Page after page of yellowed paper passed by my thumb as I searched for what I was looking for. Each page was filled from margin to margin with small-font text that the casual onlooker might confuse for streams of ants neatly crossing the page, annotations in flawless penmanship next to the text, and the occasional elaborate illustration. There were no chapters, headings, or any other markers that could otherwise show where the content I was looking for would be. I had to rely on dumb luck and sketchy memory, trying to correlate familiar words and drawings with the approximate placement of the material. At last I found what I was searching for towards the back of the book. I took out my own notebook and transcribed the passage I needed. The reason I had failed last time I tried to cast was that my reagent was added at the wrong moment. Or so I believed. All other explanations left me wanting. Uncertainty was something that had to be avoided, something which I had been taught was a crutch.
I closed the ancient book, lifting up a column of dust in the process. I coughed, and was aware of my surroundings. The dark little closet where the older tomes were stored was barely large enough to fit a chair and a small knee-high podium for perusing. The walls were lined with shelves upon shelves of lore and the door was as heavy as it was secretive. The whole place stank of mold and negligence and was more of a hiding place than storeroom. Needless to say, no natural light dared to sneak in either because of how remote this place was to the rest of the house. My source of light had been an ethereal wisp floating around my should, an elementary display of magic which helped me deal with the circumstances. It cast the whole room in a ghostly hue of white light. I felt compelled to leave as soon as possible and seal the tomb-like repository.
The wisp was extinguished by a single muttered word when I felt the warm rays of sunlight on my face. I walked towards the nearest window, reading my notes.
I still was not confident that I had found the real issue when she spoke, “Are you ready yet?”
“I think so,” I replied, turning around to face her. As had been the case lately, I found her staring at me with no real expression on her face. Her stoic look was fortified by the cold way her light eyes stared clear through me. Her lips moved only slightly when she talked and it looked like she would do anything to keep from opening up.
“Was the research satisfactory?” She inquired.
“I think I may be ready.”
“Show me,” She commanded.
“May I have a moment to prepare myself first, Alice?”
The stoicism quickly changed into harsh irritation. Though her facial expression did not change, the way her eyes seemed to bore a hole into me led me to conclude as much.
“Pardon me,” I apologized, “May I have a moment to prepare myself first, mistress?” I used the titled she had insisted I call her by. It felt unnatural but then again so did a lot of what I was doing with her. I had decided to defer to her, and I was trying my best to do just that.
“What you call me outside of the confines of this house and outside of the confidence maintained by our pact is of little consequence to me,” She reminded me coolly. Though past events had made me think that learning the ropes with her wouldn't be as bad as it seemed, she had not shown any of the softness and vulnerability I had seen before. Those incidents now seemed like freak occurrences, vastly overshadowed by the cool and withdrawn demeanor the magician generally possessed. She answered my request, “You may, but make it quick.”
Losing no time, I reread the notes for the umpteenth time. I visualized every step, allowing my lips to quietly half-mumble what I had to do. I walked over slowly to the small pot in the corner, and dug my fingers into the earth contained therein. I felt the soil, felt its character and disposition and thought that it was more than adequate for my purposes. I poured in the contents of a nearby vial, making sure to get the dose right down to the last drop. I touched the earth again, it was now warm, like the fecund land near the river in town which received much sunshine and grew many different crops. I placed the dull stone on top of of a mound of dirt, preparing everything as best I could.
“I am ready,” I reported.
“Very well, proceed whenever you please.”
I concentrated. Not like I used to during tests at Keine's school. Nor like I usually did when doing the inventory at the store. It was something much more serious, much more draining. My lips began to move, uttering the words that needed to be said without conscious input. That was the result of hours of memorization and much practice. I felt a tingle, the tingle I always felt when doing something this extraordinary. I visualized the flow of energy, the object and the origin, and how everything was supposed to work. An unearthly glow, a glow much like the one that first had enamored me to this mystical world spread from my fingertips and towards the earthenware pot. The glow, energy, permeated like tendrils of thin fog, looking for their objective. I guided them, controlled them towards what they needed to accomplish and let them do the rest.
“It seems that you cannot even do something this simple,” My mistress observed dryly.
It was true. I gave up on concentrating, the energy evaporating and bleeding randomly into the environment. I was frustrated. It was the fifth time I had failed in making the spell work.
“Prepare the tea, we'll take a break,” She ordered. It was an act of clemency, one probably meant to get my mind off my failure.
I used the opportunity to focus on the tea. I tried not to think about all the work I had painstakingly done all day nor the amount of hours I spent at home preparing in order to be the best I could be. In between having to be at the store, coming over to her house to train and stopping to occasionally rest, I didn't have much time to spend with my friends, much to the chagrin of a certain horned girl who liked to monopolize my time. I heated up enough water for two and took some sweets an placed everything onto a tray.
I brought everything over to the small den and placed the tray on the table. I sat opposite her. I was silent, unable to think of anything appropriate to say. I looked around as to avoid her gaze; the wide spectrum of dolls present were all currently lifeless and sitting looking all prim and proper on their shelves. There was no need for the magician to use any of them right then and so they rested. At a moments' notice, however, I knew that she would manipulate several of the dolls, making them toil and fly around, in order to do whatever it was that needed to be done. I thought about her puppetry, the kind she did for the village children at times. I had once been a fan, still was in light of her deft use and control.
She casually informed me after taking a sip of the tea, “If you wish to progress more, you need to be able to do this. The distractions in your life may be costing you more than you may admit. Therefore, you'll be staying here for as long as it takes you to learn how to do it properly.”
“Ah, but mistress,” I objected as politely as I could, “I have my obligations to my aunt and to the store, I can't simply disappear for an extended period of time.”
“You can and you will,” She said, “I've already informed your family of where you are and how it is important that you achieve this. I was told that it would be no problem.”
“Really? Auntie said that?” I was in disbelief.
“While you read I went over to your home and talked to her about it.” She cocked her head, touching upon a point that seemed to confuse her, “She wished me good luck and emphasized that you may have a hard time concentrating on account of a lovely distraction. Do you know what she meant by that?”
“I think it was her way of saying that she likes you,” I hazarded a guess, cursing my Auntie's ebullient personality for causing me embarrassment.
“Oh, I see,” She seemed to be taken aback, and I thought I saw the nascent signs of a smile. I was wrong and she kept her same expression of detachment, “There is still time before the sun goes down so after we're done here I expect you to make good use of your time.”
She took her time enjoying her tea, as she always did. She was very civilized, after all, as distant and unwelcoming as she seemed at times. She was patient with me, though she did not stop to sugar-coat my failings and corrected me directly whenever I fouled up. As a teacher she was a vast well of knowledge and I wondered if I could ever know as much as her about the way magic worked. Her method exuded confidence without crossing the threshold to arrogance and her demonstrations were simple and to the point. I trusted her to teach me what was appropriate when it was appropriate.
I lost no time restructuring myself. I read up on what I was supposed to to and practiced everything to be just perfect. Of course, because of the fact that I had failed twice in the same day, my chances of success were drastically lowered – any further attempts to execute the spell would have to wait until the next day. At times I felt a pair of eyes on me, and occasionally I caught glimpses of a floating doll coming in to see how I was doing. It was her way of being present even when she was not and it was somewhat reassuring.
The last precious rays of daytime filtered through the windows. The sky was a bright orange, a holdover from a stubbornly-long autumn season. In the coming weeks the days would darken faster than before and with less pomp than the gold and purple display I beheld. I sighed. I was stuck, stumped, in no way closer to figuring out what was wrong. I had exhausted my patience. It felt like the answer was not in my notes.
“I should inform you,” She appeared out of nowhere, all of a sudden hovering to my right, “That I will be making supper soon. Later, you may draw a bath once you're done for the day. There is a bag with your clothes by the entrance.”
“Thank you,” I nodded gratefully. She definitely knew how I had accomplished nothing but had the good grace of saying nothing.
Her food was savory, if quite plain as far as ingredient variety was concerned. I couldn't complain, in fact, I felt privileged to eat her quiche. If she had wanted to she could have told me to cook for myself, or for the both of us. I would have had little choice but to comply. It felt like she was being mindful of my efforts and rewarding me justly. We ate and then she showed me where I could take a bath. I wasn't quite ready to begin to turn in, as tired as my body was from exerting itself all day long. Magic took a lot of my willpower and really did drain me physically.
I needed to do just a little more. Just enough so I could perhaps approach the issue with a wider perspective the next day.
I had to ask my teacher...
 to be allowed to read from some of the older grimoires again.  for yet another demonstration on how it's done.
[x] to be allowed to read from some of the older grimoires again.
Chances are if he's already been given a demonstration, along with actually studying it, chances are he may had either missed something in the texts or misread entirely. A bit of dust can make a huge difference on what is read and copied.
>A DEFT-y chronicle
So is this a continuation from the /shrine/ threads where Arc's learning sessions with Alice, or is it separate from the main story in the sense that it just focuses on Arc's time, his successes, failures as well as new mysteries possibly cropping up with Aline and nothing else..?
[x] to be allowed to read from some of the older grimoires again.
>Or does this come before Arc's marriage to Suika? The whole thing is kind of confusing. Reimu, Suika, Alice? Not sure what is what anymore. Or maybe each is it's own route, like what would have been if we had picked that? Teacher Alice route would be something to consider too, it probably has it's own charme.
[X] to be allowed to read from some of the older grimoires again.
The demonstration might be good if the problem was in magic control but that doesn't seem to be the case. The vote implies that Arc has already seem demonstrations too so he should have the basic process down. Books are the best bet since the problem seems to be from a lack of knowledge.
>So is this a continuation from the /shrine/ threads where Arc's learning sessions with Alice, or is it separate from the main story in the sense that it just focuses on Arc's time, his successes, failures as well as new mysteries possibly cropping up with Aline and nothing else..?
This focuses exclusively on magic and the characters attuned to that aspect of Gensokyo. This means magic lessons are the forefront, any other events happen in the background or are mentioned in passing. Just like this, in turn, would be in other contexts.
As for how this fits in with the rest, wait and see is all I'll say. In all honesty I am surprised at the reaction in the other thread. I expected something different. Ah well, be patient. I'll only be running one DEFT-related story at a time, due to being busy with other stories and to avoid paradoxes.
“If you think that that will help,” She handed me the key to the storeroom. She took the time to caution me again about them, “Do not lose yourself too deeply in their contents, to the unexperienced what seems like minutes can be hours and whispers of knowledge coming from the charged contents can frustrate and madden.”
“I'll be cautious,” I replied, looking into her frosty eyes. If I hoped to show my dedication I had to be as serious about things as I could.
“Apprentice,” She used the title she had picked herself. I did not know if she disliked my nickname, my name or simply thought it was only fair that the mistress have her apprentice.
“Yes mistress?” She had stopped me right on the verge of leaving.
“Do not neglect your rest. Remember the first lessons I taught you.”
“...Magic is only as potent as the mind allows it to be.”
“Indeed,” She smiled. It wasn't a warm, affectionate smile – it was a cold, austere smile that framed just how serious the basics were. She spoke, “The mind is not as alert if the body is rested and will also exhaust itself in arcane pursuit.”
“Of course mistress.”
“Take heed. When you are done there is a cot ready for you in the den.” She said with some finality. She retreated up the stairs and into her very private domain.
I was left alone, left to do as I pleased.
I used the old brass key to unlock the secretive storage place yet again. It was as dusty and dark as I had left it. I concentrated, using what little clarity of thought I had left to produce another wisp of light. The light was bright, allowing me to take an uncertain step through into the dark portal. The room was cold, as cold as winter frost. Alice had explained that the books preferred an environment like that. She had explained that the books, rich in spellcraft lore as they were, were magical in of themselves. They affected their surroundings capriciously.
I looked around, trying to find what I was looking for. In several of the shelves, old worn leather rattled, like an animal being suddenly disturbed in its burrow would. Not only that but some of the books emitted an eerie glow – something completely independent from my light source. The letters themselves, for what I understood, were written in a special ink that caused them to react to the presence of magic. The most disconcerting thing of all was the humming. A low pitch sound that permeating in the room. It was the most generic background noise imaginable, except that it was at the same time the most unique. That too was an effect of the lore and magic contained within them.
I found a book that I was looking for, sitting tucked in the shelf. It was dead, as in no lights or rattling beset it, and I wasted no time in getting the massive latch on the front undone.
The minutes did indeed become hours. In spite of Alice's warning, I had let the book consume my time without even noticing it. It was difficult not to. The lettering was beautiful and bright and I ran my fingers across the pages as I read. It spoke to me, not in a literal sense, but I felt that the words were being transplanted directly into my brain, directly into my consciousness. Somehow being able to appreciate some of its knowledge made me hungry for more. And that's how I got swept up. I could just hear Auntie chastising me for letting myself be sidetracked; In the store she would have made me pull inventory twice over for messing up the first time.
I was no closer to an answer. I had no idea why Alice was so hung up on this particular spell either. There were plenty more I thought I could do. I could shoot out bolts of energy over short distances. Create a thin fog in a small area... there was a lot I could do. Instead I was burdened with something pointless and profitless. I did not know what the spell hoped to accomplish as the end result was only described as 'revitalization'. Alice had demonstrated control, direction and talent in getting all of the elements to react and the spell to work but had stopped short of letting me see the result. What I saw was only a small container with the earth covered in a layer of green.
I put the tome back, looking around in frustration. A big book, doubly wrapped in leather and elegant golden chains drew my attention. It was one of those whose letter glowed and the cover read “In making simple realities.” - or that was the best I could translate it to. All of the spell books were written in various languages, and I had learned the script of one of these languages during the course of my training. And even in this one language there were sometimes letter variations and older styles that completely threw me off. It was an ongoing process and I was sure that by the end of my study I would command most of them.
The reading of the spells themselves were easy, as the enchanted letters delivered much of the information I needed. It was strange, like having visions at times, but it was an easy way to learn once I understood what I was doing. The actual script was just a base – as well as a sort of troubleshooting when the meaning of the knowledge was unclear.
I undid the dual latches on the large book. I poured over some of the pages. It was, undoubtedly, a book that dealt with spellcraft. The letters glowed a bewitching silver. I read some descriptions, finding that the spells within were easy to understand; Their purpose, however, was hard for me to determine. The book spoke to me, but the images I saw were just normal scenes from every day life. Nothing that indicated what they affected.
“Manipulation of element.”
“Appending to the rest.”
I could not make sense of what they were supposed to do. But I was sure I could cast them. If I prepared and rested properly. Alice had not limited me to a single pursuit, the earlier spell was a simple task that in no way was supposed to be an exclusive outlet for my development.
It was late and I needed sleep. I would be up at dawn in order to get an early start.
 Take initiative and learn a spell or two  Forget it
Alice is rigid, but she's also a girl of endless patience. So when she says that you're going to stay until you finish, you're going to stay until you finish. Take advantage of this opportunity so that when this is all said and done and you have to go back to word, you'll have something of practical value to take away from this experience. You're learning magic for your own benefit, remember? It would suck to succeed right off the bat first thing in the morning then have to go to work with nothing to really show for it.
Besides, "the book spoke to me" is always a good excuse. Alice will be up with the larks to slap you around before you acquire too much SAN damage.
[x] Take initiative and learn a spell or two I think Alice is hiding something. Why would she demonstrate how the spell works, but stop before showing us the end result? It might be in the name of our progress, so we can have a deeper understanding of magic, or she could simply have a hidden agenda. Or maybe I'm just really fucking paranoid.
Learning from the book was easier than I expected. The gilded letters laid the contents bare and in easy to understand tracts. It felt like learning a new recipe, learning how to combine the components inherent in the world to achieve something different and unexpected. The book itself seemed to whisper softly its secrets. I almost felt like I was being encouraged to read and encouraged to learn. Despite my considerable exhaustion I stayed at it, not daring to put the book away until I was confident that I had memorized the instructions completely.
I was reluctant to close the tome. In spite of the late hour, a mysterious source of energy fueled me, incited me to keep delving deeper into the lore. My sense of responsibility inhibited me from giving in to the desire and I shelved the book. As I got up, I realized that the chamber was deathly still – no books rattled, glowed or even hummed. I thought that perhaps they had grown tired somehow and were now sleeping. It was a stupid thought but it was the only explanation that I allowed myself to accept. I bolted and locked the door, turning the old brass key in the large and worn keyhole. There had once been some sort of decoration etched on the metal plate above but years of negligence had caused rust to obscure what it was.
I meant to take a bath but after only a few steps away from the storeroom a tidal wave of fatigue crashed upon me. The exhaustion that I ignored seemed to return all at once and debilitated me. Thinking to make the best of what little of the night was left, I staggered over to my cot and sank in unceremoniously. I didn't even bother to take off my clothes, laying as still as one of Alice's dolls. I did not think of anything nor felt anything. If I fell asleep, I did not even feel it.
...the door creaked as I pushed it open. It was dark, dawn had not yet arrived, and I could not see anything special in the room.
I turned around.
A pair of clear eyes stared from out of the darkness. It was who I had wanted, to whose room I had gone. She silently approached, her steps falling silent on the old wooden floorboards. She was in her nightgown, vestments that were as lacey as her normal clothes. I said something, a whisper that echoed loudly in the dead of night, and she smiled. Her smile was precious. It was like a rare flower that bloomed only once every century. I smiled as well. It felt safe to do what I had wanted to do.
She stayed still as I grabbed a hold of her thin shoulders, her piercing eyes never shying away from my face. Her hair looked different – the usual hair band was gone and as a result it looked more wavy. I whispered something again, and she nodded approvingly. I leaned down towards her, bringing my face close. With no hesitation, I kissed her, closing my eyes as I felt my lips upon her own. I knew that her eyes remained open, staring unflinchingly at me with unyielding clarity.
Eventually her hands reached out, meeting behind me neck; She held me closer, prolonging the experience and introducing further intimacy. When I finally broke away, withdrawing my face to only a short distance away from hers, I saw her grin. It did not stop there and she giggled, then chuckled and soon I was doing the same. Her eyes never softened but her expression did, exposing the adorable girl that was seldom seen.
...I stood by the window, staring at the horizon. Light was breaking through cloud cover. Rosy tendrils of sky were the harbingers of colors yet to come. I watched as dark blue turned into pink, then orange and then into light shades of blue. The sun emerged, majestically dominating the far-off sky.
I got changed, having found that my clothes from the day before. I felt unfulfilled, as if something was missing. I knew I was not completely ready to try casting another spell just yet. That would have to wait until after a meal so that I could recuperate fully.
I organized my thoughts and then ventured to make breakfast. By the time Alice came down I had finished setting places on the table.
“Apprentice,” She informed me promptly as we sat down, “Today you shall be on your own for the most part. I have some business elsewhere. I trust that you shall make the most of your time.”
“If that's what you wish mistress,” I replied.
“You seem distracted,” She commented, finishing off her meal with modest chewing.
“I'm sorry, I stayed up late last night,” I knew she had inferred that my nocturnal study session had gone on until very late.
“Only push yourself in ways that matter,” She said, looking nothing like she had when I kissed her. There she was initially serious but then became demure. Though it had felt very real, I knew it was a dream. I knew it had been a dream despite not remembering waking nor even falling asleep.
“I'll be cautious,” I replied.
“Thank you for the meal,” She nodded, “I'll be on my way now.”
The morning went by slowly. I spent the majority of it trying to figure out what my problem was. Not that it did me any good being so tired. It was as if I did not get any rest. My shoulders were sore and my legs felt stiff. I slapped myself on my cheek, in a bid to wake myself up. I couldn't stop yawning either. It made me glad that Alice was not around, lest she see how exhausted I really was.
I remembered that I still had the old brass key in my possession. And I thought about trying yet again to get my answers from the books.
I thought about what Alice would do. Her doll collection lay silently around the house but I did not know how to manipulate them. It was a stupid thought to entertain. My teacher was mysterious and independent and I could not imagine how she came to learning magic. I hoped that she had had as much trouble as I did now. If she did, it would mean I was not a lost cause. She had graciously agreed to train me but was under no obligation to put up with me if I had no talent.
It's my belief that the lack of direction and difficulty of the task is intentional; she had made arrangements for him to stay even before he failed. She just wants him over.
That 'dream' only strengthens this hypothesis, though I'm unsure of Alice's exact motives.
[x] Hit the books.
The more he exerts himself, the faster he gets to the mana transfer more he learns. She said only to exert himself in ways that mattered, and his late night studying was apparently fruitful, if digressive.
>>21757 >What good will reading do if you're about to fall asleep?
The books seem to have an enchantment that cause the reader to focus and sustain his attention. Falling asleep while reading them may not even be possible.
>I almost felt like I was being encouraged to read and encouraged to learn. Despite my considerable exhaustion I stayed at it, not daring to put the book away until I was confident that I had memorized the instructions completely. [...] In spite of the late hour, a mysterious source of energy fueled me, incited me to keep delving deeper into the lore.
It was temporary and there was a crash afterward, but it didn't seem to have an effect on his memory.
>Worked how? I don't see any tangible results.
Well, you wanted to learn magic.
>Learning from the book was easier than I expected. The gilded letters laid the contents bare and in easy to understand tracts. It felt like learning a new recipe, learning how to combine the components inherent in the world to achieve something different and unexpected. The book itself seemed to whisper softly its secrets. I almost felt like I was being encouraged to read and encouraged to learn. Despite my considerable exhaustion I stayed at it, not daring to put the book away until I was confident that I had memorized the instructions completely.
And voila. You learned magic.
I don't know about 'tangible'. Depending on what you're learning, tangibility might include burning Alice's house down.
The dank crypt felt oddly comfortable. I sat and read the extracts relevant to my task, taking care to not skip over any details, no matter how minute. I could finish every sentence by memory and every instruction was etched into my mind. Insofar knowing how to proceed, I was set.
Knowing I couldn't learn anything more from the book even if I stripped the pages from the spine and physically devoured them, I put it away. Instead, I went back to the book from the night before. It had sat there patiently, not complaining, not doing much except waiting for me to turn my attention to it. I undid the latches once again. The letters were the same tasteful silver and still seemed to glow with elegant knowledge. I found the spell I had committed to memory hours before and skimmed through the pages with uncommon nostalgia. It was like meeting an old acquaintance again and it almost saddened me to know that I could learn nothing more from reading it again.
I sat perfectly still for hours, reading the other pages. Their wisdom became mine with little to no effort. It was striking how so much could be said by so little, how the well-codified instructions could tell me how to best proceed. Naturally I did not try any of the spells then, being more concerned with learning them all first. There was more than I could digest in a single sitting. For that reason I felt that the book excused me and rewarded my dedication by having its letters fade in intensity ever so slightly. It was enough of a reminder that I had wasted all the morning pouring over the contents and I found the willpower to shelve the book for another day.
The timing could not be better. As I locked and bolted the door behind me, I heard the front door open and two pairs of footsteps.
“...well, you can't expect miracles without effort. That's what I always say.”
I scurried forth to meet the familiar voice, feeling oddly lightheaded.
“Good afternoon Mistress, Marisa.” I intercepted them by the entrance, greeting them politely.
“Ah, hey there!” Marisa saluted with her usual candor, “How's it going Arc?”
“Rather well, thank you. It's been a while, hasn't it?”
“A couple of weeks maybe, it's hard to keep track. I hear you're keeping busy these days,” She smirked, “by the looks of it you've been staying up late,” She winked. She took off her hat, placing it on a rack next to the door. Her hair was shorter than I remembered it, the golden strands as long on the back as her braid was on the front.
“He's been diligently attending to his studies,” Alice stopped the banter dead in its tracks. There was the subtle look of exasperation she got from just being around Marisa.
“He's been diligently attending to something alright,” Marisa muttered loud enough for me to hear.
If Alice heard what she said, she ignored it, “I don't suppose you've had lunch yet, have you? By the ragged looks about you've tried to cast the spell again, haven't you?”
“No Mistress,” I replied, “I haven't eaten yet. But I haven't tried the spell again either.”
“Ah, I see,” She blinked, “Do go and prepare something now, we're having a guest over for our meal.”
“Of course,” I nodded and went off into the kitchen. The two magicians talked together while I heated up a skillet and chopped ingredients. Marisa was as loud and boisterous as ever, cracking jokes and poking fun at Alice's expense constantly. I thought that maybe they had met as Alice was coming back and, with her usual tact, Marisa had invited herself to a free meal.
Alice coped with the situation well, foiling Marisa's thrusts with clearheadedness and the occasional deadpan jab of her own. It wasn't immediately obvious to the casual spectator but to me, who had had the chance to observe them together at different gatherings and different situations, they got on just fine. Each would imply that the other was a drag in their own way but they had enough in common to pair them off when social divisions were made. And each would also flare up their competitive side when the other was around; It felt like they had a constant need to one up each other and to see through each others' plans and come up on top.
“Wow that smells nice,” Marisa remarked as I brought the meal in,”Here's hoping that you're a better cook than you are a magician.”
“Certainly he trumps you in both regards,” Alice said and gestured for me to sit down.
“Ah he knows I'm just joshing,” Marisa smiled and patted me on the back, “he can't help it if his teacher is a grumpy old maid who stunts his magical development.”
The meal itself was spirited, with jabs and parries crossing across the table. It wasn't until everything was eaten that tempers cooled. I was a subject of interest to Marisa and much of her questions were directed to me,
“How does it feel to be awesome and use magic?” She asked.
“I can only do very basic stuff,” I said, telling the truth as I saw it.
“It's still all much more than the average person can do. Think about it,” Marisa pointed out, “Who in your village can spontaneously make light or fly around or destroy whole buildings just like that?”
“Umm.. I can only kinda do one of those things...”
“As always you never fail to be so one-dimensional,” Alice got up, shaking her head. She picked up and held a doll from the shelf and it sprung into life, hovering around her. She activated a few other dolls, and had a small floating group. She directed a few words towards me, “Keep her company, I'll take care of the dirty dishes. Any time I get to spend without her incessant yammering is good.”
She disappeared into the kitchen while the dolls began to bus back and forth dirty plates and utensils.
“So...” Marisa said softly, evidently intent on keeping the conversation private, “Has Alice been working you too hard? You look like hell, man. Even worse than when that oni friend of yours holds one of her wild parties.”
“No, it's nothing like that. I'm doing what I can, working as hard as I want. She's been pretty hands-off about the whole thing, just sharing knowledge and setting a direction for me to work with.”
“Is that so?” The magician shrugged, “If it were me you'd be running your own magic school by now.”
“Ahah, maybe,” I chuckled nervously, “I'm happy with her and I'm not really in a rush either...”
“Well, I can understand where you're coming from,” She said, winking, “And don't worry, I won't tell Reimu about it either, mum's the word.”
“...there's nothing like that,” I shook my head, wondering from where she kept getting those silly ideas.
“Yeah, I get it,” She winked again, “I won't tell the oni either, she might cry or something. Then hug you and... well, I'm pretty sure she doesn't know how frail us humans are...”
“Fine, whatever,” I said, not caring what she thought.
“Still...” She would't drop the subject, “I have to wonder... what makes you such a good catch? You're not bad-looking or anything but there has to be something more to it... I can't tell. Never been much fond of guys anyways.”
“Eh,” I stared at her.
“Oh? That was a weird thing to say, sorry,” She smiled “I'm glad that you're having so much fun here.”
Alice took her sweet time, probably truly content to distance herself from the loud-mouthed girl. I dealt just fine, having long since built up a large tolerance for foppery and whim thanks to Suika. All it took was a few key words at the right moments and I could steer the conversation away from awkward places. I wondered what Marisa would be like as a teacher, if she was all that she said she was. I hadn't seen her actually do anything except bicker with Alice. And there was nothing magical about that.
“How long are you going to stay?” I asked her, keeping my voice down.
“For as long as she doesn't kick me out. Why, you want something from me?” She was perceptive, something that I had to admit was impressive about her.
“Just maybe, but it'd have to be... you know...” I avoided clearly spelling things out.
“I get it, no Mistress, that's cool. If you can sneak out after it's dark, I can meet you behind the house. We'll be able to go somewhere and talk properly. If you want to I'll be there.”
“...” I needed all the help I could get for my studies and I thought about how I'd be able to sneak away in the dead of night. Sure enough Alice seemed to ignore everything that happened once she went upstairs, but I wasn't too crazy about the idea. It felt dishonest. The results could benefit me but there were no guarantees. Just as there were no guarantees that keeping at it like I had would help things either.
“Just nod if you want to do it,” She said. Alice had come back and cut our conversation short.
“I don't suppose that you've been just talking about the weather?” Alice raised an eyebrow. Her dolls floated along in good order by her.
“Nah, I was just asking if he thought you were getting a little chubbier,” Marisa crossed her arms and grinned.
“Classy as always,” Alice dourly said. She asked, “Tea?”
“Why not?” Marisa replied, “Might as well make the most of being here.”
In the moment Alice turned and got her dolls to fly back into the kitchen to turn on the stove, Marisa looked at me secretively. She wanted to know about the meet up.
>>21847 I was put off by how activity and votes eroded in spite of regular updates. That poor motivation coupled with demands on my attention in real life haven't made me prioritize writing this very highly. That's the unabridged truth, though I don't know if it makes you feel any better for knowing. There isn't much else that I can say that hasn't already been said some point in the past.
Still, ten days? My how quickly time flies. Did not think it had been this long. And to think that my optimistic self thought this might be a quick story.
Maybe not for you but for me who recently read stories that has frequent, daily and fixed updates, it has severely lower my patience meter and I can't believe it has affect me this much. Still, glad to hear that you're okay.
The day was lost. In terms of any improvements to my knowledge at least. Even after I tentatively excused myself from their midst, off to try to get my mind back on my studies, I kept getting pulled back into the colorful little world the two magicians inhabited. Their manner of dealing with one another could just as easily have been a sign of casual intimacy as much as it could have been undisguised contempt.
“Arc, be a good lad and show me something cool that you've learned!”
“Apprentice, get back to work.”
“Who do you think is wearing the cuter outfit?”
“Go ahead and show her, apprentice. Then get back to your studies.”
It was a lively afternoon. One that saw me come and go between rooms all too often. Playing dumb was no solution either as either the rambunctious girl in black would drag me to them or the steely-eyed mistress of mine would come to fetch me with instructions for me to make tea.
By late afternoon Marisa had run out of excuses to stay and was kicked out with very little ceremony. And equally little resistance from her end.
I was left alone with Alice. She was in a more talkative mood than usual, mostly complaining about Marisa's uncomfortably pointless visit. It seemed that she forgot that I was supposed to be hard at work perfecting the appointed spell. It was a one-sided rant, in the carefully worded way that I expected from Alice. She spoke of being frustrated without actually seeming frustrated - something odd and quintessentially so very like Alice of her. Her little sermon gave me time to reflect upon the virtues of my teacher and her shortcomings.
At that stage I was still confident that I could be no hands more capable. At least as far as learning magic was concerned.
Eventually she remembered that I wasn't there to play the role of a sympathetic ear. With some embarrassment (a mellowed and forced smile like that of a cook announcing that dinner is canceled due to lack of ingredients), she excused herself. She claimed to have some work of her own to do and that I was to get back to my own work if I so wished. Evidentially it was clear to her as well that the day was wasted. She likely lowered her expectations because of that fact.
Alice did not check up on me for the rest of the day, only seeing me again briefly as she ascended the stairs at night.
I could not claim to have done anything very productive with my time. Still feeling a bit debilitated from earlier attempts and the generally restless night, I instead spent time pouring notes once again. Of course, when I was certain I was alone, I read once again the other book and absorbed its knowledge as best I could. I had a very good idea of how to enact a lot of the things detailed within and grimly thought that perhaps I would first master every single tome in the repository before I would ever finish my allegedly basic task. My behavior was akin to the average boy in Keine's schoolhouse; What I was doing amounted to scribbling silly little drawings on paper instead of paying attention to the lesson being taught.
I forced myself away from the side material and to my cot. There I waited restlessly for what I hoped would be something worth my time. Sometime later I heard movement come from outside. I ventured out, trying to make as little noise as possible. The front door was a heavy wooden slab which refused to open silently and so I let myself out via one of the larger windows.
The night was cooler than I expected it to be. True to her unspoken word, Marisa was waiting for me by the rear. She was almost invisible at first, her dress as dark as the moonless night, but her face became recognizable as I closed in on her figure. Her eyes were as alight as they usually were and even then she wore an energetic smile. She wasted no time and grabbed my hand. We were off in the dead of night, melting away into the woods like two leaves being blown away in the dark.
“We're here,” She announced as she opened the door. She guided me across the threshold and took off her hat, placing it on a rack by the entrance. Her voice rekindled itself, as if being indoors and away from the cold night allowed her to speak again, “Welcome to my humble home, we'll be able to talk as much as you like over here. No meddling Alice to worry about.”
We moved to another room. Marisa cleared a table full of knick-knacks and oddities by dumping the contents on the crowded floor and offered me a seat. She finished loosening her coat, stripping to a more simple tunic.
I was still taking details from my new environment. From the outside, in the dark, the house didn't look like anything in particular. On the inside, from the moment I walked in, I had noticed the smell. The smell was something like mold, a mildly unpleasant stench that had no real single source but seemed to come from every wall and object simultaneously. I had quickly grown accustomed to it. But compared to Alice's home's neutral, if sometimes a little wooden, odor it was certainly something of a novelty.
There was junk everywhere. On the floors, on the walls and in the shelves and on the tables. Jars holding suspensions of varying opacity, texture and having and unknown purposes – good candidates on the origin of the questionable stink – seemed to be dispersed all over the place. There were stacks and piles of papers and books carelessly found about the place, seemingly left in their resting places by someone who didn't care what happened to them. Then there were the other oddities. Things made of metal, generally small, whose purpose eluded me and looked too old and worn to have any practical use. It was an overall disaster of a home, looking much more cramped that it really was and I had to wonder where it was that Marisa slept and if it was as messy as the rest of the place.
“Oh, yeah,” Marisa vocalized as if it were an afterthought, “Do you want some tea or something?”
“I'm good, thank you,” I declined, the possibility of the tea being stored in one of the jars being an unappealing prospect.
“Right then, I guess we should get down to it,” She said, but then smiled impishly, “Unless of course you want to talk about something more fun. Like Alice's knickers. It always gets her worked up when I tell her that I want a pair just like hers. I say that without even having seen them, of course, but she doesn't need to know that. Haha.”
“I'm afraid that particular subject remains something of a mystery to me,” I shook my head in a good-natured sort of way.
“For now anyways,” Marisa grinned.
“Yeah, well, let's talk magic, Miss Knows-her-stuff.”
“I'm all ears man,” She shrugged, “I'll help you out as best I can.”
I asked her what I wanted to know,
 Specific help regarding the spell  General help with magic
The problems Arc is having are really vague. It would make sense to get specific. The only problem is that this might be considered cheating. Another issue with getting general advice is that we might not be able to use it. Marisa doesn't have many original spells, does she?
Here's my question to the writefag: Could Arc have figured the spell out if anon had voted differently?
Let's make the most of our time here. When Alice asks what we were doing with Marisa I'd like to be able to say we were collaborating with a colleague on something unrelated rather than implying her instruction was deficient. Alice seems like a very dilberate woman, and I don't think she tasked him with this spell without a good reason.
“Hm, well,” Marisa contemplated with a a look that betrayed all too well her underlying uncertainty, “It seems to me that you're not really doing anything wrong.”
“Great, then it means I'm probably deficient in some other way.”
“Don't be hard on yourself,” Marisa smiled, “The problem might lie with your teacher, not with you.”
“That doesn't make me feel any better,” I grumbled.
“I'm not sure why she's asking you to do this anyways, it seems silly to me.”
“Silly or not, it's what I've been tasked to do. I can't just ignore my instructions.”
“Well, you're not doing yourself any favors by getting all worked up about it,” Marisa seemed to have been stuck by an idea spontaneously, getting up and walking off in an excited hurry.
I waited for her to come back. I could hear her rattling about her piles of junk, moving about here and there looking for something. Knowing better than to ask, I simply stayed put.
Some time later, she returned. With her she had a can full of dirt and a couple of greasy-looking jars. She placed them on the table triumphantly and declared, “Why don't you show me how it is that you're trying to do this. Maybe I'll be able to help you if I see you do it.”
“I am feeling a bit tired... I'm not sure I'm capable of-”
“Nonsense,” Marisa interjected. She opened up one of the jars, “These will do the trick as far as reagents are concerned, the rest is up to you. I'm sure you can do it.”
There was no getting out of it. I had brought it up and, because of that, had to make the best of the situation. If it meant pushing myself a little and draining what little concentration I still had, it was an acceptable effort. Especially if it helped me get a better understanding of how to move on. I prepared everything as best I could (using the substitute materials) and closed my eyes. Thinking about nothing but the spell, I concentrated and strained forth what little energy I felt still existed inside of me. My breathing slowed as I collected every drop of determination and power from my body and I channeled it in the way that I was supposed to.
I could not ever hear my own heartbeat despite the absolute silence. My senses were acting like they had been shut off in order to maximize my output. With a long exhalation I put in the finishing touches, bringing the spell to a conclusion. I felt my arm tingle in the last moment, like pins and needles going up and down the length of it for just a few brief moments.
“Nothing happened,” I said quietly. I hadn't really expected for success then but I still found myself disappointed with the outcome.
“That may be too hasty of a conclusion,” Marisa said. She was looking at the earth-filled canned, her eyes analytically focused on the space between the soil and my fingers. It was a strange break of character for her and I understood that she was being serious in her assessment. It wasn't long, however, before a smiled cropped up on her face and she brightly looked at me and said cheerfully enough, “I definitely could smell the magic there. Taste it almost. It was a little nutty, like roasted chestnuts sort of nutty.”
“Is that a good thing?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“It's something alright. Magic that is wasted sort of smells like something sweet, like there's sugar in the air or something. This was different. Meaning that you didn't really fail at casting a spell.”
“But I obviously didn't succeed either.”
“I wonder if it is possible to succeed here,” Marisa remarked.
“Are you suggesting I've been given an impossible task?”
“No, that's not really her style,” Marisa mused, “Though if she wanted to teach you something important she might have you do all the work yourself.”
“Then what's up with this?”
“I don't know,” She stated plainly. She shrugged and said, “This kind of thing is not my field of expertise you know. Though it is an interesting concept you realize. Might be worth my time to bug her about it next time I see her. Could be related to all her weird research.”
She laughed, realizing I didn't quite follow her stream of thoughts.
“Don't take it too hard,” She consoled me, “I'm sure you'll eventually get this if you keep at it. To tell you the truth, the first time I tried anything more serious I spent like a month trying to figure out why I kept making things explode. It really annoyed me.”
“So it took you a month to fix what was wrong?” I didn't really want to spend a month away from everyone. I had responsibilities to uphold.
“Not quite,” She grinned as she explained, “I kind of... gave up and instead used my results for another spell. To this day it's the handiest way I know of getting rid of any pests that crawl into my home.”
“What? It's clean and only leaves the tiniest of scorch marks.”
“I guess you're not satisfied with the fact that you may never get this, huh? Well, I guess I can understand. But hey,” She shrugged again, “It's not like you'll be punished for failing. Your teacher will find a way to accommodate you. She's not really dense or anything. Well, at least when it comes to this sort of thing anyways. For other things she can be as thick as a pack animal sometimes.”
“Maybe if I get some rest it'll help me. I feel like I”m really on the verge of collapsing.”
“That's no good, you know. Eat plenty of food, sleep a lot. It really helps. You need to be in tip-top shape if you're going to be using real magic. Spell cards and whatever make it convenient to mess around but the real thing requires a lot of energy.” Marisa leaned in closely, “You'll burn up your soul if you work yourself to excess. Not a pretty thing that.”
“I don't think I'm overdoing it that much,” I couldn't tell if she was joking. Though she kept on smiling her eyes hinted at there being some truth to her colorful words.
She changed subjects soon enough. Marisa was consistent at being inconsistent as far as talk went. She would change the topic when it suited her, or when she was bored, “Say, you didn't just come here to ask for help about the spell now did you?”
“What else would I have come for?”
“Oh, you know, to talk about this and that,” She made a somewhat suggestive gesture with her hand, certainly implying something about my relationship with Alice.
“I don't know what you're suggesting this time. But even if I did, why would I talk to you about it? Doesn't make that much sense since you two don't get along that well sometimes.”
“Well, you could always just want to brag. I'd totally brag if I did something naughty with my teacher without the poor lovesick miko knowing. You know you can expect confidentially from me.”
I had doubts about that claim. I didn't let those doubts show on my face and instead laughed like she had told a great joke. She shrugged yet again, as if to say 'well I tried' and smiled.
“Honestly though, how often is it that we're completely alone?” She observed, “You're always with the others so it's not like we know each other that well or anything. I'm as ordinary as you are, something which the others can't claim. What's more, I understand how stressful learning magic can be, it's a lifelong challenge. So it's totally ok if you just want to talk about whatever. I mean, I really do get the feeling that there's something more to this than just the boring talk about the spell and that magic. Or am I wrong?”
“I guess we don't know each other as well as we should,” I admitted.
“See? No need to dance around that.”
“What do you want me to say then?”
“Whatever comes to mind. Though I'm sure you've already thought about it carefully. You can't fool me by acting all innocent. You're much smarter than people might think you are at first glance.”
 Learn more about Marisa's beginnings as a magician  Talk about old grimoire that's been consulted on the side  Confess to inappropriate and vivid dream with Alice
[x] Learn more about Marisa's beginnings as a magician I am interested. Finding out more about her sounds better than having Alice tell his lust for her. Which would be interesting, i wonder how she would react to this. And wasn't Marisa the first one to help us on this path?`
[x] Confess to inappropriate and vivid dream with Alice. I'm going for the most interesting option this time. Sure there'll be consequences, but half the fun is working through it. Let's spice this up.
[X] Learn more about Marisa's beginnings as a magician
What I really want to tell Marisa is that you won't get in her way. The unsolicited 'I don't like guys' remark, constant innuendo, and attempts to gain his confidence on his 'relationship' with Alice, despite admitting that she doesn't know you well, well, it's starting to grate. It'd be nice to get to know Marisa, but I wonder how close you can get with that one-sided rivalry hanging over your head.
It didn't take much to get Marisa talking about herself. She may have preferred to talk about something else but she didn't get hung up on the turn the conversation had taken. I listened, at first genuinely curious.
“There was no one to help me, you know. Not during the very first times. Had to tough it out and learn stuff on my own. Heck, I still do, no one really wants to help me out so I have to go out and grab any opportunities that may be out there by force.”
She went on at large about how hard it is to get a break as just a human (emphasized every time). Though she was her normal flippant self, I knew that there was a lot of truth to what she said. It was a gut feeling but I couldn't imagine her making up details of her early struggles with the arcane. She really had been all alone in the world and somehow I suspected that she had been really lonely back then.
“I learned a lot from copying others as well. Amazing what you can learn by just watching and imitating,” She said at one point. She described how her more advanced techniques came from liberally interpreting the spells and arts of others. Of course she played up the importance of her own personal touches and innovations, “I think that the way I do it is better. It's no use just getting something to be perfect, recognizing the shortcomings is important to. So the little twists I add make things easier and more elegant I think.”
As if she needed to really prove her point, she showed me a petty trick. It was an orb of light much like the ones I used to find my way around the dark. The personalized twist seemed to be the intensity of the luminosity. It was blindingly bright and forced every object in the room to cast a sharp shadow. I had to close my eyes, seeing as it seemed to be as bright as the sun.
Marisa bragged, “Pretty neat, huh? This is something you can probably learn as well, how to get it to go beyond the normal range of luminosity. I can also make it really really dim, so it just looks like a slightly brighter spot in the background.”
The piercing light died down. I opened my eyes and, after a moment of readjusting to normal levels of illumination, I saw what she meant. There was a wisp of light floating about, something that barely met the criteria of a light source. Like Marisa said, it was like a transparent filter that made anything behind it look a little brighter.
“Never know when this sort of thing might be handy. It's good to be prepared and try new things,” She concluded.
At one point she admitted to not being completely alone when it came to learning. She talked of being an apprentice herself, of learning things from someone more experienced, “It wasn't easy learning things through someone else either. But in the end it all worked out for the best. A lot of hard work, looking back on it,” She smiled nostalgically.
I asked, “I take it wasn't Alice who taught you?”
“No,” She said with some finality, “She's gone now.”
I was curious but felt that it wasn't right to pry. If Marisa wanted to share something, to boast and brag like she usually did she would have done it. The fact that she left things so ambiguous made me think that maybe it wasn't something she wanted to share.
My weariness became all too apparent as time passed. I could not hide my yawns from her any longer and she picked up on the fact that I was at my limit, “I think you should really get some rest, you look like hell man. You have to be all powered up for magic and being tired isn't going to help you.”
“Sorry, I don't mean to be rude,” I said.
“Don't sweat it. I just hope that you enjoyed our time together Arc and that I helped you out, even if it was just a little.”
She guided me back to Alice's home, making sure I got back safe and sound. There was nothing on my mind but rest and I doubted I could have remembered the way back by myself. The woods were dark and still and the only sounds were our muffled footsteps on the rich soil. It was cold out and the chill woke me up enough for my footsteps to be certain and helped me avoid tripping on the occasional exposed root.
She spoke, very hushed, just before I started to make my way back in through the window, “Here's a little something for you if you like,” She pushed a small jar up against my chest. Preempting my question, she explained quickly, “It's a little something to help you rest. If you drink some before you go to bed you'll wake up feeling like you slept for a whole day with only a few hours of sleep. Don't take too much or it'll have just the opposite effect. Just a tiny sip or two. And don't use it for more than two days straight or more than three times in two weeks.”
I took the jar as she passed it on and nodded my thanks. I made it through the window and closed it, sneaking around the quiet house back to my cot. It was late, likely as late as it was the night before. I would have to get only a couple of hours' sleep before getting up early. I lay in the cot, trying my best to fall asleep.
File 128818293780.jpg - (317.01KB, 736x800, the word negligee doesnt exist in gensokyo.jpg)
I opened the lid to the jar, bringing the cool glass to my lips. The liquid within smelled sweet yet putrid, like a bean bun left out in the sun for too long. I pinched my nose and drank a sip, and another. The liquid went down easily enough and left only a very mild aftertaste. It hadn't been as bad as I thought.
I lay in bed, looking up towards the darkened ceiling. Somewhere upstairs Alice was in her bed, likely soundly asleep. I tried not to think about it.
She sat in a great upholstered chair off to the side of her bed. Her eyes were transfixed on me and every move I made and my eyes were transfixed on her. A single lantern on her nightstand provided warm and intimate lighting to the scene. The light and shadow modestly embellished the properties of her soft and alluring dress; Her nightgown was partially translucent, with outer layers of thin material draping over her body like silk curtains over a beautiful sculpture. Around her waist and around her arms and neck, the material thickened and turned to lace, shimmering mildly with the reflected light. Ribbons and other amenities discretely affixed to the lace added to the impression of delicate class. Her legs began where the nightgown ended, on the upper reaches of her thigh. The long legs were bare, as were her feet. It was an exotic display for the normally reserved girl. The most I saw of her legs was the tiny patch which occasionally exposed itself between her socks and her long skirt.
She smiled at me, though she had little reason to. Her hand slowly raised itself, gesturing demurely with her slender fingers for me to come closer. Despite the situation, she knew deep down what the best thing to do was. Not losing a moment in expending breath to speak, she motioned for me to make myself as comfortable as I wanted to be. Her eyes were as deep and powerful as ever and her smile betrayed her feelings of anticipation mixed with joyous satisfaction. It was exhilarating for the both of us to be like thats, I thought.
I dropped down to my knees before her, my head at the height of her bosom. She gently extended an arm, wrapping her hand across the back of my head. She spoke, her words accompanied by a smile that we both shared. With the loving guiding force of an angel, she brought my head closer and my face soon rubbed against the indescribably soft fabric of her night gown. On closer inspection, only the outer layers were translucent, with an inner layer or two which snuggly protected her modesty underneath. With her affectionate easing, my head came to rest on her lap.
Her fragrance was intoxicating. I rested easy, feeling safe and secure. Alice spoke softly, caressing my hair gently and rhythmically. It felt nice and warm. I closed my eyes.
I showed my affection, in turn, by using one of my hands to caress the naked flesh of her leg. I ran my hand softly and deliberately upon the smooth surface, enjoying the finely defined contours and gratifying feeling of her lower thigh. Alice laughed. I laughed softly as well. I felt the arm that was touching her leg tingle, as if it were a long purring cat who was immensely satisfied. I was as relaxed and as ease as I ever could be.
It was warm... so warm that I couldn't help but open my eyes.
I winced as the morning sun shone in my face in full. I cursed and recoiled, annoyed with myself for not having closed the curtains.
I got up and my head seemed to spin around. I staggered forward and was able to keep myself from falling by holding onto the wall. The world may have been unsteady, but it smelled pleasant enough. My head pressed up to my arm. I took a deep breath and slowly began to lean away from the wall. Auntie always had warmed me of the hazards of getting up too quickly from bed but I never thought that the consequences of not heeding her advice would be that bad. I got my bearings and smiled at my foolishness.
Something compelled me to bring my arm close to my nose again. I smelled it dumbly and found that I had just imagined a perfumed smell just moments ago. I chalked it up to my generally clumsy awakening.
I stretched and generally got myself ready for the new day. I was tired, like I had slept only an hour at most but I liked to believe that Marisa's tonic had helped me somewhat. I did my morning practice, once again hoping to unlock the secrets of the elusive spell with my determination and fortitude but fell short of actually achieving anything. Again. I was saving my strength for later, for a real proper attempt and not just being careless with my energies.
So as to keep myself productive, I read from the other grimoire some more, fascinated by what appeared to be the spontaneous appearance of a diagram in the middle of the book. It depicted a person surrounded by riches and happiness. I was certain it wasn't there the first few times I leafed through the book and I wasn't sure what it meant. It obviously pertained to the spell book's contents and the effects of the spells but how so I did not really dare to guess. The old tomes were rapt with raw magical power and according to my mistress, they even sometimes formed what one might call a personality after a long time. If that was the case with this grimoire then it chose to be a very curious sort of book without any real meaning.
It was late morning and I was out of clear objectives to pursue. I was also hungry, not having eaten breakfast yet. Alice hadn't come downstairs to eat and I dared not to mess around with her things without her express consent. She was usually up early from what I could tell so I worried that perhaps something was amiss. I didn't know if she slept in some days, her schedule was virtually unknown to me. I felt tempted to go and knock on her door but felt conflicted about potentially disturbing her. The upstairs was, in addition, a place I had never been to and was under the impression that truly was her own private domain. An uninvited intrusion by me had to have good reason.
 Patience. Wait.  Boldness. Knock and potentially disturb her.  Subterfuge. Sneak upstairs and look around before making any final decision.
[x] Subterfuge. Sneak upstairs and look around before making any final decision. This is a sneaking mission. Possible seeing a sleeping Alice is well worth it. Or just discover something that you haven't seen yet.
There was nothing to do but wait. I tried to keep myself busy and, for some time, it seemed to work. I could always read more of the old grimoire – and I did. I was really interested in the mysteries and lessons it presented me and I was almost tempted to cast one or two of the spells described. Not that I had the alacrity for it, it was just a strange little fantasy.
It had only been two or three days, but I missed home. My thoughts turned to the people I knew and I wondered what they were doing. I wasn't supposed to let that sort of thing distract me – according to Alice I needed my mind to be focused solely on my training – but during downtimes it was all I could think about. I missed Aunties cooking. Heck, I missed occasionally seeing Keine. And as much as I would try not to admit it to her face, I missed Suika. The oni-shaped hole in my heart was filled with her whimsy and good nature. She was probably at the shrine with Reimu, hassling the poor shrine maiden yet again. I missed being a part of that, of being able to see Reimu's pleasant smile and being able to have a nice cup of tea in the afternoons.
Essentially just idling, time passed. I sat at the table, looking out at the forest landscape. The midday sun could not penetrate the thickness of brush and whole areas of vegetation only got precious few beams of light. Alice had not come down and I hadn't done anything about it. I couldn't contain my hunger and helped myself to a few dry biscuits left in the kitchen.
I stared at some of Alice's dolls, thinking about the puppetry Alice was so well-renowned for. Each doll was slightly different to the other, all of them being handcrafted. Their clothes often matched but there were varying styles amongst the whole and accessories differed wildly. They seemed to be asleep, waiting for her to command them. The way she made them move so easily and fluidly was impressive. It had made an impression on me long ago and it continued to do so every time I saw her manipulate a doll. As her apprentice, I was keenly aware that magic was at play but did not understand how that translated to actual movement.
I yawned, more tired than I initially thought. The accumulated effect of little sleep made me feel a little drowsy. The lazy part of me, the part that Auntie loved to criticize, chided me for getting up early. I could have slept in with no consequences if I had wanted.
 Do nothing and rest a little more  Check in on Alice - >>21930 No, they're not. 12 hour intervals is not a big deal. That falls under the two/three hour gap category. That's not really feasible or satisfying with this rate of voting.
I made my way upstairs slowly and hesitantly. I hadn't been invited to that part of her home before and each step took me further into an unknown world. The wood creaked under my weight, the floorboards likely older than I was. With some trepidation I made it to the top of the flight of stairs and looked around. It was a narrow hallway with one door to my right and two doors down a tiny corridor to my left.
From watching Alice go upstairs I knew her room was likely to the left. I took cautious steps, feeling like I was invading hallowed ground, towards the left. The door nearest to me was slightly open. I peered in through the gap, to see if it was the room that I was looking for. Soft silken sheets draping just within vision confirmed what I already suspected.
I knocked on the door gingerly.
There was no reply.
Dreading I had made a mistake, I knocked on the other doors as well, hoping to at least save some face.
The problem was, there was no reply from any of the doors.
I knocked again on the door that was ajar and heard some noise from the other side. Calling out in a soft voice, I hoped that Alice would reply that she was inside. When no such reply came I dared to push the door open a little, to see if she was still in bed. A lump at the end of the sheets confirmed my suspicion. Even though I was risking on intruding on her privacy, I was worried that she had not replied. I didn't take her for a heavy sleeper and my knocks and calls had been obtrusive and loud.
Her clear and powerful eyes stared back at me. As soon as I opened the door wider her eyelids had opened and her intense gaze settled upon me. She lay in bed, head positioned to the side awkwardly on a pillow. The covers were strewn about the bed, with only a little bit covering her feet. Other than that she was exposed in her delicate nightgown.
“I'm sorry,” I apologized immediately, not sure whether to simply go away or try to explain myself.
She did not reply, instead continuing to stare at me. Her face was flush and her breathing shallow and quick. Her arms rested lazily to either side. I realized that she wasn't actually staring at me at all, instead her eyes were vacant, just happening to be looking at my general direction. I got closer, feeling that something was not right.
“Mistress? Are you feeling alright?” I made it to her bedside, by the great padded chair which sat adjacent. She was sweating profusely; Her hair was messy and clumped together near her face. It was obvious that there was something wrong with her.
“Can you hear me?” I asked her, trying to get her attention. Her eyes remained focused on the door. I snapped my fingers in front of her face in a bid to get her to notice me. It seemed to work, with her gaze shifting to where I was, “Mistress, can you hear me?”
She mumbled something weakly.
“What's that?” I placed my ear close to her lips.
“...I am... unwell...” She repeated almost to softly for me to hear.
“Don't worry, I'll help you feel better,” I said, not entirely knowing what it was that I could do. I had no experience with sick people. When I got sick, Auntie took care of me and she never got sick. At the least I put on a brave face, though I figured that Alice was pretty out of it.
I placed a hand on her forehead. She let out a gasp which made me stumble backwards. “I'm sorry, did I do something wrong?” I asked, mostly knowing that I would be the only one who could answer. I tried not to lose heart and placed my hand back on her. There was no gasp but her eyes rolled towards my arm.
Her forehead felt rather hot. She had a fever.
I rushed downstairs, desperately trying to remember what it was people did for fevers. I returned with a damp towel, placing it on her forehead. She gasped again, much softer than earlier and the moaned quietly.
I looked for something else to do and the most inappropriate of thoughts came to me unwittingly. I was suddenly keenly aware of just how naked she was. Her nightgown was rolled up in places and her shoulder straps had come out of place. As a result of that and the lack of sheets I saw how her skin was creamy pretty much everywhere. The glistening caused by the sweat combined with the general flushed make her look a little radiant in places, particularly her upper chest and legs. Luckily for me, her more sensitive regions still remained concealed and I was able to shame myself into action once again.
I raised her up slightly in bed, and looked to changed her drenched sheets. I had to invade her privacy and look around the various chests around the room but I found a thin sheet that seemed just perfect for the occasion. I covered her partially, aware that when the sweat cooled off she might feel a chill. Every once in a while I switched her towel but other than that I mostly stayed by her side, talking to her softly. She reacted to my words and at one point I thought I saw her smile at my assurances that everything would be alright.
I wished I had medicine to give her. In the village a powder or extract of something usually would help with whatever ailment someone might have. I went downstairs and looked for something a tome that might help. Magic tomes being fickle as they are, I didn't find anything. I felt frustrated, searching the kitchen for anything that would help Alice out. When I saw a jar of preserves an idea came to me. I went back upstairs and poured Alice a little from the contents of the jar Marisa gave me. I didn't know if it would help her out but I figured there was nothing to lose. If it helped someone rest up I figured it might give them the energy they needed to feel better.
She began to show signs of improvements hours later. I had thought of getting help but I was worried about leaving her alone for even a moment. With great effort she spoke to me, her voice barely audible, “...thirsty...”
I had stupidly forgotten to give her water. I kicked myself in my mind for being that thoughtless and brought a pitcher full of water to her room. I filled a glass and pressed it slowly against her lips. They were dry and I hadn't even noticed.
She took an unsteady sip, with me carefully pouring water at just the right rate. She coughed and weakly lifted her hand. I pulled the glass away. I was at least glad that she could communicate now and tried to let her tell me what to do.
“Is there anything else I can get you?” I asked.
She muttered a weak 'no'.
She seemed to be doing better but her face was still flushed and her chest rose and collapsed at times unsteadily. Her eyes were often unfocused and distant. Only sometimes would she look at me but she'd soon return to staring at nothing in particular.
I asked her, “Should I go get someone to help you?”
Alice did not reply. She looked at me, seemingly understanding the question but did not reply. She weakly reached towards me but her hand fell short of me. I didn't know what it meant.
>“Don't worry, I'll help you feel better,” Mana Transfer?
[x] Stay with her [x] Take her Hand. Let's be bold. Deepen the Master Student Relationship, even if he might get scolded later for doing unnecessary things, who does not want someone to take care of you when you are not feeling well?
>>21947 Why do you immediately suspect that she's doing something to us? She could simply be doing something FOR us. Maybe there's something else to this magical bond we have with her and she's been bearing the brunt of it for our sake.
Honestly this attitude that because its Alice she has to be up to something sinister kind of pisses me off.
[Z] Stay with her.
Mostly because I don't know who we could seek help from. only one would be Marisa and I doubt Alice would be pleased if Marisa saw her in a moment of weakness of any type.
Could it be said that ever since they made that "bond" a while back it had a side-effect where the longer Arc is near Alice the more likely that Arc can't be too far away lest it affect Alice in detrimental way?
just a theory though that ought to have behooved Alice in explaining that side-effect to Arc unless she felt it would only distract Arc from his studies...
I stayed by her side, trying to make her as comfortable as she could be for a long time. Long enough that I was able to tell through the little signs that she was getting better. So I hoped, at least. The way her breathing seemed to be more tranquil and how she moved her head occasionally made me believe that maybe soon she would be able to at least speak some more.
With sudden realization, I left her alone for a short while. I decided that I should prepare food. Auntie always brought me something to eat when I was sick, even if I didn't have an appetite. She said it would help me feel better. Sure enough, most of the time it did. Not knowing what sort of thing was best, I made a simple broth. I bussed it upstairs carefully, and placed a bowl on her nightstand.
“If you're hungry there's something here for you. I made it especially for you,” I said, trying to see if she understood. She blinked and mumbled something, something which she did not repeat when I leaned in closer. “Look, I'll help you eat if you want,” I dug at the broth with a spoon, taking a load of the liquid away. I blew on the hot preparation to cool it first before bringing it gently to her lips. She drank the spoonful.
But she wasn't in the mood for more. She shook her head when I gestured giving her more and I understood that she didn't have an appetite. Forcing her to eat was not something I planned to do.
All I could do was watch, occasionally placing my hand near hers in an attempt to reassure her. Hours passed and I sat in the large comfortable chair beside her bed and soon it was dark. Fiddling about with the nearby lantern, I made sure the light didn't shine directly into her eyes.
Eventually, it became later. And sooner, rather than later, I found myself beginning to doze off. I kept looking at Alice, seeing if there was any change in her condition. As the day had worn on her temperature seemed to have gone down and her face returned to a less reddish color. But even then I knew that I wasn't going to be able to get up until it was already much too late.
She stared at me while I lay beside her. She meekly brought her face closer to mine, whispering nothing but gratitude and other sweet little pillow talk. With no hesitation, she kissed me, filling my senses with nothing but her. We talked, as we usually did, our bodies in close proximity to one another. It wasn't long before I held her again, her body pressed against mine. We both stared into the same direction, laying in bed like two pieces of cutlery together in a drawer.
Of course our warmth was not enough. With some timidity at first she encouraged me to touch her in ways that went beyond merely cuddling. I began to check her for any residual signs of illness. My hand wove a path under her nightgown and traced its route over her bare and delicate skin. She giggled as I tickled her playfully. She wanted me to go on further. I took her hand with my own unoccupied one and grasped her slender fingers with my own.
I looked out the small window in the second floor corridor. It was the dead of night and I couldn't sleep. Alice was sound asleep and seemed to be genuinely relaxed. I had put out the lantern as soon as I realized it was still on, got up from the chair and crept carefully out of the room. The moon was half-hidden by clouds but it still shone brightly like a beacon in the otherwise dark night sky.
I crept downstairs to my cot, where I spent the rest of the night constantly tossing and turning in a sleepless episode. I gave up the struggle just before dawn, realizing that I was too preoccupied to sleep properly. I thought about some of the things I had dreamed of. The question, naturally turned to how I would act in reality. It was uncomfortable to think about with her being my teacher as well as sick. But under other circumstances, at another time, I might have seen her differently. Forgetting about how I felt about everything else, how I felt about the people beyond the forest; I tried my best to reach a conclusion, in spite of not trusting the accuracy of my answer.
 Enjoy spending moments like those with Alice  Not be able to imagine them happening ever  Be put off
>>21948 We confirmed just now that the same underclothes Arc saw in the dream were the same underclothes she was actually wearing, despite claiming to Marisa never having seen anything of that nature. Maybe you think Alice's history of using dream drugs, the weird dreams, setting up this workshop for him, and the seemingly impossible nature of the task, and now the fever (despite that youkai shouldn't be able to get sick) is all a coincidence. I do not.
Which is not to say there's actual malice afoot. Nor that I'm not enjoying it. I just don't think we're doing either Alice or Arc any favors by ignoring these possibilities.
[x] Enjoy spending moments like those.
>>21953 >Please don't try to make Arc a tsundere. It doesn't fit.
As soon as the sun came up again I lost all lingering traces of sleepiness. I got up and, for the sake of not falling into a rut, did as I had done every morning. I washed up, revised notes and generally carried on like a good apprentice should. Soon enough, I went back upstairs to check up on Alice.
I froze in my tracks as I opened the door.
“I'm sorry, I didn't know that...”
“Come,” She said weakly but with authority. My feet were moving by themselves towards the bed in spite of my frozen thoughts.
She sat up, with her back turned towards me, her nightgown flopping around her waist. She had undone the straps and gravity had done the rest of the work for her. The gentle contours of her shoulder blades and the arching of her back were all I could stare at. The straps of her undergarments cut a black streak around her form.
“I need to get changed,” She said.
“Are you alright?” I asked stupidly.
“Better,” She whispered. Her voice was hard to hear, “I need to get out of bed.”
“Not if you're not feeling alright,” I concerned myself with her wellbeing more than her petite form. “Stay in bed,” I suggested, “I don't mind taking care of you.”
“You will listen to me,” She commanded. It was clear that she tried to be stoic and in control as she glanced at me over her shoulder but the reddened cheeks undermined her credibility. She ordered, “Pull my gown off after I lift my arms, I need to get changed.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but her gaze was so sharp that it shut me up.
She weakly stretched her arms upwards, unable to keep them fully straight and fully vertical. I stood behind her and closed my eyes, and reached around for the edge of her nightgown.
“Mnf!” Alice groaned. My groping around had accidentally resulted in me pinching her side. I nervously continued to reach around, until I made contact with soft fabric. I pulled up, lifting her clothes cleanly off of her.
“What should I do now?” I asked, feeling how her nightgown was still a little damp with sweat in places.
“Open... your eyes,” She said.
“I want to, uh, respect your modesty,” I stated, meaning to respect my own as well.
“Now is not the time for that, apprentice,” She wheezed. “You need your eyes open for you to fetch my usual dress.” She added after a moment, “...if you must, feel free to turn around while you do this.”
I heeded her words, turning around before opening my eyes. I looked for her clothes and found a blouse and skirt carefully folded and tucked inside a chest. “Mistress,” I said, “I'm concerned for your wellbeing. Yesterday you looked very ill.”
“As an apprentice, you should concern yourself with your studies, not my ailments.” She said with a huff, reaching out from behind to grab her clothes.
“D-do you need help?” I asked.
“You've done enough, I think I can manage on my own now.”
I took that as an excuse to stand outside her door as she got dressed. It took her a while, as she coughed rather violently twice during the time. I heard her strain herself in order to get out of bed. Unsteady footsteps brought her to the door. She soon stood in front of me, buttons sloppily done up her dress and her usual ribbons missing altogether from the ensemble. She hadn't put on her headband and her hair was an absolute mess. Save for the determined and cold eyes the rest of her face betrayed just how poorly she must have been feeling.
“Go ahead and make us... some tea,” She tried to speak as if it were just any other day and we were having our morning meal.
In the face of her apparent determination, I could do little but try to comply with her instruction. I was about to go downstairs but before I could, Alice lurched forward, towards me. She feel right into me and I somehow managed to catch her.
“Mistress?” I looked down in confusion. “Alice? Are you alright?” I looked at her face. It was pale and her eyes were closed, her breathing slow and soft. She had swooned. I immediately carried off the unconscious Alice back to bed. She was much lighter than I thought and even someone as average like me was apparently capable of carrying her in my arms. She opened her eyes almost as soon as I set her down.
“Ah... what happened?” She asked with much bewilderment in her voice.
“You fainted, Mistress. I caught you and brought you back to bed,” I said, worried.
“Nonsense,” She spoke, “I just felt a little lightheaded – I didn't faint.”
I touched her forehead, “You're still got a temperature, I think. You really shouldn't be moving about.”
“I don't allow myself to get sick,” She stated. “I don't have a temperature.”
She tried to get up again, but I used a hand to gently keep her down.
“What you still need is rest, and you'll get better in no time,” I shook my head.
“And since when is a novice magician no, an apprentice, a physician?” She didn't like being contradicted. For all the physical frailty, her spirit was still as taciturn as ever, the same determination as always showed through her eyes.
“I don't have to be a doctor to know that you need some rest. Magic's got nothing to do with that.” I asked, “Though it would help us both out if you told me where you kept your medicine.”
“I have no need for medicine, because I don't get sick,” She said.
“And what do you call your current state then? Better than normal?”I smiled, “You're not going to get me to change my mind now. No way, no how. I've dealt with stubborn oni, shrine maidens and, most importantly, have been known to have a little stubborn streak myself occasionally. It's what's keeping me trying to do that spell, you know. There's no way I'm going to allow my unwell Mistress to exert herself in her condition.”
“I am not an invalid.”
“No, but you are sick,” I smirked, feeling good about having the upper hand in the argument.
“This is unacceptable, I have somewhere to be.”
“Yes, you do. Right here in bed.” I said.
“You.. don't...” She began to cough, and was unable to finish her sentence.
“See? I'm right about this and you know it. If you do have a meeting, I'm sure the other person will understand that you were feeling sick and couldn't come.”
“It's important...” She looked me straight in the eye in the soul-stripping way only she could do, “If I don't go... I need to at least leave a message. I'm tasking you with this apprentice.”
“I'm not comfortable with leaving you.”
“It's only briefly... you need to give Marisa my message, she'll relay it to the right person. And you know where she lives so you can go to her house.”
“And if I do this, you'll stay here in bed and do as I say?” It became obvious that Alice knew about my disappearance the night before last. I didn't ask her how she knew, as I was more worried with helping her out.
“I'll take the day off. But this is important so someone has to go in my stead if I don't go.” She said, “Tell Marisa that the blue powder only turns green when exposed to the stone.”
“And she'll know what I'm talking about and who to talk to?”
“Definitely,” She coughed, slumping back in bed. She muttered, “I really don't seem to be in any shape to go anywhere.”
 Run the errand  Refuse to leave her alone, in case she has an episode
Wit h reluctance I left Alice alone. I promised to be back quickly and rushed out after putting on a jacket.
The path taken in the dark of night looked very different in the light of early day, with trees neatly lining up a natural trail in the woods. The leafy canopy was thinner than elsewhere and the sky was often visible. I found it challenging, but not impossible, to find my way through. With my sense of urgency, I almost lost focus once or twice and, consequently, almost ended up lost. It dawned upon me that one of the most useful things I could learn, if it existed, was a pathfinding spell.
Marisa's home seemed more run down in the daylight. The wooden exterior was not very well maintained and needed at least a new coat of paint. I didn't think that Marisa cared very much and perhaps even preferred things like that. I walked up to the door, hoping that she was home. I knocked a few times. Firmly but calmly.
“It's way too early,” Marisa complained as she opened the door. My knocking had no doubt woken her up. Her hair was mussed beyond all normal metrics, bot flat and pointy and wild. The oversized blue pajama she wore could easily be mistaken for a gown in the distance. She yawned and acknowledged me with a look that bordered on irritation, one that warned that my business better be worth her time.
“Sorry, but this is important,” I apologized. Something told me that I had woken a hibernating beast and would be best off appeasing. I explained the situation briefly.
“Wait... so you've been nursing Alice to health?” Sleepy dullness gave way momentarily for the mischievous spark that was so inherent to the girl. It disappeared soon after with a tremendous yawn.
“...she trusted me to deliver the message,” I reiterated.
“What, something about a stone and green?”
“She said to tell you that the blue powder turns green if exposed to the stone. She said that you'd know what to do. Who to pass on the message to.”
Marisa lazily scratched her arm, her oversized pajama shaking with the move. It was more than evident that Marisa was not a morning person.
“So?” I asked, “Do you know that to do? I don't have time to waste here.”
“Eh.... no,” She said.
“No?” I frowned, “Alice was certain you'd know what to do. So just wake up already.”
Marisa yawned loudly again, not bothering to cover her mouth. She really was asleep on her feet, “I honestly have no idea what you're talking about. If that's code for something, I don't know what it means.”
I tried explaining again.
“No, no. I understand the bit about the stone. It just means nothing to me,” She shook her head. “I don't really know who Alice wants me to speak to. And I Have no idea what her schedule would have been either, I'm not exactly interested in all of her comings and goings. Except when it's with tender young apprentices, of course. Tell me,” She asked, “was her sick face cute in a pitiful sort of way? I can just imagine a slight red flush and her eyes darting uneasily from side to side, worried because you're near her.”
“Come on, I don't have time to waste.”
“Fine fine, we can talk as we walk.”
“Oh, so you know where to go?”
“Sure do,” She stretched, yawning yet again, “Gonna get my clothes on and ask Alice directly. It'll give me a chance to offer my help in giving her a sponge bath or changing her or something.”
“Don't tell me,” She looked at me in disbelief, “you already did all that?”
I didn't deny it. But I didn't feel it was appropriate to tell her about what I saw either. I instead hurried her along, “Come on, weren't you going to get dressed?”
“Sheesh, fine I will. Lucky guy gets all the breaks...”
After she got changed, she seemed more like her usual self. We were able to walk briskly. And in no time we had gotten back to Alice's home. I hung my jacket as Marisa rushed upstairs with purpose. I felt sorry for Alice, how surely the chattering magician might annoy my convalescing teacher. I slowly made my way up, hoping to put a brake on Marisa's enthusiasm if it got to be too much for Alice.
“She's not here,” Marisa met me at the door, looking dour and annoyed.
I looked at her blankly, before checking the room myself. The bed was empty, the sheets sprawled on the floor and not a trace of Alice.
“...the hell.” I swore, not sure of how else to react.
“I bet she left for whatever appointment it was that she had,” Marisa spoke quietly.
“I shouldn't have left her alone. She's pretty sick. She needs rest and care.”
“She would have left even if you stayed. You forget that she's weird and stubborn. This is probably her way of being nice to you.”
“Dammit, I'm an idiot,” I said. “I could have stopped her, she was so weak... she even fainted earlier and I had to catch her.”
“That bad, huh? Jeez Alice, what were you thinking?”
“I need to go after her, if she collapses she might need help.”
“There's no point. We don't even know where she went.” Marisa added, “And besides, she's tougher than she lets on.”
“You need to help me find her.”
“I think it's best if you just stay here. There's no point in wandering about aimlessly. You should take care of things so that when she returns she can rest for as long as she needs. She wanted to spare you from something, so you should respect that.”
“Since when are you considerate and understanding?” I snapped.
“There's nothing you can do. Face it. I don't think Alice wanted you getting hurt doing something stupid like going out randomly into Gensokyo. I'll keep you company until she comes back, if it makes you feel any better.”
I stared at the magician, not wanting to hear what she had to say. She glanced back, looking apologetic about the whole ordeal.
>Alice wanted you getting hurt doing something stupid like going out randomly into Gensokyo. And she is not getting hurt when she wanders around sick like she is?
[x] Search It does not matter. If you wait she will either come back or not. If you search you might find her and help her. Waiting is the same as searching but with a chance to help her in whatever she is doing.
[x]Stay It doesn't matter whether we go search for her or not. She will definitely return, and searching for her would be in vain. As sick as she is, I'm still convinced she can fly faster than Ark can run. Not to mention, she wouldn't appreciate our concern anyways.
I was roughly 90% certain this would happen. But this way she doesn't knock us out for an indefinite period of time before she goes off on her own.
Obviously, whatever it was, it had to happen now, and she wanted to be absolutely certain we wouldn't be there when it happened, otherwise she could have waited for her sickness to pass or just slip out when we weren't looking. It could be a confrontation with Mima. Or it could be something unexpected. You might think this will resolve itself on its own, but by the rather desperate lengths she went to to extend her window of opportunity, I don't think she's all that confident in her strength. Worse, it really may resolve itself on its own, and because of Alice's taciturn nature, we never find out what it entailed.
Marisa seems to think we should trust Alice's judgment, but honestly the girl was fainting & half-delirious with fever, exposing weakness she would probably be loath to ever show a rival. It clear this is not a normal 'bug' and while physical and magical exertion might conceivably not worsen a youkai's condition, I doubt it'll be making it any better.
Being a bit honest here, since I am loathe to spend long periods of time without saying anything without reason: I'm probably not going to be able to update for at least a day or two from now. >>22043 If what was said here is any indication, maybe a single person? Hard to tell when most of the things said are questions that are ignored by other voters or the excuse du jour as to why there never seems to be any activity.
>>22047 Well, all of this ties to the overarching plot. So whatever is done and however affect perception and delivery though not so exposure. Things have a way of revealing themselves when it's relevant. That's all I'll say since I'm not in the custom to discuss ongoing stories except to clear up confusion.
In a show of solidarity, Marisa stayed with me. We sat together all morning in the drawing room and drank tea. My thoughts were on Alice. There wasn't much I could do to track her down. Most of my internal dialog centered on that rationalization. “Prudence was something a magician should strive for” – another lesson imparted by my missing mistress. I cringed and shook my head.
I only spoke when I had to, for the most part letting the eager magician chat about whatever it was she wanted to. I tuned her out after a while and silently drank my tea, occasionally offering her stock replies in the vein of 'I see' and the like.
“Say Arc,” She tapped me on the shoulder, “do you think I'm pretty?”
I gave her a look that asked a lot of the right questions.
“What, can't a friend ask another friend if she's pretty without getting weird looks?”
“It's really out of the blue...” I said, shaking my head.
“Well, life is full of surprises,” She grinned. She stood next to my chair, hands on hips with her usual energetic attitude. Her posture screamed confidence. She repeated her question, “do ya think I'm pretty?”
“...really? Are you being serious?” I reinforced my stare with a question I thought I had already silently asked.
“Don't make me ask again, just answer.”
“Fine. Yes, you are pretty.”
“Oh you're just saying that,” She waved a hand dismissively.
“What's with you? Do you want me to be more specific or something? I'll bite - “ I sighed inwardly, “Your blond hair is nice and long and your braid gives it an extra cute touch. Besides that I think your clothes are distinctive and not too flashy and well, to be honest, your wide grins are sort of your appeal as well.”
“Aww... that's sweet of you to say,” Her eyes smiled and her mouth stretched into an even wider grin. “You know you're not too bad yourself.”
“Thank you... I guess.”
“Hey now, don't tell me you think you're not handsome? Like I said the other day, you're not really my type but that doesn't mean I don't think you're handsome.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I couldn't think to say anything else.
“Hmm... sounds like you don't believe me,” She tilted her head. And as if divine providence intervened to inspire her just then, she raised her hand in excitement. She began to undo the buttons on her vest and then got started on her blouse. Before I could even properly react, she had drawn her blouse over her shoulder, exposing her slender shoulders and upper chest. “Check this out,” She said, jutting her upper body forward towards my face.
“What do you think you're doing?” I asked, highly confused.
“Showing you something, see?” She held the sides of her blouse with either hand, jiggling her bosom indicatively. “Right here,” She twitched her nose at where her undergarment ended and the flesh began. The fabric cupped her petite bosom supportively, only leaving the top exposed.
I stared because I wasn't sure what else I could do. “What am I looking at,” I asked.
“My boobs man. Aren't they nice?” She didn't wait for input from me, carrying on, “But yeah, more specifically the birthmark on the left one.”
I looked to the left.
“No, your other left. My left.”
I adjusted my gaze and saw what she was talking about. It was more like a freckle than anything very noticeable. It had a very distinctive shape, “A star?” I asked.
“Yup! It's my lucky star!” She laughed and pulled her blouse back on, “Pretty neat, huh?”
“You sound disappointed... wasn't it awesome to see that?” She pouted. Her fingers stopped buttoning; She whispered, “Maybe you wanted to touch... you know? Oooh, in your lover's home too... how scandalous! I can't blame you though, I am pretty awesome man and my body is attractive to all.”
“Oh come on!” She exclaimed. “It's a joke! A joke, you know? Hahahaha? That sort of thing? No need to look at me like you've just stepped in crap.”
She flung herself onto me, almost knocking me out of my seat. She crossed her arms tightly across my back, hugging me.
“You're my friend and friends are supposed to cheer each other up!” She quietly whispered in my ear, “I got your mind off Alice for a bit, didn't I?”
“Yeah, you did.” I whispered back.
“Don't be cold man,” She said. I got her meaning and hugged her back. She giggled. I couldn't tell if she was joking again or not, “Your manly arms make me feel so safe. I wish I could do this all the time.”
Marisa let go after an extended hug, smiling with that broad smile of hers. For some reason it made me chuckle. Seeing her like that made me feel good.
“Now now, see? No need to be sulking. Things will be fine!”
“Yeah, I'm sure they will.”
“Was that sarcasm? Being an awesome person like I am enables me to detect that sort of thing.”
“Heavens no, it wasn't sarcasm!” I smiled as I delivered that line as sarcastically as possible.
“We don't we talk a while now? You know, like friends should? Until Alice comes back, at least. This time though, real talk, no spacing out.”
“No promises,” I winked.
“Well, if you space out while talking about something dirty, I'll be concerned about you. Though I won't blame you so much if we're talking about magic or whatever, that stuff is sometimes boring.”
 Stuffy magic meets unstuffy and 'cool' magician (with servings of old grimoires)  No need for more distractions, speculation about Alice's whereabouts would be fine  Talking about dirty things is alright between friends!
At first Marisa seemed to be genuinely surprised at my choice of topic. She displayed her shock by eying me up and down with a wary gaze. It almost seemed like she was going to hesitate in finding out if I was being serious. But as all things involving her, she eased into the situation like it was the most natural thing in the world. I had thrown down the gauntlet and she picked it right up with easy.
“Personally, I've always found the sarashi attractive,” She droned on, “It's not my style but there's something about tightly bound bandage pressed up against nubile flesh that is just... wow, you know? Of course you know, I bet you can't stop thinking about Reimu.”
“I... haven't really thought about that sort of thing,” I said truthfully. I was not of the habit of undressing people with my imagination if I could avoid it.
“That's just a lie.” Marisa leaned in closer, almost whispering her words, “I promise I won't tell. You can trust me.”
“It's not a matter of trust, I just haven't thought about it.”
“How sad. Maybe you do like the oni better after all?” She bit her lip, thinking. What went on her head was beyond any guess I could make, I was sure. After a few moments, a lecherous grin manifested itself on her face. She looked like an old man lusting after young flesh. It almost made me shudder. There was certainly some sort of pleasure she was getting out of the subject, of the certain images that flashed in her head.
At length, I felt like I had to say something. Trying to sound relaxed, I said, “Don't overthink it, we're different people and have different tastes. I'm not saying I don't have those kinds of thoughts but that I limit myself so I don't trip myself up.”
“I get you, no thoughts about Suika's small chest and cute little nipples, maybe her heavy breathing as you finally manage to exhaust her for the first time since you met her. Surely you aren't thinking about doing lewd things to her, making her realize that you're more than just a boy. You know how wild and sloppy those oni get, so you'd have to try hard to keep up. Of course you respect her too much to objectify her like that.”
“With a wicked smile like that, I'd say that you're getting off to that,” I shook my head playfully. Though I didn't like to go there, I could be coarse if I wanted to.
“You'd like that, wouldn't you? You know, if I ever need a casual friend with extra perks to the relationship, I'll consider you.”
“How filthy, I can only promise that I'll think about it.” I showed a wide grin of my own to match hers. She laughed. She was flippant and proud of it.
“I hope you don't think of me as too indecent,” She shrugged.
“I get the feeling that you'd prefer it if I did.”
“Ufufufu~” She laughed. She was in high spirits. “I hope you learned something today; You shouldn't underestimate girls.”
“Somehow it feels like you should have winked there.”
“Quite right,” She agreed. And added an exaggeratedly grandiose wink. Her whole face seemed to go into the muscle contraction.
Lunchtime came and went. The conversation turned from the ribald to the mundane and back again several times. Marisa's energy level was indomitable and for the most part she kept my mind on anything but Alice. As transparent as the efforts may have been upon reflection, they were still genuine expressions of solidarity. The day grew colder and darker.
“I get the feeling that you're enjoying yourself very much,” I stated the obvious. I had lost track of how many cups of tea I had drank that day. It didn't stop me from pouring yet another cupful.
“I don't get to just talk about anything very often,” Marisa admitted. According to her, Gensokyo was full of uptight individuals. Or, at the very least, individuals whose interests varied wildly. She elaborated, “Reimu is usually bothered by that kind of talk and anyone else I know tends to be a bit cold about the subject. It's no fun to bring it up, you understand.”
I gathered that Alice fell under the category of 'anyone else'. Certainly I couldn't picture her, try as I did, being as loose and candid about the things Marisa and I talked about. The image of a naive girl somehow seemed inappropriate in her case. My mistress' knowledge and experience was not just limited to magic, of that I was sure. She had lived a more interesting life than I had. It stood to reason that she would not broach the subject after determining that it was poor conversation. She rarely showed much feeling and having a casual conversation with her was something pleasant but not an occasion in which to see her soul bared.
It began to rain. Marisa stated with feigned indifference, “Looks like I'll be staying here a while longer.”
She would stay the night.
There were no signs of Alice by sundown. The day had begun to darken shortly after the rain began. For the rest of the afternoon increasingly thicker cloud cover filtered out the sun. With the darkness and downpour, Marisa had found an excuse to keep me company longer. She more or less invited herself to spend the night, citing the unpleasantness of being drenched in a frigid downpour. The real reason she stayed was to keep me from doing anything stupid, I suspected. She did not restraint me but it somehow felt like she was babysitting me for my own good. It was annoying.
I spent some time alone, silently studying. My heart was not at all into the subject matter. It seemed like the tomes could sense my lack of enthusiasm and the older grimoires purred softly instead of rattling or glowing like they sometimes did. As a trade off I felt that I was completely unable to absorb any useful knowledge. It did me no good to break routine, irrespective of any other ongoings so I forced myself to at least read as much as I usually did. It felt like an eternity passed.
Marisa drew herself a bath and then, in spite of my objections, helped herself to one of Alice's sleeping clothes -a modest set of blouse and trousers. I managed to convince her after much pleading not to invade Alice's space further. She agreed to sleep in my cot and I simply relocated myself onto the hard wooden floor. I drew my own bath and tried not to think too much about the essentially wasted day. The fact that I had made no progress with my task or that I had been deceived by my teacher in spite of her condition weighed heavily on me. I did what I thought was right and I tried to convince myself that there was nothing to regret about that.
The rain was only slightly muffled by the closing of the shutters. It was a dreary backdrop to an otherwise perfectly quiet night. I pulled a blanket over myself, wishing I had something to cushion my back from the stiffness of the old wood. Marisa spoke, imparting her last thoughts for the day, “We'll see her tomorrow so don't you worry. I can guarantee it. Do you hear me?”
“It's ok if you don't believe me. But I'm sure of what I'm saying. Things will be fine.” I turned my head towards the direction of the cot. I couldn't make anything out in the dark except a shadowy shape where she probably was lying. For some reason her words made me feel a little better. “There's just one thing I've been meaning to ask all day, by now you should know you can trust me,”
“I get the feeling I won't like the question.”
“Man how does Suika put up with your constant bellyaching?” I didn't say anything, not sure if it was a joke. Marisa asked her question anyways, “Do you want something more from Alice than just this?”
Somehow the question felt like the perfect culmination of the recurring talk throughout the day. She didn't need to remind me that the answer would remain between just the two of us. I knew what she meant too. And the truth was that I wasn't sure of the answer to the question.
 “I don't know what I want.”  “I might want something from you instead.”
No one ever bothers to consider the word of God but here I nonetheless offer input again; The choice is not a philosophical one defining all ambitions in life - it is either an admission of ambivalence but certainly not a denial to any insinuation or likewise neither an affirmation nor a denial but the raising of another issue. Like always, I suppose, the choices are evaluated on the erroneous assumption that there are neither subtleties to them or that they are limited in effect. That is, no matter how many times that's proven wrong in nearly each update.
On only a semi-related tangent, I wish the people who voted would realize that there are seldom, if any, outright superior choices. I feel like a broken record here. Quite frankly the frequent nigh-unanimity is taxing.I shouldn't point out at the unnecessary shock afterwards that some express as a result of simply not even thinking about another choice. Yes, this applies to the last choice, the one before Alice disappears, the choice to trust an assailant over someone who cares at the clinic and countless others. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that I value creative thinking, discussion and comments beyond what is essentially "this sounds good" and quality of votes over quantity. I don't care for the guy who posts a vote and nothing else three days after an update, in fact, I disdain that that person may think that it even matters in the grand scheme of things to do so. I certainly won't see it like a good omen.
I've said what I wanted to and hopefully I won't have wasted my time again with this.
His thoughts on this matter are confusing and vague. We know he's not satisfied with a simple master and apprentice relationship with Alice. We know that there was some sort of spark between them, when we got her mark. We know that he is attracted to her. (Personally I don't see why. Suika is tons better.) But now Alice is content to simply teach us magic and call it a day, with little interaction besides that. My only guess as to why she's acting like this is because she is a social recluse, and doesn't know how to handle herself in these types of situation. Regardless, Arc is not okay with that. He wants something more from Alice than her aloof persona, but he hasn't really decided what.
Does he want a friendly relationship? Does he want to help her to be more outgoing and social? Does he want a lover's relationship? We just don't know, or maybe we haven't decided for him.
That being said, there is no reason to vote the other option, as that would be bluntly changing the subject for no reason. Arc's an earnest and honest lad, and he already thinks about all of these things in the story. Admitting to himself, and Marisa, will be a step in the right direction. That direction being a better relationship with Alice, whatever we decide that means.
>>22246 I partially agree. The other option here geared toward Marisa seems completely irrelevant, Arc has been dreaming about intimacy with Alice, not Marisa. I think conciously, Arc might not know what he wants, but deep inside his heart, he desires some sort of relationship with Alice.
I don't like the indecisive option. I think the vote should be simple.
She isn't asking exactly what he wants from Alice right now, so Arc has time to figure it out.
I'll be trying to go with a faster and more regular update pace. Besides the issues that turn me off from writing there hasn't been anything major keeping me from dedicating myself. Except, of course, my own laziness. There will be something later tonight, how soon depending on if there's any shiny object around to distract me.
>>22253 I actually the post you're quoting to be humorous. The protagonist is surrounded by women with strong personalities and who are used to doing things their way. Certainly indecision isn't a trait I'd attribute to most of them.
>>22255 Once again for the Word of God (ranting-anon, all the additional connotations are duly noted and even expected by me), this is not a love story. See >>21704 - that isn't to say that things like friendship, romance and even sex cannot feature but this tale is about Arc's first real foray into the world of magic. It will end when he has experienced the full plot. Not when he has 'gotten' someone in the romantic or any other sense. It won't be derailed because the threads woven into the story all lead to a relevant outcome.
>>22245 The irony of this post has not been lost upon me.
A flash of light etched bands on the walls. The shutters rattled. It was dark and I stood by the main entrance. The rain was torrential, providing a rich symphony complete with thunderous claps. The door opened and I stepped outside. It was dark, the flash of lightning only lasted for a moment. The rain was cold on first contact. I could not feel it any longer; I was rapidly wholly drenched entirely. My arm tingled. It was a vivid feeling that would not subside. I muttered something.
Another great spark in the sky. A lightning bolt in the distance.
The woods were dark. A calamitous roar of thunder swept over the area. The house looked empty. So alone. Abandoned. I felt a wetness on my face, the tears rolled down to my chin amidst the thicker rain. I uselessly tried to wipe my face with a hand.
I turned around.
Her hair was dark due to the lack of light and the rain. It dangled in clumps next to her equally soaked body, sticking all the way to some point below her shoulders. The smell, the sweet smell of perfume wafted impossibly from the pajamas and straight to my nose. It smelled of her. An image of her smiling face imposed itself on the one in front of me.
She said something, eyes showing concern even in the darkness. They were not as piercing as I wanted them to be. As I was accustomed to.
Again my arm tingled and I felt very hot all over. Something inside me was about to burst.
She extended her hand, touching me with the lightest of touches.
The heat dissipated almost all at once.
She smiled like she usually did and said something else. I lost no time and embraced her. I held her tightly from the waist, my head resting next to hers. It felt good. She squirmed. But I felt good and I pulled back a little. She said something else, with agitation in her voice. I silenced her by pressing my lips against hers. I pressed her closer, hand sliding down her backside. I felt myself losing to her softness. Somehow, the house didn't seem so lonely and empty anymore.
“We need to get going,” I turned away from the window and towards Marisa. She sat in the cot, naked except for the sheet she clumsily held across her torso. Her legs dangled, small feet hovering just above the wooden floor. The spot where I had lain last night was a mess, sheets muddied and crumpled up.
“I need to get dressed,” I said, looking down at my naked form. I grabbed a nearby sheet and wrapped it around me. The early morning sun had not yet warmed things up. I shivered.
“You won't mind if I grab something from her room? My clothes are still wet.”
“Go ahead...” I answered absentmindedly, turning back to the window. I heard the soft groans of the wood beneath her steps up the stairs. The sun had come out but there were still some rain clouds in the distance. The window I was standing at had its shutters opened and I stared out at the wet grass and mud vacantly.
A rainbow just above a line of trees in the distance captured my attention. The seven colors were clearly visible and the iridescent display seemed genuinely magical. From my bedroom window I could usually see a rainbow after it rained, drawn across the whole of the village.
Thinking of home made me look around and try to find my clothes. I did not find my usual shirt and rummaged through a bag with extra clothes. Marisa came back down as I finished dressing. She wore a loose, robe-like dress. It looked more ceremonial than function and didn't suit her at all.
She knew she looked odd and commented preemptively, “Nothing there is to my taste. She has a lot of blue and violets but this was the only black. It probably won't matter if I borrow this for a day.”
“I guess not...”
“Still out of it?” She asked. “At least you managed to dress yourself. Last night I had to finish up things myself.”
“About that...” I said. There was a haze clouding my mind. I had never felt anything like it. Not even after the time Auntie caught me drinking when I was young and forced me to finish the whole bottle by myself. What I recalled felt vivid but very fragmented. I was not sure what happened, “I don't remember much about last night. Just bits and pieces.”
“Somehow, that makes me angry,” Marisa said. She scowled and shook her head. I began to walk with her after she opened the door and stepped outside. The ground was soft and it took a bit of effort to walk.
“I dreamed, you woke me up... and you said we had gotten wet last night which was why we were naked.” I thought things through. I remembered standing at the window and before that... nighttime. I didn't actually recall Marisa telling me anything of the sort but somehow knew it all the same.
Marisa took a deep breath. Upon exhaling, her breath formed a little mist. It was cold, I realized. It really was winter. She said with a little sadness in her voice, “After what you did to me, you treat me so coldly.”
She pressed a hand to her chest as she walked, lowering it to her belly and sighed. Her step was brisk despite the flowing robe looking heavy.
“You said you would take responsibility,” She looked at me, “Won't you honor your word no matter what? I don't want to deal with this on my own.”
I shook my head. I had no idea what I was supposed to reply in a situation like that. I may have been drilled with good manners and tried to be polite, but there was nothing casual about my situation. I nearly tripped on a rock and fell face first into a puddle of watter. I had barely managed to regain my balance. I tried to pay more attention to the path ahead.
 “I'll take responsibility, Marisa.”  “Not knowing what I did, I can't say.”
- >>22258 Wiseman, we've been over this - go away. Sorry everyone else who may see this. It may seem petty but I have my reasons. Sorry for otherwise shitting up the thread. Only story-relevant comments from me in the future.
Sounds like Mima and Alice got into some sort of battle last night, Arc still has both marks so he was probably seriously affected and/or drained entirely of mana. It sounds like Arc came on to Marisa but collapsed, forcing(?) her to finish by a mana transfer.
Or she could just be asking about the kiss, since that's all that Arc remembers.
This is a tough vote.
[x] “I'll take responsibility, Marisa.”
I don't think she is messing with us. Even if she is, all she'll gain is a laugh at our expense.
“I'll take responsibility, Marisa.” I looked her in the eye. I held her hand, trying to be reassuring, “I may not remember much, but that's no excuse.”
“Oh Arc, you're wonderful,” Marisa smiled, looking like a young girl in love I thought. She smiled sweetly.
“I'm sorry if I hurt you.”
“I was going to make fun of you but I can't if you look at me like that,” She said.
“Why would you make fun of me?”
“Because you don't remember sleeping next to me the whole night. You were completely naked you know. So was I. We were soaking wet and you wouldn't let go of me.”
“Ah, I'm sorry.”
“All that was hurt was my sense of decency as a girl. I'm fine otherwise. I wasn't before, but I am now. You were my first, uh, real kiss that is.”
“I remember it feeling good. I think that was... my first real kiss too. You know, with tongue.”
“Ah, I see...” She said quietly.
“I'm flattered,” I said. I noticed that she was blushing. It was very unlike her usual self. She seemed almost vulnerable.
We walked silently for several good minutes, hands held tightly. Her palm was unexpectedly sweaty.
“I guess I can't compare you to papa anymore...” She muttered, “That would just be weird after what happened last night...”
I tried to change the subject, “Where are we going anyways? You said something about a friend that could help us?”
“That's right!” She forgot all about the awkwardness in an instant. She let go of my hand and began to explain with her hands, “She lives at a library and is really knowledgeable. She's bound to know what's going on and maybe where Alice is.”
Her friend not only lived in a library, but that library was part of a huge mansion. I saw it at first in the distance. It was a huge red building, with ornate window frames and spectacular gardens. It sat by the lake and I recalled that we had a customer we occasionally dispatched orders of wine and a few pricier spirits to. They weren't part of the village and a strange-looking woman in some sort of uniform came by every month or so to pick up the order. Her manners were as impeccable as her clothes.
Marisa avoided the front gate entirely, insisting that we were only interested in going to the library. To that end we snuck through an opening in the perimeter fence.
We went through a vast garden, walking past rows of hedges and statues. Marisa seemed to know where she was going. I gawked in silence at the impressive display. The weathered walls had vines reaching up towards the roof several flights above. Marisa forced open a small door towards the end of the garden, urging me to go quickly.
We were in a small corridor with little light. We used a stairwell to go up and then appeared in a much larger, better illuminated hallway. It was decorated with paintings and the occasional urn or piece of art every few windows. Marisa was fleet of foot and expertly took us down to a great door on one end. She opened the heavy door and showed me in.
The library was gigantic. Looking down a corridor of bookshelves, I could just barely see the opposite end of the room. The ceiling soared quite a distance above my head. More impressively, the bookshelves towered upwards, each almost touching the ceiling. I had never seen so many books in one place before. Until then, the most books I had seen in one place was Alice's storage room. In just one of the large wooden bookshelves, there were liable to be tenfold as many books as that tiny little storage closet. And there were at least a few dozens of bookshelves I estimated.
“Don't get distracted,” Marisa warned me as she began to move again, “We're almost there.”
Large windows on the walls provided much natural light to the great library. I tried to follow Marisa as closely as I could, but the many wonders of the place occasionally distracted me. Such as the appearance of flying girls. They carried books and went to and fro without paying much notice to us on the ground. It looked like they were reorganizing or maybe just adding new books to the collection. They flew too quickly and too far away for me to even get a good look at them. The funny thing was that some of them seemed to glow a little and others appeared to have wings. I could tell that they all wore some sort of uniform, perhaps indicating that they were staff.
I walked with Marisa someways to a tiny little alcove in the one of the library's corner. It was a tiny little space, almost entirely boxed in by bookshelves and piles of books. Little natural light reached the area and a light, magical in origin, keep the space reasonably illuminated. A large sturdy-looking wooden table took almost all the rest of the space and several large cushioned chairs were cramped around it. The smell of mold and paper was strong there, stronger than the rest of the library.
Marisa walked in between piles of books and towards the chair furthest away from the opening to the alcove. She casually greeted the chair's occupant, like there was no problem with appearing out of the blue, “Hey there.”
I followed her and came closer. A girl in a lavender gown sat reading a book. She ignored Marisa entirely. She ignored the whole world, for that matter. She sat perfectly still, only her eyes moving quickly back and forth, reading quickly the contents of the book. It appeared that nothing in the world could disturb her.
“I've got something interesting for you,” Marisa said gaily.
“Unless you've come to return the books you took last time, I'm not interested,” The girl spoke. It was a quiet voice, one which betrayed no agitation on the part of the girl. Her eyes didn't leave the book.
“You'll want to hear me out on this, trust me.”
“Will you leave me be if you say what you want to say?”
“Sure, why not?” Marisa winked at me, like she had won some sort of victory. The girl put the book down, her dark eyes turning their attention to Marisa. I was ignored outright.
Marisa explained the situation. Who I was and all about Alice. She added what had happened to me the night before and... all of the details. It felt like I was watching the scenes unfold again. I could taste the rain and Marisa's soft lips again. “That's all that happened Patchouli,” Marisa concluded, “I came here to see if you knew what could be up.”
The girl with the violet hair stared long and hard at Marisa. Briefly, her eyes passed over me, taking me in like some sort of afterthought.
“There may be something relevant in the library,” She spoke after a moment of deliberation. She got up from her comfortable-looking seat and passed the maze of books with little effort. She began to lead on and we followed.
Walking beside her, I was able to take a good look at Marisa's friend. Her hair was long and her skin pale. It didn't look like she got much sun and I imagined her spending her days reading just like earlier. Her expression was dour and her eyes serious, similar yet different to Alice. Unlike Alice, her gaze had more feeling to it, like something like disdain or contempt could show up at any moment. Yet all the same, I could not picture her smile like Alice sometimes did when with her dolls. Her sobriety and intensity clashed with her very comfortable-looking gown and informal cap.
After several twists and turns we stopped by a bookshelf that was smaller than its neighbors. Patchouli, as Marisa had called her, scanned the shelf and reached for a book. She couldn't quite reach. She tiptoed and tried in vain to grab it, even venturing as far as doing a small hop. Marisa and I watched in silence, exchanging looks of amusement. She stopped trying to reach for the book, wheezing a little. She brought her hand to her face and coughed. The book came down easily when she muttered a few words and flicked her wrist. It came flying out and hovered just above the spell caster's hand.
With a motion she bode us to follow further, back to her little den. The book followed, hovering just about shoulder height like some sort of faithful pet. She sat down back in her oversized chair and, with a flick of the wrist, the book came gently into her hands. Marisa's nod told me that we had to wait for her to read the relevant part.
We did not have to wait long. Her eyes scanned the pages quickly and her fingers deftly turned pages. After only a few minutes she set the book down on the table and got back up. She walked off. Marisa motioned for me to stay so we didn't follow.
She came back nearly a half hour later, when I had counted how many red and blue colored books there were on the shelf beside me. She came with a small wooden case, made of polished dark wood. She set the box down on the table and opened the latch on front, popping the lid off. A dull pinkish crystal and two smaller opaque stones were removed. Patchouli held up the crystal in the palm of her hand and explained, “I need you to recreate last night's event.”
“How?” Marisa asked.
“The moment of intimacy, it all hinges on that,” She said dryly. She muttered a word and a small cloud appeared and floated above our heads. Short but loud thunder ensued. “Do what you did last night,” She insisted.
Marisa looked at me, “You mean, he has to kiss me?”
“If that is what happened. Replicate it as closely as you can. I cannot help you otherwise.”
“Uh, Arc, you alright with that?” Marisa asked. She looked a bit flighty. Jumpy even.
“If you're alright with it, so am I. If there's no other way I mean,” I looked at Patchouli with inquiring eyes.
She shook her head. “There is no other way, you must do it exactly as you did last night” She said.
“Alright,” Marisa took a deep breath. She came closer and looked up at me expectantly, “I'm ready when you are... I'm sorry if my breath isn't perfect but...”
“It's alright,” I smiled.
I held her by the shoulder, easing my face awkwardly towards hers. She looked a little frightened, more than she had the night before. She closed her eyes and puckered her lips to a comical extent. I came in close, feeling my heartbeat ringing in my ears. I closed my eyes and my lips met hers with ease. The peck was short.
“There,” I said to myself, pulling back. We looked at our spectator expectantly.
“There is no reaction,” She looked to the stone, “It must be something else then.”
“Maybe it's because the kiss last night was... different?” Marisa asked quietly.
“Different? How so?”
“He used his tongue.”
“Ah, it's vital you do exactly like you did last night.”
“Ah, I see...” I said to myself, feeling a bit embarrassed by the conversation.
“Give it another go,” Patchouli encouraged.
I felt my face get a little flush. I looked at Marisa again and she stared right back at me, silently telling me to go ahead. She closed her eyes again. I brought my face in close, all the while feeling a pair of eyes watching my every move intensely. Our lips met again and this time I thrust my tongue into her mouth, seeking hers. She seemed reluctant at first but seemed to get into it as our tongues intertwined, caressing and exchanging fluids.
“Ahn...” Marisa panted. It wasn't a very long kiss but it felt very intense. Like my soul had been sucked out of my mouth. I wasn't able to pull away before she kissed me. The attack was vicious and saw her tongue invade my mouth instead. I was taken aback and let her half her way until I was nearly out of breath.
“What... was that all about?” I asked, feeling like I had come close to death.
“Just making sure that it was as authentic as last night,” Marisa looked away, fidgeting with the hem of her robe.
“That was a very intense spectacle,” Patchouli remarked, the stone in her hand glowing vibrantly.
“So how is that stone going to help us?” She asked.
“It won't,” She replied.
“It won't? Then why was it glowing?”
“It is a special crystal that reacts to amorous displays in a way you've just witnessed. The more intense the event, the stronger the glow. I would say it glowed very brightly indeed.”
“Alright, I'm pissed off at you!” Marisa yelled. “Why would you make us do that?!”
The brooding girl smiled. It was a smile of joy mixed with satisfaction. She said, “It was just a little payback for causing me so much trouble over the years.”
“Why I oughta-”
“I do plan on helping you,” She interrupted, “If only to do a favor for a friend with good tea.”
Marisa shouted a string of vulgarities but Patchouli ignored her. She looked to me and called me closer. It was the first time she had addressed me, “You. As an apprentice you must have learned to understand some basics by now. Read this and tell me what you can understand.”
I took a look at the book in front of her. It was a moldy old tome, contributing to the overall smell of mold of the library. I squinted and tried to make sense of the letters, but found that I could not read any of it.
“I can't read it,” I confessed.
“Interesting then. It is not this type of magic you have been exposed to then,” The girl smiled again, pleased with herself, “I best hide this tome before your companion read its contents. The last thing I need is a lovestruck little girl like her mucking about.”
“Oh I'll show you 'lovestruck little girl'!” Marisa clicked her tongue.
“If you don't mind, would you tell me what sort of exercises she's had you do? It may be some sort of magical contamination that is making you behave oddly.”
I explained the basics of my training.
“Nothing there would do this,” She concluded. “You say you've had dreams like these before? About your master? What's intriguing about that is that she did not take any steps to stop it.”
“She might have liked it,” Marisa said, “She's very wound up you know.”
“I don't imagine that would be the case. A master-apprentice relationship is special. It is more likely that she was not aware.”
“Could it also have anything to do with her being ill?” I asked.
“We cannot rule it out. Looking at you however,” She stared for an uncomfortable amount of time at my chest, “there is nothing abnormal about you. I cannot feel anything wicked at work. A devil's power is easily felt. You do smell of an unfamiliar scent, but that very well could be your own. You do not seem skilled enough to have your own signature yet, but all it takes is willpower.”
“Huh, I couldn't smell anything,” Marisa said.
“That's because you are not as well-versed as I am. You don't even properly understand the subtleties of the elements.”
“Fine, excuse me for not being as old as you are. I focus on the here and now. Nobody talks about elements these days.”
“The only good deed she's done lately is bring you here,” Patchouli sighed. “I think I'll have to ask you a few questions. Answer truthfully. No matter how bizarre it may seem.”
“How does magic make you feel?”  Excited  At peace
“What sort of magic do you prefer?”  Something shiny  Something subtle
“What are your thoughts about your instructor?”  She is fair  She is distant
“Would you like to kiss Marisa again?”  Yes  Not sure
“How do I make you feel?”  Arm tingles  Want to kiss too
So. Are we going for Marisa now? Did we not refuse Marisa already and choose Alice over her? We got away from Mima, study under Alice, have some distant feelings for her that are growing and even have her come out of her ice shell. First of all, why did we not go and search for her? It should have been the thing to do, being our mentor and someone you should look after. Instead it went like: ah, she will come back somewhen, let's just have time with Marisa.
It should be time to decide now.
[x] At peace [x] Something subtle [x] She is fair [x] No [x] "You remind me of my Master. She always makes me feel calm and at ease."
>>22266 Relax buddy, the author has already told us not to worry about routes and all that nonsense. If anything this is more realistic, Arc has feelings for Alice, but something might be developing with Marisa as well. By voting that we don't know what we want, it probably opened the door for those feelings.
[x] At peace [x] Something subtle [x] She is fair [x] No [x] "You remind me of my Master. She always makes me feel calm and at ease."
Patchouli's trick was priceless, as was Marisa's reaction.
[x] Excited [x] Something shiny [x] She is fair [x] Not sure [x] Arm tingles
Remember that fateful meeting with Mima? Even though it's not quite the magic of love, it was plenty flashy--all stars & sparkles. The reason he's studying magic now is because he borrowed Mima's power to show off in front of Alice.
Which is not to say Alice isn't a good instructor. In fact, I think she and Arc have good chemistry. The methodical approach suits him better than performing mad experiments with Marisa; he has enough of that type of misadventure with Suika.
The girl's gaze stayed on my face for a long time. She studied me silently. It was uncomfortable and I found myself avoiding her cool and detached stare. It felt like I was supposed to say something, but nothing that came to mind seemed appropriate.
It was ultimately Marisa who broke the silence. She interrupted impatiently, face still showing traces of the earlier excitement and awkwardness. She crossed her arms and said playfully to the reserved girl, “Done with the interrogation? Or are we never going to get any help?”
The girl in the gown clicked her tongue, rolling her eyes at Marisa.
“There is nothing to say about him,” She said of me. Her eyes never left me as she implied the nature of my personality, “He seems as eager as all of you are at that stage and as genuine too.”
“If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were calling him dishonest.”
“I am a better judge of books than character,” Patchouli stated hesitantly, “Dishonesty implies a conscious act or two, I do not believe that's the case here.” Patchouli smiled smugly, betraying the feelings of excitement she felt beneath her usually withdrawn expression. She took her eyes off of me, darting them to Marisa's direction. It was plainly obvious that she enjoyed having the upper hand on her. It seemed unexpectedly childish but somehow I felt that it was a rare enough impulse so it was more than justified.
“His heart is as uncertain as yours can be. It is therefore not deception,” She concluded.
“You're saying that he's not lying, but doesn't know what he wants?” Marisa did not rise up to the bait, surprisingly enough.
“I wonder why Alice would bother to take him under her wing.”
“Who knows? Probably to spite me.”
“We aren't all as petty as you are, you realize.”
“Interesting of you to say that, given all that you've put us through since getting her.”
The smile of self-satisfaction disappeared from Patchouli's face. She went back to her more serious look, acting like this was an entirely different conversation.
“Your type is described fairly often in books,” She addressed me directly. Her lips barely moved as she spoke, as if she were trying to conserve energy for some ludicrous reason. Before I could ask her what she meant by 'my type', she explained somewhat, “Feelings of unrest or sensations felt by the flesh are rarely just confined to a queer prickling in the arms or rogueish wordplay. They transform, evolve, against perhaps better judgment into action. Though you may hesitate the first time to lay hands on her you will not hesitate forever and will actively seek to engage with others too.”
“Whoah that's some heavy stuff there Patches,” Marisa whistled, sounding impressed. 'Patches' wrinkled her brow, apparently none too pleased with the nickname. Marisa shook her head, “You make it sound like Arc here is some sort of lady killer.”
“Is that what you call his kind these days?” She stared deep into my eyes, as if trying to make out the color of my soul. “I would not put it as vulgarly as that. The impression I've derived from this is that the thrill of the conquest is not necessarily a component, as is often the case.”
“For a bookworm, you sure like to think about people a lot. You should really stop reading bad romance novels, they rot your brain. You're better than this.”
“If I stopped reading them, then how would I be able to recommend you any? You come asking every week for the most raunchy of filth.” Patchouli shot back. Marisa immediately slumped her shoulders, realizing she had walked into yet another trap. I had lost count of how many times in the conversation the cool and knowledgeable girl had gotten one over the spunky witch.
It was a while before the conversation truly turned back to me and my concerns. I did not feel impatient despite the distress I had felt earlier. The exchange I was witness to felt like and educational experience. In any case, it seemed obvious that the frail-looking girl had an interest in me, one that extended beyond a tool for revenge. She furtively stole glances at me from time to time. It was as if she was sizing me up as best she could.
Tea was a good excuse for her to ask me to tell a little bit more about myself. We waited at the very same large wooden table while she called and instructed one of the flying girls we had seen earlier with the particulars. She quizzed me about the details of my training, asking me to spare nothing. I told her how things had gone with as much detail as I could recall, finding that I did not want to disappoint her keen intellect. She expected me to keep on talking even after the girl in the frilly dress came back with a tray with the tea. I barely drank my fill as a result.
I felt that Marisa was restless, her hand fidgeting with her dress and occasionally the empty teacup. She did not speak much, nor have much reason to, and did not otherwise challenge the other girl's approach. She was stretching her patience thin.
I surprised myself by asking her, “Do you think you'll be able to help me track down Alice after all?”
“Ah, so you finally want to know,” Patchouli said, unfazed. She had barely taken a sip through the entire conversation but after I changed the subject she drank without further reserve.
“Are you able to help me?”
“Able – yes.”
“Not willing?” My heart sank.
“Magic is about dedication and sacrifice. You have to choose what's more important to you,” She ignored the implication in its entirety.
“What am I supposed to choose in between?”
“Simply put, between truths. The truth in your condition and development and the truth of your master and her traditions.”
I could tell she was being serious. She coughed, apparently unable to help it but her voice found a certain gravity in its frailty. I felt Marisa's eyes upon me, making me the sole object of attention for both women.
“I... I don't see the two as mutually exclusive,” I said nervously. My pitch was about an octave higher than usual.
“They may well not be. They may be very interconnected for all you, or I, know. I am, however, a single person who can only affect a single time line at a time.”
“Oh, I understand now,” Oddly enough I thought that she might have been cracking a joke. Something about how her upper lip twitched slightly convinced me of the possibility. I smiled, “We can't be at two places at once I guess.”
 The quest for Knowledge is more important  Following the Original Desire is best
So Arc has some sorta Ladies Man infection? Well that's strange.
Now as Patchy said, I'm uncertain about which option to go for. If Alice leaving had something to do with what was going on with Arc it might be more prudent to find her in order to get an explanation. There is the whole matter of her health as well.
Of course we don't know exactly why Alice left. It's also prudent to make sure Arc doesn't molest anyone. Arc would benefit more from learning about himself more at this point.
Indeed. That isn't necessarily a bad thing since we've been told that character routes are not present and should not be worried about. If there were actual "routes" I'd choose any option blindly that had us pursue Alice.
>>22343 Well, there aren't character routes but your relationships with the characters may change/end in various ways depending on what you choose. So yeah, you should keep that sort of thing in mind despite this not really having 'character routes'. The other kind of route is definitely in (otherwise, why make it a cyoa?), with multiple outcomes galore.
Sorry >>22428 but somehow the version you saw contained a couple of weird typos that from an earlier revision. Somehow it didn't copy again from my word processor. I'll be counting your vote, don't worry about reposting it. --
The truth of the situation was as equally bizarre as it was pointless. Pointless in the sense that we had gone out of our way to go to the library and talk to the marble-faced girl and I felt that I had not got much in return. It felt like I had squandered a chance at something and didn't know what to do about it. It was bizarre because of what I learned.
“Yo, snap out of it!” Marisa waved her head in front of me. I came to a stop. I blinked and noticed that I had almost hit a tree head on.
“Ah, thanks...” I shook my head. Marisa was looking at me with concern in her eyes. Like anyone would in the same situation really.
“Don't let what Patches said back there get to you,” She smiled, “What would she know of Alice? I'm sure she's fine.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“She's the Rainbow-colored Puppeteer, she's fine,” There was a clear distaste in the young blonde's face. I thought that maybe it was because it was hard for her to praise Alice.
I had my doubts. And since hearing what Patchouli had to say had been more concerned. I didn't understand most of it. Talk of paying her respects, going to do what she had to do all sounded like complete rubbish. I was a simple person, I thought. When things are good, they're good, when they're bad, they're bad. I was making no sense.
“Returning what she borrowed, huh?”
“What's that Arc?” My companion asked.
“Nothing, nothing,” I began to walk again, eyes on the path but mind wandering off. I had asked the dour girl what she had meant. She phlegmatically explained that it was simply a special moment and that I had to be patient. That for me to uncover the truth about her, I had to be with her. Simple enough to understand, except I completely didn't. And neither did Marisa by the looks of it. I silently thanked her for being patient with me and encouraging me.
“Say, wanna kiss me again?”
It took me a couple of minutes to process what she had just asked me. I stopped dead in my tracks. She was grinning, a couple of paces away. I sighed.
“I guess I'm really out of it, aren't I?” I said. There was no hiding it.
“Chin up, remember what she said, that everything will turn out fine.”
I mumbled something appreciative-sounding to her and focused on the way back. I did not think about the great library or the girl herself, instead spending time worrying pointlessly.
During the trip back I almost tripped several times. One of those times I was caught by Marisa and spared the embarrassment of landing face-first in mud. I could only thank her with empty words as we trod back to the lonely house.
The afternoon light had not yet waned. Something curious for the season. The facade of the house was brightly lit and light reflected off the windows and the pools of water still left from the earlier deluge. Marisa walked side by side up to the front door. She seemed to have wanted to say something, but could not find the words for it.
It didn't really matter. As soon as the door was opened I noticed something that hadn't been there when we left earlier. My heart skipped a beat and my legs sprung into action. Searching, moving, looking around, I scoured the entirety of the first floor in mere instants.
She stood by the window in the common room, calmly sipping from a cup of piping-hot tea. Her back was turned to me and her figure looked paradoxically both fragile and stern. Her clothes were muddied and from I was standing I could see that they had been wet for perhaps hours before she bothered to dry them off. Her boots were off, oddly enough, cast off to a side resembling two earthy pillars.
I could find no words except for a meek salutation, “Hello, how have you been Master?”
I felt that Marisa had joined us, standing in the doorway.
Alice ignored me, finishing off her cup of tea. I stayed absolutely still, my mind a mess of thoughts and actions, all contradictory.
She placed the cup gently on the tray beside her and turned slowly towards me. Her expression betrayed no emotion, save for a slight pink hue which may have been indicative of the continuing malaise. Her front side was as mud and rain stained as her rear, with ugly rude splotches of black and brown earth clinging to her usual dainty dress unceremoniously. Her hair was a mess, the headband missing and the blond tufts clumped together with dirt binding them together.
Slowly, steadily and measuredly, she took several steps towards me. She stopped a short distance away and for a moment I thought she would collapse. I felt my arm muscles tensing, ready to catch her. She did no such thing, icily staring into my eyes.
“Why were you gone?” She asked simply.
So many things came to mind but I ended up giving the most simple answer of all, “I was worried and decided to go look for you.”
The blow came too quickly for my eye to track it. There was a loud snap and force was violently applied to my cheek. I stood dumbfounded, not comprehending what had just happened. It began to sting and my body warned me that I had been hit. Her hand was still raised, flat and to her side, as if threatening a second blow if I reacted poorly.
And we gave up a chance at learning what's going on with Arc for this? She runs off sick and expects people not to go about trying to find her. Last time I checked, Magicians weren't that durable compared to other Youkai.
Feelings flooded my heart and thoughts confused my mind.
Amazement and incredulousness quickly turned to anger and indignation.
The Alice who was supposedly returning what she borrowed had not bothered to even say a word about her disappearance. She had not reciprocated the effort and dedication during her moments of weakness. The care, the attention, it was all turned aside into something ugly and cold. Her eyes remained as cold and focused as they usually were, devoid of any feeling but self-interest. I stared squarely into her eyes, looking for something which I could not find.
I spoke slowly and coolly, “If anyone is to be struck here, it's you. The reward for my efforts are not fair. I went through a lot for you. Worry, grief and even sorrow. Yes – sorrow.”
The calm and steadiness of my voice made it sound like someone else was speaking. I was like a man possessed and my lips moved at the behest of a thousand unseen devils, “Perhaps you don't understand what human kindness is all about, or what empathy is, but I expected better. You have no right to treat me like this, even if you do think it's the most efficient way to do things.”
I stared at her. She stared back. Despite her shorter stature, it was if she held the strength of a giant in those distant eyes of hers. Her lip quivered and I preemptively grabbed her arm, accepting that violence was not something out of the question.
“I do not need to explain myself to you,” She said with firmness, not even bothering to struggle with her arm to get free of my grip.
“Yes, yes you do.” Despite the cauldron of twisting flame raging within me, my temper did not find its way into my words. My voice changed pitch and I could scarcely recognize the words that came out of my mouth as my own, “As your apprentice, as your friend or even as just a person I deserve something better. I selflessly helped you out however I could and did not question your methods. Tricking me and then punishing me for your lies is just not something that I can stand.”
Alice laughed flatly. Her eyes failed to light up with any real signs of humor. She rebuked, “So selfless were you that now you expect a reward? Your speech emphasizes your own feelings and misguided notions, with little regard for anything else. You are not entitled to my heart nor to my mind, lest of what I wish to share. Friend? How quaint. Our relationship is strictly one of convenience.”
“How can you be so cold?” I asked myself, muttering quietly.
“If you're done grandstanding, unhand me. You have wasted more than enough time. You have been derelict in your duties. As an aspiring magician you must never forget that your training comes first.”
I refused to believe that she was being genuine. I had seen her smile, laugh even. I had seen warmth in her eyes. Those weren't just illusions, I was sure I had seen those things before. I had seen Alice be a person rather than just a sheet of ice. The nausea I felt made my head swim.
“Don't be such a bitch!” I yelled. My voice boomed out unexpectedly. My body shook and the fire from within burst out, “Don't pretend like it's so easy to separate things! Like it or not I've seen the vulnerable person that lies within your ice-cold shell. There's more to you than this! Don't try to deny it.” My voice quivered and my body trembled. My grip shook and loosened.
My thoughts weren't very coherent and I said whatever came to mind, “Learning from you, holding you or even just dealing with your paranoid streaks, they're all part of you. You can't pretend that you're so cold and detached, because you're not. Would it be so bad to thank me for taking care of you while you were burning up? Would it be so horrible for you to admit that it felt nice to have someone so worried about you? Someone who would feel like crap all day when you were gone and then stupidly go out to look for your? Maybe you would find that there's nothing wrong in acting a little human if you just tried. Imperfections aren't weaknesses.”
I didn't understand what I was saying anymore. But it felt like I got a lot off of my chest. Like that one time before with her, that time I thought I had gone a too far and could never see her again....
“Enough!” Alice interjected. Though her voice was still firm, her face showed fatigue and it was clear that she was not at her physical peak. At some point I had let go of her and she freely moved past me.
Alice calmly walked to the door, completely ignoring the stunned Marisa. Her footing seemed a little unsteady but she still managed to carry on with her usual composure. Her soft footsteps and the creaking of wood trailed off as she probably made her way up the stairs and into her room.
I stared vacantly at the doorway. Marisa came alive, looking at me with what was unmistakably pity. She hesitated, saying nothing and left as well, her footsteps also headed towards the upstairs.
I collapsed into a chair, spraying myself clumsily into the seat. With an elbow I kept my head off the table and with my other hand I stroked where Alice had struck me. It did not sting but rubbing the area kept my emotions in check. I saw her boots still abandoned, all muddied and filthy. I bit my lip but could not help but think of her wearing them in their usual pristine condition and with the natural aura of assertiveness that enveloped her.
For the first time that I could remember, I wished I had a drink. Not the good company that usually came with the drink, but the substance itself. Escaping into the pleasure produced by the fiery liquid was very appealing. Suika would approve, I was sure. Her merry temperament usually would cheer me up as well. As would the confrontations between her and Reimu. I was often thrust right in the middle of those and had to pick a side. I lost count of how many times I had sided with Reimu, making the flaxen-haired girl pout. And when the devil was on my shoulder and I felt like siding with the oni, I remember noticing how the shrine maiden would look a bit disappointed but then ultimately grin anyways.
“Leave me alone,” I spurted out something to Marisa. She had come back and looked like she was walking on eggshells.
“Do you want to spend the night at my place?”
“Is this another joke? I'm not in the mood for any jokes.”
“No, it's not,” Her voice was quiet and well-modulated. It was quite the change from her usual energetic and haphazard speech. She added, “Alice won't be coming out of her room. She told me that she wished to see no one. You both might need your space, so hence the invitation.”
She made no further mention of Alice's situation. And I could not bring myself to ask. I did not know what I was supposed to do or supposed to feel. Ironically, magic was the foremost thing on my mind. I could not stop thinking about spells and spellcraft, despite my situation with my master. Marisa smiled uneasily, like she didn't know what to expect from me. I wondered what my expression was like then.
[x] Stay The update would have had more meaning if he would have spent his whole time really searching for her. But instead he comes over as hypocritical much, screwing around with Marisa and so on. Even if Alice does not want to see someone and it will not show his words really hit her. And besides, we really don't know what she did last night, judging by her looks and exhaustion it must have been pretty hard. Why did she hit him when he said he was searching for her? This needs to be found out.
Stay, wait for her to calm down. Try to get past that icy shell and find out her reasons. He worried about her, stay on that path now.
It is my belief that Alice's demeanor will gradually change once Marisa is out of her house. Without Marisa around, she won't have to play up the aloof, cold, doll-like part of her personality. On the other hand, Marisa is a super-bro, and I feel like a complete asswipe just telling her to go home, merely so that this change can occur. ┐(´～`；)┌
>>22450 I'm not sure if Arc got the point across that he tried putting faith in her and studying but got so worried that he had to do something. Might have been an overlooked detailed. But as it is, I think seeing Arc first thing in the morning will restore whatever anger she's having.
Sometimes it's best to have time alone to think for both Arc and Alice.
>>22452 I doubt she's that sick now seeing how she megaton slapped Arc. An ailing magician type doesn't pack much of a punch.
>>22453 Backing down now isn't going to help anything after the outburst and nothing's going to change in that manner. If we're to get any point across to Alice, backing down is to be avoided.
>>22459 I don't think so, Tim. Arc's outburst kinda ruined the chance for that as she's clearly upset. Hence the suggestion of leaving and letting her cool down.
>>22459 I am not sure if we are reading the same story here. >Alice's demeanor will gradually change once Marisa is out of her house. It may be true that she won't be as pissed when she is not here but she will still be Alice. It's not like she will suddenly be another person because she left. >Without Marisa around, she won't have to play up the aloof, cold, doll-like part of her personality. She does not play it. She is like this, it is part of her personality. Her character. >I feel like a complete asswipe just telling her to go home I am sure because she is a.. super bro that she will understand it. We should leave it at friends with her in the first place and not go further anyway.
The time should be spent to find out why she was gone in the first place, why she did not want him to come with her or search for her. There must be reasons why she got mad but it would be too early to say she cares a bit for him and did not want him to get involved. We need to get into her head that she is not alone in this anymore and that there is a person who cares and will stand by her and not let her fight alone and will just help.
Not asking for some romantic improvement for now but just some personal improvement with her. Trust.
>>22462 Sounds nice except for the matter of Alice being as stubborn as 10 mules. I think if Arc sticks around, Alice'd just drill him harder and calm up about the important things.
>I am sure because she is a.. super bro that she will understand it. We should leave it at friends with her in the first place and not go further anyway.
My decision wasn't made for the sake of routefaggotry but for the matter of a more neutral enviroment to learn and Getting Marisa's take on things. The leaving the note bit is to explain the absence and to hopefully continue the point about caring and consideration. Arc isn't one to go off without saying anything or providing a reason.
>I'm not sure if Arc got the point across that he tried putting faith in her and studying but got so worried that he had to do something. I am sure he did bring it across. She should have it in the back of her mind somewhere right now while she is still angry at him. It will get through to her, not change her or let her say something but it is a foundation to build upon for a better relationship with her. >I think seeing Arc first thing in the morning will restore whatever anger she's having. This might be but on the other hand she would be a bit happy that he did not leave and spent the night with Marisa. That would be a lot worse. >Sometimes it's best to have time alone to think for both Arc and Alice. They will have their time alone. I am not sure what time it is there but just saying the whole night. Which should be enough to let them cool off. He has enough to think too. >Alice being as stubborn as 10 mules. Yes, then we have to show that we are as stubborn as 20 mules. We will not lose this important choice to get through to her. >I think if Arc sticks around, Alice'd just drill him harder and calm up about the important things. Not more than usual. She will probably just try to hide her feelings even more and maybe avoid more situations. >a more neutral enviroment to learn and Getting Marisa's take on things Not sure if you could call it a more neutral enviroment but to learn a bit from her would be interesting. Putting it on the list of things to do in the future would be a good idea.
>>22465 >Not sure if you could call it a more neutral enviroment but to learn a bit from her would be interesting. Putting it on the list of things to do in the future would be a good idea.
I say that as Marisa knows Alice pretty well, at least in terms of annoying her to no end. This at least suggests she knows the kinks. And I think the atmosphere at Alice's is pretty tense with all that's happened, and it'd interfere with her studies.
>Yes, then we have to show that we are as stubborn as 20 mules. We will not lose this important choice to get through to her.
Butting heads won't get us anywhere other than further apart if not her canceling the arrangement.
>They will have their time alone. I am not sure what time it is there but just saying the whole night. Which should be enough to let them cool off. He has enough to think too.
Except that head's a jumble and most of said night will be spent sleeping in Arc's case. Sure it might cool Arc off, not so sure about Alice.
>This might be but on the other hand she would be a bit happy that he did not leave and spent the night with Marisa. That would be a lot worse.
Leaving would give her food for thought as opposed to reassuring Alice that in the end, Arc's an obedient puppet.
>Not more than usual. She will probably just try to hide her feelings even more and maybe avoid more situations.
Chances are it will be more so as she'd try her best to bury the incident while stopping Arc from bringing it up.
At least I won't feel guilty if the winning vote leads to a disaster, though it's something some folks should learn so they don't make the same mistakes over and over.
She was unsurprised Arc was with Marisa, which means she probably checked Marisa's place after she got home and couldn't find him. Arc should give her as little room to ruminate as possible. Just being alone with Marisa for that amount of time under unknown pretenses was enough to work her into a fury; doing the same thing but overnight and after a fight is going to be a lot worse.
Marisa's behavior is surprisingly circumspect and sympathetic in a crisis. I don't think she'll be very offended if Arc barks at her to go home, though I wish he wouldn't.
>>22450 >But instead he comes over as hypocritical much, screwing around with Marisa and so on. He was with Marisa at Alice's house, waiting for Alice to come back. When he couldn't wait anymore, he went with Marisa to look for a way to find her. They were both concerned about her.
My answer came in the form of an apathetic flick of my hand. I rested my head on the table, using an arm as a supportive pillow. From that moment on, I shut myself to the world and to whatever else it was that Marisa said. It was like my body was hibernating, my thoughts slowed down and soon enough I wasn't even very aware of my surroundings. Whether my eyes were open or closed, it didn't matter, everything seemed so grey, so ultimately uninteresting.
At some point I apparently I fell asleep.
I saw awkward reminders of the world of magic, brightly colored smoke suffusing from my hands and merry shows of light tinging everything in bright hues of color. In the dream I was as apathetic as before, with events happened without the slightest interest shown on my part. It was a bother. The feeling I got was that, if I made an effort to listen and understand, I'd only be privy to chastisement and censure.
No matter what kind of devilish urging she employed, I just wasn't interested. I was not interested even in compliments. Not that there were any in store for me, just empty words and urgings for a more aggressive approach.
I only realized that I had stopped dreaming because of the cold sensation on my cheek. I automatically mumbled a complaint and kept my eyes closed. Once the confusion of being between sleep and consciousness eroded, I managed to open my eyes and look around.
It was dark. Evening.
The cold sensation may well have been my imagination, as I was still as alone as I had expected to be.
The blood in my veins was slow to circulate. Just thinking of getting up was difficult in my lethargic state.
My thoughts are what got me up and about. I could not shut them off as I had when I sat down before and that was my undoing. Blood pumped at higher pressures in order to motivate my flesh into action. I decided to move about because my body could not multitask very well, so I wouldn't condemn myself to a lot of unnecessary thinking.
I found reminders of what happened earlier. There were muddy footprints on the floor, dried and caked over. The boots were greyish-brown statues, seeming of stone and looking about as heavy. The biggest reminder was myself, of course, but the second biggest reminder was calmly humming a tune in the bathroom. Steam leaked from underneath the doorway and the only way I could have mistaken Marisa's usual cheer for someone else's is if I had been too intoxicated to function.
I avoided the small room that was the first-floor bathroom. I was not thinking of her privacy nor her current appearance, I just wanted some space. Or time. I wasn't sure which. My mind wasn't exactly in top shape and everything seemed like a haze.
I crept upstairs. Every door on the floor was shut. And likely bolted or locked. I didn't dare have the courage to try to knock on or open any of the doors. What I had said was something that I felt and for better or worse, Alice was acutely aware of how I felt. If she so wanted, she could ignore me, potentially shut me out completely without a second thought. I wished I was back home, at least there I knew of the secret crawlspace I could get into if I really wanted to be alone.
Perhaps I was supposed to be acting like an apprentice. The thought, the first clear one I had had all day, seemed perfectly logical. Differences in attitudes and character aside, I at least had expected me to do certain things and behave in a certain way. It was just the proper way, nothing more, nothing less.
 Patiently wait at Her door  There is no routine to fall back on, but time can be spent pretending it's just another day
[x] There is no routine to fall back on, but time can be spent pretending it's just another day.
Marisa's presence, though not unwanted, sort of defeats that 'endlessly enduring' archetype Arc would be emulating with other choice. Being overly passive could make her even more afraid of expressing her emotions than usual so as not to seem excessively cruel in front of Marisa. In her paranoia she might even misread it as a act on Arc's part to garner Marisa's sympathy.
>>22500 >Where is that copypasta about cleanliness when I need it.
You have to take a bath. You have to take a bath. Can't you feel it? During the night, while you slept, it came upon you. Grease. Grease, on every centimeter of your skin, from your fingertips to your face. Touch your cheek, quickly now—quickly! Surely you feel it now, how slippery, how utterly vile it has become. Everywhere. Everywhere.
[x] There is no routine to fall back on, but time can be spent pretending it's just another day.
Something about seeing within the mind, mud, hardening, creating a compacted crust that seem to mock any attempt to move it away. Its flecks of dirt laughing at you as you pick at it feverishly like scraping on a thick scab that itches something terrible.
>>22698 I don't even bother anymore to explain, instead usually saying nothing. That post is a result of a specific conversation and I cross-linked out of respect. That's the way things are, for better or worse, your indignation notwithstanding. I assure you it's hell of a lot more tiring and frustrating for me.
I'd think folks would comment more if they weren't afraid of being called a dumbass/retard as is often the case around here. I'm trying to add some commentary to my votes but it's kinda hard when you know, the whole lack of updates thing. But it seems it's just one of those days, oh well.
I think folks bandwagon in an attempt to get folks to update, seeing how most seem to think of ways to avoid updating.
I tend not to comment much when voting because I can think of nothing worth saying at the time (especially if someone else has already said it better than I would) its kind of frustrating sometimes but in some cases it would just be a case of me copy and pasting what someone else has said.
If I was to criticize this story now, it would be the voting in this story has my head spinning, it's kind of hard for me to comprehend what would happen if either of the choices happened. I'm kind of confused. It could be because i've spent all night reading this so i'm tired and also can't get the idea of Suika dressed as Tadakatsu Honda fucking shit up while trying to think.
In direct response to the cross-post, I had a rather strong feeling that she was just trying to get rid of us and wasn't surprised when she turned out to be gone, but i've only just started reading this today (I still would have left anyway, because she said so). anywho
[x] There is no routine to fall back on, but time can be spent pretending it's just another day. She has told us time and again we should be focusing/studying on getting that basic spell done. >"...You have been derelict in your duties. As an aspiring magician you must never forget that your training comes first.”