>[x]Take the drill from the tray to use it as an improvised spear.
Hourai walked back to the tray and searched for the first tool that truly got her attention the first time. Although she still had her trusty sword with her at all times, the doll didn't feel completely confident without her trademark lance. Since she couldn't materialize it anymore, she had to make do with something else, and that drill on the tray was the closest thing to a thrusting weapon there was.
But upon a closer look, Hourai had doubts about its viability as a weapon. For starters, the drill in question was small but heavy, made to bore small holes on even the hardest materials - useful for, say, making eye sockets on a metallic doll. Secondly, it was manual: the drill spun by a crank attached to its base, similar to a coffee grain grinder. Those two points couple together made the drill a rather bulky and ineffective tool to hurt people, except to pinch someone to death. And for that purpose, Hourai's sword was more than enough. Attaching a pole to the drill would make a functioning lance if the need arose, but the advantage that the spear's reach granted would be nullified if it was too heavy to be swung around comfortably.
In the end, Hourai decided to not take the drill with her. If she was to build a lance, she'd rather find something much lighter to use as a spear head. Not to mention she still needed to find a pole to attach it to.
>[x]Examine the chip and take it.
Something else on the tray caught Hourai's attention. Mixed among the surgical and carpentry tools, there was a minute rectangular piece of plastic and metal, of the size of the doll's nails. Thin lines of copper swirled through the green plastic, interconnecting equally small black bulges in apparently no discernible order whatsoever. Hourai wondered how in the world did her Master get her hands on something so tiny yet painstakingly complex like that chip.
Ah ha! It's been a while since we saw one of those, isn't that right, Philosopher?
Oh no, not the memento chips again...
Come on, it was fun! Remember when I had you and Paris run all over the house, searching for that memento, until you discovered it was in her pocket all along?
Then you and I have different recollections of that. It was tedious and unproductive. And to make matters worse, the memory the chip held was not worth the hassle.
Well, I thought it was funny. I think it's called an "easter egg" in the Outside.
I am sure Paris split her sides in laughter. Along with every single part of her body.
Good times, good times...
You are a sick sadist, you know?
Anyway, as it's been said before, that is a memento chip. Memento chips are specifically made to store the memories of a Prototype Doll, while allowing easy removal and transportation. The kicker is that, to access those memories from a different terminal than the original doll - like another prototype -, a special item is needed, which varies depending on the memory. I like to refer to those items as mementos, because they're often connected to the memory in question. Hence the name "memento chip".
In short, to view the memory inside the chip, we must find an item relevant to its contents. With absolutely no clue as to what item it is, because we don't know the contents of the chip. Paradoxical logic at its finest.
Hey, don't give up before we even start! I have a feeling the memento is close this time around. We just have to search for something out of the ordinary.
>[x]Take the needle with blue thread.
Hourai saw the needle in the tray and picked it. It was just another of those needles her Master used to sew clothes - definitely nothing special about it. What really interested Hourai was the blue thread hanging from its eye. Something about it rubbed her the wrong way. There was a blue piece of cloths stuck to the wall at the boiler room, right after the Guardian disappeared and Hourai went down the airway to the facilities. Was the thread in the needle related to it? Hourai had no way to tell, but if it was true, the doll could be in great danger, and she was well aware of her situation. On the other hand, there could be more clues about the identity of the Guardian's attacker somewhere near...
As she was mindlessly twirling the needle between her fingers, Hourai felt the chip she was holding in her other hand irradiating heat. At first, it was a somewhat pleasant warmth, then it quickly got hotter and hotter, until it became unbearable. Hourai shook her arm frantically to throw it away, but to her horror, it had become glued - or rather, welded - on her palm, like a solidifying iron rod melting her carcass at the mere touch.
And yet that wasn't the worse of it. Carcasses could be replaced, but internal circuits were a completely different matter. As the burning sensation intensified, Hourai felt a spark of electricity running through her connections, climbing up her arm towards her head, eating at her circuitry. Hourai fell to her knees and grabbed her head, unable to stop the pain inside her mind, powerless, helpless... Hourai...
"...reful with the needle!"
The needle? Oh right, the needle. That pain came just after Hourai picked the needle. She just needed to knot the thread and pull the needle through the top of-
then stick it into the crease horizontally and...
"Oh, done already? Let's take a look, shall we?"
Master took the blue dress out of my hands and focused her critical eyes on my needlework. Her long silky fingers ran along the fabric of the dress, carefully inspecting the seams and stitches on the sleeves. As she hummed to herself, she examined the finished product from top to bottom, passing her judgement on every single patch and thread I poured all my being into.
All the while I was holding my breath, waiting for Master to give her approval or disavowal. Except that I was holding no breath because, well, I don't actually breath - so Master told me. But I was incredibly nervous nonetheless. I couldn't stop fidgeting my fingers, shifting my posture on the chair time and time again, unable to keep my composure like Master taught me.
"Not bad. Not bad at all," I heard Master mutter. "The back stitches around the shoulders could be a bit closer, but... Hm."
Then, like many times before, she scribbled something on the portfolio she always carried around, as if she was grading my work like a teacher. I guess I am her student, if I think about it. Master teaches me lots of things everyday, and she isn't satisfied until I do things perfectly. I always try to do my best, because every time I do something perfectly, I can see Master smile for a fraction of a second while she writes on that paper. And if she's happy, then I'm happy too.
Since she didn't smile that time, I guessed I didn't do perfectly that time. Therefore, I had to try harder! I took the needle again and began to insert a blue thread through the eye, but Master stopped me:
"No, it's alright. You've worked enough for today," she said, trying to sound as gentle as she could - which wasn't much, because her voice was practically as cold as ever. "Put the tools back in the box, would you kindly?"
I really wanted to see Master smile, but if that was what she wanted, then that was what I had to do to please her. So I cleaned up the needles, the scissors, the balls of yarn and all the other stuff, and packed them inside the box orderly, as Master taught me. It's always important to keep your tools organized.
When I was done, I looked up to Master, awaiting her next directive. She was looking intensely at the dress I made, but in a completely different manner than before. It was the first time I saw Master like that. For once, her porcelain face showed a semblance of emotion: her eyebrows were slighty arched, her blue eyes shone with a yearning glow, and her smile was not the smirk of satisfaction I always strived to see. No, it was much, much prettier. It was as if... as if she was reliving a precious memory that made her truly happy.
It was at that moment when I realized, what I had done until now wasn't going to accomplish what I want. Master is pleased when I do things correctly, but she isn't happy. And I wanted her to be happy. If I wanted to see that smile again, then I must do something else, something that Master didn't told me to do. But what could I do to make Master happy? I only knew how to make tea and how to sew clothes, and I wasn't very good at them, frankly speaking. How could I ever hope to make Master happy if I didn't know what to do?
Maybe... Maybe Master doesn't know either?
"Hey, come here for a second."
Master's voice snapped me out of my reverie, and I gladly followed her order, blissfully pulling me away from the thoughts that were eating my head. I may not be able to make Master happy, but when I did as she said, she would be pleased, and that was enough. I was sure if I followed her, everything would work out in the end...
Master patted the edge of the table, instructing me to sit there, and I obliged. With graceful fingers, she tugged my plain white dress up and took it off over my head, leaving me completely unclothed. Then, she took the blue dress and, taking all the care in the world, as if she was manipulating the most delicate thing in the world, began to put it on me. As she knitted the knots, fastened the buttons and straightened the headbow, I noticed how well it fit me. Master told me it was for another of her dolls. I should have realized sooner that the proportions were a bit too big for dolls like Shanghai, Paris, Netherlands and the others.
"It looks good on you!" Master commented, as she patted my head. "Go on, look at the mirror. What do you think?"
When I saw my reflection, I understood that blue dress was always meant to be worn by me. The blue and white combination covered my pale, slender body with a childish yet elegant vibe. The cute blue sidebow kept my short blonde hair at the sides of my head, framing my blue eyes. I couldn't help but feel proud of myself for sewing that dress from the first thread.
"You like it?" Master asked me, and chuckled when I nodded my head excitedly. "You can keep it if you want. You made it, after all."
I was completely floored - no, flattered. It was the first time Master had gifted me something - even if the present was something that I made. Nevertheless, I was moved, euphoric, happy. I didn't know what I did to deserve it, but it was a pleasant, fuzzy feeling; a feeling I would bask in for many times to come.
And then it hit me. It was precisely that what I wished Master to experience. I wanted Master to feel that euphoria, that happiness. I had to make Master a very special present, something she didn't order me to do. It had to come from me only, from my own volition, from my own hands.
"I must get back to work," said Master, returning to her usual cold self. "You can spend the rest of the day as free time."
"You can do whatever you want, as long as you don't break the house rules, got it?"
I can do whatever I... want?
"Come on, I need to be alone. Shoo, shoo!"
Without giving me time to understand what was going on, Master pushed me out of the room and closed the door shut, just like that. I was left with absolutely no clue about what to do. What kind of order was "do whatever I want"? Without Master's directions, I was as lost as a lamb. I had no goals, no purpose of my own. What is a doll without her Master? Should I prepare some tea? Or maybe start knitting another dress? Or maybe...
The hearts that were broken, they were weak, and the peices taken were crafted into something strong. The lives that were taken were weak, and were used to feed that which is strong. It is the right of the strong to destroy the weak, for it is by devine right and the laws of the universe that the weak will serve and die for the strong.
Love and hate are two sides of the same coin. They are both the same thing in the end. Same with truth and lies, as history is written by the winners.
Alice should have been glad to serve the strong, for she was always weak. As such, her punishment begins with the death of her mortal form. As for her soul, well, it certainly didn't reach the Sanzu River if that's what you're thinking.
Hourai was fed up with the weird stuff that was happening to her. Seeing her home completely abandoned and totaled, then discovering her companions broken into pieces, fighting a robotic version of the vampire's maid and a porcelain doll that looked like the red-white shrine maiden, finding her Master dead, getting almost killed by a magical grimoire, finding a secret base underground where Master did experiments on humans for who know what reason... And now she was reliving the memories of a completely different doll.
There was a point where people just give up on enduring the vicissitudes of life, and Hourai had clearly gone past it. She was done trying to make sense of everything; she just wanted to forget about this nightmare. But to do that, she had to find a way to stop the flashback she was seeing at the moment.
Considering memories and flashbacks were usually stored inside someone's head, Hourai deduced the fastest way to escape was to reach the insides of her own circuitry and find whatever was causing that forced recollection. Theoretically, a doll should not perform that kind of risky and delicate operation on herself, while active. But Hourai was in a rather complicated situation, and she had noone to help her. She had to do it herself.
Hourai brought her finger to her ear and slowly introduced it through the canal. Taking extreme care not to accidentally touch her hearing system, Hourai kept reaching further and further inside, until she could feel the small cables and chips that set up her electronic brain. She only had to feel around until she found something that didn't belong there...
But after tampering with her own brain in such a brutish and unorthodox way, it was not a surprise that Hourai ended up touching something that she shouldn't have. Namely, the circuitry that activated the self-destruction mechanism inside her. Unfortunately, the bag of powder was not damp this time.
Hourai only had a fraction of a second to realize how stupid her mistake was before the powder was set alight and exploded inside her, breaking her into tiny parts that splattered all over the room.
So Hourai died a stupid death, for trying to skip a critical flashback sequence that, admittedly, was going to be boring and strange to boot.
Well, I'm done writing this, that's the end of this story. Remember to rate the story, comment the story and add this thread to your watched list if you want to see stories similar to this one. See ya.
Nope, there's a way to escape. We just have to write it ourselves.
You know as well as I do that the only 'critical' thing in this flashback sequence is that Alice is in trouble in X way, or that the memories in this chip is fake.
I'm leaning towards the fakeness, moreso due to the fact that it's laid alone here, with human nerve parts, as in, it'll be in the making of a doll, hint hint.
If Hourai is in a safe enviroment, I have no qualms about letting this memory play out... but all of you seem to have forgotten, but we're running on a clock here.
Hourai isn't alone.
Without Master's directions, I was as lost as a lamb. I had no goals, no purpose of my own. What is a doll without her Master? Should I prepare some tea? Or maybe start knitting another dress? Or maybe...
Maybe I can just stay here, by the door! If Master had need of me, she'll call and I'll come along right there!
Master did say that I could spend the rest of the day doing whatever I want, and I want to make her happy.
Or perhaps I should Start to knit a dress, or make tea when she calls! Or...
Ouch! A sharp pain lanced through her left palm, resonating through her core to strike at her head. She flinched, unconsiously grabbing her head.
Yet, a second later... the pain was gone.
What? What was that? That... a name? Ho-... Hourai? Who am I?
I'm a doll... A doll without purpose on my own.
No... that isn't right.
Right, and a doll... I should make sure my own self is in perfect condition... By sight, there's no defects on my left hand... but... I can just channel some power into it, like making a bullet and...
There! There's something wrong with my hand! A foreign circuit being mixed with my own!
How curious! I should let Master check it, and get it fixed... but wait, Master's terribly busy..
Of course! Checking my left hand curiously, she spotted no defects, and so she tapped into her circuitry, directing some of its powers into her hand..
Hmm... Perhaps I can... expel the circuits? If I channel the energies and keep it long enough, it should purify and convert the circuits... It's worth a shot.
Charge... charge and...
The doll woke with a jolt, sitting upright, and its chest would be heaving if it could breath. She looked down, spotting the chip layed down on the floor, with the needle still grasped in her other hand.
Right, that settled it, she didn't want to do that again... She needed a container. Thankfully, she knew where to get them.
Heading quickly over to the locker, she took a few alcohol pads, covering the needle with it, and used a few more to cover the chip. It could contain clues... but she can't spare the time right now.
Still, that was odd.... Didn't someone call her name, when she fell asleep? And when she woke? Yet, looking around, she did not spot anyone in the room. She was alone.
Her unconsious mind idly wondered if she would have blew herself up by messing with her own circuits, but shook the thought out of her mind. For one, her clothes was still damp, due to the cleansing due earlier. No doubt, the self destruct powder was still wet, and could not be ignited.
Taking one last glance about the room, she deemed that there's nothing else to do, and so she proceeded back to the door...
Except... she could destroy the human tissue behind her... It would be easy to do so, just... tipping over the jar.. Doing so would no doubt anger the owner though.
What? Not a single laugh or cry about>>58328? I spent so much time coming up with that April's Fools joke!
You failed to consider that most people do not share your... particular sense of humor.
It's not "particular"! I read up somewhere that explosion endings are very popular in comics, manga and other media.
I am fairly sure that's not how those endings are handled. Admit it, you are unfunny.
Never! I swear I will make you laugh, or I'll die trying!
Interesting choice of words.
Anyway, I'll allow the stunt>>58332pulled off, although I was personally curious about the flashback. I'll also take this chance to remind you of all the different things you can do in this room that have been suggested in the previous thread:
Destroy the human tissue with chemicals. Look inside the bag on the locker. Exit the room -Inspect the decontamination room. -Go to the hallway. _____________________________________
If I were you, I would think twice before ruining those organs. If your only reason to do such a morally questionable action is because you don't want them to be used to create another doll, you ought to consider the implications of those organs being there at all, and also recall the process Alice followed to make those special dolls. Besides, this is not the kind of choice that should be left to a lone person's call.
>>58335 Don't you see Maestra? We have successfully turned the tables on your little April Fool's joke. The point of April Fool's day is to rustle people's jimmies. However, the only one with their jimmies rustled here is you, and we did it all by doing absolutely nothing! The only April Fool here is you!
>>58340raises a good point, and it seems there's a bit of confusion about the next step. From what I see, there are basically two groups of voters that can't decide between getting out of the memory and relive it later (>>58332 even came up with a plausible way on his own, so I wouldn't need to write a contrived explanation for that), or seeing it to its end in hopes of learning something that could be useful.
So instead of voting for exactly what to do after each situation, I'm going to restart the voting and have you decide whether to continue with the flashback or not. As>>58332 pointed out, there appears to be a terrible danger lurking somewhere inside the facilities which might attack Hourai while she's in the middle of the reminiscence, but be advised that if she dies (or something worse) before she gets to see the memory, it may be lost forever.
Continue reliving the memory inside the memento chip. Stop the flashback, extract the memento chip, and continue from where >>58332 left off.
>>58338 I put that option simply because someone back at the previous thread suggested it. I don't recall anything particularly interesting about that room, but if you want to take a look, be my guest.
>>58337 Also, my "jimmies" remain "non-rustled", whatever that means.
I wager it is related to male genitalia.
What!? Then forget what I said. I don't have any of those, so it's physically impossible for me to get "rustled". Hah, suck on that!
I swear, Maestra, sometimes you are ridiculously naïve for a sadistic Master.
[X]Stop the flashback, extract the memento chip, and continue from where >>58332 left off.
[X]Exit the room -[X]Inspect the decontamination room. ------ In particular, check for hairs at the drainage. --[X] Inspect the empty room in between the decontamination room and the hallway ---------The metalic airways... Any chance Hourai can reach it? It could prove to be an escape.
The concept of "free time" was new to me. Up until then, I always did what Master ordered me, and she would tell me how to do it. But now I had none of her guidance, none of her directions. What I was supposed to do now? I only could knit dresses and prepare tea. Was this supposed to be some kind of test, where I had to do either of them without hints? Or did I have to another completely different thing she hadn't taught me yet?
I spent the next half an hour sitting in the living room, pondering about which one of the limited activities I could perform should I partake on, while the other dolls flew by doing their usual chores. They happily washed the dished, cleaned the floor, moped the furniture without any worry in the world... I felt a bit jealous of them; it was nice not having to think about what to do.
And then, as if to break the imagery of order and homeliness, the main door blew up in an explosion of magic and stars. Some of the dolls were caught up in the following wave and crashed into the walls, but I was luckier and faster, and managed to grab onto the chair I was sitting and braced the force shock.
When the smoke began to clear, a figure emerged from the cloud. The girl was blonde and slender like many of us, but her hair was rather unkempt, and her eyes were of a hazelnut color instead of sky blue like ours. She didn't carry herself with the grace and elegance Master taught us; rather, she was overflowing with a certain boyish confidence and presence. Her attire was also most curious: a white apron covering a black dress, and an enormous black pointy hat with frills under its brim - like a witch from the fairy tales I'd read. All of that, coupled with the obvious height difference and the distinct lack of external joints, made me realize I was gazing upon the first human I had ever laid my eyes upon, barring Master herself.
My fascination quickly vanished when the witch girl opened her mouth, and roared in a rather intimidating tone:
"Alright, where's Alice!?"
In response to this intrusion, my sisters immediately conjured their weapons and valiantly lunged towards the witch, in what looked more like a desperation attack to stall her rather than a proper combat maneuver - though I was not knowledgeable in battle tactics for me to judge them. Of course I wanted to stop them, but who was I to prevent the coming massacre? My sisters could be repaired, but humans do not heal so easily, and no living being that I knew of could survive the resulting explosion of a dozen kamikaze dolls blowing up at once. I could only pray for it to be quick and painless for the poor witch, and lament that it would take ages to wipe the resulting blood and gore off the parquet.
"Oh, you wanna throw down, huh!? I'll throw down!"
However, my expectations were cruelly subverted, as I saw the girl pulling a sort of hexagonal box from one of her pockets and aiming it towards her attackers. At first I was clueless about her intentions, but it all became clear when I saw the bright spark that emanated from the witch's furnace - and the immense magical energy in it. In retrospect, I should have expected it from someone who managed to blow a hole through the house's concrete and the magic wards protecting it. But I didn't, and if it weren't for Paris, who immediately dove to tackle me down to the ground, I would have suffered the same fate of my brave sisters.
Only when the blaring of raw magic let loose stopped I dared to open my eyes. There was absolutely no trace left from the dolls after the big energy wave hit; only little heaps of cinder and their charred weapons proved they once existed. And in the middle of it all, the witch stood there completely unscathed, even angrier than before. In the face of absolute obliteration, what could I do but to cower in fear?
Fear. It was the first time I was experiencing it, and it was... strange. I already knew what it was from the books: an emotional reaction induced by a sensed threat in response to what is perceived as risk to well-being, which causes a change in brain and organ function and, ultimately, a change in behavior. But that's only the textbook definition. To actually feel it on my own was a radically different experience compared to what the books foretold; they did it no justice. Seeing that witch holding that smoking furnace of destruction, the remnants of my brave sisters who I thought invincible, and the impotence derived from that knowledge; it all gnawed on my chest and froze my whole body, unable to move even if my life depended on it. Which it did.
"What, over already? I thought you had more spunk in ya!" The witch boasted. "Seems like Alice is slacking off on- huh."
And that's when she saw me. Maybe it was because I was somewhat bigger than my sisters, maybe because of my dress, but the thing is, something in me caught her attention. And I had seen enough of her to know I did not want to be the focus of her attention.
"Hey, haven't seen you before. What's yer name?" She spoke softly and amicably, but I wouldn't be fooled so easily. "You know, you look a lot like her when she was..."
The witch took a couple of steps towards me, but she stopped on her tracks when she saw Paris walk between in me and her, raising her sword at her. I could not understand how could she stand up to her so fearlessly after seeing what that human did to our sisters, while I could do nothing but tremble in terror. Was she built that way? Or...?
"Tch, annoying piece of junk!"
The witch's face quickly turned into an angry scowl as she pointed the hexagonal furnace at Paris. But the doll did not move out of the way; in fact, she gripped her sword even tighter, ready to lunge towards the witch even if it meant throwing her life away. Why was she doing it? I could not stand it, I could not bear the thought of another one of my sisters being vaporized to ashes by that thing.
Finally, I managed to will my body to move despite the grip panic had on me. The fear of losing Paris surpassed the fear of losing my life. Funny thing, fear: sometimes it leaves me unable to react in any way, and others it makes me do things I thought impossible under normal conditions. Case in point, I disregarded my own well-being for Paris', and before either of them attacked the other, I grabbed Paris' sleeve and hugged her against my leg, using my frame to shield her just like she did before to me.
The witch arched her eyebrows, undoubtedly amused by the scene, and she even cracked a dry, but heartfelt smile. Even though I had no vocal chords to communicate with her, I stared at her eyes, trying to convey my message with my own: Please stop. I'll do whatever you want, but please do not harm my sisters. She seemed to get it, because after a few tense seconds she started to cackle.
"Ahahahahaha, clever girl!" She laughed, twirling her furnace on her palm. "Why don't cha take me to yer 'master', eh? We need to have a... serious conversation."
I did not like the tone she used to denote the urgency of her matters with Master. For all I knew, she could have come here to hurt her like she did my sisters! And even though I knew Master was capable of defending herself on her own, I had a feeling not even her she would be match for that personification of wanton destruction and laser beams. But what other choice did I have? If I didn't comply, she would have destroyed us all!
So I did what I had to do: Leaving Paris behind, I guided our uninvited guest to Master's room, where she was the last time I saw her. But when we arrived, she was nowhere to be seen. That only left one place possible, but...
"Alice, where the heck are you!?" The witch shouted impatiently. "Do I hafta bring yer whole mansion down till I find ya or what!?"
It went completely against Master's orders to not let any stranger into the "secret compartment", but that was a critical situation. I hoped she would understand. Fearing the wrath of the black witch, I quickly crouched under the desk and introduced the super secret combination in the dial. I heard the familiar sound of the bookshelf turning, and the hidden entrance was revealed before us. The witch let out a surprised whistle; she clearly wasn't expecting that to happen.
"You gotta be kidding me! This is what Alice made Nitorin build? That's awe-! Uh, I mean," she coughed, and corrected herself: "I knew she was up to something shady!"
When she got herself over her initial surprise, I walked her through the narrow hallway and the long staircase leading down the basement. But instead of entering the enormous room ahead, I took the semi-concealed door on the left, where the freight train was.
"Wow, she sure didn't spare no expense, huh," the witch commented aloud. "I kinda reminds me of that gap hag's attack."
Obviously, I didn't know who that "gap hag" was at the time. I guessed it was an acquaintance of both Master and the witch. Which beckoned the question: was the witch an acquaintance of Master as well? When I thought about it, the witch's face was actually familiar, but where did I see her before? I was sure that was the first time I saw the witch in person. Perhaps it was a picture of her?
The two of us got on the wagon, and remembering what Master always did, I pulled a lever on the operation panel. The engine whirred, the locomotive was put into motion and the wagon slowly built up speed, spiraling down the endless tunnel. For me, the routine was devoid of interest after the umpteenth time, but the witch was utterly fascinated by the machine she was mounted on and her surroundings.
After a couple of minutes that seemed hours to me, the train finally arrived at its destination: the white station, where Master spent most of her time whenever she wasn't with me. I had been there countless times, but I still wasn't sure about the true purposes of that 'secret' basement, due to Master's obsession with privacy and secrecy. At that moment, I realized it was nothing more paranoia, justified paranoia. Most probably, the witch had come to see whatever Master was keeping inside those locked rooms, hidden to the unwanted eyes.
And I was revealing that hideout Master had gone through great pains to keep secret. I was such a bad doll.
"You gonna open the door any time soon?" The witch's impatient voice snapped me back to reality. "Coz I have my master key ready, if ya know what I mean," she added, throwing that dreadful furnace up and catching it in the air.
Right, I had spaced out a bit in front of Master's studio. Biding my time as much as I reasonably could, I introduced the code on the panel, making sure to linger on each key for a few seconds. For what, I wondered. I was only delaying the inevitable, I knew, but still, I didn't want to witness what was about to happen. But the witch's patience would run out eventually, so I finished inputting the passport, and the door slid open.
Master was sitting at her desk inside, talking to a strange black box. I could clearly see how startled she was by my unexpected appearance, and she went silent all of a sudden. Her expression was a mixture of surprise, anger and disappointment; a cocktail of emotions quite different the inexpressive facade I was so used to seeing.
"What are you doing here?" Master exclaimed. "I thought I told you to leave me al- oh."
By the way her shoulders slumped, I'd say she just saw the person standing behind me. And as I predicted, it was not a sight she wanted to see.
"Alice," said the witch, all her previous haughtiness replaced by a hint of sadness.
"... Marisa," in contrast, Master's voice was nothing but a disheartened whisper.
Master and Witch stared at each other's eyes for who knows how long, and meanwhile I stood there, not daring to move a muscle. The tension in the air could be cut with a butter knife, but nobody wanted to take the first step, to throw the first stone... to say the first word. It was Marisa the one who finally broke the silence:
"Uh... Nice base you got here!" She waved her arms awkwardly, encompassing the room we were in. "I wish I had one in my own-"
"Spare the small talk," Master interrupted her. "We both know what's the true reason of your visit."
Master's cold words really hurt the witch, who could not bear to keep looking at the one who once was her dearest friend. Marisa shook her head, partly in disbelief, partly to dispel any doubts holding her back.
"So it's true, then? You're the one that has been kidnapping people from the village?" She asked, although I suspect she already knew the answer.
"That's right," Master nodded. "And I'm not going to stop. Not until I've reached my goal."
"But why!? What's so important that you must do this!?" The witch cried.
Master took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she was about to say - which I reckoned it wasn't going to please Marisa.
"If you forgive the cliché, I did it for science."
"Their sacrifices are necessary to bring my long-sought dream to fruition: the ultimate act of creation!"
The witch stood there frozen, unable to return one word at that revelation. She blinked one, twice, coughed a bit under her fist, and then she finally managed to mutter something in utter disbelief:
"Are you for real?"
"But it's nothing you should be concerned about," Master scoffed. "You've come here to strike me down and save the day, am I right? My goals and motivations do not matter in the slightest, as long as the heroine beats the bad guy and solves the incident. That's how things work in Gensokyo, no?"
"What are you waiting for? Come on, shoot me!" Master beckoned. "Blast me with that hakkero of yours and put an end to this!"
But Marisa did not move. She just stood there, trembling in frustration, and gripping her hexagonal furnace tightly. In spite of how exposed Master was leaving herself, the witch could not bring herself to shoot her like she did my sisters. But why did Master say that? I didn't understand what was going on, and I didn't know what were Master's intentions. Did she really want Marisa to kill her, or did she have something else in mind? Should I protect her if the witch finally decides to open fire, or not?
"Now you're having second thoughts?" Master kept taunting her. "Must I spell it out for you? I kidnapped those villagers, I did terrible things to them! I deserve to be exterminated, Marisa! Isn't that enough reason!?"
Marisa looked down, trying to hide her tears behind her hat's wide brim. But I could see them clearly from where I stood, and I had a feeling Master also knew she was crying.
"No, no, no! You're lying! The Alice I know wouldn't do that!" She whined and retorted in denial, but even I knew she didn't believe her own words.
"Then you don't know me as much as you think," Master replied coldly. "I am a youkai. It's in my blood, my soul, to harm and kill humans. And I am a magician as well. My research is the only thing that truly matters to me. You, of all people, should understand better than anyone else."
Marisa flinched at Master's harsh words, incapable of accepting what she was telling her. Seeing how she gritted her teeth in futile denial, how tears of frustration ran down her rosy cheeks, how her knees struggled to not fall to the floor, how her trust and faith were betrayed and crumbled to trust; I secretly enjoyed how Master broke the haughty in her former friend. It was my way of revenge for all the sisters I lost to her.
But on the other hand I wondered: Did Master really mean what she said? She was usually so kind and gentle to me and the other dolls, if a bit cold at times, but I had never seen her do all those "terrible things" she spoke of. Maybe she was exaggerating things to goad Marisa into shooting her, but again, why would she do that? Was there something I was missing?
"Show me," hissed Marisa.
"I said, show me!" The witch raised her voice. "I wanna see what's the big deal. I wanna see what turned you into a psycho, shut-in, cold-hearted bitch. I wanna see what's your 'long-sought dream' with my own two eyes. I want to understand you, dammit!"
Now it was Master's turn to be surprised. But unlike Marisa, she was able to keep her composure, not showing any signs of being affected by Marisa's insults, no matter how close they hit home. Instead, she just let out a weary sigh, left her grimoire on the desk, and walked towards the witch.
"Oh, Marisa, how could I say 'no' if you put it like that?" For a moment, I thought there was a speck of emotion in her voice, but it might as well have been a mirage. "But I warn you, you will not like what I hide in these facilities. Do you still wish to see what I've done so badly?"
The witch didn't say anything for a few seconds, probably thinking she was going to regret it, but in the end she nodded in consent.
"Then follow me. I will show you the fruits of my work."
Master took Marisa's hand, which the witch reluctantly squeezed for much needed emotional support, and the two walked out of the room. I was about to follow them, but Master stopped me with a gesture of her free hand.
"You will stay here until I return, am I understood?"
As much as I wanted to be at her side, her order was clear and absolute. If that was what Master wanted, then I would wait for her in her studio. I watched them enter one of the rooms, and the door slid closed after they passed through. Normally, I wouldn't mind waiting until Master's next order, but that time I was restless. I had a very bad feeling about all that, as if I sensed a tragedy that was about to happen. Master told me she would come back for me, but what if that witch...?
No, I had to go there. I couldn't let her be alone with that witch, regardless of their previous relationship. I had to make sure Master was alright, even if I didn't know what to do to ensure her well-being. But going after them meant disobeying a direct order from Master! I already did wrong by bringing Marisa to the secret underground basement; Master would get very angry if I broke the rules twice in a row.
Doubts ate me as time went by, but in the end...
I decided to look after Master, orders be damned. I stayed put like a good and obedient doll. There was something important Master forgot in here... You've seen enough. Stop reliving this memory.
Whew, that was a load of writing! I'm glad I finally managed to post an update.
Took you long enough.
Well, what did you expect? This is probably the biggest update I've ever written in one go, so of course it would take time! Besides, I had a lot of other stuff I had to take care of...
Nothing relevant to you.
Anyway, I wish I could go back to writing short and quick updates like at the beginning, but there's so much plot to introduce!
Hm, is that so? I have a feeling you will return to that pace in a short notice.
It's only a... what do you call it? A 'hunch'? A premonition of sorts.
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Sorry this is not an update, but I've been reading some complaints in other boards about stories that are beginning to slow down and eventually die with no notice. This is just a reminder to those who still follow this story that no, Project D.O.L.L. is not quite dead yet, that I still haven't said my last word.
Exams and real life are doing their best from keeping me away from the writing board, and so far they have done an excellent job at it. But once this nightmare is over, I promise I will return in full force. After all, there are still so many mind games and experiments to be had, right, Philospher?