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File 150184198984.png - (134.38KB , 500x500 , 20.png ) [iqdb]
30272 No. 30272
/o====================5====================o\

Current Strand: 5.85

Previous Strands:
1 - missing
2 - missing
3 - missing
4 - missing
5 - missing
5.8 - >>29818

\o====================85===================o/
Expand all images
>> No. 30274
File 150184260089.png - (639.04KB , 1000x730 , 20_5.png ) [iqdb]
30274
You may have had a chance in the beginning to flee, but the further you delve into the depths of this ‘home,’ the more the place’s tendrils sink in. It’s fortunate that this library doesn’t choke you like the halls before. This cage may be relatively pleasant, but it still remains a cage. Sister will have to free you eventually.

You just have to wait.

The devil occupies itself with tasks unknown and, most importantly, away from here. Its feeble master sleeps, though the condescending mark of her awakening lies before your feet.

A Little Book of Good Manners for Children

‘Manners’ are scarcely mentioned within the books you’ve read, yet they always are invoked in spirit. Not a single book confronts them. Like night and day are accepted as the polar laws of earth, manners and vulgarity are accepted the polar laws of man. Already bound by the former, you’ve never found yourself wanting for more constrictions. In the end, you can only ask: Why?

You doubt this book has the answer. It appears more the preacher than the skeptic.

However, there’s no harm in trying. You have time to spare before Sister makes her boisterous entrance.

You take the book and move closer into the orb’s light surrounding Patchouli - making sure not to wake her for both your sakes. Then you read.

...

Let the eyes be stable and honest…’ - ‘...for they are the seat and place of the soul.

That brings a sardonic smile to your face. As far as your eyes go, Sister says, ‘diseased,’ and anything you have to say would raise the brow of even the most depraved demons.

If manners are in the eye, then you must be quite the barbarian.



What follows in the book thereafter is not so biting. Instead, it trails at random through the most minute and petty details of existence you could possibly imagine. Everything from the color of your cheeks to the clothes on your back are put under its insane, trivial scrutiny. What possible purpose would it serve to only eat flesh with three fingers? How is it particularly wolfish, of all beasts, to consume a meal set before you? In your experience, mosquitos are the most ravenous of the world’s creatures - and you admire their tenacity, if anything.

Content with never understanding the human race, you shut the book. Patchouli jolts as if you had just thrown it at her head. She rises, slowly, then looks at you with an expression that would usually be reserved for the sight of a strange insect. To her sensibilities, the sight of a very confused man with a book in his lap must be quite astounding.

“You’ve read it?” she asks.

The question isn’t stupid, but you remain silent nonetheless. You had hoped she would stay asleep - it would have been a bargain between the two of you for mutual peace and quiet.

Patchouli still waits for a reply, and you don’t feel any need to antagonize her. You don’t even know what she is.

So you nod.

“This is unprecedented,” she says, a complicated expression on her face. “No one has ever read the book. Kick it, burn it, or leave it on the floor, perhaps - but never read it.” Despite her apparent incredulity, she still can’t manage to sound as anything but exceedingly disinterested.

“It was a terrible book,” you reply. Whether you want it or not - and you most certainly do not - you’ve been dragged into a conversation.

“Irrelevant. Barbarism can be waived so long as it isn’t ignorant barbarism.” The corners of her mouth tug. “You would be familiar with that cur, Meiling?”

Familiar is an overstatement, Meiling is as twisted as youkai come. Whatever tune it dances to wasn’t made for human ears. Still, you nod your head.

“Good. There’s an important distinction to be made between Meiling, who rebels in spite, and an ape mindlessly flinging its dung.” She pauses abruptly to take a breath then continues lecturing as if nothing happened. “I seek to teach, not change. Continue willfully debasing yourself if it pleases you.”

You wait, but no more talk comes. She’s content with whatever point she buried among the blatherskite.

Ending the conversation here should be easy, but ever since the living puzzle, Meiling, made its entrance, your curiosity hasn’t been quite so dead. That same reanimated curiosity led you inside and ultimately trapped you in this library with Patchouli. You thought curiosity to have died again there, but this house full of mysteries won’t let it rest.

“I don’t follow,” you reply honestly.

Patchouli’s eyes widen slightly in shock.

“But you read the book?” She almost exclaims - a full exclamation would be too vigorous for her.

“I didn’t understand it.”

Her fingers find themselves on the bridge of her nose. “You tried. That is more than your predecessors could muster. The least I can offer is clarification.” She mulls on her next words. “However, I am not known for my explanatory prowess, as Meiling has been all too eager to attest.” Her mellow voice is betrayed by a squirm of discomfort.

You wonder if those ‘predecessors’ now paint the floors red like Meiling warned.

Clarification does sound nice, but in practice the more you let this thing prattle on without intervention, the less chance you will upset her by existing - or as she might say, debasing yourself.

You watch and wait for her to continue. By the way she breathes, you’d think she was exhausted from just talking.

“Hm, shall we first practice the introduction? You should be capable of that much.” She doesn’t sound sure at all. “I will go first.” There’s no deliberate condescension in her words. She’s just naturally patronizing.

In response you can only raise an eyebrow.

She readies herself with a cough. “I am Patchouli Knowledge, a furtive magician, and a scholar without accolade.”

‘Magician’ could mean anything from an old man with a stick to a sentient, magical rock. Enigmatic does the nature of this girl remain, much to your chagrin.

“Now you try,” she prompts. The severity of her gaze is made trivial by the intentions behind it - she just wants to teach you how to say your own name. Not even a diseased flower could wither under those eyes now.

Still, you are stuck in a stupor underneath the sudden spotlight.

You eventually piece together a introduction. “Schütz, hunter.”

To your surprise, she smiles. It’s soft and slight, befitting her frail body. “Very good, Schütz.” She sounds sarcastic with that unenthusiastic voice of hers, but there is a genuine attempt for some form of positive inflection. It is a noble attempt. Of course, it is also a fruitless attempt, but an attempt it is nonetheless.

“Breakfast time, master!” A familiar voice rains down from above. Thoughts melt away in an instant as your hand instinctively grabs for an arrow, but you manage to bar yourself before you do anything stupid.

The devil merrily swoops in from the darkness, blissfully unaware of how close it was to greeting an arrow’s head rather than its master.

“Thank you, famulus.” Patchouli looks to you then back to her servant. “Bring another chair, would you?”

The demon perks up at ‘bring another chair’ but visibly deflates once it realizes who it is for. “Right away, master.” It doesn’t let its show of disappointment reach its professional voice.

You warily watch the demon as it goes about its duties. It is wise enough to grant the distance you would otherwise have to make yourself.

Eventually, the chair is laid to the side of Patchouli’s own. She dismisses her servant with some softly spoken words and a wave of her hand.

“Come, sit. Table manners may be a bit advanced, but I think you can handle it.” She is atrocious at feigning certainty.

The demon’s rallying cry of ‘breakfast!’ is enough prompt for you to realize just what is happening. Why is another matter entirely. You didn’t think Meiling’s idea of an ‘afternoon breakfast with Scarlet’ could possibly become more outlandish. Now it’s afternoon breakfast with the Scarlet - distinctly featuring a complete lack of food and whatever ‘Scarlet’ may be.

You go to sit down, but stop suddenly as your seals begin to quiver with the only message they know: ‘a youkai is near.

If the demon were here, you would soon place blame elsewhere, but it’s only you and Patchouli. It doesn’t surprise you particularly that she - no - it, is a youkai. Meiling has already proven that the definition of youkai can be left to liberal interpretation.

Your body takes the news not so delicately. You skirt backwards as if the earth beneath your feet had turned into cinders. Fortunately, you stop yourself before you draw your knife or arrow. You have that much self-control, at least.

Patchouli watches on, bemused. “Have you never seen a seat before? I could instruct on its use, if necessary.” It’s not a facetious offer. The youkai is legitimately concerned about your sitting-ability.

You take a deep breath. The Patchouli before you is the same austere, absurd, and utterly trivial being as before.

“No, I’m-” You physically force yourself to approach and sit down before continuing. “-fine.”

This changes nothing. As long as Patchouli isn’t a devil like Nue and those countless other forest fiends, you can tolerate the presence of another Meiling-esque aberration. Paranoia weakly contests your judgment. You reassure yourself by never letting your hand leave your bow.

Patchouli gives you a quizzical eye as you squirm on the hardwood chair. Either the devil hand-picked the least comfortable chair it could find, or your years of sitting on nothing but bare earth have caught up to you.

“Shall we begin?” she asks once you settle. Up close, you can see just how tight the cursed feather collar is around Patchouli’s neck. Any tighter and it would bite flesh. It might explain the youkai’s laborious breathing - if not for the fact that the collar doesn’t exist.

You nod, though you have no idea what exactly ‘begin’ means. Humans worshipping manners is understandable given their nature as humans, but youkai? Admittedly, you’re more than a little curious how much further into the world of manners this youkai can back itself into.

Patchouli mutters something under her already muffled breath.

Ghostly white sigils burn in the air. On first glance they appeared like a simple array of hexagrams, but as your eyes begin to seek patterns you soon realize those ‘simple hexagrams’ form a sum infinitely more complex than its parts. Your mind can only comprehend small fragments of the esoteric whole at a time, and that alone is enough to make your head spin. The acrid scent of metal - magic - comes and passes. You don’t have time to react as a ghostly line draws itself just in front of the desk. It shivers in anticipation before expanding all at once into a scene of pure, scarlet red.

“Schütz?” a voice intrudes from beyond the scarlet window.

You’re knocked back into an uncomfortable reality. You know that voice all too well. It’s a cursed voice formed from nightmares and birdsong.

The scarlet-window is made significantly less scarlet as the writhing darkness of Nue’s body dives into the foreground. “Schütz!” Its eye gleams with gluttonous, predatory excitement. It’s missing an arm now too, but it compensates by waving its remaining appendage around like a ragdoll.

You don’t know whether to be completely stunned or fleeing for the fields. Why not both? Your body replies with a feat of half-frozen-in-terror acrobatics straight into the hardwood floor.

Patchouli is blubbering something, but it is drowned out by your accelerating heart-rate.

The portal to hell abruptly closes.

Patchouli is giving that ‘spotted a strange insect’ look straight into where the window used to be. The youkai shifts an eye to you. “My apologies, that was an unfit learning environment. Shall we try something else? Dress code, perhaps?” it asks with the single minded lunacy only a youkai could muster.

You recall Meiling calling it the silent Patchouli. It has been anything but.



You realize far too late that the contract has been silent for a long time now. Why would it whine if the object of its affection was already here in the house with you?

A snake has been dropped in the cage. It can smell your fear, and feeds on it.

/o====================5====================o\

Meiling also said it would take questions that are not stupid - and Patchouli is quite familiar with devils…
[A: “How do I kill a Nue?”]

But relying on the words of a self-proclaimed worthless scholar is unwise. Your own frantic, idiotic thoughts are guidance enough…
- [B1: Prepare a sealed arrow.] {seals are a precious resource, but times are desperate.}
- [B2: It may seem futile, but keep going down.] {you aren’t backed into a corner yet. the library stretches far below just here.}


..

.

[D: Call for Sister.] {No, you vowed to handle this yourself.}

|o=========================================o|

Items:
Bow (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand)
- x13 Iron-Headed Arrow
- x1 Iron-Headed Arrow (Broken)
Iron Knife (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand, Blood Coated ‘Human’)
“Parabellum”
Tacky Red Key
Tough Clothing (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand)
- Seal Hairtie (Unknown Properties)
- Bandage (Wrapped Around Hand, Blood Coated ‘Human’)

|o=========================================o|

Moon Phase: <-(O)-> “lunatic”

Time: ???

\o====================85===================o/
>> No. 30275
First thread done. Voting period would have resulted in autosage.

Now this story has passed somewhat of a 'sink or swim' period.

Comments and discussion are always appreciated. It lets me know you guys are alive, and not some automated voting script set up by a megalomaniac admin.
>> No. 30276
File 150185638738.png - (920.99KB , 2000x2000 , 20_75.png ) [iqdb]
30276
Extremely quick sketches. Fun to draw.
>> No. 30277
Okay, for once, all options are good.

I'd say he should ask patchouli but she may know nothing or ask for a high price.

Still, I doubt sealed arrows would work

[A: “How do I kill a Nue?”]
>> No. 30278
Well, I don't much fancy fighting her and I don't like the idea of wandering off alone deeper into the building so...

[A: “How do I kill a Nue?”]
>> No. 30279
Take note, the broken arrow in our inventory isn't showing Nue's blood upon it. I doubt it's been wiped away. That could be a side-effect of the curse or just author clean-up. Or both.
>> No. 30280
[A: “How do I kill a Nue?”]

May as well be direct about it.
>> No. 30281
>>30279
It was washed along with most other things when Schütz took a bath in the Misty Lake.
>> No. 30283
[A] “How do I kill a Nue?”

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this bizarre combination of "impressed" and "confused". I know I'm reading something epic but I can't make sense of it.

Which if you think about it is exactly how Schütz must feel.
>> No. 30284
Vote called for A. I've already written most of the update just now. This should be fun.

I was worried about the turnout for a while there.

No art for now. I have drawn some stuff, but it's for other characters. Also I probably won't draw Patchouli again for a while since drawing human faces makes me exceedingly frustrated - and the results aren't worth it.

>>30283
There's a lot going on. It all fits together, though the nature of this story does not allow quick and easy explanations.

I'm glad that's interesting to some people.
>> No. 30285
Wait, how many seals do we have. Also, should we really try to break the contract we made with Nue?
>> No. 30286
>>30285
>Wait, how many seals do we have.
'a lot', everything Schütz wears is festooned in some way with dormant Hakurei seals. Schütz relies on their ambient spiritual power to ward youkai.
>> No. 30287
>>30286
Thanks for the info.

Now for vote, I would like to learn if we can break the contract, but if we can't than [X]B2
>> No. 30288
Sorry for the wait guys, I have two assignments due this week.
Update tomorrow.

Might try to draw later.
>> No. 30289
File 15026140315.png - (38.57KB , 1063x942 , whatever.png ) [iqdb]
30289
Update stalled because the draft was unfathomably bad. Yes.
>> No. 30290
>>30289
Don't take this the wrong way, but I feel that this masterpiece doesn't quite reach the lofty standards you have is accustomed to.
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