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File 13017684967.jpg - (1.48MB, 2029x2833, doll collection.jpg) [iqdb]
Discord. Usually a source of entertainment. Often a catalyst for a complete break. And after that came the joy of rebirth. It always followed that pattern, not caring who or what it destroyed. It was best observed, not experienced.

The time was not right for gambling. Even if what emerged from discord were to be stronger, the uncertainty involved was too big to be ignored. With carefully laid plans, the need to minimize risk was pivotal. A century of plot would not be undone by chance.

The strength of the bond was weak, but not had not completely given way. For someone of her abilities it was trivial to reach out as necessary. Already she made the most of the fledgling link, whispering half-truths and tempting promises. It would work. It always did. Events would be shaped to her liking. It was, after all, her plan. And it would not be changed without her consent.

“You'll catch a cold like that.”

“I could say the same to you,” I opened my eyes slowly. As expected, Marisa was still as exposed as before. Somehow she had gotten her clothes wet while in the bath and had emerged wearing nothing more than a towel. In an attempt to cover herself, she had left much exposed. The towel only extended to just above her bosom and barely reached the very upper extremity of her thigh. Though highly suggestive of the body underneath, I did not make an active effort of looking at her figure.

“I found the shirt,” She said.

“Put it on then, instead of just holding it.”

“Right,” I looked away just as the towel dropped and she unabashedly dressed in front of me. My mind was preoccupied with another female and spared her no second thought.

I got up. The hours had passed but the situation was still as complicated as before. Things were painfully uneventful.

The sun shone with uncharacteristic intensity early in the morning. I had slept virtually nothing and the bright light erased any traces of sleepiness I still had in me. There was not much to do except wait. Because I was the only person awake, I did not bother to prepare any food. There was little point in eating.

I began to pace.

I stopped not very long afterward. I went to the bathroom. The gaunt face with bags under its eyes that stared back at me from the mirror was alien to me. A handful of icy water taken from a bowl and splashed on my face did not change the reflection by much. The eyes shone a little more with signs of intelligence behind them but most of the other flesh was unresponsive. I sighed. I was not used to seeing myself look so worn down.

Marisa's clothes were gone from the spot she had left them to dry at. Excepting an undergarment which perhaps was overlooked by her. I sighed again. Knowing that there was someone else who didn't have it together, just like me, did not comfort me in the least. I began to pace again, walking between kitchen and parlor.

Her boots were gone.

I only noticed too late. They were both gone.

I sped up the stairs. The wood creaked violently with my hurried steps.

Her door was open. She was not in bed, like I had found her the other day. She was nowhere to be found. Had I slept more than I thought and missed her? I did not understand how it was possible. She escaped. Left without a trace. Just like before. And I was once again left holding the bag. My legs wobbled and my knees hit the floor. I felt so disgusted with myself that I almost vomited. Self-loathing was unusual for me.

I lay curled up on the floor for a while. It was too early to tell if I was feeling regret or something else entirely. I muttered to myself. I muttered the few spells and catechisms I had learned from her as if in a trance. The mantra was oddly comforting. It allowed me to center myself. I pushed away negative feelings, dismissing any blame for the moment. I propped myself up with my hands.

Eventually I gathered my wits and stood up. I examined the empty room, looking for clues on Alice's disappearance. Her bed was unmade and a few of her dolls lay strewn about casually. Those blond little figures looked like miniature versions of their creator. I stopped to wonder if, perhaps, that was intentional. The dolls had a range of variety, but some of them definitely resembled living people. The puppet master herself included. The painted on expressions were pleasant and cordial, but seemed to change whenever she was in control. Whether it was an effect of her magic or a simple illusion, I was not sure

I made my way downstairs, feeling that my nerves were reconstituting themselves. There was no certainty in what I was to believe, but I felt that I could at least begin to deal with the situation with confidence. I stepped into the small, dusty library. The books began to murmur but fell silent as I began to look around. I did not know which book contained what I was looking for and grabbed one at random. I poured through page upon page of indecipherable text. Finding nothing, I reached for the next book. The process was repeated several times before I stumbled upon exactly what I wanted.

Book in hand and sweat on my brow, I exited the tiny room and went to Alice's work area. I had not been allowed there before and so paused at the door. I conquered the subconscious impediment quickly by weighing in my desire against her stubborn and frustrating directives. Her desk was searched with little fanfare. I swept aside a few documents and searched her shelves for what I needed. The book told me what it was, what I should look for. I had a clear idea, I could picture it in my mind.

Clear, translucent even. It lay on a shelf behind the unpainted head of a yet unfinished doll. I picked it up, raising it towards the door. As light shone through the crystal, a rainbow of colors appeared on the opposite end. I smiled and cleared a spot on the table. With the book open I fetched a few missing elements before I began.

The words rolled off my tongue effortlessly. With the adequate catalyst, it seemed that everything was destined to go smoothly. The crystal began to move, charged by the small but directed energies released by the ritual. It spun on its axis, oscillating between the cardinal points and directions in between. One tip was red with blood – my blood – and attempted to point at all times to me. By completely saying all the words needed, that point instead began to seek out something else. It finally settled for a direction roughly North East from the house.

I left in a hurry, crystal in hand and spring in my every step. I broke into a run. Soon I was out of breath. And soon after my lungs burned. But still I ran. Branches and shrubs scrapped against my arms and legs, cutting me in places. I trusted myself and just pushed myself all the way.

The scrying had worked.

I tried to catch my breath, heart about to burst. In the clearing ahead Alice sat on a stump, looking directly at me. Her eyes were cold and unflinching. Marisa was also present. I did not know what to make of the scene. Alice's top open, Marisa's hands reached into her blouse as she wrapped her arms from behind. Her grin quickly disappeared from her face when she saw that I was there.

“It's not what you think,” Marisa announced. Her hands quickly withdrew from Alice. She took a couple of steps back, looking confused.

I ignored her. My eyes never left Alice.

“What's it going to be?” I asked. Though I spoke softly, I was sure that she could hear me.

“Speak your mind, if you must. I warn you, I wish to leave soon.”

“You can't keep me in the dark and play around with me as you please. I willingly became your apprentice in order to learn about magic.”

“And you would learn, if you stopped to listen. If you can't follow my instructions then there's no hope for you.”

“So if you ask my to jump off a cliff, I should abide?”


I clenched my fist. There was no way of getting through to her.

“Come on guys, settle down,” Marisa piped in. “I'm sure we can all reach a compromise and...”

“I think we're done here,” Alice got up, “I have a full and busy schedule ahead of me.” She adjusted her top, buttoning herself up rapidly. She looked straight into my eyes, “If you wish to learn magic, you will listen to what I have to say. Your personal feelings should never factor in, nor should mine. Complete your task and speak to me. We'll proceed from there.”

She stopped before leaving, looking at my hands. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the crystal, “Never use my materials without my permission again.”

I did not have anything else I could say to her. She simply walked away at her own pace, leaving me in tumult.

Marisa walked up to me. She placed a hand on my shoulder, “You shouldn't have come out here, I was trying to talk sense to her. I think this will just give her an excuse to act stubborn.”

She sighed.

“Should I just give up?” I mumbled.

“It's impressive how you found us,” Marisa talked as we walked back. It was clear that she was trying to distract me again. “I mean, it took me a month to learn tha sort of spell. To think you'd do it your first time is pretty impressive. Of course, you seem to lack in other areas but no one is perfect, right?”

“Right,” I replied dourly.

“Maybe this whole thing would be solved if you grabbed her and held her tenderly. You know, stared into her eyes and said 'I do not want to be apart from you a moment longer. You are all I think of and wish to be more than master and apprentice.' and she'd be all like 'We must not, we cannot betray our sacred bond. But yet... part of me wants this to happen. Oh be still, my heart!'”


“Just a thought,” She shrugged, “At this stage it's anyone's guess as to how this is best resolved.”

“Maybe I will try that...”


I smiled. I shrugged, “Well, it's just a thought.”

I was in no mood for far-fetched scenarios.

“You know...” Marisa continued, “She had a fever. A really high one as well. We were taking a stroll and she suddenly stumbled. She was sweating buckets and her forehead felt like it was burning up.”

I imagined the series of events that lead to Marisa undressing her companion out of concern.

“You forgot your underwear,” I said nonchalantly.

“Excuse me?”

“You left it in the bathroom. I saw when I woke up.”

“You better not have done anything weird to them. I'll get back at you if you cast a love spell or put itching powder on them.”

“...I didn't.” Her examples were strange.

“I believe you. There's no such thing as a love spell anyways. You have to steal a girl's heart he old fashioned way, I'm afraid.” She sighed. I shook my head.

We arrived back at Alice's house. Alice presumably was upstairs in her own room. Marisa went off under the pretext of making tea. The kitchen was in the opposite direction of the bathroom, however. I shook my head.

[] Practice magic
[] Try to take care of Alice
[x] Practice magic

Might as well stick to it until her mood warms up... if ever.
[x] Practice magic

This whole segment was as subtle as a brick to the face. Well, at least we know where we stand now. That said, I no longer give a single shit about Alice. What an unlikeable frigid bitch.
[x] Try to take care of Alice

Damnit, Alice. Why do you do this to us?
[x] Try to take care of Alice
Marisa is such a nice girl. Just, i don't like how she behaves.
[x] Practice magic

>Complete your task and speak to me. We'll proceed from there.”

That's pretty unequivocal. It's clear she won't let Arc help her while she's still at all ambulatory. At least Marisa is there to go after her if she decides to make another impromptu day trip. We can't help it if she's uncomfortable showing weakness in front of Arc; she might have less a problem with Marisa because she respects her as a fellow magician.
[x] Practice magic
She obviously isn't receptive to much of anything right now. Time to give some space.
[x] Practice magic

It couldn't hurt to practice magic once and then help Alice later when it comes up.
[x] Try to take care of Alice

If there's no "wrong" option here, then this is a vote that will set the tone of the story. Going back to practicing magic might appease Alice and go the distance in returning things to normal. If this is true, why the heck didn't we just do that in the first place?

I think we should stay the path now that we're this deep and continue to reach out to Alice no matter what she says. I don't know about you all, but I'd rather not see Arc turn out just like Alice. That's just a worse-case scenario assumption, but the seeds have already been planted. This has been affecting Arc deeply.

Let's keep at it, the facade has to break sometime, Arc definitely hit a nerve when he was taking care of Alice. She probably hates being vulnerable and wants to maintain her image. Let's keep the pressure up.
you're reading way too much into things.
Actually, I would say he isn't. I would say that the immediate consequences of the choices aren't as important as the not-immediate consequences. This has been true for most of the updates thus far. Certainly going to Voile/recurring to Marisa, standing up to Alice and even delving into books without Alice's consent or knowledge have not had important immediate consequences. Large amounts of narrative time often pass with each update, so it wouldn't been too far-fetched to equate the choices more often than not with choosing policy and generalities than just mere specifics.

I feel it's stupid of me to point this out, perhaps insulting even. This is the sort of thing that the reader is supposed to pick up on by himself. The tone of the story, by itself, should have encouraged differentiation.

I've been far busier than I thought I would be, so no updates right now. Maybe later today or tomorrow, more likely late if (ha ha) there's more votes/changing of votes/discussion/love sonnets for magicians posted.
I suppose it was daft of me to even expect an acknowledgement for the above. Issues with that keeping me from writing aside, I have been busy these past two weeks. Feel free to ignore this as well, since I can't promise anything at the moment.
Ignoring warmly.

There's nothing to say that hasn't been said already.

It wasn't ignored so much as it was written in a manner that doesn't invite a response.

But if it makes any difference: 'Hooray!'
I would say that it's reasonable to expect that when the storyteller outright says that someone is wrong and someone else is right, and it's something that seemingly impacts a very concurrent decision the host of the audience would at least go 'oh, maybe I was wrong in thinking that and acting that way'. But you know, that may just be me expecting people to perhaps occasionally question their rationale when confronted with sound arguments and evidence and for them to sometimes take their heads out of the sand. I guess I'm just weird like that. Expecting better of myself and others is a bit ridiculous perhaps. I mean it's not like this vote isn't potentially crucial in defining future outcomes. So it's okay to go with whatever without so much as a second thought.

Once again I find myself thinking of how to best proceed. I now have time to write but not so much certainty. The previous response did little to convince me that things are alright. Nor do I see it likely that there will be a spontaneous display that'll reassure me that I'm doing the right thing.

tl;dr - I don't know what to do and it sucks ;_;
>severe case of not having a ego

Here, let me help you with this in five easy steps:
1. Purchase a prostitute
2. Procede to have sexual intercourse with the prostitute
3. Brutally murder the aforementioned prostitute
4. Snort coke off the dead prostitutes body
5. Update this story while you still feel like a MAN

Rinse and repeat every time you want to update the story but doubt yourself for some reason.
File 130385486415.jpg - (216.56KB, 400x400, alice angry.jpg) [iqdb]
>I would say that it's reasonable to expect that when the storyteller outright says that someone is wrong and someone else is right, and it's something that seemingly impacts a very concurrent decision the host of the audience would at least go 'oh, maybe I was wrong in thinking that and acting that way'. But you know, that may just be me expecting people to perhaps occasionally question their rationale when confronted with sound arguments and evidence and for them to sometimes take their heads out of the sand.

In the case that the option is merely choosing what way Arc spends his time for the next segment of the story, I voted for 'practicing magic' because I think Arc would feel pretty hurt & dejected and not want to be around Alice right now. In the case that this has long term effects on Arc and Alice's relationship, I still choose 'practicing magic' because it's clear Alice doesn't really have much respect for Arc and learning magic more quickly is the only feasible way I can see right now of fixing that.

Now that we've been given plenty of time to think about the implications of our choices, why don't you write the story you want to write about, drawing whatever inferences you want from the discussion of the voters, or lack thereof, instead of being so fucking snide about it?

Yes, I mad.
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>plenty of time to think about the implications of our choices
It's not clear that you have as a collective. It's cool that you are so certain of your reasoning even after considering the opposing point of view but, again, I at least expect acknowledgement at the time when there is either word from god or well-thought arguments from the other side. I (naively) do expect this sort of thing to generate counterarguments/discussion or even changing of votes. When that doesn't happen I scratch my head and wonder.

My biggest fear is to have people further down along the line exclaim "how and why have we gotten here?! This sucks!". It will mean that I have utterly failed as a storyteller. It would be a repeat of what has happened before. I put a lot of myself into these stories, as mediocre as they may be in the grand scheme of things, and wish to make of them the best that they can be. I am constantly critical of myself and see most of these issues and pauses as my failings - Failures to invigorate the readers and nurture a proper environment.

I am contrite about making you upset. That is a result of misdirected self-loathing and lashing out when I'm mostly to blame. Honestly I'm a little surprised I still have any readers, given the whole not updating and other issues. I really don't feel good about where we're going with the story, not just because this one choice but the ones preceding it as well and the display shown. I do not know if what I'm doing as a writer is any good. I am still at a loss about further updates.
[x] Practice magic


I actually think that the collective has.

Whether it is due to Alice being written as particularly unpleasant, or agreeing with the limited comments others have made so far, I can't see my choice being anything else.

Personally, I feel that Alice has been written in a way that makes voting the "correct" way that the word of God might indicate feel very strange. Even if wrong, I don't feel the way things are written currently supports anything but ignoring Alice.

At least for awhile.
[x] Practice magic

Oh you poor sap.

c'est la vie
You guys don't get it, do you?

Why is the writefag distraught about writing the winning option? The reason I can see immediately is because that option will lead down a path where the actual satisfaction of getting through to Alice will be lost and he'll be forced to write mediocrity that he knows his readers won't be satisfied with. It's happened before, twice actually.

Correct me if I'm wrong.
>Why is the writefag distraught about writing the winning option?

Forgive me for not being a masochist then..?

>that option will lead down a path where the actual satisfaction of getting through to Alice will be lost and he'll be forced to write mediocrity that he knows his readers won't be satisfied with.

You can't win them all. If it's truly distressing to the author, the author ought to see it as a challenge and push the limits rather than settle easily. Who knows the author may become surprised and blow the anon's minds away; in a very positive manner preferably.

This anon's more dissatisfied with the irrational self depreciation of the author's skills and occasional bouts of madness & again irrational depression that hinder his ability to write as well as even enjoy the fact that there are people that actually like to read the story.

At the very least I have no complaints and can solidly say I've enjoyed reading the stories. Only time I've raged was out of a misunderstanding from the very beginning where I thought he ended the entire story very abruptly with no closure.
One more thing

>Why is the writefag distraught about writing the winning option?



So is this on the author to herd anon in an on-rails experience or is it for anon to create their own experience depending upon the author to provide the story?
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The writer is disappointed when you don't pick the right choices that seem logic, take a bit of thinking and cooperating. Of course he expects you to pick them.

But we already had those a dozen times already. What is needed are updates. Daily.

Now when has anon been known to follow logic except for when it blatantly benefits them?

I keed I keed

>What is needed are updates. Daily.


If the author is that set on writing a particular angle or direction, either don't allow said choice in the first place, or be very careful about writing CYOA stories. One of the key things about CYOA is dealing with the bizarre, strange, or illogical choices Anon makes and somehow turning it into something greater than its parts. It's the blessing/curse of the whole thing and why it's so hard to write.

While Anon makes ridiculous choices sometimes (often), guess what? A completely logical character would be boring and mediocre, in my books.
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She paused at the strange sight. For a while, she wondered if maybe she should just ignore it. Getting too tangled up in the affair's of others was not something she liked to do. Still, there was something about the situation that made her think twice. Maybe it was because the hunched over silhouette looked so lonely and pitiful. Or maybe it was because the steady sound of rainfall made the day seem especially dreary. She wasn't quite sure herself. There was a vaguely-defined unease in her mind that made her act in spite of herself.

“Hungover again?” She asked. Her tone was intended to playfully tease her. It was carefully practiced.

“...mmm?” The girl barely reacted to her words. She continued to stare out into the distance, at the trees and the clouds. Her usual gaiety and energy were conspicuously missing.

“Normally you'd still be asleep at this time of day,” She felt uneasy at continuing the conversation but did not want to walk away either. She said, “Lying somewhere in the shrine covered in empty bottles. You know, the usual.”

“I guess I didn't feel like it,” The girl stated simply.

“Oh? And what brought that on?” She continued to act her part, “I'd ask if you were feeling well but, as you've told me many times before, oni are invincible. The day a great oni like Suika gets sick is the day the world ends.”

“I'm fine... just fine. It's not like that.” Suika muttered and slumped forward a little more. Her chin drooped down and her horns jutted forward parallel to the ground. Her legs rocked slowly back and forth – at their maximum extension they encountered the rain. She seemed to not care about it.

She let slip a few words that in hindsight were pointless, “would you like me to make us a bit of tea?” She asked, “The day is cold and something warm would be nice, don't you think?”

“No, it's okay.” And as if suddenly remembering she wasn't talking to herself, Suika looked up, adding, “thanks anyways.”

She looked down at her, finding none of that mischievous energy in her eyes. It was weird. Unexpected. To the usual unwelcome vigor and chaos she had a million and one reactions. She was almost at a loss for words. So she sat down next to the girl, deciding to stare out at the rain. It was a pointless activity. There was a million and one things to do at the shrine. Places to clean, rituals to perform and duties to see through. Doing nothing was not something she particularly wanted to do. The few stray droplets blown inwards by the wind made sitting there uncomfortable.

“If I asked you what you were thinking, would you tell me?” She asked without looking at the oni.

“Hm, why do you want to know?”

“I guess because I've never asked before. I'm a little curious,” She laughed dryly.

“I'm just thinking about how it's rainy today. Anyone caught outside without an umbrella would catch a cold, dontcha think?”

“Ah, probably.”

“It's important to be as strong as possible,” Suika continued, “That way you can live every day like you want.”

It was not the time for another joke. It would not be appropriate. She just allowed the smaller girl to say what she wanted without interruption.

“I don't think that it's important to go mixing yourself up in all sort of different complicated business. Ya hafta do the things that you have to and for the rest you just laugh and not worry about it. There's no point in going out and making new problems for yourself,” Suika concluded. The oni's voice was soft, gentler than she had ever heard it before. It made her forget all about the spirited menace and pain in the neck for an instant; She looked up at the overcast sky thinking of what to say to the vulnerable girl next to her.

“I don't think that matters,” She finally said something. She thought of the moments in the previous weeks that made her happy. She felt like sighing, but held it in. Instead she said, “All that's important is being nice to the people who are nice to you and things will be alright no matter how complicated things get.”

“Eh-” The oni seemed to consider her words. A minute or two passed. Suika chirped cheerfully, “I'll keep being extra nice to you then.”

“Why do I feel like I've just given myself another cause for headache?”

“Because you're too uptight. You should listen to yourself and be nice to the people who are nice to you.”

She almost regretted not leaving Suika alone. Already more of her familiar attitude seemed to come back. The oni leaned against her and produced a bottle. Suika wasted no time in opening it. She expected the oni to become even more lively soon. This time she could not help herself and she sighed. She allowed her thoughts to wander beyond the shrine, it was the least she could do to distract herself from the inevitable commotion. There was now a different unease in her heart, difficult to define or categorize.

The clouds were thick and dark. There was no sign of the rain letting up anytime soon.
>The clouds were thick and dark. There was no sign of the rain letting up anytime soon.

Real life foreshadowing? Bah, I don't know what to think of you anymore. I would just be very thankful if you got back to writing some more of this story in the near future. So then, get back to work.

That's a dismal assessment even for my standards. The elements in the story do not reflect reality or my opinions necessarily.

Can't say it's wholly unexpected but it's still a bit of a shock to have a single reader left.
>The elements in the story do not reflect reality or my opinions necessarily

Sorry, sorry, but with a closing statement like that, I thought you were doing an extremely heavy-handed whining post about your feelings between yourself and the readership, (or lack-thereof) ya know. You don't exactly have a stellar track record on that front, so...

>single reader left.
I am not that other guy. There are definitely two for sure.

Make that three readers. Why? Because your story is worth the drama.

But hey, what do I know? My vote of confidence hasn't exactly mattered in the past. Why should it now?
I love reading this story. You just don't really update much so I don't have anything to say.
Say what you will about me, I at least have striven to be honest and forward in communication. What you refer to as whining is communication and if you don't like it, too bad. It makes my position unambiguous, ideally the reader's as well.

As nice as it sometimes is, I'm not looking for a vote of confidence. How people feel about me is not important. I would prefer it if energy is spent on thinking about the story, taking a minute to say something, to otherwise engage.

Your implication is nonsensical. What you have to say should never be tied to how often a story updates. If Fallout Gensokyo or RwVT updated this very instant I certainly would do my best to say stuff.

I'm not going to reply anymore, just like with the previous discussion. There's no point in cluttering up the thread with this. I don't want people reporting in, frankly your numbers don't matter that much. I prefer a few with something relevant to say to the many with nothing to say. A few days with relative nothing is not impressive either way.
>single reader left.
I am on board. But what do i count anyway. For nothing anyway.

Give me Reisen, damnit. I curse you all.
yay, an update.
Always like a good read here~
You have more readers than you think you have (inb4 someone says we're samefagging)
If you're looking for more discussion, then there needs to be more updates so there is more to discuss about. But to update more, you want more discussion about the story. And you arn't always guaranteed discussion if it's an update with little to no plot points, real decisions, or there's just isn't much to say that hasn't already been said.

I know this has probably been stated by previous anon's, but to get this story back on track, there needs to be more updates, with or without discussion. If you actually want to see this story to the end and you enjoy writing, you're probably going to have to deal with a few more forced updates that are going to be a bitch to type up. Not much you can do about that, except get it over with, or just abandon the story. I, and i'm sure plenty of other anon's agree with me, would rather not have you do the latter. It's been a very good read so far, and I would hate to see it die off along with you as a writer on this website.
What he said.
I'll apologize in advance I said I wasn't going to reply further but this leaves me with no choice. Please don't bother replying! I don't want your sympathy, to know that you're there or your opinion on how I should carry on with my story. Please read what I've said just a post before. All I ask is that you mind the story. That's all. Like a lot of people I have been busy, stressed out, whatever. Despite that I wrote something. All I wanted was to hear anything about that. A single relevant reply or two was all I wanted. Not that I was being heavy-handed nor about drama or other irrelevant opinions. Even a stupid line about the equally stupid file name would do, my standards have sunken that low. You're making it hard for me to feel confident that I'm getting through to you if you won't even listen to the most basic of requests. And without that, there's no point in carrying on. What's the point of telling a story if no one is listening? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. Please don't debate me on this, it's all been said before. Either do something constructive or do nothing at all. This time this really will be the last off-topic post I make for now.
you're too uptight. You should listen to yourself and be nice to the people who are nice to you.”
>Please don't bother replying! I don't want your sympathy, to know that you're there or your opinion on how I should carry on with my story. Please read what I've said just a post before.

Durr hurr.
He means it. If you want to make him a happy writer just do a bit of discussion about his updates which would be enough to show him people enjoy what he writes.
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IMO Anons are often afraid to discuss stories between choices because posting can break up the continuity of the update, especially when given no indication of when the author's next post will be. There's also the fact that usually when they vote, Anon has more expectation of discussion & argument with other voters, rather than just typing up their impressions they try to justify the protagonist responding one way or the other, and that contributes to the volume of the response. Using the reaction (or lack thereof) to an incomplete update is probably a pretty bad dipstick for judging how your readership feels about your writing or the update in particular.

It was an interesting aside. I like your Reimu very much, and it's good to see that your characterization of Suika is more dynamic than 'parties and hijinx, all day, every day'.

However, if we're given narration outside of Arc's point of view, I'd rather it have been on characters more immediately relevant to the story, especially Alice, but also Mima, Maria, or even Patchouli.

If you plan on keeping what went on with Alice before a secret for plot reasons, I hope you've planned some mechanism that will reveal the pertinent facts later. Otherwise, you're going to end up with Anon scratching his head, like at the end of DEFT1.

I guess my most constructive advice would be to complete the update.

>If Fallout Gensokyo or RwVT updated this very instant I certainly would do my best to say stuff.
>Fallout Gensokyo

And maybe I'll try to get to work too. Nigger.
>It was an interesting aside. I like your Reimu very much, and it's good to see that your characterization of Suika is more dynamic than 'parties and hijinx, all day, every day'.

It only took 11 days for someone to say something. I would have settled for less to be honest, I was serious about the filename bit - even that would have been fine. As for the rest, I usually am not wasteful with what I've written for these stories. If a scene appeared, focusing on whomever, it's for a reason. I know it's a bit of a stretch to remember everything especially given the intermittent nature of updates but even the postscript of sorts to ADEFT was there for a reason, not that it seems like people paid much attention to it anyways.

> I'd rather it have been on characters more immediately relevant to the story, especially Alice, but also Mima, Maria, or even Patchouli.

There have already been bits written from others' POVs.Again, no one really ever seems to pick up on that.

Explains my worry partially, donnit?

>Fallout Gensokyo
I feel like I'm lying a bit about that actually. If an update suddenly materialized I'd have to reread the whole story before being able to participate since I can't remember much in the way of details. Intent usually isn't good enough.

I guess that even after waiting a day or so that's all that's going to happen so I'll once again fool myself into thinking that everything will be okay and write. Maybe one of these times it'll stick.
File 130749112692.jpg - (850.13KB, 800x800, glass half half empty.jpg) [iqdb]
“Nice posture, try holding your arm a bit more to your side though. Yeah, sort of like that.”


“No, no. If you flick your wrist like that, you'll just look like a dandy. Not manly at all.”


“Are you even trying anymore? Don't look at me like that, man! I'm just trying to help.”

The last glare I gave her was more than enough to transmit my feelings in full. Marisa sat at the table, feet plopped on top, and leaned back in her seat. She occasionally sipped from a cup of tea as she gave her pleasant insight by means of commentary on my form. The continuous input began to wear thin within the first five minutes and was none to pleasant an hour later either. The glare shut her up for only a few minutes. She was soon being annoying again.

It wasn't like I could get her to go away either. I did what I could but she followed. She would have none of my excuses that I needed solitude or to concentrate. In her words, “What you need is to have a reassuring presence by your side.”

I wasn't sure she was right about that. I could manage well enough without her interfering.

“Gah, I'm hungry. Aren't you?” She asked as she stretched. “I wonder if Alice keeps anything worth eating in the pantry. Maybe I should go upstairs and ask her.”


“Why not? I should ask if it's cool that I make something to eat, for all I know she has a fancy lunch lined up for us. Wouldn't want to spoil that.”

“She obviously wants to be alone so leave her alone. If you want to make something go ahead, I'll take responsibility,” I said without so much as looking away from the reference book I was reading.

“How can you take responsibility for something that's not even yours? Sounds a bit presumptive to me. Maybe hanging out with that oni wasn't the best influence on you.”

“Suika is fine, she hasn't really changed me,” I stated with some apprehension. I did not think it was necessary to go into further detail.

“You certainly have changed from the flaky guy I first met though. Not sure if you're more dependable or if it's just all for show.”

“Mmm... that's not very nice of you to say.”

“Just telling the truth,” She paused. I wondered what she was trying to get at. I did not turn around to face her, concentrating on the text. It felt like she suppressed a sigh, “Ah well, I guess I'll go make us something. Don't blame me if I wasn't supposed to.”

I didn't think that I was being obsessive. Yet somehow I didn't notice time passing at all. All of the sounds and smells from a kitchen at work were completely unnoticed. I studied the same old text over and over again. If it was possible to permanently burn something into the mind, I felt that I had discovered how. The words seemed useless but I recited them in the form of a mental litany. I tried to extract meaning where there obviously wasn't any, as if old material would magically coalesce into the needed catechism. As much as I tried, enlightenment seemed too far away for me to grasp.

“Food's been ready for a while, you know,” Marisa interrupted with a tap on my shoulder, “It'll get cold if you don't hurry up.”

“Fine,” I put down my work and sat at the table. I was vaguely aware of Marisa's voice telling me to go ahead and dig in. I didn't really even look at the meal, instead simply shoveling in mouthfuls mechanically. If there was a taste to it, it was being ignored in favor of the repetitive mental recitation. I finished soon enough and got up. I immediately went back to work.

I couldn't get the spell to work. Again and again I tried. I could not reproduce the elegant result that Alice seemed to be able to achieve with ease. Nothing happened simply. It was like my magic was failing to connect and bond with the rest of the components. Worse yet was the feeling of fatigue my body was starting to complain about.

“Expand into the void between matter...” I mumbled to myself.

“Sounds fun,” Marisa chirped in, “Don't you think you should take a break first though? You've been at this all morning and most of the afternoon. Your hard work is really doing wonders for how awesome you are in my eyes but you're just going to wear yourself out at this rate.”

“You're right,” I admitted flatly. As frustrating as it may have been, there was little point in doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The other minor spells I tried that day had all worked without a single hiccup. I bit my lip.

“Come on, let's take it easy for a while. I'll make some more tea.”

For all practical purposes, the day was over. The sun hung low over the trees and the sky was dyed a bloody red. The days were much shorter. It would not be longer before nightfall.

“Hello, are you there?” Marisa waved her hand in front of my face. I realized I had been spacing out. I wasn't sure for how long. Tea had been poured for me. I picked up the cup and muttered a small thanks. “Good,” Marisa smiled, “Stop thinking about that and just talk to me for a while.”

“Talk about what?”

“I don't know, stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“I don't know... what's your favorite color?”





She frowned. I sighed.

“Come on, it's obvious you're trying to bring a specific subject up. I'm not that dense,” I said.

“You know, she didn't come down at all today. I wonder if she's okay,” Marisa smiled again, insinuating something. I wasn't sure what.

“It can't be helped.”

“Aren't you worried?”

“Yes. But it can't be helped,” I gently swished the contents of my cup around. The red liquid almost spilled out on occasion so I was careful to limit my range of movement.

“How does she make you feel?”


“Is that all?” She cocked an eyebrow.

“How else should she make me feel?”

“You know, you're no fun when you're like this. You should blush and start stuttering, it would suit you better,” She remarked teasingly.

“I'm sorry to disappoint.”

“Gah, you really are becoming just like her. At this rate I'll have to deal with three emotionally distant magicians. That's not cool, I'll have to hang out with normal people more to counteract your effect.” There was an over-exaggerated scowl on her face.

“Well, what do you want me to say?”

“I don't know. That you want to hold her, to reassure her to do everything you can to break through her shell. Something that shows you're still a normal guy!” She exclaimed.

“Things are complicated,” You sum the situation up.

“Give me something, anything. How am I supposed to help when the both of you act like stubborn asses?”

“You know, I didn't ask for your help with this.”

“That's cold.”

“Sorry, but it's true.”

She sighed. I heard her mutter something to the effect that “you really are the same.”

[] Get back to work
[] Admit to feeling something besides indifference
[x] Get back to work

I'm pretty sure Marisa's presence here isn't going to help Arc learn magic nor get Alice to stop being so withdrawn. Regardless of her good intentions, Marisa thinks force makes everything alright which doesn't seem the case with Alice. I'm sure this will make Marisa mad, but we have more important things to worry about right now. Ignoring her is probably the best way to get rid of her.
[x] Admit to feeling something besides indifference

I couldn't give a single shit about Alice, but making an attempt at conversation will go a long way for Marisa. She's trying pretty hard to cheer us up and lighten the mood, so it's only fair that we try and meet her halfway.
[x] Admit to feeling something besides besides indifference

We've proved that continuously trying to cast the same spells over and over isn't going to get us anywhere any time soon, and I'm sure Arc feels some other emotion besides frustration towards Alice at this point.
[x] Admit to feeling something besides indifference.

If Marisa's lending an ear, why not take advantage of it? But it's nice to see Marisa notices the changes Arc is making as a result of this studying. It alsmot makes me wish we studied under Marisa instead.
Come on, the three of them are not emotional distanced. Just special in showing their caring. Especially him, he has strange ways of showing he cares.
I am not sure if and how she can help, it will probably be a long shot.

For the meantime telling he has some sort of feelings for her is a good thing. Things are at an idle state at the moment so might as well see what happens next.

[x] Admit to feeling something besides indifference
[x] Admit to feeling something besides indifference

I like Marisa, but her teasing seems to get more caustic when bored or frustrated. I don't want her to say something that makes Arc snap at her, so he might as well deliver the (true) answer that she's looking for here. I think this option is less likely to leave Arc with regrets.
[X] Get back to work.

Stay consistent. He can apologize after he completes the spell. Distractions will only prove to be a setback. He must master it at all costs.
I needed to get up. I needed to go back to work. I needed to keep ramming my head against the wall. That's what my instinct told me. Hard work produced results. There is ample payoff for effort. Even if it wasn't always immediately apparent. It was what Auntie always tried to teach me. But another contradictory thought came to mind. One that wasn't an explicit teaching. It was a thought that would nonetheless make her smile, I felt.

“It's not like I simply worry because she's been teaching me and I feel that I owe her something,” I spoke up, only too conscious of where the conversation was going. For the first time all day, I lifted up my gaze from the invisible book still in front of me. My eyes met Marisa's. I continued to speak, adding, “Things are complicated in more than one sense.”

I expected her to tease me about a line as leading as that. To my astonishment she simply smiled, saying, “Things are always complicated, but you can't let that get to your head.”

“Guess not.”

“I'm sure you were brought up to be honest so why don't you try being honest with yourself?” She suggested. “I may not be the smartest person but I think it's best to accept the simple answers as they come.”

“It's not just up to me.”

“Maybe not. But you can't keep waiting without doing anything either. You gotta start somewhere,” She leaned forward in her seat, reaching for the kettle. She poured herself some more tea and offered me some with a gesture. I declined, swishing around the little remaining liquid while mulling over her words.

“I take it this isn't the first time you've given that advice,” I drank the remaining lukewarm tea in a single sip. I placed the cup down on the table and crossed my arms.

“Hm, that might be true. It doesn't really matter I think. I'm a straightforward sort of gal though,” She shrugged, “I say that I like something or someone, and I usually mean it. There's no point in keeping things secret. I couldn't use my awesome magic if I lied to myself. Love is direct like that. It refuses to be denied.”

“Love, huh?” I half-mumbled. I tilted my head back, distancing myself for a moment from the conversation.

“It's all you need.”

“All I need is love?” I furrowed my brows. I looked at her again. She was grinning. A less serious part of her was showing itself. Not wanting to sigh, I tried something different, “You're right!” I exclaimed.

I exploded out of my seat with a jump. The sudden movement made me a little dizzy but I ignored that. Marisa seemed surprised. She put down her tea cup with a puzzled expression, “What?” She asked.

“I got it. I totally get what you mean. It's, like, so clear now.” I once again thought of Auntie. She would approve of what I was doing, I thought. I did not lose my momentum, edging forwards towards her. I came up behind her and placed my hands on her shoulders. I said, “I know what I needed all along now.”

Marisa got up. She tried to turn around but my firm hold prevented her from turning. She asked, “What do you think you're doing?”

“Just what I should have done a long time ago...”

“Erm... why are you massaging my shoulders for me?”

“Because I love you.”


“I've been thinking about it for so long but I didn't know what it was until your words earlier. The other night, our secret meetings... all of that happened because I wanted you. I just didn't know how to explain it,” I wished to see her face. If I let go of her I felt like she might squirm away. I repeated her words, “Love is direct. It refuses to be denied. You were right. All this time I failed to see the signs.”

“Your hands really are big and comforting...” She muttered. Evidently thinking that she needed to say something more than that, she spoke up, “I understand. But I'm sorry, I don't think it's right for us to be like that. Because I know that there is another.”

“That's not true. There is only you.”

“Words, nothing more than just words.”

“It's much more than just words.”

“Kiss me then,” She spun around with such force that I let go of her. Her eyes were wide and shimmering with the last of the afternoon light. She looked straight at me, her head tilted upwards and lips trembling in anticipation. She placed her knee on the chair, bringing our faces closer.

I held her from the waist and brought her closer. I felt the warmth of her breath on me. Her healthy pink lips invited me to go on further.

“It wouldn't be right,” I said as I let her go. I had gone far enough.

Instead of a look of hurt and betrayal that I expected she broke into a hearty laugh, “Ohohoho! I knew it! You almost had me going there for a moment.”

“You really saw right through me...”

“Aww don't be like that!” She chuckled, “You did a good job. You hammed it up a little too much though. I know you well enough to know that you're not impulsive about this sort of thing, sudden revelation or not.”

“Well, it was a little thank you for your concern, I guess.”

“You mean payback, right?”

“Is there a difference?”

“You learn quick. Don't let this make you lose heart. Even though I knew where you were going you still made me feel just a little excited. My heart was beating faster when you were holding me,” She admitted.

“Isn't that a little embarrassing to admit?” I took a step back, feeling a bit bashful.

“Not as embarrassing as what you did. If only someone else had seen it, it would have been golden.”

“It was a special service for someone who has been patient with me.”

“Much honored, thanks.”

In the end, I wasn't able to really explain how I felt about Alice. I suspected that the perky and energetic blond knew without me saying anything. She was sharper than people gave her credit for. Sharper than I first had thought her to be. She may have known better than my own heart did, in fact. As the evening began, I did not go back to work. I instead spent time talking to Marisa, relaxing and not letting the weight of the world crush me. We drank a lot more tea. I smiled without even really knowing why anymore.

“I've got to go,” Marisa told me late in the evening. When I asked her why, she gave me a straight answer, “I've done what I can here. You probably can handle the rest.”

Naturally I protested.

“I've got a life as well. Things to do, mushrooms to pick. Shrine maidens to harass.” She nodded with self-satisfaction, “A very busy schedule I'm sure you'll agree.”

“Somehow it feels like you're not telling me the entire truth,” I was a bit suspicious. I couldn't help but think that there was a scheme afoot. Suika's conspiracies for the cause of parties had instilled a natural wariness of people who were too straightforward when they didn't have to be. She could have just as easily claimed to have an engagement or real work to do. I prodded further, and brought in a little guilt in to the mix, “I thought you trusted me, can't you tell me the whole truth.”

“It's personal.”

“So were a lot of the things we talked about earlier. I didn't try to hide any of that, now did I?”

“Ah- that's not fair.”

“It'll just be easier if you don't keep dancing around the real reason.”

She bit her lip and averted her gaze, “Well, it's also a girl thing... I'm feeling a bit bloated and I've got these cramps because-”

“Stooop,” I raised my hand, “Too much information.”

“See?!” She squeaked, “some things are just personal.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I was probably blushing a little. I was remembering some of the things I unfortunately learned over the years from being around just women. I saw her off, “Thanks for helping out. Things would have been harder if you weren't around.”

“I'll check in sometime to see if things are going well, don't disappoint me. Don't get too down either.”

“I won't. I'll make the right decisions.”

With a “Hmph, we'll see about that,” She put on her hat and left. I watched her until she made it to the trees and until the darkness made it impossible to see her.

I went to the bathroom to wash up and clear my head. I shook my head and sighed when I noticed that her underwear was still there. I did not think it would be possible for her to forget something that important. I was clearly wrong. Afterwards I cleaned up the mess we had made at the table and washed the tea cups. I placed them back in the cupboard and yawned. It wasn't that late but the day had taken a lot out of me.

[] Briefly check up on Alice
[] Get back to work
[x] Briefly check up on Alice

Either Alice is back to normal by now, or she is still sulking about upstairs. Whichever one it is, it's clear we need to be the one to initiate first contact. I'm sure if we keep working she'll eventually come back down, but that doesn't really do anything for us, now does it; it'll all just go back to status quo, and that shit isn't going to fly anymore.
[x] Briefly check up on Alice.

Any chance to see Alice's sleeping face. What's the worst that could happen? Afterwards Arc can either get some rest or continue working. This is about motivation.
[x] Briefly check up on Alice

Well that was a success, and since Arc's taking a small break, I don't see a slight check out being out of the way.
Was gonna go for faster updates but due to the recent DNS issues I've decided that it wouldn't be very fair. So I'll wait and see before writing more.
>“Maybe not. But you can't keep waiting without doing anything either. You gotta start somewhere,” She leaned forward in her seat, reaching for the kettle.

I'm up for taking this advice. It sounds to be coming from her experience with Alice before. I don't know how much it will help Arc, as he's relatively introverted and prone to discouragement in comparison to Marisa, but it's likely Alice won't take a first step.

[x] Briefly check up on Alice
[x] Briefly check up on Alice

Marisa is gone now and Arc always seems to get along better with Alice at night. We did work for a while, despite stopping to screw around with Marisa. Hopefully she isn't pissed we didn't work all day.


Yeah, this was the first time I could check the site since early yesterday.
[x] Get back to work.

Learning the spell should be our main focus. Don't lose heart, it feels like we're close to a breakthrough. We chose to get back to work instead of staying the course before. Why deviate from that path?
[x] Briefly check up on Alice
I have nothing to add that has not already been said
File 130764165519.jpg - (399.66KB, 1024x726, the dark and alice.jpg) [iqdb]
I paused before knocking. I was not entirely sure that she was still awake. Reluctance to disturb as well as a little remaining anxiety made me seriously consider going away. I smiled bitterly at myself, dismissing all such thoughts. The wooden steps had groaned and creaked with my every footfall as I had come up the stairs. That would have been sure to disturb her. Knocking on her door and checking in on her would not be pernicious, I told myself. That was just the insecure portion of my mind trying to interfere with my resolve. There was no need to make things any more complicated.

I rapped twice lightly on the door and waited. Part of me expected there to be no reply.

That part of me was dead wrong.

“Come,” A weak reply came through the door. I let myself in. From the doorway I saw that Alice was in bed, staring up to her ceiling. It was dark in the room, a sole lamp provided some light from the far corner but mostly created long and snake-like shadows which slithered from the far end towards the door. She was half-dressed in her day clothes, her dress unbuttoned at places and exposing the flesh underneath. Her usual headband was missing. Half of her face was hidden away in darkness. Her lips moved slowly and she spoke lethargically, “Close the door, there's a draft.”

I did as she asked without saying a word. As I came in, I almost stumbled upon one of her dolls. It lay on her back and looked reminiscent of her creator – her tiny and meticulously sown dress was out of place and her blue eyes stared vacantly upwards, through me.

“What is it? Have you accomplished your task already?” She asked. Her body remained in position, she addressed me without turning.

“Not yet, soon,” I replied.

“Ah, then it's that, I supposed.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You have come to show me your pity,” Her expression changed. She wore a sneer, “If you do not steel your mind – and your heart – you will find that continuing on this path will mean your destruction.”

“I didn't come to get lectured, mistress.”

“No, perhaps not. Perhaps you came to play the role of the dashing savior. Or perhaps you came to joke and pretend to be merry, and through physical contact attempt to fool me that you really felt that way.”

“You saw that?” I was surprised. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I once heard an expression that went something like 'a home is like a castle,” She closed her eyes, smirking, “All castles have their guards, the eyes and ears of the ruler.”

“I see.”

I bent down and picked up the doll at my feet. The wooden doll was lighter than it looked. I began to fix her dress, ignoring her vacant stare. She was missing the big red ribbon that usually was on her head. I couldn't see it anywhere.

“Is there anything else you want, or do you simply wish to slack off more?” There was a coldness to Alice's words that irked me. It was not the insult behind them.

“I want to let you know something very important,” Remembering Marisa's words, I controlled my knee-jerk reaction and swallowed my pride.

“Out with it then.”

“I am trying my best. I will not give up.”

“Is that all?” She lay immobile, eyes firmly shut.

“Yes mistress, I'm sorry to have disturbed you.” I made for the door.

“...hold on a moment, I have not dismissed you.” She chided. I stopped dead in my tracks. I turned to find that she was looking at me, her eyes as clear as the doll's.

“Is there anything you wish of me?”

“A very simple task,” She began, “I wish you to bring me some water, I am thirsty.”


“Did I stutter? Perhaps you should have your ears cleaned. Yes, water.”

“At once.” I nodded and quickly got to it. To delay would be to invoke her disparagement. I did as I was asked, bringing back a pitcher of cool water. I approached her bed and handed her a glass, “Here you are.”

She sat up, not at all concerned with the fact that her blouse was loosened and slipping down her slender shoulders and exposing her upper body. I had seen more the other day but my active mind would not let my pass the chance to stare at her body. I tried not to think about her, my mistress, in that way but all I could see was a pretty girl in a very intimate light. She took the glass of water and slowly took a sip. It was then I noticed that fine beads of sweat permeated her brow. She was clearly still not feeling well. My heart ached to see someone like that in discomfort.

“I'll leave this pitcher by your bed if you wish for more later,” I said. Fawning over her due to her condition would not accomplish much. I took the glass from her after she took another small sip, placing it by the pitcher. Alice slumped back into bed.

“You are free to go now,” She stated.

“Very well. Good night mistress.”

Just as I left, she said a few final words, “Do not overwork yourself, the candle which burns brightest burns fastest.” I turned to look at her before closing the door but her back was to me. I silently nodded and left.

[] Call it a night
[] Burn the midnight oil
[x] Call it a night.

I see no reason to avoid taking her advice.

Here's the main issue that I see here: Alice does not see Arc as a man. She plays the part of a stoic, detached mistress. Her coldness isn't just an act of the traditional tsundere, she really sees Arc as nothing more than a student. The main evidence of this hypothesis is the fact that she makes no effort to maintain her modesty around Arc.

How do you break through the teacher-student barrier and get through to her? Accomplishing the task will not help, it may even deepen the divide between them.

In short, Arc should get some rest and then direct all of his energy and focus into the task at hand. That's all.

If I'm wrong and she does somehow have feelings for Arc behind that mask, then I see precious little evidence to support that beyond pure speculation. But I could be missing something.
[x] Call it a night

Her words were clearly a hint to rest, and some sleep might do wonders for the mind. And snark is no way to repay concern.
[x] Call it a night

I suppose those final parting words were her special way of telling us she acknowledges the work we have put in, and informing us that we have done enough for today.

Continuing to futilely study well into the night wouldn't be very prudent; it'll only serve to show a strange stubborn determination that Alice wouldn't really appreciate, while tiring us out for the real work tomorrow.
>Here's the main issue that I see here: Alice does not see Arc as a man. She plays the part of a stoic, detached mistress. Her coldness isn't just an act of the traditional tsundere, she really sees Arc as nothing more than a student. The main evidence of this hypothesis is the fact that she makes no effort to maintain her modesty around Arc.

I disagree. The initial contract where he was given her magic brand was undeniably sexual. I think it's less of a case of Alice not seeing Arc as a man, and more a case of treating him mostly as her student. By rationalizing it this way, she doesn't have to obey the rules of propriety or personal space, which she may not understand anyway, and can pretty much treat him as her property. She makes him refer to her as his master to drive this home and makes his decisions for him, in the case of beginning this training exercise. When she struck him on his return to her house, it wasn't because he was wasting his time not practicing magic, as she's generally left him to his devices in that manner; rather it was because she was worried about him, and (hypocritically) expected him to wait for her return. Her lack of direction and the difficulty of his task is an excuse to keep him under her roof longer.

Marisa doesn't make much effort to be modest around Arc either, and she is keenly aware of the sexual tension it causes. Alice is likewise apart for general society by living in the forest, but even less social, and being a youkai may have stunted her ability to express emotion. Trying to make a distinction about her disposition by cross-referencing her behavior with the standard human stereotypes might be unreasonable.

[x] Call it a night.
[x] Call it a night

As much as I'd like to be ready to surprise Alice with how much work was done tonight, it probably wouldn't be for the best.
[x] Call it a night
Was that just an attemp of her to show she cares? And it seems like she must have thought a lot about what happened and what to say, which is a very good thing.
[x] Burn the midnight oil
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>“If you do not steel your mind – and your heart – you will find that continuing on this path will mean your destruction.”
She's right you know, even if she was talking about something else. He has to steel his mind and his heart to break through Alice's cold facade. Or, to say it in other, cheesier, words, break her ice with his warmth.

As for the magic exercise... I believe Marisa (and the Beatles) said it better than myself:
>"All you need is love"
That's what Alice is using (consciously or not) Our MC has it by the ton, but he has to cosciously learn how to use. Magic isn't like any other skill, practice alone will not make you perfect. At least, that's what I think.

Gee, now that I think about, all the clues are on plain sight. Now, how to make our protagonist to realize this...? Guess we'll have to wait. I can't make a write-in like "[x]THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE MISSING REALIZE IT NOW" can I?
File 130765739129.jpg - (131.74KB, 600x800, surely a common sight in the mornings.jpg) [iqdb]
One, two. Three. Pause. Two steps then a third. Another pause. The pattern repeated itself over and over again.

I looked at her, watching her hover around my bed with a hauntingly troubled look. Her eyes were red, puffed up from all the crying she had done. I had not seen the tears come out but there was no doubt that she cried because of me. I could feel her reaching out with her mind, looking for validation, looking for sympathy. All she had to do was ask and I would tell her the truth, that I wanted to be closer to her, to be with her and never leave her. But she did not ask.

Nor did she ever stop. She paced back and forth. She was basically naked, a thin camisole and a simple pair of panties were all that shielded her from the cold. She must have been cold. I wanted her to get into bed with me, to allow herself to be warmed up by our shared body heat. I wanted to reach out, to grab her arm and drag her here with me. But I couldn't of course. And she wouldn't allow it.

There was no way of winning.

She had to sort the tumultuous thoughts in her head into some sort of ordered sense. It was something I wanted to help her with, that my body wanted to help her with but couldn't. All I could do was lie still as she paced.

It seemed to go on forever. And then all of a sudden she gave two steps and then stopped. She looked down at me, her pure and noble eyes still beautiful despite earlier tears. There was a flash of tenderness shown through a smile and she reached out and caressed my face softly. It felt heavenly. I wish she would never stop. Her hands were so warm though she should have been so cold. I knew it was her love doing that. It must have been. I could not explain it by any other means.

When I got up it seemed like it was still nighttime. I drew open the blinds and saw that it was a dark and overcast day. The sun had hidden away behind cloud cover and would likely not come out. I was tired. All my joints felt rigid. My body ached. I shook my head and rubbed my eyes, I was feeling like a geezer.

To my surprise, I found Alice in the kitchen. She was fully dressed and carried on with the same air of perfection she usually did. It would have been hard to imagine that just last night she had been... been lying in bed. I had to serve her water and she said something slightly encouraging, I recalled. I thought that maybe I should have washed my face instead of heading on to grab something to eat first.

“May I help you, mistress?” I asked since I saw that she was struggling to get a jar of preserves open.

“Ah,” She shifted her eyes towards me without turning, “Good timing. See if you can't open this for me.”

“Of course,” I said with a smile and took the jar. The lid was stuck on like it was nobody's business but I wasn't about to lose face in front of her. I used all my strength, painfully burying the lid into my hands and gave it a twist. It opened, thankfully. I handed it back to her, “Here you are. Is there anything else you need?”

“No. Wait, actually yes. Get yourself dressed and meet me at the table in a few minutes.”

I did as I was asked. I washed my face, got changed and then sat patiently at the table. She came in from the kitchen with a plate. She offered me a piece of bread, I accepted.

“Since you are not showing any progress,” She began, “I think a little change of pace may be in order.” She waited for me to finish chewing on a piece of toast before continuing, “Today I shall give you a choice of activities. You are either to seek additional components from the surrounding forest or to assist me in ordering my things,” She added humorously, “Due to lack of time and the audacious ransacking of my study, I have found that things need to be organized again. There is a lot of cleaning to do as well. There are muddy tracks and much filth. It is important to realize that there is a lot of preparation necessary in magic and that things aren't always as optimally disposed as you've found them to be in my home.”

“I understand mistress. But if I choose to go gathering materials, how will I know where to find them or what they look like?”

“I shall give you a list and you may have an hour to research whatever you wish. I cannot hold your hand for everything, now can I?”

“No, of course not,” I agreed. There was a dull unease in my heart. Looking at her, it seemed like she was just putting on a front, there was no way she could have recovered so quickly. I knew that these were legitimate lessons I needed to learn sooner or later and knew that if I found everything she wanted, it would be a great accomplishment and an important milestone for my education.

“Alright then, let me hear your decision apprentice.”

[] Component gathering
[] Cleaning and organization
[x] Cleaning and organization

>There are muddy tracks and much filth.
Say no more. My logic is that simple.
[x] Cleaning and organization

It'd be easier to find things if we know what they looked like first, and organizing will help that. The darkness doesn't help either, especially in a forest. Makes more sense to start here. Regardless, staying near Alice would be the best choice because it is doubtful she has recovered.
[x] Cleaning and organization
Clean it up like your life depends on it.
I can see your logic as well as the flaws in my own. Duly noted.

[] Component gathering

I can see the merits of this option, but the OCD neat-freak in me must take the cleaning option. Organization cleanses the soul~

[X] Cleaning and organization
[x] Component gathering

I think some authorized time out would do Arc some good.

But I must wonder if that was a dream or real. Hard to tell, not the first time Arc had a similar event with Alice in the haze of being between sleep and being awake.

As far as her lack of 'modesty'? I think it's a mix of things, trust, interest and/or not really caring during her current ill state. But I do realize there's quite some sexual tension building up. Whether or not Alice knows about it is merely a speculation point. Arc really needs to find a way to address that tension before it starts hindering him big time as dealing with it isn't easy for a human male his age as opposed to a magician type female.
[x] Cleaning and organization
One option keeps us close to her. The other doesn't. Love is simple like that.
[x] Component gathering
lets get some time out
Memorizing spell components and their description would probably be more useful to Arc's training. But examining the important articles of a magician's study might not be totally useless, and if they're nearby each other, neither of them have to worry about the other.

[x] Cleaning and organization

The "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is now playing in your head manually.
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“I would like to stay here and help out,” I replied, “I have a responsibility to clean up the messes I've made.”

Upon hearing those words, a smirk appeared on her face. It was not a positive thing however. She stared straight into my eyes and spoke, “Very well. I'll see that you do a thorough job. It's the least that you can do for choosing the wrong choice for the wrong reasons.”

“Pardon mistress, if I may – what makes you say that?” I asked perhaps impudently.

“You have no responsibility to clean any such called 'mess'. Your responsibility,” She explained coolly, “is to prepare yourself in any manner possible for the challenges you would face a disciple of your chosen craft. Acting to clean something up just because it is dirty could not be any less advantageous than any other conceivable task.”

“Perhaps I chose my words poorly.”

“Not if they're reflective of your reasoning, which I would infer is not much better than your words,” a twinkle in her eyes told me that she was alluding to something else that was kept unsaid. I decided it would not be wise to interrupt her and ask her outright. She continued to lecture me, looking more and more like the strong-willed and self-confident woman I had first met (putting it kindly), “The limited lesson you may learn here is inferior to the lesson learned by doing work outside by yourself. Your choice is the wrong choice for someone ambitious and eager to learn how to learn to use and control magic.”

“Am I to change my decision then?”

“You'll do no such thing. Part of what I hope to instill to you is the lesson that trade offs are inevitable and that choices made matter in ways that are not always so obvious. I will use myself as an example, the time I spend perfecting my craft with my dolls and that I spend doing research cannot be spent perfecting something else.” She then added with a bit of snark in her tone, “Your good friend Marisa probably understands that better than either you or I do. Next time you speak to one another, and are not too busy with childish theatrics consider getting her opinion. I'm sure she'll confirm my lesson.”

Alice then detailed my activities for the day. All traces of self-satisfaction were gone as she dispassionately gave directions, “Start with the easy, clean the floors and all areas that have been dirtied. Kitchen and other rooms inclusive. That should take you an hour or two at the most, afterwards you are to join me in my study.”

With a mop in hand and a bucket by my side, I got to cleaning as best I could. Years of cleaning up the shop had given me ample practice so it wasn't particularly difficult. The kitchen wasn't too bad either. I washed dirty dishes and scrubbed sinks and surfaces clean. The bathroom was likewise no challenge. It took a little over an hour and a half before I was fully done with everything. I gave it my best and put my back into it. The low illumination made some spots hard to miss, the sun refused to show itself outside. It continued to be dark until mid-morning.

“Mistress, I've done what you asked, what next?” I reported in. She was in her study, sitting in her chair with a book in hand.

“You are to take inventory of all I have in stock here and in the adjacent storage room and then organize the misplaced containers and books all along these shelves and storage cabinets,” She offered out the book to me, I took it. She explained, “This is the inventory ledger, use it to cross check what should be there with what is there. Be thorough.”

“Of course. I'll do as you ask.”

Sensing that her humorless look was a directive for me to get to work, I got to it at once. Inventory at a liquor store is complicated enough, with contents being routinely held in reserve for occasions and customers or for another season. There are multiple storage rooms and multiple lists to consult. As tedious and time-consuming as that often was, it did not hold a candle to the system employed by Alice. The book was right a book, not a mere notebook or something with only a couple of pages long. It was heavy, with a hard cover and scores of pages filled to the brim with information were contained within. There were subcategories upon categories with distinctions being made between purpose and physical storage location. Some items clearly could not be exposed to sunlight while others needed to be kept at at least room temperature. Quantities were marked in a column alongside the date when it was acquired, many of them acquired years ago.

It was a lot to digest and there was no clear place to start from. I moved into the storage room partially to simply start doing something and partially to avoid Alice's unnerving gaze. Boxes and containers with labels and much dust deposited on lids and covers greeted me. I opened the closest one and found a myriad of pouches containing materials. I read the label on the closest one and then frantically searched for it in the inventory book. It took a good five minutes to find, and a minute more to confirm that it was indeed in the right section and that its quantity had not changed. I checked the next pouch and ran through the process again. Luckily it was in its right place and was within the same category as the previous. In fact, this first chest was completely in accord with the list and all of the materials were accounted for. And it only took the better part of an hour to sort through.

Unfortunately, not everything was as tidy as I initially prayed it might be.

I found Alice still sitting in the chair when I was done with the storage room. Her eyes were closed and she was reclining in the chair. She appeared to be asleep. I decided that it would be best to leave her alone and continued to work with the rest of the room meanwhile. Bottles in particular were hard to sort and their contents hard to verify. The list was outdated in many regards and I marked and updated quantities for more than half of the items. It was clear that no one had done this in quite some time.

“mmm...” Alice whimpered softly. It was the fourth time in an hour and I wondered if she was feeling discomfort. Perhaps she was dreaming. There was no way to tell from the emotionless expression she wore. In her arms she held one of her dolls, one of the many blond dolls she had lying about. It was larger than the usual variety, however, and was dressed plainly in a dull beige dress. It was creepy to stare at someone if they were asleep and I needed to get back to work. Eventually came to and, without saying a word, left the room. She did not return.

I was hard at work all day. With the minimal amount of time spend on breaks and meals, I dedicated myself to my task. It was not humanly possible to finish all the workload in a single day. I tried until I could hold out no longer and eventually allowed myself to go to bed. I figured I could continue early on the next day. But my plans were interrupted.

“Apprentice,” Alice found me just as I was about to lay down, “come to the study.”

Once again summoned to the study, I reported in. Alice sat in the same chair as before, flipping through the pages of the inventory. She seemed disinterested in it and put it down as soon as I came in.

“What have you learned today?” She asked.

“That there are a lot of things in the world that are still unknown to me,” I replied.

“Good, there will always be things that are unknown to you, no matter how knowledgeable you become. This is not all of the lesson presented today but it is good enough.”

With all the weird things I had seen stored away, her words seemed like a bit of an understatement. There was much I did not know.

“Would you kindly fetch the satchel just by the door?” She asked me. I complied and grabbed a small cloth satchel that hung on a rack. It was surprisingly heavy. I transferred it over to Alice. She opened the sack and removed a wooden box from within. She held the box up with one hand, displaying it to you. She inquired, “Do you know what this is?”

“I do not.”

“Nor would you have reason to,” She claimed. Her voice was steady as she explained what it contained, “There are substances in this world that contain the focused energies of the universe. This box contains such a substance. Inside you will find several phials of a viscous liquid that will seem to shine with a ghastly dark light. If you so choose to open one of these phials and allow the contents to make contact with your being, you will experience a sensation like no other.”

She held out the box for me to take. I accepted it while asking her what the effects were.

“Minimal exposure would be akin to engaging in sexual intercourse with, say,” She now smirked, “Marisa. It would imbue you with not only self-satisfaction for your manly deed and other misdirected confidence but would as well grant you the benefits of such a direct contact with an adept of magic. In other words, you will find that the weaving of spells shall be easier and your strength and willpower is bolstered. This should be sufficient to guarantee that you are up to capacity in raw ability.”

“I don't understand why you've handed this to me. Nor if it is safe or beneficial for my growth.”

“Beneficial? That wholly depends on you. It will allow you to clearly determine whether or not it has been your talent or your nerve that has been failing you. As for danger,” The suggestive smirk returned, “the only danger is you lacking enough self-control and indulging yourself in vast, but brief amounts of pleasure. If that is the case, you do not deserve to walk down the road of magic, for hedonistic tendencies and lack of restraint will lead to destruction.” Alice paused to collect her thoughts, she seemed to be mulling over the best answer she could give. It was a simple one, “You need to develop and move past this here and now or you will be forever stuck.”

“...” For the first time she was giving me a frank assessment on my progress. If I didn't get over my inability to accomplish what she asked me to, I would be written off as a lost cause.

“It is your choice to use it or not, I am simply giving you the opportunity. If you learn and grow, no matter if you at first had aid or not, you will be able to continue down this road.” She stood up and began to walk away, “There is no need for you to continue your work here tomorrow, you are to complete your previous assignment as expediently as possible.”

Left alone, I stood silently for a while. The box felt heavy in my hands. Inside the box there was something that potentially could help me grow stronger. I recalled Alice's words and remembered an earlier lesson. Though a crude enough method, a sexual exchange between a skilled magician and someone sensitive or less schooled in its ways could cause the lesser party to feel more in tune with the aether. In exchange, the more powerful magician would gain a little more raw power for a while. That something could mimic that exchange was not surprising, what was surprising was that a low amount of exposure would do so. At a higher concentration something like that would be... exceedingly powerful. It was not something that a novice should have access to. A novice would use it as a crutch, never bothering to learn any real skill. But for some reason Alice seemed to think that I would use it differently.

I went back to bed, box still in hand. It felt too important to simply put down. I hazarded a look inside, opening the lid slowly. A wispy dull light suffused like a dark fog. Inside three phials of clear glass contained a murky liquid. The liquid was black but emitted light and it seemed to be in constant motion within the container. Occasionally spots of other colors would appear, like those seen on an oil slick. A simple cork topper on top kept the liquid in. I closed the box. Alice's dour countenance came to mind. She could easily justify the means with the end but I knew that she would also never hurt others with no cause. It was safe to assume that the substance was not too dangerous or innately addictive. Or perhaps it just was that she trusted my judgment and fortitude more than I gave her credit for. I lay in bed for a while, trying to decide on what I thought was the truth. I did not get a wink of sleep. I was too agitated to let go.

[] Hit the books yet again
[] Try the aid given to you
[] Try the aid given to you

Nasu prana exchange go?

But seriously, Alice in this story is giving off such delightfully mixed set of signals. Good job, author.
[x] Hit the books yet again

I'm going to have to go with some advice from our good friend Patchouli on this one. Magic should be earned and whatnot. Though I am more worried about that arm tingling than anything else. If Patchy was right and Arc is some kind of lady killer I am concerned whether he will be able to stop himself from repeatedly taking this substance.

It is hard to trust Alice right now and I couldn't really come to a vote by just reading what she said. Patchouli seemed close enough to Alice in this story.
I forgot about that.

[x] Hit the books yet again.

Even though it has felt entirely useless, Patchy was right, it should be earned.
[x] Try the aid given to you

I feel this may finish adjusting Arc to use magic better, seeing how before getting mixed up with Mima and Alice, he was just a very ordinary guy. Whatever Mima did was rather sudden compared to most traditional users of magic and might not have covered all the bases.
4 hours, 4 votes. You'd think that people would check more often given the recent activity. Well, I'm giving this an hour more before I begin to write. This is an important decision that will affect a lot so I am loathe to do so but if I don't strike while the iron is hot I'll just end up feeling sorry for myself again. And then nothing will get done. Before anyone suggests it (as unlikely as it may be that there anyone actually bothering to read this) I do not want to update anything else, I feel like doing this. Hence the two updates yesterday which would have been three had people turned up as well.
[x] Try the aid given to you

Fuck Alice. We're doing what feels right for our own reasoning, and she dares chastise that, saying we are wrong? Every time we interact with her, I am reminded that she is a huge bitch.

Well, whatever. We should still do what she says, as there is no harm in using this potion to amplify ourselves. If it's a good enough method for Marisa, it's good enough for Arc. Our homeboy has shown himself to have enough willpower that he shouldn't become addicted to whatever effect it provides.
[x] Hit the books yet again.

I see an easy road and a hard road. Let's take the hard way, it's usually more rewarding. This may even be a test.
Alright. And in that hour we've reached a very conclusive vote. So I'll be flipping a coin. Look forward to the next update. I know I will.
Yeah of sense perhaps, it's like either taking a door or climbing over the wall, with the former being the sensible choice.

[x] Hit the books yet again.
hahaha, i had to laugh when you said homeboy.

But seriously. No shortcuts. Pride, hard work and the sense of accomplishment is what will come out in the end.
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I gripped firmly one of the phials in my hand. It felt hot to the touch, as if a small fire raged within the black miasma. It did not burn. It was a comfortable kind of heat, the one found in cozy dens and around roaring fireplaces. There were great energies at work within the glass and it wanted the universe to pay heed to its power. I thumbed the cork, loosening the top ever so slightly with insecure little nudges. I did not want to release the contents to the world just yet. I sat up and looked around. It was a dark night and the moon was probably hidden behind the clouds. I relaxed my grip, a pale light washed over the room, elongating shapes and corners with shadow.

My mind made up, I gripped the top. I pulled. The cork came off. The pleasant smell of citrus mixed in with the fresh spring breeze wafted up to my nose. I could not help but inhale, feeling an odd sense of nostalgia for halcyon days. There was no doubt on how I was supposed to expose myself to the substance. I pressed my lips against the glass and imbibed. A sickly sweet flavor assaulted my taste buds even as my throat began to burn like I had drunk a potent spirit. I stopped myself from drinking too much, worried about the earlier warnings. Then again, there was no telling how much was too much. Perhaps even a single drop would have the desired effect.

And was not long before I began to feel the effects. A fire blazed on in my stomach, burning quickly expanding and burning through the kindling of my other organs and even bones. I broke out in a cold sweat and my legs began to shake with a pleasureful tension that promised release. It was like my bones rattled against my muscle and my organs all danced around my fleshy container, happy to swap place as it became convenient. The entirety of my body was a sensitive area and the stimulus came from within, permeating all my nerves at once. It was heavenly hell. My eyesight began to falter and long streaks of color replaced lines in the real world. Shapes made of bright light and rainbows danced around with careless abandon. It was a kaleidoscope of madness. I tried to reach out with my hand but found my strength all but gone.

I laughed.

It was an honest laugh. A full uninhibited expression of my joy. It felt like I could understand the threads that made up the fabric of the world and that they were all gently caressing me, enveloping me in a silken blanket of happiness. Things seemed a little distant and a not entirely unwelcome pressure began to form around my loins. I got up, feeling that the world was my oyster. I stumbled, locking my legs in an exaggerated droopy fashion. I was was bow-legged as I took a few steps, transcending space and time by crossing the barrier of the infinite between two distances. Time was irrelevant and could be both fast and slow at the time. It was like every move brought me close but never quite until the limit and until I passed it. I laughed again, the fire in my stomach demanded new fuel for it to continue functioning.

The time was not right for me to indulge in my desires. My lower body screamed for the reckless abandonment of reason in favor of wild instinct. Meanwhile, my stomach felt a desperate desire for food. Despite all that, there was something else I wished to do. I staggered about until I reached the small pot. There I stood like a priest in front of a sacred relic, chanting mantra under my breath. I raised my hand and pointed at the very lines that stitched together the universe. My thoughts gathered energy – no, energy gathered my thoughts. The colors and figures next to me stopped moving, evidentially as interested in my activity as I was. They understood that their existence was tied into my own. I was a medium for something much greater than I, something more raw and more powerful. The pleasure that I got for being the instrument of that truth reverberated throughout my body.

I muttered. Spoke to the world. Exchanged vows and promises with the cosmos. Trails of energy visibly gathered at my fingers. Colorful wisps danced about in maddened anticipation. I pointed at my target. Part of me left my body, traveling into the soil. There a wonderful metamorphosis occurred. Life and life to be met, exchanged warm greetings and promised each other assistance. A flash of white consecrated the occasion, causing a burst of green to majestically shoot out in but an instant. A cornucopia of healthy plant sprung forth and blossomed into a phantasmagoria of light. The beautiful flower that grow at the tip was like the synthesis of my hopes and my dreams – a bright beacon of purity.

There was nothing else to do but to laugh. Laugh and laugh as the gentle hues of color made both mind and soul feel reinvigorated. Truly there was nothing else in the universe as fantastic as what I witnessed. Falling down to the floor, I looked up in a dizzy and disoriented state, trying to enjoy the sight as much as I could. More energy seemed to want to be liberated. I closed my eyes in order to try to focus it all.

She looked at me weakly, unable to hide the fatigue in her eyes. I put down my satchel, in a hurry to tend to her needs. She protested weakly. There was nothing she could say that would discourage me. Nothing would impede my duties. I desired nothing but the best for her and nothing but the best meant I needed to dedicate myself to the fullest of my capacity. I removed my tools from my satchel and came closer to her. Her acquiescence was unavoidable. Her complete submission a matter of course. I removed her blouse, violating her modesty with no second thought. The next layer came off without further ceremony. She was drenched in sweat, hair matted, and her general appearance anything but normal. If I did not intervene, she would suffer more. So I intervened.

I examined her body, looking for all physical symptoms of her ailment. Readily I swept my hands across her chest, closely examining the soft and tender contours of her breasts. She seemed sensitive to my touch, holding her breath in suspense as I traced a path with my finger around the tips of her mounds and then gently cupped the greater remaining mass. Quick tests of elasticity were performed by my finders and I made sure to only gently handle her hardened nipples. I was worried by the redness of her face and did not hesitate, but for a single moment, to take her temperature orally. My throbbing thermometer intruded into her small mouth, and would have caused her to gag if not for my deft handling of my tools. She was uncooperative at first, but as I reminded her of the gentle treatment of her sensitive spots she gladly accepted her position. She listened to her physician, keeping the thermometer in her mouth obediently and treating it with the utmost relevance. Once or twice she attempted to switch the side of the mouth where it was. She accomplished this by gliding her saliva-slicked tongue over the instrument and by sucking on it to control its depth within her mouth cavity. She fulfilled her part, allowing me to take an accurate measurement. Content with the results, I stroked her head reassuringly as she displayed a strange attachment for the tools of my trade. A mixture of saliva and thicker ooze slithered its way out of her mouth, across her cherry pink lips and ultimately dribbled off the edge of her chin.

Confirmation of her altered state was quick. As I pressed my head against the softness of her chest, I heard her heart beat fast and perhaps arrhythmically. I determined that the source of her malaise lay in her lower body. A simple hand-on test found that a veritable river of fluid flowed from a leak between her legs. A finger would not plug the leak. So I added a second finger, trying different positions within the warm and moist crevice to see if I could block the flowing. Paradoxically, the harder I tried to fix the problem in my patient, the worse it seemed to get. Her breathing was now far heavier and I was afraid that I might lose her at any moment. More drastic measures were needed. Though I was somewhat reluctant to use more tools on her so soon, I was left with little recourse but to operate. I ripped away the last of her restraining clothes away, leaving nothing but her pantyhose around her leg. I laid her down flat on her bed. A good vantage point was necessary for me to successfully carry out the procedure. She looked at me with much anxiety, not entirely sure whether or not to entrust her life to me I presumed. I stoked her hair gently. I was not about to fail in my duty.

Quickly and decisively I inserted my surgical instrument, hoping to completely stop the source of the leakage. The opening was well-lubricated and willing to accept my intervention, which made initial movement much easier to execute. I at first moved around slowly and methodically, careful not to start any further disturbance which could complicate matters. The patient was in pain, moaning with a flush face – no doubt at the lack of anesthesia. I apologized but did not stop my work, increasing my tempo as I saw appropriate. Conditions made extended time operating an impossibility, already her body began to try to instinctively clamp down on my tools and suck me in completely. I had to resist the urge to let go and I hurried up my pace to an almost rough and reckless degree. What needed to be done needed to be done, I told myself. I seemed to be no closer to the source of the leak and the patient seemed to be at the limits of her capacity. I tried to pull out as she convulsed, a powerful event which saw her moan with much conviction. Her legs wrapped around my back, limiting my options. I was unable to resist the pressure and released a full tube of sealant within her in a last ditch effort to fix her.

For a while afterwards, we both lay in bed. Out of breath in the immediate aftermath of the operation, I prayed to God that I had been able to save her. Otherwise it meant that I would have to conduct further surgery, something which I knew would be rougher and more prolonged than my first attempt. She smiled at me bravely, assuring me that whatever it was that I saw fit to do, she would be willing to accept.

My head swam. Morning light rammed itself unpleasantly through my eye and stabbed my brain. It felt like I had a million cotton balls in my mouth What's more, my body was sore all over. It was like I had had the workout of a lifetime. I bumped my head onto the nearby table as I got up. I cursed, feeling that nothing I did would make the day any good.

That is until I saw what sat on the table. Perched proudly within a clay pot, a massive red flower bloomed. It was beautiful with its stark coloration and round shape. The flower was simple, pure because it hid no pretension. I forgot to rub my head as excitement washed over me. I remembered the events of the early morning. The phial, the recollections of strange (and still hazy) images and shapes and a nostalgic smell. It all culminated in an attempt me made to do what I was meant to do. In other words, I was 100% successful in my task. I would have jumped up and shouted in joy, but my body felt like it had been tossed around by giants for a week. All I could manage was a smile of satisfaction.

But then I remembered that the evening did not end there. And I began to panic.

“Well done, you've done what I asked,” Alice caught me in mid-panic. She stood in the doorway, arms crossed and eyes on the flower, “Magnificent, isn't it? To breathe life into something which has long since been in hibernation. The transfer of energies is one of the most basic principles a magician seeks to understand.”

She acted in her usual dignified manner. No traces of the weak and beautifully excited woman could be discerned. I gulped, picturing her disheveled hair and her quickly discarded clothes. The leggings she wore were intact and could not have been the same that I saw. It felt very real. The tactile experience was something I could not forget about try as I might.

“I-I'm not sure that I accomplished this on my own merit,” I nervously said, trying to bury my inappropriate thoughts as best I could.

“Nonsense, you used the tools available to you as best you could. A less prudent oaf would have consumed an entire phial and then proceeded to do something really despicable, thinking that he could get away with it.”

“I want to try again, see if I can do it without help...”

“Rest. I've told you before, magic is as potent as the mind allows it to be. It is clear by the looks of you that you hardly slept and dedicated yourself to this cause,” She smiled, showing traces of warmth around the edges of her cold eyes, “I will allow you to take the day off. Consider it a reward for your efforts. I am not indifferent to your struggle. You may even return home if you wish.”

“...I don't think that would be appropriate,” I answered in a panic. The last person I wanted to see was Auntie. And if Suika were there by chance.... I didn't know how I could face her.

“As you wish. I'll give you a new task tomorrow, so feel free to do carry on. If I might say so, you look a bit ragged. Get some real rest.”

“Wait, mistress,” I couldn't get it out of my mind.

“Yes apprentice?”

[] “Last night... the dream... you... me...”
[] “What were those... lights? I thought I saw time itself.”
Wow... great success on the plant and a 'dream' with a medical climax... I will need to think on the choice: Either finding out more on the lights or bringing up the 'dream' part and perhaps other similar things in the past.
[x] “What were those... lights? I thought I saw time itself.”

Alice explained before Arc took the drug that he was going to have sex with someone. So let's ask about something unknown.
[x]... I'm not sure it's relevant to my training, but I've been having some freams...

I doubt hiding something from our master is wise. It's up to her to decide if she's relevant. Nice update, by the way.
[x] “Last night... the dream... you... me...”

Looks like Arc is quite the physician. Let's hope he can control it so that other girls won't suddenly need checkups.

Maybe Alice doesn't know that she was the subject of the dream. She seems especially sharp, so this should suffice to alert her about what happened. I think she assumed if would be Marisa.
[x] “Last night... the dream... you... me...”

If he is ever to grow, there can be no secrets between master and pupil. He's been having these fantasies for a while now, and they are clearly bothering him. Might as well take this convenient excuse to tell her about it. If there is nothing between them, Alice will blow it off as potion-induced craziness, and Arc will know where he stands.

Also, congratulations author person. I haven't read a scene that Nasu-esque in quite some time. Bravo.
She said it would feel like sex, nothing about actually doing someone.

[x] “Last night... the dream... you... me...”

If this was the only case, I'd vote for the other choice, but this is just the latest in a series of cases.
[x] “What were those... lights? I thought I saw time itself.”
Surely he was just dreaming again and Alice said it would feel LIKE having sexual intercourse
Seeing as it is unlikely that I'll be getting any more votes, given the time elapsed, I'll get to writing.

It was so good that it almost made me vomit.
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>Magical LSD
>Mana transfer
>Sex metaphors everywhere

mfw this entire update

Am I going to get a million faggots calling me names for directly insinuating this guy is a worthless shitstain, who should go kill himself? Seriously, if you are the sort who thinks greentext is a valid method of posting, just go die.
Dude chill. I'm certain that the other guy was just trying to be humorous. No need to go berserk. And in any case, no one else disrupt the thread with inane crap again please.

I'm behind schedule on the update but should have it done in another hour I think. I've been distracted by booze and IRC, sorry. I'm ashamed of myself.
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Words came out of my mouth. I wasn't sure if they were good words, they were just whatever could come out. An indescribable awkwardness kept me from being as explicit as I wanted. But she knew. I could tell from her eyes she knew just exactly what I was talking about. I feared that she could read my mind, see the graphic images of bodies intertwined late at night, chests heaving and bodies glistening with sweat. No doubt my face was as red as could be. Adding to the shame of it all, the recollections made me feel all warm and made my body tingle.

“How graphic,” She said. I could not tell what she was thinking. There was no overt trace of embarrassment or bashfulness to be seen. She was emotionally neutral, as I hoped she would be. I did not detect any traces of teasing in her words, “Those sorts of dreams are normal, I suppose.”

“...it was very vivid,” I did my best so as to not stutter, “it felt real, like it wasn't a dream. Besides, the thing you gave me made me lose control of myself and I can't account for my actions.”

“The side effects include pleasure but not the creation of an elaborate scenario like that. That dream of yours was your own.”

“I-I'm sorry then,” I lowered my head. Conflictive feelings about other vaguely remember scenarios confused me further.

“Whatever for?”

“I defiled my mistress even if only in a dream. Then I was quick to blame it on the substance.” It felt like it wasn't the first time either, that I had been desiring to do that and much more. I could not remember how or why I felt like that. It just was.

“Your contrition is unnecessary,” Alice assured me. She smiled, with some undue self-satisfaction, “You cannot control your dreams normally. I too have had very vivid experiences, and even you have shown up and performed prodigious acts. It perhaps is a manifestation of my subconscious hopes for you, hopes which have been validated by your achievements.”

“Oh Alice-” I felt like crying.

Mistress,” She corrected sternly. But I saw that her smile was soft and displayed hints of affection.

“Yes, yes. Mistress, I'm very sorry. I should not have bothered you with something so trivial.”

“Perhaps an exception could be made just for today,” She softened her stern tone. “If you wish,” She added, “you may address me by my name as a reward for your merits.”

“Thank you, but it would be strange to stop all of a sudden.”

“That didn't stop you just now. Still,” Alice mused, “I am curious about one thing.”

“About what, mistress?”

She giggled softly to herself as if the idea amused her greatly. I had not seen her behave this way before, so certain, firm, but otherwise so girlishly. Her smile was genuine and was framed favorably by her blond hair. I noticed then that one of her dolls floated about her gingerly, looking as pleased as her master. It struck me that even the most inanimate of objects could be as lovely as could be if they had love dispensed unto them.

“No, it's nothing apprentice, this tawdry question would only confuse the situation further,” She changed subjects quickly, “Would you like to join me for breakfast now? I've made scones.”

“Of course I would.” I desperately wanted to press her on the issue. I knew she had something more she had to say.

All along breakfast she kept stealing bizarre glances at me every once in a while, like I were some sort of amusing spectacle. At least she looked healthier now, though it was hard to tell if she felt any better on the inside. She was a woman of remarkable fortitude and resolution... and I could not stop thinking about the dream. It consumed me, caused my mind to slip into a lethargic state of thought.

I had to eventually ask, “Is there something on my face?”

“Nothing at all, apprentice. What a fine day we're having today, don't you think?”

“...but it's mostly cloudy.”

“Oh dear me, you're right. Silly of me not to notice,” She looked out the window with feigned interest.

“I can't help but shake the feeling that you have something to say to me.”

“Whatever gives you that impression?”

“A gut feeling.”

“Ah, sounds like something that Marisa would say,” Her register dropped an octave lower. I didn't know if it was a deliberate gesture or subconscious association.

“Let me clean up, please,” I got up an began to take the dishes away. All the while Alice sat in her chair with a cup of tea, looking out the window and humming softly. She was in a peculiar state. I felt awkward and started up another conversation to make me feel better, “Do you have any plans for today mistress?”

“Not a thing!” She exclaimed almost... happily. “Say, isn't it nice to just be able to relax and take it easy?”

“I, I guess it is.”

“It's important to forget ourselves every once in a while and just let loose. I shouldn't be teaching you on your hard-earned day off but you should know that if you allow yourself to be consumed by obsession you won't get very far.”

“I'll keep that in mind.”

I offered to pour her some more tea. She took out a sewing kit and began to work on a small dress. The size made it clear that it was for one of the dolls. It was still rough and unfinished but it was obvious that it would be extremely cute. Black with polka dots on the edges and a little bow on the neck. I sat opposite her, watching her work. She was good at sewing and lost no time in shaping up the dress just the way she wanted it to be. She occasionally used scissors to cut the edge of the fabric and adjust for size. I wondered how many such dresses she had made over the years. Her doll collection was vast and all of them wore homemade clothes.

“Is my work that interesting to you?” She asked, looking up from the dress.

“Oh, yeah. Well I was just thinking that you were very talented. I've never seen someone work that quickly and precisely as you have.”

“Thank you, but it's been years of practice for me. I wasn't born this good with needles and thread.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Sure, I don't see why not,” She put down her needle and took off her thimble. It was weird to have her full undivided attention. It reminded me that she was normally courteous unless she had reason to behave differently.

[] “I really do believe that you had something to ask me earlier. I said something embarrassing, so couldn't you be honest with me?”
[] “Truthfully did I not weird you out? My dream was more intense than I thought a dream could be.”
[]”Besides mistress and apprentice... do you see us in any other way?”
Her question, the reason behind her reaction to those 'dreams' or the specifics of the relationship? Hard Choice, but I think finding out about her question would shed more light, and answering it would be nice for her as well.

[x] “I really do believe that you had something to ask me earlier. I said something embarrassing, so couldn't you be honest with me?”

It is nice to see Arc making some progress, both with Magic and getting Alice back out of that shell of hers. But Alice's response has hints that she might have similar 'dreams' but isn't quick to admit it.
[x]”Besides mistress and apprentice... do you see us in any other way?”

Aww crap, we're veering into dangerous territory. Alice usually defines the barriers between us very concisely, but now that she allows us to call her by her name, all bets are off. Somehow, through our actions, we have broached the barrier between master and pupil and now who the fuck knows where we stand.

Well, whatever. Fortune favors the bold. Now that Alice is acting differently and, dare I say it, warmly, we should push aggressively until everything turns out okay, or it all blows up in our face. High risk, high reward, ya know. If it ends up badly, we can always fix it later.
[x] “I really do believe that you had something to ask me earlier. I said something embarrassing, so couldn't you be honest with me?”

This seems like a good opportunity to ask, given she's still in a good mood. Plus I think it would not ruin said mood, whereas asking about what she thought of our relationship potentially could. Of course, I could be completely wrong. Personally, I'm curious as to why she's in such a good mood, if it was just that we used the magic, or something else?
[x] “I really do believe that you had something to ask me earlier. I said something embarrassing, so couldn't you be honest with me?”
She's in a suspiously good mood though
[x] “I really do believe that you had something to ask me earlier. I said something embarrassing, so couldn't you be honest with me?”

She said there was something confusing about this situation. Time to find out.
[x]”Besides mistress and apprentice... do you see us in any other way?”

This option should give us the most information. I wouldn't ask this on a bad day, but since the ice has melted temporarily, we have a chance to be a little daring. It's obvious that Alice has had similar dreams about Arc.
[x]”Besides mistress and apprentice... do you see us in any other way?”

I agree with this anon, Arc has to know where he stands. This is a rather sudden improvement in his situation and the game has changed.

I'm just wondering how much of what Arc did in the dream with magic will carry over. The liquid allowed him to immediately grasp the very concepts that had eluded him when he spent time hitting the books. Will they stick or will they fade? Only time will tell.
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“Just because you are not good at hiding your thoughts does not mean the world has to reciprocate,” She answered, a sly smile on her lips. Having said that, she then added, “In the spirit of amicability, however, I do not think it too onerous to indulge your curiosity. And, indeed, my own.”

There was a pause. It was as if she was trying to think if it was for the best to proceed after all. I spoke up, trying to make things seem less awkward, “Thank you for being honest with me, but you don't need to say it if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

“Uncomfortable?” She frowned, “No, it's not that. It's something that requires some finesse on my part and I don't want to just make a mess of things. It seems that people get put off when I'm too forward or too critical.”

“Don't worry about that with me,” I replied, knowing full well what she meant. When she acted as she usually did, she was downright intimidating. The coldness in her eyes and the callousness in her words could drive icicles right through the heart. That's what made her more relaxed and friendly side so jarring by comparison. What was normal with a sanguine personality proved alien when regarding the eternally saturnine puppeteer.

“All the same,” She concluded, “Ambiguity leads to misunderstandings. It's the same with anything.”

“Don't be ambiguous then,” I smiled.

“Maybe I shouldn't.”

“It's not like you to get cold feet,” I remarked.

“And just what is it that you know about me? We have known each other for a very brief spell, unless you're implying that I'm somehow very readable,” She said with a combative flair. She had a point.

“I know that you're reserved and confident of your abilities, beyond that, you're right, I don't know much about you.”

“Do you want to know more?”

“Of course I do. I am curious.”

“Ah, that same curiosity that got you to drudge up an earlier topic,” She brought the conversation back full circle. Though I had originally steered the conversation, she was the one now leading it. She asked, “Does that curiosity ever get in into trouble?”

“Occasionally, I guess.”

“But in the end, it's worth it?”

“Yes.” I did not see where she was going with it all. I tried to once again take lead, “Why are you dancing around the topic? I'm still waiting for an answer.”

“I cannot believe I'm saying this,” She nodded quietly to herself, “But I actually agree with Marisa.”


“It is fun to tease you,” She laughed. It was a polite little laugh but it felt very insulting. Like she didn't think much of me. “Please don't look at me like that,” She said, “I'm only trying to be a little more personable.”

“Well, alright. I won't hold it against you, but I can't help but feel that you're acting very strangely today.”

“...your reputation does not quite match up to the truth, does it?”

“What reputation?” I asked, unaware of what she meant.

“It's not for me to say,” She asserted. It seemed like she was finally made up her mind, “What I wanted to ask you earlier was a bit vulgar. I thought it best not to intrude into your personal life. It might also be seen as an abuse of my position since you may have interpreted the question as a demand from a master instead of a query from a curious party.”

“I don't mind, just ask what you wanted to ask.”

“Very well,” The smile was wiped from her face. A sheet of stoic indifference separated us now, “Have you been able to take care of your sexual urges as of late?”

“...in what sense?” I knew what she meant but I was too stunned to reply in any other way.

“As a human there are certain biological urges which bring on physiological reactions when presented with stimulation. The frustration of desire can lead to all sorts of issues.”


“Besides,” She observed, “Every time I see you in the mornings it seems like you're in immense pain. For two days running I've thought to say something but wasn't able to think of a way to frame it in an appropriate way. Your very vivid description of your dream earlier made me think that maybe you were very frustrated.”

“That's not particularly true...”

“If you tell me that I shouldn't be concerned, I won't pry further. Your dignity as a sapient being is important to me. Just be aware that a magician should be in command of all of his desires. If passion flies wild, it can cause great disasters to happen.”

“Thanks, I'll keep that in mind...”

“I don't mean to lecture you either,” She knitted her brows, “It's just that... how can I put this succinctly? I haven't been exposed much to the ways of men. You should be proud that your semen is a remarkable magical component. There is nothing renewable like that present exclusively in the female body.”

“Uh, thank you very much,” I said stupidly. I was having a hard time following her train of thought. It may not have been very embarrassing for her, but it was embarrassing for me. Somehow I pictured her coldly and clinically analyzing my body, pointing out the different value of my parts for the pursuit of magic. When she got to my lower parts she justified the means with the end of extraction.

“Take care of yourself,” She concluded.

“Your concern is very moving,” I replied, “But you know I can't do that sort of thing at someone else's home, much less a girl's home.”

“What sort of thing?” She asked, puzzled.

“Taking care of my... urges.”

“Haven't you had dreams that have stimulated you?”

“That's not exactly the problem here.” I looked at her and remembered how she enjoyed herself as much as I did in the dream.

“Then what is the problem?”

“It's just not easy, alright?”

“What isn't?”

“Ugh... the physiological part and fixing that,” I used a euphemism that I hoped she would understand.

She apparently didn't, asking with something like simple curiosity, “might you need some assistance in order to resolve that problem?”

“Help? Ah, no. That would be nice, but not necessary, I can take care of it on my own if I want to. Gee, what am I even saying?” I was acting like a fool. For a moment I thought that she might have simply been teasing me again, but her perplexity was legitimate I concluded. She was as ignorant as I thought her to be.

“I can go fetch someone else to help you with it, if I can't. Maybe I could call Marisa, or that oni you are always with. Perhaps even Reimu. I'm sure they would understand...” She began to get up from the chair.

“No, really! It's fine,” I interjected strongly. Last thing I needed was for anyone else to get involved. As exciting as the thought of someone else helping me was, it was also highly inappropriate.

“If the others won't do, perhaps I can?”


“No good?” Alice looked a little sad.

“That's not true. You just don't have to go that far. This is something I have to deal with,” I avoided making eye contact.

“Very well, I understand.”

The more I thought about it, the less I was sure of what she had been offering. She wasn't naïve enough not to know what sex, as she had brought the subject up numerous times for educational purposes. It led me to believe the she was talking about something different. Perhaps it was her ignorance outside of the realm of magic that made her unaware of the nature of the erotic. I wasn't sure nor did I want to pry. I had put my foot in my mouth before and I wasn't too eager to do so again. As much as my imagination was asking me to let it run wild, I reined it in.

It was awkward to be around Alice. She went back to sewing but I could not go back to spacing out. I was more agitated than ever. I decided that the best thing to do would be to clear my head somehow after all. With Alice's blessings, I was free to do as I pleased.

[] Drop in to see Marisa for advice
[] Rest as much as possible
[] Do independent magic research
[x] Drop in to see Marisa for advice

Must be hell having one's instincts and one's manner conflict as such. Makes it hard to deal with such... issues. She is right about problem of letting it build up in general, not just for magicians.

I figure some time out of the house and on something else might help cool him down. Either Alice has no part or she has the best Pokerface in Gensokyo. She has indeed noticed that something is building up.
[x] Do independent magic research

There is absolutely no way in hell she is that naive/innocent. I'm 100% positive she was just fucking with us to dodge the question; hitting us in a sensitive, embarrassing spot so we would drop the issue. She's pretty crafty, that Alice.
[x] Drop in to see Marisa for advice
Lets go get eaten in the forest ask Marisa's opinion
[x] Drop in to see Marisa for advice

Well, Arc is free for the day. Time to lay off the books for a bit.

Damn Alice, this demeanor is throwing me and Arc off so much.
[x] Do independent magic research

Why not be studious? Being self-motivated to go learn new things is a great trait to have. Who knows what he'll discover. I have expectations for this option.

On another note, these constant updates are spoiling me rotten. Keep it up.
Just checking, but didn't Marisa say she was on her period?
Yes, but who knows if she was telling the truth. She was acting a little flighty when asked what was bothering her. She might have just said that to make Arc stop asking.
might not be so easy being as distracted as he is right now. This of whole discussion brought back thoughts a particular nature, which he had yet to find any sort of release from.
Well she did admit she has fun teasing him.

[x] Do independent magic research
I was surprised to find that Marisa was home. The blinds were closed and from a distance it looked like her house was an abandoned shack. The paint peeling off due to weathering and the unkempt entranceway added to this notion. She seemed to be genuinely surprised to see me there; She came to the door wearing what I surmised was a sleeping shit and loose baggy pants. Unlike Alice, Marisa did not get up early.

She was still rubbing her eyes as she invited me in. Her voice sounded groggy as she said, “make yourself at home. Take a seat somewhere if you want. I'll go make us some tea.”

Her offer was better suited for a tidier room. Finding a chair and liberating it from the piles of junk that covered everything everywhere took a long time. Dusty books, unlabeled jars with murky contents, even what looked to be bones lay about like natural parts of the landscape. To pass the time, I grabbed the nearest book and began to flip through it. It was a cook book, To Serve Man. An odd title. It looked like it been carefully studied by someone in the distant past. Occasional smudges and stains marked the pages.

“Tea,” Marisa returned, still looking as sleepy as before. In two discolored porcelain cups she had served tea. She handed one to me and then she looked for a place to sit. A quick sweep of her foot cleared a spot on the floor.

“Sorry to have woken you up,” I apologized.

“Itz cool,” She yawned.

I took a sip of the tea. It was bitter. The tea leaves had seeped in the hot water for too long. I put my cup down on the side, not wanting to drink anymore.

“So, wassup?” She didn't even touch her tea, likewise putting it down next to her. Her eyes were barely open. She half-mumbled her every word.

“I just came here for some advice.”

“Alice giving you trouble? I thought you had your own thing that you were going to do,” She covered her mouth as a big yawn escaped her, “did you give up already?”

“No it's not really that,” I explained some of what happened. The liquid, the dream and what happened earlier in the morning. She seemed to show some interest, her eyes closing only half as often as they did ten minutes before. I didn't exaggerate anything and left out any speculation.

“Oh, that's nice,” Marisa said, “Sounds like you've had an interesting time of it all.”

“Aren't you going to tease me about it? It was a pretty raunchy dream.”

“Why would I man?” She tilted her head, “You came to me for advice, so you at least deserve that I take you seriously.”

“Right, I appreciate it.” I thought that I was seeing a different side of her that was refreshingly more centered and sober. I couldn't be sure that it wasn't just the fact that her mind was still half-asleep.

“Before I can help you though, you have to tell me what you want to accomplish. It doesn't seem like general advice will help you much.”

[] “How can I make sure she takes me seriously?”
[] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”
[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”
The question of questions. How do i know what she thinks and if i am wrong, will i make a fool out of myself?
Marisa is a some kind of buddy so she will at least be able to listen to his worries.

Let's move past this crossroad.
I know how to find out how she feels. Asking her.

Like we had the chance TWO CHOICES AGO.
Majority wins. Deal with it.
Giving up just because is not what you should do. If you want something, work for it even if someone else puts stones in your way.

So, be a man and vote.
Seeing what happened when we looked into her curiosity, I'm not sure if we'd have gotten a straight answer.

[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”

I think Alice is taking Arc seriously enough, but she seems to be putting some distance between them via the sort of back and forth. A long time friend like Marisa might shed some much needed light.
[x] “How can I make sure she takes me seriously?”

Well, the answer to this question might be using that vial since that seemed to immediately loosen up Alice.
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>It was a cook book, To Serve Man. An odd title. It looked like it been carefully studied by someone in the distant past. Occasional smudges and stains marked the pages.

"Respectfully submitted for your approval - a Kirisame. Height: a little under five and a half feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of one hundred and twenty pounds. Origin: Gensokyo. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment we're going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone."

[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”
Are you frustrated?

[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”
This story keeps gettin' better
[x] whatever
Vote instead of whining. That's the only way you'll get what you want.

If you're going to vote, or make some sort of statement, at least do a proper job of it. It's bad enough that it usually takes at least half a day for just the grand total of 4-6 votes. Don't make things more difficult for me to update.
[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”

Why everyone thinks asking Marisa this question over directly asking Alice herself is better, I'll never know, but at least it's a step in the right direction. I'll just choose to pretend Arc needed to work up the balls to go ask Alice by talking to one of his best buddies and getting a second opinion.
[x] “How do I really know how she feels about me?”

Since we couldn't pull in enough support to actually ask Alice how she felt about Arc, this is the next best option.
This is quite a departure from the norm. A warm Alice and a serious Marisa really breathes some fresh air into the characterizations seen elsewhere.
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“Hm? Honestly?” Marisa scratched her head lazily.

Her hair needed a good thorough brushing, it was a bit frazzled and all over the place. At the best of times it wasn't the shiniest nor most well-maintained hair but it was a bit sad to see it in a state of such disrepair. I was weird for thinking about it then, I knew, but I could scarcely help it. When I was young I used to take baths with Auntie and, though I can't remember much else, I remember how fine her hair was when she let it down. Smelled so nice too, like flowers. As the years wore and the baths stopped I still remember admiring it from afar and always being eager to help her do it up. Recently she took a more casual approach, using a pencil sometimes to hold it in place. It completely wrote me out of the equation. Marisa must spend at least a little time to girly things like brushing her hair if it tended to look like that in the mornings. It was an odd mental image.

“I haven't said anything yet, so why the frown?” Marisa asked.

“Oh, sorry, my mind wandered there for a moment,” I apologized, feeling a little embarrassed. Thinking about Aunties cheerful and healthy-looking locks was best left for another time.

“You must be more worried about this than I thought then,” She took away an erroneous conclusion.

“That might be a bit of a stretch-”

“No need to be modest and to hide your worry, just means that my advice needs to be extra-good.”

If she had something on the tip of her tongue earlier, there were signs that it was no longer a satisfying enough piece of advice. She sunk into a pensive state, hand on chin and legs crossed. It looked like she was meditating, her eyes were closed but her face held something of a troubled expression. Having been half-expecting something irreverent like Marisa calling herself 'the love magician' or something equally silly, I was now anxiously awaiting her serious response. I didn't want to say anything to interrupt her thought process.

“I know,” Her first words were eerily quiet, they carried the weight of the world, “I know just what you need to do.”

“What do I have to do?”

Her eyes opened up, meeting mine. A tingle of excitement shot up through my spine. In that brief window of time, it felt like the secrets of the universe would be exposed to me. She began well enough, saying, “What you need to do is get her in a room alone with you, free of any other distractions,” I nodded, latching on to her every word like a faithful puppy, “and then look her straight in the eye. It's important to be straightforward. If she tries to take the initiative, stop her, hold her by the waist or arms if you have to. Waist is preferable since it keeps her closer to you. And-”

“And-?” I felt like I was going to explode.

“Kiss her, even if she resists at first.”

“What?! Kiss her?!”

“Yes. You take your lips, bring them close to her face and press them to her lips. Quite simple actually,” She blushed a little, “You should know since you've kissed me. It was my first, you know.”

“Are you serious?” I was at a loss for words.

“Yes, hard to believe that someone as awesome and beautiful as me would be so inexperienced, but to be honest I haven't had much time for relationships and I never met the right person either so-”

“No, not about that!” All that earlier excitement had been converted to aggravation. I fumed, “That can't be the best advice you have for me. Something like that won't work. Besides, I would be forcing myself on her, worst case scenario. She might even kick me out.”

“How cruel, you forced yourself on me, you know,” Though the redness on her face hadn't quite subsided, she looked a little despondent, “you practically ruined me for marriage later on that night with what you did when we were in bed together. I have a big heart, but even I have feelings you know.”

“Couldn't you give me a more serious answer about Alice?”

“That is serious!” She insisted, “She's a withdrawn and grumpy girl. If you ask with words she might play it down or twist what you say around. But that's because she isn't honest with herself, because she doesn't know how to do that. So a kiss would be the most direct way to bypass all that, to get through to her. You're a jerk you know,” She pouted.

“If you're serious about that, look, I'm sorry,” I said.

“You said you would take responsibility. It doesn't seem like you will...”

I was walking on eggshells, it seemed. As cruel as it might have been for Marisa, I wanted to focus on the other moody magician, “I wasn't implying that I wanted to confirm those sorts of feelings anyways. I just want her to be honest. Tell me that I'm at least a friend or something. I want to know where I stand.”

“Of course you don't want anything more, because if you put your heart out there, you're just liable to get hurt. Is that it?” She scoffed, acting more than just a little hostile.

“No, it's really not about that-”

“She's cute, smart and available,” She interrupted, “Even I've been tempted to kiss her more than once. To see if she feels good about it, looks like a normal girl with all sorts of lovely feelings afterwards. I think she deserves her happiness too. You're too scared to commit to anything without being sure that your own heart will be broken. How selfish, you don't even stop to consider how others feel. Have you forgotten already about the others? There's no way you haven't noticed how Suika and Reimu have changed. I'm sure that you think that you're hot stuff, playing off all these different girls but the truth is you aren't. You're just a big jerk. A big jerk that comes and goes as he pleases, toying with girls in the prime of his maidenhood. It should be alright to kiss one more, shouldn't it? Another notch for you to celebrate.”

“I think you're overreacting,” I defended myself, “I'm really not like that. I'm sorry if I've given you the wrong impression but I'm being honest here. I don't mean to play anyone, I just... I'm inexperienced about this sort of thing as well. I want to learn magic in order to be someone, not just that guy that's an inconvenience to others.”

“I'm sorry,” Marisa stood up, “But could you please leave?”

“Oh come on now-”

“I'm serious. Please leave,” She went and opened her front door, “Leave me alone for a while. I really don't feel like seeing you right now. I don't feel any good at all.”

I planned to protest but the look on her face told me she was being serious. Instead of making things worse, I decided to cut my losses and do as she asked. I tried to apologize again but she would have none of it. With nothing to be done about that situation, I returned to Alice's house. There I flung myself into bed, staring at the ceiling for a long, long time. I avoided Alice entirely, not sure that I was capable of handling anyone else for the rest of the day. I skipped meals.

Eventually I fell into an uneasy sleep.

She sat in her chair, staring at me. There was no trace of overt anxiety like before even though some of the other feelings of longing still lingered in the air. She did what she could do and that was to observe, to wait, to be patient. It was a vigil in which the object to be watched should have been swapped with the watcher. I wanted to go back to that, but I couldn't. So I stayed still, finding solace in the fact that we were at least together. It was something. I wanted more but it was the best I could do.

I was still feeling tired when I got up in the morning. I moved slowly and got ready at a snail's pace. Alice was downstairs at the table, drinking her morning tea, when I came in. She was back to her distant and unapproachable self, calmly giving me directives for the day. I was to try the spell from the other day again and see if I could do it at a reliable rate. Afterwards she said that there was a few books worth of reading I should get to and a few practical exercises I could do following that.

Replicating the spell successfully did not prove to be a problem. Even though my heart wasn't really into magic that morning, my mind was more than ready to do as I asked it to. It was like there were new paths open in there that acted like shortcuts, hastening the preparations I needed to do and channeling the energies needed in a more efficient fashion. Again and again I was able to make the test plants bloom with boldly-colored flowers. Satisfied with how that turned out, I turned to the reading next. I worked most of the day on that and only stopped to eat a meal in the early afternoon. It was all boring stuff, nothing revolutionary but I could see why I had to read it. It laid the foundations for more complex things that were to come. By late afternoon I was ready to try the first of the practical exercises and was halfway done when Alice talked to me in the evening.

“You've done enough for the day, you ought to rest,” She suggested. Like with anything related to her lessons, it had a very tangible reason, “If you are too tired or your energies too drained you increase the likelihood of failure. And invite catastrophic consequences inadvertently.”

“I'll do as you say mistress,” I answered glumly.

“Tomorrow you will have much work to do, including making an important choice. Rest up and clear your mind.”

Another day drew to a close. I stayed up, lying in bed for a while. Persistent thoughts kept me awake. It took a long time for me to finally fall asleep.

She continued to stare. Her eyes did not lose focus even for an instant. I was glad. At least they didn't contain pity. It was not the best situation, but it was what it was. Her silent vigil was enough even if no one else was there with her. That had always been enough. What came next still held promise. There was a slight smile on her lips. A promise of things yet to come.

By sticking to a tight schedule I was able to focus on my magic lessons. I didn't have time to think about anything else. Alice pushed me to grow in power and knowledge. The absolute confidence with which she gave me orders and instructions made me suspect that she was investing a lot of herself into teaching me. There was pride showing in her normally stern eyes. Whether it was pride in me or in herself I did not know. I could do within a few days what I never had thought possible a month earlier. I was not impressive, by any metric, but the difference between the dumb-struck me who first saw that spectacle of lights all those months ago and the me now was significant. Or so I felt.

Around midday Alice had me take a break. With six hours or so of hard work done, I stopped to have something to eat. She joined me, silently watching me as I wolfed down my meal. Magical energy had to come from somewhere, I supposed, and wasting it made me rather hungry. After I was done, she had a talk with me. The nature of the choice that she had mentioned the day before now became clear.

“Apprentice,” She started, “you've come far along to take the first incipient steps into specialization. In time you will develop your own focus and specialization but for now you should begin to do more in-depth study in a rubric of magic.”

“Am I to choose something myself?”

“That is correct.”

“Do you have any suggestions for me, mistress?”

“Of course. But it is not my place to interfere. You must decide yourself. I can say that you are not especially lacking in any field, save by detriment of inexperience but that can be overcome with dedication. I do not believe I have to explain what these specializations are, do I?”

She did not. It was one of the first things she taught me. Under the umbrella term of 'schools of magic' but even that was a misleading label. There was no consensus on what constituted a 'school' and the many arbitrary subdivisions. Truth was that everything was interrelated and there was plenty of crossover. The spectrum of magic was not exactly continuous but neither was it too interrupted. Alice could help me out with anything I chose because of the fact that the general principles were innate to all types of magic. Her experience was something that made her superior to me.

I thought about the different choices and what I wanted to go for. There was transmutation, the changing of one substance to another temporarily or permanently. It wasn't lead to gold but often much more subtle and a generally undetectable form of magic (unless someone looked really hard). It could also be used to strengthen objects by changing their properties. Then there was something similar but focused mostly on the self and others. To call it restoration did not do the complexity of the discipline enough credit but was otherwise a good enough term. It meant the alteration of the body, something as subtle as inducing someone to a better mood or something more obvious like helping to heal a wound or reducing the time it took for broken bones to mend. Some types of protective spells fell into this category. That was not an exhaustive application of those talents and it was more ill-defined than evocation. This was using my own energies to create things that weren't there. My light spell was something of an evocation since I didn't use external energy. A fireball would fall into that category, though frankly that was just a stupidly childish application. Then there was the opposite of that. Drawing out the power from things around me. Like conjuring up the energies of nature from trees or using lightning for my own purpose.

Those were the specializations I sort of wanted to do. There were other things I could do, but honestly they didn't interest me. I wasn't sure what Alice's style was. Her manipulation of dolls required her internal energies but the dolls themselves were also prepared to be manipulated. Besides that I hadn't really ever seen her cast anything really big or specialized. I wanted to ask, but felt that she wouldn't tell me. She was determined to get me to choose my own path.

[] Transmutation/Enchantment
[] Restoration
[] Evocation
[] Conjuration
[x] Restoration

Oh wow. I feel like such a jackass for completely ignoring Marisa's feelings. I never realized that kiss was bothering her so much. I suppose it's just way too easy to ignore that she actually is an inexperienced young maiden, since she usually acts so selflessly and knowledgeable with our incessant questions about love.

I wonder how much of her "advice" would apply to her own situation with Arc? Arc's indignant reaction, and Marisa's corresponding worsening mood seem to suggest she was simply suggesting something she thinks would work on herself, as befitting someone with absolutely no field-knowledge of the subject. Or maybe I'm trying to read to much into this, and she was simply pmsing hard. wwww

Voting for restoration as I believe it suits Arc's personality more than the others. He doesn't care about learning magic for the sake of being powerful, or renown, or any of that other junk. He just wishes to learn so he can stop being a burden on others, and feeling useless. Restoration, a field of magic almost entirely devoted to helping others seems to fit that wish more closely than the other branches.

>I'm sure that you think that you're hot stuff, playing off all these different girls
Oh no, it's School Days all over again!
Waiting for more votes seems like a fools errand. So I guess I'll try to write or something? I'm not sure. Trying to do more updates won't work if the readers won't collaborate. Fuck if I know. It's hard to keep up the enthusiasm.
>What you need to do is get her in a room alone with you, free of any other distractions
Wait a minute, somehow this feels familiar....
>I wonder how much of her "advice" would apply to her own situation with Arc?
She as talking about herself mostly there. What bothers her, what she does not like and would like.
Well, it is a reflection of what people voted for. So the price has to be paid sooner or later.

[x] Transmutation/Enchantment
Trasmute, change, strengthen, awesome. So many pssibilities, so many things you can do with that.

I hope more time will be devoted to magic. And Alice of course.
[x] Restoration

This would go well in hand with his wine shop work and helping others.

Oy oy... Arc (and anon) have quite a way of getting into messes. While these rapid updates are good, I'd rather not see you burn out and end up slower than Patchwork.
[x] Restoration

I just can't see Arc using magic to ever harm someone or something.
Another pile of books was the immediate result of my decision. They were dry and technical and I was to try to learn as much as possible. The basic principles were straightforward, as was with all magic but the devil was in the details. Gathering enough power and using it in the right way was all there was to it. Due to this, Alice wanted me to read all of the possible applications of my chosen field and understand what I wanted to do. In her words “it was a preview” of what I ultimately wanted to do.

I got the feeling that she was not too thrilled with my choice. Though her eyes betrayed no obvious reaction, something told me she had expected something else. I had been spending enough time around her to understand some of the subtleties to her quiet ways. At least I thought I did. It was an arrogant notion and if she found out about it no doubt she would ridicule me for it. A verbal dressing down was enough to sink my spirits for quite some time. She exemplified the patient teacher otherwise, giving me the space and material I needed to grow. Even if she felt distant at times I was sure it was because it was all part of her design.

In some respects, the books resembled medical tracts and scrolls. The human body and its part were featured prominently as were examples of other creatures. The significance of blood had its own entire book – it delved into both the practical nature, that allowed living creatures to live, as well as the more esoteric side which more or less made it into the signature that a living being had into the astral world. Some attention was given to blood contracts and binding but a lot of it was beyond my comprehension.

I kept reading on, flipping through pages at a fast pace.

Having occupied myself with the first impression of my specialization, the rest of the day went by quickly. The night was quite old before I realized that I probably ought to go and sleep. Oddly enough, I wasn't tired. Like a child, I was too excited about the new toy I had gotten to fall asleep. Pathetically, I stayed up way later than I should have. I read as much as I was able to. When sleep overcame me it was sudden and immediate.

She smiled at me with satisfaction written all over her lips. With her I knew that I didn't need anyone else, with her I knew I was fine right where I was. All I had to do was get up and reach out, and I would get everything I had ever wanted. She sat by me, gently running her fingers through my hair while singing a lullaby. It was sweet. I was touched. I was happy. If her gentle touch were to last forever it would still be over too soon.

“Here,” A new book as added to the pile. Alice caught me in the middle afternoon taking a break and I wondered if the additional material was punishment. I noticed that she was spending more and more time in her room and that I was being given more opportunities to work unsupervised. It felt like a vote of confidence and propelled me to rip through the dull books at breakneck speed. Furthermore, it excused me from thinking too much about other distracting things and gave me a clear objective, to receive praise from my teacher.

The applications of my specialization were all too obvious at first, as were the limitations. I couldn't do anything impressive or flashy, but the part of me that was disappointed by that reality was satisfied by how it could potentially be used to make others happy. It couldn't heal the mind or the heart but it could heal the mind and the heart in a more literal sense. Though the more important functions of the body were harder to influence for good or ill. As it stood, I had a lot of work to do and a lot of things to memorize and learn. The spell Alice had made me practice days before was something of a prelude of the work at hand. IT was about transferring energies in the precise manner to the right place. An error would have no effect at best and at worst, would seriously complicate any situation.

Protective spells and wards were a little out of my league. They required immense concentration as well as knowledge of the type of danger faced. Just like an umbrella was meant for water and not for fire, so too were the shields and protections that I could try to learn. Without understanding what was trying to inflict harm or alter the environment, I could not hope to counter it. I had to work hard to learn about other specializations as well in order to truly be successful.

“Mistress, are you okay?” I was not too caught up in study to notice that she stumbled and nearly fell to the floor. She supported herself on the door with a hand as her dolls fell idly to the floor because of a break in Alice's concentration.

“I am fine, apprentice,” She replied unconvincingly, “Just felt a little dizzy for a moment.”

“There's no need to push yourself,” I said, “I thought that a magician had to be well of body and mind for his magic to be at its best.”

“Hm, getting lectured by an upstart, am I? Perhaps I've been too soft on you, spoiling you and making you not realize the boundaries between us.”

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so presumptuous,” I meant it but still got up in case she needed help walking. She didn't appreciate the gesture turning to glare at me.

“Return to your studies, at this rate you'll be under my care for years. You ought to hurry up and dedicate yourself.”

Her rebuke was definitive. She would allow me no leeway, proudly walking away with so much as a single further display of frailty. Even her dolls seemed to take after her dignified aura, their little faces seemingly taking on the character of their controller.

She was stubborn. But so was I. It may have been her influence that made me act like that, ironically enough. My worry was real and I knew it.

[] Create a fake crisis that she will be unable to deal with in her debilitated state
[] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness

>not see you burn out
Will only happen if A) People don't bother to talk about stuff (which for the most part, save a few exceptions has been fine) or B) I am not able to write as much as I want because it takes forever for votes. The latter is looking more worrisome than the former because I can only keep on going for so long ignoring reality before it gets to me and I fall into complete despair.

I should also mention that it's unnecessary, and indeed a bit annoying, when people continue to vote even after I state I'm writing. Comments and impressions are always welcome, signs that you aren't paying attention not so much.
We're supposed to be studying and learning as much as we can. Creating some sort of crises to get a reaction out of someone is just downright pathetic. Besides, Alice seems to be back to her usual peachy self, so doing something like that solely to try and get a rise out of her will piss her off mightily. However, if she somehow doesn't intuit our reasoning, or see past the crises' facade, Arc will have an unparallelled chance at improving his relationship with her.

I guess the only problem will be Arc's acting, and his ability to fake some sort of crises. We'll worry about the rest when it comes. High risk, high reward, ya know.

[x] Create a fake crisis that she will be unable to deal with in her debilitated state
Alice is incredibly sharp, I think she'd notice right away and call Arc out on his shit.

[x] Create a fake crisis that she will be unable to deal with in her debilitated state.

Go for all or go for none. This is a chance worthy of taking even with the potentially devastating consequences.
[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness.

This could work, she is putting up a strong front for Arc, a little pushing should be all it takes to get through.
[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness

Alice would probably catch on to the other option. She does want Arc to be dedicated...
[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness

No need for fake drama.

>a bit annoying, when people continue to vote even after I state I'm writing
Was distracted Took over 40 mins to read/think/vote, writing(?) was said after i started.
I'll be calling the vote in an hour or so. Maybe a bit more. When I come back from something I need to do.
Daily updates? Holy fuck, you're too fast for this site. I'm not complaining, mind you. I might have a reason for checking here on weekends now.

You have a good point, but making up a crisis seems like a dick and childish move. Besides, if the other option fails, at least he will learn something:

[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness.
[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness
[x] Press her on academic matters until she openly displays weariness

It's better to be in a position to actually help than to create discord that may not accomplish anything.
>You're too scared to commit to anything without being sure that your own heart will not be broken.

You are all completely dense. Though Marisa might have been ranting primarily about her own situation, there's still some valid advice in it. This is one of them.

We've played it safe in regards to Alice for a long, long time, and it hasn't gotten us anywhere at all. I'm not gonna say the other option is definitively better, but you can only beat your head against the wall so long before you realize it ain't gonna break down, right? Be bolder, people.
There is already enough sexual tension floating around between the two. Maybe you are right and a stronger pursue should be used.
I went to her room prepared. A pile of books in arms and an arsenal of questions in mind. As expected she didn't refuse my entrance.

“I need help understanding something,” I was banking on the possibility that she wouldn't just tell me to figure it out myself. Though she was cool and proper when she was teaching, it was clear that she had a soft spot of sorts for me. The day off was evidence enough of it. And she always seemed to make breakfast when I was too tired to do so. It was the small things that made me believe that she would be receptive.

“If you do not understand, I suppose it is my duty to clarify,” She said with the usual indifference. I had succeeded. I made my way to her bed where she sat up with a pillow in her arms. I pointed out the first thing in one of the books, making sure to not be too obvious that I really did understand it. Playing dumb wasn't my specialty but luckily for me Alice did not seem capable of seeing through mediocre acting.

I sat close to her, reading the book shoulder to shoulder. After a while, she was completely concentrated on the book, thinking about the answer. Upon closer inspection I saw that her face was a bit reddish and her breathing not at all calm. She tried to hide it but it was clear that she was not feeling normal. I wanted to touch her forehead to see if she had a fever but it was too soon to make a move.

I keep on the offensive, “I wasn't sure how that part related to the first principle expounded in this other tome either. In fact, I was confused whether or not I could apply the fourth technique described there to produce the concentration of mass that is necessary for the second stage of the spell.”

“Ah, well you see... you have to keep in mind the example detailed here,” She pointed to a paragraph on a page. Her hand brushed against my own accidentally and she froze up momentarily.

“Is anything wrong?” I asked with a look of concern.

“No, it's nothing,” She resumed the explanation quickly enough. She told me to read another part of the book for a more detailed analysis and as I did so I found that she was closing her eyes when she thought I wasn't looking. She was either tired or uncomfortable. I intended to find out which one of the two it was.

I plopped another book in front of her. Another question, another complicated answer. Her explanation was eloquent and I was grateful for it. But it surely took a lot of mental acumen, something which she seemingly running out of. By the time I asked the third question, it took her longer to give me a concise reply. She paused more to consider her question and paused more before pointing me to the relevant passages. I pressed harder. A fourth book and a fourth question. I felt that she was close to not being able to answer, her breathing unsteady and her eyes losing some of their focus. It was plain as day that she wasn't really able to carry on as normal.

Pride or stubbornness kept her from giving up. She did not urge me to leave or to stop asking questions. On the contrary, she asked with almost inflammatory defiance whether or not I had more questions. That suited me fine. I had come thoroughly prepared. I was determined to win.

She began to cough. She played it off like it was no big thing. Eyes on the book, eyes on the prize. Her dedication as a teacher was marvelous if I ignored any other ulterior motives. I did not know if it was a fear of displaying weakness that kept her from being honest. She did not seem to like that I had seen her so frail and so sick only a few days before. She kept quiet about me tending to her but she had also run off without a word. That may have been caused by a sort of panic on her part.

“Mistress, are you sure you're alright? We can leave it here if you're not up to it...” I remarked coyly.

“If you cannot understand on your own...” She masked another coughing fit poorly, “It's my prerogative to teach you properly.”

“Not at the expense of your wellbeing,” I awkwardly reached for her hand. She flinched but did not struggle. Her hand was cold.

She simply looked at her hand and asked with her eyes, “What are you doing?”

[] “You can trust me to be there for you, no matter what.”
[] “You don't need to act so strong in front of me, I'm always going to be weaker than you are.”
[] No words, only a kiss
[X] No words, only a kiss.

Go go go! This is it. Her guard is down and the timing is almost perfect. Arc may not get a better opportunity.
[x] No words, only a kiss

Aww shit. Push come to shove, I am so damn tempted to puss out and back down. Well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record; high risk, high reward. All in, baby, let's do this.

This'll determine whether Marisa is full of shit with her love advice or not. We'll definitely owe her something special if this works.
[x] No words, only a kiss.

Bold and manly. This kiss should open a lot of doors for Arc. Blurring the line between teacher and student may cause issues though. Arc will deal with things one at a time.

One thing is for sure, regardless of the outcome, Alice will see Arc differently after this. The status quo will be turned upside down.
[x] No words, only a kiss

>Playing dumb wasn't my specialty

Is that so?

You know ultimately I think what vindicates Arc of Marisa's scathing analysis, of him being some carousing Don Juan that fancies himself the cock-of-the-walk, isn't that his heart is in the right place (in fact apart from falling into a temporary funk, he hasn't considered what she said at all), but that he sucks at it. He sucks at it so bad, that he's more deserving of pity than scorn.

Taking Marisa's advice literally, then failing spectacularly with the follow through, I think would go a long way toward making up with her. Or at least, it should give her a good laugh the next time he comes running for relationship advice.
Actually, I would say Arc is pretty damn good at it. Though he hasn't advanced his relationship particularly far with any of them, he does hold the hearts of no less than four young maidens. Five, if you're counting Auntie. It remains to be seen if he can continue to play them all while upping the stakes, if you catch my drift.

You touched upon this, but I reckon that what truly separates him from Don Juan status is his heart. He doesn't want particularly want everything to end up like this, it just kinda does because that's the sort of guy he is.

Edited because Jesus Christ I fucked them tags up good. Sorry.
[x] “You don't need to act so strong in front of me, I'm always going to be weaker than you are.”

I do like the idea of using Marisa's advice, but not when Alice is about to collapse because of something we have been doing. It just isn't the right time for something like that.
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[X] No words, only a kiss.
Gee, now that everyone voted for this option, my vote seems kinda pointless. Truth is, I think he needs this. Why? Well...
>Play them all
No. He, really shouldn't.
Upping the stakes on Alice now will make things clear for both him (With one heart you can only have one target, slow and steady means an honorable last place) and Her (You can't play dumb anymore)
This is important and I think it's worth the (possible) backlash.
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[x] “You don't need to act so strong in front of me, I'm always going to be weaker than you are.”
Why have we suddenly had a change of heart from the main story. Weren't people, including me, trying to "get with" Reimu and Suika before? This story doesn't strike me as one where you're going to be the magician pimp with four bitches.
What happened? Alice happened, I guess.
I am left to wonder what the author's intentions are, especially because >>/shrine/32194

Not that I would mind Arc being with all four, but I know this story is too serious for such a cop-out
Sorry but there won't be an update right away. I was pretty sick this last day and I'm still not feeling 100%. As I start feeling better I'll try to get to writing which may be soonish.

Poor Keine is always forgotten. As is a certain friendly ghost. Or if you want to relax the definition further, it's obvious that a certain other shrine maiden has been fanciful of Arc. Not to mention the fast-talking reporter who is getting her jollies off at seeing this eight-sided lover double tetrahedron. I'm disappointed in you anonymous, if you're going to dream of harems, dream big. Not that there are any guarantees that any of this is true but as touhou lovers you all kinda want to see deep down inside how such a (literal) clusterfuck would work. It's like Tenchi Muyo all over again, but with less space hijinks.
and less terrible spinoffs like In Tokyo.

You can disregard my vote here >>23717 and change it to [x] No words, only a kiss
>spinoffs like In Tokyo.

That never happened

[X]No words, only a kiss
A moment's hesitation would have caused me to mess everything up. That thought propelled me towards her, closing the distance between us quickly. There were no other thoughts in my head. My lips sought hers and I rapidly found my objective. I continued to hold her hand, keeping her from moving away as my lips pressed onto hers. I found no resistance however. On the contrary, there was something welcoming about her attitude. She did not press back or make any moves but I still felt like it was not at all undesired.

Electrifying energy coursed through my body, adding to the excitement I felt. Anxiety melted away as a feeling of immense satisfaction seeped into the corners of my mind. There was a powerful driving force that caused me to seek out more. The sweet intoxication of her lips, the softness of her tongue, the lubricating saliva all stimulated me to greater heights of pleasure. It was a pleasure that was way beyond a normal physical stimulus; It was a pleasure that moved my very soul.

I broke apart momentarily, to breathe a little. Her breath tickled my skin. I kissed her again, pushing her gently down onto the bed. I kissed her greedily, acting like a man dying of thirst would to a fountain full of water, drinking desperately of her. It felt just right, like I had meant to do this all along. It was the first time but it felt so natural, so familiar to me. That I should be intimate with her, that I should have her be with me. I could barely restrain my hands from wanting to do much more to her than just kissing.

I held myself up on the bed with my arms on either side of her, my knees supporting me in the rear. She lay below me, face slightly damp with sweat and eyes piercing into my own. It seemed like she was enticing me to go wild, to do as I pleased. My heart was about to burst in my chest. All my courage was spent with the kiss.

“...Are you satisf...ied?” She caught me by surprise with an out of breath question. I was breathing as hard as she way, I realized.

“I... don't know.” I replied.

Her hand whipped around from her side and collapsed me on top of her. She brought my head near and forced me to kiss her again. It was rough, brief and intense. She pushed me off and asked again, “Satisfied?”

“...yes. But I don't want to force anything.”

“You already have. Are you just going to continue to use me for your satisfaction? Will you go so far as forcing yourself on me?”

“No, I won't. I don't want to do anything like that. I just wanted to be direct.”

Alice laughed. It was a hearty laugh. She coughed afterwards, spasming a little. She asked with some sarcasm, “Is this where you confess your feelings to me and I reciprocate? Then you kiss me again and begin to have your way with me? Perhaps you'll expect me to admit how I'm feeling, how my chest hurts whenever I'm near you; How my heart refuses to calm down. Maybe I'll admit to feeling hot to your touch, like how you cause me to tingle all over whenever you kiss me. If I used a coy little voice you'd enjoy it more, I bet. What better than a shy, virginal maiden being but putty in the hands of her lover?” She concluded, “Your delusions are unreasonable.”

“It's not like that,” I protested weakly. Every single fiber of my being showed evidence for her accusations. Whenever I even entertained thoughts of getting more of a fill of her, my heart raced to unhealthy speeds.

She sat up, casting me aside. With a cold, judgmental looked she denounced me, “We are teacher and student, superior and inferior. Whatever fantasies either of us may harbor at one time or another are inconsequential. I have my place and you have yours.”

“Surely you can't be that unfeeling,” I contested.

“This is not about my feelings. Nor yours. Nor how either of us may wish to continue this. You must understand and focus on your studies.”

“I can do both!” I spoke up with the excitement of a petulant child. “I don't see why you can't be honest with yourself and still help me become a magician. Alright, we don't have to go anywhere if you don't want to, but it wouldn't hurt you to at least open up a little. Like you've been hiding that you're still sick, and for no reason.”

“And if I confessed to feeling ill I suppose you would tend to me around the clock like some sort of invalid or, better yet, administer some panacea?”

“There's nothing wrong with allowing others to show their affection,” I protested, “doesn't it feel good when you know there's someone there for you? Besides, showing a little vulnerability does not make you weak. If anything, it makes you stronger.”

“How fallacious,” She scorned me.

“You're keeping me and everyone else at arm's length needlessly.”

“All this talk will get us nowhere,” Alice voiced with finality, “seeing as I can't otherwise dissuade you, I will offer you a choice. If you wish I will tell you whatever truth you wish to hear, but I cannot then guarantee that I will continue to be your teacher. My tutelage may come to an end. The alternative is to go back to before, where you may learn what you wish given time. I shall pretend that you never kissed me.”

[] The truth no matter the consequences
[] Go back to the way things were
[] Neither is satisfactory!
[X] The truth no matter the consequences

It's one of the few things Arc has going for himself, the need for clarity regardless of the reality that presents itself.

Besides Arc's still holds onto a very strong aspect of humanity; the need for companionship. He has not lived long enough to adapt to a relatively solitary life.

Probably never will really.
>[] Go back to the way things were
Apathy is death and so is stagnation.
>[] Neither is satisfactory!
Still a petulant child, eh?
>[] The truth no matter the consequences
You would risk your apprenticeship to satisfy your curiosity?
[x] The truth no matter the consequences
When he went in for the kiss he already decided what he wants. It is only right to follow through with it.

I doubt that he could concentrate on Alice and the studies at the same time. But that does not mean that it would be bad. I think it would help him even more if he had a relationship with Alice. And it would help her too, a smiling Alice from time to time would be great.

>“This is not about my feelings. Nor yours. Nor how either of us may wish to continue this. You must understand and focus on your studies.”

Seems like she holds those ideals over whatever she may be feeling and i doubt she would be willing to let go of that easily.

She felt plenty enough with that kiss. So even if he gets kicked out he can still learn, become her equal and never stop trying to get even closer to her.
[x] The truth no matter the consequences
[x] Neither is satisfactory!

Because they aren't.

Agreeing to this dichotomy would be to entertain her view that emotions are terribly destructive things and that acknowledging them only serves to destroy the relationships you've built with those around you.

If Arc thought that a negative answer necessarily meant he couldn't continue his training under her, he wouldn't have asked.
[x] The truth no matter the consequences
[x] The truth no matter the consequences.

Magicians are a different breed entirely. If this is the road he must take to open her heart, then the consequences can be dealt with.
[x] The truth no matter the consequences

I'm tempted to go with the bottom option, but at the moment Alice and her sickness are far more pressing than learning magic.
[x] The truth no matter the consequences.
Weariness and other stuff including still being messed up from yesterday don't give me much chance to write now. Much later in the day, definitely. After a nap or two. I'll see what's up then and update. Man you guys are presumptuous. When push comes to shove one-liners usually don't cut it.
>Man you guys are presumptuous. When push comes to shove one-liners usually don't cut it.

I have a good feeling about this!
[x] The truth no matter the consequences

I'm late to the party. I don't think I can add anything that hasn't already been said. Sorry.
[] The truth no matter the consequences
>Man you guys are presumptuous. When push comes to shove one-liners usually don't cut it.
Teruyo, is that you? Well, let me just grab my mind-reading hat so I can make the right choices.
Sorry, no update yet. Pushing an ETA to 10-12 hours from now. After a nap or two. It's not particularly long or difficult or anything, just that I'm still sick and it's hard to focus. There may be an update of something else before then however.

Instead of going through all that effort, why don't you just use common sense? Maybe that's just asking too much. It is easier to be an ass on the internet, after all. As an ass myself, I'm qualified to judge.

Don't bother voting if you can't even add a simple tick to a box. Quality beats quantity. Thoughtful people who take a minute with discussion and insight trump an innumerable amount of votes.
while I agree with that, maybe you should stop complaining when people don't vote 5 minutes after you update. You can't have it both ways.
>Thoughtful people who take a minute with discussion and insight trump an innumerable amount of votes.

Careful now, you might start inspiring some anons to get real eloquent with their posts on choosing options that seem to bring out your despair harder than a Gainax ending.
>Don't bother voting if you can't even add a simple tick to a box. Quality beats quantity. Thoughtful people who take a minute with discussion and insight trump an innumerable amount of votes.

>>23744's complaint makes sense. When there is time pressure, and you're not one of the first to vote, there's less likelihood of being able to change the trend in voting, so people forgo writing up a rationale or voting against the grain in favor of the bandwagon, ostensibly because a clear majority will make the next update come more quickly.

You might try an alternate voting system. RAN did alright at times when a 'best justified' vote was explicitly asking for.
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Writing nowish. Expect something before or within the previous ETA.

I was aware that relativity affected us all but I wasn't aware that it was so bad that time dilation was a major concern. Last time I checked hours before a single vote or an average of two or more hours between votes did not count as '5 minutes'. You must be approaching light speed, friend. I fear that when you return to us I shall be an old and withered man.

As long as they don't make needlessly verbose write-ins, I'm okay with it. The choices are there to be chosen and I'm okay with whatever is chosen as long as there's a consistency in logic or any real evidence that disproves it was chosen upon a die roll.

I'll apologize to the person I called out if he felt especially pressured to vote over a day and a half after the update, after I indicated that I was more or less writing. I can understand that under those circumstances the brain is known to shut off and the fingers move to copy paste the winning choice without so much as even bothering to add an 'x' or to copy one of the other votes with aforementioned 'x'. If there's ever a genuine, and I mean genuine debate about what to do and a swinging back and forth I will grant the readers more time to hash it out. That only rarely happens (can't recall a time actually but my memory is not perfect). In fact, I would relish it if you had a little back and forth every once in a while. Even if your choice doesn't win, your logic or suggestions may get incorporated into the update or future scenes.

You are right about a clear system being needed. These are my general guidelines: 1) I will aim to update as much as possible, ideally every couple (4-8 hours - less if there are enough votes), 2) From now on doing a zombie-like job of voting, such as not ticking and not writing anything to go with it, will mean that the vote is not counted, 3) The time voting is open may increase if the choice is especially important or if any real conversation amongst the voters is occurring, 4) Any abnormally long breaks in writing (such as me having been sick these past few days or IRL work being a bitch) will be explained and an ETA for updates to resume will be posted. There is an additional basic principle 0) You should check often, check early and don't disinterest yourself once you've made your vote. Be active, not passive.

I've included a flowchart to give you an idea of the idealized process. It is my belief that flowcharts are both the most humorous type of diagram and less passive-aggressive than Venn diagrams. Hopefully it'll be of some use to you. Let it be said that for all my faults I was at least always direct and honest.
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“I wish to hear the truth,” I told her with all the confidence of a man being judged by the gods for his sins. The choice frightened me but there was something about the truth that was always frightening. I decided not to hesitate after coming that far.

“Very well, and what is it that you want to hear?”

“How you feel about me, how you feel about our relationship. There isn't anything else I'm interested in.”

I expected a snide remark or a clever put down which did not come. Alice nodded silently, accepting my request. She said directly and with no hesitation, “I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense. As for our relationship, it is satisfactory. Or was, at the least. A teacher and student are teacher and student first and foremost.”

“Is that all?” I asked, trying not to gulp hard at the revelation, “You promised honesty and I would prefer it if you did not lie by omission.”

“And just what am I omitting?”

“The details,” I argued. It was not for just boosting my ego, I justified to myself, it was for the sake of clarity. I asked for more, “Saying that it's more than just a physical attraction is ambiguous.”

“It is pleasant to spend time around you, and I would ideally like to do so more,” She explained. Her mannerism were still so straight-laced even though she was saying things that the average village girl would be hard pressed to say to the face of her object of affection. She seemed like a doll, quietly repeating somebody else's words with a quiet voice. Alice went one step further to justify herself, “I may not be the most knowledgeable in such matters but I was under the impression that there was no further requisite for liking someone.”

“That's fine,” There was no point in asking why. As a man there was plenty of reason to do so, to inflate the ego or simply for knowing's sake but there was more to me than just those proud aspects. I did not feel especially elated with her explanation, it was as if I had already known all along. That was an arrogant notion. I had never considered myself to be especially worth anything to anyone else. Auntie cared about me as much as I cared about her, I knew deep down but it was not the same as Alice's confession. At least I didn't think so.

“Is that all? Or have I omitted anything else?”

“Just to be clear, this attraction goes beyond that of mere friendship?”

“I believe so, yes. I believe it is part of the standard inter-sex amorous relationship,” She asserted with odd phrasing.

“Yet you feel no desire to act upon it because you are my magic teacher?” I wanted to make sure I understood correctly.

“To claim I had no desire would be disingenuous,” She explained. For the first time in the conversation she wore a smile that was neither sarcastic nor provocative. It was a timid little display which undermined her still very punctual words, “I asserted that our relationship as mistress and apprentice was satisfactory as it was. I will now go further and claim that for you to continue to grow as a magician that is all that we must be.”

“I'm guessing that if I want more we can no longer continue to be student and teacher?”

“I would say so, yes.”

“Why, it doesn't make sense.”

“I fear that I can no longer be objective if that were the case,” She explained, “You must have a strict and constructed training.”

“Are you suggesting that you would dote on me and cut me some slack?”

“I'm not suggesting any such thing,” She said, “I am telling you that that would happen. Even now I am not being as strict as I ought to be with your training. And for that I beg your forgiveness.”

“...” I did not realize that she was being particularly easy on me. To me, she was being detached and calculating when it came to my instruction. I could think of no situation I could recall as evidence for her alleged spoiling. Not that it mattered. I knew it was pointless to her that but I still did, “You haven't been lax at all. You've been as strict as you needed to be and I've learned much.”

“Too much freedom of choice, too little understanding of consequences,” She claimed.

“Was I to be flogged then for being inept at times?”

“I wasn't aware you were such a masochist. I would have accommodated you if I had known. Called you names as you forced yourself on me.”

“I'm not – wait, was that a joke?” I looked at her with surprise.

She shrugged, displaying another different emotion for the first time, “Who knows? We've come to a head now that everything is out in the open. What happens next ought to be discussed.”

“I would like if it you continued to teach me,” I told her.

“With no further change in our mutual conduct?”

“I suspect that you would not accept anything else.”

“We already have made a contract and hold a bond sanctioned in blood, to break it would be pointless and destructive,” She indicated.

“That doesn't mean we can't amend it, it doesn't have to be so narrow in definition.”

“I am not a lovestruck little girl like Marisa, I take words and bonds seriously. Ours does not have to be an exclusive bond but I would like it to continue to exist, even if our relationship is never anything beyond teacher and student.” I pondered what she meant to imply with those words. It seemed to mean that it didn't matter what happened in the future as long as something still held us together. She didn't give me a chance to voice my doubts, adding, “We have best to simply continue as we are until you are certain. Or can accept the situation for what it is. I do not want you to seek more where there is none nor to reject what may come to be.”

“Are you telling me to accept you for you?”

“As I would just as easily accept you for you,” She confirmed, “I am not about to fool myself into believing something that is not.”

“I think I understand,” I nodded. She was more serious about her position than I was about mine. It made me feel ashamed. I had taken her for someone who was denying her feelings but realized that I was the one doing the denying. Alice acted cold and distant at times but was mature as an individual. I really was just a kid. I just wanted to force something, even if it was meaningless to force it. Just because I could.

“Is that all the honesty that you need from me?”

“Yes, I believe so.” I had a lot to think over.

“Then perhaps it is my turn to ask something,” Alice turned the tables around, “can I trust you to be likewise honest?”

“It would only be fair,” I replied.

“Very well, since you know about me” She asked, her eyes betrayed a feeling that was very human, “How do feel about me? I don't believe you've ever put it succinctly. Your actions merely suppose physical attraction.”

[] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too
[] I can't be too sure of what I truly feel
[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too.

Absolutely. While Arc is indeed attracted to Alice in a physical sense, he demonstrated excessive concern over Alice's well-being when she became ill. Alice saw those actions as unnecessary and superfluous, but the real reason that he went to such lengths is that he genuinely cared for Alice and was willing to go to such lengths to make sure she was alright. Sure, their relationship is just developing, but given time this should blossom into a full blown romance. Arc should learn everything he can from Alice and then move from apprentice to equal.
[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too
This seems like a too obvious choice to me. Hasn't the whole story been leading up to this? The whole reason Arc and we as readers by extension were worried when Alice was sick(amongst other things) was because he cared in more than a physical or 'teacher-student' sense.

Maybe I'm missing something.
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I'm sorry for the writefag (actually that's a lie, I'm not sorry at all) but I can't really find much to argue here. It's fairly obvious that, while physical attraction exists (Remember that scene after he took the 'help'?) it isn't the only, or even the main reason. It probably appears like that because he's a teenager who hasn't 'released' himself for several weeks. For more details, check the 'fever' posts (The beginning of 23601 it's the most clear part)

[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too

Still, I can't be 100% sure. This character is too weird, too alien to put myself on his shoes. I'm not sure that he even likes anyone. He sounds like a kid who's just repeating what he heard or read about what people feel like when they're in love. Sound familiar?
>She seemed like a doll, quietly repeating somebody else's words with a quiet voice.
Maybe they will be a better couple than I thought.
Uh, now that I checked, those are all the same example. I wonder if he expressed 'real' feelings for her sometime else?
Well, it is a fairly strong example.
I'm not sure if he made any definitive guestures towards a girl... besides perhaps that kissing incident with Marisa.

[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too

There's been various signs that his interest has been more than physical. And generally the most progress has been made as there hasn't been any real interruptions unlike other attempts. The 'dreams' are another sign as they appear to be mixes of both their dreams as Alice had similar things.
[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too

So in the end it was him that was running. Alice always knew what was what.

One thing is for sure, she is a very lovely girl and the image of being cold got blown away. The best thing he can do is stay with her and learn from her. And the topics are not only magic, he really can grow as a person by being her student.

>Sure, their relationship is just developing, but given time this should blossom into a full blown romance. Arc should learn everything he can from Alice and then move from apprentice to equal.
Nothing more can be said than this. Everything will come from alone.
[x] I believe I am attracted to you in more than just a physical sense too

I don't have anything to contribute that has not been said already.

Will say though it's nice to see Arc grow more as the story continues. I have a more descriptive image on him than I have in the earlier chapters.
Writing, soon, etc. I wonder where some of those who disliked Alice went. They were rather vocal about it and it just seems odd that they've been silent. Won over by her charm? I guess I'll never know.
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“I see,” Alice took the message without much fuss. She ran a finger through her short hair, loosening up her headband. She muttered almost silently, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Nothing,” She spoke up, “I forgot myself for a moment. With all of this out in the open we can now move on.”

The battle lines were drawn. We were both entrenched in our respective positions, both reluctant to dislodge and go on the offensive. For the time being the status quo seemed like the only way to go. That way neither side would risk getting hurt. A scout party was necessary and I had just the thing to probe her defenses.

“Would you mind terribly if we just held hands for a bit?” I asked.

“Whatever for?”

The fact that she didn't outright refuse was encouraging. I allowed myself to probe a bit further.

“I'm worried about you, you look unwell. Even if you won't let me take care of you properly I at least want to feel like I'm there for you. It'll make me feel better.”

“How unreasonably selfish,” She sighed. She sat back down on the bed. A gesture of her head indicated that I should lie down. I did so, lying face up. She lay down beside me and reached out for my hand, embracing it. Her smaller hand felt oddly warm. Two words explained her actions, “I'm tired.”

Neither of us said anything further. I stayed still, staring at the ceiling, tuning out everything except the gentle grip of hands. It was pleasant. Not too exciting but, surprisingly enough, not dull either. I should have been more excited about being on her bed with me, but no more imaginative thoughts invaded my mind. It was peaceful.

So peaceful that I must have fallen asleep at some point.

When I opened my eyes it was already morning. Mid-morning judging from the intensity of the sun's ray filtering through the gaps between window and curtain. I remembered that I was on Alice's bed almost immediately. I was comfortable, my back less hurt than it was after a night on the cot. Alice was nowhere to be seen, neither in bed nor around the room. I remembered what happened the previous night and wondered if we had both fallen asleep holding hands. And if we had stayed like that all night.

In no big hurry, I got up and made my way downstairs. I washed my face and carried on like I usually did every morning. Just like every other normal day, I ran into Alice at the table. She sat drinking tea, as was her custom to take mid-morning.

“Good morning,” I greeted her. “Feeling better?”

“You snore,” She greeted me in return.

“I do?”

“Quite a lot, in fact. It was a mistake to let you sleep there. Not one that I'll repeat anytime soon,” She concluded.

“I'm sorry,” Confronted by something as blunt like that, I wasn't sure what I could say. There was nothing to do but apologize.

“Moving on,” She did not miss a beat, “Focus on your studies for the remainder of the morning. In the afternoon we'll have you do a test.”

“What sort of test?” I asked.

“You'll know when it's relevant to,” She rebuked with little humor in her voice.

“Of course mistress, I'll get right to it.”

Getting to work was not hard. With a positive mindset it was easier than it was the first time. The sober and dull knowledge within the books were dangerously close to being supplanted by thoughts of Alice. Paradoxically, because I thought about her I was able to work. I wanted to prove to her that I could work just as hard, even knowing what I did about her feelings. If anything, I wanted to double my efforts. Get the handle of those spells faster than anyone could have thought possible. With my confidence building up throughout the morning, I felt like that goal was within reach.

I was at peak levels of motivation when she came to fetch me. Alice simply tapped my shoulder and said it was time. I was to follow her to where we would have our test. We left her home and began to walk. All the while she remained silent, not explaining where we were going nor what I was to do. A few of her dolls came with us, hovering around Alice at a distance. We walked through the forest at a respectable rate, following unmarked wooden paths to an unknown destination.

I could not contain myself and had to ask, “Is this going to be a challenge?”

“For someone with no experience, I would expect so,” She answered. If she thought it to be impossible for me she did not betray the thought with her unchanging expression.

“Good, I like challenges. It'll prove how far along I've come,” I claimed assertively. I was not nervous.

“So I hope it will.”

“If I do well, will I gain a reward like last time?”

“You mean besides the satisfaction from knowing that you are more in control of your power? I had not planned on anything special.”

“If I do well, could I ask for a reward from you?” An idle fancy struck me as desirable.

“As long as it is reasonable,” She assented. Alice cut short the chitchat, “Enough talk for now, organize your knowledge before we arrive.”

“Yes mistress,” I prepared to do as she asked. Before I reviewed what I had learned, however, I made a very important decision.

[] Ask for a reward
[] Do not get arrogant
[x] Ask for a reward

That was innocently cute, but just perfect. Holding hands and proceed bit by bit without rushing is a good idea after knowing what she feels.
They do sound like a couple already.

If he does not screw up or ends up looking like a fool a small wish would be nice. Nothing major like a kiss. Could be some kind of spending time alone with Alice doing something else than just work.
[X] Do not get arrogant

Pass the test first, then ask for a reward.
[X] Do not get arrogant

Yeah I think Arc should keep his head clear as to past this test. Making any sort of demand and then failing would paint a pretty poor picture. Only upon passing that we should begin thinking of a reward.
Point of clarification: Specifying comes afterwards. The choice is about committing to an attitude more or less.
[x] Ask for a reward

Magic runs on belief, yo! If you don't have the utmost confidence in your abilities, things won't work out quite as well. Arc is running on cloud nine right now, so it's useless to try and demotivate him before he does something momentous. This little test will be a synch.
True, hence my decision to be not so arrogant and focused on the task. That and only a kid constantly asks for a reward.

[X] Do not get arrogant.

Focus. While a reward might serve as a good motivation tool, if he has to ask for it, it seems a little childish. Besides, he's talking like he already passed. We don't want a prideful Arc on our hands.
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>That feel when you spend over an hour typing the justification for your vote, and refresh to find the story has already updated in the interim.

[x] Ask for a reward

The desire for reward is at least as effective a motivator as the expectation of punishment or losing face by failure. I think Alice understands this well, when she implied that it was not the 'curious' source of his motivations (e.g., romantic, academic, or otherwise) that would endanger his ability to learn from her, but only her own lack of impartiality. She doesn't intend for him to adopt her grave attitude; she hasn't suggested that would be helpful.

>That and only a kid constantly asks for a reward.

But he is a kid. Forgoing a potential award because you want to look like a grown-up to those around you is likewise also the attitude of a kid.
He's not such a kid as you'd think. The recent chat with Alice laid bare Arc's immaturity to him.

Also constant rewards and being in overly energetic spirits would be something suitable for Marisa's lessons, not Alice's which value a clear focus mind.
I'll be waiting something like an hour more to see where we stand as a whole on this. If any of you guys convince the other, are busy debating, there are more votes, etc. I'll make a call then whether to write or wait more.

Well, if it makes you feel any better I'd still enjoy seeing it. Even if it doesn't retroactively change the choice made I bet it's interesting. I'm appreciative of the efforts made by readers.
[x] Do not get arrogant

I very much like how this is going, which can only mean our life is about to explode. TIPTOES GUYS.
>Well, if it makes you feel any better I'd still enjoy seeing it. Even if it doesn't retroactively change the choice made I bet it's interesting. I'm appreciative of the efforts made by readers.

The air of mystery is what attracted Arc to magic early on, by Mima's displays. Alice isn't flashy in the least, but by the vastness of her arcane knowledge, her at times ambiguous 'inhumanity', and the unplumbed depths of her personality, she must remain a very mysterious woman in his eyes. The desire to understand what one finds enigmatic is as valid a motivator as respect for the authority of one's better, and I don't think it's a diversion or merely accessory in his development. I think Alice would understand this, as she implied that it wasn't his intentions or desires that would cause interference if their relationship became romantic, but her own loss of objectivity. If there was a problem in him doting on her when she was sick, it wasn't that she appeared 'weak'--or otherwise lost face--in front of her student, but that she herself became might have become more affectionate toward him, and by extension, less impartial.

I just wish there were some better ways to quiet her unease. Becoming yet more strict and hard on him for fear of being impartial is itself the opposite of impartiality. In the best case, she'll be able to perform a balancing act between pushing him away and pulling him closer. In the worst case, she'll become excessively critical, and worse than giving unhelpful advice, she'll turn that motivating curiosity into contempt. Explicitly restating the terms of their relationship, as they did just now, was probably helpful for her, and that she was able to resist his seduction attempt also probably did good for her confidence in that regard.

But more than speaking about curiosity, or romance, or academic respect, I think what Alice may understand the least about his motivations and the explanation for why he attempted to care for her while sick is simple friendship. In the vein of that saying, 'the best mirror is an old friend,' friendship itself would not be a danger to impartiality so long as there is constant communication and honesty. Alice may have grown not to expect that from most people, but if Arc was able to maintain a friendship with an oni for some length of time, I think he's eminently capable of it.
>He's not such a kid as you'd think. The recent chat with Alice laid bare Arc's immaturity to him.

The understanding that one is immature is not equivalent to being mature. Hell, it precludes it by definition.

>Also constant rewards and being in overly energetic spirits would be something suitable for Marisa's lessons, not Alice's which value a clear focus mind.

If a reward were so important a detriment for his magic, why would Alice entertain the notion of allowing him one here? And why allow him one in the past? This is just after she attested that she should be more strict with him. No, clearly, she doesn't see it as harmful.
But it wasn't an initial idea of hers with this test, but something Arc brought up. It's all too easy to look at the goal but end up tripping over a rock on the ground.
At this point in time I don't think there's much of a point in waiting to write. I get the impression that there won't be a dramatic change in the current state of affairs. So for those of you who are still awake, expect something in a bit.

That was pretty nice and well thought out. I hope that others will perhaps consider your words when confronted by future choices.
>So for those of you who are still awake, expect something in a bit.

Our destination became obvious with time. The woods thinned and eventually disappeared completely. Open fields, barren because of winter, stretched in all directions. The fields were girt by low stone boundaries and the occasional wooden fence. It had been a while since harvest but distinctive grooves and lines could be discerned in the dirt where plows and other farming implements had worked the dirt. Withered stalks of plants dotted the landscape, left to be cleared just before the planting season. The path broadened and led to familiar territory.

“Wait here,” Alice instructed. We stopped in front a place which had been an important part of my life. The sounds of children's laughter were carried on by the wind through large distances. Around the building they were playing, running around without a care in the world, not mindful of the cold day in the least. She went ahead into the schoolhouse.

I wondered what we were doing there. I did not see how a test of magic might be related to a building full of normal children. Or how a test could figure in with anything at the village. Everyone and everything was normal. Proudly so, some in the community would say. None of the abnormalities of the rest of the land existed within the settlement. The villagers, we, kept it out. Save for some of the more spiritual inhabitants, no one bothered concerned themselves with anything besides work.

The schoolhouse's door opened again. A familiar face accompanied Alice.

“Mis-” I checked myself, “-Keine, it's nice to see you again.”

“You too,” The schoolmarm greeted enthusiastically, “it's been a while since we last saw one another.”

“I still owe you for all the help that you gave me, it's really been useful for my training.”

“Yes, I heard that you were studying magic. I never figured you the type,” She smiled but I could sense that there was a little unease behind her words. She looked at Alice, as if expecting her to speak up and say something. When she remained silent Keine continued to speak, “I was asked to allow you to practice something here. I'm not too clear on the details but I was assured that it was nothing dangerous so I don't see a reason to refuse.”

I got the feeling that the only reason she agreed was because it was a favor that involved me. The doting schoolteacher had not changed at all. She still spoiled me rotten.

“We shall wait inside,” Alice stated. She then added like a deliberate afterthought, “prepare yourself apprentice.”

Keine led us in to the schoolhouse and into the classroom. She said nothing to me, maybe feeling that it would be inappropriate to disturb me. Alice could always make an impression on people if she wanted to. We waited silently in a corner of the classroom until recess was over. Keine rang a bell, calling the kids back from the playground. Little by little they all returned, most understandably looking a little disappointed that the the most fun part of school had just ended. Not surprisingly, most of the children immediately noticed the two strangers standing casually in their classroom. Most of their attention seemed to be focused on Alice's dolls, which were hovering about her closely. The rest were looking at the strange blond and, obviously, no one even gave me so much as a second glance.

“Ah, it's the puppet lady!” One of the younger kids exclaimed. A chorus of excited voices approved the revelation.

“Are we going to see a show, teach?” An older boy asked Keine, something like marvel in her bright eyes. A few others asked the same.

Keine quieted down the chattering class.

“These two are our special guests today,” She explained, “They need our help and I agreed that we could give it to them.”

“What kind of help?” A freckled girl with pigtails asked. She was one of the few teenagers in the class.

“Help with magic,” Alice spoke up, her voice even. Though low in volume, her words permeated into every corner of the classroom. A thunderstorm of excitement erupted.

“Eh, magic?!”

“Real magic?! We're going to do real magic!?”

“Aw man this is going to be so awesome!”

A bunch of kids noisily shouted a lot of different things. Keine had to quiet them down again before Alice could speak again.

“I need a volunteer from amongst you. Someone who has suffered an injury recently,” She stated.

A gust of silence muffled the earlier stormy sounds of excitement. The children all looked at one another, puzzled. One of them, another of the older kids, raised a hand, “what sort of injury does it have to be?” He asked.

“Any kind. So as long as it's still tender or still hurts,” Alice replied.

One of the younger children raised her hand. I recognized her, it was the Tachibana's youngest child. She was the younger sister of one of Auntie's friends. She was about nine years old, I remembered.

“I've got an owie on my foot,” She stated shyly, “is that ok?”

Alice nodded, “Please come up here.”

The girl didn't budge from her seat. Keine had to encourage her to get her to move, “Come on Risa, it's alright. You can come up here and help them.”

Risa was still reluctant to stand up. She only made up her mind to move when Alice sent one of her dolls to escort her to the front. She seemed astonished by the doll's apparently abilities and forgot all about her embarrassment. Keine lifted her up and placed her on her desk on Alice's instructions. She had Risa take off her shoe and show off her injury, a small bruise where she had hit herself against a rock.

“You are to alleviate her pain,” She instructed me. As if reading my mind, she added, “I am aware that you have neither salve nor ointment necessary for healing. The test is simply limited to the elimination of pain temporarily not expedited mending. This should be possible without any external help.”

It was then that the rest of the class finally took notice of me. They had been so focused on the dolls, Alice and the little girl's embarrassment that they hadn't even bothered to think about why I was there. They started to whisper amongst each other, potentially asking one another what the meaning of that was. Risa herself seemed to be a bit shocked.

Detecting her pupil's anxiety, Keine reassured her, “it's okay, you won't be hurt. He knows what he's doing.”

“I won't hurt you,” I smiled at her, “Your big sister would chew me out if I did.”

“Yeah, she would,” The girl nodded with confidence. She remembered who I was.

With that hurdle cleared, I concentrated. The eyes of everyone in the classroom were upon me. Alice silently observed, waiting for my results while Keine still seemed to find the whole affair a little incredulous. I gently placed my hand on top of the little girl's small feet and did what I could. I used the knowledge I could remember, the methods that seemed to feel right. Energy flowed from me into her, massaging and soothing her system like a nice warm bath would. It felt like something was missing. Like I just needed to find the last piece of the puzzle. It felt like when I was frustrated with the flower, like I couldn't reach the next level no matter how much I tried. Because of the nature of the magic, there was no way that I could harm the girl, so I didn't have to hold back. I focused my energies as best I could.

[] Push through as much energy as can be spared to succeed
[] Focus on thoughts about Alice
[x] Focus on thoughts about Alice

Crazy idea: focus some loving and nice thoughts on alice to get a better and more smooth magic instead of putting out more energy which could end not with the best results. Pushing hard does not sound like a good way to solve this.
>It felt like when I was frustrated with the flower, like I couldn't reach the next level no matter how much I tried.
I don't think I have to remind anyone of how the flower conundrum was solved.

[x] Focus on thoughts about Alice
[x] Push through as much energy as can be spared to succeed

Restoration magic seems to be a moderately precise branch of magic. You need to have an earnest wish to heal, to mend, for it to function properly. Focusing on our feelings for Alice definitely won't cut it for this sort of work, as those are admittedly vague and unsure. To have any assurances of success, we must have a determined mind; focused on the task of healing this little girls foot, and nothing else. Or so I think, anyways.
[x] Focus on thoughts about Alice

There's only so much just pushing will do, sometimes you need to do something different to make progress.
Interesting. I'd vote but I can't spare much time and the author said he prefers a well thought vote so... see you in the next update I guess
No need to overthink either. A wall of text is never necessary, the votes thus far are fine. A quick line or two is all it takes.
[X] Focus on thoughts about Alice

Using so much excessive energy doesn't feel right in that it shouldn't be a difficult task.

Worse thing that could happen would be a strange caricature of Alice some how ends up being tattooed onto the kid.
[x] Focus on thoughts about Alice
File 130831683479.png - (755.27KB, 640x480, klove.png) [iqdb]
Very well.

You see, I'm the guy who made a post saying that, indeed, 'all you need is love' so my position in this matter should be clear. I normally don't think that raw emotions can supplant knowledge, but this field of magic (restoration) is, what I consider, an exception of sorts. The fact he studied a bunch also helps, mind you.

Of course, now that I think about it, the consequences for failure are nasty: nothing less than a 'Told you so' from Alice regarding her previous statement of 'I can't be a lover and a teacher' maybe that's why she made up this 'field test' in the first place. Still, I don't think that this way of thinking (akin to 'metagaming') is actually a healthy way to face this, or any other story.
That said, I sincerely hope that our MC heals him. She'll be in for a surprise, that's for sure.

[X] Focus on thoughts about Alice
Question: Is this choice's ambiguity intended?
This reminds me of a part in GunXSword, where the main character, Van has trouble working a puzzle that trains him to use his mech better. This is after a rather crushing defeat, so he ends up desperate. In his desperation, he fiddles with it while thinking about his very beloved slain wife. During his flashbacks, he solves the puzzle unwittingly.

Point is sometimes something unconventional is needed.
[X] Focus on thoughts about Alice

>Restoration magic seems to be a moderately precise branch of magic. You need to have an earnest wish to heal, to mend, for it to function properly. Focusing on our feelings for Alice definitely won't cut it for this sort of work, as those are admittedly vague and unsure.

Whatever Arc's state of mind, if the mechanics are wrong, it won't work. Attempting to dump as much magical energy onto the wound as possible is opposite of precision.

As far as transforming intention into practice, if Marisa can turn love into immense destructive power, I see nothing at all contradictory about using affection to heal a wound.

Alice has recently suffered from illness, and Arc had gone to some length to alleviate her suffering. Choosing healing as a school of magic may even be a reaction to his relative impotence during that event.
[X] Focus on thoughts about Alice.

Brute force might work on offensive techniques, but for the mending of a bruise, pushing energy through would be rather primitive.

Thinking of Alice would give Arc a focus. I might even as far as saying that she could possibly be his greatest strength. That is, if this works.
Update eventually. No firm ETA. I've been in excruciating pain for the last ten hours or so and it's hard to focus on writing. Sooner rather than later if the pain meds don't shut my liver down. It is mostly complete.

I'm sure you've got an opinion of your own man. It's probably just as good as any other opinion.
“That's enough,” Alice put a stop to things. The class held their collective breath. I let go of the girl's foot. Beads of sweat had formed on my brow and pooled along my cheeks.

“Um... thank you very much Risa for volunteering,” Keine lost no time in sizing up the situation. She grabbed the girl and gently put her back down on the ground. She saw the girl off to her seat and then addressed the class, “Well, we've wasted enough time this afternoon. It's time for some math. Everyone please get into your groups and continue your work from last time. I'll be along to inspect and answer any questions shortly.”

The class groaned and complied. Desks were moved and students were segregated by age groups and they seemed to forget all about Alice and I.

“We'll be off now,” Alice informed Keine. The schoolmarm looked at her and then at me, apparently not sure how she should be acting under the circumstances.

“Is everything alright?” She asked.

“This was a possibility,” The blond magician's reply was succinct. As far as it seemed that she was concerned , there was nothing of further interest in the schoolhouse. She left but not before allowing me to stay a while to collect myself. Her eyes told me that she would be outside and that she would wait.

“Is she always like that with you?” Keine shook her head and gave me a pitying sigh.

“Only sometimes.”

“Are you alright?” She asked, observing, “You look really pale. Maybe you should lie down for a while.”

“I'm fine, I'm just feeling a little drained. Feeling nothing really out of the ordinary. It's the price for failure.”

I lied. I felt like I was about to crumple, feet first, into an unrecognizable clump on the floor. A dull drum-like thumping beat mercilessly inside my head. The last few moments where I had been trying the spell, everything seemed to go wrong. I turned and focused my thoughts to Alice while continuing to judiciously pour energy into the girl. And then something went wrong. It was as if my magic had been a fire and, instead of me adding enough fuel to make it burn brighter, somehow a gale force wind had passed by and completely extinguished my efforts. My strength, my concentration, and even my thoughts seemed to be blown utterly away to a very faraway place. I felt weak and physically ill, like someone had been kicking my head around for fun. My hands were shaking quite a bit. The sweat was now cold and chilled me thoroughly.

“Don't be so hard on yourself, I didn't understand what was going on but it looked like you knew what you were doing.”

“I- yes. I did,” I was too mentally drained to think of anything clever to say.

“Are you sure you're ok?”

Her concern was beginning to annoy me.

“I'm fine,” I barked. I was hardly mindful that we were supposed to be talking quietly as her class did work.

“I also meant with doing what you're doing, if you're not enjoying yourself there's no need to go through it,” Keine smiled weakly, it was like she wasn't sure how to behave around me anymore. That hurt.

“I can't go back now that I've started,” I lowered my voice and my head, “even if I disregarded all of my commitments and sacrifices up until now, I doubt that anyone else in the village will now see me as completely normal.”

“No one will care,” Keine assured me. She picked on my meaning, that surely a rumor would spread that I was doing something as stupid as learning magic. The children would tell their siblings or parents, who in turn would tell others. I had even less of a place to return to. “You're doing this for your own sake, right? Be proud of your choice then. Don't let others weigh you down with their silly ideas.”

“I'll try – easier said than done.”

“I'll always be here for you,” Keine placed a hand on my shoulder, “If you ever need help with anything, I'll happy to help, but you already should have known that.”

“Yeah, I do,” I forced a smile, “Thank you.”

“You should get going now, I have a class to teach and you have your own teacher to get back to.”

“I shouldn't keep my mistress waiting,” I agreed.

“Mistress, eh?” Keine chuckled, “Sounds like your relationship is quite special.”

“It's... something alright,” I shrugged and said my goodbyes.

Alice was waiting for me by the far side of the road. She watched me as I came closer, her dolls flanking her on either side. Wordlessly, she began to walk. I kept a few steps behind her and tried to muster enough energy to make it back to her house. There was no talking the whole way back. Miraculously, I did not faint nor even stumble much. Once we arrived, Alice made some tea for herself before instructing me to resume my studies. She did not say a thing about the poor results.

[] Resume studying
[] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened
[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened

I don't see it as disobeying at all. Arc's unsure of what caused him to fail that spell, and it's her damn job to tell us what went wrong, or to provide materials so that we might naturally learn the answer by ourselves. Besides, trying to sweep this failure under the rug will only serve to deny whatever caused it to fail. That's never healthy.
[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened.

Interesting. I bet that if Arc had chosen to pursue the reward option, focusing on Alice would have worked. There's no way to verify that, but it's just a hunch.

Was passing this test even possible without choosing the reward option though? I can't see the previous option working out at all. Maybe I'm missing something in my logic.
On the one hand it should be obvious what she is thinking. Coming closer, producing poor results, not helping the master student relation, etc. Talking with her would most likely center around that or she would just block it away.
But on the other hand it could help him learn more.

Denying and not talking about what happened is worse and will just linger in the mind and torture.

[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened

I am really not sure. It could make things worse or better.
[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened

I wonder if we even had a chance at all of passing it.
[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened

Her scruples voiced prior that she is coddling Arc might prevent her from giving unnecessary advice. Alternatively, she might not want to discourage him by speaking her mind. Either way, Arc can allay these concerns by explicitly asking for help.
[x] Disobey and ask for her opinion on what happened
glad we didn't ask for a reward now
or maybe thats why we failed
Chill out, it was a roulette: you choose black or red and you're right or wrong. No need to feel bad for having bad luck.

[x] Resume studying
Because he obviously needs to. And feeling tired is not an excuse. If he can't get over this, then what would happen in the future when things get worse?
At least that's what I think. The magic and spell system here is 100% unknown, so I could be completely wrong I guess.
No update right now on account of still feeling like crap. We'll see what happens in the coming hours but I can't commit to even an estimate right now.

It was not a matter of good or bad luck. The choices are not mostly unpredictable.
Tentative ETA: indefinite. A lot of pain and a hospital visit later, the writefag is in no position to write right now or in the immediate future. Sorry. Times like these make me wish I had a backup/ghost writer.

I'll leave you all with an (optional) but relevant-ish question. It's an immersion-building exercise of sorts. What do you think Arc prizes the most in a woman?

[] Resolve and confidence
[] That straightforward oni love
[] Maternal/big-sister like tendencies
[] You fools, it's all about the sarashi appeal down to earth approachability

Feedback may make you learn more about yourselves or something. Or see what you're hoping for.
[x] Resolve and confidence

Also, what the fuck happened? If you want to tell, I mean.
[x] Resolve and confidence

The other 3 sound pretty biased towards certain characters.
Nothing too serious, so I'm told. Just a gastrointestinal bug that has been torturing me for a week now, causing me intense stabbing pain at times and a constant maddening throbbing pain elsewhere in my body. Also making it hard for me to keep down food and provoking nausea. Lots of sleep lost as well. But hey, that's just how lucky I am I guess. All the discomfort of something serious but without any of the lasting effects. I'm trying to get comfortably numb with the painkillers but it's not working as well as I'd like.

All these choices are thinly-veiled stand ins for characters. Think about it for a second and you'll know just who is which choice.

Also, you guys realize that actually choosing something here isn't gonna do anything, right? Full disclaimer. The point is to get you people to think about the character's feelings for each girl and maybe interpose some of your own bias. I figure this thread is done with anyways, only a few more posts 'till autosage, so you guys may as well chew the fat.

Since I'm starting to feel better I may be able to resume updating as soon as tomorrow. Since I (alas) have real world responsibilities as well I can't promise expediency. But I'll keep you posted. I definitely intend to go back to the 2-3 updates a day once I feel better.
Arc has always given me the impression of being extremely transparent with all of his feelings and wants. He's a very simple guy that finds himself drawn into complex love situations due to his naivety and libido. Upon inevitably blundering into these love-hexagons, he often finds himself unsure, without clarity and purpose.

I wager he would most desire a girl who could appreciate these qualities in himself. One who wears her heart upon her sleeve; who wouldn't give reproach for his obvious inexperience in all matters love, maybe. Perhaps one who, like-wise, handles matters of the heart without anything even approaching subtlety. I am, of course, referring to MariSuika.

Or I could be completely full of shit, and just trying to justify my massive, massive bias to the little oni. It's probably a little of both.
[x] Resolve and confidence
[x] That straightforward oni love
[x] Maternal/big-sister like tendencies
[x] You fools, it's all about the sarashi appeal down to earth approachability
Get with the picture people
I sort of hoped that the thread would have been filled by now, but that's not really important. What's important that there's a high probability of updates within the next 24 hours. After sleeping and more painkillers. So be sure to start checking a couple of hours from now (9 from now at the least), I guess I'll do a new thread anyways. Good news is that I have nearly nothing to do for the next week or two so that means plenty of time for writing.

There is never any need to justify a bias towards oni. They are love, pure and simple.
>What's important that there's a high probability of updates within the next 24 hours.

Mind not bumping this? It makes me feel like a douche when I don't come through. Like now. Sorry but apparently a lot of free time leads me to waste it on things I've been depriving myself of (mainly video games) and when I do try to write not much comes out. Gonna give it another night's sleep and then go for broke. That better do it.
>Mind not bumping this? It makes me feel like a douche when I don't come through. Like now.

Generally when the writefag makes a statement as to the status of the next update, it should be bumped because it is relevant to his readers, though many writefags sage those posts out of misplaced humility. Of course when the writefag feels strongly about it, the reader is obliged to follow his preferences.

>Gonna give it another night's sleep and then go for broke.

It's more like I feel that it's unfair to bump the thread above the other story threads (which may have had updates) just because of a status post. It's that simple. It's not the end of the world but it doesn't feel right either.

In any case, this thread is done with.
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