her hand. Ah yes, she was cooking for dinner. Good thing she hadn't started with the stir-frying or she might've burned their meals, and faced the wrath of her mistress of course. That's the scary part. After returning to her senses she finally noticed the little blonde girl that was sitting on the nearby counter, her legs dangling and swinging back and forth happily.
"You're awake early tonight, young mistress."
"mm-hm, I smelled something good and so I followed it here."
"Really? I don't think you can smell the cooking all the way from the basement."
"Ufufu, you got me. I am just bored. Say, say, Meiling. What are you cooking? What are these white thingy?"
Meiling smiled widely as she saw the little girl's eyes sparkled in curiosity; putting away the pan, she approached the little girl and retrieved the bowl of deliciously white rice.
"These, young mistress, are rice. It is a main dish in my homeland."
"Ooh! Is it tasty? Tastier than blood?"
"Uh, yes? But it is not ready yet. We also need the other ingredients I have set aside before."
Meiling walked toward the stove and the little girl followed, floating slightly with her seven-colored wings. Her smile widened as she saw some meat and other vegetables chopped neatly into little blocks.
"First, we put all the other ingredients into the pan and stir-fry them."
"Then, when they're ready...we add the rice into the pan!"
"Enter the main character! Yay!"
"That's right. Now, witness the power of Chinese cooking!"
As she said that, she lifted the pan away from the stove, shifting it with her one hand; the ingredients in it flew out and floated in the air for a while, before landing cleanly back in it. The little girl watched the whole scene in awe, clapping her hands. But the show hadn't finished yet; soon enough, after a few more shake of the pan, fire burst out of the pan.
"Yay, it's burning high!"
The sound of restless footsteps echoed throughout the mansion corridor, followed by a loud slam of a double oak door. Oh well, Meiling would need to repair them again.
"Onee-sama! Onee-sama, wake up!"
The culprit, a blonde little girl, ran toward the comfy bed in the middle of the room, jumping and diving into it; the bed let out a loud 'oomph'. It was revealed that there was another little girl covered beneath the huge blanket, groaning and crawling her way out, pushing the blonde girl away from atop her. She rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"Yes, Flandre? What is it?"
"There's no time to explain! Follow me, follow me!"
"Wait, Flan, I'm still in my pajamas—"
But Flandre didn't stop; she pulled on her sister's arm and ran out of the room, ignoring her protest. Passing corridor after corridors they finally reached a room with a long table on its middle, decorated with neat table cloth and other tableware. A red-haired girl was there, setting a plate of food down; she seemed to be surprised by the sudden burst of the door as she quickly turned her head toward the two little girl, almost dropping the food in her shock. Another door to fix; the red-haired girl thought loudly in her head as she saw the ruined door.
Silence lingered for only a while as Flandre proceeded to drag her sister once again, in a less chaotic way this time, and motioned her to sit on her favorite chair. The older girl obeyed, eyes fixed on her sister all the while.
"So? What is it this time, Flan?"
"You know? Meiling cooked something special tonight!"
Two pairs of scarlet eyes quickly turned to look at the red-haired girl, one waiting in anticipation and one boring into her in a dangerous glare. Meiling gulped and put down the plate she was holding.
"Err, this is a traditional food from my homeland; fried rice. I hope you like it, milady."
Remilia stared blankly at the unfamiliar dish shoved in front of her, eyes half-lidded as sleepiness still haunting her. She blinked and let her gaze wandered to the other side of the room, finding her sister already sitting happily on her own chair, digging into her dinner. She sighed and took hold of her own fork—no, wait. Spoon. It looked like she had to use spoon to eat this thing. She scoop a little portion of the food, putting it into her mouth slowly.
And she stopped. Frozen.
The Chinese servant of hers, and the responsible cook, seemed to notice the somehow strange behavior of her mistress and approached her cautiously.
"Um…you don't like it, milady?"
The little girl suddenly shouted and jumped out of her chair, tackling and grabbing on the collar of the mortified Chinese girl, her eyes red and watery and filled with pure fury.
"You cursed idiot China! Are you trying to poison me? What did you put in my food!?"
"No, milady! I would never! I just made a normal fried rice—"
The little girl hissed, tightening the grip on her servant's collar.
"..umm…rice, vegetable oil, meat, some pepper and spices...oh, and garlic—"
Meiling shrunk and gulped, nodding slowly.
"You put garlic in my food!? I'm a VAMPIRE and you put GARLIC in my food!? ...I see, so you already have guts to challenge me now? Very well—"
"No, wait, milady! I didn't mean to! I don't know that you're, uh, allergic to garlic. And lady Flandre seemed alright…"
The two of them switched their eyes to the other little girl in the room that still happily wolfed down her food. Remilia let go her previous prey, approaching the smiling Flandre.
"Hm? Aren't you eating your dinner, onee-sama?"
"NO. Most importantly, how could you eat 'that'? Is it delicious?"
"Yep! Whenever I eat some the inside of my throat feels burning, it's interesting!"
Remilia quickly snatched the half-eaten fried rice and threw it away; Meiling, with her quick reflexes, managed to catch the food before reaching the floor. She gazed sadly at her master piece and muttered under her breath.
"…you shouldn't be picky in eating..."
Remilia turned and glared dangerously at her; she gulped and bowed in apologize.
"I understand. I'm really sorry, milady."
"Good. Now get me a proper dinner."
The Chinese girl sighed and retrieved the plates, but then suddenly, something resurfaced from her memories and she turned to her mistress once again.
"I just remember something, milady."
"Really? And why do I need to know about that?"
"Err, well, it's just that, this morning when I was shopping for groceries, a group of shady men bought all of the garlic in the market and I thought it was strange—"
"A group of garlic-dealers, huh? Nothing unusual. Oh, and Flandre, would you wait here while I go changing?"
"Alright. Meiling, come."
Meiling pouted but followed anyway, tailing after her mistress with her shoulders slumped. Were they simply garlic-dealers? Wait, what is a garlic-dealer? Is that even mean anything? But before she got time to ask her mistress, the little girl spoke first.
"Those men. What else do you know about them?"
The Chinese girl stopped dead on her track, staring at the striking red orbs in front of her. They were no normal men, she knew it! And her mistress seemed to notice this as well. She took a deep breath.
"There were about five of them, wearing long coats covering their whole body. I saw the face of one of them though, and his name was—"
"Knowledge! What, are you daydreaming about that cute oriental girl from this morning?"
"What? Please stop it, master, I am married."
That was a half-lie. The man really was thinking about the red-haired girl, on how his whole body felt like shivering in an unknown fear when he got close to her.
He somehow knew, that girl wasn't human.
Many people nowadays might not believed about such thing anymore, but he did. Maybe because he wasn't a human himself. And that's why he was there, following the trail she left, he led his group to that place. The huge mansion on the edge of the town. His master chuckled, watching the mansion from afar with his somehow very keen eyes.
"Good job, Knowledge. That really is the place, I can feel it."
The man lowered his head in a nod, hiding his crunched face behind his hood.
"I have finally found you, Scarlet Devil—no, the young mistress, Remilia Scarlet."