There are days where you just don’t want to get out of bed. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you still gotta, but sometimes you really, REALLY wish you could lie in bed and tell the world to buzz off. Maybe it was the training I had back at my last home, or living out in this ‘magic forest’, but something had tipped me off that I needed to get up and moving.
Had I been anywhere else, or any other time, I would have told my instincts to shut it, but with a groan, I dived out of the hammock. That got me a few seconds to think before the little girl who had been hunting me for the last three days brought her jaw down where my arm had been moments ago..
“Really, again?” I sighed, jumping to my feet and stretching.
“Yeah! They told me you taste like jerky!” The little girl was practically bursting with excitement as she spoke. She flashed me that little devilish grin, and I knew talking would be just as pointless as the last three days. “I want another bite! All I got was smoke and chalk last time!”
That made me chuckle. Poor girl tried to bite my left arm in a surprise attack the day before yesterday. Unfortunately for her, I had lost that a few weeks ago in an accident. Fortunately for me, I have enough control over ash and smoke to make a working replacement from it.
“What’ll it take to get you to go away?” I groan and shake my head. I wouldn’t be getting an answer to that one since the little brat decided to charge me while I was talking. Another sigh and I consider my next move.
[ ] Use the power of that dragon tattoo. [ ] Time is on your side, consider it carefully. [ ] Just make something blow up in her face.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So, think about your votes, because for the first three or four votes, these will factor into the backstory of the character, and give him different advantages, disadvantages, and items.
Two updates in a day! Hooray! --------------------------------------------------
>[X ] Time is on your side, consider it carefully.
With a deep breath, I push magic through my body, letting it flow into the pocket watch tattooed on my chest, causing time to slow to a crawl around me. Using a magic focus like this was sloppy, and hurt like a bitch, but it slowed the girl to a crawl, giving me time to think. If my teacher could see me now...
Well, she'd probably kill me for such a reckless use of the power she entrusted to me, but I had bigger problems at the moment.
The Yokai girl was still inching towards me, drool almost falling from her open mouth. If I hadn’t slowed her down, I would likely be having a very strange little girl chewing on one of my arms by now. You know, I can see why my teacher uses this power for everything, having time to think is a godsend.
That’s a thought for when I get out of thisthough. Right now, I just had to wait a few more seconds for an opening to show itself.
That opening came in the form of a sharp looking rock that my dive had unearthed. While the girl didn’t feel it as she stepped on it, the rock unbalanced her just long enough for me to break my focus, and trip her into my arms.
She cried out in surprise, twisting for the fist solid thing she could sink her teeth into. While a solid plan, it only lasted until I unceremoniously swung her headfirst into an old oak tree, causing the wood to crack, and splinters to fly, as the impact echoed through the forest. I didn't even need to look to feel the blow flow through her body, from her head to her feet.
I'm briefly concerned that I actually did some sort of lasting damage, but I don't have time to worry about it. A blow like that would have killed a human, but if even half the tales I heard of the little darkness girl are true, she'll probably wake up in a few hours with a headache from hell.
Thankfully, that’s more than enough time to pack my things up and get the hell out of this forest. But where should I go to? I look to my things, and pause, considering where to go for a moment before letting my mind wander.
‘I wonder what everyone is up to,” I mumbled idly, putting my hand atop…
[ ] A Buddhist rosary [ ] An Oni shackle [ ] A Rose tattoo [ ] A Wolf print Tattoo [ ] A Rabbit tattoo.
A flash of memory, a wave of emotions, and a shot of pain all hit me when I touch the shackle that sat on the smoke that made up my left arm. I took a small comfort in it, knowing it meant I was alive and well.
“Three weeks,” I mumble as I start to think to myself, putting a hand to my head and rubbing a cut that had almost finished healing along my temple. ‘Three weeks since I left. Two and a half weeks since Yuugi found me. Maybe it’s time to go back. The thought of returning to the underground crossed my mind a few times before, since it seemed whatever the little Yokai wanted, she wouldn’t be stopping until she got it, but I never really put it down as an option that I could go for.
As if on cue, I was pulled from my thoughts by the sound of that little Yokai girl groaning at the base of the tree that she hit. Seems I underestimated how hard I hit her, or overestimated how effective the blow would be. With her stirring, and little else I could do besides put distance between the two of us, my choice was made for me.
“Looks like I’m going underground,” I mumbled, and then started running; dodging through the trees, over roots and under branches, trying to take the most direct route to the cave I had used to stumble into the underground those weeks ago. ‘Hope Yuugi is willing to accept guests today.’
Getting to the cave was easy, once you knew the path through the thickest parts of the forest. Settled right into the base of the Tengu’s mountain, it looked like any other opening that dotted along the peak’s exterior. Hell, I had only gotten lucky the first time I got to the underground. Had I been anywhere else, or wandered into any other cave, I would have simply laid down to die.
A sobering thought, though it only lasted until I saw the closest thing to a gate keeper the mountain had, one cheerful spider Yokai by the name of Yamame something or other. Thankfully, I managed to catch her while she was working on something near where the cave splits between her house and the path to the underground city.
We exchange a friendly wave, and I press on, trying to keep my balance on the slope as it grows steeper. They must be doing more work on the stairs from the underground city, since the path eventually smoothed out to a set of wide steps, making the last section of my descent easier than the first.
Just as I’m starting to feel a bit closed in, the stairs end, leaving me standing atop a sheer drop overlooking the city.
The sight never fails to take my breath away. A city of booze, destruction, and yet, perfect order. Houses made with some kinda wood straight from the bowels of the nastiest tree in Old Hell, stone from the fires of Blazing Hell, and people tougher than both of them combined made for a rugged city the likes of which you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in creation. Break something? You fix it. Hurt someone? You care for them. It was the single most insane place in Gensokyo, and yet made the most sense too.
It was my kind of town.
Now, if I was Yuugi, where would I be?
[ ] That house of tacos looks promising. [ ] Maybe that mindreader will know. [ ] Let’s try the streets. Maybe luck is on our side. [ ] Causing some trouble could draw her out…
Now, anyone who knows anything about the underground know that there is only one place that the people gather when they want to eat a fine meal. That place... is Big Papa's house of Looooooove and Tacos. Considering the rumbling in my belly, it had to be around lunch time, so even if I didn't find Yuugi there, I could satisfy the burning need for tacos that developed as I walked down the steps into the underground city.
Of course, first I had to get there, which was a task in and of itself in this city. A brawl in every bar, and a body snoring on every bench, all things you would come to expect from a city like this. I grabbed a drink from the closest bar I could get to, and started along the city, sipping from the mug I had grabbed.
Here's the secret to navigating this drunken city unbothered: confidence and a drink in your hand. Looking like a man, or woman, on a mission, and people won't bother pulling you into their fun if they can avoid it. The drink keeps you from being 'invited' to drink with them, which is a bad idea for anyone but an oni on the best of days.
It only took about twenty minutes to walk from the base of the stairs to the large white building that made up the House of Looooooove and Tacos. I had never been here before, personally, but in my first stay in the underground, I had heard all kinds of things about it and met the owner many times in the week I had spent down in the underground. With nothing to stop me, I pushed open the doors and nearly walked into one of the classiest oni I'd ever seen.
A nice suit, covering him while keeping his physique at the forefront of his looks. Well tailored and impeccably pressed, clashing with nothing beyond the hard hat that adorned his head. Not Big Papa levels of class, but close.
“Woah there buddy! You can't just be walking through here like that!” he said and shifted, barely missing my head with a metal pole, some kind of framework for some scaffolding. “I coulda taken your head off!” He chuckled, like it was all some kinda joke before another oni put a hard helmet on my head.
“Hard hat only zone! You one of the ones that Hoshiguma was sending to help set up?” The oni said, patting the helmet he put on me for a moment, then nodding as if satisfied.
“Sorry,” I said, shifting the helmet to keep my hair out of my face, “but you're thinking of someone else. I'm here to see Big Papa. He around here somewhere?”
“Yeah, head to the back, he should be working on the menu for tonight in his office.” the oni said, swinging the pole again, forcing me to drop to the ground to keep my head attached to my neck. “Just head into the kitchen and back to the right.”
“Thanks. Now keep from taking anyone's head off.” I chuckled and ducked under the bar, walking down through the flurry of Oni workers and craftsmen who were working on the building. I saw the spider youkai again, giving a few blue scrolls to the lead Oni, and gave her a wave, chalking up how she had gotten here before me to the fact she knows the layout of the underground better. Ah well, I had more important things to worry about.
Getting through the Oni kitchen was a job and a half, considering the flurry of movement and action it was on the inside. Seems like everyone who worked there was on overdrive, preparing for whatever the hell was being set up for later in the night. I had to dodge three or four different dishes that got flung at my head by the hand of a chef who wasn't satisfied with them or was angry that I was in their kitchen. I didn't know and didn't plan to stay long enough to find out.
I barely made it to Big Papa's office without a face full of food by sheer dumb luck and amazing timing, though that didn't stop another plate from coming at the door as I slammed it shut, feeling it like a battering ram to my back.
“I told y'all not to bother me till I'm done!” He snapped, putting the menu and pen he had down on the desk. “I can't keep thinking up new tacos for tonight if you all keep bother...Now if that ain't a sight for sore eyes!” The big oni laughed, looking up from his desk and then down to me at the door. “If it ain't the little firestarter that my little oni chickadee brought in a few weeks ago. Anthony, wasn't it?”
“Hey Big Papa. Tony is fine.” I couldn't help but smile at the big oni. “I came down to see how the crew was doing, but I seem to have run straight into a mess. What's going on tonight?”
“Oh all that? Sorry you had to see the place in such disrepair, Tony!” he said and put a hand on his desk hard enough to make a loud snapping sound from somewhere inside the wood. When he moved his hand, I could see the wood shift and splinter, trying to magically recover from the bashing hit it took. “We're remodeling for tonight, where the lonely and the disheartened will have a chance to find their companion in the halls of LOOOOOOOVE!” he said, swinging the word with the energy that only the big oni seemed to channel. The energy that comes from truly believing in the word and all it stood for.
“Soooooo what, a singles night?” I ask, trying to think of what exactly to call an event like this. “A mix and mingle of Gensokyo's bachelorettes?”
“In a way, yes!” he boomed.
“Huh,” I mumble, then look up to Big Papa, my mouth open to say something before seeing the big grin on his face. He knew what I was going to ask, and he knew I didn't have a say in the matter.
And that's why I'm now currently sitting in the back of a dimly lit taco hall dining room converted to a semi-functioning nightclub, gazing out over a sea of humans, youkai, oni, and everything between.
“Damn it, I need to learn how to tell an Oni no,” I mumble to myself again and finish the 'one drink minimum' before crushing my cup and throwing it in a bin. I don't know where Big Papa got the red plastic cups, but it added to the party's atmosphere quite well.
“Guess I should socialize...”
Who should I talk to?
[ ] The fierce looking woman, who can almost hide her embarrassment. [ ] The fatigued brunette who seems to be on a one-woman mission to drain the bar. [ ] The fancy looking red head who seems to be the life of the party [ ] The overly elegant woman speaking with her servant in the corner. [ ] The short warrior grasping her sword nervously. [ ] The plump rabbit single handedly destroying the food table
>[ ] The fierce looking woman, who can almost hide her embarrassment.
It always seemed to be the ones who didn't want to be found that drew my eye. While the party in the center was tempting, and the red head looking more worth my time every shake of her hips, someone else looked like they would appreciate my attention more.
Finishing the drink in my hand, I started walking over to the woman who looked more like a warrior than a girl who was looking for a guy. Staring into her drink, she didn't notice me till I put the ladle down in the punch again, clinking it against the glass.
“Mon for your thoughts?” I said, looking to her, picking the cheesiest pickup line I had on the brain. I watched her reaction, sipping the punch I took. She looked like she was shocked that someone approached her, then questioned the pickup line, till I tossed her a Mon, watching it land in her drink.
“...Whoops,” I mumbled and watched her as her mouth twitched in the slightest hint of a smile. She reached into her drink and pulled the coin out, shaking it off.
“I'm curious what you expected to come from that.” She said, the smile vanishing, replaced with a well practiced cool, collected glaze. It would be impressive if it had not been betrayed by the fact her face was slowly going from red to its natural shade.
“It got you talking didn't it?” I said after a moment, letting the neutral mask fall over my face as well. Judging from the look on her face, she was pleased with the answer, until she blinked and bit her lip, mentally cursing herself I'm sure.
“Oh hell. I'm supposed to be here to meet people and all I end up doing is looking like an ass,” she said, hiding her face in her punch cup again. “I-I'm sorry. I guess I should introduce myself, I'm Shou Toramaru.” She said, having to bite her tongue to keep from going on to some kind of title that would probably make her seem like some kinda haughty noble.
“Anthony Cinis,” I said, offering her a hand, which she took and hid her face again. It was kind of adorable, considering this is the kind of woman I would expect to be looking at me from the other end of a blade. Come to think of it, I might have seen her at a party with just such a thing.
“S-So, what brings you here Anthony?” she asked, taking her hand back and trying to keep from fidgeting or shifting too much. I chuckled under my breath, at which she froze and watched me pass around her, then lean against the wall next to her and watch the people out on the dance floor, and the movement above us.
“Tony is fine, and same as you Tora-” I began, before being cut off by her clearing her throat. “Same as you probably Shou. Dragged into this mess by someone we trust, and told to 'mingle', for all the good that does,” I say, looking over to her and smiling. “Near the mark?”
“Too near to be a guess. What tipped you off?” she asked, looking a little suspicious, until I held up three fingers and started pointing. First, I pointed to the mice walking around in the upper rafters, all looking like they were trying to act natural, while all keeping an eye on Shou.
The second thing was a group of men and woman, mostly older teens mingling, all of them wearing charms that I recognized as coming from one of the temples in the village.
“And last, I worked as a butler for a while. You learn to read your patrons, and new acquaintances on the fly,” I said, shifting my coat as if it were something fancier than it was, to complete the illusion.
“Bravo,” Shou said, bowing her head, admitting defeat to my reasoning. “Forced by my underling, if you would believe a tale that embarrassing. What about you?”
I shrugged, misery loved company after all. Why not be two peas in a pod they really didn't want to be near, let alone in? I told her simply. “Big Papa himself on my end. I couldn't call it strong arming, but I could say it was very forceful insisting.”
A silence passed between us, where we considered each others story and started laughing, a genuine laugh that only two fools thrown into a strange situation could have.
“Well, I can't say I wouldn't be interested to know how you came to know Big Papa well enough to be pushed into this. Perhaps you could tell me the tale,” she said, probing for some information.
I probably would have told her what she asked of me, had the door to the House of LOOOOOOOVE and Tacos not opened, admitting three people I had hoped I would never see again, though I was a feel to think I wouldn't.
Hong Meiling, Sakuya Izayoi, and Patchouli Knowledge.
It looks like they hadn't noticed me yet, but the way Sakuya and Meiling were scanning the crowd, I had seconds at best before I was noticed. I had time to make a move, but what?
[ ] Run
[ ] Leap a counter and hide
[ ] Suggest getting some fresh air to Shou
--- That coin joke is actually what decided who's path to start first. It's what actually happened to the coin I flipped.
Mind racing and heart pumping, I manage to narrow my ideas of escape to three. None of them seem very good, but they all have enough merit for me.
I turn to Shou, a careful smile hiding my nerves.
“Shou, would you mind if I met you outside in a few minutes? I feel like I could use a little fresh air,” I say quickly, turning on the ball of my heels and walking calmly a few steps past a few happy couples chatting like they didn't have a care in the world, then jumping the counter of the bar as I slow time. Hopefully, Sakuya didn't notice me before I di-
“Sakuya,” I spit, averting my gaze from the maid who was leaning against the back counter of the bar. I didn't want to see my closest friend at the mansion looking to me like I was scum, even if she had every right to believe it. Hell, I believed it sometimes, when I think about what happened.
I didn't even have to look to the rest of the House of LOOOOOOOVE and Tacos to see that it was all frozen in time. Seems she spotted me the moment I used my power and fully stopped time for everything else. If I had been any slower in using my own powers, I would likely be a bloody corpse outside the bar, if she hadn't thrown the evidence into the lava.
The silence that followed our names was deafening, thanks to time being frozen. The chatter of the party had stopped, leaving a strange buzz of frozen sound that only seemed to deepen the silence around us, instead of filling the void with noise.
Until something cut the tension, like a knife sliding from a hidden sheath. Time went from frozen to overdrive in an instant, a dive keeping my eyes free of any metal bits. I gathered my hands under myself, both to keep from flailing, and to push myself up, flipping to my feet further down the bar.
Sakuya simply walked to the knife and picked it out of the air, holding it tightly to dispel the momentum it had from her throw. From her glare, it was easy to tell that my old teacher had no plans of talking this out. That knife of hers was drawn for blood, and nothing would stop it.
I sighed and shifted on my feet, like she had taught me, grabbing an Oni sized knife from the bar, flicking lemon juice from its blade, then reversing my grip on it. Fighting Sakuya with a weapon is stupid, but fighting her without one is suicide, and I didn't want to be saying hello to the reaper just yet.
The silence returned again, punctuated by the dripping of lemon off my knife. As soon as they fell away from the blade, they froze, lost in the time stop that remained. A good thing to note, since that removed some of Sakuya's greatest strength, letting us fight on a more equal level.
Which was the only thing keeping me alive as she jumped up the counter and fell, knife point down, aimed to my skull. Another quick dive and a bit of a scramble got me out of the bar, leaving me ducking again as another knife whipped by my head, taking off some hair before slowing to a stop. Damn Sakuya was good with those bloody things. When I was throwing them they hardly left my palm before time stopped them cold.
No time to compliment the enemy though, as I was put right back on the defensive, the knife she threw having been a distraction from the true threat: a back slash, with a knife aimed at my throat, and one aimed at my eye again. Cursing at my momentary lapse in attention, I caught one knife on the flat of my own, the metal screeching as it was scored by the higher-quality metal. The other intercepted my shackle, slicing into the smoke of my false arm and sticking as I backhanded the head maid, pushing her out of my personal bubble, and leaving myself time to pull her knife out of the dull gray flesh of my arm.
Holding her blade in my off hand, I waved my arm till the ashen flesh sealed itself and smoke stopped drifting off into the still air only to freeze. Then I threw the blade she scored, counting on her forgetting how rubbish I was at throwing knives long enough for me to close the distance and attack.
Sakuya recovered faster than I expected, raising and slamming her stiletto onto the knife, wrenching it free from my grip before giving me a mouthful of heel, sending me across the room. I crashed into a table, the force causing wood and glass to shatter before they froze in the air. A groan escapes my lips, as I forced myself to pull away from the splintered wood and shattered glasses, giving the Yokai who had been using the table before the fight a sad look. From their perspective they would just see the table suddenly collapse. I wonder how they would justify that one?
Not that it mattered all that much, when I had more than enough other things to worry about at the time. Without either of the weapons I started with, my chances against the head maid dropped faster than an unconscious vampire. She knew it too, judging from the way she slowly and carefully walked towards me, heels tapping the floor with every 'perfect and elegant' step she took. From her frigid stare and stiff arms, I could tell I was simply pushing her buttons by standing where I was.
A fact that may just save my life if I can get her to slip up enough to use my own control of time to shatter her hold on the area.
Of course, that would only work if I could push her off balance enough for her to slip up, something I would have to kick some really sensitive areas to do. I could always try and grab someone from the party for help, but bringing in a third party could get messy fast.
I never thought about it before, probably because she attacked me before I could, but I could always try talking to her. We were friends once, so who knows if it could help?
[ ] Keep on the offensive, and knock her off balance. [ ] Play it safe, Grab someone, ANYONE, from the party. [ ] Who? [ ] Talk to her, you damned idiot.
>>[x] Keep on the offensive, and knock her off balance. >>[x] Oni Fist Special
It was my only chance. No way in hell could I get her to stop trying to kill me and talk. No way in hell I could live with dragging someone else from the party in my mess. This was just like the training from hell I went through back at the mansion, except then I had both arms and no need for a damned oni shackle that held my arm in...place...
I'm a gods damned idiot.
My real hand went to the shackle and felt the smooth runes on its surface, just barely noticeable in the dim party lighting. I whispered to myself as I felt the magic flow through me, sluggishly working through the markings on my skin and down to the shackle, which started to glow with a pale light.
That got Sakuya's attention. I saw her stop for a second - no doubt wondering what I was doing - what kind of power I could have gained in the short time I'd been away.
Knocking her off balance, just like I had hoped. In truth, the shackle only gave me a relatively minor boost in strength, but it was a bit flashy, pumping my body with magic to define every muscle, making my lean frame look like someone who actively worked to maintain it outside of trying to survive.
Even that would be enough. With a shout that would have made an anime hero proud, I jumped, pulling my fist back and throwing a punch at the time stopping woman. Blood pumping, adrenaline surging, I felt like I could win this fight in this one blow.
I was wrong.
Sakuya was only off balance for a second or two, before she grabbed my arm, shifting her weight to use my own against me, and flung me across the room like a piece of trash, right through a stained glass window. Shards froze in the air as time slowed for everything around me, leaving me to hit shard after shard on my way down. Didn't matter much, as with the ground came the rough reality of an ass kicking. My powers failed, and time resumed, leaving me to embrace my role as a glass pin cushion until the sweet bliss of darkness swallowed my vision. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Good morning mistress.
Good evening. What is for dinner today?
Not this memory. I don't want to remember this.
Sakuya prepared a dish called Papas de sarrabulho with a blood pudding on the side.
An interesting combi...nation. What are you doing?
What do you mean Mistress?
You know what I mean. Stop that disgusting habit this instant.
It's nothing to worry about mistress. I will simply stand over here.
Anthony. I am your mistress, and I am ordering you to stop.
You may employ me, Mistress, but you can't control everything I do.
And then...the sound, pain. Let it stop. Please, whoever is above, I beg you to let me wake up.
You forget who you speak to. I am mistress of this household, and I will NOT stand idle while a whelp, alive only by my good graces, speaks to me so.
Mistress...stop, please. This doesn't end how you...If I could just go back.
Well, what does my whelp of a butler have to say for him-ERK!
Nononononononono. You fool, stop!
I am no one's whelp! Least of all a half grown vampire who fancies herself a queen of NOTHING!
“Stop!” I shouted, bolting upright in the bed I found myself in. Silence was my only answer, leaving my thoughts and the fading echo to keep me company. “...Why did I throw it all away?” I whispered to myself, trying to move my arm to my head. A decision I immediately regretted, as the shards of glass had left wounds all over my stomach and arms. After falling back down in agony, I took stock.
I was alive, at least. That's good, right? My wounds were cleaned and bandaged. Also good.
Wherever I was, I wasn't in the underground anymore. Natural sunlight filtered through a window on the far side of the room, giving me a small distraction in watching the dust float by. Anything to keep from thinking on the memory that had plagued my dream. It was odd, that simple dust could capture my attention so easily.
Watching the little dust speck float through the light kept me occupied for a decent stretch of time, somewhere around ten minutes if I had to guess. I hadn't even noticed that the door had opened and someone had entered my room until they spoke up.
“I see you have awoken,” said the woman who entered the room. My head snapped to her as fast as I could without hurting my neck, the surprise of someone else in the room making my heart skip a few beats. “Hold, I mean you no harm,” she said, holding out a hand.
The woman was large, in both height and presence. I'm pretty sure if I was standing, she might have been about eye level with me. She had a motherly air to her, though it seemed to hide a danger I had come to recognize as a deep reservoir of power...though it was hard to keep that in mind when she knelt next to the futon I lay in and laid her hand on my head. “Seems the fever you had developed when Shou brought you in has left you. How are you feeling, Anthony?” she asked, looking at me as she brushed her gradient hair over her shoulders, showing off her neck.
“Like a freshly aired out rug.” I groaned and moved my hand out from under the blanket. “If you know me, I think I should know you.” I coughed, trying not to make the bandages or wounds open.
“I suppose that is fair. I am Byakuren Hijiri, Head monk of the Myouren temple. Seems you had a rather unfortunate fate.” She chuckled, and stood, walking to a dresser that had been behind me, just out of view. “Shou told me of what happened last night.”
“Oh...I guess I need to explain...” I grumbled and paused for a moment. Should I even explain? I just met her after all. Who knows what kind of thing she would do with that information?
“Mh, no need,” she said, shaking her head and taking a bowl and some clothes from the dresser, then sitting beside me again. “Here at the temple, your past is yours to tell. We...” She paused, then sighed. “I will not pry. I can not say for the others here, unfortunately.” Something about her tone told me she wished it wasn't the case, but it was pretty hard to focus on that when she pulled the blanket off me, removing any semblance of modesty.
“W-What the hell!” I yelped and shifted, grateful whoever bandaged me left me in my boxers. “A-A little warning please,” I said and shifted, blushing brightly. That seemed to only get her laughing at me, before pushing me down and holding me there with a strength that seemed insane for someone of her stature. I momentarily feared for my life, before she poured some water from a small flask into the bowl, and started washing the smaller wounds on my torso. “O-Oh....T-Thank you.”
“Heh, I apologize, but most who end up here are the prideful sort who need to be pushed to allow someone to take care of them,” she said, running the cool water soaked cloth over me. “Other won't admit they need help without a push, less than gently more often than not.”
“Reminds me of some people I knew.” I chuckled, closing my eyes and relaxing, letting her care for me quickly. “Thank you for not prying.”
“Everyone has their history. Some heavy, some light, all private, although, Shou will likely ask about yours, considering the incident at Big Papa's.” She said, putting the cloth back in the bowl and walked to the window, letting the water sit in the light. “It should only be an hour before the bloody water turns into a salve to soothe your wounds. Would you like me to send Shou in to speak with you or shall I let you sleep?” She said, still sounding like she was caring for my safety.
“I'll talk to her,” I smile and nod, then rested my head down on the pillow of the futon. As much as I didn't know what to say, something in my gut told me that it would be a bad idea to ignore her.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't really have time to think of what I was going to say before she entered the room. Seems she had been listening outside. “Lady Hijiri, please allow me to talk to him alone,” she said, bowing her head between two clasped hands.
“As you wish,” Byakuren returned the bow, then walked away, giving me a smile before shutting the door.
“So...” Shou started, looking like she had a lot of questions, but no idea how to ask them.
[ ] I guess you want to know why that happened. -[ ] It all started... -[ ] It's too long a long story for now.
There was a long pause between Shou's sentence trailing off and anything else happening. She had questions and no idea how to ask them, I had answers and no desire to tell them. If nothing was said, we would likely sit here in awkward silence until the end of time, so I said something I hoped would defuse the tension and move us past this before any pushing happened. I sighed and smiled at her, resting my head on the pillow again.
“Thank the gods you're alright Shou. I was worried that you would get caught up in that mess just because you were around me.” With that said I opened my eyes a little to see her trying to understand what to feel at the moment. I'm fairly sure I saw a look of perplexed shock, then utter confusion, then a few blinks of what I could only assume was trying to understand what happened. After that, what I what I thought was a dash of anger, mixed with the dawning realization that I had said that to cut the tension.
“You...” she mumbled, then put her hand to her head, laughing gently. “The art of misdirection. I should have seen something like that coming. I'll wager a guess that you don't want to speak of it?” She asked, giving a small huff of a sigh, and crossing her arms. She looked almost amused now, like a chess player who had been outmaneuvered.
“Sorry, but my past is not something I want to go too deeply into, especially not when it comes to the Mansion's residents.”
“Would it bring any misfortune upon the temple here if you were to remain here?” she said, giving it a moment before amending her statement. “Whatever happened between you and the vampire's household?”
“No. They aren't likely to come looking for a fight. What Sakuya was thinking there... I can't even begin to understand what happened since I had last seen her.” The words hung in the air for a moment while I looked to the floor, expecting some kind of prying or pushing from Shou. There was none, until a bundle fell onto my lap, startling me from my swirling pit of dark thoughts. “W-What the hell? What are these?”
“Clothing and uniform. I'm going to take you at your word, and that means you are going to pay me back every mon we had to spend getting the rabbit to treat your wounds. Then after that, you're going to work for the temple as long as it takes to pay Big Papa back for the damages.”
“W-Wait... what? I don't get a say in any of this?” I ask, trying to hide the wince from the bundle being dropped on my bandages. I didn't expect to be given a say, considering they had dragged me from the underground and patched me up.
The fact this was totally my fault in the first place was irrelevant.
“Not unless you want to try and find somewhere that would provide you a better deal, and I highly doubt that you could after word of what happened last night spreads. You're in a tight spot Tony, this is the best I could do to keep you from being too deep in debt,” she said, rubbing her arm nervously.
I nodded to myself and shifted the clothing off to the side of the bed, trying to keep from moving too much. Most of my physical body still hurt if I shifted a bit too much even. “Thanks Shou, I didn't mean to sound ungrateful. This is a pretty good deal, all things considered. I may have to stick around for a while yet.”
I flashed her a smile, trying to show her that I appreciated it all, even if I was feeling less than grateful at the mess I had been stuck in. From one servitude to another, that seemed how my life wanted to go these last few years.
Shou gave me a small nod and gathered the bowl that had been set in the window. “Hm, seems it's not finished quite yet...” she mumbled, putting it down, then turning back to me again. “Would you like something to eat while we wait?”
After talking it over with my editor, and some of the anons over in the critique thread, I've come to the realization that I messed something up. probably badly.
In the effort of trying to fix what I messed up here, I'm offering a new vote. In an effort to roll with the mistakes as well, I'm not rolling back time. Always thought one shouldn't hide their mistakes, which is why my last two attempts are still cluttering up the boards.
So the new vote is essentially me asking, Should Anthony tell Shou his past, have it come up as a dream after they eat, or do you have a better idea I didn't think of?
And let's consider this as 'opening the flood-gates' for you guys. I'm here to get better at writing and try to tell a tale for you guys to enjoy, which means I want to hear your feedback. Feel free to say 'Hey, Chibi, Why did they do this?' or 'Hey Chibi, this part was kinda bad.'
And you can have this cool picture of Shou I found a little while ago as well.
 Tell Shou  Dream after  Better idea? (Tell me please)
As Shou walked out of the room to get food, I laid down on the bedding again and gave my room another glance. I let out a deep sigh and shook my head, giving myself a moment to prepare for something really stupid. Once I was finished preparing, I began to hold a breath till my lungs burned, trying to focus on the burning in my chest and not the dull burning of my wounds. Once my lungs burned enough to dull everything else, I pushed off the mattress and pulled my feet under me, shifting into a crouch. The effort was enough to force me to grit my teeth and work to correct my balance.
“Just like back then...” I mumbled to myself as I let go and take in a new breath, thinking back to the mansion. I shook the thoughts out of my head, and slowly straightened up, using my arms and legs together to offset some of the pain. I was favoring my smoke arm; a little odd since it was my off hand, but I shrugged it off once I straightened up. Feeling my bandages, I sighed in relief, all of them still fairly fresh. Well, fresh enough that I could tell I hadn't opened any wounds that had already healed shut. With that sense of relief, I walked to a small box in the corner of the room, atop which laid my now cut up clothing.
Another sigh escaped my lips, quickly cut off by a wince, as I bent over slightly to gather a few things from the top of the pile. Cigarettes and a Zippo knock off, both made by the Kappa, both with the quality of the original. Gotta love those crazy bastards, they know how to make the comforts of the outside world work in a land without common sense.
With my two items in hand, I slowly shifted my way to the other door to the room, which led out to a large open air courtyard. Probably some kinda parade ground for the temple, a place to gather and do whatever activities needed to be done for the day. Suited my needs just fine, at least.
Gingerly walking down to the ground, I took small notes of the sounds and sights of the temple in the slowly descending sun. Judging from the grounds, and the grass that grew on it, this was a lesser used courtyard, maintained but left alone for the most part. Also judging from the number of doors in the walls around me, I'd have hazarded a guess that this was one of the living quarters, likely for the Yokai or guests who stayed at the temple.
Which meant it was more than empty enough for me to sit down and enjoy something I hadn't done in... had to be a few days, not even counting the days I had been asleep.
The click of the lighter is a familiar comfort, as is the simple weight of the stick between my lips. Something about it felt... right, really, like it was something to I could always rely on to be the same. Same as the smell of the water grown tobacco that the Kappa used in these cigarettes. Light hints of the sea, mixed with some kind of mint from their crazy cross-breeding and something that was too hidden to smell under the smoke.
Overall a relaxing aroma, and one I hadn't understood how much I was missing until I had it again. I took a deep breath and smiled, letting the smoke collect in my lungs for a few moments before letting it go, feeling my arm grow denser. The shackle may keep my arm there, but it didn't do much for when the smoke that made it up started to dissipate more than I could replace it. The feeling of it rebuilding itself from the outside in was a perverse one, an almost unnatural pleasure.
I always chalked it up to me being a very strange individual.
Strange enough to walk out of bed after being beaten to hell just to smoke a cigarette. When did my life get so insane? Unfortunately, I didn't really get time to ponder it before I heard the door to my room opening again, followed by a sigh.
“Out here,” I called out, not looking back, simply for the sake of saving myself from the pain of turning. There was only really one person I would think would be coming to see me.
“Oh, oh!” Shou mumbled, walking out the door and setting down the tray of food next to me, then sitting down herself. “I'll admit, I thought you ran off after we told you that you'd be working here.”
“You kidding me? I've been here nearly five years at this point, that's been my life for most of it, working for someone...” I trailed off and looked down to the cigarette in my hand, gently rolling it between my fingers. “Sorry, you want me to put this out? Probably something wrong with smoking in a temple.”
Shou waved a hand in negation before taking the bowl of food and mixing it with some sauce. “With all the incense we burn? I'd be surprised if anyone would actually notice something like someone smoking.” She paused, looking at my arm before quickly turning her attention to making sure the food was easy to eat. “Besides, it's probably a good thing, judging from your arm.”
And that was the last thing that was said between us for a while. I finished my cigarette, Shou and I ate, and we let the sun go down into the horizon. A few people came, walking to their rooms for the night. A black haired wolf, a green haired Yamabiko, even a few monks and that pair of tricksters who had gained a reputation for spooking the mansion fairies.
That memory brought the tide of emotions and thoughts I had been holding back to the forefront of my mind. Things I didn't want to think about, didn't want to remember, even if the reminders stared me in the face. I turned my head to look to Shou, who was fidgeting with a pair of chopsticks that she had brought with the tray, looking like she was trying not to have a question on her mind.
“Shou... I'm going to sound kinda like an idiot here, but... go ahead,” I said, giving myself a moment to mentally prepare before her curiosity got the better of her. “You deserve to know since you almost got wrapped up in it at the party.”
“What happened? I mean... I heard things from some people talking after everything essentially exploded, but no one had a clue what really happened. All we knew was you were on the ground bleeding, and something went down nearly in the blink of an eye.” She looked a little guilty bringing it up, but I waved her off. Maybe it was time for me to talk about it as well.
“To start with last night, I...” I paused and took a breath, running my real hand through my hair. Where even to start with this story? “I got into a fight with the maid of the Scarlet Mansion. Time manipulation happened, which led to it all happening in a moment to the rest of you. Wasn't much longer than that before I got my ass handed to me, so don't feel like you missed out on much.” My poor attempt at a joke fell flat and I looked to the side, away from Shou. “That was pretty bad, sorry.”
“Why though? It's rather against the idea of a 'perfectly elegant maid' to be beating people up at a party.” “She had a pretty good reason, considering I attacked Remilia Scarlet,” I mumbled, looking down to my hands like they had blood on them. They technically did, if you were looking at it metaphorically. “I haven't heard anything to say that she survived it.”
“W-What?” Shou blinked, trying to process what I just said. I didn't have to look at her to get a sense of preparation in case anything happened.
Taking a deep breath, I slowly adjusted the table cloth so I had set everything up, just the way Remilia liked it, and just how Sakuya taught me to do. Had to get it right, and had to do to before it was time to wake her. They finally trusted me to do this one myself, and I'd be damned if I screw it up. Smoothing out one last fold in the cloth, I stood and took a few steps back to examine the work I had done with a sense of pride in my chest. If this had gone well, I may have been able to serve the guests directly at the next party.
All that was left to do was to go inform the mistress that her dinner was prepared. Straightening my vest and pants, I walked out of the dining room and through the hall, passing by excited fairy maids who all gave me waves and thumbs up, causing the pride to swell in my chest. I opened the door to the large bedchambers in which Remilia had been relaxing inside. “Good morning mistress. If you'll come with me, your food is prepared.” I gave her my best bow and placed my hand in front of my chest, looking almost like a proper butler.
Remilia was looking wonderful this day, using the dress that she used for actual parties.In the growing light of the approaching dawn, it gave her an ethereal quality, enhancing the charisma she had naturally. A slim cut dress that greatly contrasted her everyday outfit by not only being a deep purple but hugging her body in ways that brought flattering attention to her figure. In a dress like this, it was easy to tell that she was the master of the house, and a powerful, if small, woman.
“Good evening,” she greeted me with a smile. “What is for dinner today?”
“Sakuya prepared a dish called Papas de sarrabulho with a blood pudding on the side,” I mentioned, leading her to the dining room.
“An interesting combination,” she said, a slight hint of anticipation in her voice.
As we walked my hands fumbled inside my pockets, sliding one of my cigarettes out as I opened the door. I hadn't even noticed that I was holding it while I set Remilia up at the dining table, pulling her chair out for her, sliding it back in once she took her seat, and then serving the food Sakuya and I had prepared. I was about to light it when I noticed the gaze of my mistress go from the food to me.
“What are you doing?” she asked, looking about ready to kill me. It was a look I knew all too well, having been treated like a personal mule for the last three years.
“What do you mean, Mistress?” I said, my body moving on its own, doing something that had simply become second nature at this point. Honestly, it wasn't until I lit the cig that I even noticed it. I regarded it quizzically and walked to the open air balcony that stood at the other end of the table.
Remillia frowned, giving me a look of disappointment and subtle anger. “You know what I mean. Stop that disgusting habit this instant,” she said, almost as casually as if she was talking about the weather or a color of paint on the wall.
I raised a hand and shook my head, trying to wave her off. Why was she making such a big deal of this? “It's nothing to worry about, mistress. I will simply stand over here.”
Apparently, my smile and moving had done nothing to pacify her. “Anthony. I am your mistress, and I am ordering you to stop.” She commanded, her voice betraying some hint of annoyance, which undoubtedly meant she was starting to grow incredibly frustrated with me.
My frustrations got the better of me. “You may employ me, Mistress, but you can't control everything I do,” I growled back, taking a deep puff of the cigarette. It turns out that that was a mistake, as the next thing I knew I was thrown against a wall, coughing as I try to keep some semblance of oxygen in my lungs.
“You forget who you speak to," Remilia said, floating above me with her spear in hand, wings fully spread out one side covering her arm and spear with ease, and making her look about a quarter the size of her ego. “I am mistress of this household, and I will NOT stand idle while a whelp, alive only by my good graces, speaks to me so.”
Seeing her backed by the high vaulted ceilings and stained glass only served to push my blood to the boiling point.
“Well, what does my whelp of a butler have to say for him-ERK!” Her words died off when I exploded into smoke and ash, surrounding the vampire and reforming in front of her, my left hand closing tightly around her throat. More smoke, more ash flew up from my body, swirling around me. If I was in a better frame of mind, this would scare me senseless.
“I am no one's whelp! Least of all a half grown vampire who fancies herself a queen of NOTHING!” I growled, my voice harsh filtered through the thick cloud of ashen miasma.
“And that's the last thing I remember. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in a random bed underground, with Yuugi telling me I did something wicked, and a basket of tacos waiting for me.”
Shou opened her mouth a few times before closing her eyes and putting her hand to her head. “W-Wow. That's...That is a story. Hold here. I have something that you need, badly.”
I blinked at the thought as she left and waited for her to return, busying myself by examining the food bowl in great detail. When Shou returned, I was balancing it on my leg and watching it shift atop the cloth.
“Here,” she said, handing me a cup full of something strong. “Drink up.”
“I thought it was against your beliefs to drink?”
“I thought listening to confessions was a Christian thing.”
“Fair enough,” I mumbled, pulling the cup to my lips and draining it in a second.
“Not too much,” she poured herself a drink as she spoke. “Tomorrow we introduce you to the temple.”
“You... have surprisingly little reaction for what I just told you.”
She looked at me for a moment as sat down again. “I'm trying to keep from making any snap judgment,” she said and took a sip of her drink, then set it down on her leg, holding it gingerly.
With that, she flashed me a smile and finished her cup, taking the bottle and putting it on the serving tray she had brought before. She collected my cup and bowls and stood with it all in hand. “Try and get some rest. I've got a lot to think about before your work starts.”
I don't argue, simply getting up and turning to walk back into the room that was prepared for me.
“And don't forget to apply that medicine we gave you.” She called out as she left.
“It's an interesting tale... and a worrying one. This could bring a much greater danger than we thought if we ignore it, assuming it is not a falsehood. What do your friends say?”
“Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone near the Mansion at the time, nor have I been able to get anyone in.”
“An unfortunate development. That maid is commendable in that part of her job.”
“What are we going to do though? We can't just pretend it's all sunshine and rainbows. If it were up to me, he'd have an accident in the river before he finishes recovering.”
“Sorry, Lady Hijiri.”
“What about you, Shou? You know him better than the rest of us, even if it is only a night compared to a few minutes.”
“Something about all of this seems... odd. there has to be another force working behind the scenes. If he knows about it, it could mean that this may be a falsehood, like you guessed, but if not, he may be a victim as well. Until what happened with the vampire is public knowledge, it is too dangerous to assume he is innocent or guilty of what rumors say.”
“That's rather passive of you master.”
“I am. I believe this is a situation for the tactician and spy, not the warrior. I have other troubles to worry about anyway.”