I will only be able to update this story during evenings and weekends (excluding this Saturday, when I will be busy). Each update will not be very long, but it will be pretty fast, and we'll see how many I manage with the time I have. For now, I'm going to do a couple to begin, and then go to bed.
A Story In Infinite Parts
>Start Options Extras Exit game
The raindrops pattering against the window fade back into your vision; you rub your eyes with your fingertips, you squeeze the bridge of your nose, you take a deep breath.
You are very, very tired.
You are Renko, and you are standing on the top floor of the physics department, on the university campus. You have just pulled an all-nighter, and handed in the last essay of term five minutes before the deadline, after walking through pouring rain and with the thunder chasing at your heels. On one hand, you feel pretty damn good about yourself. If there were two of you, then there would be a high-five right now. On the other hand, you feel exhausted, and wet, and hungry, and lonely. You stand at the window which looks out over the back of the campus, across soaked concrete, rusted metal railings dripping in the rain, and sticky asphalt like black liquorice under the torrent of water outside.
The rush of the all-nighter is wearing off, replaced with deep, bone-grinding tiredness. The bustle of other students around you dries to a trickle; now the deadline has passed they're all off to party, or get drunk, or ... whatever it is they do. You watch some of them leave, blinking hard to force the dull ache out of your eyeballs. When you shift, your boots squelch. Everything is wet. Your hair is wet. Your skirt is wet. Your underwear is wet. Your socks are wet. The only place which is not wet is inside your bag.
You're starting to get cold.
[ ] Find somewhere to warm up. [ ] Head home. Too tired. [ ] Find your cell phone.
If you don't get warm and dry soon, you're going to get very ill, or worse.
You walk along the top floor of the physics building, squelching uncomfortably with each footstep, and then lean against one of the radiators. You stand there for a long, long moment, blinking down at the white-painted metal contrasting with your black skirt, at the way droplets fall from your hair and roll down the front of the radiator.
It's barely even lukewarm.
You sigh heavily and rub your eyes again, leaving the radiator and heading towards the stairwell. The last deadlines pass and the university is already slipping into hibernation for the spring holiday; the heating is down, half the lights are off, there's not even the obligatory young academic standing in the hallway with a mug of coffee and watching you with a quietly amused expression. When you step into the stairwell you can hear - very far away now - the sounds of distant revelry. But the stairwell itself is nothing but echoes and air.
A trail of rainwater marks your path down to the second floor, all the way along the rough carpet, into the secondary - bare concrete - stairs, and then down to that little brown wooden door. 'Excuse me, professor.' You mumble underneath your breath at the decades-faded nameplate on the door, giving 'Professor Rika' the usual greeting.
Then you yank the broken door handle up, and squelch through into the Sealing Club's meeting room.
Mary's not here right now. You close the door behind you and let your bag fall to the floor with a damp splat.
[ ] Find the heater. [ ] Strip. Get out of these clothes. [ ] Cellphone.
You take off your hat and place it squarely on the table in front of you. That's better, your sleep-deprivation addled mind decides, that is right, that you should remove your hat and place it so neatly on the table.
You catch yourself a moment later, beginning to shiver all over. Okay, no; staring at the hat and wishing you were back in bed is not going to solve anything. You dump your long coat on the floor and get your shirt half-off your shoulders before you remember how difficult it is to strip wet clothing from a human being. Your tie won't un-knot, and gets stuck halfway up your head. Your skirt drops easily, but the socks aren't going anywhere. They've settled in for the long-haul, and you grab one of them with both hands, hopping on the other foot and banging your hip against the table as you flail around like a mad woman trying to get naked.
You give up partway and slop over to the back of the room, searching through the junk for the old space-heater that the mysterious Professor left behind. Most of the junk in here is hers, or perhaps belonged to whoever got this tiny, out-of-the-way office after her.
Finding the space-heater is the best thing that's happened to you all day long. You don't waste a second, plugging it in and switching it on and standing there in front of it, half-naked and grinning at the blast of heat down your front.
Then you glance out of the window. The pair of windows at the back of the abandoned office look directly out at the small gap between this building and the next. It's the worst view in the entire department. A punishment office. The kind of one you give to failures or kooks. Or the kind of one you can take over and strip in without been seen.
You're glad you didn't switch the lights on when you came in; there's a girl down there in the space between the physics building and the biology block.
At least, you assume it's a girl. That could be a messy mop of black hair. That could be a hoodie she's wearing. That could be her face upturned and looking directly at you.
She's very fuzzy, through the rain and the dirty window, and the haze of exhaustion.
[ ] Draw the blind. [ ] Wave at her. [ ] Stare back; she can't see you anyway, it's too dark in here.
File 133779211579.jpg - (217.50KB, 1100x1550, of all the stories in the world you had to walk in.jpg)
You stare back at the girl-shape below, her outline fuzzed by the static interference of the rain. She must be getting even more soaked than you are, and she's either really petite or several years younger than you. Poor thing is probably freezing cold and drenched to the bone.
For one long moment as you look at her face - at least you assume it's her face, a moon-pale oval upturned toward the window - you feel a sense of kinship in shared misery. You're wet. She's wet. Why not be wet together? Except she's so indistinct; you squint and cup your hands against the window to get a better look. At least Mary isn't here right now to laugh at you if it turns out you're staring at a pillar or a parked motorbike or something. But no, that is definitely a face, and a mop of black hair plastered down by the rain. Her legs are bare; her feet are bare. She's so very pale. The girl reaches up with both hands to flick a black hood over her head, barely more than a fuzzy sweep of dark motion lost amid the rain.
Then she raises a hand to you in greeting. Or as a salute. It must be your imagination, but for a moment the rain plays across her face, forming a wicked rictus-smile.
Your sleep-deprived brain struggles back into coherence for a moment. She can see you!? Through all this, and so far up? You blush and glance down at your almost-naked front, skin turning a healthy, revitalised pink under the hot air from the space heater. When did you snap your bra off? You don't remember doing that, but there it is on the table behind. You pull back from the window ever so slightly; it's too late to hide now. If she could see, she's already seen it all.
When you look back up again, the girl is gone - no, going. You press your face against the window, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as a few scraps of black vanish into nothingness, blotted out by the rain, like wisps of woodsmoke consumed by the water, snakes wriggling themselves into nothingness right before your eyes.
'A ... a ... wh- ... what?' You say out loud, blinking the sleepiness away from your eyes in a rush of amazement.
[ ] ... she vanished. Just vanished between the raindrops. You just saw something supernatural. [ ] It's just your eyes - and lack of sleep, and the rain - playing tricks on you. Cool moment, nothing more. [ ] Open the window; if you look quickly you might be able to see her running off. Quickly now!
I'll be here, updating all evening every half-hour/hour for the next 6 hours or so. Let's see how it goes.
' ... she ... ' You gulp, and then break into a massive, shit-eating grin, almost hyperventilating with excitement. 'She- she- she vanished!' You say out loud, pressing your face against the glass to catch any further hints of motion, of dissipation, of- ... of-
Of the supernatural!
You stare for nearly half a minute; nothing else happens. Just the rain pouring down in endless static waves. But this doesn't cool your manic excitement. Only when you're absolutely sure the girl - the spirit, the ghost, the thing - isn't going to reappear, do you tear yourself away from the window and start rummaging around the Sealing Club room for a camera. This has to be documented, recorded, photographed, written down, sketched, turned into poetry and sung from the rooftops. You actually saw something you can't explain!
Not that this is the first time. In the back of your mind you know you've felt weirder things before; that odd sensation when you and Mary went hiking beyond the well-trod trails, the way the wind blew from the wrong direction between those two huge trees, the canine shadows you saw on the crossroads by Mary's house, the crow that always visits when you least expect it.
But this is the first time something - somebody has responded like that! You're probably over-reacting because you're so tired. Your body is latching firm onto the first source of high-intake adrenaline it can find, and you sure are pumped right now, if nothing else. You shift boxes of ancient textbooks aside as you search for the camera you know Mary left in here, shoving bundles of notes aside, probably once belonging to the mysterious and absent professor.
' ... huh?' You frown as you swing open the cupboard, and find a very old camera indeed. It's not the one Mary left in here, that's for sure, but you think you remember seeing it once, when you first found your way into this abandoned office and threw as much of the old junk into the cupboards as possible. It's cased in brown leather, covered in dust, and looks like it must be at least eighty years old.
You don't have time for this now! You need to find-
The door handle to the Sealing Club's secret room crunches softly as it's yanked up, and Mary's humming voice proceeds her.
She sweeps inside, a bustle of purple fabric and a waterfall of sunlight-golden hair. Mary is always, without fail, a sight for sore eyes. You greet her with that same, massive grin, absolutely bursting to tell her what you just saw. 'Mary!' 'A-hmm-hmm~ Hmm-hmm~ Hello ... Ren- ... ko .... ' Mary shuts the door behind her with her usual serene, half-sleepy composure, but then trails off, staring at you with widening eyes and a surprised little expression on her face. She starts to blush. 'Mary, ah ... where do I even start? I need to tell you something!' The words pour out of your mouth, you can't even catch up with your own thoughts.
' ... Renko, are you feeling okay?' Mary's eyes travel up and down your body, and she lets out a cross between a giggle and a cough, unable to contain herself.
'Oh.' You blink, and then look down at yourself. 'Oh I'm still naked ... ' 'You are! Renko! My goodness!' Mary flusters and flaps her hands in the air and crosses the room, spotting your wet clothes strewn around. Good. You have more important things to talk about. 'Look, it doesn't matter!' You blurt out, struggling between intense embarrassment and undeniable excitement. 'There was a girl-'
'There was what?' Mary stares at you with sudden wordless panic. 'Outside, in the rain!' You continue. 'I saw her and just- wow, I don't even know what-' 'You- you did what? With ... who?' Mary blinks, her face falling, averting her eyes and covering her mouth with one hand. 'Is this why ... ' She touches your discarded shirt with shaking fingertips.
[ ] Ha. Hahaha. Funny, Mary, very funny. Continue and explain properly, pretend you didn't notice her little jealous moment just now. [ ] ' ... Mary are you jealous?' Hold up, what? [ ] 'Yes, Mary, I just had a lesbian encounter in the rain. What do you take me for?! I saw something! Something supernatural!'
Oops. Double oops. Extra helpings of oops with awkwardness on top. If Mary had reacted like that when you were fully awake, or when you weren't flushed with the excitement of seeing something abnormal, you'd probably be blushing like a tomato right now. Not to mention repeating her reactions in your head and asking what on earth they mean.
You know what they mean, you just don't have the energy or emotional capacity to deal with it right now. That can wait until later. Right now, paranormal shenanigans may still be afoot! And then you probably need to sleep for twelve hours.
'Yes, Mary.' You put your hands on your hips and sigh, before realising that pose just shows off your nude body more. Instead you settle for holding your head up and grabbing your half-dried shirt to drape over your shoulders. Thank heavens you're still wearing your panties. That would have been a little too far, even in front of Mary. She'd probably have blown a valve. 'I had a sudden lesbian experience in the rain with a stranger. Shall we count how often I've done that, let's see,' You hold up your fingers as if to tick them off. ' ... oh, never!' You grin at your own terrible joke. Sleeplessness makes everything seem funny if you try hard enough. 'Uh ... I thought ... ' Mary blushes deep red, and you lose your train of thought at the sight. ' ... y-yeah.' You catch yourself before this goes any further. 'Anyway! I saw something! A girl, out of the window there, and- poof!' You spread your arms wide.
Mary looks between you and the window, raising her eyebrows. 'Poof?' She repeats, a smile creeping back onto her lips. 'Poof! She vanished, into thin air! Also she wasn't wearing any shoes!' You start to walk up and down the little office space, grabbing your skirt and laying it out over the desk, facing the space heater. 'Ahem.' Mary clears her throat with a dainty little noise, alternating between politely looking away as you bend over to pick up your socks, and sneaking sidelong glances at you when she thinks you're focused elsewhere. 'So you saw a homeless girl run away through the rain?'
'No, no, she vanished!' You have to make Mary understand, you have to make her believe. 'She was right there, there between the buildings.' You point out of the window. 'I couldn't see her properly, and when I looked away and back again, it was like ... like ... ' You struggle for the right term as Mary's lips curl with barely restrained amusement. She's still blushing. 'Like you've not had enough sleep, and you're seeing things?' Mary purrs under her breath. 'Well ... I ... mm ... ' You deflate slightly. 'I've had ... ' 'None?' Mary prompts. 'None.' You sigh a big, tired sigh. Mary pats you gently on one shoulder, her touch more hesitant than usual. Probably because you're still half-naked.
The room descends into momentary quiet, broken only by the endless pattering fuzz of the rain on the roof and windows. Even with one of you half-naked and exhausted, and the other blushing furiously, you and Mary have been friends for so long that even now you're capable of that precious moment of companionable silence.
[ ] 'Gonna scold me for pulling an all-nighter again?' [ ] 'I swear I really did see something, Mary. Really.' Stay. On. Target. [ ] Let the silence extend. This is nice.
The silence draws on for a few more beats of your heart, just long enough for you to feel Mary start to move her hand away.
'I swear I really did see something, Mary.' You meet her eyes again, nodding. 'Really! As clear as ... well ... she wasn't actually very clear, I guess.' You cough awkwardly, and Mary lets out a tinkling laugh at you. 'Oh, Renko.' She cocks her head at you and smiles. 'You hallucinated because you're so tired. You need to get to bed.' 'I do, yes, I totally agree. Ugh, I feel like walking death right now.' You shake your head to clear as much of the mental fuzz as possible. 'But I know what I saw! It wasn't like a light corona or a shadow or a dream; she was really there! She had no shoes, she waved at me, and then she vanished, like ... like ash in the wind, or ... dissipating shadows in the light.' You trail off, staring out of the window, at the place the mystery girl was standing. 'You said it wasn't like a shadow.' Mary points out in a suppressed giggle.
'Yeah, well! I'm tired! What do you think it was, anything, it didn't look like a ghost, although I guess what do ghosts look like anyway, who knows? Could it have actually been a person? Except moving at ... right angles to us in time, so when she moved it looked to me like she just vanished!' You grip the windowsill, knuckles whitening. 'Or could-'
Mary stuffs a chocolate roll into your mouth, ending your sentence. 'Mmm-mmm, ah,' you talk through a sudden mouthful of chocolate. 'But don't you think-' 'Renko, eat! Eat!' Mary interrupts, grabbing your wrist and steering the chocolate roll back toward your mouth. 'Eat first!' 'Uhhh.' You grunt again, obeying, and then eating like a starving woman. When was the last time you ate anyway ... dinner last night? Lunch? Mary bustles around, entering housewife mode, putting your still-drenched shoes next to the space heater and politely not looking too closely at your bra as she picks it up and places it closer to the hot air.
You lick your fingers and run your tongue over your teeth. ' ... have you got another one of those?' You ask. 'Yes, indeed!' Mary reaches into her bag of tricks again and produces another chocolate roll. You destroy the packaging and cram it into your mouth even faster than the first one. 'Wow. I am hungry.' You say through a mouthful of food. 'Mm-hmm!' 'You still don't believe me though, do you, Mary?'
Mary leans her hip against the table and clasps her hands in her lap. ' ... mmmmmm, well.' She shrugs and screws up her face. 'Not ... reeeally. I know how you get when you're tired, Renko.' 'But have I ever been actually wrong?' You hold one finger up. 'Um, yes.' Mary nods slowly, amused. 'What. When?' 'When you handed in a essay to the philosophy department instead of the phy-' Mary says with a naughty little smile. 'Ahhh, come on, that one was easy! Anyone could have done that on little sleep!' You protest, starting to button up your shirt again.
Mary's eyes hover uncertainly on your chest.
'Don't you want ... ' She gestures at your bra. It's still damp.
[ ] 'No time for that. We need to do paranormal science right now.' [ ] 'You should try it sometime, Mary! It's pretty comfy.' [ ] 'Ugh, I guess, give it here.'
'Nah.' You shrug, straightening your shirt. It's not one hundred percent dry, but you figure the quicker you cover up some of your flesh the quicker Mary's skin will stop being so beetroot-red. 'You should try it sometime, Mary!' You grin at her. 'It's pretty comfy without having to deal with bra-straps all the time.' You roll your shoulders for emphasis, and then frown at your own comment, catching yourself as you stare at Mary's chest. 'I mean ... yeah. Anyway, where's my tie?' You pretend to search for your tie; you really haven't got any idea where you threw it, but it's the last thing on your mind right now.
Mary is even redder than before. She takes a deep breath, turns around twice as if trying to find which direction to face, and then sits on the table.
This time the silence is tinged with tension.
' ... do you go without one a lot, Renko?' Mary finally breaks it as you bumble around and pull your tie out from behind one of the cupboards. It's dry, somehow. You stick your hand behind the cupboard; a pipe, still hot from supplying a radiator somewhere in the building. 'Do I what?' You clear your throat, still massively embarrassed at the reoccurring thoughts of Mary literally bouncing around without a bra on. 'Go without a bra.' Mary manages to regain some composure on the attack, closing her eye briefly and settling down on the desk, watching you re-knotting your tie. 'Eh, sometimes! Not usually, you know, it's ... ' You trail off, sighing and forcing yourself to look everywhere except at Mary's chest. The ceiling! The walls! That old camera! The rain! Oh, blessed rain, saving you from embarrassment. Or forcing you into it. After all, none of this would have happened if you hadn't got soaked on your way here.
'Indeed.' Mary clears her throat with a dainty little noise again. 'I almost never do. It's a little harder for me.' She speaks without looking at you, staring out at the rain. ' ... I bet.' You breathe, and Mary stays staring, fixed like a statue, her cheeks flushed. 'A-anyway, Mary, why aren't you wet? It's been raining since-' 'Today, however, I am not wearing a bra.' She interrupts smoothly, and you just stop, give up, and look at her chest. 'For real?' You raise one eyebrow. You're not going to be able to stop looking all day now, but at least that will keep you awake for a few more hours. 'Indeed! Quite the coincidence, wouldn't you say?' She chirps, sitting up, still blushing but somehow managing to carry this.
'Uh, yeah! I guess?' You grab your skirt from the desk and try very, very hard not to keep staring. 'In fact it was for an experiment!' Mary continues, getting that naughty little smile on her face. The psychology smile. 'Oh ... oh.' You nod, smiling and turning around to step into your skirt.
Even braless Mary does not outweigh your desire not to get involved in Relative Psychology Experiment Time, and certainly not now! You need to get back outside and investigate the place where you saw that girl.
'Would you like to know, Renko?' Mary leans forward as soon as you turn back around, her eyes brimming with eager excitement. You can almost feel the words behind her lips, her sheer desire to share whatever madness she's been up to this time. You can't help but watch as the leaning motion makes her unrestrained breasts sway forward.
This day just got longer.
[ ] 'Sure!' You can't deny Mary. [ ] 'Maybe ... let's go home first? I need to sleep, Mary, I need to sleep so bad.'
'Sure!' A grin springs back onto your face; you can't help yourself. Not when it comes to Mary. Not when her enthusiasm shines through, not when she's bursting at the seams with energy and ... and ... And boobs, you guess.
'It's really very simple!' Mary launches right into it, not even waiting for you to catch your breath. 'Everyone in the class from yesterday had to decide on one thing they always have with them, which for twenty four hours they would go without!' She nods, and then starts ticking off things on her fingers. 'There was a watch, which really meant anything capable of telling time. Underwear, like me! Cell phones, an umbrella.' 'Mm.' You grunt at that last one, eyeing the rain. 'Bet that was an unfortunate choice.' 'Oh, that one was a friend of mine! And she, she gave in, because of the rain!' Mary spreads her arms. 'Anyway we're supposed to record our thoughts, so!' She reaches into her bad and extracts a tiny leather-bound notebook and pencil, flips it open, and starts writing.
You resist the desire to peek at Mary's breast experiences notebook.
'And, and, this is the important part! We're supposed to try to get other people to do it too, like a chain-reaction! And you're not allowed to use the thing you said you would give up until you get another person to give up something of theirs.' Mary explains, a twinkle in her eyes. ' ... uh huh, I thought you said it was for twenty four hours though?' You raise an eyebrow, already feeling suspicious. 'Mmmmm, weeeeell!' Mary puts her fingertips to her lips. 'Lets say this is the more hardcore route!' 'So it's your own little project?' You sigh inwardly. There's no escape now.
'No, no! Not just me, there's a whole theory about object attachment and personality changes and I thought maybe-' 'Okay, okay.' You hold up a hand and gently get Mary to slow her acceleration. 'I'll tell you what, Mary, I'll play, if you promise to come check out my mysterious sighting earlier?'
'Of course! Anything!' Mary nods like a child being given sweets, and then her expression changes abruptly. She leans forward, intense and curious. 'So Renko, what would you give up?' 'Has to be something that I always have on me?' You ask, and Mary nods in confirmation, sliding closer.
[ ] 'My hat.' [ ] 'My cell phone.' [ ] 'My bra.' Ha-ha! Right back at you, Mary! [ ] 'My tie.' Oddly enough. [ ] Something I can't tell Mary about. [ ] [Write in option goes here].
>>26794 I wouldn't mind it being lesbian hijinks as from what HY's done, it'd be pretty nice and something to be savored. It's not like these two appear in many stories, not like a dime a dozen stories with popular characters, such as Alice.
And plot's coming up anyways. I'm curious how HY'll play the tie thing out as it feels pointless compared to the others. If it was her hat, I'd understand perfectly; it's her trademark after all.
'Um ... I guess I'll give up ... uh ... ' You suck on your teeth as you think, drawing the moment out, partly because you can't decide and partly because you just like seeing Mary in this mood. And partly because you're too tired to think straight.
The sound of the rain fills the silence, Mary's gold-framed face fills your vision, exhaustion fills your bones. You feel extremely woozy for a second, and you have to lean on the table with one hand, you legs sagging. ' ... Renko?' Mary says your name. 'Mm, mm, um, just ... no, not my hat.' You touch your bare head and glance at your hat, still drying on the table; no, there's no way you can do without that. You've been wearing that hat for nearly a decade, you grew up with that stupid thing. It stays, forever.
'I didn't think it would be the hat!' Mary giggles. 'Heh, you know me too well.' You mumble, still thinking. Your train of thought is interrupted as Mary picks up your hat and puts it on her own head. 'What do you think? Is it very me? Or?' She flutters her eyelashes, craning her neck as if trying to use your eyes as a mirror. 'Um ... sure, yeah, suits you.' You nod; it doesn't suit mary in the slightest. But she's wearing part of you, so you let it stay for now. 'Not that, or that.' You mumble, mentally ticking off your cell phone, the contents of your bag, some of the things you'd rather not tell even Mary about.
'It can be anything at all, really!' Mary says, leaning forward again and nodding. 'We can pick later if you prefer, but-' 'No, no. No. I'm good, I think maybe ... ' You lift your tie, only just re-knotted around your neck several moments ago. 'I guess, this. I have like four of them, but ... huh.' You take it back off again, holding the still slightly damp fabric up in the air.
Mary blinks rapidly, and then her eyes light up, her mouth forming a little "o" of amazement. 'Renko! Oh, oh, I have to write this down!' She rummages for her little notebook again, and starts scribbling at top speed, not even sparing you another glance.
[ ] 'Write what down? Am I allowed to know?' [ ] Peek over her shoulder. [ ] You're better off not knowing.
[ ] Put the tie in your pocket. [ ] Hand the tie to Mary, like it's her trophy for dragging you into this. [ ] Wrap the tie around your head.
'Write what down?' You frown at Mary's tiny notebook - her Relative Psychology notebook. You've only ever looked inside it once before, and all you found was lots of long complicated -isms and syndromes and what you're pretty sure was a diagram of a heart. You can't imagine what would be getting Mary so excited, but whatever it is, if it can make her like this, it's worth hearing. 'Am I allowed to know?' You start to lean around to get a look over her shoulder, but stop short when Mary jerks her head up.
'Yes! Ye- ... ' Her face freezes for a moment, and then she blushes faintly and breaks out in a giggle. 'Um ... maybe not! Sorry, Renko, but, well-' 'Yeah, yeah, I know. It'll ruin the experiment or something.' You shrug, and then hold out the tie to her, the big end dangling down. The red clashes horribly with her hair. 'Here.'
Mary stares at the tie. Her eyes widen, her blush deepens, and her mouth falls open. 'Mary?' You raise your eyebrows. This is the last reaction you expected. 'I ... ' She says in a whisper, barely audible over the sound of the rain. Her eyes flick between you, her notebook, and the tie. 'You're ... you want me to take your tie? Me?'
You stare back at her, utterly confused. 'No, I want you to use it as a slingshot.' You deadpan at her, too tired to decipher Mary Mind Games. 'I dunno, it just seemed-'
'Uh, no!' Mary reacts quick as a flash when you start to lower the tie again. She whips it out of your hand and presses it to her chest. 'I didn't say I wouldn't take it for you!' She blushes again, and then dangles the tie in front of her face for a moment. 'Mine now! And you're not allowed to wear any others, until you get somebody else to give up something too. Promise me, Renko!' 'Um, sure, I promise.' You scratch your head, still very confused. Mary gets a twinkle in her eye, and then carefully folds the tie and slips it into her skirt pocket.
'Don't lose it or anything.' You say automatically. 'Oh, of course I wouldn't, Renko, no no! Of course not!' She leans forward and places her hand on your arm, nodding with earnest reassurance.
You put one hand to your collar, feeling kind of naked without your tie.
[ ] 'Is this part of the experiment, Mary? There something you're not telling me?' [ ] ' ... well if you do lose it, no big deal, it's not like I don't have others.' Shrug. Mary is taking this way too seriously. [ ] 'Yeah, yeah, you ... take good care of it?' This is so confusing. Mary is so weird.
'Yeah, yeah.' You cough and shake your head to clear some of the sleep-fuzz away. Mary's indecipherable behaviour isn't helping your sense of exhaustion. 'I trust you, Mary, with ... my tie. Take good care of it.' The words come out automatically, just seems like the right thing to say, but in the back of your mind you know this is getting silly now. 'I promise I will!' Mary nods and smiles, a real blinding, sunlight-bright smile, almost powerful enough to chase the rain away.
'Yeah ... yeah.' You repeat, frowning at her some more before shaking your head and getting back to putting the rest of your clothes on. Your socks are dry by now, and fantastically warm as you slip them back onto your chilled toes, but your boots drip when you lift them; doesn't look like you're going anywhere just yet. As Mary scribbles in her little leather book some more, you glance out of the window, at the spot where you saw the black-clad girl-shape. There's nothing there now.
You open the window just a crack, letting in a sliver of colder air as you take a deep breath in an attempt to wake yourself up a little. The smell of wet concrete and churned mud fills your nostrils.
'Renkooooo~' Mary looks up from her writing as you plop yourself down in the old office chair; the cover on the chair has been peeling since you first found this room, it's almost falling to bits, but you sort of like the ancient thing. Perhaps the mysterious "Professor Rika" sat here once, staring out at her awfully-placed office and making up crackpot theories. 'Mm?' 'Well, Renko,' Mary taps her notebook with the end of her pencil. 'Have you ever given a tie to anybody else?'
' ... what kind of question is that?' You laugh. 'Just! Just try to answer!' Mary flusters again, eyes roving around the room in an effort not to meet yours. 'Um. No. I don't think so. I've never had anyone borrow one from me, or ask to try one on. Yeah, I'm gonna say I haven't.' 'Eeee! First!' Mary giggles and adds something to her notebook, almost squealing like a schoolgirl. 'Mary you are so weird.' You say, leaning back in the chair and closing your eyes for a second. 'Mmhmm! You know I am!' She chips, starting to swing her legs back and forth, really getting into ... whatever it is she's doing. 'But-'
Knock knock knock.
Both you and Mary freeze, staring at the door.
Mary whips her head around to share a shocked glance with you, sending her hair flying in a tumble of golden curls.
'What do we do?!' She hisses. 'It's fine, it's fine.' You say, but still in a whisper. 'We're allowed to be in here.' 'Really?!' Mary asks. 'Sort of.' You whisper back again.
[ ] 'Shhh.' Finger to lips. Quiet. The door handle is broken anyway. [ ] 'Who is it?' Call out. [ ] Get up, answer the door.
You are too tired to deal with this. You are too tired to bother. Your brain is already half-asleep, and your body is on auto-pilot. You get up, and pad across the room in your socks, to answer the door. 'Renko what are you doing!? Shhh, shhh, we'll get found!' Mary makes frantic shushing motions with her hands, eyes pleading with you. 'It'll b'fine Mary.' You half-slur. The university is emptying out for the break, it'll just be one of the cleaners, and you can always smooth-talk your way out of that confrontation. They don't care what you're doing as long as you don't blow anything up.
'Alright, alright, I'm coming, I'm coming!' You almost shout at the door as you reach it. Mary winces and hides behind one hand. You yank the broken handle up, and swing the door inward.
And find yourself face-to-face with a pair of amber headlights and the glow of midnight downtown.
The headlights blink, and then the world makes sense again. The girl standing at the door has the most striking pair of amber eyes, magnified by the glasses she's wearing, and her hair is a long braid of deep, morning-sky red. She would be beautiful, amazingly so, if it wasn't for the expression on her face.
'A-a-are y-you ... p-pro-professor-' She stammers, her skin waxy-pale and covered with a sheen of nervous sweat. Her shirt - once neatly pressed and clean - has dark patches showing at her armpits, even in the rain and the cold. You can't see her legs underneath her red skirt, but she's trembling so much you'd swear her knees are knocking together. She gulps hard, looking at the faded nameplate on the door and then back again. 'Professor Rika?'
Mary peers over your shoulder at the girl, her face etched with motherly concern. 'Oh, look at you! What's the matter? Is something wrong?' Mary asks. The girl just looks more panicked at this, glancing rapidly between you and Mary.
'P-professor Rika?' She tries again.
'Uh ... this office hasn't been used in decades.' You shake your head softly. 'We don't even know who Professor Rika was. Sorry.' You shrug awkwardly as the girl just stares at you, her expression going from nervous to crestfallen to utterly, totally void. Her mouth hangs open and she stares right through you; a real thousand-yard stare. 'But.' Is all she says.
Then she starts crying.
[ ] Woah. This is Mary's department. Lovely assistant, if you please. [ ] 'But, hey, the office is full of old junk! If you're looking for her, maybe there's something here, there's loads of her notes and papers!' Oh god please don't cry. You can't deal with this right now. [ ] 'I know. I know.' Give her a hug. You're too tired to respond with anything but total sympathy.
Last one for now. More tomorrow. Will be starting updates about 4 hours earlier tomorrow. And maybe, if I'm very lucky, I'll be slipping a couple in in about 9 hours time.
[x] 'But, hey, the office is full of old junk! If you're looking for her, maybe there's something here, there's loads of her notes and papers!' Oh god please don't cry. You can't deal with this right now.
Maybe the reason Renko saw that person and some of the other things she brought up are because she and Mary use this office. Could also be really far off base.
The amber-and-red girl completely breaks down, right in front of you; her nervous tension unfolds and collapses into great big wet tears rolling down both cheeks. She sniffs and sobs and covers her face, gripping her braided hair with one hand, obviously embarrassed but too far gone to control herself. 'No, no!' She croaks out through the sobs. 'B-but this was the last- there's n-no other leads-'
You just stare at her, sleep-fog clouding your reactions. You step back automatically, holding the door open. 'Uh, do you want to come in, sit down?' Even as you say the words, they seem lame; you've never invited anyone into the Sealing Club's secret room before, but you can hardly just shut the door on a weeping girl.
She just holds her face in both hands, sobbing and sagging toward the floor. Oh gods, she's not going to fall to her knees in front of you, is she? You run a hand over your own face in shared horror.
Mary bustles past you without a moment to lose, all patting hands and soothing, meaningless words in that fluffy-pillows and honey-milk voice she uses sometimes. Her tone even relaxes you somewhat, as she puts an arm around the girl's shoulders and steers her into the room. Mary hands you the girl's bag as she passes, and you almost topple over as you take the weight; what is she carrying in here, bricks? The bag makes a resounding thump as you place it on the table.
'Here, here, sit, sit, come on, you're welcome to sit, sweetie!' Mary purrs at the distraught girl, getting her to sit in the second chair in the room - an old office armchair in the corner, more comfortable than the peeling one at the desk. The girl nods at everything Mary says, sitting and hunching up with distress, holding her face in one hand. Mary takes out a handkerchief and gently coaxes the girl out. 'Here, you're all wet, let me just- there, there, it's okay, it's okay.' Mary wipes the girl's eyes, crouching down and smiling at her. 'Here, want some chocolate?' She produces - oh Mary, how does she do it - another chocolate roll from somewhere inside her skirt, or maybe up her top, unwraps the end and presses it into the girl's hand.
The amber girl stares blankly at the chocolate roll for several seconds, and for a moment you think she's going to burst into tears again. But she only sniffs and little and starts eating, chewing and swallowing slowly.
You sit in the peeling chair again, leaning back and letting Mary do her thing.
'Feeling better?' Mary chirps at the girl. 'What's your name, sweetie?' 'Yu-' The girl swallows again, looking empty-eyed. 'Yumemi.' 'Yumemi!' Mary repeats it and smiles. 'I'm Mary, and this is Renko.' She gestures at you, and you try to give Yumemi your best reassuring smile. It feels more like a slasher's grin. Yumemi looks slowly between you and Mary, and then stares at the now-empty wrapper in her hand. At least she's not crying any more.
'I found The Professor's office in the university records,' Yumemi starts in a small voice, still staring at her empty hand. 'But ... ' She gulps, looking at Mary for a long moment, and then switching to you. Her wide, still-wet amber eyes pleading with you, like a lost puppy. 'But this is where her career ends, there's nothing ... no trail ... ' Yumemi sniffs and hiccups twice, rubbing her nose.
You nod slowly in response; it just seems like the appropriate thing to do. You pick your hat up from the table and slowly tap your fingertips on the brim, for want of anything else to occupy your hands. 'Why are you looking for her?' Mary asks softly, placing one hand on Yumemi's shoulder 'I ... ah-' Yumemi tries to laugh, a self-depreciating, hollow sound. 'I've read all her papers, you see,' she gestures at her bag. 'I've even typed up and uploaded ones she never published, I ... I- I was hoping she would ... would ... ' The amber-and-red girl trails off awkwardly.
You lean forward, interest piqued. A problem, maybe with a solution; or perhaps a mystery? And at the very least, a beautiful girl with nobody to help her except you and Mary. You slip your hat on. 'Hoping she would what, Yumemi?' You ask. Yumemi's head snaps up, meeting your gaze. ' ... su- ...supervise me for a phD.' She says, raising her chin slightly, a ray of pride beaming through her tattered ego. 'Oh! You got accepted in here for a phD? Good for you!' Mary chirps at the girl, and you swear in any other situation she would instantly pull her into a hug. 'W-well.' The girl looks down at her lap, blushing with embarrassment. 'Not yet. That why ... I came to see The Professor.'
'Oh.' Mary says, glancing at you and trying to recover. 'Well I'm sure there's other ... physics? Physics professors, that's Renko's department! I'm sure there's others who'll take on a student like-' 'No.' Yumemi shakes her head sadly. 'Metaphysics ... magic.' She croaks the work out, screwing her eyes shut, barely able to say it. 'It's not ... ' She hunches over again, consumed by failure. Even Mary seems at a loss at the sight of the girl's abandoned expression.
'Maybe it's not even real after all ... ' She whispers to nobody.
[ ] 'You, miss, have come to the right place.' Lean back, put your feet up, pull the brim of your hat down. 'Welcome to the Sealing Club.' [ ] Pound your fist on the table. 'I want to believe.' [ ] 'Metaphysics? Explain.' Lean forward, look interested. But get her to open first.
Couldn't actually update from work. But I had some downtime. So, big update.
Okay, writing. Going with first to three since I don't want to wait any longer.
>>26842 >What would have happened if the bra choice won? Different symbolism. Less phallic. In the long run? I don't know! That's the beauty of writing a CYOA, even I'm not 100% sure where exactly each choice leads in the long term.
'Ahhh.' You feel a slim, shrewd smile creeping onto you face. 'Real? Indeed.' You purr, deeper than Mary, almost a rumble. 'I know, I know.' Yumemi whispers, pained. 'It's not-'
'You, miss, have come to precisely the right place.' You interrupt her with the smoothest line you've ever said in your entire life. You lean back in the chair, kick your heels up onto the old desk, and tip the brim of your hat down, just enough to hide your eyes behind a thin band of shadow. You could swear the room is turning black and white, with a haze of cigar smoke hanging in the air - and is that a secretary's uniform Mary is wearing?
Must be the lack of sleep.
You blink hard a couple of times to clear your mind; anyway the effect is somewhat spoiled by your bootless feet, white socks stuck up in the air, and your bra still lying on the table. You decide to ignore that for now, better if the broad doesn't know you're not fully dressed.
Yumemi looks up, wide-eyed at your words, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. You can't stop yourself. 'Welcome to the Sealing Club.' You purr, gesturing expansively at the old room full of junk. She stares at you for a moment longer. 'The ... the what?' Yumemi asks after a moment, but you've already closed your eyes and let your grin widen. You've always wanted to be the hardboiled PI in a detective novel, and now you get to give a weeping dame exactly what she-
'Renko hasn't slept in two days, she's a little wacky right now, ignore her, sweetie.' Mary breaks in, almost ruining the moment. 'I'm serious, Mary.' You reach out and tap the table with two fingertips. Yumemi looks between the pair of you, somewhere between bewilderment and hope. 'This is what we do! You know, we ... investigate!' The imaginary smoke clears from the air, and Mary is just back in her usual purple. Pity. 'I ... you ... you're serious?' Yumemi almost leaps out of her chair, only staying put because of Mary's hand on her arm. 'Dead serious! And we didn't even know, this office? You say this Rika, professor, whatever, studied ... magic? The paranormal?' You lean forward, sweeping your hat off with a wide gesture and placing it back on the table. Even if the moment has passed, some of the role has stayed with you. Yumemi certainly seems to like it.
'Yes! Exactly! She- I-I've got everything she ever wrote! You're both ... ' Yumemi frowns. 'Are ... are you students?' 'Yes, dear, we are.' Mary answers. 'Not during the holidays!' You hold up a finger. 'Right now we are the Sealing Club, all day, every day.' You grin, and Mary sighs, rolling her eyes, but you can see a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
'But what does that mean?' Yumemi asks.
[ ] 'The name isn't important. It's just, ah ... ehehe ... aheh.' You never thought you'd have to explain that to anyone. [ ] 'Mary.' Lovely assistant. If you please. [ ] 'It's like ghostbusters but with less technology. And no ghosts, yet.' Shrug. Eh. At least be honest.
She's looking at you for the answer; those big clear amber eyes shining with curious hope. You never realised before how much of a rush it is, giving somebody what they want so badly, and being able to do it in style. 'Mary.' You gesture at your best friend, trying to keep looking suave and sophisticated, when in fact you're just covering for the fact that 'Sealing Club' is not really something you'd like to explain to an oversensitive, recently tearful girl.
'Well!' Mary nods and claps her hands together once. 'You're into this ... metaphysics, yes?' She asks, bright and cheery and smiling at Yumemi. 'Very much so, yes, it's ... yes.' She nods enthusiastically. 'Well, the Sealing Club is technically a club for Necromancers!' Same cheery smile, same bright words. 'Mary.' You put your face in one hand, sighing inwardly. That is exactly what you didn't want to say. 'Ah, yes, mm!' Yumemi nods, making interested noises. Okay, not as easily shaken as you thought. 'Except we've never really done anything like that, not really! And it's only the two of us,' Mary continues. 'Renko is rather more ... um, more than me ... how shall I put it, Renko?'
You place one hand to your chest. 'I want to believe.' You say, utterly straight-faced. 'Yes! Yes, aha ... mm!' Yumemi nods, seemingly lost but suddenly very interested in you. 'Have you read The Professor's papers before? Are you pursuing the same line as me?' 'Um ... ' You share a glance with Mary. ' ... no? No.' You shake your head. 'I didn't even know she was a ... metaphysics professor? I have no idea.' You shrug, feeling the smooth, slick exterior falling away already. 'Ah.' Yumemi's shoulders sag slightly.
'But!' You stand up with a jerk, determined not to let this chance pass you by. Blood rushes to your head for a moment, and your vision goes blotchy, but you keep speaking. 'I'm sure we can help, Yumemi, after all, where better to begin a search for this Rika woman, but right here! Maybe she left something behind, maybe there's some lead we can follow!' You grin, vision clearing, to find Yumemi looking at you with something you've seen on the faces of your own professors once or twice before - scientific lust. 'Y-yes.' She breathes in a shuddering, passion-filled voice, glancing around the room. 'And ... you'd help me?'
'Would we help, Mary?' You ask, leaning on the table and gesturing to Mary with a flick of your wrist. 'We would! After all, the holiday is here!' She chirps. Deep down you know she probably just wants a chance to mother this girl some more, and maybe to watch you in action; you can never quite tell if Mary loves or hates you enthusiasm for all things not-quite-there.
'Thank you, thank you so much.' Yumemi nods, her eyes wet again with tears of gratitude. 'I ... don't know where to begin.' She glances around the room again, rubbing her hands on her skirt.
[ ] 'Begin? ... right now?' Oh god, this day keeps getting longer and longer. Alright, you can do this thing, at least for a bit. [ ] 'Why don't we go grab some food, you can tell us more about professor Rika and her ... work.' Let's move in the general direction of leaving the campus with Mary soonish. Yumemi can always come back in here later if she can't wait. [ ] 'We begin tomorrow.' Hold up a finger for emphasis.
[ ] 'Why don't we go grab some food, you can tell us more about professor Rika and her ... work.' Let's move in the general direction of leaving the campus with Mary soonish. Yumemi can always come back in here later if she can't wait.
[X] 'Why don't we go grab some food, you can tell us more about professor Rika and her ... work.' Let's move in the general direction of leaving the campus with Mary soonish. Yumemi can always come back in here later if she can't wait.
[ ] 'Why don't we go grab some food, you can tell us more about professor Rika and her ... work.' Let's move in the general direction of leaving the campus with Mary soonish. Yumemi can always come back in here later if she can't wait.
We need both food and sleep. This has more character interaction, plus sleep-deprived Renko is amusing.
'We begin tomorrow!' You hold up a finger and flash Yumemi a smile; it's tricky balancing the desire to keep this girl awestruck, and your slow, exhaustion-filled brain ticking over. 'Oh, I thought ... ' Yumemi trails off, gulping. 'Ahah, yeah, sorry.' You scratch the back of your head, feeling awkward. 'Mary wasn't kidding when she said I haven't slept. At all.' You glance at Mary, and she gives you a gently scolding look. 'But hey! We have the whole holiday ahead of us. If Rika hasn't been here in years, a day more won't make much difference now.' You lean toward Yumemi with a conspiratorial wink. 'And nobody else comes in here, only me and Mary know that the door handle is broken.' 'Ah, yes, t-the whole holiday.' Yumemi mutters, looking down at her lap, gulping again; she opens and closes her mouth several times.
'What is it, sweetie?' Mary prompts her gently. 'I ... I'm so stupid.' Yumemi sighs, but it doesn't look like she's going to cry this time. 'I planned to find The Professor, spend the day making my pitch,' she gestures weakly at her bag. 'And then move back home for a couple of weeks until I could find somewhere here. I ... I sold my flat yesterday, this is literally all I have with me.' She tugs at her skirt with thumb and forefinger.
Mary catches your gaze and wiggles her eyebrows meaningfully.
'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell.' You draw the sound out. 'Is that a covert request, miss Yumemi?' You feel that grin playing across your lips once more; this is so bad, so very, very bad. You tell yourself you'd make an offer like this to any - relatively clean and sane - fellow student in dire need. But Yumemi is as crazy as you are, believes in magic, and wants to find a missing metaphysics professor. That probably has something to do with it. 'Oh! Oh, no, no, I couldn't just impose!' Yumemi blusters and flushes, waving her hands in a negative. But you just gently shake your head. 'Nonsense! You've come all this way!' Mary purrs at her in honey and silk and Yumemi's defences fall without further resistance. You can see it on her face.
'W-well if you're sure it's okay, I could m-maybe ... until I find somewhere.' She adds quickly, nodding, looking small and vulnerable and in need of care. You can't resist; Mary must be rubbing off on you. 'We'll look after you, Yumemi.' You say, trying to smile like Mary. It doesn't quite work. You feel like a shark showing its teeth. ' ... y-yeah.' She looks down, overcome with a moment of shyness.
'My place, or yours?' Mary asks.
[ ] 'Oh God, mine, I need to sleep, there's plenty of room for Yumemi.' [ ] 'Yours? I mean ... do you mind? It'd be nice.'
Tried to combine the two votes. Fusion magic happened.
I think that was the last one for today, actually. My apologies. Tomorrow there may only be a couple of updates, in the late evening. If there's not going to be any, I'll leave a note here to let you know.
'Uh ... ' You glance at Yumemi, your mind filling with images of your apartment. It's not exactly in top shape after an all nighter; in fact you don't even want Mary to see it either, and she knows how messy you can get. 'Yours, Mary? I mean ... do you mind? It'd be nice.' Mary winks at you; she knows. You sigh inwardly, but your best friend nods, reaching over to put both her hands on Yumemi's shoulders. 'My place it is then!' She chirps. 'Mine is a lot nicer than Renko's. Clean sheets! Pillows!' Mary giggles, and Yumemi nervously joins in, slowly picking up her very heavy bag from the table. 'T-thank you.' She takes a deep breath, nodding, face still flushed with embarrassed gratitude. A night at Mary's will unwind all that tension, you hope; you'd like to see what Yumemi is really like underneath the nervous exterior.
'We can spend all tomorrow up here,' you explain, hoping that Yumemi is distracted by your words and Mary's smile as you scoop your bra off the table at last and stuff it into your pocket. 'And university admin keeps somebody on even through the holiday, so if we turn up anything, well, we'll see!' You shrug, stepping back into your boots. They're dry-ish now, enough to get home without contracting trench foot. 'Yes, yes.' Yumemi nods, glancing around the room again. 'She may have left things behind elsewhere, I don't know.' ' ... behind.' You echo, frowning with thought suddenly. 'But where did she go, if this is behind?' 'I don't know.' Yumemi meets your eyes, a serious look on her striking face. You nod in response. Yes. A mystery. 'We'll find out, sweetie, we will! Renko is quite good at this sort of thing!' Mary nods encouragingly at Yumemi. 'It's in the blood.' You grin to yourself as you step over to the office door and pull the broken handle up. 'I come from a long line of detective ... '
The lights in the stairwell are off.
You crane your head out of the door, looking up: the lights in the corridors are off as well, you can't see the usual gently-flickering electric glow on the walls. The only light comes from the window behind, smothered by the rain, grey and weak and leaving the stairwell in shadow. You swear the lights were on when you let Yumemi in. 'Oh come on.' You mutter as Mary and Yumemi join you at the door. 'It's still deadline day, this is silly.' 'Mm ... ' Yumemi makes a very small sound, standing close to your side as Mary shuts the Sealing Club door behind the three of you.
The stairwell echoes like a drum under the sound of the rain; you can't even hear any distant voices. Your little trio stands there for a moment in the gloomy silence.
'Well! Let's go! Come on, Renko!' Mary's bright voice breaks the silence, and she gives you a playful little poke in the side to get you moving. 'Yeah! Sooner we get home the sooner I can sleep for a bit.' You try to laugh a little, but the sound seems hollow in the empty, dark building. Yumemi says nothing, just shrinks smaller, staying between you and Mary as you descend the stairs together, footsteps echoing like an alien heartbeat.
'Don't suppose you've got an umbrella, Mary? It wouldn't be too bad if the rain lets-' The familiar route down stops so suddenly that for a moment you don't realise what's happened, only that your arm jerks with impact and you almost walk into something. 'Renko?' Mary peers over your shoulder.
The double-door at the foot of the stairwell is locked; you give it a second shove, but it doesn't budge.
Yumemi gulps, peering back up the stairs.
[ ] 'Hey! Students still in here!' Hammer on the door. This is just shoddy caretaking. [ ] 'Tch, I guess because it's the back way ... let's go up and around.' It's only an extra couple of minutes on the journey. [ ] Roll eyes. Rummage in bag. Find lock-pick.
Typical. Just typical. You're going to have to turn around and trudge all the way back up the stairs to the third floor and take the main stairwell down to the front. You really, really don't want to; you're too tired to bother. Then again, there is one other option. It'll piss off the university caretakers if you do it wrong, but if you get it right nobody ever has to know you did it. Except Mary and Yumemi, but they're in the same boat right now.
You stick one hand into your bag and rummage around through the loose note and pens, past the empty donut box and - there - you find a long, slender metal case, take it out with one hand, and flip it open. 'Renko!' Mary hisses at the sight of your lockpick, the grooves and the long pointer clearly visible even in the enforced twilight gloom. 'You said you wouldn't- ... ahah.' She trails off awkwardly as Yumemi peers over curiously. 'Wouldn't what? What is that?' The amber-and-red girl asks, wide-eyed and hunched over, as if trying to shelter herself in front of Mary, hiding from the darkness.
'One of my little tricks!' You can't help it, showing off by spinning the lockpick case in one hand, flipping the torsion wrench out and catching it with your other. 'Won't take a moment.' You shoot a wink at Yumemi, and suddenly she beams at you, a real delight of a smile, relief and awe and surprise all at once. The waxy nervousness is still there creeping at the edge of her expression, but the smile chases most of it again. 'Renko!' Mary hisses again, but she doesn't move to stop you as you crouch down and get to work on the lock. 'I should do this more often.' You mutter, fingers slipping a little with exhaustion as you try to remember how to do this; it's been a while since you last had the chance to practice on a real lock, but you work with slow, precise movements, tuning out the world around you. After a moment you even close your eyes. 'There ... almost ... ' You mutter with each click. 'Huh, extra one there, what was-'
'Renko, somebody's coming!' Mary hisses, and your eyes snap back open. That wasn't an extra click of the lock, it was the upper door to the stairwell shutting. 'What- no!' Yumemi freezes up, holding onto Mary's sleeve with thumb and forefinger. 'It's alright, it's okay, I'll only be another moment!' You say, and continue with the lock. But your hands and sweaty now, and you slip twice, wiping your forehead. 'Can we- c-can we g-get back to the o-office?' Yumemi asks, her stammer back again, her breathing hard. 'It's okay, sweetie, we won't get caught!' Mary hushes her softly. 'Renko, stop! Now! We can just go around!' 'It'll be fine, they won't come down-'
All three of you go quiet at the sound of the voice, bouncing down the stairwell from nearly two stories up. Your fingers stop.
'Good.' It repeats in the same empty monotone. Footsteps echo down the stairwell now, in perfectly paced, mechanical tapping.
'Oh no. No. W-we need to go back to the office!' Yumemi can barely raise her voice to a whisper, and she squeezes her eyes shut, shaking with fear. 'It's just somebody on their phone.' You say as calmly as you can. 'I'll have this open any second n-'
'Morning. Good morning? Morning.' The voice echoes down again, inflection all wrong, like a drunk or a brain-damage victim trying to speak. It's obviously female, but other than that you can't place the age or the accent. Empty. 'Oh God, oh God.' Yumemi starts to panic, hyperventilating and gripping Mary's arm. 'Renko, just-' Mary whispers.
'Morning girls. Girls ... ' The voice fades off for a moment. ' .... are you there?' 'No, no!' Yumemi grits her teeth and shakes her head, eyes shut tightly.
[ ] Open this fucking door right now. [ ] Stop, turn around, wait for whoever is approaching. [ ] 'Shhhhh.' Clamp a hand over Yumemi's mouth. Total silence. Wait.
Sorry, reposting this because I made an HTML mistake in the first one.
That voice makes your skin crawl. There's just something wrong about it. So wrong that you don't want to be trapped here at the foot of the stairwell when the voice's owner reaches the bottom - and the footsteps aren't stopping. ' ... Renko, get that door open. Please.' Even Mary feels it, and she never believes in these kinds of sensations, these gut-knowledge instincts that tell you not to be somewhere. Mary blinks up the stairwell and puts a comforting arm around Yumemi's shoulders. 'On it.' You mutter, already working again.
'Are you. You? ... You. I'm. Looking for. You may. Me?' The voice echoes down the stairwell, inflection increasingly broken and maddening, like a machine reading from a script, getting the pace and the word stresses all wrong. You resist the urge to look over your shoulder, to direct your attention away from the lock for even a second.
Your fingers are slippery with sweat, your heart is hammering in your chest; you're sure not sleepy anymore. And then you finally twist the torsion wrench sideways, and the lock opens with a soft clunk. 'Done!' You almost shout, yanking your tools back out and shoving them back into your bag without a glance. 'Come on, let's go!' You push the door open, revealing yet more gloomy, unlit corridor beyond, the windows showing the same greyed-out buildings of the campus beyond.
'There. Found. You now.' The voice reacts.
Yumemi all but falls through the doorway, looking like she wants to break into a run and never stop, shaking and sweating, her face turned waxy with fear again. But Mary bustles through with her, patting her shoulder and fussing over her. 'Oh, you dear, it's nothing to be worried about, come on, the back entrance is just around the corner.' Mary soothes Yumemi, taking her hand very gently and trying to lead her on. Yumemi keeps staring back at the stairwell, eyes wide, hunched forward like a cornered animal. 'Renko.' She looks back at you and nods you onward.
But you're not done yet.
'Renko, what are you doing?' Mary hisses as you slam the double-doors shut - and then throw the security bar, the one that only comes down at night - trapping the owner of that voice inside the stairwell, just like you were. 'Ensuring we aren't followed.' You say, hopping away from the door and trying to tear your eyes away from the little metal-latticework-reinforced smoky-glass window. You hover, watching, waiting for any sign of movement - however obscured - in the stairwell.
'Renko, come on! You just,' Mary glances down the corridor. 'Picked a lock, on campus, we need to not be here right now!'
[ ] Alright. Go. [ ] 'Go on ahead. I'll catch up in a moment.' You want to see what's going to walk down into the foot of the stairwell. Even if you can't see clearly. [ ] 'Wait up, let's see who that is.'
You can't look away from the little smoky window; curiosity overpowers the creeping feeling that runs down your spine.
'Then go, go on ahead, I'll catch up in a moment.' You wave vaguely at Mary without looking away from the door. 'Renko you can't be serious-' You can tell Mary is pouting, just from the tone of her voice, and you're glad you didn't look, because you can't resist her when she pouts like that. 'Seriously! I'll be right behind you.' You say, nodding with more confidence than you really have. 'But-' 'P-please, Mary, I think we s-should.' Yumemi's small voice adds. Mary goes quiet; perhaps this is a little bit too much for her.
Then Mary just sighs, a normal sigh, and trots off down the corridor with Yumemi just ahead of her. 'Don't be too long!' She shoots back at you over her shoulder.
You stare at the window.
Mary and Yumemi's soft footsteps vanish around the corner. You hear the gentle noise of the outside doors opening.
You keep staring.
Nothing. Nothing! You creep closer to the door, peering into the window, listening carefully for the sound of any other doors opening anywhere else in the building. If the owner of that voice heard you throwing the bar, she might have gone back up and around, hoping to catch up with you another way. You check behind you, shoulder-blades tingling.
Just as you look back, there's finally motion in the window; the indistinct outline of a leg appears on the last turn of the stairs, followed by the other leg. Trousers, thighs, the outline of a woman's hips, all fogged and obscured by the smoky glass. You take a couple of cautious steps back from the door, just in case, keeping perfectly silent. The woman walks with slow, deliberate motions, down the stairs until you can see the outline of her shoulders and head - no facial features visible through the window, just a blank, shadowy oval - all tinged with a faint, unhealthy purple.
' ... hello?' You try as the woman reaches the door. 'Hell. Oh..' That broken, wrong voice answers you from the other side. The woman pushes against the door, but the bar stops her. You stare at the outline of her head through the glass, unsure what to say, half-opening your mouth and closing it again.
Then, to your horror, she presses her face against the glass. She presses, and presses - squishing unhealthy-pale, purple-tinged flesh up against the surface - until she's got one of her eyeballs pressed directly against the window, staring at you through the fog. The iris is red. The white is blotchy and yellowed. She doesn't blink.
She pushes against the door again; this time she keeps the pressure constant. For one terrifying moment you think the bar is going to start bending.
But it holds steady.
[ ] Okay, you've seen enough. Time to leave. [ ] Say something. Communicate.
You stare back at her for a long moment, through the glass. Her eye doesn't even twitch; she just stares at you like a statue.
'Hello?' You try again, looking for another reaction. No response. 'Hello? Anyone in there? ... no? Not talking to me now, okay.' You gulp, taking another step backward from the door. 'Who are you?' You wait. And wait. No response. The woman just pushes against the door with the same steady pressure. 'No name? Not gonna talk to me, huh?' You try, going into motor-mouth mode, exhaustion and tension overlapping and making you hair-trigger jumpy. 'How about a name, come on, everyone has a name, what's yours? Where you from? Obviously not from around here, otherwise you'd know you shouldn't use the back stairwell unless you're planning to come out the back entrance. Not a student, huh?'
'Looking. For you may ... hell oh.'
Finally, a response. The woman pushes harder against the bar holding the door shut. 'What are you looking for, what do you want? You may ... Yumemi? You want-' You start, and then stop abruptly as the woman finally pulls her face away from the window. She moves slowly, almost peeling the unhealthy pale skin away from the surface; her flesh leaves behind a sheen of grease. 'Hey, hey! Who sent you, what do you want?' The outline pauses behind the glass, and the monotone voice echoes out once more.
'You may ... ' She drones, craning her head upward, looking up the stairwell. 'You may. Me.' And then she turns, and starts to walk away again, with those exact same footsteps, slow and precise. 'Hey!' Curiosity overcomes you fear, and you leap forward and slap a hand against the door. 'Hey, listen, don't ignore me! Who are you, what do you want? You. Not Yumemi. Understand?'
The figure pauses again, still facing away from the door; all you can see is the faint suggestion of dark hair. She stands there for a long, long moment, unmoving, and you almost raise you hand to slap the door again to get her attention.
' ... me?' Her voice carries through the door, fainter than before. 'No.Thing.' She raises a hand; you spot short sleeves and pale-fleshed arms. Raise; drop. A mechanical action, with a hint of hesitation. She performs the action again, reaching toward her face before dropping her arm down. 'Nothing? Is that your name?' You could almost laugh if her voice didn't make your skin crawl. 'Sent for. You may me.' She repeats. 'Yes, yes, you want Yumemi. But why? Sent by who?' You frown at the little window, toying with raising the bar. Maybe if you could just see her, maybe if you could see her face, maybe you could make sense of this encounter, this bizarre moment.
Through a crack in the door, a smell reaches your nose: the tang of ozone and other sharp chemicals you can't quite put your finger on. Medical smells; the scent reminds you of hospitals.
'Sent by ssssss ... saaaaa ... nnnnnnnnnnnnNNNNNNN.'
You wish you hadn't asked; trying to give a response to that question makes the strange woman grunt. She keeps trying, and it sounds like she's gritting her teeth, straining her throat. She doesn't stop, and keeps raising and lowering her right arm toward her face. She forms the fingers into a frustrated claw, and bats herself in the side of the head.
'Woah, woah, it's okay, you don't have to answer!' You say hurriedly, scared she's going to hurt herself or explode. 'NNNnnnnnn ... miss tress.' She finally finishes, and you let out a breath you didn't realise you were holding. She seems to have calmed down now; you think better of trying to ask her who her "mistress" is. 'So, why do you want Yume-' You start.
The woman moves again, her right arm jerking backward with unexpected speed. The rest of her body doesn't move, but she points at you with one outstretched finger, her arm bending at an impossible angle for human bones. You jump back in surprise, eyes wide. Even as terrifying as this is, she's amazing, the second amazing find of the day. If only you could open this door! Your fingers itch to lift the bar, to see what you're dealing with here.
'You can help.' She says. Her inflection is fixed. Her voice is level. Even the accent is distinct suddenly, although exotic and hard to place. 'I can help.' You echo, wide-eyed with awe.
And then her arm drops back down, like a puppet with the strings cut. 'You may ... me.' The clarity is gone once more, and her voice makes your skin crawl again. She starts to step away, heading up the stairs again.
[ ] Open the door. [ ] 'Wait, wait! What do you want her for? Tell me!' [ ] Let her go, get back to Mary and away before she makes it down the main stairs.
You don't have long to make the decision. Mary and Yumemi are safely outside, and waiting for you; you can handle this. You can! You pull the bar up.
And open the door.
The first thing that hits you is the smell, much stronger than the hint you were picking up through the door: ethanol, bleach, ozone, medical scrub, formaldehyde. You wrinkle your nose at the strength of the smell, but you barely pay attention to it. The mysterious woman is standing right in front of you, a few paces away, with her back to you.
She's a little shorter than you, dressed in featureless clothes, just jeans and a dark brown tshirt, and filthy, ancient sneakers on her feet. Her hair looks like it's been dyed - somewhere between blue and purple - except the colour is somehow too chemical-perfect to be real. Her skin is an unhealthy off-pale, purple like her entire body is one giant soft bruise; she's the colour of over-ripe fruit, of shallow wounds and dying sunsets. She is anything but normal, and for a moment you just stand there, staring, unsure what to do. You've never gotten this close to something unnatural before. She doesn't react to you opening the door, and as you watch she just takes another steady mechanical step forward.
Something rustles underneath her tshirt as she moves.
' ... hello?' You try, heart in your mouth as you speak without the door separating you from her.
The woman stops in place for a moment. Another moment. Another. Then she turns around slowly to face you.
You can't help but think you're looking at the face of a walking corpse. The bruise-coloured flesh, the way her lips are so very pale, the dead eyes staring at nothing, unfocused and blotchy, not to mention such an unnatural red. But there's no hint of physical rot or decay. If it wasn't for the slack expression and vacant eyes she would be quite pretty. She stares at you, or at least in your general direction. ' ... hello. Hi.' You raise a hand in greeting. Damn, you wish you had a camera, or ... or Mary! Or a script to follow, or notes about what this woman might be, or something! How on earth did she even get onto campus looking like that? It doesn't take a paranormal nut like you to notice there's something up with her. At a distance or in bad light she might pass as a very sick or drunk person, but up close you can't make that mistake.
'You may-' she starts, and then stops suddenly again, raising her right hand toward her face like before. Her arm moves with a double-jerk, forward and then back, like a puppet being moved by one than one master. Her arm freezes in the air next to her head for a moment, and then her lips peel back to reveal gritted teeth. The muscles in her jaw clench up hard. Her fingers twitch. 'Are you okay?' You ask. 'NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN' She makes a noise through her teeth like a scream that's been choked down, and the sheer force of it makes you flinch backward.
The muscles in her raised arm are straining hard, flexing, as if she's fighting against some opposing force. She doesn't sweat though; you're not even sure if she can sweat. Her skin - despite the colour - looks powder-soft, no hint of moisture. 'You said I can help.' You clear your throat and try to speak over her strangled scream. 'What do you mean? With ... this? Whatever it is you're doing here?' 'You. May. Me.' She says through her teeth. 'That doesn't help ... unless ... you mean, she can help?' You raise an eyebrow.
Her arm finally moves again, quick as a flash, exactly like it did before, with suddenly fluidity of motion. Clarity, precision, speed. Her eyes light up, blinking rapidly and focusing suddenly on your gaze, alert and alive - though still somewhat dazed. She bats at the front of her face, fingers at her forehead, as if trying to shoo away a fly or bat something out of her eyes. Her fingers slow, finding nothing, relaxing with sudden failure, and then her arm drops to her side again. Her eyes unfocus. She loses her clarity.
'Okay ... help, help, what do you want me to do, dammit?' You mutter, more to yourself than her.
The bruise-girl reaches slowly and mechanically toward your face. The motion makes her shirt pull across her back; more rustling noises.
[ ] Oh no, no no, back up. She's not allowed to touch you. [ ] Let her touch your face. Maybe she's going to show you?
>>26949 Oh? Why not? It's just voting for the direction we'd like the story to go in. That's the purpose of this choice system, right?
Whatever gets there is fine by me, Renko investigates and notices her shirt is rustling and finds paper and remembers reading about jiang shi and etc etc. I'm just voting to go that way directly, so hopefully we don't have to go through X more choices to investigate her shirt and put the paper back on when it's already pretty obvious what's up. (And if that's wrong, then these votes can just be disregarded.)
There's no need to try and roleplay Renko in choices. That's HY's job.
>>26955 Who actually did come out friendly? The Akis went from friendly to having a superiority complex, Kappa went from friends of humans to eaters of shirikodama, and let's not get started on Kisume.
At least take solace in the fact that Akyuu is an unreliable narrator, so not everything is necessarily completely true.