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The wall towers fifteen to twenty feet over you. Its “face” is grotesque in the way it breaks the uniformity of the stone bricks that make up the wall. The “eyes” are simply gaps in the wall; no light shines through, leaving only two dark slots that seem as though they could suck you in. Its “mouth” is curved in a sharp frown. It waits, silently, for your response.
Its request is odd to you. You have never heard of magic that could inhibit or remove a part of one’s nature. Such a magic would be incredibly complicated and take a lot energy to uphold for vast amounts of time. If this wall is not lying to you, then the caretaker of this place is very powerful. You glance at Remilia for any signs as to what she may be thinking. She returns your blank stare, apparently just as unequipped to deal with this situation as you are. She wants this grimoire. She needs it. Does she need it badly enough to give up a part of herself, potentially forever?
“I have an idea,” you tell her. You don’t have an idea. You’re just hoping to relieve her worry.
“I’ll let you go first, then,” she says.
Her eyes are on you. Anything will do, really. Would its magic affect you past the lifespan of this body? You’ve never encountered something in these lower realms that could influence your true self. Though, there are many types of magic you do not know or understand, a sinister part of you whispers.
There are plenty of “easy” things to give up -- senses, or a personality trait, but you can do better than that. You pride yourself on being an expert “magic lawyer”. Your kind has verbally sparred with humans for hundreds of years, building and modifying contracts within very specific wording in order to allow for loopholes. It’s not that you have a rational reason to outsmart a contract; it is simply amusing. You are generally an honest demon and will do your best to follow the needs of your contractors, but as is evidenced by you being here with Remilia instead of Caesar, your personal interests sometimes take precedence and when that occurs, almost nothing can stop you. A simple brick wall guarding a library? It has nothing on your experience.
The examples it gave as parts of your nature -- strength, magic prowess, and so on, are generally seen as positive and valuable. It never specified, though, that the thing you must give up must be something you value. You could easily give up something that weighs you down, such as your weakness or limitations. Things in this world that limit the scope of how you may act; these are just as much a part of your nature as your strength or your sense of taste. However, this wall did say “one” sacrifice. It is likely it will protest to giving up just a blanket of “my limitations”. Just to be sure, you poise a question, “Would you accept more than one sacrifice?” Remilia blinks, confused.
“I WILL NOT TAKE MORE THAN ONE PER PERSON,” rumbles its response, as predicted. To avoid angering it, you will not suggest it take all limitations, but there is certainly one right now you would rather live without.
“I would give up my inability to enter the library.”
Its frown deepens. Silence. Just as the pause reaches the minute mark, its grimace curls slightly, turning gleeful. It speaks again. “A CLEVER RESPONSE. YOU BOTH MAY ENTER.”
“Wait, what about my sacrifice?” Remilia says, not convinced.
“YOU WOULD JUST GIVE UP THE SAME THING, WOULD YOU NOT? I AM NOT SO STUPID TO ASK YOU FOR A SACRIFICE AFTER HEARING THAT,” rumbles the response.
You hear her mumble very quietly under her breath, “touché.”
With the conversation over, the wall begins to change. To an overture of earth and brick cracking and sliding, the bricks contort and move again, clearing away the face and opening into a tunnel. A row of torches springs to life on each side of the tunnel, illuminating a dark red carpet and walls that match the stone brick of the entrance. A staircase leading down interrupts the tunnel about five metres in.
The two of you step into the tunnel. After a few seconds, you feel a tug on your sleeve, and turn down to see Remilia’s face. Her expression is soft. “Thank you. That was… well done.”
A compliment from the Scarlet Devil. You’re not sure what to make of it. “It’s in my nature to outwit humans, vampires, and walls alike,” you respond. She rolls her eyes, but it’s more playful than annoyed.
~ ~ ~
Eventually the staircase ends, leading you down another dim hallway like the one at the entrance, except the tunnel stops at a pair of large mahogany doors. You reach them and slowly, gently, pull them open to reveal a spectacular sight.
The ceiling is incredibly high; at least 100 feet, you estimate. You can’t see a wall in either direction -- they’re blocked by countless rows of mahogany bookshelves that extend in all three directions away from you and the doors. These bookshelves are filled, from one side to the other, with books of various coloured spines, thickness, and heights. Floating along these shelves are thousands of small crystals (similar to Flandre’s “cranberries”) that keep the library well-lit. Some books float freely without a shelf, but they move with purpose. Others slide out of place on a shelf and move over to another. It’s as if the library itself is alive.
“Wow,” you hear Remilia utter beside you. “This is amazing.”
“You are the 3497th person to say that,” says a flat voice. Next to one of the bookshelves is a pale woman who looks to be in her mid-thirties. Donned in thick purple robes and a strange hat that is a cross between a nightcap and a wizard hat, the woman regards you with an air of importance. Her eyes snap between the two of you quickly. She leans on a staff with a large gem encrusted in the top. You’re not sure how you missed her when you came in; although, her frail and unassuming form may have played a role. She looks like a mere breath could knock her over.
“The caretaker of this library, yes,” she says. “I am Lavender Knowledge. Magician, scholar, caretaker of the Great Magic Library, and your host for today.”
“It is a pleasure, Miss Knowledge. I am Remilia Scarlet, and this is my servant, Clara.”
“Ah, the Scarlet Devil. Your reputation precedes you. I am honoured to have such an acclaimed guest visit the library.” The words are flattering, but her tone is completely lacking in expression. “What would you like to check out?”
“I am searching for a book, but it is very unlikely that this book is in your possession.”
She raises her eyebrows lightly, though the rest of her face remains flat. “You are the fourth to ever suggest such a thing. I am intrigued. Let us discuss in a more comfortable place.” She turns around and hobbles off.
Remilia smiles to you and saunters after Lavender. You follow.
~ ~ ~
The library seems endless. Rows and rows of shelves like those at the entrance, only a few metres apart, in all directions, for as far as you can see. The library is suitably lit by those crystals you saw before. Once or twice, you see areas that contain no crystals, leaving them in darkness (“Do not approach those. You may not survive.”). Lavender speaks very little throughout the trek and her gait is slower than yours. You lose track of time.
Your destination is a large clearing among the shelves furnished by desks and chairs. The desks are barely recognizable as such; each one is covered in books, in-progress documents, and various utensils such as writing implements, beakers, and compasses. She steps past the desks and settles into a seated wooden chair. She waves her staff, and two other chairs levitate over, settling in front of her. You and Remilia sit. A few moments pass, Lavender unmoving, her face as flat as ever.
“Tell me about this book.”
Remilia hands her sketch of the grimoire to Lavender. “It’s a grimoire. It was stolen from me a number of years ago--”
“You owned this?” she says, knitting her brow. For the first time, there is an edge to her voice. “Are you, perchance, a diabolist?”
“No,” Remilia says. It’s technically true. She may have a contract with you, but she’s not the one who summoned you, and likely does not even know how to do such a thing on her own.
Lavender stares for a while, trying to read Remilia’s expression. The latter is firmly locked in a calm poker face. In all of your time with the Scarlet Devil, you get the sense that bureaucratic meetings such as these are when she is in her true element. The amusing thought arises: you’ll break down the walls and she’ll talk you both out of the resulting trouble. The perfect team.
“It’s a family heirloom,” Remilia offers. “My parents owned it.”
“Were they diabolists, then?”
“I do not know. They perished while I was still very young.”
Lavender’s brow laxes. “I see. I am sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, but it was decades ago.”
She takes another glance at the sketch. “My apologies for prying. If you do not know, this grimoire is very ancient, and has quite a history within magician society. Its roots are primarily diabolic in nature.”
“You seemed quite interested in the possibility of me being a diabolist,” Remilia says.
Lavender nods. “I am not fond of diabolism. I was worried I had let an enemy into the library.”
You resist the urge to react. Her stance is not unexpected, though somewhat disappointing. Throughout history, human and non-human magicians alike have shunned your kind and the craft associated with it. From what you have gathered over the years, this stigma stems from the use of the recently deceased as vessels and the dangerous nature of demons. The reputation of your kind is that of evil, fickle beings that would destroy entire towns or cities if not kept in line. Controlling such demons takes a great deal of skill; this is something that most diabolists lack, so the craft takes the brunt of the reputational damage. You make a mental note to proceed with caution. It would not be good to leave any tells that you are a demon.
“Rest assured, I am no diabolist, nor do I associate with them,” Remilia says, smiling. “My motivations in this are purely preventive. My family has kept the grimoire safe for a long time, but it was stolen from me by a young and foolish thief. I wish to take it back so I may prevent its misuse, as my parents have done.”
“I see...” Lavender raises a finger to her lips, lost in thought. “It has been long thought lost to history, but if you are telling the truth, the guardianship of the Scarlet family would be an adequate explanation for why none have located the grimoire.” She blinks, her blank stare returning to its dominant reign on her face. She leans forward toward you. “Clara, was it? Your response to my door was very interesting. What is your background?”
“She’s just a peasant girl I have enlisted as my servant,” Remilia responds for you. You steal a glance at her; her face still an unreadable wall. Is Lavender trying to get a read on her through you?
“Ah, I see,” she says, leaning back. “Where did you meet this servant?”
“Just in a town near my castle. This is somewhat off topic, though,” Remilia says, her tone sharpening.
“You are correct. My apologies.” She stands up, shuffling over to a nearby desk. She rummages through papers and books for a few moments. You look at Remilia for guidance. She simply regards you with a stern expression that you take to mean, be careful.
“Ah, here it is,” Lavender says softly, turning back to you two with a large book under her arm. On her way back to her seat, she trips. She grabs your hand as she falls and catches herself.
“Oops, clumsy me.”
In one swift motion, she pulls your glove off, exposing the bright red rune that belongs to Remilia’s contract. You freeze with immediate trepidation.
“I see you are not all that you say you are, Clara,” she whispers, brow furrowed and voice filled with malice. “Or should I say, demon?”
[ ] Lie. It’s the only way out of this.
- [ ] (write-in; how convincing the lie is determines the success)
[ ] Defend Remilia. Her safety comes first.
[ ] Attack Lavender. She’s not expecting it.