Previous thread >>59947 Character blurbs: www.touhou-project.com/others/theater
There really wasn't much to the errand.
The library was almost entirely empty. With no upcoming exams and the senior class all but gone from the school, only those who were legitimately interested in reading stayed behind after class. In a modern society like ours, that meant just a handful of people sitting here and there. It also meant that I found the person I needed to talk to right away.
The girl with a soft and melodious voice smiled as she handed me the form I needed to fill out. I wasn't sure if it was out of habit or genuine politeness. Funny that I hadn't ever noticed her before. I didn't usually spend time with underclassmates but redheads tended to stand out. Still, I felt that there was something more than her than our routine exchange may have shown. Or maybe I was just hopeful. I guess I did prefer girls with a little devilish streak in them.
There wasn't much of a chance for small talk. I had what I needed and she made no effort to prolong the encounter.
I didn't get a chance to go on the offensive either. A tug at my arm cut that plan short quickly.
“Oh, it's been a while,” I said, failing to think of anything cleverer than that.
She silenced me with a finger pressed to her lips. Urging me silently to follow her, Patchy led me to one of the vacant study rooms at the back of the library. It was the kind of place that would normally be full of students poring over books so that they could do their assignments. Predictably, with the virtual end of the school year, there was no one around.
“I see you've moved up in the world,” she said flatly, closing the door behind her. It was almost eerily quiet in the small room. If it wasn't for the small window that allowed us to see into the library, I would have felt that I was in a different place altogether.
“How have you been?” I asked with a smile. No point guessing what she meant. She'd tell me soon enough.
“I did not figure you for a diligent student,” she said bluntly, “I was surprised to see that you were at the top of our grade.”
“Stuff happens. You do good yourself?”
“I was third overall,” she stated. “Perhaps I was too hasty in characterizing your type.”
“Oh, does that mean you're open to dating now?” I asked sarcastically. I had a feeling that if I didn't pipe in every now and again, she was likely to simply talk about whatever with no concern to what I thought.
“Then again, maybe not,” she said as a faint smile flashed across her lips. At least she couldn't say I was boring her. “Still, I wonder, what precipitated this meteoric rise? This is the first time I see your name in the top ten.”
“After you spurned my advances last time, I realized that my life was a mess. I studied all day and all night to impress you.”
“That would be somewhat sweet were it true,” she smirked. It was a small victory for human emotions. “I wonder if instead I should not repeat what we talked about last time. Regarding indiscretion. I am not one for unfounded speculation but others won't be as sagacious.”
“What's your point?”
“I'm telling you, as a friend, that you shouldn't stand out so much. Most students expect fair play. In matters both academic and those of the heart. Your new position in the student body will make you much more visible as well.”
“Oh, it's good that you still consider me a friend,” I said.
“It was you that was upset with me,” she said with a soft sigh. Another sign of humanity. “Perhaps my apology did smack of enough sincerity for your tastes. Despite my intent...” she paused and sighed again.
“What are you doing?” I asked as she approached silently. With a characteristic lack of bashfulness and almost mechanical precision, she leaned in close to my face. Standing on her toes, she planted a kiss on my cheek. A quick, almost anemic peck.
“I trust that's enough contrition?” she asked.
 Return the favor with an 'apology' of my own.  Push her to do a little better than that.
--- Please read >>60815 if you haven't since that outlines a few important things that'll happen from now on.
“I'm afraid not,” I shook my head, feigning dismay. What sort of question was that anyhow? It was weird to ask if she was apologetic enough. Though it seemed that she was serious about it, it seemed like the kind of thing that could be misunderstood.
Patchouli stared up at me blankly, looking like she had no idea of what to do next.
“Well, a more cynical person might say that a short peck like that just seems insincere. Especially since we have a more intimate relationship than that,” I said, reminding her of past events. “Surely a bit more of a… let's say, personal touch is required.”
“I understand,” she nodded seriously, as if it I wasn't talking out of my ass. “I'll do my best to convey my sincerity.”
“Good, good, it's good that we see eye to eye on this,” I nodded as well, trying to keep a straight face.
“Get ready then,” she said and began to lean in towards me again.
I closed my eyes. And waited.
“Ow!” I opened my eyes in surprise, feeling a sharp pain on my cheek. I rubbed my hand on the area instinctively and saw that Patchy was giving me a broad smile.
“You shouldn't be so cheeky,” she said, “I wasn't born yesterday. I can see through your crude attempts at manipulating me.”
“Did you have to pinch me?” I complained, “at least kiss it to make it better.”
With a small smirk, she waved her thumb and index finger in front of my face, as if threatening to strike again. “I trust there are no other outstanding issues between us?” she asked.
“No, I guess we're good. Apology accepted,” I backed off with with a roll of my eyes. Somehow it felt like I could have done better.
Patchy leaned in closer, whispering, “we're being watched in case you haven't noticed. It looks like you draw a crowd wherever you go.”
She was right. I tried not to be too obvious about it but, turning my head slightly to the side, I could see a certain redhead looking at us in a none-too-subtle manner. She was staring at us through the window, pretending that she was looking at a book taken from a nearby shelf. The book she was holding up for cover was upside down. And the flushed cheeks betrayed the contents of her mind.
“I don't mind being watched, and I suspect you're not too bothered about it either,” I whispered back. “I guess it's my reputation that matters more here, that's what you were saying earlier, isn't it?”
“The appearance of impropriety is more important than impropriety itself,” she said. “How you want to handle this is your call, no one cares about what I do.”
“At the press conference I'll tell them that you threw yourself at me,” I said with a suppressed chuckle. The idea of a political scandal appealed to me.
“I'll make sure to allege much worse behavior from you,” though laconic as always, she crowned her statement with an almost imperceptible wink.
 Wave to the girl and smile.  Give her something much more salacious to leer at.
While it wasn't very polite to stare, I wasn't just about to scare away the girl. She was a captive to the situation, probably thinking that something illicit was going on when the truth was we were just having a somewhat conventional conversation. At least for our standards. Truth be told, if our positions were reversed, I'd also be staring and wondering about what was going to happen next.
That's why I didn't want to disappoint.
“I'd be honored if you were part of my first scandal,” I whispered to Patchy with a stupid grin on my face, giving her ample warning of what was coming up next. I think she understood what I was about to do. She may have sighed in response but otherwise did not actively resist.
Like an octopus finding something interesting on the seafloor, I moved my arms around her, trying to find the best way to clasp on to Patchy. Fairly confident that I had it all figured out, I moved in, holding her tight against my chest. A wandering hand slithered down into uncharted territory, fulfilling a secondary objective.
I was sure that I could hear the excited gasp from the other side of the glass. After all, it wasn't every day that two students carried out a most sordid tryst at the library. My view was mostly restricted to the top of Patchy's head, but our little voyeur was surely able to see much more. I had flipped up Patchy's skirt and my hand threatened to grope what I imagined to be a most plump behind at a moment's notice.
I didn't want Patchy to snip at me again, acting too crabby, so I scuttled away and moved my hand elsewhere. I instead instead chose to set my bait in another fashion. I firmly held her back and moved so that my back was to the window before dipping her. Our spectator would have no idea where my hands were nor just what exactly our faces were doing. It was a suggestive enough action that an impure mind would go wild just thinking of what was really going on. We were, after all, pretty much mouth to mouth, hip to hip.
“Aren't you getting carried away?” Patchy asked dryly after a moment. “Your other hand is on my thigh. This is extremely suggestive. You can't just play around with my body at your convenience.”
“I'd be lying if I said I wasn't enjoying this,” I said with a smirk, “but you're right. This probably is more than enough of a show.”
When I came back up and let go of Patchy, the girl was no longer there. Whether she thought things were getting too heated or she realized that she had better things to do than peep, she had vanished without a trace. A part of me was disappointed. I wanted to see the look on her face. Must have been quite a sight.
“And here I thought you were going to press me up against the glass,” Patchy remarked. That was far dirtier than I had contemplated.
“I didn't think you'd go for it,” I said, trying not to show just how stunned I was. “Ow!' I gripped my arm after she pinched me again.
“Don't get any foolish ideas now,” she chided, “your lascivious nature isn't particularly appealing to me.”
“I don't know,” I countered, arm still smarting, “I think that my roguish charms must have had some sort of effect on you. Otherwise you wouldn't even be bothering with me. You're the type of person to only study something if you think it's interesting. Therefore, I'm interesting to you.”
“...maybe,” she said flippantly, avoiding eye contact. That was a first for her. Maybe in my stupidity I was actually somewhat close to the mark?
“Oh, I know,” I pressed my advantage, “maybe you expect that at any moment things will work out like in a romance novel. I'll sweep you off your feet and we'll lose ourselves to carnal desire. They say that the earth shakes for every person while making love three times in their life, you know.”
I couldn't tell what she was thinking. She seemed smaller than usual, perhaps more vulnerable. But that was maybe my own wishful thinking. I felt that if I tried to reach out and hold her close, we would both enjoy it. And maybe it wouldn't be a simple joke.
>>60862 Yeah I know, it's just that it feels really explicit this time. It's probably because the hugging option wouldn't cross my mind in this situation, so him considering that feels way more personal
Like before, Patchy offered no resistance to my advance. I hoped that maybe she not only expected it, but welcomed it. As I held her, she rested her head upon my chest. The vaguely sweet smell of dried flowers drifted to my nostrils. It was almost like a subtle infusion made of oil and herbs or perhaps some sort of candle. At any rate, I wouldn't have figured that someone who seemed so stoic and distant could feel so soft and warm.
...I hadn't really noticed before when I was putting on a show, but her figure was rather fuller than what I expected. Her somewhat loose uniform belied the soft and curvy bits that I felt pressed against me. A happy surprise but one that made me increasingly uncomfortable . Was she just playing along like before? I wasn't sure what my intentions were. It was more than a joke to me, but I didn't know if it was the same for her.
“Sorry, I think I'm taking advantage of you for real now,” I said quietly, directed as much to myself as to her. My heart beat unsteadily, as if trying to decide whether to sprint or quit altogether.
“I noticed,” she mumbled.
“I should have asked first but I just couldn't help myself,” I explained, all the while not ending our embrace.
“It's not entirely disagreeable,” Patchy stated quietly. I couldn't see her face but I, perhaps optimistically, pictured girlish coyness embodied by a slight smile.
“I'm glad to hear that-”
“-however this may not be the best time for this,” she interrupted. “at least not with so many prying eyes.”
It was then that I noticed what she meant. Outside, where the girl had been earlier, a small group of students had gathered. From the stupid grins on their faces, I could tell what they were expecting. The show had to be put to a stop before things got too out of hand.
Even though the library was supposed to be a quiet area, we received a few hoots when we left the study room. Patchy said nothing, wearing a blank face that was pretty normal for her. I glared at the men and one of the freshmen actually flinched. I suppressed the urge to laugh and walked away calmly, acting like I had done nothing wrong. I guess it was handy to have a reputation for being a trouble student. I doubted even being on the student council or getting good grades would change that.
“What now?” I asked after we left the library.
“I ought to go home,” she stated, deliberately misunderstanding what I meant. Or so I wagered.
“Do you want me to walk you there? I've got nothing better to do.”
“I'll be alright,” she said, “besides which, I think that there's been too much indiscretion for one day.”
“I believe that at least some of which was somewhat agreeable,” I mimicked her speech patterns with a smile.
Once again caught off guard, I was rewarded with a pinch to the arm for the exercise of my roguish charms. Patchy sighed, looking at me with an ambiguous half-smile. She confessed, “it certainly merits further contemplation.”
And just like that, she was gone. I contemplated something entirely different, watching her walk away. Maybe it was just my imagination, but there was something more feminine to her gait. Or perhaps that was just the scent of her perfume still lingering in my nose messing with me.
I was still tired so I decided that I had had my fill of excitement for the day. I went home and spent a more or less average evening there. Alice joined us for dinner and afterwards she and Marisa went over to her place to spend time together. It was nice to see Marisa laugh and smile and make friends, I had to admit. Though she put on a strong front, memories of her despair were still etched into my brain.
We had the next day virtually off. With seniors graduating, were were left in a morning-long study hall since most teachers were attending the ceremony. Relatives of the graduating class were all gathered at there, including a few students from my grade. No doubt the headmistress would be giving a boring speech there before handing out diplomas.
The cherry blossoms had been in bloom for a while, since spring had come earlier in the year. A lot of my classmates had sneaked away to the courtyards and grassy areas of the school. With the weather clear, they were having a good time among themselves instead of pouring through textbooks.
Couldn't blame them. I wasn't going to sit still in a classroom on such a nice day either.
 See off the Seniors.  Take a stroll elsewhere on campus.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I approached the graduation ceremony. I hadn't shown up the year before so I wasn't prepared for the charged atmosphere in the hall. Though solemn in its proceedings and tone, there was a nervous energy coming from the assembled students. I stood off at the back and quietly observed.
I didn't really know the senior year. In fact, I didn't really know my own year very well since I kept mostly to myself. All I could say was that once or twice I had gotten into a scuffle with some of the guys but we weren't exactly enemies or anything. And the girls hadn't really given me the time of day. Which was a real shame. There were several pretty faces that would have been fun to chat up.
The ceremony was as I expected.
The homeroom teachers gave their motivational speeches and wished the graduating class good luck in the next chapters of their lives. Yukari sat off to the side of the podium, dressed smartly in formal attire. She looked like a respectable educator. No one would have believed me if I told them about my dealing with her. After the teachers said what they had to, Yukari stood up and calmly approached the microphone. Donning slim-framed half-glasses, she began to read off a list, calling one by one the graduating students. Homeroom teachers stood and handed diplomas as students climbed the stage and bowed.
After the last graduate had received her traditionally-packaged diploma, the headmistresses congratulated them all again and asked them to join her in singing our academy's anthem.
I hadn't expected so many tears. The ceremony ended with bowing and the students breaking off into groups to chat with proud parents and teachers. It became noisy and chaotic and I wasn't sure what to do next.
“There you are darling~!” all of a sudden a senior grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the crowd. I recognized the short girl. She was the girl I saw at the cultural festival with that other senior. She sported the same mischievous attitude as then, wearing a sly smile.
“Um...” I failed to understand what was going on.
“Darling, don't be mean, it's me, Tewi,” she smiled tenderly. Her short hair was as big of a mess as ever, the black strands flopping around every which way as she moved around. “I thought you weren't going to show up! I was getting worried,” she said with a pout.
“What-” I began.
But was cut off.
“Tewi!” A red-faced senior emerged from the crowd, “what's the big idea, disappearing all of a sudden?”
“I told you, you're a zero,” Tewi said with a large smile. “You and I will never be an item.”
“B-but I'll pay you all want if you-”
“Shaddup,” Tewi cut him off. “Can't you see I”m with a real man?” She ran a finger across my chest, as if to emphasize my manly appeal. “I don't care what you've heard, I don't want you nor your money. Now get lost before I ask my darling to beat you to a bloody pulp. He'll do it too, he's tougher than any loser in our year.”
“He doesn't look so tough,” the senior clicked his tongue, sizing me up. He didn't look so tough either. Wasn't a delinquent and I doubted he had ever been in an actual fight. His words were more of a way of saving face. Or maybe impressing the girl. “Tell you what, you come with me and from tomorrow onward your darling can have you as much as he wants. Wouldn't want him to have an accident and break a leg, now would we?”
“Please, he'd snap you like a twig before you got the chance,” Tewi egged him on, laughing. She slapped me on the butt, like I was livestock. “I think it's time that you gave him a warning, dontcha think, darling?”
“A punk like this isn't really worth my time, sweetheart,” I said, trying not to roll my eyes. I wasn't too comfortable adopting personas other people created for me. But maybe the situation warranted it. Even if I was just making assumptions. Then again, the way the petite girl had her hands all over me wasn't that bad a thing either. “Come on buddy, get lost.”
The senior huffed, “show some respect or you'll regret it.”
“I really don't want to break your nose on the day you graduate,” I said, shrugging Tewi off and approaching the guy. My voice dropped to a lower register as I lined up my knuckles. A few of the seniors that had previously been chatting away in groups stopped to look at us, as if sensing the tension in the air. “Last chance. There's a reason even the tough guys in your grade keep their hands off me.”
He didn't need to know that that reason was that I avoided getting involved with the punks in my grade too. Being a loner had its perks. Suika would say something like it was the 'code of the street', that sort of live and let live attitude that prevailed; so long as you weren't being flashy or disrespecting others you could go about your own business. Then again, she was the one that bought into all of that nonsense about being a badass to begin with.
“Come at me-” he began but did not finish his thought. In the time it took him to think of his smug rejoinder, I had acted. All it took was a single punch to get him to shut up. Only idiots went for hard targets full of bone, so I aimed for below the ribs in a spot I knew would hurt like hell and stun him. I wasn't part of any sort of martial arts club so the idea of fighting fair was completely alien to me. All that mattered was not getting the crap beaten out of you, so surprise attacks were fair game.
Suika would agree. She'd go as far as using a chain or pipe if need be, I was sure.
“I better not see you anywhere near her again,” I said coolly, stepping back as he writhed, clutching his stomach and mouthing what were likely profanities. The surprise of feeling that you had no breath in you was worse than the actual reality. Turning to Tewi, who watched the whole exchange with a grin, I said, “come on babe, let's go.”
She silently clung to my arm as we left the area. Once we were clear, by a few trees by the main path, she finally spoke up again, “that was great, kid! I knew someone as cute as you would help me get rid of that jerk.”
“What was that all about?”
“Just someone mixing up business and pleasure,” she said with a nasally laugh, “I don't think he'll be making that same mistake again anytime soon.”
“Don't sweat it!” she said, patting me on the back, “Important thing is that you're my hero and I owe ya one.” She casually tossed the cylindrical case with her diploma onto the grass and reached into her pockets. Finding a pen and a piece of paper, she scribbled down something and placed the note into my pocket directly. “If you ever feel like a date, gimmie a call,” she stated with a smile and a wink before picking her diploma back up.
“You don't even know my name-” I began to protest before being cut off yet again.
“Don't need to! You're cute and a nice guy, that's all that matters.” She lowered her voice to a whisper, “besides, you've seen me at my most intimate, so I feel that names aren't really that important.”
“I-” couldn't get a word in edgewise.
“Mm, seems like you're getting all worked up about that,” she said with a giggle, patting my crotch gently, “and I'm tempted to do something about that. It's the least I could do. But-” she looked over my shoulder back at the path, “it seems that we can't do that here and now.” Flipping up her her skirt to show off her naked rear, she quickly added before scampering away, “happy thoughts for the road, can't stay here!”
“Ms Inaba!” Walking towards us in a hurry, Eirin called out loudly. She was in no state to be chasing after anyone, dressed like that. As she got to the grass she stumbled, no doubt because of her high heels.
Y'all are focusing too much on the 'catch' aspect of this. It's not the main action or objective. That's just a transitional element so the wording isn't so dry. The option is basically whether to stay with Eirin or go along with Tewi. Besides a stumble isn't a fall necessarily.
“Sorry Eirin,” I mouthed as I left her struggling with the challenge of walking on unsteady grassy terrain,. She wasn't liable to get very far.
Tewi was quite the sprinter. In the moment I had taken my eye off of her, she had cleared a grassy embankment and was weaving through some of the cherry trees off to the side of campus. I chased her as best I could, maneuvering around groups of students that had decided to picnic outside instead of doing study hall. Once she looked back and saw that Eirin was nowhere in sight, she came to a stop.
“I… didn't expect you to follow me,” she said clutching her sides, sounding winded.
“Strange thing for an ex-student to run away from a teacher. It's not like she could do anything to you,” I said, trying not to show that I was also out of breath.
“Yeah… well, I don't want to be nagged to death,” she said with a high-pitched laugh, “until the day I die I want to avoid being told what to do or being talked down to. Don't need any of that crap in my life.”
“Is that all that was?” I asked skeptically. “Well, whatever, I barely know you. Guess it's none of my concern.”
“Cute, nice and understanding, you're the whole package, aintcha?' she smiled and patted my butt again. “Would've been nice to have met you earlier. Boys in my class are mostly jerks.”
“Oh, don't worry, I've been told that I'm a jerk too.”
“Only by the girls whose hearts you've broken, I'll bet,” she said with a nasally laugh that sounded a little like 'nyehehe'. “Don't worry about it, I won't hold it against you if your affairs of the heart have been messy.”
I smiled. She certainly wasn't afraid to speak her mind.
Tewi waved her hand excitedly. She called out at a group of passing girls, “hey over here!” I got the feeling she never ever slowed down.
“Oh hello,” one of them said as she approached. It was Reisen. “Congratulations on graduating,” she said with a polite bow. Her friends left her, probably imagining that it'd be a long conversation.
“It's not a big deal, anyone with a pulse can make it out,” Tewi said with a laugh .”How've you been? Ready to be a senior?”
“I hope that I'll manage… especially around exam time.”
“You'll do fine,” she reassured her and began to explain how there were more important things in life than exams and the associated pressure. Reisen caught my gaze but was too polite to interrupt Tewi. The smaller girl was too wiley not too notice. She cozied up to me like she had with the senior from earlier and outright asked, “hey Reisen, you two know each other?”
“Ah, yes, we've spoken a couple of times,” Reisen said wit ha smile. “And we've also played at the arcade together.”
“Ohoho~” Tewi teased, “so you two have that sort of relationship, eh?”
“Um, I don't know what you mean!” Reisen played dumb, but she really wasn't very good at hiding her emotions. She was flustered and avoided eye contact, tugging at the hem of her blouse as if to try to stretch it to cover her entire body.
Tewi was merciless. She clung to me as tightly as she had before and, without drawing attention to it, stealthily moved my hand from my side, up her skirt and on her behind. As we were both facing Reisen, she had no idea that my hand was there. “Don't tell me she's your main squeeze?” she asked me, blatantly telling me to grope her freely. She pressed my fingers into her flesh before moving her hand back forward, just in case I didn't understand.
There was a surprising amount to squeeze back there, given her petite frame. There was a firmness to it, a well-toned sensation that was surely the result of regular physical activity. After watching her sprint and how she moved about around me, I was convinced that being lithe was an indisputable quality of hers.
Tewi didn't really expect me to answer her question. “Mmm, so things between you haven't gotten hot and heavy yet?” she asked Reisen, with a wide grin on her face. She seemed to enjoy having me fondle her. I could feel her body shudder a little as I traced a line up her thigh.
“You're misunderstanding… Arc and I...” Reisen protested but was cut off by yet another few lines full of innuendo. The poor girl was red in the face, burning up at all the indecent questions Tewi asked her.
“Hmmm, well, maybe I am imagining things,” Tewi finally relented her assault. “If that's the case though, maybe I'll just steal him for myself. You wouldn't mind, would you?”
“What's that? Can't hear you. You'll have to speak up.”
“We're not… I mean, so… I guess it's not...” Reisen looked to be on the verge of tears.
Tewi laughed loudly, swatting away my hand without the other girl noticing. She walked up to her and gave her a hug, “I'm just teasing you, you poor girl. Don't take it so seriously. I'm sure our friend here thinks you're pretty cute and is just waiting for an excuse to ask you out.”
“Uh, well,” it was my turn to get cut off again.
“Well, I'm not going to interfere in this budding romance. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. I'll just have fun with things like I always do.”
“That's not really why...” Reisen was interrupted.
“Have you two even kissed yet?”
“No!” Reisen denied emphatically, clearly at her wits' end.
“Well, do you want to?”
“That's not really something you can just ask all of a sudden...” Reisen replied.
“Sure you can,” Tewi said with a nod. “Watch,” she turned to me, “would you like to kiss her?”
“See? It's an easy thing to admit,” Tewi said with a laugh. “You should try being more honest with yourself, otherwise you'll lose out in life. As a guy it's only natural for him to want to kiss cute girls.”
“I-” once again, I couldn't get another word in edgewise. Tewi only paused when it was convenient for her.
“Well, I'll ask again, I guess, do you want to kiss him?” Tewi put Reisen on the spot.
“...” Reisen didn't answer.
“Fine, be boring,” Tewi sighed. She shook her head and walked on over to me. With a sly smile, she said, “I guess you won't mind if I help myself then.”
“!?” I should have seen it coming. With a fearless hop, Tewi jumped up on me and wrapped her arms around my neck and her legs around my torso. Instinctively I grabbed her from below, to avoid being choked. It took all my concentration not to stumble and fall flat on my ass. That's why I was completely open to the inevitable. She kissed me forcibly, roughly penetrating my mouth with her tongue. The soppy sounds of lips and saliva meeting and being churned by tongues echoed out.
Putting aside the shock factor, Tewi was a pretty good kisser. She seemed responsive to my needs and adjusted her movements accordingly. It was an intense moment and I even forgot that I needed oxygen to live until she finally pulled away, relenting with a tiny gasp. She followed up with a quick peck on the lips and let go of me. I did the same and gently let her down.
“It's really not a big deal,” Tewi continued as if nothing had happened, smiling at Reisen. “Being too stubborn is a bad trait in a woman. Men like the thrill of the chase but nobody likes a prude either.”
“Well-” Reisen began.
“I see that words aren't going to convince you of anything,” Tewi said with an exaggerated sigh. And then, she did something even more surprising than kissing me. She assaulted Reisen, giving her the same treatment she gave me. I couldn't believe my eyes. She held both of Reisen's hands, pushing back with force the feeble attempts to get her off of Reisen. I had no doubt that the shock was what mostly kept Reisen in check as the larger girl could, if she really tried, simply push her away. Or at the very least, move her head away.
As she pulled away, I could see that Reisen didn't quite understand what happened. A trail of drool ran down from the corner to her mouth, shimmering all the way down to her chin. With a self-satisfied giggle, Tewi stated, “now you've kissed him indirectly through me. It wasn't a big deal at all.”
“...” Reisen was zombified, staring out at Tewi blankly. It was all she could do for almost a whole minute. All of a sudden she closed her eyes and opened them, as if finally coming to her senses. Even her ears became reddened as a result. Her gaze turned downwards, it seemed like she was doing her best to avoid eye contact with both me and the smaller girl.
“Mm, I wonder if I broke something?” Tewi said waving her hand in front of Reisen's face. The latter wouldn't budge from staring at the ground. Turning to me, she said, “well, I think I better have a long calm talk with her somewhere else. If I know her at all, she'll be really upset with the both of us when the initial shock wears off. Come on dear,” she grabbed Reisen's arm, “I'll walk you home.”
And just like that they were gone. I, too, was confused but more than that, still excited about what had just happened. It looked like I wasn't the only one. A few furtive looks from the few people that had noticed the exchange said everything that needed saying.
There really wasn't a point going back to class, I felt.
 Head into town alone.  Find Suika and skip the rest of classes.
-- Keep on voting, we need to get even faster if at all possible while we have the opportunity.
And with the tie-break, I'm calling and writing now. With my current schedule I think I could manage at least three updates per day, so it's really contingent on you guys checking in more often and voting at this stage. Dunno how long that'll last but I want to make the most out of the opportunity.
>>60926 She was introduced like 3-4 threads ago though.
It was too early for anything truly fun to be happening in town.
Since it was a little past lunchtime when I made it to the center, I took the time to grab a bite to eat. A simple beef bowl was enough. I kept it simple and didn't bother to spring for the extra garnishes. Things were a little crowded with all the office workers that flooded the street to enjoy their brief lunch breaks. Still, the occasional attractive office lady made the hassle of dealing with crowds worth enduring.
The crowds thinned out as I wandered about, with no destination in mind. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Conflicting thoughts had me thinking about visiting Yuuka, going to the park, seeing a movie or just walking aimlessly for a while longer. As inertia was one hell of a thing to get over, I ended up walking for a long time without making up my mind.
I ended up in a commercial district that wasn't too far from where Suika lived. Mostly small buildings with at most three to four stories. There were few alleys as well and instead smaller one-story shops were nestled between the larger buildings. These smaller shops were clearly older too. The wooden fronts and more traditional displays made me think that they were maybe the few stubborn holdouts from a bygone era who had refused to sell their property when the neighborhood was being redeveloped. If the city continued to develop maybe one day our own shop would have to make a similar decision about its future.
“I'm telling you, it's a waste of money,” I overheard a conversation between a trio of friends in front of one of these small shops. They all wore the uniform from our academy but I didn't quite recognize them. Must have been first year students. A long-haired brunette spoke to her friend, “you're better off writing a love letter than relying on that nonsense.”
“But she said that it would work if I tried it!” a girl with light hair that coiled into a series of drills at the sides spoke.
“You can't really trust these things,” the first girl said, “besides, I think you're not really ready to be dating anyone anyhow.”
“Who said anything about dating? I'm just interested in his body.”
“I-I-” the first girl was at a loss for words.
The third friend, a girl with short reddish hair, interrupted with a very direct question,”you're talking about sex, right?” With a careless giggle she added, “you've really gotten bolder this last year!”
“I didn't quite say that,” the second girl laughed, “it's a little embarrassing to talk about, actually.”
“Then let's not talk about it in public!” the first girl interjected, and grabbed both her friends by the arms. They scampered off, no doubt to talk about love and life over a couple of parfaits.
I examined the shop more carefully. The name was mostly faded from a large wooden plaque above the entrance, but an etching of a large bell was still discernible on the side. It seemed to be a bookstore. A sign at the small displayed said that it both rented and sold books old and new. It boasted that it carried rare folios, editions and texts in different languages. Mysteriously enough, it also had a sign which stated 'other literature-related services – inquire within'. The display itself had a mix of old leather-bound books mixed in with more modern pamphlets and coffee table books.
 Enter and take a look around.  Go somewhere else more fun.
The dry smell of old paper was noticeable even before I stepped into the shop proper. Inside, the intensity spiked even as the smell was diluted by the presence of air freshener. Given the massive stacks and multitude of shelves containing books in the shop, it was hardly a surprise. The interior of the shop was remarkably organized, just overcrowded. As the building was narrow, walking through the main aisle without accidentally brushing up against a shelf or stack was something of a challenge. I noted that the signs labeling subject matter in the sections of shelf were all crisply handwritten. For all the apparent chaos, there was definite care and logic applied to it.
A young girl stood behind a wooden counter at the side of the shop. She had noticed me immediately upon entry and was beaming a smile that looked far more authentic than the usual salesman's practiced article. “Welcome,” she said cheerily, “please look around as long as you like and if you need any assistance or have any questions, I would be happy to help out.”
A second look at her made me suspect that she was at least a year or two younger than I was. I half expected her to be wearing a school uniform but instead she wore a yellow apron over a checkered kimono which looked neither traditional nor modern. Her light-shaded reddish hair was worn a little above should-length and boasted twintails that were adorned with tiny bells on top. She seemed to eagerly study me as well with an almost infectious smile and energetic eyes.
“Hmm,” she cocked her head slightly to the side, “I get the feeling that this costumer is on the lookout for something besides a normal book. A translation, perhaps? If you have a rare book that you can't make sense of, we can translate it or even buy it.”
“Oh?” I was curious how she figured that was what I was in for, “how do you figure I have something rare that needs translating?”
With a bright smile, she replied, “the look you were giving me was one wondering if I had the necessary skills to help you out. I can assure you that I've yet to encounter a book that befuddles me. I'm a specialist, you see.”
I smiled, amused by her interpretation of events. I decided to play along instead of telling her the more obvious truth – that I was just a normal guy looking at a cute girl. “This is your shop then?”
“No, my family's,” she said with a shake of her head, “but I help out whenever I can. I do most of the translation and transcribing that's needed. They're always telling me 'Kosuzu, you should go outside and play' but I'm happiest when I'm at the store with a rare book.”
Auntie would be more likely to state the opposite in my case. She hoped that I would help out more often than going outside and 'playing'. “What if I said I was looking for something interesting to buy instead? Is there anything that you'd recommend. Maybe something that you're into?”
“Ah!” she exclaimed happily, “I've just the thing!” She disappeared behind the counter momentarily before resurfacing with a trio of books. “I just recently finished reading this one,” she pointed to the first, a thin and flimsy bunch of pages that looked more like a poorly-made facsimile than a proper book.”
“'Strange Sights After Dark'?” I took a quick look, skimming over a few pages. It seemed to be about urban legends and paranormal activity in the city. It was written by a foreigner and some of the pages were nearly unreadable due to ink smudges.
“Not to your liking?” the girl wasn't discouraged by my mostly blank reaction. She showed off the second book, which was actually more of a scroll. It was handwritten and, judging by the use of language, was at least a century old. “This is an account of all the strange creatures that used to live in the area in the old days. Before we had electricity and this city was so big.”
“Not sure it's my kind of thing either,” I said. Her preferences were clear at least.
“Then maybe this last one will interest you,” she said, carefully putting away the first two before showing off the last book. It was a thick tome bound in faded red leather with golden words engraved on the cover. It used an alphabet I couldn't understand. “I've translated large portions of the text and have a series of notes inserted,” she said proudly. “You can learn about all sorts of strange spells and magical creatures with this.”
“It's a magic book?” I asked, opening it up to a random page. A large illustration of a pentagram and hooded figures standing around it was inserted between paragraphs. A separate sheet with a translation and notes, probably made by her, was inserted as well. “Summoning beings of light and darkness…?”
“Cool, isn't it?” she nodded with pride. “A customer brought this book in a while back and since then I've been busy deciphering what it all means. There's all sorts of magic in here.”
“Have you tried any of it yourself?”
“Mm, no,” she admitted with a laugh, “I'm not sure any of it is real. Besides, a lot of it requires rare items for it to work. I guess the only magic you'd be able to cast reliably would be the simple stuff. Like making your plants grow slightly faster or those that help with memory retention. Interesting though, don't you agree?”
“It certainly is something alright,” I said, not sure how any of that was useful even if it really did work.
“I showed this book to a group of girls that came in just earlier and one of them was interested in the spells that regulated people. Magic that makes people more honest temporarily or makes them realize their affections, that sort of thing. She almost bought the book too, to use the magic on a crush of hers.”
“I think they're better off writing love letters and confessing their love in a more traditional way,” I said with a chuckle. “I doubt spells and potions can make much of a difference.”
“If you like, I can rent the book out for a week so you can see for yourself,” she said. It looked like she was a bit curious herself as to the efficacy of the so-called magic featured in the book. “I'll include all my notes and you can report back if any of it worked for you. I'll even give you a discount off our normal fee since you'd also be doing me a favor.”
Renting the book proved more expensive than I anticipated. I probably couldn't afford to go out again anytime soon.
“Thank you, you won't regret it,” she smiled at me as she handed over a bag for the book. It seemed that she was genuinely happy that I had agreed to test it out. Either that or she was happy about bleeding me dry of money. As a fellow salesperson, I couldn't really tell which was the case. She passed me a pad of paper and told me to take down any notes should anything happen. “If you need anything else I've enclosed our business card as well as the guidelines for rentals. If you're late you'll incur a fine and it really adds up the longer you don't return the book. So please be timely!”
There was nothing else left for me to do in town. Or so I felt. Strictly speaking, that wasn't entirely true. Even without money there were a couple of things I could have done but, truth be told, I was curious about the book. I figured that I might as well start reading it as soon as possible.
I retreated to my room as soon as I got home and placed the book on my desk. I started reading from the beginning: long and smooth golden letters flowed on the first several pages. According to the notes it was a preface to the contents that warned the ready to take every precaution as the knowledge of generations of occultists had been cataloged there. A small misstep or careless utterance could doom the very soul of the reader in an instant. Graphic consequences were detailed, including torture by demons in vats of acid for eternity and the like. I found it hard to get into, especially as the notes were often not direct translations but explanations on context and postulated multiple theories as to what was really meant.
“It couldn't be helped -” the first note explaining the translation stated, “the archaic text is purposefully ambiguous and misleading. Sometimes features coded messages hidden in the very word order.”
I skipped ahead after struggling through the preface. The books had chapters with different topics in each section. Invocations, curses, dealing with magical entities, identifying demons were just some of the headings I saw. Intermixed with all of that were things such as commentary on sexual positions, the motion of the planets and their effects on fungal growth and, of course, a surprising amount of normal-looking recipes for hardy stews.
It took a couple of hours to find a few interesting parts that seemed doable given the materials available to me. I wasn't entirely clear on the supposed effects of some of those and others had foreboding illustrations warning of the possibility of unforeseen consequences on the unprepared. For instance, a spell that would transport the caster instantly to the nearest body of water could summon a flaming skull that would 'jeer at and inconvenience, through boorish behavior, the magician for a fortnight' if improperly cast.
I chose three spells that I could conceivably do without risking too much.
The first would make 'a woman dance dressed only in her convictions during the night'. The effects did not last long and it only needed the most basics of materials to carry out. It promised that 'the magician shall bear witness even if [he] does not seek [her] out. The joy of one becomes the joy of two.'
'Knowing the lightning that shall ignite the coals of lust' was likewise not too complicated. The effect was described as 'The caster shall come to know the impurities of mind and body both that affect the soul most predisposed into carnal folly with galvanized clarity' and though it required a little bit of time and a drop of my blood, it also didn't seem to hard to pull off. The effects weren't instantaneous, however.
Lastly, the final spell promised to 'bring the smile of a maiden to [he] who hath scorned [her] in the past. And thus it shall renew even the most withered of vines.'
It didn't get any clearer than that. At least for the standards of the book.
I could have gone for something more complex but it was probably best to start with the simple stuff. I didn't expect anything to work but at the very least I would be saving time by avoiding the more complex spells.
 'Dance'  'Ignite the coals'  'Renew the withered vine'
I prepared everything as the text said to. Or at least, how I thought it said I had to. There was something intrinsically silly about cutting paper into vaguely human-like shapes. I made a pair of them and one I marked with my name. I placed a hair on it and, on the other figure, I placed a ball of lint I found on the floor. I took a deep breath and tried to clear my mind and began chanting the words I had memorized. Both figures were folded a few times, then separated. The one with my name remained on my desk and the other was tossed out the window.
The book had said something about the wind carrying the magic to a distant place and then back again..
Nothing magical happened. The folded paper fell to the ground ungracefully.
I half-expected a chill up my spine or a spark of energy. Something to show that the spell had worked. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary as far as I could tell.
I waited for a while at my desk, passing the time by playing computer games but eventually I decided to go to bed. Even though it was the last day of the year, I'd still have to get up at a reasonable time to go to school. Alice and Marisa would be knocking on my door soon enough, trying to get me out of bed.
I woke up in the middle of the night. My throat felt incredibly dry. My brain protested that I could just ignore it but my body knew better. I had no choice but to go downstairs for a glass of water.
In the dead of night, every little footstep caused the floorboards to creak and groan loudly. I paced myself, mindful that I could accidentally wake others up. I was used to making the trip in the dark and so I didn't need to turn on any of the lights on my way down.
I felt instantly refreshed when I drank some water. However, my heart began to beat faster, as if I had just been jogging. Actually, more than that, as if I was still running. I sat down for a moment and took a deep breath. My heart rate slowed down after a moment but I still felt a surge of adrenaline that ultimately made me feel uneasy.
I drank some more water before deciding that I needed to stop by the bathroom before going to bed. I made my way up the stairs still feeling like crap.
I might have not been the only one awake at that hour. Marisa's door was ajar and the light was on. I had to pass in front of her bedroom in order to go to the bathroom. I tried my best to not make any noise, just in case she had fallen asleep with the lights on.
“Nng,” I heard her grunt just as I was passing her door. My eyes automatically looked into her room through the open gap and saw that Marisa was very much awake. As her room was the smallest in the house, most of the free space was taken up by her bed. And that's where she was, lying on her bed with her feet towards the door.
She was completely naked, her favorite pair of pajamas crumpled up and discarded by the foot of her bed. Her sheets were similarly neglected and discarded carelessly at the side of her bed. The only thing that remained atop the bed with her was her pillow, which she had placed below her and occasionally hugged as she writhed in place. Her breathing was quick, much like mine had been downstairs, and she struggled to contain gasps after every few inhalations.
“Mmmnnn,” she moaned softly as her fingers dug into her own flesh. She rubbed and caressed the spot between her legs, twisting and turning as she altered her tempo between slow and fast movements. Both her hands helped in the task, spreading and alternating between spots to maximize her own stimulation. The sound of damp flesh rubbing over itself coincided with her movements. I could not see her face well and, with all the turning she was doing, I couldn't get a good view of the action either.
I didn't dare risk opening the door a little more though I knew that would allow me to get a clearer picture of what was going on. Occasional glimpses of pink and gold contrasted with her milky skin.
I could see the tension build up in her body as she picked up the pace. Her toes curled some and her leg muscles became taught to an impressive degree. “Ahnnn, “ she gasped louder than before before a series of powerful spasms rippled down her body. Her muscles relaxed. Her hands withdrew and I her breathing got a little louder before she took a few deep breaths. “Crap, I made a mess of the sheets,” she said with a sigh.
If she heard me use the bathroom she might suspect that I had seen her. There was no choice but for me to retreat back to my room.
I didn't get much in the way of sleep after that. I got up and got dressed before the usual hour. When I went to get my book bag, I noticed that the paper figure I had left on my desk was missing. Instead, in its place there was a long strand of blonde hair. It could only belong to one person in the household. My heart skipped a beat. Was…? Maybe while I had gone downstairs? Or was it something else entirely?
All I knew was that seeing Marisa being her useful cheery self over breakfast was hard on me. Images of her previous state were fresh on my mind. It was almost like I could see through her uniform and picture what was underneath with perfect clarity.
“Is there something on my face?” she asked, taking a napkin to her lips. “You've been staring at me for the last five minutes. It's a little embarrassing.”
 Ask her if she noticed anything strange last night.  It's nothing. It's best not to keep Alice waiting.
“What's with you today?” Alice asked, whispering while Marisa was just out of earshot. We were climbing the hill to school at a relaxed pace. As per usual, she could tell with just a glance that I wasn't quite myself.
“Eh? Whaddya mean?” I feigned ignorance.
“You keep looking at Marisa and then spacing out. I don't really want to deal with you falling and hitting your head again.”
“I won't,” I said. At least I thought I wouldn't. If it was as bad as she said, I actually was likely to fall again. “Sorry, I just had a weird experience and I'm trying to work through it.”
“Cheer up,” Alice smiled at me, “this warm weather means there there'll be more miniskirts for you to enjoy.” With a sigh and a shake of her head, she added, “a stupid dirty laugh suits you better than whatever this is.”
“Yeah, okay, you're right,” I said with a nod. “I'll try not to think about it. Thanks Alice.”
“Hm, what are you two whispering about?” Marisa noticed that we had slowed down some.
“Nothing really,” Alice deflected with a furtive wink at me, “I was just calling him a pervert for caring about miniskirts so much.”
“I guess it is the start of that time of the year,” Marisa said with a nod, “it's only natural for him to be interested in such things. Maybe I should start wearing then around the house?”
“You'll overstimulate him and his brain will turn to mush. Finer mush,” Alice corrected herself with a giggle.
I didn't mind being the butt of the jokes for a while. A few of them made me smile too so that was something .It improved my mood and by the time we got to class, I was done thinking about things too much.
“Alright, listen up,” Mima was in a good mood and skipped over taking attendance. “I don't want to be here and you don't want to be here today. It's the last day of the semester and next week is one of those rare weeks where you don't have to do anything but sit on your butts at home and enjoy your youth. Us teachers still have to come in to prepare materials for the next semester but without any students to bother us, it's a cakewalk. So, anyhow, what I'm trying to say is that you should behave and it'll soon be over. And-”
“Hey Mima,” I just couldn't help myself and raised up my hand.
“Yeah?” she raised an eyebrow. At least she'd given up on getting me to use honorifics or a title.
“I don't really feel like behaving,” I said with a smile.
“Not surprising coming from a politician,” she said to a few snickers in the classroom, “and I'm more than ready to enable you today. Since most classes will likely be videos and self-study, you're pretty much free to go wherever you like. In fact, I was going to say that students should go to their clubs today and make plans for the next year. The videos are for the sake of cheeky students who opt out of club activities for some reason.”
“You're the best, teach,” I said with a chuckle, “I hope you've picked me to be in your homeroom next year.”
“Like I have a choice,” she said with a bitter smile, “I lost the draw again and no one else wants to take you anyhow.”
“I'll make it up to you, I'll bring you something nice to drink from our store. That way you'll have something interesting to do while marking papers.”
“Believe me, some of your papers have tempted me to drink before.”
The class laughed at our exchange. No one else dared being as shameless as I was with her. Nor did any of the other teachers sound so sardonic when dealing with me.
Our pleasant exchange concluded with the bell that marked the end of homeroom. About three quarters of the class left at once, off to their respective clubs. The cool kids and members of the stay-at-home club stayed in their chairs and began to chat among one another. The teacher for next period rolled in a TV and, as promised began to play a video. He wasn't very interested in us and instead opened up a newspaper and read that.
Clearly, there was no point in remaining in class. I would have gone off to see Alice at the gym but most of the sports clubs would be crowding the same area. I didn't really feel like big crowds.
 Swing by the photography club  Visit the art club  Head to the library
As expected, a lot of students used the pretext of being able to go to their clubs as an excuse to slack off. I passed by several clubroom and most of them were filled with people socializing rather than doing club activities. Without the seniors being around, the idea was to formalize the new power structure of each club before the recruitment period opened at the start of the next semester. As most clubs were small, a dozen members or under, power tended to be transferred to whomever the seniors picked before leaving. Voting was just a formality.
“We're in the courtyard,” a sign at the door of the art club said. Couldn't blame them for going outside. It was a nice day. Too nice to be cooped up indoors.
Half a dozen people were in the courtyard. Judging by the presence of easels and paints, art club members all. Most of them were sitting down at the nearby benches, quietly chatting by themselves. It was only a pair of members that were actually painting.
“You guys the art club?” I asked.
“Yeah, what's left of it,” a guy with long wavy hair replied. “About half our numbers were seniors. And they're gone.”
“I'm sure you'll manage to recruit more members next year,” I told him.
“We'll see about that...” he said with a sigh, “I'm not sure we'll attract a lot of people.”
I could see that that was a worry that reflected on all of the members that were overhearing our conversation. “Why's that?” I asked, “art is popular enough.”
“Well… talk to our new president and I think you'll understand.”
“And who might that be?”
“The girl on the left, the one painting that tree,” he said with a forced smile. He was trying his best not to sigh.
A girl with short hair and a a thin headband was concentrated painting the landscape before her. I observed quietly for a moment as she dabbed a brush in paint and made large broad strokes on her canvas. I had to say, she wasn't too bad at painting. Save for the bright clash of neon colors set admist a red sky and blue earth, it was a faithful representation of the tree in front of us and the hill that sloped down towards the city center.
“What is it that you want?” she asked without bothering to turn to look at me. Hers was a quiet voice but one that commanded authority in its measured pitch.
“I came to take a look at the club, that's all.”
“You've had your look, now leave us be,” she stated.
“Hm, what if I was interested in joining next year?”
“You are not interested, so this conversation is pointless, “ she said firmly.
“How do you know?”
“Your tone of voice. As well as your reputation.”
“Mmm, I wasn't aware I was a celebrity,” I said with a laugh, “I don't think we've spoken before, so I severely doubt you can tell what I'm thinking just like that.”
I did know of her, however. She was in the same year as me. In II-A? Her homeroom's class rep. I'd seen her and Reimu chat on occasion whenever our representatives had to decide something.
“I know your type,” she said, taking a thinner brush to accentuate the lines of the faraway city with black paint. Whereas Patchy could come off cold and distant, this girl was somewhat more hostile. I could almost feel a chill due to her icy demeanor.“And I've heard of your behavior through third parties.”
“I'm usually somewhat better than what the rumors say,” I said, feeling that I wasn't getting anywhere.
“I think you've proven them more than right,”she said, showing a clear lack of interest in talking to me further. “I trust my friends more than your words.” With some finality she added, “go chase skirts elsewhere. I want my club to enjoy peace and tranquility today.”
I looked back at the other club members and all of them wore sympathetic smiles. The member I talked to gave me a shrug as if telling me that I had been warned. Maybe I had to try harder else to get through to her.
 Find her soft side through careful flirtation.  Continue to feign interest in joining the club.  Give up and leave her alone.
I hoped for a better showing overnight but we'll soldier on regardless. Will start writing in a while.
>>61020 >>61022 >>61024 Her identity isn't supposed to be a mystery. There's a reason the character blurbs exist and are linked to at the top of every thread. Besides which, there are other things in the text that would help with an educated guess if it came to that. This is one of the main reasons why I worry when you bandwagon, because I'm never sure if you've thought things through or not.
Creative types are known often for their stormy temperaments. That wasn't about to put me off from trying to establish a connection with the girl. At least, not right away.
“Why change the colors?” I asked, shifting the focus from me to her art. I had to probe wherever I could before giving up.
“It looks pretty good, all the same,” I said, not really feeling qualified to judge art. I'd never been much good at it nor was I really interested in. My creativity was strictly limited to cultivating my award-winning charm.
“It's not good,” she said, “it's derivative.”
Well, that was something. “It's still your take, isn't it? That has to count for something.”
“Forced surrealism is interesting only to me,” she said with a sigh, “much like this conversation is only interesting to you.”
“Maybe if you told me what you intended, then the conversation would be interesting to the both of us,” I said with a shrug. Not that she could see it. I stood to her side but she didn't so much as bother to look at me from the corner of her eye. I, on the other hand, was happy getting an eyeful. A softly chiseled nose and delicate lips were a contrast to her round and intense eyes. She was clearly focused on her work and it seemed like she was trying her best to shut out the outside world.
“How else am I to tell you to leave me alone?” she complained, adding another stoke of paint onto the canvas.
“You can complain all you like, I'm rather happy watching you work. I can tell that you're passionate and it just makes you all the more interesting to me.”
“I really don't care about your libido,” she said, idly adding a dab of black paint to the horizon. “Nor do I care to be objectified. How they were able to withstand you, I just don't know.”
“Hm, can't take a compliment, huh?”
“It's the scurrilous flirtation that I can't take. If I were uglier, you wouldn't even be here talking to me. Why should I trust anything that comes out of your mouth?”
“Whatever ulterior motives you might assign to me, I'm telling the truth right now. I'm interested in what you're doing and why you're doing it. And is it really a crime to think you're cute?” I asked, trying to retake the initiative, “that doesn't change who you are as a human being. I'm asking about your thoughts and that couldn't be any less related to your body.”
“You're so transparent,” she said, “but alright, I'll indulge you. I'm painting this the way I am because I enjoy the idea of seeing things in a different way. Whether it's the landscape or people's minds.”
“So shouldn't you give me a chance? Who knows, you might even start taking a liking to me.”
“Doubtful. You're a walking phallus, always looking for your next cheap thrill.”
“Ouch, harsh,” I laughed. It was one of the more explicit put downs that I had gotten in quite some time. “Do you want to hear my analysis of you?”
“Can I stop you?” she asked with unambiguous sarcasm.
 She labels people right away because it's an easy way to keep them at arm's length  It's all an act and deep down she wants people to give her attention and acknowledge her creativity.
It's an act? What is an act, her reaction towards us? Unlike other touhoes, she has directly asked us to leave and if she hasn't insisted more it is because her art seems to be more important to her. "You could have stopped me if you really wanted to" doesn't work when the cost is to stop an act that requires concentration and inspiration ... Or is it? How much inspiration can she get with him bothering her?
Anyway, the other option seems more likely because hypocrisy is the most classic flaw there is. And, well, because literally all of his responses were based on something she heard. Tall about prejudice man, she barely let him talk before tagging and bagging him. And his "libido us approach I can't take" commentary was about a really innocuous praise (you seem interesting to me) Talk about overreactions.
[x] You label people because... -[x] If you say you enjoy seeing things in a different light, should you really limit that approach to art?
>>61050 Both options are weak but I think that the first one is the best.
Not that the second doesn't have merit (she did gave us her vision of the painting) but I think it is too soon to tell. The write in was meant to be a boost to the chances of the choice I picked. Could easily backfire though.
>>61054 Indeed, but it's fine because guy said he preferred the first choice anyhow. And while I don't take write ins unless I ask for them, I do read the comments and the reasoning and incorporate things into updates where appropriate.
Can't write right now because I'm feeling pretty sick. I was waiting to see if I would start feeling better but I think that I'm more or less out for tonight. I promise to try to get back to it as soon as I rest up. Feel free to keep discussing or voting until I'm back, but I don't think the results are going to change. Or if you have nothing else to say about the vote, feel free to debate which Aki sister is the best.
She certainly wasn't making things easy for me. But I wasn't above a good challenge. With cocksure bravado, I proceeded to tell her just what I thought about her, “it's easy to label and easier still to keep people from getting close to you because of prejudice. Fact is, I'm just trying to talk to you and you haven't even pretended to give me a fair chance. I haven't done anything wrong here and what you may have heard about me probably doesn't apply. Not sure if you're afraid of letting your guard down or just outright hate people.”
“Heaven forbid I don't particularly feel like engaging someone who has been a cause of much frustration for my friends,” she chuckled dryly, putting down her brush. For the first time in our exchange, she turned to look at me, examining me as if it was the first time she had ever seen another human being. “I think the smug little smirk says it all,” she stated.
“Yours or mine?”
“Both, perhaps,” she said, looking like she was holding back a sigh. “Your heart may make for an interesting subject to paint. Something modern that does not appear entirely plausible, perhaps rendered in cubist style. But I want no part in that. I choose to stand in solidarity with those whose feelings you've trampled.”
“So, basically you're allowing hearsay to color your perception of me? That doesn't seem very fair.”
“Rich, coming from someone who was trying to flirt with me just earlier,” she shook her head, her eyes alight with a look of moral superiority. “Rin told me about you and Utsuho's eyes said everything that needed saying.”
“I helped them out, ultimately,” I defended myself, “or have you conveniently chosen to omit the fact that they were going through problems at the time?”
“They would have worked things out eventually. They could have come to me for help.”
“But they didn't and I was there for them,” I said. “What's more, me and Kaenbyou get along pretty alright. She's feisty but I can't say that there's any outstanding issues between us.”
“Besides the ongoing sexual harassment, you mean?” she chose to pick at a particular point instead of even acknowledging my other statements.
“Next time I see her, I'll ask her if she minds the attention. You do the same. That'll clear up the situation.”
“Sure, whatever you want to tell yourself. Now, if you're quite done playing psychoanalyst, I'd like to get back to my art.”
“Maybe you should heed your own advice.” I told her, “try get to know people instead of being sure of what's in their mind right away. You'll be better off.”
She turned back to the canvas, ignoring me entirely. Feeling that I'd left a somewhat more nuanced impression on her, I decided to withdraw. I spoke briefly to the same long-haired student on my way out, wishing him good luck on recruiting new members. They were going to need it.
Shame she was so stuck up. She wasn't half bad looks-wise though I generally preferred women with longer hair. I hadn't had the faintest idea that she was Kaenbyou's friend. Nor had I expected Kaenbyou to be talking about me with others. Was she more indiscreet than I thought or did it mean that they were close? Maybe I needed to bring the subject up next time I saw her.
I ended up napping most of the remaining school day away on the roof. I just didn't have it in me to go around to many more clubs and, if I went back to class, I'd be bored out of my skull by the videos.
We had only a week's rest between ending the year and starting the next grade. It wasn't that much time to truly unwind, but it was better than nothing. Mima had been right – it would be one of those rare times when we wouldn't have to worry about anything but taking it easy. As the school year progressed, moments of true relaxation would be further and further in between. Pressures of keeping grades up and studying for exams would continue to pile up. Save for the summer break and the class trip, there wasn't anything else that we could cling to as a reliable outlet for stress.
I turned off my console and sat upright. I'd spent most of the previous evening and the first half of the first day off playing games and reading comics. Maybe it was time for something different.
 Continue to try spells from the magic book  See what Marisa and Alice are up to instead
I was home alone. Auntie had gone off to work and Marisa wasn't in her room. A cursory glance out my window showed that Alice wasn't in her room either. She'd left the curtain up for once, usually she'd complain about her privacy and me leering and being annoying.
She hadn't gone very far, however. Alice answered the door almost immediately after I knocked. Her neck was draped with measuring tape and she had a spool of thread in her hand.
“Hey, I'm bored,” I greeted her as honestly as I could, “I came over to see what you were up to. Marisa around?”
“Yeah, I'm just over here,” Marisa called out, “come on in.”
Alice sighed but didn't complain, “come in I guess.”
A large amount of different-colored thread and and fabrics were spread across the dinning room table. Marisa sat at a chair, tongue stuck out the side of her mouth, sewing something. She smiled as she finished up and proudly stood up and showed me what she was working on, “what do you think? Great, isn't it?”
The small white square she held up had a few oddly-shaped objects haphazardly spaced on it. Each object was a different bright color and had its own unique shape. It looked like a colorful array of… something.”Oh, that's a nice job,” I said diplomatically, trying to figure out what it was I was supposed to be looking at.
“They're supposed to be stars and junk,” Marisa said happily, “I know you're only pretending to like them, but I'm really excited that I'm able to do this much already.”
“Oh, I see,” I said. If I squinted I totally could see that they were supposed to be celestial objects. There was a crescent-shaped moon, a few irregular-sided stars and even a shooting star. They all varied in size and weren't exactly symmetrical. But it was a start.
“Alice has been teaching me to embroider and sew stuff. I figured that it's a handy skill and I wanted to also knocks your socks off with how useful I'm getting to be. Also I want to put a bunch of cool-looking stars on my pajamas.”
“She's a quick learner but needs to work on being more neat. Sloppy mistakes on a larger piece of work can ruin several days worth of effort,” Alice came on over to inspect the work. With a smile, she added, “keep practicing the cross-stitching technique I showed you and you'll get better in no time.”
“Hey, wanna sit down and join us?” Marisa asked, “I think you'd be good at this.”
“Mm, no thanks,” I said.
“What, too girly?” she teased.
“No, too difficult. Besides,” I added with a chuckle, “Alice would scold me every time I messed up. It'd distract you from learning properly.”
“...well, I think I'll fix us some tea,” Alice changed the subject.
Marisa whispered just out of earshot of Alice, “I think you were too quick to dismiss her. She would have been happy to teach you. Missed flag there. You're pretty bad at keeping track of these things. That's why your save files are always one or two choices away from bad ends.”
“Waitasec, have you been using my computer when I'm not around?”
“It's not like you password protect it,” she said with a shrug.
“Those are male-oriented games, you know.”
“I don't mind. It's interesting to see things from a different perspective. It's informative. Besides, seduction is a universal art.”
“That's not really the point-”
“It's rude to whisper, you know,” Alice came back, bringing a tray with empty cups. The water was still needed a bit of time to boil.
“Oh, sorry,” Marisa apologized with a smile, “we were just talking about erotic games. I figured that you might not appreciate the fact.”
“Whether I appreciate the fact or not isn't really the point...” Alice said with a confused look.
“Sorry, but I try to hold myself to a higher standard when you're around. Won't happen again,” Marisa said with a nod.
Marisa continued to play dumb. Alice dropped the subject and brought the kettle and poured out the tea. They took a break from embroidery and we started to talk about this and that. School came up and we talked about the last week in particular.
“- yeah, that was pretty funny,” Marisa laughed. “Are you actually going to bring Ms. Mima a bottle of something?”
“I actually might,” I replied, smiling. “I think I'd enjoy it most if I drank it with her but I think she'd get in trouble with the administration.”
“Having your homeroom teacher as your drinking buddy...” Alice smiled at the thought, “somehow that seems like something that would happen to you alright. Then again, I could see you getting suspended for trying to bribe a teacher.”
“I wouldn't worry too much about that,” I said, thinking of Big Sis. Whether I liked it or not, she would likely bail me out if I got into trouble. I was still very much tightly wrapped around her fingers. And Yukari's velvety gloved fingers. Though that did prove to be an enjoyable experience that one time.
“Uuu~” Marisa giggled, “what an incredibly lecherous face you've put on.”
“See?” Alice turned to Marisa, “this is the kind of behavior I've had to put up with for the last few years. I deserve a medal for my patience.”
“I'll sew you one,” Marisa offered with a chuckle.
“Maybe I'll take you up on that,” Alice laughed.
We had a good mood going on. It was a relaxing, almost familial atmosphere. I said little, watching the girls talk and laugh for a while longer. Somehow, the subject became about me. Alice said something to the effect that she was really impressed that my grades were good and Marisa joked about getting private tutoring from me. The subject then turned to my (involuntary) political future and how I was going to abuse my office as much as I could.
Somewhat true stuff.
I didn't mind gentle ribbing at any rate.
“Student council sounds fun,” Marisa said, “maybe I should join too. Be the secretary or treasurer or something. Oh, I know, I could be in charge of student morale. That'd be fun!”
“Poor Reimu,” Alice shook her head. “It's not just a giant picnic. You have to do real work, Marisa.”
“Yeah, well, I'd be willing to do it. I mean, I'd spend time with nice people, so that's a plus. I'm surprised you haven't made plans to join, it's right up your alley.”
Marisa didn't know about Reimu's previous attempts to recruit Alice. So the comment was entirely innocent. Alice hadn't seemed to interested in the extra workload at the time and wasn't too happy about my role in the conspiracy either.
Alice chuckled. “I'm not sure politics is for me,” she said.”You should go ahead if you really want to, you have a good work ethic when you want to try something. It'll end up helping out the council.”
“Hmmm...” Marisa bit her lip, thinking about something. She looked at Alice, adopting a more serious tone, “I'll join only if you join. Also, if you make more tea.”
“I'll make more tea,” Alice laughed. “I'll think about the rest.”
Not missing the opportunity to talk to me secretly, she whispered, “this is your chance. Don't miss that flag.”
“This is real life,” I whispered back, “I don't want to force her if she doesn't want to.”
“You don't have to force anyone, just be nice to her. She wants to do it but just doesn't want you to feel like she'll be there to nag and babysit you. Don't you understand girls at all?”
Apparently I didn't. If that was the truth.
 Take Marisa's advice.  Leave Alice alone.
-- I ended up writing a normalish-length update like I would for a non-fast story. Whoops.
Not to discount the other option though. There's always the chance that Alice will just turn him down. It'll affect their relationship too. When Arc acts out, Alice may not just write it off anymore. His behaviour will damage the reputation of his office and class.
There are always consequences. Intended and unintended. Just be ready for it.
“I leave for a moment and you're soon at it again, whispering away,” Alice returned with more tea. She let out an exaggerated sigh as if we were truly incorrigible. With a smile, she asked, “so what naughty thing were you two talking about this time? You shouldn't let Arc get away with telling you lewd things, lest your brain turn to mush like his has.”
“Oh, it was nothing lewd this time,” Marisa said, staring at me with a look that asked 'come on, what are you waiting for?'
“Oh? What's the big deal then?” Alice asked. “I'm not as uptight as you might think.”
Marisa kicked my shin under the table. I narrowed my eyes at her, telling her to cut it out. She shook her head subtly, insisting that I do what I had to do. 'Fine,” I mouthed silently. “Hey Alice,” I said quietly.
“Yes?” she looked at me, giving me her full and undivided attention. It was intimidating to see her deep and intense eyes stare at me, even if they weren't filled with disapproval. It was a good quality that-
I was getting lost in my thoughts instead of talking.
“I know you said that you're not really interested in the student council, but I think you should join. Sorry for bringing the topic up again but Marisa insisted!”
“Hey! Be a man! Tell her how you really feel,” Marisa chided, kicking me in the shins again.
“Um, well, I think you'd be really good in the student council. It would do the school a heap of good and I think you'd have fun. I know you and I think that you'd really kick yourself for missing out on the experience. I'm not saying this because anyone else asked me but because I think it's the best that I tell you the truth about how I see things.”
“And-?” Marisa prodded my tender shins more gently, urging me to continue.
“And well, if I'm honest,” I continued, feeling that my throat was getting incredibly dry. “Well, if I'm truly honest… I, um, kinda want you to be there too. I want you to be there with me in the student council, alright? Helping however you can. You're smart and competent and have been a good neighbor, so there's few people I would trust more.” I felt myself grow a bit more aggressive, if not outright belligerent. I didn't quite know why, “don't get mad at me. I need you and it's not easy to admit it, so you better not leave me hanging. If not I won't forgive you.”
There was a moment of silence.
Then Marisa burst out laughing. Alice, who had been listening to us patiently smiled. And then snickered, before joining Marisa in laughing.
“What, what's so funny?” I asked.
“You're-” Marisa tried her best to talk over her laughter, “you're all worked up… red from ear to ear. I-it's the most- most- as if you were in a soap opera.”
“Real classy guys,” I pouted, “here I am pouring my heart out and you make fun of me. This was a big mistake,” I started to stand up.
“No, wait,” Alice grabbed my arm. “Stay.” She caught her breath and tried to calm down. “Arc, that was the sweetest thing you've told me in quite some time. I'm not sure why you have such a time being honest like that sometimes, but I appreciate the effort. And no, I'm not angry with you.”
“Oh, okay, good,” I said quietly. I still felt like sulking.
After gesturing for me to sit down again, Alice stated, “I'm not opposed to joining the student council, you know. I just wasn't sure I'd be a good fit. And...” she trailed off momentarily and sighed, “when Reimu last asked you weren't going to be a part of it.”
“Mmm, sounds like we've reached an understanding,” Marisa interrupted. “Let's tell Reimu right away!”
“But we're in the middle of learning how to embroider,” Alice protested.
“Nonsense, I can learn that anytime. Reimu needs to figure out her future cabinet right away. Politics is for the bold, you know,” Marisa said, sounding more authoritative than her words merited.
And just like that, we were off in the street, walking to meet up with Reimu. Alice looked about as puzzled as I was, having gotten swept up by Marisa's energetic rally.
“Wait, shouldn't we call her up first?” I realized that we hadn't even asked her if she was free when we got to the station.
“It'll be fine!” Marisa said, “surprises are also key in politics.”
“I don't know about that...” Alice stopped, realizing that I was right. She took out her phone and began to type.
“Looks like my plan has failed,” Marisa confided to me, while Alice was distracted by her phone. “I know for a fact that Reimu wants Alice in but I also know that she's going to be busy for most of the day.”
“How do you know that?”
“She called me earlier, okay? She told me she needed to build a solid ticket as soon as possible and wanted to confirm that Alice was out. She knew that if she asked directly, Alice would refuse. This is bad,” Marisa observed,, “I'm sure that Alice is looking for any excuse to back out. If she hears that Reimu is busy, she'll never reschedule and that'll be that.”
“...I'm not sure you're entirely right about that… she did say that-”
“Trust me, I was right earlier, wasn't I?” Marisa frowned. And thought up of a plan on the fly. “You have to be more forceful. We need to make it to Reimu's home, otherwise it might all fall apart.” Turning to Alice, she lied to her, “I already messaged her, I'm just waiting for a reply. Let's get onto the train platform.”
>I need you (...) So you better not leave me alone okay..?! >Pouting.
Oh my god, tsundere Arc is ADORABLE! Why didn't I notice this before?!
>But Marisa insisted!
That's our fearless Mc guys, watch and learn.
>Dont get involved.
If two anons are in agreement about a choice, it is the third one's duty to disagree... However I don't see any risks here. Even if Alice finds out, would she blame us for thinking she'd escape? Alice is big on self awareness. Thus must be one of those pace-helping choices.
>>61102 It's not about how many people vote for a particular choice. Rather I care more that the majority of current voters are engaged in the story. If there's about 10-12 readers/voters, then that number is 6 (7 to eliminate ties). That simple. It's a minimum threshold. I'm serious about needing people to be involved to write. So faster votes will routinely equal faster updates. The idea is that readers have to check often to keep the story moving. So check in more often already.
also >Flirting should work wonders here. >Arc >flirting with Alice Hah, as if.
Not writing now because I need my beauty rest. Will get back to it later. In the meanwhile, feel free to figure out why the last two choices aren't supposed to be no-brainers. It may just be partially related to Marisa's presumed role.
So these choices are about how much we trust Marisa?
Or has Marisa given up and is trying to play cupid? Does she want to see how much we like Alice? Is this some sort of convoluted ploy to win us over? Is she helping us build a harem? Is the spell still influencing her? I don't have a clue.
Kinda been 'writing' at a leisurely rate for the last hour or two. At this rate I'll be done in an hour, maybe a bit more. So expect something around then.
>>61112 She definitely has her own reasons. And she does have a pretty big history of selfish decisions.
>>61113 >Is the spell still influencing her? But magic isn't real! >Is she helping us build a harem? Of all the touhous met, she probably would be one of the ones most receptive towards that idea. That said, why would she push for it? >Is this some sort of convoluted ploy to win us over? In the game of waifus, you win or you die. >Does she want to see how much we like Alice? Sizing up the competition is always smart. >Or has Marisa given up and is trying to play cupid? Does that explain her actions with Rin? >So these choices are about how much we trust Marisa? Judging by the posts here, you trust her implicitly for some reason.
These are all questions that you should figure out for yourselves and I can't really comment on more than in this flippant fashion. That said, you haven't asked maybe the most important one.
Keeping Alice distracted was harder than I thought. I tried talking to her, keeping her busy by not giving her a moment to think about anything else but our conversation. She was happy to talk to me, but I could see the inkling of suspicion that something was amiss in her eyes. It would manifest in pauses where she would look around, in particular trying to catch the attention of Marisa. I did my best to avoid a direct confrontation, aided by the props given to me. Since I walked practically everywhere, I asked Alice to explain our mass transit system to me.
Marisa 'got a reply' when we were getting on the train. She conveniently muffled the supposed sound of a message with the noises of the train arriving. Alice's instincts were good, she asked Marisa for details. Maybe it was my fault that she was so suspicious. I had basically made a sport of lying to her over the years. Sure, most were stupid lies told with the aim of getting her to let me sleep in instead of getting ready for school. But it still honed her lie detection skills.
Thinking fast on her feet, Marisa told her that Reimu would be waiting for us but might have to take care of a little bit of personal business before being able to talk calmly. That seemed to placate Alice who, despite looking skeptic, said nothing and took a seat on the train.
The trains were comparatively empty on the weekends. It was just us and maybe half a dozen people in our wagon. We were taking a line that would lead us to the outskirts of town. The main reason people made the commute was to work downtown, otherwise it was too time-consuming to head in and out the city for anything but the most important of errands. Reimu easily spent more than an hour per day just traveling back and forth to school.
Our destination was sparsely populated. Near the station, most of the homes were large traditional constructions that, when originally built, were most likely the homes of entire extended families. The communal history of these places were largely forgotten as, because of economic realities, most young people had left to live in the more densely-inhabited areas near the center. As a result, most of these old homes were in less-than-stellar conditions and at the very minimum could use a coat of fresh paint.
Marisa led the way, claiming to know where Reimu lived. I had no doubt that Alice was more than suspicious by that point of the truth but she kept quiet and let me keep distracting her. It was a long walk and we began to feel a change of elevation as we got further away from the station. The hills in the area were mostly forested and wild; their green was a deeper shade than the carefully-crafted parks found in the city. At some point, most signs of civilization disappeared altogether. There were no more homes and even the lampposts started to disappear. If not for the paved road we were on, it would have seemed like we had completely lost contact with the city.
“We're here,” Marisa announced, pointing to a small dirt path that led up a hill. A large red torii marked the beginning of the path and between the trees I could see that there were more further in. A luxury car was parked by the road, the only sign that it was a place people might be found there.
We climbed a series of long steps and finally reached our destination. Beyond a courtyard that was carefully kept free of leaves, a one-story building dominated the space. A few smaller structures were off to the side and marked paths with small statues alongside them. It was as traditional a shrine as I could picture though it looked like it had seen better days. Like the homes we had passed on our way up, a little paint and some small repairs were needed.
“We can see most of the city from here,” Alice remarked, looking back from where we came. She was right. Everything that wasn't blocked by the dense center and its skyscrapers was visible. As we were on a hill and the day was so clear, we could even just barely make out the distant shore of the lake.
Marisa disappeared without either Alice or I noticing. “Went to find Reimu,” I hazarded a guess, not thinking too much of it. We took a brief look around the shrine and its buildings, heading to the main one eventually.
A man dressed in impeccable formal attire left the building. While older than me, he was still young and everything about him exuded confidence. From his self-satisfied smirk to his measured but quick gait. He was followed by a second, much older man, who wore an air of silent reserve and carried a large briefcase. He looked at the first man with attentiveness, as if to be ready for any command he might issue. Neither so much as looked at us, passing by quickly.
A moment after, Marisa emerged too, smiling. She said, “looks like we just missed something really interesting.”
“Found Reimu?” I asked.
“Yeah, but I'm not sure she's in much of a mood to talk. As soon as those two left, she put on the harshest face I've ever seen.”
“We should give her some space then,” Alice said. “If now's not a good time...”
“I think she just needs a little comforting. It'll be fine. Arc, go talk to her,” Marisa said.
“Why me? You guys are closer to her,” I protested, feeling that I wasn't maybe the best of choices.
“Because you're her vice president. She has to trust you implicitly from now on.”
“About school stuff, sure,” I said, “this seems personal. The kind of thing girlfriends are for.”
“Trust is trust,” Marisa argued, “I know from experience that you're good at helping out people that need it, so it'll be fine.”
“...” I could tell from Alice's expression that she wasn't so sure about it. Even though we had wasted a considerable amount of time riding the train, I could feel that she wanted to give Reimu space and go back home.
 Talk to Reimu  Leave
-- >>61115 I encourage and applaud talking about that sort of stuff. So keep at it. That kind of discussion makes the story richer. And keep voting regardless.
>>61117 [X] Leave These guys probably tried to buy the shrine from her, possibly to build a much needed hospital or new school. Something really important for the city, but she is fighting against the greater good.
>>61119 I guess she wanted Alice to talk to her-which I think is an excellent idea. Sadly, no option to 'Convince Alice to talk to Reimu' so...
>People want to buy you the house of your ancestors
Urgh, this is a good enough reason for Alice to want to leave, so we can't check if Marisa was right about Alice's reluctance. My money's on yes though, she should have considered other options at least for a while. I know they're not that close but...
Anyway, considering the last time Arc talked about Reimu to Alice, I think that the best thing would be to leave. However we would miss Marisa (not sure what her game is, gauging opponents? Arc owes her far too much to doubt her though) and Reimu points, we would make the trip and the last updates pointless, and we would miss the new plot hook. So, really, there's only one choice here:
I wasn't sure whether or not Marisa was right about trust but I agreed that someone needed to talk to her. Alice didn't really seem willing, maybe out of a sense of respect for boundaries. It's not like she was that close to Reimu either – sure they got on well enough, but they weren't intimate acquaintances either. Strangely enough, Marisa probably had a more natural chemistry with Reimu; in the months since she had transferred in, I had noticed that they had become good friends. They'd often spend breaks between classes talking together.
With a sigh I told the two girls to wait for me. Marisa beamed an approving smile whereas Alice simply nodded, offering no further comment.
I found Reimu in a small room by the end of the main hallway. The smell of incense hung in the air. She sat by a small wooden table, staring at the wall opposite, blankly. The sliding door was open and I gently rapped my knuckles against the wood, letting her know I was there. “Come in,” she said quietly, not bothering to turn her head to look at who it was.
It was the first time I had seen her dressed up as a shrine maiden. I had known she was one, but knowing wasn't the same as understanding reality. The red and white matched her ribbon and somehow gave her a more serious appearance than her uniform. That is, despite the fact that her arms were mostly exposed and her sleeves were attached halfway down her arms.
The room was fairly sparse. Other than a chest of drawers and the table, there were no other furnishing. A kettle and three small tea cups were laid upon the table but only one of them had any tea poured in it. I sat opposite her.
“I've got some good news,” I danced around the elephant in the room. “I've brought Alice. She says she wants to join the student council.”
“...that's nice,” Reimu said, “good job.”
“Marisa might want to join as well, so you might want to think up a good role for her.”
“In time,” she replied. She dropped down her gaze to the chest of drawers. “Do me a favor and open up that last drawer and hand me what's in there.”
“This one?” I slid open the drawer. A tall dark bottle rolled around around. It was the only thing inside. It had no label. But I suspected that I knew what its contents were. I handed it over to Reimu.
“Want some?” she asked, grimacing a little as she applied force to open the screw cap. The metal had rusted but she managed to get it open anyhow. I nodded and she poured some directly into an empty teacup. Finishing off what I figured was cold tea in her cup, she then used it to pour out some for herself. She drank the liquid in a single gulp and quickly refilled her cup.
I took a sip from my cup. It was the unmistakably shochu. A strong distilled variant too. Reimu downed her second teacupful. “This is good stuff,” I said.
“I guess it is,” she said quietly, pensively looking at the bottle before pouring herself thirds.
“Should I even ask why we're drinking in the middle of the day?” I decided to prod a little. Watching her drink herself stupid wasn't going to solve anything. I didn't think it was what she really wanted either.
“It'll make you taking advantage of me all that easier,” she said with a dark smile, drinking her third cupful. “Drink up, I'm leaving you behind.”
“I'm not looking to take advantage of you,” I said firmly, finishing my drink. She poured a refill without asking.
“Why not? You might as well. I won't tell anybody.”
“It's not a matter of whether or not you tell anybody,” I said. I remembered our encounter in the council room days earlier. What I had thought back then… well, I wasn't about to do something so stupid to someone I liked. “I'm your vice president,” I tried to keep my tone light, sporting a smile, “you have to trust me a little.”
“Trust, eh?” Reimu sighed and drank more. “It'd be easier if you just went for it… that way we wouldn't have to talk about whatever it is you want to talk about.”
“I just want to make sure you're alright.” She was gripping the bottle firmly so I didn't really have a chance to take it away from her. I added, “and forget all that vice president crap too, I'm a friend first and foremost. That has to count for something.”
“Well, someone has to take advantage of someone,” she said, standing up. I could see from the look in her eyes that, while the alcohol hadn't fully taken effect, she was beginning to feel it. Reimu sat back down next to me and took a swig directly from the bottle. “You know, Marisa really likes you. Alice probably does too. I mean, it's obvious. The way they behave. Which is why it makes me a little jealous, because I wonder what's so great about you. You're not a bad person but not great either.”
“Being mediocre is fine by me.”
“Shush, don't interrupt, drink up,” she shook her head. “Anyhow, I haven't made up my mind about a lot of things. Like, we'll see if you're actually good at being a vice president. But that doesn't matter. You know what does? The fact that I want to do something with you right now. Both of them are waiting outside, right? Imagine if you took advantage of me while they were waiting. That's… messed up but kind of exciting too. Being able to do what you want… with no resistance that must be nice.”
“I'm not going to take advantage of you,” I repeated, trying to make a grab for the bottle. Reimu saw through my maneuver and instead put the lip of the bottle to my face. She basically forced me to take a swig myself.
“That's a real shame then...” she sighed, grabbing her knee with her hand. “Is it that you're not attracted to me?”
“It's definitely not that,” I replied.
“You're not into breaking taboos? Well, that doesn't make sense. You skip class all the time. And talk back to the teachers. Heh, you know, I sometimes wish I could do that,” she giggled, “I can just picture the look on their faces.
“Well, I guess I'm happy that you just sort of admitted that I'm pretty.” Reimu chuckled and continued, “Wanna hear something funny? The old men that sometimes come to this shrine to pray sometimes stare at me when I'm sweeping the grounds. I don't wear a bra in these clothes. You can see if you look at me from the side,” she said lifting up her arm over her head. I could see white wrapping coiled around her chest. “Well, they stare at the sarashi and my arms. It's so indiscreet. One of them actually came up to me one day and asked if my armpits weren't getting all sweaty. Gross, right?”
“Oh, I forgot,” she smiled, “a master seducer like you probably gets off on things like that.”
“I'm not sure who is trying to seduce whom anymore,” I joked.
“I think I am, but I'm failing at it. I can't even get you to tell me that you like me. That's the first step in these things, right? Then the young lovers get carried away and they end up getting intimate. It's like that in the comics, at least.”
“Sorry to disappoint.” I then asked, “don't you think that the fact that I'm with you instead of either Marisa or Alice count for something?”
“I'm not so sure,” Reimu said with a sigh. “Can't you even pretend for a while? I just want to hear that you love me, even if I know it's just a selfish lie. I think I really need to hear those words. Treat me like any other girl. Please?”
There were tears in her eyes. I hadn't noticed before, but she had been silently crying for some time.
 Hug her and say what she wants to hear.  Remind her that she's liked and respected by nearly everyone she knows.
>Hug her and say what she wants to hear. is not really a lie, as we basically already said we like her, though she misunderstood it thanks to Alice's prank.
>Remind her that she's liked and respected by nearly everyone she knows. But this is also true.
[X] Hug her and say what she wants to hear. I'll go with this because I think it's what she needs to hear. Regardless of what she'd think afterwards, it wouldn't be entirely untrue, and allowing her a selfish moment could work wonders on her stress.
>>61133 [x] Remind her that she's liked and respected by nearly everyone she knows. No, fuck that. I'm not going to take advantage of someone in this shattered state. Not going to give her a short term lie, it will do no good in the long run and will make things even more confusing and turbulent.
[X] Remind her that she's liked and respected by nearly everyone she knows. I don't think the other girls will appreciate this, and I won't feel good with indulging her in this. Besides, a group intervention is more likely to succeed than...this.
>>61138 its not like she expects anything serious I think. Just a moment of warmth. shows that we do care more than just any words can. I don't think she wants to hear anything about respect when she's so hurt.
Ok, writing now before I get distracted by the next shiny thing. BTW, fun fact: it took me longer to decide the wording of the choices than to write the actual update. I wish I was joking.
>>61137 That was the original image I was going to use for the update but then my autism kicked in: "I described her wearing her miko outfit. Someone will call me out on it!" Nobody cares about stuff like that, however.
Though I knew that she wasn't thinking straight I also knew that she was letting her guard down. To rebuff or even just redirect her anxiety might do more harm than good. That line of reasoning didn't wholly convince me but it was enough to tip me towards my first instincts.
I held Reimu close, soon feeling the damp warmth of her tears on my shoulder. Without flinching and without hesitating, I told her the words I had never said to anyone seriously in my life before. We both knew that I didn't really mean it, but there was an illusion of truth present in the moment. It was something between the lie and the truth, I didn't really know where my feelings ended and her desire to be fooled began. I did like her, after all.
“That's real good,” Reimu said, smiling sadly. “I wanted to believe and knew it was a lie, but I still believed it. Being a normal girl that falls in love with who she wants… that's a real nice fantasy.”
“I don't mind if you fall in love with me,” I said softly, “If it'll help you feel better, I'm willing to do anything.”
“Now I think I'm the one being seduced,” she laughed, wiping with a hand the tears on her cheek. “Thank you Arc, you're pretty sweet to put up with my selfishness. I can't even tell if it's the alcohol or your words that's made me feel all soft and lightheaded.”
“For the sake of my pride as a man, I hope it's my words,” I said, continuing to hug her. She seemed to be happy with being held, sinking her head onto my shoulders and chest.
“Maybe I shouldn't let Alice and Marisa into the student council,” she sai1d, her words muffled by my body, “with those two around, I wouldn't be able to come to you like this when I felt overwhelmed.”
“I'll make time for you regardless,” I said, “I think we both know that this isn't something I'm really passionate about. But… maybe with you there with me, it might just turn into something more fun.”
Reimu looked up at my face, a deep blush from ear to ear. The alcohol probably had something to do with it but I felt that it was maybe something more. “That sounded like a real confession,” she said quietly, “it felt kind of nice.”
“And here I thought I was believed I was just being thoughtful,” I tried to pass it off as a joke, feeling that if I stared at her too much, I might start blushing myself. “I wonder what the voters would think if they saw us like this?”
“Screw them and the political process,” Reimu said with a harsh laugh, “I don't care about such things. Even if this moment isn't exactly the truth, it's much more important to me than duty and having unimpeachable morals. I can hear your heartbeat if I listen closely,” she said, pressing her head back to my chest. “It's nice to know that I'm not the only one whose heart can't decide whether to calm down or beat like it's trying to escape.”
“You're saying such embarrassing things, I can hardly believe that this is the straight-laced class rep I've known for the past few years,” I spoke softly, as to not give my heart any more reason to speed up.
“I could get used to this,” she stated, rubbing her face on me like she was trying to get inside my chest. “Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to actually fall for you.”
“Maybe that's something you can decide when you haven't been drinking,” I teased, “I'd hate to be loved only because you were drunk.”
“Oh shush,” she said, “I can handle my liquor just fine. I was raised by my grandparents and, before her died, my grandpa used to give me small amounts of sake every now and then so I learned to appreciate it.”
“Not sure that's good for minors.”
“I told you to shush,” she said with a giggle, “the bad boy in our class has no right to criticize anyone else about what's right and wrong.”
“I guess being the bad boy really does attract women,” I teased her further, “I mean, here we are. An upstanding girl and a good for nothing like me.”
“It's hard being upstanding you know, I'm really tired of it. Maybe it would be easier if I was a bad girl sometimes.” Reimu looked up at me, her eyes displaying fragility. It looked like I had stuck a nerve. She looked to me for more comfort.
 No matter what she did, I would always think she was a good person. And no one could change that.  She didn't have to act perfect around me. Perfect girls didn't get kisses like the one I was going to give her from bad boys like me.
While the second one is more intimate, I think it'll push her to be something that she isn't. As Tenshi and that other, inferior girl, (and Teruyo himself, when I wanted to make Arc a more devoted student!) have shown us, that is being fake to ourselves is the road to unhappiness.
This is my interpretation, but I don't think she is responsible because she feels like she should, but because she wants to. Of course it is tiring sometimes, but the choice itself lets her know that she can be what she wants to, and she'll always have Arc's support.
[x] No matter what she did, I would always think she was a good person. And no one could change that.
Besides, and this is a bit meta, it is about time for the interruption. And we wouldn't want to be in the middle of the kiss for it.
I'm a bit worried. Think about this choice carefully. The comments amd justification I'm seeing are pretty weak.
I feel like there's something to be said for staying consistent. We've just had a heart to heart conversation with Reimu where she clearly expressed interest in Arc. This is probably the last choice we're going to have in this conversation.
How do you want to leave it and how is Reimu going to take that first choice? Think objectively. We're not picking the best option.
I was going to post that I wasn't going to be able to write because I'm going to be busy for the next few hours and leave it at that. But man, you know what? >>61180 is right. At least about this being shitty reasoning in the votes. That or my writing is even shittier than I fear it to be. Sorry but I have to point out these things but feel free to call me out if my writing has indeed been shitty and misleading.
>That reimu considered not taking alice and marisa in the council is bothersome Somehow, given the context of laughing and confessing feel safe I don't think she was being serious.
>but the choice itself lets her know that she can be what she wants to and she'll always have Arc's support.
Isn't that therefore the best argument for telling her she doesn't have to conform to any standards but her own? Half of the conversation with her has been about other people's expectations. Look at what she's saying about the subject again.
> getting way too far into "taking advantage of a drunk girl" territory for me. Look, I don't want to open the whole can of worms that is consent because I think it's irrelevant here. Arc has joked and teased her about her drinking and she's given him a reply about that. He clearly is not going to be doing anything like taking advantage of her.
This is why I fret so much about the wording of the choices. And why I worry when you don't discuss things among yourselves. Because you guys are making it about something that it's not. Again. The choices are rather different types of statements and not something you should decide too quickly. Please reread the scenes with Reimu and think about it. Neither choice here is 'safe' and this is an important decision to make. It's about intimacy, her self-identity and the pressures of the world. In other words, what they've talked about for the last 2000 or so words. I don't know what else to say that anymore that isn't directly spoiling things. But I know that due to the logic I see here would be appropriate if the choice was about being 'nice'. This isn't about being nice at all.
Fuck, I know that this seems like I'm pro one choice over the other but it's not really that. I just am just frustrated that I can't seem to get these ideas and concepts across properly. I don't know how to make my writing better in that regard. I'll be back in 2-3 hours and I hope you'll at least discuss things among yourselves some. It'd be just a shame for me to power through until the next time there's a big decision and repeat the same mistake again.
[X] She didn't have to act perfect around me. Perfect girls didn't get kisses like the one I was going to give her from bad boys like me.
Changing my vote. Honestly, I wasn't sure about this to begin with, but other readers have brought up some good points... not to mention my earlier vote wasn't exactly consistent with my last several. Feel free to call me dumb.
[x] She didn't have to act perfect around me. Perfect girls didn't get kisses like the one I was going to give her from bad boys like me.
Saw the thread after two votes but didn't want to vote because I was at a loss what to do. This choice is pretty tricky and important.
I don't understand how picking the second one is encouraging her to 'lie' to herself. She always implied that her duties were stressing her out from time to time and that she wanted to chill out. Anyway, there's a clear "around me", implying she's still going to do her duties but be more open towards us exclusively. That sounds like a pretty healthy relationship.
Also, reading the second paragraph, I imagine her looking at us with a puppy stare, telling us to please let her be a "bad girl", because she's sick of being a "good girl". So telling her she's a nice girl is the equivalent of rejecting her heartfelt plea.
And there's nothing wrong with Reimu behaving like a "bad girl" from time to time. Personally, I thought her charm point was how she diligently did her duties while wishing for something more.
And being drunk was neeeeever an issue here. Teruyo clearly has a less conservative view on shit like that, otherwise Tenshi blowjob wouldn't exist (ignoring the fact that he explicitly addressed her alcohol resistance).
Of course, there's a chance of her becoming dependent on us, and some drama with Alice, but hell I don't think that's something that couldn't be overcome.
Yeah, I'm probably wrong on a few points, but I'm pretty sure I'm right on a lot of points as well.
>>61192 You're looking at it the wrong way. There isn't a route lock or anything silly like that. We can progress with each girl without locking out others. There's no reason to avoid Reimu' s scenario unless you hate her character.
That said, intent and reasoning is everything here. >>61188 is great because it pulls a few things together from other posts.
Here's my two cents. Reimu has previously been really uptight and proper. Following the rules and setting a good example. We've gotten a really rare glimpse into who she really is. She is clearly interested in him and has chosen to let him see her in quite a vulnerable position. What Arc says next is extremely important and thus the rationale behind is paramount.
Strip away everything. School, responsibilities, even identity. This is an opportunity to make a connection.
Okay, back and I'm free. I'm giving this another hour.
>>61193 Not the votes I wanted to change as much as it was the logic. It bothered to hear stuff about taking advantage or being worried about other girls. That's really not in play here. It's much more about attitudes towards the world, intimacy and trying to reassure someone who needs it. There's a lot of valid reasons for picking both choices, but it ain't about petty stuff.
[X] She didn't have to act perfect around me. Perfect girls didn't get kisses like the one I was going to give her from bad boys like me.
This is what I'm voting for. my reasoning is that I want to see more bad girl Reimu who feels comfortable and lets loose around Arc and I feel that the first choice would just ultimately make Reimu feel that Arc is another person she has to keep the act up for.
“You don't have to be so upstanding,” I whispered quietly, stroking the side of her head. I felt oddly nostalgic, not only because the lines between my dream and reality were blurring. Reimu relaxed, almost purring with approval as I continued to speak, “I am fine seeing you be less than perfect. Too much perfection is boring so it's okay for you to let your mask down with me if you like.”
“Why should I trust a bad boy?” she cooed, as if already knowing what my answer would be.
“Because the truth is, it's fine to be bad every once in a while,” I told her, “and if you were a perfect girl you wouldn't be here with me. And we wouldn't be able to go ahead and do this,” I said as I craned my neck down to kiss her.
Looking like she expected the move, Reimu closed her eyes and met my lips with hers. It was a short peck, almost like our lips were accidentally brushing up against each other. “Mm,” she opened her eyes as she pulled away. She laughed and shook her head, “that felt nothing like what I thought it would. I must be unlucky to have my first kiss taste like my own tears.”
“We can always try again some other day, when you're feeling like being bad again,” I smiled, “I'll be around when you need me.”
“I supposed that in the end, I was successful in seducing you,” she joked, resting her head on my shoulder again. “Women are terrible creatures, don't you think? A little pout, a smile and tears - it's enough to break any man.”
“Hmm, maybe you've been a bad girl all along,” I said with a chuckle. “Not that I mind.”
“Don't think that you'll get away with avoiding work in the council just because you kissed me,” she said with a laugh, “I'm trusting you to keep things separate.” More tears streamed from her eyes. She noticed that I was staring with worry and added, “sorry, I didn't mean to cry again. It's embarrassing but it's a relief to be told that I don't have to be this or that. If it wasn't for this, today would have been a much rougher day.”
“Whenever you feel like the day is too rough, you can come to me,” I said, stroking her hair. It hadn't dawned on me how strange it was that we were alone like that. It was more than her home, it was a shrine, and she was dressed up like a shrine maiden. It certainly wasn't a common occurrence in our day and age.
We sat silently together for some time. I shifted backwards and Reimu chose to rest her head on my lap. She stared up at the ceiling quietly, occasionally smiling at me whenever our eyes met. The bottle of shochu sat undisturbed and the only noise was of our soft breathing. It seemed like an eternity before she spoke again and, though quiet, her voice showed that she had her emotions under control, “Arc, I imagine you saw the man who left here earlier?”
“What if I told you I'm going to marry him some day?”
I swallowed hard. I hadn't expected something like that to be the case. “Do you want to marry him?” I asked.
“No, not really,” she said, “today was the first time we met face-to-face.”
“Then why would you marry him?” I asked, even though I already suspected the answer. The silence of the shrine said all that needed saying.
Reimu explained steadily, keeping emotion out of her voice, “I come from an old family and for many generations we have been in charge of this shrine. It even bears our name. Or we bear its name, that part is up for debate. It needs a head priest and attending shrine maidens. I'm an only child.”
“Surely someone else can take over or-”
“No,” she cut me off, “both my grandparents and parents are gone. The distant cousins I have are more interested in selling off the land than they are keeping the shrine. As a way of pressuring me, they have been arranging marriage interviews for some time now. The man you saw is the latest, and probably best candidate, according to them. A developer of some sort. Owns half the city, so I'm told. Newly rich family, so his interest is marrying into a prestigious household.”
“That's not right,” I told her, “you shouldn't have to be pressured like that.”
“It is what it is. I'll only have to really make up my mind when we graduate. Until then, I'm free, more or less.”
“Reimu...” I reached out to stroke her hair again.
“Don't pity me, please,” she said with a forlorn smile, “you'll just make me cry again.” Adding with a small, self-conscious laugh, she said, “and I don't think my heart is ready to seduce you again yet so I can feel better. I'm still new at being bad and selfish.”
“You...” I wasn't able to finish the thought. Her mixture of strength and fragility left me unable to find the right thing to say.
“It's okay,” Reimu forced a smile and sat up, “we've been alone together for quite some time now. I think those other two must be worried. Let's go talk to them.”
Alice and Marisa were where I left them, sitting near a large donation box. Marisa noticed us first and perked up with a huge smile. “Took you long enough!” she complained playfully, “we've wasted most of the afternoon already.”
“Sorry guys, it was my fault,” Reimu said with a smile of her own, “Do you want me to go fix us all some tea?”
“Nah, it's alright,” Marisa said, “your smile is refreshment enough.”
“You've been hanging out with with Arc too much,” Reimu couldn't help but let out a hearty chuckle, “that sounds like something he'd say!”
“Or something in one of his games,” Alice said with a disapproving shake of her head.
Marisa shrugged off the criticism, and flashed a secretive wink at me. It was only when we went inside to talk and Alice was busy talking to Reimu about the council, that she finally confirmed my suspicions. “good job there. I'm impressed with how you handled that.”
“You were eavesdropping?” I asked quietly, so as to not let the other two know what we were talking about.
“Alice was,” she said, “I just joined her. Don't worry, we didn't stay around long. We just saw the bit where you were cuddling together. I think she really needed that. It wouldn't have been the same if it was us girls.”
“Hm, I'm not so sure about that. You're good at comforting one another, usually with ice cream and bad movies.”
“That's an unfortunate stereotype,” she murmured, “and I don't subscribe to that school of thought.” Marisa prodded me in the ribs, changing the subject, “so, tell me, just how intense did things get in there? Compared to when I saw her, Reimu looks like she was reborn. So something interesting must have happened.”
“Something tells me that you saw more than what you admitted to,” I said.
“Why? Did something naughty happen? Like with that red-haired girl a few months ago? I helped you kiss her, remember? I just want to have a good idea of where things stand.”
 Some things are just too embarrassing to talk about.  Marisa's honesty should be rewarded with honesty.
- And now, this is more of a light transitional choice to help with pacing. With fun consequences all the same.
>>61204 [x] Some things are just too embarrassing to talk about. I think this is something that should be kept private, it's something more concerning to Reimu than to the others. Privacy, sensitive subject, yadda yadda. Keeping it a mystery is also good, though.
I decided to tell Marisa more or less what had happened. Luckily for us, Alice and Reimu were in mired in discussions about school committees and thus completely oblivious to the world around us. I kept quiet but we didn't have to leave the room or anything to cover the basics.
“Sounds a little boring,” Marisa confessed, “I thought that after seeing that kiss things were going to get even more steam. That's why I urged Alice to leave.”
“Wait, so you saw that?”
“Well, you were gone for a long while. Like I said, we got worried and curious. Don't worry about it,” she said with a smirk, “I don't think anyone is going to hold a grudge over that. We saw that she was crying and that she needed a bit of love.”
“Somehow I don't think Alice will see it that way,” I said, feeling like sighing. It was exactly the kind of thing she would frown at.
“Mmm, I think you're in the clear. You were trying to be nice, I think she understands that. Even if you happen to be sleazy in your methods, your heart was in the right place. 'sides,” she added, shrugging, “when we talked about it afterwards she was more concerned about Reimu than she was about you. I think we can both tell when something is really passionate and when it isn't.”
“It did feel like I was doing the right thing, even though I wasn't entirely sure at the time...”
“Well, it was what it was,” Marisa said, “as you tell it, it seemed almost inevitable. Got the right flags, I think. Poor thing, I think I would have kissed her if I were in your shoes. If I thought it'd calm her down, that is.”
I leaned back, wondering if maybe I had been a little too forceful. Though everyone in the room seemed to be in good spirits, I wondered just how superficial that actually was. The lack of tension was a good thing and important if we were going to be spending time after school together. That reality hadn't really sunk in for me yet. Despite all the talk and preparatory errands, we hadn't really done any actual work. I had no idea if it would seriously limit my usual carefree lifestyle.
When I snapped out of it, I told Marisa the rest that I omitted. She seemed to approve and ribbed me gently about having Reimu rest her head so trustingly on my lap. Claimed that she wanted to do that someday too. Maybe read manga while she was at it.
We left the shrine as it was beginning to get dark. The sun was setting behind us, making the skyscrapers in the distance seem to be immersed in dull orange light. Reimu waved a goodbye, telling us that she would be in touch regarding future plans.
The ride on the train home was about normal as could be. The three of us talked about this and that, not really sticking to any one topic. In other words, things were normal. We separated at Alice's home since Marisa wanted to practice embroidery a little more. I didn't want to distract them. I had instant noodles for dinner and spent most of the evening figuring out just how much of my computer Marisa had explored. The secret directories mislabeled and hidden in other directories had things no one else could ever see.
The next few days were uneventful. I got up, played games and occasionally talked to Marisa, sometimes Alice. Auntie asked me if I wanted to help out at the store one morning. She said she wouldn't force me since I wouldn't be getting much vacation the next year and that I should enjoy my free time.
It was good advice. On the other hand, I was broke.
 Drop by the bookstore to talk about the magic book.  Spend time helping out Auntie at the store.
It had been a while since I lasted helped Auntie out with the store. She was glad to have me, as managing things by herself was sometimes overwhelming. I spent the better part of two days moving stock and tidying up while only occasionally interacting with customers. I wouldn't say that work was fun, but it wasn't too boring either. It wasn't too exhausting either but, all the same, I chose to spend my evenings unwinding and didn't stay up too late.
Around noon of the third day, Auntie pulled me aside to talk. She handed me a small envelope with money and said, “take your wages for the work and go ahead and leave. Mid-week is usually slow for us, so I'll be able to handle things on my own. The day is too nice for you to be stuck here with me.”
I thanked her and hung up my apron. The pay wasn't too great but considering that I didn't have to pay rent or for food at home, I wasn't about to complain. I could go out and have a little fun if I so chose to. Auntie was right too, the day was really nice. A few clouds in the sky and an occasional breeze made it a perfect spring day.
Back at home, Marisa was collapsed on the couch, watching TV. She was watching a cooking show of all things, laughing as the contestants messed up and got yelled at by the head chef.
“Is this really how you want to spend your break?” I asked.
Marisa craned her head towards my general direction, apathetically replying, “I'm just wasting time until Alice is ready. We're going shopping together. Shouldn't you be working?”
“Auntie let me out early, said I should enjoy the day,” I explained.
“Cool, wanna come with us then?” she asked.
“What are you going to shop for?”
“Clothes. There's a sale at this big store she wanted to check out.”
“Pass,” I said without hesitation. That was the very opposite of an enjoyable day for me. Sitting around stores while they tried out clothes and shopped around would drive any man to madness.
If I wanted to put my free time to good use, I'd have to look elsewhere. I went upstairs to wash my face and then went to my room to think things over.
 Meet up with Yoshika and finally put those movie tickets to good use.  See if Tenshi is free.  Call up Tewi for that date she promised.  Hang out with Suika.
[X] See if Tenshi is free. Yeah, ok, I better vote and get this done with. Te girl with plenty of backstory and things done with has priority. Now I need to leave for today so I am not tempted to change my mind, or only come back agter the update is written.
>>61237 I would have eliminated the extra choices. But I couldn't think of a non-bullshit excuse to exclude other characters. As for what I want to win? Well, there's a choice that I'd go for if I was a reader but I doubt you'd guess which one it was correctly.
I could call it now but truth is that I don't have enough time to write right now. New threads take a little extra time. I'll be free in about an hour and a half, so things are open until then.
If only you guys knew what I had planned for each choice I think some of the biases would be different... image somewhat related.