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File 153233661465.png - (24.38KB, 500x500, 49.png) [iqdb]
31030 No. 31030
/o====================5====================o\

Current Strand: 5.875

Previous Strands:
1 - missing
2 - missing
3 - missing
4 - missing
5 - missing
5.8 - >>29818
5.85 - >>30272
5.875 - >>30675

\o==================8875===================o/
108posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 31198
File 154068824627.png - (262.01KB, 900x650, 1e6f8f30-4f8a-43f7-9e0d-00b905ccb9e0.png) [iqdb]
31198
>>31197
>> No. 31199
3k in.

>>31198
Personally, I study after the finals.
>> No. 31200
File 154083658835.png - (364.36KB, 564x640, 7hgdq53m39n11.png) [iqdb]
31200
>Oh - sure.” The youkai ‘girl’ holds an arm out to Sister as if presenting some kind of

I think you accidentally a word.

>Seal hair tie

Uh? I don't remember this.

> ~crik

Cute...! Pic related.

>Dry your eyes.

That part is a gut punch, but now is not the time to cry. That will come later.
>> No. 31201
>>31200

...The hair tie has been mentioned in literally every update that has mentioned gear, hasn't it? Which I'm 90% sure is every update.
>> No. 31202
>>31201
From the first update up to now.
>> No. 31203
Hopes and dreams? The boy has somehow managed to lose hope more times than he has gained it, and dreaming would require sleep - one of the things he fears most. Colors are manageable. Never mind the fact he can never be sure if the colors he sees are the colors that actually exist. Which side of the ice is real again? The thought drips out of his brain smooth as honey over velcro; the boy shakes his head as a dog would to aid the process.

Elly is - red.

“Red,” he answers out of nowhere. “The color . . red.”

“Scarlet red?” asks the vampire, openly invested.

“Elly - ish red.” For emphasis, the boy gestures with a fluff-cocooned arm to his best friend.

The girl folds her hands. “Right.”

“I’m red,” says Elly.

“I’m afraid . . .” Remilia tapers off deliberately. “That she could be interpreted as scarlet,” the words are dealt sharp and smoothly, a killing blow.

The dog’s skull is thick enough to ward off that which to anyone else might make one stop and think. He blinks, feeling the words plink off his head.

“Scarlet it is,” concludes Remilia. “Excellent choice.”

“. . Ah.”

“Coincidentally, it’s my favorite color too,” she pauses, and receives no tangible response. It may as well be a ‘I’m so interested, please continue’ to the vampire. “It’s the color of my morning - or your night. The sunset.”

“. . .” the boy opens his mouth, then closes it when he notices that the vampire likely prefers to talk to herself. That, and he has nothing to say longer than a grunt.

“Others might call it the color of blood. And the more creative say that the innocence of virgin’s blood burns as a fuel in my eyes.” She pauses. “I can attest that innocence tastes like white bread,” the vampire ends rather blandly.

“~ Hopes and dreams,” she picks right back up. “What are yours?”

The boy winces. That says enough for the vampire.

“I understand it’s hard for you.”

To Schütz, this is nothing but saying: ‘meat is red, and dirt is brown.’

“But, think about it — it really doesn’t matter since you’re going to be running around as someone else in two hours,” the vampire says, offering the voice of reason with one hand outstretched.

“.. h - uh?”

“Again - if you could chose to not be this pitiful self fate has doomed you to be, who would you be?” She cycles her hand hands through the options, infinite. “A librarian with a spunky pet? An elegant maid? A gatekeeper who’s greatest worry is if it’s going to rain tomorrow? Or even - a gracious, infinitely merciful hero?”

The dog-boy frowns into the table. If there were a reflection he would bark at it in frustration. A hero? Me?

“Schütz?” whines Elly.

“. . Ell - y?”

“Does he not want to be Schütz?”

“I . . I . ?”

The boy thinks. It hurts a lot.

“Elly,” says the vampire.

Elly ignores her.

“This boy is definitively yours. I am giving him a choice, not a destiny.”

‘Crik’

“That is no small statement, my friend.”

‘Cri - k?’

“Given any choice with ‘Elly’ involved, we both know that boy would choose you.”

“Me?” eeks out the scarecrow.

The vampire does not relent in her assault. “The boy might distinguish himself as ‘The Scarlet King of the Forest’ and live like a balding gorilla, but he would still have his Elly at his side. That is, if you would not give him up over a few new life choices.”

“I would not!” Any illusion of Elly’s deafness is revoked in its entirety.

“Right! As if Elly would never give up on her Schütz - even if he was not necessarily called Schütz. . .” the vampire pauses. “Right?”

“Yes! The explosively loud mass of putridity is correct!” Elly boldly declares to the tune of a little girl’s awkward grin.

“Elly,” the vampire prods. Nothing bites. “You may call me Remilia.”

“I couldn’t remember Remilia,” counters Elly.

Remilia folds her hands and makes a face that is difficult to describe. Her lips are thin and stretched out like a fish, while her cheeks contain a slight breath of air that exits occasionally as a nasally kind of pseudo-laughter. The vampire gathers herself. “What’s that word you could not remember - my memory, it fails me.”

“Remilia,” Elly reminds her.

“Ah! Right, of course.” Time passes. Remilia must come to terms with finding a skull thicker than a dog’s. This may be a whale. “Did you know that is my name?”

“I forgot,” says Elly.

“Forgot what?”

“Remilia.”

The girl folds her hands, eyes closed and breathing in.

Elly looks at Schütz as she does when she has nothing better to do. “Is Schütz the Scarlet King of the Forest?” she eventually asks.

The boy, who was in fact in deep thought this entire time, blinks. “I - what?”

“Is Schütz a balding gorilla? And what is a gorilla?”

“. . Ah.” He look at the table, and then to a more telling oracle. “Rem - ilia. What is a gorilla? Am I one of those?”

The girl with folded hands and an odd expression sighs. “It’s a big strong ape that eats fruit. And it depends, do you want to be a gorilla?”

“Fruit . . I eat that. A lot.”

“Gorillas also tend to be naked,” adds Remilia.

“Naked - and I eat fruit.” He pauses, frowning. “But I am not strong. And I am not big.” The boy is larger than the vampire, but that says dreadful little.

“You might be more of a bonobo then.”

“I would - like to be big and strong. Like a - gorilla. . ?”

Remilia raises an eyebrow, but appears welcoming. “And why is that, boy?”

And why is that? He asks himself. Why be big and strong? His mind, already tired from thinking, goes through more loops. Then, he realizes something. Immediately, it must go to words, lest it disappear into the muck of his mind.

“I!” he declares, damning and daring himself to finish speaking. “I - I -! I want to be big and strong, because —” The weight of his life and history tugs at his throat, a vice of time and hopeless suffering. No, it does not break, but instead he chokes through it, gasping for air with words that ought to have been crushed out of him long ago. “If I did not have this curse - and I do not want this curse — this stupid, lying, ugly curse!” The swampen ashes of his mind burn from within, a smouldering ruin still bearing reckless dreams. “If I did not have this curse, and I were strong, I could do something. For someone. Something good.”

He stops. Everyone is silent.

There must be something in his eyes. They burn dryly. They must be on fire: disgusting, lavender-tinted fire.

“More than that. Even - more than that. I know I am asking too much from anything.” And I do not care. “But - if I did not have this curse, I would want to be with Elly, and do good things with her. And me. Together. But without me -” The last words spit out, a dog’s petty anger. “Ruining everything.”

The boy breathes in, then out, and repeats this process consciously many times. Fires are kept fanned, though they serve to only heat up a dying mind.

“Good boy,” says Remilia. “It must have been scary.”

The boy, leaning into the table’s stone face with wide eyes scared by his own useless desires, feels something on his scalp. He looks to see it is a dainty little hand, attached to a silly looking youkai ‘girl.’ “. . .” he says nothing, and resists not. His eyes are still dry.

“You don’t have to be scared anymore, Schütz.”

“Schütz? Schütz? A curse, Schütz?” asks Elly, wide-eyed with concern as visceral as a nail between the eyes.

“Stress not the boy. His problems will be gone, whatever they are. It only matters to have an inkling of his desires.”

‘Crik.’

The girl keep kneading his head. His hair is no doubt a mess of oils and dirt.

“One day I should ask you - how did you keep that reckless little fire inside you? The rest were dead on my doorstep. I thought you were too. But look at you.” The hand runs over his scalp, around his ears. “Look at you. Still struggling on the edge of that bottomless pit.”

“. . . ah” “Rem-” He swallows. “Milia. Remilia. Girl.”

“Hm?” She welcomes his voice, careful not to overshadow it with her far-more-bombastic own.

He frowns into the table. “You.”

“I- ?”

He masses his strength to lift up his torso. The girl’s hand slips from his head, and retracts. There is a vicious and silly looking bird in his eyes. It is black all over, and holding onto the body of a girl. Its face is a helmet devouring her head, and its claws hug her body tightly. This is a monster, he knows. In some reality it is real to someone, but not here and now. The girl inside the bird’s mouth smiles back at him slightly. “You . .”

“Iiii?” she encourages.

“So. .” He pauses. Odd heat in his cheeks, but determination on the mind. “What do you look like? Actually.”

The girl looks at him, and that is just it. She keeps looking at him, tilting her head, squinting, folding her hands. No sum of those actions seems to give her the answer she seeks. So she asks: “What?”

“Youk- Girl.” He mentally slaps himself. “Girl - girl. Yes.” That youkai is a girl. “Tell me what you look like. Please.”

“You mean - in an abstract sense? Or are you -” For once, the girl seems caught. For as long as he has scene this bird flit around, singing and enjoying its own existence, he has never seen it caught. It surprises him too. “- asking me what I physically look like?”

The boy pauses, trying to find the correct response. It is not too hard. “Yeah.”

The girl’s face goes hard and serious. “Stay still,” she orders, crawling atop the table and knocking over a glass cup in the process. The girl shimmies towards the stunned but not scared boy.

“. . uh?” he mumbles, unmoving.

It is not long until the girl is over him, crawling right up to his face atop the stone slab of a table. “Lean forward.”

“Uh. . . “ He does anyway.

She clasps his cheek with one hand. “Stay still,” she repeats, before clasping around his eye, and prying the eyelid open to reveal the orb within.

“Whby??” he mumbles through a twisted face.

“Still.”

The boy settles uncomfortably, accepting his fate in the hands of the girl. He sees her eyes. They are like twin fires. Not the terribly overwhelming kind like Sisters, but a persistent spark. Somewhere in there, there might be warmth - but whatever is fueling that mad spark in her eyes is something raw and recognizable. Insanity. He is not put off. No, he keeps staring into those mad, theoretically warm eyes. She stares back, scrutinizing.

“Srry deyy ar ugli,” he tries to speak again, but only to apologize for himself.

Remilia’s face is hard; her brow forms a tight knot of concentration.

“Boy. . .” She appears to want to say more, but she does not, which is worrisome in upon itself.

The boy swallows.

Remilia recedes, though remains cross-legged on the table in front of him. “I will spare you the poetry,” she allows herself to say. “You will be fixed soon.”

The boy looks down into his puffy clothing.

Remilia has nothing she wants to say. Except, of course she cannot let that be the case. “There is one flaw in your question before, boy,” she picks up. “In that you assume I know myself.”

’What?’ Schütz asks silently to himself, tugged from one thought to the next so fast he gets whiplash.

“It’s my reflection, you see? Oh, you wouldn’t. That’s the problem. Even if we were in a gallery of mirrors, my reflection would not show,” she continues to the unreactive audience. “No mirror, pond, or metal sheet can tame her. I’ve scoured every corner of the earth, I say - and believe me, I’ve tried catching her, convincing her, and asking her on a date. But not thick and seductive layers of makeup nor the obscuring masks of beasts could hope to fool her. Alas, my reflection is sly as me, with none of the courage . . . She’s the one force on this earth I could consider a worthy nemesis, that reflection of mine.”

“You . . “ Schütz mumbles, losing track of everything in the jumble of words. “That sounds annoying,” he eventually comments.

“Indeed. I even challenged her to a duel, but she never showed up! I waited in front of a mirror, blade at the ready, for hours.” The vampire appears miffed, to put it mildly.

“What I mean to say is ~ I don’t quite know my own self, myself!” The girl proclaims, smile bold and wonky, unabashed.

“I - apologize. Sorry. Remilia. For asking. Yeah.”

“You only owe an apology to my sister, boy.” “And it’s no hassle - I like talking about myself.” She gestures around her. “Everyone else here has heard it all once or twice ~ a year.” Nothing about that statement suggests an intention to stop.

“Ah. Okay.” He frowns to try to look serious, and nods as best he can.

“Though — could you promise me something, boy?”

“Ah - I . . am not good at that.”

“I believe you could manage it, if you wanted.”

The boy is conflicted. He likes helping people, though he is not sure how he knows that when he has never done it before. He nods, so slightly no one could see it.

Thankfully, the girl is going to keep talking regardless. “If you see my reflection running around, could you relay to me her location? It’s a losing battle, and a hopeless war, but I plan to fight it to the end.” Her grin is toothy, her eyes are bright.

The boy realizes something. “If I see it. I - could catch it.”

She openly laughs at him, but stifles herself to speak: “Pray tell.”

“I can shoot it. It will hit. Then I can keep shooting it until it stops.”

“Shoot ‘her.’ Annd - excellent idea! So ~ mind if I sign an arrow of yours?”

“H uh?”

“Imagine her face when she gets penetrated by an arrow in my name.” The vampire almost looks like he imagines all youkai should: vicious. Almost. Despite the fire in her eyes, and the pointiness of her pure white teeth, it barely registers to him as ‘threatening.’ This is, of course, after he stretches the definition of ‘threatening’ to encompass excitable young girls with sharp teeth.

Imagine her face. The boy imagines Remilia but with an arrow through the forehead. He also imagines she would spend the next while turning it into a conversation piece, so she would probably be glad to have it. “Okay,” he says.

“Another time.” Remilia ends that particular line of conversation. “What I can say now is ~ I’m a vampire, a girl, an admirer of frills, ribbons, and dresses, my eyes are scarlet, and my hair is wavy navy blue,” she answers. Her colossal, thick cloak like wings ruffle behind her back. “Bat wings do wonders for the feisty demonic image, cute as they are.”

It is a good answer.

“Woah,” Schütz vents shock as wind. “You - figured that out . . without a reflection?”

She nods. “Indeed. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end I managed to capture a painter or twenty.”

“Pain - ter?”

“Someone who rubs colors on a surface for a living.”

“Uh . .” How does that make food?

“I could show the fruits of their efforts later.”

“. . Sure,” the boy nods, utterly confused, though he cannot deny that little bit of curiosity inside him. Fruits? When he scribbles figments of food in the dirt, fruit does not appear. Was I doing it wrong?

Bat wings. The boy is pleased that the Remilia before him and invisible to him are similar enough. But bat wings? The bird devouring the girl must not exist. The claws. The wings. The bird head helmet. One side of the ice, or the other? It blurs to him. He tries not to think about it.

Of course, trying to suppress one thought only causes more to sprout from the decapitated head. Ran. The fox. The boy breathes in, then out. “Ah,” he exclaims, numb of body, face, and mind. “Remilia.”

“Yes?”

“My seals. I left them here. I want them back. Okay,” he strings together words without stumbling once. How impressive he is when he does not think.

“The seals which bite at the heels of all that isn’t mortal? Those ones?” Remilia asks.

“Yeah.” “I need them,” he clarifies.

“Mhmm, of course, it all makes sense now.” Remilia nods, looking absolutely very sincere.

“Thank you.”

The girl giggles. “Oh, you. I’ll have the maid fetch them.”

This of all things sounds odd to the boy, knocking him straight from stupor to some semblance of sentience. “Ah. But…” He frowns. “Is she not sleeping?”

Remilia scoffs at the very concept. “She’s tactically resting her eyes and leaning against a wall somewhere while imagining -” The girl cycles her hand to draw out the words. “- dirty dishes? What goes on in a maid’s head is a mystery - but we can always ponder.”

“But not sleeping,” the boy emptily notes, which is preyed upon by the vampire in an instant.

“When I say ‘sleep’ the maid hears something quite different.” She shrugs. “It must mean something different in maid-tongue.”

“. . Dirty dishes?”

“Maids worry about the oddest things. Let’s ask her, shall we?” “Sakuya.”

One, two. .

“Mistress?”

“What were you thinking of just now?”

“. . Mistress,” the maid repeats.

“Two seconds before then.”

“Dirty footsteps trodding down the halls,” the maid answers calmly.

“A-huh -” Remilia nods, and turns to the boy. “Close enough? Close enough.”

The maid stands there, silently but with eminent pressure. “Mistress.”

“Yes.” “Have Meiling fetch the boy’s belongings. And -” The vampire grabs the soon-to-be-retreating maid by the sleeve. “Get. Some. Proper. Sleep.”

“If that is an -” the maid starts.

“That is an order,” Remilia ends.

The much too pale maid disappears before she can show a reaction.

“The language barrier can be broken with sufficient punctuation,” notes Remilia to Schütz.

“Punct - tu - ation?”

“(ahem) Talking. Like. This. Scares. Maids. So. Be. Careful.”

Schütz nods, serious. “I - I understand.” He does not, really, but he would also rather not scare the scary maid.

“Schütz,” says Elly.

“Elly.” He faces her, not smiling, not frowning, not particularly anything. However, that changes when he takes her appearance in, still lightly gore coated, and still a nightmarish apparition to behold. My Elly. My best friend. Schütz almost smiles. What have I done to you? The answer is painful to think about, and rumbles poorly-veiled underneath the swamp of his mind like a ball of sharp. He can make out the rough shape of the thought he seeks to avoid, and that is more than enough to make him sick.

“Can he make a boat after he is helped by the howling tumor?”

“I -” He turns to Remilia for assurance. “- would like to. Please.”

“Oh, a boat? What for?” the girl asks, eyebrow raised.

“So Schütz doesn’t drown, and so Schütz doesn’t sink,” answers Elly.

“So I don’t drown,” repeats Schütz to the vampire.

“I have a question,” says Remilia.

“Okay,” says Schütz, noting the fact that she has a question. “What?” he eventually asks.

“What if you fall off the boat?”

The boy turns to Elly. She is having a great time not paying attention. “Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“What if I fell off the boat?”

“You would sink, and drown.”

“Ah.”

He turns to Remilia. “I would sink and drown.”

The girl folds her hands. “I could never expect,” she says. Something about the way she says it suggests to Schütz otherwise, but why would this youkai lie? He realizes answering that question is more trouble than it is worth. “Alternatively ~ have you considered learning to swim?”

“No,” he answers truthfully. He does not think past that point.

Remilia sighs. “Another time.”

“Remilia?”

“Yes?”

“How do I swim?” he considers for the first time.

“I’m so glad you asked.” She smiles. “I’m not certain myself. But the maid would be so eager to teach you after learning that I ordered her to.”

“Huh,” the boy thinks. “Do I have to speak in pun-tu-ation,” he sounds its out. “Yeah. Do I have to speak in punctuation, to the maid?”

Remilia makes an odd sound. “That won’t be necessary.”

“Good. I - did not want to scare her.”

“Precious.”
>> No. 31204
/ Meiling \

It is a well known fact that the patrons of undergods give their peoples ‘something.’ The serpent brought wisdom to man, and another idiot brought fire. Muses whispered innovations of war and peace through one ear and into civilisation. The less ambitious brought victory to thousands, and lower still are the little divinities who answer an individual’s prayers.

‘. . . So it had to have come from somewhere,’ Meiling thinks, trodding along the halls with a so-called ‘gun’ in her hand. ‘Who was the most stupid patron to think blastpowder was a positive gift to man?’ It is not that the other patrons brought much better. Wisdom, fire, innovation, and victory - none of them strike Meiling as a good ideas. Humans were easier to eat when they hid in caves, like pre-prepared larders. Meiling swallows a pool of saliva in her mouth. Tea is a fine innovation . . maybe.

Divinities and devils gave the little mud people gift upon gift, blessing upon blessing, and now they are all poofing into obscurity. Old monsters have been driven to pockets, and old gods of war or peace can’t manage a gun or ‘computer’ to save their life . . so that is just it: they cease. The gun in Meiling’s hand is heavy. It carries the blood of old gods of war, slain by its sheer practicality. Again, Meiling must wonder what desperate divinity thought blastpowder was a suitable gift for a once-world of mud, wood, rocks, sticks, and metal. No one comes to mind.

They probably got blasted by a cannon the year later as a thank you.

The youkai named Meiling, who is a gatekeeper and nothing else, shrugs to herself. It doesn’t affect her. However, the case under her other arm is filled with something that does. Clothes coated in anti-everything-but-me seals. . the first resort of zealots. Meiling has found that when it comes to ‘anti-(thing)’ countermeasures, that they tend to include her. Anti-monster, anti-evil, anti-demon, anti-divine, anti-this, anti-that. In the end, most human weapons and armors, specialized or not, are made to stop big, bad things from eating the wielder.

Schütz would taste like . . flowers? The seals tear against Meiling’s arm and existence, as if sensing her thoughts. Meiling shrugs, not one to apologize for herself.

\ Meiling /

“So, Elly,” says Remilia.

Elly may have been busy staring at Schütz, but a miracle occurs. She turns to Remilia, and says: “It.” ‘It’ may not seem like much, but the fact Elly acknowledged the vampire without a trigger is astounding.

She,” the vampire corrects, not even close to giving up.

“I - uh - Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“It is a girl.”

“Who?”

“Remilia.”

“What?”

“The youkai.”

“The caustic polyp over there?”

“Yeah. It thinks it is a girl so you should call it a girl. Okay?”

“Is that good?”

“I think - so?”

Elly makes a series of clicks and groans signifying difficulty, before turning to Remilia, and saying: “The writhing noise-creature that thinks it is a girl said something to Elly?”

Remilia may as well be a prop, because Elly does not acknowledge it for more than a second before turning back to Schütz, smiling so wide that it exceeds physical limitation and goes somewhere else less comprehensible.

The boy squeezes his Elly’s hand. What a beautiful Elly. “Good job.”

The scarecrow practically vibrates with pleasure.

“Indeed. I did,” says a not-defeated though thoroughly beaten Remilia. She comes out with a wonky smirk, however, so it cannot be that bad.

“What did it want to say?”

“I’m curious about you.” The vampire trails a finger up and down in the air, creating an invisible circle around Elly. “Whatever you are.”

“Elly.”

“Exactly! But - could you define that?”

“She’s good and red, I believe,” answers Elly.

Remilia nods as if that makes sense - and it should. It makes perfect sense to Schütz.

“You’re trying very hard, aren’t you? To not kill me? Everyone?” she tries another angle.

Elly has nothing to add.

Remilia smiles. “Love can do strange things to people, and ‘Elly’s too.”

“#What’s love? Schütz made me a dress out of it, and the dress tried to erase his existence.”

The vampire adapts quickly. “It’s ~ ah, what you feel for the boy.”

“Disgust?”

“Not. Precisely. No.”

“##?”

“More, it is the reason you tolerate your disgust,” the vampire offers.

‘Cr - ik?’ Then, the scarecrow falls silent.

“Yes. You’re trying very hard, to fight that disgust, but what if you didn’t have to?”

The scarecrow is silent.

“Would you like that?”

More silence.

“Elly?” prods Schütz.

Pain throbs inside his head. A message.

/ ~<o>~ \

>[WELCOME: AMETHYST]
>[MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM: CITRINE | T:7:44]
>>[OPEN: [Y]/N]
>...
>[HELLO.]
>[I’M WAITING IN THE FOYER.]
>[THE FRONT DOOR WAS OPEN.]
>[NO ONE IS HERE.]
>[THE CAT PEED ON THE RUG.]
>[I BROUGHT SAKE!]
>[-CITRINE.]
>...
>[GIRLS ARE PREPARING. PLEASE WAIT WARMLY.]

\ ~~~ /

“Fox,” the boy says emptily.

The fox?”

“Ran.”

“Another patient?” Remilia drums her fingers on the table. “I’m full today, but I can’t just-” she trails off into thought. The drumming is frantic, but rhythmic. “Oh. I almost forgot. I’m the protagonist, I can do anything I want,” she tells herself, face obscured by the maw of her visor. Her eyes are pinpoints of insanity, she aims her reticle at the world itself. When she raises her head, her smile is cocky.

“The boy has helped you immensely already, Elly. But he can only do so much. Nobody can defy fate.” Whimsy drains from the girl like a snake’s skin. Her eyes are hard and penetrating, a focussed, elementally unreasonable insanity. “— Except me. You are doomed. Accept my treatment or suffer. And I will not tolerate the latter.”

“###I-##” Elly groans out, squirming.

“Will you let your life revolve around this cruel, rigged, ‘disgusting’ existence, or let me free you?” Remilia focusses the reticle of her insanity finely on Elly, now. In the line of fire, Elly can only squirm. “Do you want a [choice], Elly? To throw your own die? Shuffle your own deck, and draw your own cards?” The youkai pushes and pushes. Its wings are splain, its eyes pinpricks of purest, youkai spirit. The bird crawling and consuming its back writhes, alive and excited. In contrast, the youkai’s face is stern.

‘crik’

All at once, the youkai recedes. By the slant of its eyes, it is easy to tell the beast is not impressed. “Really, don’t be selfish. I have another patient coming.” ”Just say ‘yes.’”

“Remilia!” the boy finally finds his spirit.

“Boy. .” it draws out the words with not a scrap of want or anticipation.

‘crik’

His fists clench. “Do not be mean to Elly.”

“I’m giving her a gift,” it lectures.

“Meanly!”

‘crik’

“Really?” the youkai asks, brow scrunching for different reasons.

“Yeah! You kept - pressing. Elly is not some kind of -” He waves his arms, one still attached to his Elly. “- thing you press!”

‘crik’

“I don’t have time to wait for the bird to sing. So it would be great if you both said ‘yes’ now.” The youkai drums its fingers on the table a single cycle before stopping. “I can smell the foxy patient’s rotting fate from here. . .” The fingers becomes a fist, which makes a little ‘pat’ as it hits the table. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

The next moment, the vampire is gone, hopping off the table and jogging on its teeny little legs down the halls beyond the doorway.

“Ah,” blankly exclaims the boy. His head is full of flames and tar.

“#” The boy imagines that Elly is the same.

Both of us are in a personal hell.

“Schütz,” says Elly.

“Ell - y?”

“I will escort Schütz, and I like escorting Schütz.” Elly squeezes the boy’s hand. “I will escort Schütz even if I am not Elly tomorrow.” His hand hurts. “Is he fine with that?”

“I -” the boy starts. Both of us are in a personal hell. “- want you to be happy. Are you happy now, Elly? Like - this?”

She looks at him weirdly with those bottomless voids that substitute eyes. “I’m with Schütz.” It is as simple as that.

“That is . . happiness?”

“The decaying excrement that thinks it is a girl called it love.”

“Ah.” “Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“I want to be cured,” he admits his most stupid, unreasonable desire to the one he trusts most.

“Then I will escort Schütz,” she answers immediately.

All that can be heard is his breathing and Elly’s creaking. Both of us are in a personal hell, but we are together. He owes it to her - everything, that is. Without Elly, where would he be? Not here, with this amazing, beautiful Elly.

He hugs her. Bits of his former corpse stick to his new clothes.

“Thank you. Elly.”

‘~crik’

‘I will not ruin everything. We will be happy,’ a fire in his head insists. It burns away the many good reasons he has to believe otherwise.

. . .

Another message.

/ ~<o>~ \

>[WELCOME: AMETHYST]
>[MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM: CITRINE | T:8:01]
>>[OPEN: [Y]/N]
>...
>[ME: KNOCK KNOCK.]
>[YOU: WHO GOES THERE?]
>[ME: IT IS I, CITRINE.]
>[THEN WE BOTH LAUGH AND DRINK SAKE.]
>[IMAGINE.]
>[THIS COULD HAVE BEEN REALITY IF YOU GREETED ME AT THE DOOR.]
>[BUT NOW I DRANK ALL THE SAKE.]
>[AND THIS LITTLE GIRL IS YAPPING AT ME ABOUT FATE.]
>...
>[GIRLS ARE PREPARING. PLEASE WAIT WARMLY.]

\ ~~~ /
>> No. 31205
Oh, I guess this is where all goes to shit.
Can't have despair without hope, after all.

>Did you know that is my name?”
>“I forgot,” says Elly.
>“Forgot what?”
>"Remilia.”
>The girl folds her hands, eyes closed and breathing in.

You can heal memory but not thickness.

>You owe an apology to my sister

Oh, so she does know. We definitely do.
>> No. 31206
My finals end on the 13th. I will write the next bit then, no sooner.

I found a way to simulate a rough approximation of Elly's perspective, if anyone is curious.

Play this twice with different timestamps (can be random but two are provided for simplicity.)
https://youtu.be/o0Xx3RXyGRE?t=843
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0Xx3RXyGRE&t=1551s

Overlayed with this at a random timestamp.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY92NAdGaR4

It's hard to do much more without sticking your head underwater and putting a powerdrill to your ears.
>> No. 31208
To aid in your memories, no doubt rusted by time, I am considering making a gdoc compiling the dog's opinion on all the characters.
>> No. 31209
University is done for good. Returning to writing tonight. Hurrah!
>> No. 31210
unanticipated difficulty writing this update.
>> No. 31211
3.5k in
>> No. 31212
Update done! Editing today, posting tonight! Hurrah!
>> No. 31213
/ Remilia \

There is the distant ‘thwomp’ of a wall exploding and being remade - again. The girl pays it no mind.

‘Another patient.’

Remilia stares up to her patient, a fox. The doctor in Remilia sees a cancer, the hero in her sees a villain, and both of them conclude one thing: ‘another patient.’ Remilia can feel the sword hanging over her own head - the burden of power. One mistake and it falls, skewering her head and heart. There are three patients, as are there three swords. A single one of them could kill her, but against all logic, the devil’s head is filled with giddy fire. Assuredly, she never learnt to stop touching the hot cauldron as a child, so she is blessed that her body does not scar.

“- I insist,” the hero pushes.

“Yep. You do,” says Ran, sporting a rather plastered-on smile. “I noticed.”

It’s needless to say: a dog barks, a cat purrs, and a Remilia insists. “Good. Have you considered listening?”

“Mm, what choice do I have, the ambassador of the Yakumo family? - None.” Flippancy occasionally tails her numb speech, belying whatever semblance of professionalism the fox pretends to hold.

Flippancy sprinkled like cheap spices. An attempt of adding depth to a shallow villain, or maybe a tactless vent of her vexations? Remilia bothers not chasing the fox’s flippant tail - a tangent clear as mud. It’s undoubtedly just another mask, thin and disposable as any other. Though this is an observation, and nothing more. What makes the vampire’s brow twitch is the feeling of impending doom oozing out of Miss Yakumo akin to the desperate strokes of a heart before cardiac arrest. She is merely a villain. There is no scheme, no mask, no hope, no armament sanctimonious or sacrilegious that can affect a loaded pair of dice; and that can’t do.

’But a TRUE hero wouldn’t stand for this injustice!’ the true heroine rallies with a flap of her wings, fanning the flames inside her head that melt all doubt, which with overflowing zealotry flashes scarlet in her eyes. Why did I ever retire, anyway? What’s another sword in the heart, or twenty, a hundred? A downright devious, unladylike mocking guffaw tears from her throat, insulting her own nonexistent weakness. This time it will work. She’s the protagonist - it will work.

“Precisely -” Remilia homes in, stepping forward with a sharp clack of her heel. “Exactly -” a vampire stands directly beneath a fox, and stares up through bosom to an empty smiling face. She pokes the fox in the stomach pointedly, as if there were a tumor just beneath her finger ready to be plucked. “Not a single choice - not one. That can’t do.”

Ran removes the offensive little hand, but Remilia has, in the literal sense, already made her point. “Would you like me to relay your concerns to the Yakumo family?” asks the ambassador, a tower of nonchalance in incidental and unacceptable defiance to the firey little zealot.

“Yes.”

“Ya’ sure?”

“Absolutely. Can I speak with the master?”

Ran tilts her head, ears flopping to the side within baggy hat, gaze flat and now blatantly judgemental behind her bored smile. “I’ll rephrase. Are you sure you want to die?”

The tip of Remilia’s red shoe taps against the ground, swallowed by the echoing bellow of rain beyond closed doors. “Oh, don’t act stupid. I’m the protagonist, I can’t die,” she deflects, and quickly moves on past the obvious, “And, yes, Miss Yakumo, it would be lovely if you could set an appointment between me and the head of the ‘Yakumo’ family,” she pushes.

“Ok.” The roar of the storm just beyond punctuates the following silence. Ran looks down on Remilia, with her face stuck in a perfectly natural, inoffensive pleasantness. Behind that one mask among many, Remilia can sense the ticking of and clicking of gears judging her. It’s almost as if the fox expects Remilia to reconsider. Little does she know, the vampire has never considered more than once on a topic in her life.

“Right. Then, I shall relay your concerns regarding my freedom of choice after I’m done with my target. It’s my obligation as the ambassador of the Yakumo family to act as the tether between the general populace and the Yakumo family,” the fox lists off blandly.

“Excellent.” “But what would you rather be doing? Surely not - all of this.” The typical interrogation pattern ensues.

“That reminds me, Remilia,” says the effectively emotionless tower.

“Yes, Miss Yakumo?”

“You’re in my way.”

“. . What?”

“I’m trying to get in, and you’re in my way,” lists off Ran, soullessly pleasant as ever.

Remilia nods, acknowledging the fact those were words; spoken words by an actual sentient creature that presumably has a mind. “Really - what? I’ve invited you in a dozen times.” She gestures for emphasis, a welcoming host - or a doctor ushering a patient.

“It is well within the limits of possibility that you could be lying to me, therefore. . .” The fox breathes in, savoring an unknown something beneath that mask of hers. “Therefore you are an obstruction. Not quite a threat, not quite a nothing, but an obstruction. Do you know what that means, Remilia?”

Remilia defines what it means to look unimpressed. “Miss Yakumo. Are you going to come inside or do I have to break your legs?” she asks flatly.

Regardless, the fox cracks the mask concealing a thin, predatory smile. It is a surprise to no one, especially not Remilia, and begs the question why she bothered hiding it in the first place. A poorly written villain? “It means we can have a spellcard duel.”

“Okay - okay. On what grounds then?” It’s Remilia’s turn to sound tired out of her mind.

“My free passage through this territory.”

“Consider your passage free. Now, let’s -”

“Hmm - Nah. I don’t believe you. Sorry,” interjects the least sorry creature in known existence.

Remilia briskly takes Miss Yakumo’s hand. Leading a horse to water yet again, the legendary, fearsome Scarlet Charro! “Don’t be absurd-”

Ran’s spirit is smothered like it never existed, replaced with the frigidity of hell. Remilia pauses just to be courteous. Villains need to feel strong and important sometimes, it’s good for their health if not for their delusion of control. “Touch me again and I will consider it a potential threat. A threat to me is a threat to the interests of the Yakumo family. A threat to the Yakumo family is destroyed,” the villain lists off, leaving a trail of verbal permafrost that deafens the storm outside, and makes hearing her blatherskite easier.

“Fine. Go on, then.” Remilia releases the hand, not out of any fear, but the knowledge that the patient’s calm is more valuable. Tantrums are useless. The vampire sighs internally. Whatever it takes to get the patient to my table.

“We are having a spellcard duel, Remilia, for my right of entry.” The terms are clear. Then, unfettered by any standards of consistency and tension, Ran takes a gourd from apparently nowhere, and chugs. “Please don’t tell Schütz I brought another gourd. The boy is a natural alcoholic, I sense it,” she calls out with a finger to her noggin between one long sip and another. The flippancy cuts through the ice smooth as a butter-knife across gravel.

Remilia blinks. None of this could hope to snuff the fire in her head. The only question is how to vent it constructively. Any zealot can burn down a building, it takes a special kind of fire to bring warmth. “These ‘spellcard duels,’ I . . .” Remilia starts.

“Hm?” Ears are perked. It’s hard to cover such large ears with a mask, and a pantaloon hat can only do so much.

“I’ve never had a chance to try them.”

A flick of the ear. “Yep, yep - the idea of not tearing one another to bits in a gorilla fight is absurd to the common gorilla. But I trust it will catch on.”

“The terms of a duel, how are they enforced, precisely?”

“With a gorilla,” Ran answers simply.

Remilia nods to herself. “A big gorilla. Of course.” The words reverberate in Remilia’s mind, tickling all the wrong senses. A big ‘gorilla’ to enforce the rules? Smells like another patient. I’ve wandered into a sick ward, haven’t I? The makings of a fourth dirk begin to form over her head.

“Yep.” The fox would end it there, but instead they keep talking. “Ultimately, the best persuasion is but another, bigger gorilla. Though the spellcard rules are poignant enough to forego tasteless violence through the judiciary process, at least. Yet, still, I look down and see blood on the soil rather than a splash of pretty colors.”

“But it could catch on?” Remilia prods.

“No. It will.”

“Starting here, I assume?”

“No, no - this duel is only because you are an obstruction to the interests if the Yakumo family, not for some irrelevant fox’s whims,” drawls a dry fox.

“Oh. My mistake.”

“It’s no problem.”

“My terms. . .” Remilia openly ponders.

“Your terms,” mirrors Ran. “If they are against the interests of the Yakumo family it must be considered a threat,” she says.

“Sure. If I win, I grant you right of entry.”

“Yep ~ yep, and when I win, you grant me right of entry.” “Best of three.”

“Best of one,” Remilia intercepts.

Ran is deathly quiet, ears still, and without recourse. It reminds Remilia of a child, quietly sulking with their favorite toy locked in a cupboard, just out of reach.

FINE - FINE! Damn my golden heart. “Best of three,” she tacitly amends. But a hero against a villain. There is only one possibility. Poor child. Poor, poor child.

“Best of three, best of three,” the fox repeats to herself flatly, but she could not hope to hide that childish excitement from her tails, wagging and writhing like a ball of baby stoats. “Prepare yourself.”

Remilia considers, briefly, that she may have to make up ‘spellcards’ as she goes along. But how hard could it be?

There is the distant ‘thwomp’ of a wall exploding and being remade - again.

\ REMILIA /

/ ~<o>~ \

>[WELCOME: AMETHYST]
>[MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM: CITRINE | T:8:06]
>>[OPEN: [Y]/N]
>...
>[CELEBRATE WITH ME.]
>[YAHOO.]
>[THIS SILLY LITTLE YOUKAI GIRL BLOCKS MY PATH.]
>[THANKFULLY I RECALLED THAT AN EXCEEDINGLY INTELLIGENT KITSUNE DEVISED THE SPELLCARD SYSTEM.]
>[FOR THE PRECISE CIRCUMSTANCE OF DEALING WITH EXCITABLE LITTLE YOUKAI GIRLS.]
>[-CITRINE]
>...
>[GIRLS ARE PREPARING. PLEASE WAIT WARMLY.]

\ ~~~ /

Schütz reads, then summarily throws into mental garbage.

He and Elly are enjoying each other's company in the only way they know how. Which is to say, Elly is boring a hole into him with nonexistent eyes, while the boy squirms in place. They are on even ground, hell, that is, so why does he still squirm like a lesser?

He feels like a spectator. All he can do is watch, and hope he does not ruin everything by virtue of his presence. That little ‘vampire’ ‘girl’ offers an alternative to who or what he has been his entire life, even if it took disaster for him to realize it at first. He didn’t always think death was the only exit, but as old as he is, and for all he has tried, there has only ever been one way out he can find. Sister clogs it with her indestructible will. So here he is, a spectator watching himself move. He has no choice. This feeling is not new to him. The thought of there being a tangible ‘something else’ feels like a fantasy, a bait on a hook dragging him towards the same hell with a different name. Again, he has no choice.

“A cure,” he mumbles to himself.

The boy hears it before he sees it, the sloppy lumbering footsteps of Meiling. He turns around, to see just that. ’It is Meiling,’ his dull mind astutely points out. “Yeah it is,” he tells himself to Meiling, before addressing the youkai directly, “Hello Meiling.”

The youkai leans on one side, bearing a gun in one hand, and a vessel under the other arm. “Hey. Schütz - doing as he should,” it addresses him, then turns to the other, “And Elly . . just Elly.”

“I’m Elly,” Elly confirms.

“Hey,” greets Meiling with a gun-filled wave.

Elly has nothing to say to that.

The youkai hefts down the case with little love or care, then admires their own spasmodically twitching arm. Whatever is in that suitcase is undoubtedly the cause. The youkai shakes it off. “Your clothes,” the youkai gestures briefly to the case, before trotting on over to him. “Your gun.”

It presents a gun to the boy in its bulbous moss-green arm.

Parabellum The gun Sister gave to him. For a reason his mind cannot bear to present, he does not touch it. The boy looks at the gun like it is a foreign object, but he has had the thing for years, an omnipresent metal tube on his hip, a limb of its own like his bow. “Ah,” he mumbles. “Okay.”

The youkai shrugs, placing the gun on the table. “A gun. The bloodiest weapon you will find,” it drawls. “I wonder if the mistress could sate herself on it . . or maybe the gods blood is too gross for her.” Again, the youkai shrugs. “I can’t say much. I’m not a vampire. . nor am I fussy.”

Meanwhile, Meiling’s arm seizures. The youkai does not seem to notice.

“Your arm. Is it - are you fine?” the boy finally asks the begging question.

Meiling gradually lifts up the twitching appendage, and pokes it idly with what Schütz assumes to be their working hand. “This?”

The boy nods, not quite sure why he needs to.

“It happens,” says the youkai.

“Oh. . Okay.”

“I will be fine.”

‘. . Good.”

“It’s worse when you eat them.” Meiling look down at their abdomen, an indistinct lump of green like any other in Schütz’ eyes. “Makes the body eat itself from the inside.”

“Why would you?” His brow scrunches. The boy tries his best to empathize with the youkai, he truly does.

“- eat them?” the youkai asks itself the same question, pondering with a puff of stormcloud. “Hunger. . Boredom. . Accidents. .” It refocuses on Schütz. “You know, when you find yourself eating a vampire hunter, always check the holes. The sneakiest ones wield the strangest things in the strangest places. Seals . . quicksilver vials . . holy beads . . Check for anything dangerous that can fit in a human hole.”

“Ah.”

“And . . a new hole in the stomach only makes you hungrier. Don’t eat seals for hunger. Though, for boredom. Yes. Eating seals will make you less bored,” Meiling ponders on. “Eat anti-everything seals when you’re bored. Can bet on which organs fail first. Can feel sorry having no one around to bet with. But . .” Meiling freezes, a dark revelation striking them cold to the heart. “Actually - do not. The maid will kill you.” The youkai’s whiskers twitch in a rare sight of alertness.

“I will - not,” the boy confirms.

“Don’t be a Meiling. Follow someone elses example. Like. .”

“Elly?”

The youkai looks at Elly, then back to Schütz. “Like Elly.” It pauses, then continues, “But not Elly.”

Schütz nods, confused.

“Vowing to end all life on a whim is . . bothersome.” Meiling’s stance on omnicide is a hard ‘no.’

“Bothersome?” he echoes. Schütz, however, is undecided.

“It causes . . bother,” the youkai clarifies. “Though . . it would make my job easier. As a gatekeeper.” It shrugs. “Always a positive somewhere.” The youkai ambles vaguely around the table, until it finds Remilia’s former chair. It plonks down on it, and the chair’s pleas for mercy are muffled in great green behind. “If you want a rolemodel . . how about the maid?”

“Maid,” he echoes dumbly. “Scary,” he says the first thing his mind spits out. “Scary.”

“Scary. Yeah,” Meiling nods heavily. “She can cook, and clean, and . . cutely fail at everything else, I suppose . .? And still she tries the hardest of them all. It’s scary. That maid is scary …” Meiling looks down from the ceiling, whiskers twitching unevenly. “Do you know how hard trying is? It’s . .” It searches for the word. “— Bothersome. Makes the mind and body sore.” There is more to be said, but it is lost in a trail of meaningful smoke.

“Whenever I try I regret it.” Meiling continues, leading into a bizarre dusty wheeze of amusement. “So don’t be like a Meiling, flower.”

“Trying.” “Doing something?” “That is -” “Scary.” The boy stumbles through a thought of his own, just one, and it is terrifying he can manage that after all he has been through.

“Trying? Do it if you want to look cute. Or . . . if you want to say you tried?” Meiling thinks. “I like cute things. That meaning . . try if you want gatekeepers to laugh at you rear when you fail?”

“Is Elly cute?” asks Schütz the most powerful, thought provoking question a dead mind can conjure.

“Is Elly cute?” Elly mirrors to Schütz.

The boy silently pleads to Meiling for guidance.

“No.”

“No,” Schütz instantly relays.

Elly makes a pleased sound. It violates the ears in a unique way, so Schütz can tell it apart from the other guttural screeches.

“No . . That is what a Meiling would say,” the youkai continues. “What does a Schütz say?”

“N - no?”

“Flower . .” Meiling shakes her head. “I said not to follow what Meiling says. And . . calling your girl not cute is . . .”

“Huh?”

“Flower.”

“Meil - ing?”

“Since you think it’s a noble idea to follow my lead. I will try to act well. Just this once . . and only once, repeat after me —” The youkai breathes in. “‘Elly is cute.’”

“Elly is - cute?” the boy echoes to Meiling.

“Repeat that to Elly.”

“Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“Meiling told me to tell you that Elly is cute.”

“No he didn’t. He thought of that entirely on his own,” interjects Meiling at surprising speed for Meiling.

“I - did?” he asks, genuine. The youkai only succeeds in grabbing his attention.

“Yeah.” It tried. It regrets.

“I do not remember thinking Elly is cute . . .”

“Schütz.” She squeezes his hand. “Schütz.”

“Elly?”

“What’s cute? And why am I cute?” Elly leans in, her eyes bottomless pits leading straight to what Schütz can only assume to be heaven.

The boy tears his eyes away, and turns to his only guidance. “What is cute?”

Smoke dribbles freely out of Meiling’s half closed-flat maw. Its whiskers feel around the air idly. It sighs ponderously, then speaks, “Cute is when you want to . .” Meiling starts, then stops with a spot of smoke. “No. Mentally . . you may both be too young for this. The maid would kill me for introducing children to . . Though that sister of yours . . Nothing. Nevermind.” It breathes in and out a few times, drinking smoke from the air and regurgitating it, a working analogy for thoughts. “Cute is when you want to be near something. . Because it makes you feel better. By being near it.” The youkai’s speech manages to be more slipshod than usual, a crumbling construction of words fit only to pedestal the dumbest of ideas.

“My bow?”

“Like a bow,” starts Meiling, “But not like a bow,” ends Meiling.

“Ah.” He nods.

“More maid-shaped.”

“Ah.” No matter how much he nods, he still understands nothing.

“Elly is cute because to you she is maid-shaped,” drawls Meiling. “Though it is more like Elly-shaped to you. My maid-shaped is your Elly-shaped. . Yes.” The youkai looks up, proud in its own way.

“Ah - I . . get it?” the boy questions his own words. “I do? I do.”

He smiles weakly, the best he can manage if he is to be truthful. “Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“You are cute because you are Elly-shaped. And I like to be near Elly-shaped . . things? Yeah.”

“Cute. C - u - t - e,” Elly exercises it. “I have always been Elly shaped,” she says.

“Always cute. Then.” He glances to Meiling for confirmation. Meiling nods briskly.

“Then I’ll believe it. Elly is cute,” says Elly. “Nothing else is Elly-shaped, and nothing else is cute.”

“Yeah.” “True.”

Meiling watches, nothing more.

“So . . . Did you accept her offer?” the youkai eventually asks.

“Uh?”

“Remilia’s extortion of your soul.”

“Ah.” “Yeah. The fate - thing. Yeah.”

“You said yes . ?”

“Will.” it needs no thought to say what has already been decided.

“Ah - -” Meiling visibly deflates with relief, whiskers fanning out. “Maid won’t have to scrape you off the walls. . I won’t have to rifle through the compost bins for scraps. . Elly won’t have to terminate all life after it learns what grief is. .” “Always a positive.”

“Y-yeah?” “It - could - work. Maybe. I . . hope?” The boy can feel the part of his mind that allows speech rotting with each word spat.

“Doubting her will only make her more . . Remilia . . ish?” Meiling looks up to the sky: but a wood ceiling, coated in orbs of light held together by wires aplenty. “You know . . the world should have ended a while ago. Years . . months . . days . . centuries back? I don’t know. I don’t know why I know this.” “Remilia. Remilia is something that shouldn’t exist. World should've ended by now. Instead we have Remilia, I suppose.”

“She . .” the boy mutters, unsure how to continue the thought.

“She’s something special. I don’t really know who she is. I don’t know her reasons. All I know is what she does.” Meiling speaks to a ceiling of artificial stars, then falls back to earth. “Retirement never would have worked. Escaping to Gensokyo was a farce. The second she heard of you she . . changed.” “Everyone changed . . . on the inside.”


“I -” “Apologize.”

“Don’t bother yourself with it. I won’t ask who . . or what . . or why you are,” Meiling dribbles on. “I know — that storm outside. That was me. Wasn’t it?”

The boy stares into the table, guilty, silent with shame but incapable of speaking even if he could.

Meiling sighs. “You don’t need to answer.” “I don’t know why I know what I know. But I know that the world keeps trying to end . . again. And Remilia will stop it - again. So, I ask -” Meiling breathes in. “- Trust her. The who, what, and why you are? It won’t matter soon. So trust her.”

Trust. Who can he ever trust? Not himself. Sister? He can trust her to hurt him. Elly? Yes. Elly. He can trust her to be Elly. But Remilia? ‘Trusting Remilia,’ the thought is slimy, a slug of tar in his head, leaving trails of toxic all over. “I - I … ” it is not even speech at this point, but static emanations.

“You know, I saved the world just then, before. I don’t know how to take it.” The youkai looks at its hands, one still twitching. “That sister of yours. She wanted to kill Remilia … so it goes when two tyrants meet. I tried using words. Not fists. I tried, can you believe it? I don’t know. But it worked.” “Talking . . I wonder how Remilia does it so often. It’s hard.” “When a dolt like Meiling sees something wrong, she only wants to punch it. This . . ‘wordplay.’ It does not suit me. But you can see I am trying.” It looks up again, making that scraping, dusty noise reminiscent of amusement, but it is only self mockery. “Doesn’t seem to be cute when I do it, though.”

“Saving the world - part of me feels good about it. I don’t know why. That never happens. And … I never really cared about the world, myself.” it shrugs, before being struck by a revelation told in a puff of smoke. “Perhaps that’s why Remilia does it? To feel good about herself?” The youkai sighs, exhausted with themself. “No. That is what it is like to be Meiling. The worm sees Remilia above, and tries to drag the star into the dirt with her. What an ugly, selfish, conceited creature, that Meiling. Someone like her could never understand Remilia, but she can surely, just barely, manage to admire her.”

“I will -” the boy stumbles, and scrambles to regain footing. “I will try. To trust her - Remilia.”

“Feels good to hear that. More people should. Everyone should. But it’s just us here, and the rest of the world there.” The youkai pauses, a ponderous wad of smoke forming within and releasing. “Remilia retired for a reason. You know, I don’t actually remember why. I don’t remember anything important since I got here - Gensokyo. I wonder why. It gets me nowhere.”

’Fish trapped under ice. Their reflections warped and distorted,’ sparks fly in his frying brain, causing his brow to knot in pain. “Me. Neither.” I could crack the ice. ‘End the world.’ I know it. I know it.

“Knowing … is given too much value. Truth or fiction, whatever makes you happy. Personally . . . I’m happy to not think, though I think too much.” It looks to the ceiling, either seeing something profound, or just enjoying the pretty lights. “And I think: what a hypocrite.”

“I wonder . . . Those nipping clothes. That bloody gun. What do you need them for? … You won’t remember them tomorrow, will you?”



“Ah- - Yes. Tomorrow we can pretend this all never happened. Sip some tea. . Play some cards. . Do you gamble? I do, but I don’t - no one wants to gamble with me,” the youkai rambles on. “I don’t have any valuables left. Remilia took all of them the first and last time we played cards. I didn’t know the rules. Still don’t.”

“We can use . . flowers?” it postulates.

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

Cold leaks through Schütz’ blood, freezing his eyes on the case containing his clothes. He swallows saliva from a dry mouth, and scratches raw and red an itch that does not exist.

He never asked for Parabellum, but those clothes are . . .
[A1: For - protection? From what? From a fox?] {keep}
[A2: For what? From what? . . . Nothing?] {abandon}

There is another reason. Those clothes. Those clothes. Those clothes. He does not feel like remembering it, and his husk of a head does not argue against a moment of rest. Except, no. THOSE CLOTHES. The ability for his mind to keep screaming while bruised and beaten is as incredible as it is self-destructive.

[B:] {???}

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

Items:
Bow (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand, Blood Coated ‘Kitsune’)
Seal Hairtie (Unknown Properties)
One-Piece Clothing (Fluffy, Puffy, Animal Hide, Blood Stained ‘Schütz’)

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

Curse: ~~~

Moon Phase: <o “last quarter”

Time: Early Night

\o==================8875===================o/
>> No. 31214
Wait was due to finals and having to fumble my way through some fairly difficult-to-navigate character interactions. I refuse to sacrifice on the standard of quality I uphold, whatever standard you believe that is. Haha.

If you're ever curious as to what's up, I try to be diligent with my saged tidbits.

Remember to try out Elly's perspective:
>>31206
Get to know the second best girl better. (True fans will grab a powerdrill and go to town on the frontal lobes.)(Truer fans will do that while drowning under several many atmospheres of oceanic pressure.)
>> No. 31215
[A1]
[B]

These clothes are an eyesore.

I voted for keep, and to ask for the clothes in the first place, but that said I wasn't planning on fighting Ran or anyone in the mansion. It's just, it's our stuff, you know? I must hoard. Plus, those seals are from a dead friend, and are needed for hunting. I doubt we'll be doing much hunting in the quest, but it'd be like ditching the bow — sure we're probably not going to actually kill anyone with it, but it just feels wrong to abandon. I completely forgot about the gun, it's been a while, but hey that's great, now we can use Firsthand Curse ~ “Freischütz” in a Spellcard duel, as it required the gun as a focus. I mean, kinda doubt we'll be winning any of those, or using Freishütz instead of Elly is Good, but more options is more options
>> No. 31216
>>31215
A and B are mutually exclusive. Furthermore, B is a 'hidden option' in the sense I intend for you to figure it out if you want to vote for it. Otherwise, please stick to merely keeping or discarding the clothes.

I'd recommend taking a less pragmatic approach in terms of the objective utility of the clothing, and rather consider why Schütz actually wants a motley of Hakurei-sealed rags.
>> No. 31217
>>31216
Whoops. Ignore the [B] vote then, please.
>> No. 31218
>[A1: For - protection? From what? From a fox?] {keep}
>[A2: For what? From what? . . . Nothing?] {abandon}
I don't expect seals will actually mean anything as far as protecting us from Ran, so this is more just a question of our attitude toward her. I fear what Ran might do at the will of the Yakumo family, but she seems decent personally, and I'd like to trust her.

>[B:] {???}
Very mysterious and risky looking option. Looks like Schütz is blocking out some memories related to these clothes. (Related to girl who gave him the seals?) This feels like a choice that will wake up the curse, but it's also probably our last chance to figure out what Schütz is suppressing if what Meiling says is true, and we'll forget all about these clothes after treatment.

It's probably not wise to tempt the curse in general, even less so when Ran is already on the way to "kill" us over activating it. Still, I think it will be worthwhile to dig into what Schütz doesn't want to remember if we want to find any answers.

[X] [B:] {???}
If B doesn't get any traction, I'll shift my vote to A2.
>> No. 31220
[X] A1

You know, I'm starting to think that Remilia has good intentions, but will go about it the wrong way. Hence this choice.

Purely theorizing. But I think that if we wholly follow through Remilia's will, she intends to just wipe our slate clean and reform Schutz into her 'ideal' image of what he should be.

Whether or not she'll be entirely successful or not, doesn't really matter to her. So long as the end result satisfies her.

If we discard the clothes and disregard everything we've built up to now in exchange for giving up to Remi, I imagine it'll just come back two-fold because she tried to shuffle his curse under the metaphorical rug.

If we keep it, I imagine we'll follow along with her plans, but we'll keep our "Will" of resolving the situation on our own terms. It'd hurt and be annoying. But as they say, "the cure is worse than the illness."

On the topic of [B]. I imagine it's got something to do with Reimu's last words to him and most likely a promise to fulfill something that either he believed that he failed to accomplish or an act of - fuck.

what if Schutz promised Reimu to be the Hakurei priest following her death but failed because of his curse?

I'm probably way off, since I haven't checked back on any of the previous threads. But I hope that I'm on some kind of track parallel to the actual answer.

It'd probably explain Ran's interest in him with his accidental manipulation of the border and by extension, Yukari...
>> No. 31221
I see you are all thinking about it. There is no such thing as overthinking here. I can write it down as many times and in many different ways as I can in-story, but I can't help you outside of it.

I hope you are all well and non-hospitalized.

The vote will be called in a few days: 3? 5? I will grant some leeway given it has been a while.

>>31218
>I don't expect seals will actually mean anything as far as protecting us from Ran
To jog your memory - Schütz fired around 10(?) or so sealed arrows between its head and brain. They had no noticeable effect besides provoke its instinctual desire to text fox emoticons.

>If B doesn't get any traction, I'll shift my vote to A2.
Perfectly acceptable. Good to see this system being used.
>> No. 31222
If I see it as abandoning his past notion of Youkai as stupid beasts, I'd throw them out. But... maybe he'll need them for "fighting" against Ran or sister? In a simbolic sense, of course.

Wait does he even remember who gave them to him? Believing in the curse is bad but remembering is, well, paramount.
>> No. 31223
[B:]Remember Reimu
Mementos keeps memories alive.
>> No. 31225
>>31224
A and B are mutually exclusive.

Clarity:
>Villains need to feel strong and important sometimes, it’s good for their health if not for their delusion of control.
This was Remilia referring to Ran.

>Or perhaps it is better said that this could be what Schutz sees?
All perspective shifts are angled from the perspective of the relevant character.

>I... ...What? I thought Parabellum was a knife?
The knife has no name. Parabellum is the pistol Schütz lost after undressing for miss Patchouli Knowledge.

>Meiling, giant, etc
The youkai looks large and bulky from the boy's perspective, but in this instance Meiling was staring up to the ceiling, then looked down.
>> No. 31226
So meiling is aware of the end of the world. I wonder if she knows about the curse? Probably not.

She speaks as if he will forget about all of this soon, but is that due to the curse or Remilia's treatment MO? Then again, she did said everyone should listen to her. I guess forgetting bad things is how a cynical man eating dragon would see things, even after seeing how the talking she dreaded so much worked when force did not.


[B:]

If it doesn't gain majority...

[A2]
>> No. 31227
>“Precious.”

I like that both Meiling and Remilia seem to find him adorable.

>Schütz would taste like . . flowers? The seals tear against Meiling’s arm and existence, as if sensing her thoughts. Meiling shrugs, not one to apologize for herself

Interesting... Are the seals sentient? They seem reactive, at the very least. They seemed to start doing their thing only when she had dangerous thoughts. I wonder how exactly these charms work? ...I wonder what Schutz's hair charm does? Does it react to youkai, or does it react to something else?

>“Another patient?” Remilia drums her fingers on the table. “I’m full today, but I can’t just-” she trails off into thought. The drumming is frantic, but rhythmic. “Oh. I almost forgot. I’m the protagonist, I can do anything I want,” she tells herself, face obscured by the maw of her visor. Her eyes are pinpoints of insanity, she aims her reticle at the world itself. When she raises her head, her smile is cocky.

...Interesting. This says so much and yet so little. Twice, now, has she been called insane. But to call herself the protagonist is... odd.

>‘I will not ruin everything. We will be happy,’ a fire in his head insists. It burns away the many good reasons he has to believe otherwise.

I have to wonder if this is just a fun description, Remilia fate powers, or the charm. That mention of burning is concerning.

>Remilia pauses just to be courteous. Villains need to feel strong and important sometimes, it’s good for their health if not for their delusion of control.

Remilia has the balls of a hamster and the spunk of a villain. ...Now I'm starting to wonder just what the title of the story is meant to mean.

>The makings of a fourth dirk begin to form over her head.

I'm starting to wonder if this is literal. Or perhaps it is better said that this could be what Schutz sees? I worry what she would be like when the eye opens.

>Parabellum The gun Sister gave to him. For a reason his mind cannot bear to present, he does not touch it. The boy looks at the gun like it is a foreign object, but he has had the thing for years, an omnipresent metal tube on his hip, a limb of its own like his bow. “Ah,” he mumbles. “Okay.”

I... ...What? I thought Parabellum was a knife? Something feels very... wrong. Is this Remilia's changing who he is? Am I so blind as to miss this? There wasn't even a mention of ammo in his inventory...

>“Scary. Yeah,” Meiling nods heavily. “She can cook, and clean, and . . cutely fail at everything else, I suppose . .? And still she tries the hardest of them all. It’s scary. That maid is scary …” Meiling looks down from the ceiling, whiskers twitching unevenly. “Do you know how hard trying is? It’s . .” It searches for the word. “— Bothersome. Makes the mind and body sore.” There is more to be said, but it is lost in a trail of meaningful smoke.

...I feel like I'm learning some oddly missed details?? When was Meiling a giant? Am I going crazy?

>’Fish trapped under ice. Their reflections warped and distorted,’ sparks fly in his frying brain, causing his brow to knot in pain. “Me. Neither.” I could crack the ice. ‘End the world.’ I know it. I know it.

Ran's words are starting to make sense. I don't know if that sense makes sense, but at least sense is being made.


You know, I'm starting to wonder... is that hair tie seal like Rumia's? Not something to protect us from them, but them from us? Or even memories? Something doesn't smell right.

Could it be that taking it off is B?

[B] Try to remember what the unknown charm does.

>>31220

>what if Schutz promised Reimu to be the Hakurei priest following her death but failed because of his curse?

I wonder what that'd mean for the B vote, if it actually is the case.
>> No. 31228
...Wait, is it possible that the write-in is asking about Ran's cat? Clearly that is reckless beyond anything we have done, and thus not obvious to him! After all, there is nothing less wise than talking to a crazy cat lady about her babies.

Wait, or maybe it's to tell Ran a cat name? Such a monumental thing that it would invalidate other votes... But we must persevere! We can't go into that calm night! No, we can't go out without a fight!

But, in all seriousness, I have to wonder... What exactly was it that Schutz normally wears? Has it been mentioned in specifics? With his talk about his clothes, that may be tied to B.

>>31225

>This was Remilia referring to Ran.

I know.

>The youkai looks large and bulky from the boy's perspective, but in this instance Meiling was staring up to the ceiling, then looked down.

Ahh. I thought it was saying that her head reached it and that she was looking down from that height.
>> No. 31229
Six people after such a long hiatus? Great. I worked very hard on these updates, though that's nothing new.

The vote will be called tomorrow if there is no further discussion.

>>31228
>What exactly was it that Schutz normally wears?
Motley of well-maintained, chimeric masses of tough clothing bound together by seals. Think of a gillie suit, but made of seals and ragtag bits of cloth peaking out.

>Has it been mentioned in specifics?
Much earlier. Likely, around when he stripped for the purple weirdo.
>> No. 31230
B:

Set.
You're doing OK.
>> No. 31243
2k in. This will take time.
>> No. 31248
The dog stares the case of clothes down, snarling at his own confusion, and scratching red and raw itches that do not exist. “Those clothes - those seals - are — they are -” the boy fumbles at the speed of melting thought. His head is full of sludge - a melting pit where everything ends up and nothing escapes. ‘They?’ he asks himself, but wherever that voice inside him came from has already melted. He could leave it at that. He could make up a reason to keep those seals, or discard them. It would not be hard. Instead, here he is, knee deep in the proverbial acidic bath of his mind, searching for that fleeting thought.

What a reckless idiot.

Come back. Please.

/ ~~<o><O>~<>~ \

Something disgusting and foul inside him obliges. Eyes the color of bruises, or ‘amethyst,’ line the inside of his skull. He does not even try to suppress it - rather, his inaction is a form of invitation. Light flickers purple, and the air hums with danger recognized but not heeded. Here I am. Where? It feels familiar, nostalgic in a way akin to revisiting a pool you once almost drowned in.

LOST≠FOUND

He looks around with eyes that are not his own, and finds what he needs: two distinct states of existence made real by belief -

LOST=FOUND

- and the boy, untrained, uncontrolled and incapable of doing anything else, makes that belief irrelevant; he breaks the barrier. ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’ dissolve into one just for him.

\ ~<o>~ /

Schütz feels sick in his everywhere, as if his entire body were filled with bile, a blood that is not his own. ‘Hurts a lot.’ he notes with no intention to change the fact. More importantly, he remembers what he lost. Those seals.

/ his personal hell, many years ago \

A lot of time has passed since he met Hakurei. The only way for the child-of-mind to recognize its long passage is the distinct tone becoming of his muscles, and the springing of hairs that grow in places he thought only suited beasts. Hakurei is changing too. With food constantly in her belly, nothing is stopping her growth. In fact, she will exceed him soon. He can feel it.

It is the best time of day. Except, it has been that time for a while now. The sun is beginning to set and Hakurei is not here. The beast she had named a ‘tiger’ lies next to him, bleeding dryly from where an arrow once punctured its heart. Hakurei would eat most of it; the boy knows he would not be able to handle more than a few bites. That is how it goes in the Forest of Magic. Something about ‘contamination,’ she said. All that means to him is that eating is hard.

So, more time passes. The bite he takes out of the tiger is spat out just as soon. Without Hakurei around he finds it hard to convince himself that it is worth trying to eat the wretched meat.

“Hey.”

‘It is her!’ the plain thought shoots sparks through his body, bringing a candid expression to his face. The precise feeling and expression of a puppy waiting at the owner’s door, finally rewarded by their coming footsteps. “Hey - hey Hakurei!” the overgrown puppy yips. “I got a tiger. This one!” He gestures, pointing finger shaking at the end “I already bit it. While I waited.”

“ . . Good.” The undergrowth rustles as she takes a step forward.

He beams at her. Though, now as he actually takes the moment to observe her, in the afternoon light that peaks between the glade, he realizes she looks terrible. This is nothing new. The boy might even say she looks ‘normal.’

She pauses a moment, befuddled by the shaky smile on his face. She opens her mouth, tentatively and briefly, revealing a few missing teeth. Again, this is nothing new, though the particular missing teeth change by the week. Rather than be lost in the complexities of social expectation, the girl just charges in, sits down, tears a leg off the tiger, and consumes.

Quiet and fidgety, the boy looks over her again, noticing the motley of greens, yellows, and purples of bruised flesh, and the deliberate way she leans on her side. “Are you -” the puppy starts, immediately muzzling himself as the maiden pauses. The quiet look she gives him is a challenge, a ‘well, what is it?’ with no intention of receiving an answer. Of course, his question was dumb. Of course, of course. That is why he has to ask it again, to prove how dumb he is. “Are you okay?”

‘Really?’ her eyes tell him, her teeth buried in bloody striped hide.

The dog is too stupid to back down. Hakurei cannot be killed because she is Hakurei, so he is not worried. I am not. So not worried is he, that he keeps reminding himself of the fact. Unlike him, Hakurei is strong. She does ‘things;’ she is trying to help him. She does not want him to be worried; she has made it clear time and time again. All he has to do as her follower is feed her, nothing more.

“Behh- I’m fine, alright.” She looks him in the eyes, a mistake on her part. She buries back down into her food.

See, she is fine. Stop being stupid.

“I’m - testing something,” she announces into the shank of flesh.

“Testing . . ?”

“A system,” she clarifies.

“A system,” he parrots.

“Yep.”

She eats in challenging silence. If he asked a question now, he feels like he might faint.

Afterwards, she counts some seals, and hands them to him. There is no less than usual. Food for protection - there is nothing more to this exchange.

“Thank you,” he says. However needless it is, it is what he wants to do.

She has gotten used to that phrase, in the sense that it only winds her now. Nonetheless, she attempts a reply with: “Yep.”

The seals might mean little to her, but they mean a lot to the boy. They are a form of proof - proof that someone is out there with him. It does not matter how or why. These seals are, to him, all of the ‘love’ in the world. Though the boy would not learn the meaning of that word for a long time.

“Thank you!” he yelps out again.

That breaks her. She looks down, snarling almost, into the bone of the shank. He has nothing but admiration for the immortal Hakurei. She may as well be a god to him.

\ his personal hell, many years ago /

And then she died.

There’s more to it, so much more, but this is enough for him to seize the truth. Lost and found differentiate again. Those seals . . .

He stands up. The chair legs scrape terrible against the ground. He is already gripping his sealed bow; which is usually only noticed when he is not. Seals cover it toe to tip, obscuring wood that has not seen the light of day for many years. Always by my side. He looks at it not as a tool, but an old friend. I have a lot of friends. The rest of his friend is in that case over there. Those seals.

‘crik?’ Elly is tugged along, simultaneously blissfully unaware and tortured by the fact of her own existence.

“Eh?” the great green youkai lets out a half-assed non-question. “ . . Sure,” it concedes.

The boy kneels down in front of the case, dragging down his girl with him.

“Schütz?” Elly prods.

“Sorry. Elly. A moment - quiet, please.”

‘Crik?’

“Good. Thank you.”

The boy encounters a problem. The contraptions binding the case are impenetrable. Little metallic things, fiddly and unwilling to tell their secrets. “Uhh,” he lets out the most intelligent noise he can. “Open the container please. Elly.”

The attached Elly beeps affirmatively. “She will.”

“Wait, Elly.”

“Schütz?”

“Please - do not break what is inside the container. Yeah.”

“She will not.”

Elly slides forward, not conforming to the laws of motion. She looks at the case, the case then ceases to exist. One can only assume it got scared and left.

Schütz coughs in the cloud of particles that was once a case.

“Than -” he splutters. “Good. Thank you.” “Now please be quiet.”

‘Crik’ She complies, simultaneously holding the leash and obeying it.

Meanwhile, the boy beholds an old friend. Carefully, ever so carefully, he spreads out the chimeric patchwork of cloth and seals. It is seamless in the sense that all of the seams have broken, long replaced by seals. Seals riveting and gluing, and coating like a beast hide. Shimetani Eita once wore this. Who? Me? No - no. He died with her. Who? The seals squirm at his presence, like a thousand leaf-shaped slugs. She is happy, angry - both?

What am I supposed to say? He decides to let it come naturally, for all that implies. “Hello, Reimu.”

The seals squirm.

What was that? I can hear her? Of course I can hear her. “It is good to see you again.”

The seals squirm.

He hears something - voices in his head. Reimu said something. She is alive. In my head. Of course. Of course she is alive. She was in my seals the whole time. She is dead, but she is alive. “A fox said I can save you.”

The seals squirm.

“Do you think I should believe it.”

The seals squirm, no different than the last times, but of course the boy sees something in it. They are all Reimu. He can feel every bit of so-called ‘love’ she put in these seals. That must mean something. He just has to try.

“Yeah.” “Do not worry. I am here. Have you met Elly? This is Elly. She is my best friend now.”

The seals squirm.

‘Crik?’

“Elly. This is Reimu. My old friend. She is alive.”

“Schütz?”

“Elly?”

“Who’s Reimu?”

“She is . . my friend. Who is dead.”

“If the garbage is dead it will be back tomorrow.” It is a straight fact, nothing more.

“Reimu is here now.”

“Today?”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“She’s talking in my head.”

“I would hear anything inside Schütz that is not Schütz, and I would destroy it if it weren’t his friend.”

“Oh . . “ “But . . I can hear her.”

“##Schütz.” She drifts beside him, towering overhead, but only eye to eye in reality.

“E - Elly?”

“There is only Schütz inside Schütz. If he must be sure then he will see himself torn open and he will see for himself.” There is no threat, only a friendly offer from a friend trying to help.

“O - oh.”

The seals squirm. Is Reimu whispering? Speak up! Speak up!

“And would Schütz be fine with being torn open? I would like to be inside Schütz again.” His old gore paints her. It smells acrid and vile, but he always expected he was disgusting on the inside, so it is no surprise.

“No - no. Not r-right now, Elly.” “Reimu is here. I do not want to - explode. Next to her. Right now.”

“Who?”

“Reimu.” The boy senses repetition, eventually. “Who is inaudible to Elly because . . she is whispering?”

“I only hear the cacophonic buzz of flies and maggots feasting on their own corpses, and Schütz,” cacophonously buzzes Elly.

“Reimu sounds more like -” the boy pauses. His warped pretzel mind, despite being designed to facilitate cognitive dissonance, struggles to cope with a reality this undeniable. How could he forget what Reimu sounds like when she is right here talking to him? “Uh.”

“Uh?” parrots Elly like a skewered cow.

“Uh.”

“##?”

“Sounds. Like. Reimu,” he forces out, scratching an itch on his side until it hurts and more.

“#Schütz.”

The seals squirm. “She is - she is talking. Okay. Please believe me.” This itch.

“I will believe Schütz if he wants me to.”

“Please.”

“Then I believe Schütz, and this is despite Elly not knowing what she is intended to believe.”

“That - Reimu is talking.”

“I forgot, but I will believe it.”

“. . Good? Good,” he tells himself, blanking his thoughts of all potential for destructive introspection.

The boy strips from his puffy clothing, and worms his way into the sealed, chimeric contraption. The insides are softened by a weave of seals - they constrict squirm comfortingly against his skin. Because a youkai is nearby? No, shut up. He stumbles his way back to the chair.

“Anti-everyone-but-me-seals,” Meiling proclaims, leaning back as an ineffectual escape. “If you can chat to them . . why not tell them to calm down? It’s nice here . . I’m not going to eat you, unless you try to leave. Mhh - can’t say I don’t have a choice in the matter — you know I’d spin a way to let you go. I’m bad at my simple job.” It shrugs. The twitching of its arm intensifies under the stress of a thousand or more seals attacking. “I saved the world. Aren’t heroes supposed to be . . worshipped? Protected? Given food? . . Ever consider donating an arm? You don’t need two if you’re going to be a butler,” the youkai dribbles on.

The boy looks down to the seals. “Please be nice to my friends.”

The seals squirm.

“Please. Reimu.”

The seals squirm.

“Ah. .” He looks up. “Sorry. She does not feel like being nice. But she is really nice when you get to know her. I think. I . . forgot?” I could find out.

“It’s fine. I’ve never invited niceties. Plenty of blades . . Plenty of curses . . Plenty of tears . . Not many kind words. I wonder why.” What to most would come off as self-deprecation comes off more as a boast from the youkai.

“I like you,” he says to the precise extent he can like a youkai.

The gasbag makes a harsh noise, recognizable as a chuckle. “A maid, a vampire, and a flower. Three nice people against an army of spite.” The youkai blows smoke. “I like you too. But you know . . I’d eat you if you harmed my lady. Not a scrap of hesitation. Nothing left to save.”

The boy thinks about it. It makes complete sense. “I would kill you if you hurt Elly.” It is a strange but reaffirming form of camaraderie: two devoted dogs, a puppy and a seasoned warhound.

The youkai quakes, finding something amusing about the whole situation. “So it goes.”

Elly, who is in a constant state of abject torture, has nothing to say.

“Saving the world and making friends; they are a different business,” continues Meiling. “Remilia tries. It is hard work . . And me? I’m already exhausted. I could sleep for a century. I would sleep for a century. But . . I won’t.”

“Tomorrow - I will have to ask for you to sleep outside. Remilia prefers keeping patients in the big, embellished and . . fragile rooms. Both of us are filthy creatures at core . . belonging of dirt. You know you would not last a night in a room.” It pauses. “Wait . . maybe Remilia will change that, too.” It shrugs.

Changing. The boy fiddles with the seals. They crawl like worms through his fingers. He will not forget Reimu, no matter what.

“Mhh,” the youkai puffs smoke. “Something tells me I had imaginary friends, too, once. I don’t remember who . . or why . . or anything. But I was young, like you,” the youkai continues, speaking its thoughts as they come. “But I was never young, was I? I came into being guarding gates, and I will leave guarding gates. This memory business . . it’s bothersome. . . and embarrassing.”

Meiling’s words flow like lumpy syrup. Yet, not slow enough for the boy to wrap his aching mind around. He comprehends only the fact he is to blame. He can feel the distance between ‘fish’ and ‘reflection’ thinning like a drill to his eyes. Slowly, so slowly that he cannot find a foothold to deny it, the fox’s words begin to make sense. “I apologize,” he answers reflexively but not incorrectly.

The youkai waves it away. “It’s fine. Everything will be nice and easy tomorrow. . Don’t worry. I won’t push it. If I did - I don’t think I have it in me to save the world again. Too hard.” The youkai leans forward, into the purging fire of seals. Its arms quiver, but do not falter. “What kind of idiot would want to reinvent the world, anyway? Things are fine as they are. Who couldn’t find peace in this situation? Creatures like us are passengers - not . . conductors. No matter how much pride and wrath and greed and envy and sloth and . . . whatever else they would say Meiling has, she would never be so insipid to throw a tantrum and ruin everyone’s day.”

“Then, again, there is that storm I made outside.” The youkai looks down, emptily beholding its own hypocrisy.

“I will not - end the world,” the boy blurts out, locking himself in a promise. The fact he will forget it tomorrow is some certainty he can fulfill it to its end.

“It’s hard - and I know you’re trying. So let Remilia handle the rest. She’s used to it. She’s only broken once. And it was worse than ‘this.’ Maybe . . ? I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember.” It ponders, then shakes its weighty head.. “How about we talk about . . girls? Ehh, whatever Elly is?”

“I’m Elly,” says Elly.

“What are you?”

“Good.”

“Mhh - being told who you are is the easy way out. Good job not being stupid.” Meiling claps once in admiration, it carries as much weight as thunder when coming from the usually placid creature. “I’d do the same, but . . Oh . . I probably already did, didn’t I?”

“So, flower. Girls, or Ellys - what do you like in them? Breasts . . asses?” The youkai looks up, searching for the mysterious third element. “Shapely personalities?”

“Personally . . I’d never touch something that isn’t cute, supposing anything besides the tip of a blade would ever touch me back. Mhh - I suppose and wonder a lot. Thinking is a bad habit. Like opium. I should quit some time - but that’s what they all say.”

The youkai shrugs, then gestures to Schütz.

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

What do I like in Elly? That may be the most easy question he has been asked in a long time. The boy decides to describe Elly in as much detail as possible, but how?

[A: he asks Elly to describe herself for him.] (positive: Elly | negative: what?)
[B: he asks Meiling to describe Elly for him.] (positive: knows what Elly looks like | negative: is Meiling)
[C: he tries his best.] (positive: in his own words | negative: in his own words){writeins acceptable}

{note: consider this a ‘breather’ vote - purely for the sake of breaking up the usual ultra-super-heavy-character-defining stuff. That said, more impactful writeins are accepted if you want to dive back into the shark pool. There’s plenty to work with.}

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

Items:
Bow (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand, Blood Coated ‘Kitsune’)
“Parabellum”
Tough Clothing (Heavily Anti-Youkai Seal Fitted, Hakurei Brand)
- Seal Hairtie (Unknown Properties)

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

Curse: ~<o>~

Moon Phase: <o “last quarter”

Time: Early Night

\o==================8875===================o/
>> No. 31249
[B]
>> No. 31250
[A: he asks Elly to describe herself for him.] (positive: Elly | negative: what?)

Elly option is good option
>> No. 31251
[A: he asks Elly to describe herself for him.] (positive: Elly | negative: what?)

In before she just says red, like the last time we asked
>> No. 31252
[X][B: he asks Meiling to describe Elly for him.]

We've already heard Elly describe describe herself, and Schütz's description would be about the same as long as he ignores the curse, so let's hear what Meiling has to say.
And of course, more Meiling is always nice.
>> No. 31253
[X][B: he asks Meiling to describe Elly for him.]

Let's just say she's more eloquent than Elly.
>> No. 31254
>“Mhh,” the youkai puffs smoke. “Something tells me I had imaginary friends, too, once. I don’t remember who . . or why . . or anything. But I was young, like you,” the youkai continues, speaking its thoughts as they come. “But I was never young, was I? I came into being guarding gates, and I will leave guarding gates. This memory business . . it’s bothersome. . . and embarrassing.”

I get this feeling that Remilia's cure is akin to a lobotomy in a way.

[C]: Elly is Elly. Elly is good, so everything like Elly must be good. But Elly is better than everything not Elly, so everything Elly must be the best, clearly making what makes Elly good being that she is Elly.
>> No. 31255
>>31254 here. In the event of C not being the winner, count me as B. But, if it's a tie between them, not that I expect traction, keep it C.
>> No. 31256
Vote will be called tomorrow.

Note that just because the vote is trivial, this does not make the content of the updates trivial. I warn you that the good intentions will absolutely not see you through to a desirable end. Work as a team, find a goal, and see it through to the end. You cannot please everyone. You are dealing with many powerful and volatile individuals, and the main character who you have deeply traumatized will have difficulties keeping peace.
>> No. 31257
[C: She keeps me going.]
>> No. 31258
Vote set.

B. Meiling.

Full of hot air.
>> No. 31261
Busy working on my other project.
>> No. 31262
This story is cancelled

I am fulfilling my part to notify you. This is a well informed decision.

Seeya.
>> No. 31263
Well, I'm mad. Partly because we seemed very close to the end, and mostly because I don't think I will ever see a story just like this one again. Even though I usually just lurk, I feel like I should say thank you for writing this.
>> No. 31264
fugg
>> No. 31265
Thank you for writing. I hope your strange needs are fulfilled by you other project.
>> No. 31266
well shit, that's a let down
>> No. 31267
RIP, we'll miss you and your brand of crazy.
>> No. 31268
Awww is a pity ... I hope to see other story from you here ... but if is not asked too much can we have the summary what it could have become? or the plot explained? (sorry if is not clear English is not my natural language)
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