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File 152176789057.png - (578.87KB, 600x800, nobody.png) [iqdb]
66010 No. 66010
You open your eyes again, but you don’t see the dark streets of the city, disgruntled passersby, or fellow drunkards. Instead, it’s the warm glow of a quiet kitchen — her kitchen. It was cozy, as was the rest of the house — distinctly upper-class, but not big enough for servants. That was her dowry, absurd as it was. When you discovered it had been the house she stayed in since she was a child, things made a lot more sense: it had never really been your home. It was the princess’s playhouse, where she could pretend.

Just like now. Washing dishes. She was good at that — cleaning. It’s no wonder why. She turns away from the running water with the most delicate smile you’ve ever seen. “Another late night?”

You lean on the wall, keeping the length of the room between the two of you. “Whatever keeps me away from you.”

Her hand on the wet plate stops for a moment, then resumes. “If I didn’t know any better, I would say you were an abusive husband.”

You weren’t abusive, but you weren’t the best. Long hours, late calls, and a lot of pent-up stress and anxiety dominated most of your relationship.

“Let’s pretend I was the perfect husband,” you say. “Would it have mattered at all?”

She looks back at the sink and grabs another plate. “What do you think?”

You’ve considered it, again and again and again. Where would you both be if you hadn’t become a detective? If you were at home with her more often? If you appreciated her more instead of using her as a reprieve from a hard day at work? Would you be speaking with her in reality, instead of this twisted dream? Would you still have your old life?

“Of course not,” is your answer. “You were always rotten to the core.”

Kotohime puts the plate back down, but doesn’t pick up another. “Even when we were kids?”

“I met you when I turned eighteen,” you answer. “Our parents arranged for us to be wed.”

Suddenly, she breaks out into a fit of laughter that you have to tune out. After collecting herself, she says, “You can be such an idiot sometimes, PI. But that’s alright. I love you anyway — whether you’re out at work or home with me.”

Fucking lunatic. You ignore her and turn your attention to the kitchen itself. It’s been a while since you’ve seen it, even in your dreams. There were always things laying out on the counter: jars, rags, knives — small and large. You wonder if she really did like cooking, or if that was just another part of the big ruse. Your hand falls on a carving knife— worn, but with a maintained edge and a distinct point. You happen to pick it up.

“That’s my favorite,” she remarks, as soon as you get a grip of it. “A dependable blade makes all the difference when it comes to meat.”

Disgust turns into rage, and you drop the knife back on the counter. “I’m sure it does,” you utter, your hands feeling a little dirtier.

“I remember how you always loved my cooking,” she goes on. “Bragged about it, even. You haven’t had anything else like it, right?”

She isn’t wrong, but that’s hardly relevant. You don’t want to give her the satisfaction of a response to her rambling.

“But I always thought it was a funny thing, how you never asked me what you were eating.”

You whip your head around to stare at her. “What?”

She meets your eyes, with a grin. “You were so happy whenever you could actually sit down and eat with me, that you never asked. All I had to do was say it was fresh from the butcher.”

Something dark and heavy grabs your stomach. You remember that night, how she showed — no, displayed her sick ways for you, her captive audience. The ways she tortured those girls — physically, mentally, sexually. The humans were lucky enough to die, and that just left the youkai who could suffer through it again and again.

But there was always something else you didn’t want to remember. It was the way she could remove their skin so effortlessly, and how the flesh could be pulled from the bone. She knew exactly how to do it so their bodies would grow back quickly and properly — turning the youkai’s ability to regenerate physical wounds so cruelly against them. She had done it so many times before that it had become a routine.

She beams a smile at you. “They were delicious, weren’t they?

You cross the length of the room in an instant. With one hand you grab her and slam her against the wall, hard enough to hear it splinter. Your fingers clutch her white neck halfway around, and you squeeze hard enough to where you can feel the tendons in her neck strain and fold.

Kotohime offers no resistance, letting her arms dangle as she stares into your eyes with none of the emotions you want her to feel — just a pleasant expectance of what has and will come.

“A, are you going to do it?” she chokes out. “W, will you stab me?”

You glance down at your other hand. It’s holding the carving knife. You don’t even remember grabbing it. All it would take is one thrust, then you could keep going and going and going, until you killed her again. That your wife might feel a fraction of the pain she put others through would bring you peace.

Wouldn’t it?

Would it?

Your hand on her throat loosens, and then releases.

Kotohime doesn’t take any deep breaths, or even feel around on her throat. Instead, she keeps smiling at you, like nothing happened. “It’s more difficult to stab someone to death than to shoot them, isn’t it?” she remarks. “The trigger of a gun is a decision that can be made in a split second. The blade of a knife requires dedication. I know you can’t really kill me.”

You turn around and search for an exit, but there’s no doors where they should be. It’s just walls. You look back, and that pure smile of hers starts to burn into your head.

“I’m your wife,” she continues, “and you know that everything I did, was because I love you. Nobody can take that away from us.”

###

You jolt out of bed and dash to the bathroom. Your vomit tastes like alcohol and bile. Even when you’re finished, it doesn’t feel like enough.

It will never be enough.

“PI?”

It’s Mori’s voice. You raise your face out of the toilet bowl and look toward the door. Both Mori and Hina are standing there, watching you with concern.

If you confessed your sins, would they be able to forgive you? Would they be able to comfort you? You remember how Mori saved your life, confided her failures with you, and smelled like dandelions when you held her and kissed her forehead. You also remember the warmth of Hina’s embrace, her inexplicable dedication to you, the sadness she felt while describing her creation and creator, and her resolve to help Alice.

But you also remember vividly the sight of Mori gnawing on that night sparrow, and Hina happily mentioning her disposing of the bodies of the families that used to live here.

No. Mori and Hina can’t help you. Nothing good can come of exposing them to her.

This is what you deserve.

Your voice barely croaks out of your throat. “Just a bad hangover,” you finally respond. “Gimme a sec alone.”

###

Taking a shower helps only a little bit, but it helps. For once you’re thankful for the headache, because it means you can’t think too hard.

The apartment is quiet, except for the mumbling of the television in the living room. If Hina and Mori are still here, they aren’t talking — at least not loud enough for you to hear. You wander through the bedroom door and almost run smack into Mori, who’s wearing some of the pajamas Hina gave her.

She looks up at your face, and then smiles. “Oh, you look better. Come on, Hina’s making breakfast!”

You wince at the sudden bit of volume. “Keep it down. I still feel like shit.”

Mori stops and speaks quietly. “Uh, sorry. Bad headache, huh? Didn’t mean to hurt you. I can heal a lot of things, but a hangover is a bit complicated, y’know? You’d need a dedicated water god or something for that.”

“You’re awfully chipper,” you grumble. “And obedient. I don’t like it.”

Mori avoids your eyes. “I dunno what you’re talking about. Aren’t I always chipper and obedient?”

Something’s up, that’s for sure. Regardless, you follow her to the table and sit down. Hina is standing in the kitchen, messing around with the oven. You watch her play with the dials for a few moments before you feel the need to ask, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Hina?”

Hina jolts the tiniest bit in surprise and turns around to face you, and her cheeks slowly flush red. “I must admit that it has been a while since I’ve cooked, and never with one of these machines. However, I am confident that I can figure it out!”

That’s easy for her to say. It isn’t a gas stove, but you’re still a little nervous about the way she’s messing around with it.

“Anyway,” Hina continues, facing back toward the stove. “I deeply enjoyed our sleepover last night. I understand that neither of you were in a state of right mind, but I was still happy to be in your company.”

You look at Mori, who wears a sheepish grin. “Sleepover?”

Mori forces a laugh. “Well um, I had some problems walking home, and Hina helped me out. Then we saw you doubled over in front of the door, one thing led to another, and I didn’t want to send Hina back to her place, so I told her she could stay here.”

Your partner’s acting like she did something wrong, but you don’t really care about that. “I don’t mind if Hina stays here for a night,” you reply. “I trust her enough.” Then you think for a moment. “Wait, where did she sleep? The couch?”

Mori looks away, so that may be the crux of the issue. “Well, she was kinda insistent on sleeping with us, and I wasn’t really opposed to the idea, so we all ended up sleeping in our bed.”

Our bed, huh? You wonder when that happened, but you find yourself unwilling to address it.

“It was fun,” Hina chimes in pleasantly, as she gracefully cracks some eggs against the countertop. “I do not sleep much, but watching both of you sleep throughout the night was fascinating. You both snore in intervals, and occasionally you even synchronize for a period of time. Your hand was also quite fond of my breast, PI, though I’m not sure why.”

You groped an idol of misfortune in your drunken stupor. No wonder you had such a shitty dream. “Sorry about that, Hina,” you tell her only half-sincerely. “You should have pushed me off.”

Hina turns around and stares at you intently, actually taking some kind of offense to the suggestion. “Not at all! In fact, it has been many years since I was massaged like that. Please let me know any time you would like to massage me in the future.”

That’s a dangerous thing for her to say, so you’ll pretend you never heard it.

You glance over at Mori. Normally, she would be breaking out in a fit of snickering right about now, or maybe glaring at you, but she’s strangely quiet. “And where’s your smartass comment?” you remark to her.

“Oh, the little one made plenty of comments as she held onto you during the night,” Hina answers for her. “Unfortunately, she has sworn me into secrecy. I think she might be embarrassed, but I thought it was very, ahh, cute. Yes, cute.”

Mori drops her head on the table. “Hina, when someone tells you to keep something a secret, that doesn’t mean you tell him that you’re keeping a secret.”

“I see,” Hina responds. “I will try and remember that in the future, then.”

The way she smiles at you after saying that leads you to believe she’s probably messing with Mori again, kind of like the time she dropped her when you were walking back to Minoriko’s farm the other day.

“Well, I wish I had been awake and sober for that,” you admit to Mori, “but if you’re that embarrassed, I won’t push you.”

Mori buries her head deeper in her arms. “Thanks,” she mutters.

###

Hina sets a plate of food in front of you: a fat omelette with some rice on the side and a drawing made with ketchup on it. Well, you call it a drawing, but it just looks like a blob with some lines coming out of it.

“What is this, Hina?”

“It’s an omelette, with rice and ketchup,” she answers.

“No, I meant, what did you draw?”

“Oh,” she responds less enthusiastically. “I was told I should draw a heart on it, but I couldn’t remember exactly what the human heart looked like. I think I had some problems with the — what do you call them — arteries?”

That would explain why it took her half an hour to do it. You aren’t sure what’s more disturbing: that Hina tried to draw a heart on your omelette like a schoolgirl or that she tried to draw an actual heart on your omelette like some kind of psychopathic stalker from a television drama.

You glance at Mori. “Did you have something to do with this?”

This time, she’s barely keeping herself from bursting with laughter. “Nope,” she says quickly. “Nothin’ to do with it.”

Of course not.

“I, I can make something else,” Hina offers quickly.

You hold the plate down with one hand so she doesn’t run off with it. “It looks fine, Hina. I promise.”

That’s what you say, but you hesitate to actually take a bite. It’s just eggs, but that heavy grip on your stomach returns. Your appetite isn’t exactly there since your little conversation with Kotohime, and the red ketchup sure as shit doesn’t help. Just like this, you ignorantly devoured the flesh of those youkai — those girls. Who knows how much, and for how long? All the while, they withered away in that fucking basement — dungeon, rather — being used as some sick demented game.

You’re just as responsible as she is.

Hina’s voice interrupts your self-loathing. “PI?”

She’s standing there, watching you expectantly. Out of the corner of your eye, you also see Mori staring at you.

Kotohime isn’t here. She doesn’t even exist to anybody anymore — only you. She’s your sin to carry, and it has nothing to do with Mori, Hina, or whoever else. So for now, you can eat the omelette. And you can smile.

It isn’t good. Some parts are slimy and uncooked, while others are brown and crispy. Hina really was totally clueless about how the stove worked. It’s nothing like the level that she used to cook. This is completely mediocre, and it doesn’t help that the ketchup bottle you have is probably a year or so old.

And that’s exactly what you needed.

“I’ll help you next time, Hina,” you tell her, “but I can eat this.”

Any disappointment that Hina might have felt is completely replaced with excitement. “Yes! I would appreciate that very much!”

“So, whose was better?” Mori speaks up, loudly munching on some toast.

It’s been a while since that time Mori cooked, but you still don’t hesitate to say, “Yours, definitely.”

That, however, does cast a gloom over Hina’s demeanor. “I see. So the little one has bested me in cooking.”

You take another bite of the sloppy egg. “Don’t worry, Hina. It won’t take long for you to get used to that stove.”

What you aren’t telling her is that you don’t mind someone else doing the cooking. It’s not really taking advantage of her if she’s more than happy to do it, or so you tell yourself.

Hina brightens up. “I see. Yes! That is what I will strive for!”

Mori glares at the two of you. “Hey uh, I was complimented, but I kinda feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick, y’know?”

“But you are short,” Hina replies without missing a beat.

Mori looks like she might say something, but stops. Even she probably doesn’t want to push Hina since she heard her secret sleep-talking or whatever it was.

“I don’t like this,” Mori grumbles after a moment.

You glance at Hina and notice her pleased smile. She’s definitely aware of the hold she has over Mori.

“Don’t worry,” you assure them, “you’ll both make great wives someday, I’m sure.”

Then you freeze. Whatever pleasant atmosphere you reestablished for yourself crashes, and surprisingly enough it seems to affect Mori and Hina as well. Mori withdraws into her food, while Hina goes far away in her thoughts.

What a stupid comment. You of all people should know it can be a sensitive subject, but for the first time you really consider: these are two women who have lived many lifetimes. You can’t be the first human they’ve been involved with. Hina had her creator and the villagers from back then, while Mori had her followers and subjects in the outside world. Have they ever made human friends? Lovers? Is it even possible for beings like them to form lasting attachment to humans? They’ve given you a lot of leeway with your own past, so asking them — now, at least — isn’t something you want to breach.

It’s another reminder that these moments are fleeting, especially for them. This could all be gone tomorrow, like so many things you once held dear.

There’s a knock on the door — three of them, very measured.

You stand up. “I’ll get it,” you announce, not that Mori or Hina are rushing to the door or anything.

A glance through the peephole bestows a curious sight upon you: a silver-haired young maid in a blue-and-white uniform. “What the fuck?” you mumble to yourself before turning the knob and opening the door.

Sure enough, it wasn’t a trick of the light. It really is a maid, with pale skin, a genuine maid’s uniform complete with frilly apron, and red eyes with heavy bags that lead you to believe the two of you might share at least something in common. “Good morning,” she greets you with a deep bow. “I apologize for disturbing you, but I believe you are the man known as PI.”

If this is a job, it’s probably the most bizarre way you’ve been recruited yet. Since she’s already made it this far, there’s no use in denying it. “I am,” you reply.

The maid procures something from a pocket in her apron, and you notice just how toned her bare arms are. That is not the physique of a simple housekeeper.

She unfurls a piece of parchment and clears her throat softly before reading aloud from it. “To my esteemed ‘PI’, I hereby invite you to the First Scarlet Devil Mansion Birthday Celebration of Mistress Remilia Scarlet, Blood Heir of the Legacy of Vlad Tepes, Greatest Most Legendary Vampire of the Outside World.”

The maid takes a breath after such a long, nonsensical title, while you wonder both who Remilia Scarlet is and what she’s compensating for.

“You will hereby attend on the night of the new moon,” the maid continues. “For your special case, formal attire will be provided and free lodging will be granted until the event. Please rest easy, and accompany my head maid without reservation. Further instruction will be provided when you arrive. Dictated but not read, Mistress Remilia Scarlet, Blood Heir of the Legacy of Vlad Tepes, Greatest Most Legendary Vampire of the Outside World.”

The maid takes another breath, then hands the parchment to you. Everything she read is written in clean, crisp penmanship, and at the bottom is a signature in a language you can’t read, penned in a deep red ink.

It’s all pretty damn surprising, and you’re still trying to wrap your head around it. “The Scarlet Devil Mansion?”

“Are you not aware of it?”

“I think so,” you answer. “Only a couple rumors, if it's what I'm thinking. I don’t know why your mistress would invite me to her birthday party when I’ve never met or even heard of her.”

The maid thinks for a moment, before frankly stating, “I do not, either. This invitation was made for you by the request of Patchouli Knowledge, a resident of the mansion and close friend of the mistress. Would that name be more familiar to you?”

You shake your head. “Never heard it before in my life.”

The maid’s eyes regard you sharply. “Then that is unfortunate, because I was ordered to bring you to the mansion now. Will this be a problem?”

Mori saunters up to you, with Hina not far behind. “So uh, what’s this all about, PI?”

The maid glances down at Mori, and then — to your surprise — smiles warmly and speaks delicately. “I’m sorry, Little Miss, but the invitation is for this man — alone. Please don’t worry. I won’t harm him, and neither will my mistress.”

“Invitation?” you repeat. “This seems more like a demand.”

“If that is what you think, then I apologize,” the maid replies to you, a bit more coldly than she addressed Mori. “The language my mistress uses isn’t meant to insinuate a lack of choice, but a predetermined outcome. Simply put, it’s your fate to attend. If it was your choice, you would have certainly attended. It just so happened that your presence is required a bit earlier than we originally expected.”

This Remilia Scarlet sounds like some kind of grandstanding crime lord. “I still don’t see what the difference is,” you admit. “In fact, I might even take it as a threat.”

“I see,” she replies, with a strained smile. “Well, I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Please excuse me, I need to check the time.”

The maid reaches into the other pocket of her apron and takes out an old-fashioned silver watch on a chain. She hits the button to open the face, and—

###

###

###

You wake up in…

[] …a sunny garden, near a flowerbed.

[] …a dark library, tied to a chair.

[] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?

[]
43posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> No. 66286
[x] Keep moving straight into the large light.
>> No. 66287
>>66281
This is the SDM, not the forest.

And even if it were, my answer to your question would be "pretty damn good" considering we have a bell that summons Sakuya instantly.

If you're a pussy just say so.
>> No. 66296
>>66287
> calling someone a pussy
> relying on a girl to save your ass

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...
>> No. 66349
Goddamnit, update! I have a hard-boiled itch that needs scratching.


...does anyone have any recommendations, by the way?
>> No. 66358
>>66349
Sorry friend, work and life have been busy. But, the update is moving along quite nicely now. I've also been working on a little something else I hope you sadists will enjoy.
>> No. 66361
File 152619753847.png - (271.86KB, 465x600, the unsleeping great library.png) [iqdb]
66361
[x] Keep moving straight into the large light.

Normally a library wouldn’t give you cause to be suspicious, but you’re certain this is no ordinary library. Anything could be waiting in the darkness of the aisles — and whatever it might be probably won’t give you enough time to ring Sakuya’s bell. So, you swallow your curiosity and follow Sakuya’s advice.

Walking to the center of the library is a chore. The raised, dimly lit path walkway gives you vertigo, which isn’t helped by the way this entire mansion seems to mess with your depth perception. For instance, one moment it feels like the center of the library is far away, and the next it feels like you’re almost there. Did Sakuya’s abilities have lingering effects on you, or is it a trick the mansion itself is playing on you?

When you finally reach the center of the library, it’s brightly-lit in contrast to the rest of library — but you aren’t sure by what. There are no candles, lanterns, or electric lights anywhere. You can’t even pick out where the light is coming from — nothing casts a shadow, the light just seems to be there.

Besides the mysterious light, the first and only thing that jumps out at you is a large wooden desk with piles of thick books stacked high on top of it. The wood looks old, but well-maintained; you can’t spot a speck of dust, dirt, or wear on the limited amount of desk that isn’t covered.

“Can I help you?”

The low, somber voice startles you, especially since you can’t see anyone. Then, some color catches your eye, and you look up to see a girl with long, purple hair under a pink nightcap rising from behind the desk — so slight of frame that she was completely obscured by the desk and the tomes. Her skin is a pale, almost-ghoulish shade of white, with her eyes darkened by bags that are even heavier than your own. Her pink nightgown flutters slightly in the open air as she halts a few feet above the books.

It’s no surprise that you would encounter a strange librarian in a library like this. “I was summoned by Patchouli Knowledge,” you explain. “Is she available?”

She floats over the desk, closer to you. Her dull eyes scan your body up and down. “I am impressed,” she claims, despite none of it on her stern face. “There are demons who have taken longer to appear before me when they are called. I suppose I owe it to Sakuya.”

It’s easy enough to assume that you’ve found your girl. “Then my invitation to this mansion was your doing?”

She nods. “It was a convenient excuse for all parties involved — except Remi, but I would rather not report to her about this particular interest of mine. If she knew, she would grandstand and bring far too much attention to it. Instead, I would prefer to handle this matter delicately.”

You don’t know if you would call this situation “convenient.” But, you keep your mouth shut for now and let her continue as she lowers herself closer to the floor — her dangling feet stopping just inches from it. “In any case,” she continues, “I never thought I would feel any sort of happiness from seeing a human again.” She floats even closer to you, illiciting an urge to take a step back from the encroaching girl. “Though I have theorized that you are not human at all.”

You hold your hand out because you have to stop her there — both physically and whatever she’s talking about. “I get the feeling I’m missing a lot of context here,” you say. “I’ve never met you before, Miss Knowledge. I have no idea who you are or what kind of interest you have in me, so please explain yourself — especially if you’re going to make accusations like that.”

Patchouli blinks slowly, then floats higher into the air. “Take a seat.”

You feel a light tap on your behind, and glance back to find that a floating wooden chair is offering itself to you. Before you can put much thought into it, the chair scoops you right off your feet and rises into the air. It’s disorienting at first: being a grown man whose legs are dangling freely off a chair. However, the chair’s ascent is slow and stable enough to where your initial panic quickly subsides — though your hands are still glued to the sides of the chair for support in the wide-open space.

“I see now that you are confused,” she begins. “I am Patchouli Knowledge, a magician. I know you, PI, from a time not long ago when I infiltrated your dreams through a hole left by my careless servant.”

“You don’t remember her?” an all-too-familiar voice whispers in your mind. “The pajamas girl you were infatuated by? The awkward yet adorable red-haired woman? Not me, but the other one.”

You think — and then you remember that messy, nonsensical dream with the redhead who tried to seduce you, and the pajamas girl who came to retrieve her but was assaulted by Kotohime. But, it turns out it wasn’t nonsense; that pajamas girl is now in front of you.

“While I was inside your dreams,” Patchouli continues, “I stumbled upon an anomaly that I believe exists within you — something that can prevent my magic. No human’s mind should be able to undo my spellcasting.” Her eyes narrow at you. “That girl in your mind. She must be the source of that anomaly. I cannot blame you for the atrocities she visited upon me, but I must know more about her.”

This is bad. Kotohime has claimed another victim — in your dream space anyway — and her influence has once again crept outside your own head. A magician’s curiosity could definitely unlock the history you’ve been concealing for over ten years — and once it’s out, it’s out. Patchouli’s already invested in this enough to track you down and bring you here, so unfortunately playing dumb won’t work.

Patchouli floats closer toward you again. “I know that you may not be fully aware of your own psyche, so I am prepared to conduct my own research. I can promise no harm will come to your body, but I will be reaching into the depths of your mind to find this girl once again.”

Kotohime’s voice echoes once again in your head. “Let her come, I don’t mind. She seems to admire me, and I’ve been quite starved for playmates.”

“Nobody asked you, monster,” you mutter to yourself.

Patchouli’s cool eyes stare into you. “Excuse me?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” you state clearly. “I don’t know how anything in my head could interfere with your spellcasting. I’ve been around multiple magicians recently and they haven’t had any problems.”

“Your words do nothing to dissuade my curiosity,” she replies, “only provoke it.”

You glance down. Since you’ve been speaking, your chair has been steadily rising and is now ten feet off the ground, at least. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want anyone poking around inside my head.”

“I could not care less for your mortal secrets and masturbatory fantasies,” Patchouli claims, her voice gradually becoming loud enough to echo slightly off the far walls of the wide library. “I have no interest in such petty and shallow plundering. I need to investigate the makeup of your brain and soul. A detective, of all people, should understand my thirst for this knowledge. Unless, there is something you are protecting?”

You’re protecting Patchouli herself, but she’s too stubborn to understand that. You don’t know what measures she might have prepared against Kotohime, but you think it won’t work out well for you regardless of what happens. When Patchouli tries to place one of her clammy hands on your forehead, you shake it off. “You’re acting like an idiot,” you tell her. “Obviously, your magic is fine now. If that’s all you’re interested in, then I’m leaving.”

You look down again, and your stomach turns when you realize that the floor is a lot further away than you thought it would be. The chair is at least thirty feet up now, and a fall from this height onto hard wood isn’t something you’re willing to attempt.

While you look down, Patchouli grabs the sides of your head with both of her hands and brings her face close and level to yours. Her widened eyes reveal the veined whites around her purple irises. “Gi, give her to me,” she demands through increasingly rapid, strained breaths. “Bring her, her out. I have to, I have to find—”

Patchouli coughs right in your face, spraying you with some spit and stale breath. She collapses into you as she continues coughing, wheezing, and gasping for air. As an instinct, you wrap one of your arms around her back — only to keep her from slipping off the chair and falling.

With her body against yours, you can feel just how frail and cold her small body is through her nightgown. She obviously isn’t healthy. You wonder if that has to do with her magic abilities, but then you consider that Marisa and Alice are both completely healthy and spry despite their constant use and exposure to magic. Patchouli’s health is likely an independent factor.

When her coughing dies down, you tell her, “If you’re not feeling well, then you should probably put us both down.”

No response. You pull her back and check her face. She’s still struggling to breathe, her pale cheeks are flushed red, and her eyelids are closed tightly. You shake her a little bit, but her eyes don’t so much as twitch. She’s obviously unconscious.

The floating chair begins to wobble. You look down again.

Shit.

The chair loses its magical support and you drop; Patchouli slips out of your arm and falls as well. The floor is quick to rush at you, and something hits you hard.

But it isn’t the floor.

When you open your eyes, you’re looking up into the face of a beautiful woman with long, red hair and tiny black bat-like wings sprouting from her head. She holds you to her chest like you’re her damsel-in-distress, while she floats gently down to the ground.

“U, um,” your savior begins quietly, “are you okay, PI?”

When you turn your head to look into her face, you can feel the distinct softness of her ample breast. Strangely enough, you also feel her getting some handfuls of your ass. “Are you groping me?” you ask bluntly.

Her face flushes red and she laughs nervously. “I, it was a reflex.”

That excuse doesn’t really work, but given the circumstances you’re going to let it slide. She sets you down — but you notice she takes the opportunity to take a long sniff of your nape. You waste little time in separating yourself from her and turning your attention to the magician laying face-down and motionless on the floor nearby.

“Is she going to be alright?” you wonder out loud, since you aren’t particularly motivated enough to go and check on her yourself.

“She has her precious Philosopher’s Stone, so she won’t die from that,” the redhead explains. “It’s her fault anyway, since she forgot to take her medication. How great can a magician be if they faint so easily? Stupid master.”

You ignore whatever a Philosopher’s Stone is supposed to be — for now — and turn back toward your rescuer, who jolts and blushes again. You remember that she’s the same redhead from your dream, but you aren’t sure if she remembers. “You’re from my dream too, aren’t you?”

“S, so you remember that?” she responds loudly and quickly. “Well yes, I am, uh, a being that can enter dreams, and it just so happens I picked yours — completely by coincidence! I go through men’s dreams all the time, really, so you shouldn’t feel special or anything.”

You watch her closely as she tries to explain herself, and her eyes never end up meeting with yours for more than a millisecond. Her black tail pokes out from underneath her black dress and thrashes about wildly, while her hands fidget with themselves at about waist-level. Every couple of seconds, one of the bat wings on her head twitches.

You sigh. “Lucy. Calm down.”

She fidgets more with her hands. “Hey, I’m totally, completely calm, I assure—ah!” Her eyes widen with surprise. “How did you know?!”

“It wasn’t that difficult to guess,” you tell her. “I already knew you were in here because the fairies told me, and from there it was just comparing what you’ve told me in the past to what I’m seeing now. Plus, you did say my name earlier and you admitted you were Lucy just now.”

Her face goes from red to white, before she forces a grin and flips her hair back to try and look cool. “I, I see. Of course, an ace detective like yourself would employ such a masterful ruse, PI.”

It wasn’t masterful, and it was hardly even a ruse. Nevertheless, you’re surprised that Lucy is actually a woman, and a little more awkward than you might have imagined. Whereas Hatate acts almost the same online and offline, Lucy seems to be more reserved. It makes you wonder what Q would be like in person. It would be amusing if she were actually extremely outgoing.

Lucy looks away once again. “Are you, um, are you mad at me? I wanted it to be a surprise, but I didn’t think Sakuya would be so, um, so forceful.” She casts a glare down on her fallen master. “And then there’s this bag of nonsense. She can really be a handful when she gets fixated on something. I can’t count how many tomes on anti-magic she’s been sending me out to find.”

“I can’t say I’m thrilled about being stuck here in this mansion for the purposes of being a research specimen,” you answer her first question, ignoring the rest of her rant. “Why did you think that would be a happy surprise for me?”

Perhaps sensing her time to shine, Lucy straightens her posture and smiles brightly. “That isn’t why I wanted you to be here, my dear PI. You see, my goal was to make you privy to some very important events that will be unfolding! I’ve seen the guest list for the party, and it can’t be a coincidence that they’re all youkai — but not one of them is a tengu! The whole event is being kept very quiet to outsiders, and I have reason to believe it’s because Remilia Scarlet will be making some kind of announcement that she wouldn’t want the tengu to hear! So, I convinced my sullen master to make you her plus one and then have me attend the party with you on her behalf. That means we both can be at ground zero for Remilia Scarlet’s announcement and get the scoop for Hatate!” In conclusion, she crosses her arms and nods smugly. “How’s that?”

It’s better than you thought. If you were called here just to fend off a magician, put up with a bunch of spoiled fairies, and maybe eat some cake, then you would be pretty upset. “That sounds good to me,” you reply, “but Hatate and Mori are gonna be pissed you left them in the dark about this.”

Lucy grins. “I think Hatate will be happy when she gets her report. And as for Mori, well, you’re the one I want to impress.”

Now she’s starting to sound more like the Lucy you expected. You’d like to change the subject for now, so you direct your attention to the unconscious Patchouli. “Shouldn’t you be helping your master?”

Lucy scoffs at the very idea. “Not unless her life is in danger, and it never is with all the trinkets and enchantments she keeps on herself. If she would keep up with the medicine she gets from Eientei, then she wouldn’t have such a hard time with her asthma.”

So, that’s what it was. “I imagine asthma would be pretty crippling for a magician who has to make long chants for spellcasting.”

“That’s why she has her Philosopher’s Stone, which is the perfect catalyst for alchemy. She’s mastered the use of transmutation, which uses somatic rather than verbal components, so she doesn’t have to speak much when she casts.” In response to your blank stare, Lucy giggles. “Sorry, I forgot you don’t know much about magic.”

You don't, so you move on. “Is there somewhere we can take her? Where does she sleep?”

“She has a room on the upper floor,” Lucy answers. “I can teleport her there later. She can wake up on the cold floor with a stiff neck for all I care. I’m much more interested in talking with you.”

Lucy starts fidgeting with her hands again.

[] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.

[] Can Lucy clear that desk off? You wouldn’t mind having a nice chat with her here in the library.

[] Lucy should give you a tour of the mansion. You get the feeling she’ll be more candid and helpful than Sakuya would be.

[] If Patchouli has a room, then does Lucy have a room?

[]
>> No. 66362
[X] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.

lets see where this take us.
>> No. 66363
[x] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.
>> No. 66364
[X] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.

I'd love to have Lucy give us tour, but it'd be kinda cruel to leave Patch on the floor like that.
>> No. 66365
You'd think a veteran magician would know better than to mess with mysterious sealed incorporeal entities of unknown power.


[x] If Patchouli has a room, then does Lucy have a room?
>> No. 66366
[X] Can Lucy clear that desk off? You wouldn’t mind having a nice chat with her here in the library.
No fun allowed.
>> No. 66367
[X] Let's carry her to the room or you'll get scolded later.
-[X] Then teleport us to the library to have a nice talk-in private.
>> No. 66368
[x] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.

PI the gentleman.
>> No. 66371
[x] Can Lucy clear that desk off? You wouldn’t mind having a nice chat with her here in the library.

More Lucy! But not possibly life-threatening amounts of Lucy. Always Lucy responsibly and in moderation.
>> No. 66372
[x] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.
>> No. 66373
[X] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.

Not helping her immediately makes me feel bad so let's carry her to her room first.
>> No. 66416
I've been busy, but an update is in the works. Excluding a disaster, it should be up this weekend.
>> No. 66517
Looking forward to more updates dude. This is one of the few storys I try to keep up with!
>> No. 66533
Everything is a disaster these days, it looks like.
>> No. 66587
File 15327224469.jpg - (208.20KB, 850x1098, unwaking obsessive magician.jpg) [iqdb]
66587
[x] You want to carry Patchouli to her room since you feel bad for her. What happened to her wasn't entirely her fault.


###


Patchouli Knowledge’s room seems like it was originally for storage — not for someone to live in. There’s a large, plush-looking bed that takes up most of the space, with only a small cabinet for outfits — on top of which are a variety of pills and an inhaler. It’s easy to tell she spends most of her time in the library. There isn’t even a mirror, and you thought that was a necessity for a woman. Then again, Patchouli is a youkai with access to a time-bending maid. Her needs might be a little different.

Taking care with her frail body, you gently lower the unconscious magician onto her bed. You figure leaving her uncovered is the best for her asthma, but that’s really just an assumption. It’s not like you would want to tuck her in anyway, even though she does look pretty cute when she’s asleep.

Lucy sighs. “For all the times I fantasi—err, imagined meeting you, I never would have thought you’d end up putting Patchouli to bed so delicately.”

You look at Lucy. She avoids your eyes, but the jealousy in hers isn’t hard to miss. “She’s been through a rough time because of me,” you explain. “She can’t be held entirely accountable for her actions.”

“I don’t know how much you know about magicians,” Lucy says, “but she isn’t a human that was tempted by knowledge or corrupted by a mentor or anything tragic like that. She’s a full-blooded youkai witch who willingly lives with a vampire and has no moral quandries sharing a glass of human blood with her on a good night. I’ve always heard the stories and reports of how you treat youkai, but seeing it in-person just feels unnaturally self-sacrificial.”

Self-sacrificial. You hate that. “I prefer to think of it as being conscious of my worst mistake,” you mutter. Already you can tell you’ve said the wrong thing when you see curiosity blossom on Lucy’s face. “And I don’t see what’s so unnatural about humans and youkai trying to get along,” you add quickly. “Humans are capable of far more monstrous acts than youkai. That’s why I can work at Kakashi, under a tengu, dealing mostly with youkai.” And gods.

Lucy approaches you. “You speak from experience.” After a twitch of hesitation, she raises her hand to caress your face. “How—u, um, how deep are your scars, PI?”

Her awkwardness is nice, because it gives you a great opening to deflect. You grab her hand and move it away, but don’t let go. You get so close that you can feel her breaths on your neck. “Are you trying to seduce me again, Lucy? It sounds like you’ve been reading too many romance novels.”

She breaks completely, stepping away from you with a fierce blush. “I’m just trying to help! Geez. You don’t have to act so practical and cool all the time. A good lead character should go with the flow!”

You can’t help but laugh. “You’re the one who panicked. And I don’t know where you’re getting those ideas. I’m not practical, cool, or a lead character.”

She fidgets with her fingers. “Of course you’re the lead character, dummy. That’s why I wish you would um, stop being so cool. Because, you’re a human. And if you die, that’s it. But, it’s also really exciting when you have all these dangerous adventures so, um.” Suddenly, she shakes her head and cries, “Ahhh! It’s so frustrating! I don’t know how to feel!”

You don’t know how to respond to her delusions, until you hear a choking, gurgling noise and look back to the bed to find Patchouli coughing up some kind of dense foam in her sleep.

Lucy groans. “Oh geez. Just when it was getting good. I have to give her medicine or she’ll choke on herself. Blech.”

She sluggishly grabs one of the pill bottles on the plain wood dresser, empties more pills than you can count into her hand, and unceremoniously shoves them all into Patchouli’s half-open mouth. With a snap of her fingers, a glass of water appears out of thin air and also dumps itself into Patchouli’s mouth.

“Won’t that drown her?” you mention.

“Nah, she’s used to this,” Lucy responds. While she’s paying attention to you, Patchouli coughs most of the water down her chin. Lucy doesn’t even notice, and dismisses the empty cup with another snap. “Alright, she’s good.”

Patchouli stops making noise, but now she’s laying face-up and completely still — almost like she’s ready to go into a coffin. You can’t help but confirm with Lucy. “Are you sure?”

Lucy neglects to even look at her. “Yeah, she does this a lot. Like I said, she has so many enchantments on herself that she might as well be immortal.”

You’ll have to take Lucy’s word for it, and move on. “Well, now I have to think about how I’m going to avoid her until the party. I can’t let her get inside my head, Lucy. Come to think of it, why hasn’t she tried invading my dreams again??”

Lucy glances away with a nervous smile. “I was the one who actually invaded your dream in the first place, and she entered through the hole I was using.” Then she starts thinking. “It would be possible for her to enter your dreams on her own, but I think she knows that’s a bad idea. Something about your mind is very unstable, enough to even block out other people’s magic. I’m not sure what her plan is now. If I were her, I would create a neutral space that would temporarily house the entirety of both your consciousnesses, but that might have its own issues.”

Once again, that kind of magic talk goes over your head. “However it is, I’m happy to hear she can’t use any dream magic to get inside my head whenever she wants.” Then you stare at Lucy hard. “That just leaves you.”

Lucy blinks. “Me?”

“You also saw something you shouldn’t have seen.”

Lucy raises her index finger to her chin, thinks for a moment, then shrugs. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. All I remember is a beautiful noir scene that was rudely interrupted. If I did see anything else, I’ve already forgotten it.”

Then she winks.

You smile and relax. “I think that’s the best answer you could’ve gave me. Some things need to stay buried and forgotten, Lucy.”

Lucy thinks. “I understand that.” When she catches your disbelieving look, she adds, “Honest. I’m a demon who isn’t even from this plane of existance, so there’s a limit to how much I can meddle with your affairs, anyway.”

You don’t know much about demons, but it would explain why Lucy doesn’t feel like a human, a youkai, or anything else you’ve encountered before. The rest might as well be gobbledeguk, but you think you understand the gist of what she’s saying. Focusing on the “what” instead of the “how or why” is how you make it through these types of conversations. “So you’re an outsider, looking in? It seems like you want to meddle with me quite a bit, though.”

Lucy’s tail catches your eye as it wags and flicks itself around. “W, what I’m doing now is no big deal. Sex — even um, love — between humans and demons is pretty common.” Then her expression turns serious. “However, I can’t interfere with the laws of the world. For example, I can’t exploit my presence outside the timeline to affect—”

Okay, even you have a limit. “Sorry,” you interrupt her, “but I’ll settle for an understanding of the very basics. I don’t really know anything about other existences or timelines or any of that.”

Lucy stops and smiles. “Ah, right. Then let me ask you this: if such a dangerous thing did exist inside you, do you really think you could control it by yourself? What happens when you die?”

“It’ll die with me.”

“And if it doesn’t?” she continues. “If whatever it is becomes larger than you?”

That’s something you’d rather not consider. If Kotohime somehow remained despite your death, you have no idea what would become of her. She might become a proper spirit, waiting to possess someone and go on a rampage again.

But the question is: could anyone even help? Anyone that you would trust? Mori or Hina, maybe. But you already decided not to expose them to this. You glance down at the unconscious Patchouli. The obsessed magician is all the proof you need that Kotohime’s influence is alive and well. If she did to Mori or Hina what she did to Patchouli, you couldn’t stand it.

Lucy stares at you, expecting an answer.

“I’ll resolve it myself,” you tell her. “It’ll be put to rest, somehow.”

Now Lucy is the one giving you a disbelieving look, but she lets the conversation end there.


###


Lucy couldn’t escort you back to your room since she wasn’t allowed to be a certain physical distance from Patchouli, so she begrudglingly let you call Sakuya by ringing your bell. The maid appeared promptly in about two-and-a-half seconds and began leading you straight out of the library. Before that, however, Lucy informed you that you were welcome to return to the library without concern because Patchouli would be resting for a few days. You told her that you would consider it.

“This library is one of our greatest treasures,” Sakuya remarks all of a sudden, as you reach the giant doors you entered from. “We are proud to have Miss Knowledge — and Koakuma — to watch over it.”

You haven’t heard that name before. “Koakuma?”

“She may go by ‘Lucy’ now, but Koakuma was the name given to her by my Mistress, so that is what I will use.”

Not a very original name from Remilia Scarlet, especially when compared to the long, drawn-out nonsense she spilled out in that invitation.


###


After taking advantage of Sakuya’s reminder that she could bring you food, you sit on your bed, alone but content. You can call on her to take back the used dishes later, since right now you want to try and log onto Kakashi with your phone. Half an hour later, you think you have it figured out.

*** Welcome to the new mobile KappaIRC! We hope you enjoy the slimmer interface.
*** now talking in #kakashi
*** topic is Official Channel for Kakashi Spirit News THE TRUTH | SEND NUDES TO psychicreporter@tengu.com | SHAMEIMARU TERROR LEVEL: bad memories
<~internethatatemachine> look who it is finally
<AgentQ> I hope you’re doing okay, PI.
<~internethatatemachine> alright, gimme all you got
<~internethatatemachine> uh hello have you been compromised
<PI> typing on this thing is slow and annoying
<~internethatatemachine> too bad
<~internethatatemachine> report
<~internethatatemachine> fucking yaaaaawn
<~internethatatemachine> come on old man
<~internethatatemachine> its just a phone keyboard
<AgentQ> Take it easy on him, Hatate.
<~internethatatemachine> i refuse
<AgentQ> It’s a new technology.
<PI> I’ve been given a room at the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I met the magician who summoned me. She is mentally unstable. I avoided harm thanks to Lucy. We talked. She believes Remilia Scarlet is planing to oppose the tengu and seeks assistance from other youkai under the pretense of a birthday party.
<~internethatatemachine> holy shit
<~internethatatemachine> now thats more like it
<PI> And fuck you this keyboard is too small
<~internethatatemachine> now you know you have to talk to that vampire right
<PI> I figured
<PI> I don’t know if I can pull it off though
<PI> She doesn’t seem the type to meet with anyone
<~internethatatemachine> well its your job
<PI> Then I want an advance
<~internethatatemachine> excuse me what
<PI> This is more dangerous than anything you’ve ever asked me
<PI> By far
<~internethatatemachine> well uh you got kidnapped yourself
<~internethatatemachine> that was all lucy
<PI> But now it’s Kakashi business
<PI> So I want money
<PI> Give it to Mori
<~internethatatemachine> so thats what its about
<~internethatatemachine> i remember when we couldve been called partners
<PI> uh huh
<~internethatatemachine> i used to stroke my clit to your reports
<~internethatatemachine> i finally had an agent i could rely on
<PI> sure
<~internethatatemachine> and now youre so interested in this little goddess
<PI> right
<~internethatatemachine> arent we friends
<PI> Give me money, Hatate
<~internethatatemachine> fine fuck you
<~internethatatemachine> nobody loves me i get it
<~internethatatemachine> Hina and that ghost chase me around all night
<~internethatatemachine> just for pointing out a simple fact
<~internethatatemachine> that you are now reinforcing
<~internethatatemachine> you love that goddess and im nothing
<~internethatatemachine> you think im just a boss barking orders to her assistant
<~internethatatemachine> but at least I respect you
<~internethatatemachine> i dont want to hurt you
<~internethatatemachine> you wouldnt know what its like
<PI> did they hit you in the head or something?
<~internethatatemachine> but okay ill give your little girl her money
<~internethatatemachine> and she can buy a diamond ring and propose to you
<~internethatatemachine> disgusting disgusting normalfags
*** internethatatemachine (psychicdetective@bunbunmaru.is.a.cumrag) has disconnected
<PI> Well then
<AgentQ> She was a bit depressed before you came in.
<PI> All I did was ask for what she owes me, Q
<AgentQ> I know.
<AgentQ> But she’s running out of money.
<AgentQ> That’s why she moved down there next to you.
<AgentQ> She was about to get kicked out of her last place.
<PI> ugh
<PI> Don’t try and guilt-trip me on this
<AgentQ> I don’t want to guilt-trip you.
<AgentQ> That wasn’t my intention.
<AgentQ> I’m really sorry.
<AgentQ> I probably shouldn’t have said anything.
<AgentQ> Please forgive me.
<PI> It’s okay, Q
<PI> don’t you start rambling too
<AgentQ> Right. Sorry.
<AgentQ> We don’t get a chance to talk like this often any more.
<AgentQ> I get nervous.
<PI> I remember
<PI> I don’t know much about you, but I trust you
<PI> And I’ll keep in mind what you said
<AgentQ> That’s good.
<AgentQ> Thank you.
<AgentQ> Are you alright?
<PI> Still wrapping my head around a lot, but fine
<AgentQ> That’s good.
<AgentQ> Is there anything you want to know about Remilia Scarlet before you meet her?
<PI> As long as she doesn’t try to tear my throat out, I’ll be fine
<AgentQ> Okay.
<AgentQ> I wish I could help out more.
<AgentQ> None of my gadgets ever work.
<AgentQ> I feel like a failure.
<PI> It’s okay, Q
<PI> None of us are over-achievers
<PI> As long as you achieve when it counts
<AgentQ> Thank you.
<AgentQ> I will try my best.
<AgentQ> But right now I’m going over some documents for Kanako Yasaka’s project.
<PI> you made it on the team?
<AgentQ> Not quite.
<AgentQ> I got myself recommended, but whoever designs a structure that matches her ideas best will get the job, and then they pick the team.
<PI> What are her ideas?
<AgentQ> It’s really hard to explain. I don’t understand it much myself.
<AgentQ> But it looks like she wants to supply free, limitless energy for all of Gensokyo.
<AgentQ> Not exactly an evil plan.
<PI> Sounds too good to be true
<AgentQ> That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
<PI> Did you tell Mori or Hatate?
<AgentQ> I haven’t seen Mori online, and I was going to tell Hatate, but she was a little occupied.
<PI> I see
<PI> Thank you for telling me, Q
<AgentQ> Of course. I’ll let you know what else I find out. There’s a lot to look at still.
<AgentQ> But it’s been a long time since I’ve slept.
<AgentQ> I should probably take a nap before I continue working on it.
<AgentQ> Good night, PI.
<AgentQ> Please stay safe.
<PI> good night Q
*** AgentQ (blueblur@kappa.net) has quit (Signing out.)

With Q gone, there is little reason for you to linger in the dead #kakashi chatroom. You close your phone and lose yourself in your thoughts. Hatate’s paranoia and jealousy are nothing new, but Q’s explanation is. You assumed that all tengu were more-or-less rich, and Hatate was funding your little missions and investigations with whatever fat lump of cash she had been sitting on in her nest. You thought she moved into your apartment building because she wanted to keep an eye on you directly, instead of relying on Hina. But actually, Hatate’s resources have been dwindling. You only know small bits and pieces of Hatate’s troubled past with tengu society, but you never imagined they would be willing to cut her off and risk tarnishing their ideal that all tengu are simply superior to other youkai, living high on their big mountain, and enjoying all the luxuries of advanced society. However, Hatate is definitely an outsider to their society, and a hostile one at that. They must have finally decided that enough was enough. Suddenly, you’re a little worried about your income. Even if you don’t pay rent, you still have to pay for electricity, water, and food. If Hatate can’t pay you, how can you support everyone?

Wait, why are you even thinking like that? Why would you support everyone? In any case, nothing will come from worrying about it now. What Q revealed about Kanako Yasaka is far more important, and relevant to you and Mori personally. Limitless energy for Gensokyo sounds like a pipe dream. The meagre amounts of electricity Gensokyo does have is mostly funneled into the Central District, while residents of the slums experience frequent blackouts. The fact that you’ve had more-or-less consistent electricity in your apartment must be due to Hatate and/or Q’s influence. You wonder what Kanako Yasaka’s ideas are, but if a kappa is having trouble understanding, then there’s no hope for you.

A hard knock at the door startles you. “Room service.” It’s Sakuya. When you open the door, she peeks inside. “May I have your used dishes?”

“Of course,” you answer. While you pass them to her, you decide to take advantage of the convenient opportunity. “Miss Izayoi, would it be possible to meet your Mistress before the party? I would be remiss if I didn’t properly introduce myself beforehand.”

Sakuya’s eyes focus on you for a split second before returning to the plates. “That is difficult to tell. My mistress is quite busy, as she prepares to be a proper hostess for her guests. And to be blunt, she doesn’t find the idea of meeting ordinary humans to be worth her time.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. “I see.”

As Sakuya closes the tray and holds it up with one hand, she adds with a little smile, “However, she finds herself bored at times — and you are not quite so ordinary. I’ll mention it to her in passing and gauge her interest.”

Your expression lightens up. Maybe Sakuya isn’t so bad — or she’s feeding you to a monster. Regardless, it’s what you want. “Thank you, Miss Izayoi. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.”

Sakuya nods. “It’s no problem. I’m only looking out for my mistress, after all.” Then her expression gets harder. “I advise you to prepare yourself, though. Conversing with a vampire is not easy. See to it you don’t end up our mansion’s newest servant.” She smiles again. “Though I would be happy to have you.” Then she bows, keeping the tray of food perfectly level the entire time. “Have a good night, PI.”

You’re so caught off-guard that you can’t muster a response before she walks off. When you poke your head out the door, she’s already gone.


###


Needless to say, you had mixed results trying to sleep as the morning set in. Luckily, the mansion’s curtains are especially thick — as expected of a vampire’s abode. Your sleep schedule is going to be totally out-of-order, but you have to acclimate to the nocturnal residents if your stay is going to be fruitful. Thankfully, you were exhausted enough from yesterday’s events to get a few hours of restful sleep. But after waking up just past noon, it’s impossible for you to sleep any longer.

You prepare yourself for the day ahead, and your thoughts toward Remilia Scarlet once again. Sakuya’s words trouble you, but there’s no turning back now. She’s a youkai, she’s dangerous, and you’ll have to be prepared — that’s all there is to it. In that sense, she’s no different from any other.

But you don’t even know if you’ll be able to meet with her before the party. For now, you should find something to occupy yourself with. The sun is still shining brightly outside, so it’s likely the mansion’s residents are still sleeping — except for Sakuya, most likely.


[] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.

[] Call Sakuya and ask her to escort you back to the library. You can do research with Lucy.

[] Call Sakuya and ask if she can stay with you a while. You’re curious about the time-stopping maid.

[] Wander around the mansion without Sakuya, because you’re just that reckless.

[]
>> No. 66588
A new entry in Off the Record can be viewed here: >>/at/39377

Special thanks to Mibya from the Unofficial THP Discord for proofing the Off the Record update for me!

I am a massive, massive faggot, and I apologize for such a ridiculous delay. That being said, I'll be returning to our regular schedule (or as regular as it ever was).

To those who are still with me, thank you so much for your patience.
>> No. 66589
>>66588
>regular schedule
Once a month, then?


[x] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.
>> No. 66590
[x] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.
>> No. 66591
>>66589
Hey man, just because you're right, doesn't mean you can be...right.

Sorry. I don't plan to wallow in it. I'll devote more time to writing from here on out. I may be a slow writer, but that doesn't excuse me from being that slow.
>> No. 66592
[] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.

Welcome back!
>> No. 66593
[x] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.

Heck yeah all the cool stories are coming out of hibernation. Good to have you back, Raftclans.
>> No. 66594
[x] Call Sakuya and ask her to escort you back to the library. You can do research with Lucy

Research sounds interesting and I really want more interaction with Lucy. It's not like he'll get another chance.
>> No. 66595
[x] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.
>> No. 66596
[x] Call Sakuya and ask her to escort you back to the library. You can do research with Lucy
Mostly because I want to see get more involved.
>> No. 66597
[x] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.
>> No. 66612
[x] Call Sakuya and ask her to escort you back to the library. You can do research with Lucy

Lucy is good. I do hope that sometime in the future we can find a way to help Hatate out.
>> No. 66625
[x] Call Sakuya and ask her to escort you back to the library. You can do research with Lucy
>> No. 66677
File 153438264820.jpg - (1.07MB, 768x1024, redheads are just the worst.jpg) [iqdb]
66677
[X] The garden outside looks nice. Maybe you should take a stroll and spend some time outside before night falls.

You call Sakuya and ask her to escort you outside to take a stroll around the grounds. Her expression darkens a little bit. “I would be more than happy to escort you outside, but…”

Her voice trails off as she thinks. Then after a moment, she nods. “Well, it should be fine — so long as you don’t stray too far from the gardens.”

“Worried I’ll make a run for it?”

The thought gives her a simple smile. “That’s no problem. I would bring you back.”

You figured that was the case. There isn’t really much of a chance of you sneaking away from someone who can control time. But then, what gave her pause?

“Follow me,” she continues. “I’ll lead you to the back garden. That should be a safe place.”

The way she phrases that raises some flags. But any attempt to probe her for details on the way out only elicits a quiet sigh from Sakuya followed by a not-so-solid assurance that everyone should be fine as long as you stay in the garden.

It seems like you’re going to find out on your own.


###


You make yourself as small as possible, under the bursting lights above.

The garden was beautiful: flowers of all different shades and hues planted into vibrant patterns that you could follow from one lovely patch to the next. How those flowers could still be in bloom so late into the year, you have no idea, but given where you are it’s likely magic of some sort was involved. The smell was sublime, and for the first time in a while, you could be at peace while watching the red sunset — though there was a massive wall obscuring most of it.

Then you decided to wander into the hedge maze.

“I didn’t wanna do this…” the fairy curled up next to you blubbers. “They made me volunteer. I didn’t wanna go to war against the Red Menace!”

If she’s a conscript, then you’re a civilian stuck in the crossfire. After entering the hedge maze, it didn’t take long for you to lose yourself in the massive arrangement of shrubbery — which you swear didn’t look so large from the outside. You thought it might be nice to wander a while before calling Sakuya, but then the fighting started, and you had to duck for cover underneath bullets of light and concussive explosions. Every so often you hear a tiny body slam into the hedges, rustling the thick bushes.

You place your hand on the fairy’s quivering shoulder. “Take deep breaths, and most importantly, shut up.”

She attaches herself to you at the abdomen, and you feel wetness soaking in through your shirt where she’s buried her little head of blonde hair. “I’m sorry, Mister Human… I’m so scared!”

Normally, fairies are little more than buzzing insects to you, but this fairy’s resemblance to another little blonde in your life tugs at your heartstrings just a little — especially after your last conversation with said person.

You could use something to do while you wait, so you play along and hold the back of her head while reciting some bullshit lines you might expect a dashing male lead to give in this scenario. “We’ll survive this war, and start that bakery you always wanted, and give bread to all the little orphans…”

She stops crying and looks up at you. “What?”

You shrug. “I don’t know. Isn’t this just a game you girls are playing? Like capture the flag or something? Two teams against the other? We’ll just wait it out until the end and sneak away, no problem.”

While you and the fairy have been whispering, the lights and explosions above have gradually died down. Now you don’t even hear anything. It would probably be a good time to get moving.

But the fairy doesn’t budge; her amber eyes stay locked onto yours with a mix of pity and terror. “You don’t know the Red Menace, Mister…? We’re not fighting against each other, we’re all fighting against her. And we never win…”

Suddenly, a red-and-green blur drops several yards in front of your little cowering place, landing on her feet with enough force that you think you feel the air vibrate. With her back turned to you, all you can see at first is her long, fiery red hair, a green cap, and a foreign dress. Her arms are hard with tensed muscle.

“So she hunts us all down,” the fairy finishes.

One person is responsible for all this racket? You find that believable enough, actually. If it’s another resident of the mansion, then she might really be a menace — not that beating up a bunch of fairies is particularly impressive.

The redheaded woman turns around, revealing sharp, blue eyes and a gold star on her hat. “You all did well enough this time,” she says, “but the war is over. Just one more—”

She blinks when she notices you, and her entire body loses its edge. “A human? You look like the VIP that Sakuya brought in. What are you doing here?’

There isn’t much dignity in being hunched over on the ground, so you stand up, slipping out of the paralyzed fairy’s grasp as you rise. “Waiting for the coast to be cle—”

The fairy suddenly shrieks and flies away, but as soon as she makes it into the air, she’s struck with some invisible force that sends her crashing back into the ground beside you. Her body hits the grass floor of the hedge maze with a loud thud.

You glance over to the redheaded woman, who now has her palm extended. She relaxes again and grins. “Wow, she was fast! Maybe I should have let her have a head-start.” Then she returns her attention to you, and chuckles. “Sorry about that. Just wanted to finish this little exercise up. My name’s Hong Meiling. It’s nice to meet you. I don’t meet too many humans that are still human, so it’s my pleasure.”

That are still human? That’s odd. You make sure to keep a bit of cautious space between yourself and the Red Menace, Hong Meiling. Her grin annoys you. “Just call me PI,” you respond. “So you’re the Red Menace, huh? You seem a little strong to be beating up on fairies like this.”

She nods. “They came up with the name, not me. But I don’t get much time off, and training by one’s self can be a stagnant affair. A variety of opponents with different abilities and cunning will keep my senses sharp.” Her eyes appraise you. “Looks like you’ve had some training yourself. That’s a good stance.”

You’re confused until you also look at yourself: for some reason you’ve dropped into a tight guard to protect your vitals. Something about his woman puts you on edge.

The blonde fairy turns over on the ground and coughs. “M, Mister…” she murmurs. Her strained voice sounds like she had the wind knocked clean out of her. “I think bread sounds good…”

You watch the fairy’s eyes close, and stay shut. Honestly, you could care less that some fairies are getting knocked around — most of the little shits deserve that and more. You don’t even have any attachment to this somewhat-cute fairy, who coincidentally resembles another somewhat-cute person you know. There’s no desire within you to pursue revenge.

But this woman, Hong Meiling, still makes your body itch all over.

She closes her eyes and takes a breath. “Your qi is remarkable, too. Vicious, with the smell of hallowed earth and bodies rotting. I can’t tell if you’re serving a god, or a demon.” Then she opens her eyes, her expression now sharp towards you. “This is a pleasant surprise. What say you to a little spar? Sakuya doesn’t have much time for me, recently. You feel it too, don’t you? How opposed our auras are?”

“Yeah, I feel it,” you answer, facing her. “I don’t know what it is or what you’re even talking about, but I feel it. I hate you for some reason, Hong Meiling.”

She smirks. “This could be the beginning of something beautiful. If I stamp out that hatred inside of you, would you be my friend? We could be like yin and yang.”

“Sorry,” you tell her, “I have too many people to care about as it is.”

If you blinked, you might have missed her adjust her feet slide into her own stance: one hand down and clenched, and the other up and flat. “What a shame,” she remarks. “I believe that one can never have too many friends.”

Honestly, you don’t have a chance. She doesn’t have a wound on her after fighting off a legion of fairies. You haven’t had formal training since you served the city over a decade ago, and even then you were by no means gifted.

But still you charge forward, closing the distance between the two of you so you can throw the first punch right at her face. She doesn’t move or guard, but instead decides to let your fist slam into her cheek and push her head — but not her body — back. Your knuckles ache and sting like you punched an old, thick tree.

You pull back your fist and adjust your stance. She seems unfazed, except for a drop of blood forming in the corner of her mouth. “Not bad,” she says. “One must have a lot of confidence or a lot of desperation to aim for the face. Now let’s get started.”

The blows come so quickly you only have time to block. You rely on pure reflex to guard all of her fists with your forearms, worrying about the integrity of your very bones as you catch punch after punch. Surprisingly, you hold up quite well. Then she throws an elbow, catching you off-guard. You manage to block it, but you’re off-balance when her foot launches off the ground, hitting you in the chin like a hammer. You feel your lower jaw crash against your upper jaw with a sickening click as you stumble backward and away.

Hong Meiling swiftly regains her footing, but does not pursue. “Impressive,” she comments. “Your qi makes up for what your body lacks.”

You don’t know what “qi” is or how that affects anything, but you did see her punch through the air to knock out a fairy. She’s definitely going easy on you — which isn’t surprising, since one of her punches at full strength could likely kill you. That kick was a bloody taste of what she can do with an ounce of effort — and now your jaw’s so numb you can’t even physically muster a comeback.

You consider your options. She’s waiting for you to come at her again, giving you your “turn.” You know this isn’t a serious match, and you know she’s likely gauging your strength — or even just toying with you before she calls it off. But something inside wants you to defeat her, or at least damage her. She’s underestimating you, and that means you can surprise her.


[] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

[] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

[]
>> No. 66678
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.
>> No. 66679
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

We're not going to win this by the book.
>> No. 66680
[x] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

I mean, any qi he has is probably coming from kotohime right? What's the worst that could happen?
>> No. 66682
>>66680
His Qi is from Suwako. He's receiving her blessing. Has been for some time now.

[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

For Pi, fights aren't a game. No reason to treat this one as such.
>> No. 66683
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

We'll lose in a straight out fight, I doubt that attacking with ferocity is gonna change anything and any dodge we manage to make will be because she allows it, we need to catch her with her guard down, become predictable enough that she won't expect the blow.
>> No. 66685
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

Agaibst a powerhouse that can air punch best to push her out of the comfort zone. I have a theory this is how kotohime fought.
>> No. 66686
[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.
The other option feels OOC.
>> No. 66688
[x] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.
>> No. 66689
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

I could see no way this could possibly go wrong!
>> No. 66694
[x] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.
>> No. 66695
[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.
>> No. 66697
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.
>> No. 66698
[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

Now, if only we can channel Kotohime as a Stand.
>> No. 66700
[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

Something about anger and hatred and shit
>> No. 66728
[X] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.
>> No. 66811
[x] Whimsical madness. Ignore the pain with a smile. Play along with her game, and then break the rules.

I think this would be the more appropriate option.
>> No. 66951
This isn't dead, I promise. The situation is: I write the most for this during downtime at my job, but now my workload is kind of a nightmare and I haven't been able to finish an update. Slowly but surely, I promise it's being worked on.
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