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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?

[]
52posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>> 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.
>> No. 67570
File 156078609620.jpg - (178.51KB, 500x750, pride and qi.jpg) [iqdb]
67570
[x] Focused hatred. Attack with ferocity, and dodge her attacks. You aren’t playing around.

You don’t like it. The way Hong Meiling looks down on you, the confidence she exudes — it’s unsettlingly familiar. You swallow blood again in your mouth. No more. You’ll fight her for real.

This time, while attacking, you try to follow Hong Meiling’s movements. She always dodges fluidly, while putting herself in a position to immediately return to a stable stance. Whatever martial arts she’s practiced must require a lot of stamina and flexibility. Even if you do predict how she’ll dodge, she blocks. This happens a few times before she disengages once again.

“Excellent!” she says. “You must be shaking off some of your rust. Your eyes are nice and focused. But I could use a nap, so if you survive this one, you win!”

“You win” isn’t good enough. She represents what you aren’t: bright, proud, and possessing incredible strength. You need that strength, and you hate her for having it — for flaunting it. She wants you to accept your weakness, to accept her terms, to accept your shame.

Something inside you wants to crush that oppressive pride.

When she throws her first punch, you slide out of the way and retaliate with your own. Your fist smashes into her face once again — and this time she recoils. You try to use the opportunity to follow-up with a strike to her chest, but she ducks down and throws a sweeping kick that knocks you right off your feet. Your knees catch the ground, and you find yourself looking up at a Hong Meiling who is no longer playing.

“Are you trying to be serious?” she says. “Don’t fool yourself. I have no desire to kill a human. Be calm and focus on your qi before you lose control.”

Hong Meiling stares down at you, towers over you, but there’s a sadness in her blue eyes. All colors of light swirl around her, and the intensity of it makes your eyes water — but you can’t look away. It’s truly incredible.

But it conjures an image in your mind: a woman even taller than Hong Meiling, standing over you, with her hand outstretched. Your spear lays under her, the point rusted away into nothing and the shaft broken in two. A blinding light obscures her features, all except her blue hair and two eyes that glow with a solemn red light.

“Accept her choice. Your fight is over — in truth, it never even began. I do not wish to kill you.”

She never had a choice. It’s easy for an invader to preach acceptance. You spit on this disgusting mercy. You spit on her bloodless campaign. If you can’t protect her, then you’re better off dead.

Hong Meiling reaches out to you with a hand shining with glorious lights. “This qi is darker than I thought. I need to interve—”

Even without touching you, that light burns.

You thrust a flat hand at her chest. She manages to dodge at the last second, and you graze her side. She gasps and leaps backward, putting distance between the two of you.

You cursssse yourself for missing. You’ll kill her. You’ll desssstroy her. It doessssn’t matter how sssstrong she is, or how many timessss

Then you see the pain in her face. She’s struggling to breathe, and clutching that place where your hand brushed against her. The shining aura fades.

“Impressive…” Hong Meiling mutters, just loud enough for you to hear. “I made a terrible mistake. How could I not recognize—ah, it doesn’t matter. I suppose we really can’t be friends.” Through the fingers she clutches her side with, you can spot an inky black mist leaking out — not blood, but something of yours. “This level of spiritual attack is troubling.”

Without Hong Meiling’s light blinding you, your mind also clears. The events replay through your mind immediately, and you struggle to grasp what really happened. It felt like you were in some kind of cold rage, acting purely by instinct. But, there was something else there — and for once, it didn’t have anything to do with Kotohime.

“If I have to miss my next shift,” Hong Meiling continues, “Sakuya will kill me.” Then she smiles at you. “It seems like you’re returning to normal. You don’t want to keep going, do you? One of us really will end up dead.”

“No,” you answer immediately. Your own body starts to ache, and your head pulses uncomfortably. “I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I don’t want to continue.”

“Good,” she responds. “I was worried for a second, there. You have something monstrous within you.” Then she laughs weakly. “And there really isn’t much I can do about it. I hope you figure it out one way or another.” Suddenly, her eyes narrow. “But if you cause any problems here at the mansion, nobody else will hold back. I’m the only optimist.” She relaxes again. “Ah, but most would call me lazy…”

“Understood,” you reply simply. Unfortunately, you know that “Hatate” and “causing trouble” are pretty much synonymous. All you can do is try your best to mitigate any disasters.

Though, judging from the scene right now — Hong Meiling walking away clutching her side, amidst the disheveled hedges and small bodies of fairies — this mansion already has a pretty high tolerance for disaster.

“One last thing,” she mentions, not turning back. “Don’t heed any voices in your mind besides your own. That’s how you’ll stay sane.”

You hesitate to respond, but by that time Hong Meiling is already gone — vanished into the hedge maze.

After you settle down and catch your breath, you call Sakuya. When she arrives two-and-a-half seconds later, she looks upon the scene with disgust. “That damned guard and her war games…” she mutters to herself, before turning to you with a glare. “It seems like you’re somehow complicit, as well.”

You shrug it off. “If by ‘complicit’ you mean I was just taking a stroll before I ended up in a battlefield, then sure. I’m somehow complicit.”

She sighs and relaxes. “I’m sorry. My temper got the best of me. Please forgive me.” Then a fiendish glare overcomes her pale face, but it isn’t aimed at you. “However, that guard will be working overtime to clean her mess, if I have to watch over her myself.”

Sorry, Hong Meiling.


###


Sakuya stops in front of a door. “There is a bath inside that I have prepared. Please clean yourself.

You stare at her flatly. “Do I smell that bad? I didn’t think I sweat that much.”

She turns around and sighs. “I’m sorry, I meant no offense. I mentioned to my Mistress that you would like to introduce yourself personally, and she seemed intrigued by the request. In fact, she told me she would ‘love’ to meet you.”

You blink a couple times. That was quick. There must be some catch. “She would? When?”

“Right now. I warn you that my Mistress’s attention is fickle, so please do hurry.”

It should have been difficult to secure a meeting with the Mistress, from the way Sakuya spoke before. However, it seems you’ve aroused her lady’s curiosity, and that will be either a very good or a very bad thing. From the way Sakuya avoids your eyes, you feel it’s the latter. At least the bath will give your body some rest.

It’s not like your body’s going to be assaulted by some mysterious, red-eyed fiend while you’re so vulnerable, right? All of a sudden, you feel anxious. Thankfully, you end up having a relaxing bath in the mansion’s luxurious open air bath. Nothing silly like that would possibly happen.


###


As soon as you step out the door of the bath, in the blink of an eye you find yourself wearing a fancy black dress suit. Sakuya stands before you, smiling. In her hand is the bathrobe you had been wearing a second earlier.

“Not bad,” she comments. “You clean up nicely, PI.”

You sigh as your body adjusts to the new sensation of fine garments. “Thank you, but that was a little sudden. I could’ve at least put my underwear on for you—”

Then you notice a certain fresh coolness to your face and between your legs, and realize that you’re significantly less hairy than before.

“—and shaved. Was that all really necessary, Miss Izayoi?”

“Everything shall be perfect and tidy for my Mistress,” she responds in her composed manner, as if she didn’t just stop time to shave your crotch. “Though I hope she doesn’t inspect you that thoroughly.”

A perfect maid, indeed.


###


Sakuya leads you out to the foyer: a large, open room that’s garishly red and tall. Large, double-doors on one side must be the main entrance; if you had any desire to flee, now is the closest you might ever be. But, a job’s a job. Let’s get this over with.

As Sakuya leads you up three staircases, you wonder just how fatigued she is between getting ready for the party, her normal duties, watching over a bunch of fairies, and her Mistress’s sudden whims. Her power may be extraordinary, but you have to respect her dedication and elegance.

Also, you can see up her skirt a little — but you’ll keep that to yourself. That white lace is very nice. Maybe Mori would like wearing something like that?

Wait, why are you thinking about her right now? You need to stay focused.

Sakuya holds the door open for you to enter a tiny room, but no less garish. A small, clothed table sits between two comfortable chairs, and the two tall glasses filled with something deep and red capture your eyes. Hopefully it isn’t blood, but you are in a vampire’s mansion.

“Please take the seat closest to you,” Sakuya instructs. “I will let the Mistress know you have arrived.”

A faint click after her last word, and Sakuya vanishes entirely. You take the seat she offered and peek over the rim of the glass you assume to be set out for you. You’ve seen enough blood — mostly your own, recently — to tell that your glass isn’t filled with the stuff. It’s most likely some kind of fruit juice. You waft some of the scent into your nose and pick up the bitter yet welcome scent of alcohol. This must be wine: a rarity in Gensokyo.

However, the other glass is a little thicker.

Suddenly, Sakuya appears again and clears her throat softly. “I now present Lady Remilia Scarlet, daughter of Vlad Tepes, heir to the name of Dracula, conqueror of mortal hearts and esteemed regent of vampirekind.”

Remilia Scarlet must be trying out some new titles.

The door on the other side of the room opens, and in walks a little girl with light-blue hair, pale skin, and a red glint to her eyes. She wears a fine pink dress and cap, complete with cute little frills. On her back are a pair of black wings that look different from a crow tengu’s. If you didn’t know any better, you would say she was a foreigner who stumbled into the room by accident on her way to bedtime.

But you do know better — or rather, this is what you might have expected all along. You stand and give your most courteous bow. “Thank you for having me tonight, Lady Scarlet. I am PI.”

She returns in kind, with a proper curtsy and a smile showing off her large, pointed canines. “Au contraire, I thank you for being here. What proper manners, have you.” Then her eyes pass over your body, appraising you. “My my. A wonderful job as always, my dear Sakuya. Truly the most elegant of maids, to bring out the handsomeness that lay dormant in this man. May your loyalty be eternal.”

Sakuya bows her head. “Of course, my Mistress. Shall I stay?”

“Non,” she responds. “I can handle this man alone. Please take your leave and tend to...the basement.”

Sakuya wavers. “Are you quite sure, Mistress? I will always have time for the basement, so it may be best if I stay and—”

Remilia’s smile twitches. “And my dear Sakuya, I assure you that I will be fine. Tend to the basement, please. I trust you are aware of the importance and urgency of your task.”

Sakuya reaches for her watch, bowing all the while. “Yes, Mistress. I apologize, Mistress. Please have a good time, Mistress. Please call if you need anything.”

With a click, the uneasy Sakuya is gone, and Remilia Scarlet gives you her full attention. “Let us sit down, PI.”

Normally you wouldn’t bother with extreme displays of etiquette, but you don’t like how eerie their little conversation was, and self-preservation take precedence when you have no idea what you’re getting into. You do know how much the elite prize being treated as such, so you rush over to pull her chair out for her. “After you, Lady Scarlet.”

Remilia hops into the chair and smiles wide. You get a closer look at her black wings, and discover they resemble a bat’s — fitting, for a vampire. You thought the table might be too high for her, but then you notice that she’s hovering above the seat of the chair, like a cushion of air is under her bottom. Subtle. You don’t blame her, since a high chair would deflate her ego. You take care not to linger, however, and return to your seat promptly.

“I have to say,” she continues, “I was curious about what rabble Koakuma might tangle herself with, but I’m pleasantly impressed. You have a stern face, yet good manners. I wonder what it says for Gensokyo that its humans have more class than its youkai.”

“It says that we’re in trouble,” you answer frankly. “Though I doubt you need me to tell you so, Lady Scarlet.”

She nods, before looking at you a little more. “Indeed. Interesting that a human is concerned about the well-being of youkai. That’s one thing Gensokyo has over the rest of the world, at least.”

It’s not that you’re concerned about youkai — you simply have some compassion for them after the atrocities you’ve witnessed, and regard them no less or no more than your human kin. Apparently, that neutral sentiment is far more than what most humans hold for them. “So you are a foreigner then? If you don’t mind me asking.”

She grins. “Don’t I look Japanese?” Then she laughs. “A jest, of course. Yes, I come from Europe, though I have my doubts you even know where that is, let alone my home country.”

“I can’t say I do,” you admit. Gensokyo isn’t great, but the Outside World has never been of much interest to you either, since you don’t have plans to break the barrier any time soon. And if you did, Reimu would kill you when you came back. It would’ve been nice to prove Remilia wrong, though.

“Right,” she continues smugly. “Well, let me assure you it’s quite a long way away. It took a considerable amount of magic to bring the whole estate here through that barrier. Yet I’m so glad I did. It’s home sweet home, after all.”

You nod along with her, while imagining what Reimu would do if she heard this. She’d probably knock Remilia’s teeth right out of her little head. “It certainly is a unique mansion.”

You’re choosing your words carefully.

Remilia beams with pride. “I’m glad to hear that. It used to be a bit tacky, but I remodeled it not long ago. I did all of the designing myself!”

You can’t possibly imagine what she would consider “tacky” if she considers all this red to be good interior design. “It’s impressive that you would do such a thing yourself. You appear to have many servants.”

Her face sours. “Perhaps. Though I must say that the phrase ‘quantity over quality’ best describes my workforce at the moment. My options as a vampire here in Gensokyo are dreadfully limited.” Then her smile returns, somewhat. “At least the fairies are cute, and add some liveliness to this place.”

You can’t imagine being bored enough to pass the time by owning a fairy daycare. Then again, you also can’t imagine being an immortal maneater. However, her change in tone intrigues you. “Quantity over quality? Would that be a comment on our population as a whole, Lady Scarlet?”

She smirks. “Are you interested in a vampire’s opinion of your kind?”

You smile back at her. “It can’t be too low, if I’m sitting here with you now — unless I’m here for a reason besides providing a bit of company for you.”

“You have good enough intuition,” she says, “but remember your place. You’re here because of Koakuma’s suggestion and Patchy’s insistence. Right now, you’re a bit of entertainment to go with my breakfast.”

Patchy — an interesting nickname for that solemn magician. “By ‘breakfast’, I assume you’re referring to the glass of blood in front of you?” You lift your wine glass. “Then how about a toast, then? An early toast, to celebrate your upcoming birthday.” You muster as warm a smile you can for the brat in front of you. “To Lady Remilia Scarlet, The Scarlet Devil, and more entertaining times ahead!”

Curiously, Remilia Scarlet hesitates. She reaches her pale fingers ever-so-carefully toward the stem of her glass, and slowly lifts it to match yours. “R-right! Thank you! A toast, indeed!”

Her glass taps very, very lightly against yours, like she’s scared of something. Then you both take a drink. Yours is shorter than hers, as the dry, bitter taste of the red wine is alien to you — but not entirely unpleasant.

After Remilia drains about half her glass, she slowly sets the glass back down, and licks her lips. Once again, you get a good look at her fangs. When she lets go of the glass, she quietly sighs in relief — from what, you aren’t sure.

She collects whatever composure she lost, and brings up a new subject. “You’re a detective. Tell me, as a human, how do you see the youkai?”

You don’t recall advertising yourself as such — though Lucy sure would. Regardless, one word comes to your mind concerning the youkai. “Desperate. But, not without reason.” You need to pick your words very carefully, since you’re not sure what Remilia Scarlet has in mind — or who else might be listening. “If it weren’t for certain factors, I think Gensokyo would have a brighter future for humans and youkai both.”

She grins. “Certain factors, hmm? Interesting. I’m glad someone who calls himself a detective has a bit more awareness.”

“You might be right, but I have my own personal reasons for disliking the status quo.”

“And so have I. But certain factors are awfully entrenched. Can you do anything but complain?”

You could take her words as a dismissive insult, but your gut tells you she means it genuinely. However, you can’t reveal the specifics of your work with Mori and the Akis yet. “Maybe.”

She studies your face, and then smiles. “Excellent. Would you please show me your hands?”

Your body tenses up. “You wouldn’t be thinking about topping off your glass with some fresh blood, would you?”

Remilia stares for a moment, then breaks out in high-pitched laughter. “No thank you,” she answers. “I’m not normally a picky eater, but frankly, the smell of you makes me sick to my stomach.”

You did bathe thoroughly, but nevertheless it’s a relief that she finds the thought of biting you so revolting. However, you’re no less hesitant to offer your hands. Then you realize that, if she really wanted it, you would be dead or worse already. You might as well just do it. “Very well, Lady Scarlet.”

You present your hands, palms-up, holding them over the small table. Remilia’s wings wave gently as she leans forward, making you wonder if they’re just for show. Her little, white hands grab yours— slightly cool to the touch — and feel around on your palms first, then each of your fingers. Though the feeling itself is not unpleasant, the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise.

Eventually, she spots something on your hand that you can’t see. “A severed thread?” Her curious eyes look up to yours. “What kind of power is this, to conceal your fate even from me?!”

You’re just as confused as she is. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lady Scarlet. You mentioned a thread? I have no threads on my person, besides the outfit Miss Izayoi dressed me in.”

She huffs. “No, not in the physical sense! You’re Japanese. Don’t you know about the red thread of fate?”

It’s insulting for a foreign girl to tell you what you should and shouldn’t know as a Japanese person — if someone from Gensokyo could even be considered a citizen of Japan. Nevertheless, you grit your teeth and bear it. “I suppose I’m not aware of that particular tradition. Please teach me, Lady Remilia.”

Your restraint is rewarded, as Remilia calms down, floats back to her chair, and smiles. “Well, I suppose I can do such a thing for you. In Asian traditions, the red thread of fate is said to link someone to their destined lover. No matter how far apart they are, no matter how tangled the thread, it should never break. And one of my unique powers as a vampire is to see this thread, which allows me to see many other things related to that person’s fate.”

Why would a Western vampire have a power related to an Eastern tradition? However, it’s ultimately irrelevant, so you let her keep going.

“This severed thread of yours implies that you’ve been subjected to a force strong enough to break your very fate. Now you’re drifting through this world, only tied to yourself. Perhaps you’ve felt a lack of connection to others?”

“That’s how I wanted it,” you answer.

Remilia shows her biggest grin yet. “Of course. For a man who serves an exiled tengu and routinely deals with youkai, I would expect nothing else.”

Lucy must have a bigger mouth than you thought. “So she’s informed you of our operation?”

She laughs. “I’m her Mistress, so it’s only natural that she would tell me such a thing. I needed some convincing to assure me you would be the right...fit, for my celebration.”

“I thought Patchouli Knowledge was her master?”

She forces one more laugh and looks away for a moment. “Well, I’m the Mistress of the whole mansion, so I’m her Mistress indirectly.”

What vain logic. “Regardless, I’m honored you decided to invite me, Lady Scarlet.”

“Of course. Though I do have a minor request I think should come as no problem to you.”

Normally when you hear such a thing, it is absolutely a problem. Unfortunately, in this situation you have no choice but to listen. “Please, go on.”

“I only ask that you keep an eye out for anyone else who doesn’t fit. If you did happen to spot someone like that, you would inform Sakuya. A simple task, in return for my hospitality. A fair trade, non?”

Yeah, you’ve heard that one a lot too. Nevertheless, you’re going to be keeping an eye on the other guests anyway. Pretending that it’s at her behest will put you in a better position. You take a sip of wine, if only to pretend like you’re giving it some more thought. “Very well, Lady Scarlet. I will do such a thing for you.”

Remilia’s face lights up. “Good! I trust you will have many things to tell me.”

She must be expecting quite a few people who “don’t fit” at her party.

“Then I propose another toast, myself,” Remilia continues, raising her glass with a jolly smile. “To PI, the first true guest I’ve had at my manor in quite some time. Cheers!”

You wonder what she means by “true guest,” but you have no choice but to raise your own glass.

With none of the restraint she showed earlier, Remilia collides her glass against yours. Immediately, both of them shatter in a shower of tiny glass shards, and a shock of fear goes up your arm and through your entire body. You recoil instinctively, but Remilia Scarlet remains frozen with big, round eyes, as if she had also shattered.

“Oh, oh no…” she murmurs, tearing up. “I didn’t mean to. These, these damn fragile glasses. I thought I was, I was controlling my strength just fine. I’ve been trying so hard and Sakuya will be so upset with me. So [i[stupid[/i]. It’s my manor, why can’t I just use my steel mug…?”

So that was why she was so hesitant after your toast. With the body and brain of a human child — despite being preserved by the curse of vampirism — she still can’t control her own strength. Perhaps she’ll never be able to. You quickly glance at your hand and then Remilia’s. It seems that the shattering of the glass was so complete and instantaneous that it didn’t slice either of your hands. However, tiny shards of glass and a mixture of wine and blood are now spread over the fine tablecloth.

More importantly, Remilia Scarlet is sobbing. As a child who can’t control her own strength, perhaps it’s best you try to reassure her before things get dangerous. “It’s okay, Lady Scarlet. It doesn’t seem like either of us are hurt.” You reach into your jacket pocket, where Sakuya left her bell after you changed. “Let me call Miss Izayoi, and she can clean this up.”

“No!” Remilia screams, causing you to cease immediately. “Not Sakuya! I, I’ll clean this up myself!” She starts gathering the glass shards into the center of the table hurriedly, ignoring whatever cuts she gets along the way. “Don’t call anyone…” she whines through tears. “Don’t speak a word of this. I am the Mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion and I can clean my own mess! Just leave! Leave me alone!”


[] Quietly excuse yourself, as she demands.

[] Console Remilia.

[] Call for Sakuya.

[]
>> No. 67571
[x] Quietly excuse yourself, as she demands.
Welcome back.
>> No. 67572
File 156079678226.jpg - (135.72KB, 572x800, __hakurei_reimu_izayoi_sakuya_kirisame_marisa_and_.jpg) [iqdb]
67572
>"You have something monstrous within you. And there really isn’t much I can do about it"

Damn. I voted for that hoped she'd be able to help, somehow. But now even Remilia knows something is wrong and she can't do anything either.

[x] Console Remilia.

PI is the type of person that'd console what seems to be a crying kid.
>> No. 67573
[x] Console Remilia.

Glad you're not dead.
>> No. 67574
[X] Console Remilia.

A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.
>> No. 67575
[x] Console Remilia.
>> No. 67576
[X] Console Remilia.

My poor insane daughter.
>> No. 67597
[x] Console Remilia.

From the dead it rises. Glad to have you back.
>> No. 67610
[x] Help her clean it up
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