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File 152176789057.png - (578.87KB, 600x800, nobody.png) [iqdb]
66010No. 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?

[]
Expand all images
>>No. 66012
First Thread: >>63343
Second Thread: >>64075
Third Thread: >>64718

Off the Record (NSFW): >>>/at/38307

Cool Stuff:
>>64680
>>65767
>>65925

PI's files are currently offline while he and Mori rewrite them. Please wait warmly!
>>No. 66013
[] …a dark library, tied to a chair.

The Koakuma option
>>No. 66014
[X] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?
Lol fairies freed him somehow.
>>No. 66015
[x] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?

Gotta keep PI's lolicon street cred
>>No. 66016
[X] …a sunny garden, near a flowerbed.

Mei Ling!

And oh WOW PI really need a therapist. That's one hell of a PTSD holy shit.
>>No. 66017
[X] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?
I smell hilarity.
>>No. 66018
[x] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?

Fairy shenanigans best shenanigans.
>>No. 66019
[x] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?
>>No. 66020
[x] …the middle of a bunch of fairies?
>>No. 66022
I guess we're gonna meet Lucy soon, huh?
>>No. 66024
[X] …a dark library, tied to a chair.
looks like PI is going to be interrogated by Patchouli about Kotohime.
For the disaster two threads back
>>No. 66070
Looks like the vote is pretty clearly in favor of fairies, but I'll go ahead and call it just to be safe.

It turns out that before PI was captured, he actually finally made some progress on his files. The "Mori Journal" he's planning isn't quite presentable yet, but his basic Contacts list should be, and a new corrupted file has sprung up. You can find the link to the folder here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B3yTr6zUKvDYM1p1WDllYkk4MnM?usp=sharing
>>No. 66085
>>66070

Oh wow... So PI is responsible for unknowingly encouraging Kotohime's urges.
>>No. 66099
File 152255779520.jpg - (160.30KB, 850x956, endgamesuwako.jpg) [iqdb]
66099
>>66085
Even calling him 'unknowingly responsible' is a step too far. She had those tendencies from the start.
>>No. 66104
File 152286687723.jpg - (148.87KB, 600x888, pouting big sis.jpg) [iqdb]
66104
[x] ...the middle of a bunch of fairies?

You’re conscious, but every muscle in your body feels numb — even your eyelids. The last thing you remember is talking to that maid, and then everything went black and it felt like you were sucked through a straw. You can breathe fine, but you can’t see — or rather, you just can’t muster the strength to open your eyes. The noise, however, is unbearable. High-pitched screeching settles into girlish chatter that violates your ears from all sides.

“I can’t wait for the party!”

“What are you going to wear?’

“Our uniforms, duh! We gotta look all nice and proper for Miss Sakuya.”

“You’re such a kissass. I want to wear something scandalous!”

“You don’t even know what scandalous is!”

“I do too! It’s like, black stuff!”

“Will the Mistress wear something scandalous, you think?”

“Well duhhhhh! Vampires are the cutting edge!”

“Cutting edge? Like Miss Sakuya’s knives?”

“Um, kind of, yeah!”

“That’s not what that means!”

“Is too!”

“Nuh uh!”

“Is too!”

“Nuh uh!”

No longer. Every fiber of your body strains and connects with each other in an effort of sheer resolve and determination. As you feel your limbs again, you summon what little strength you can recover to pull yourself upright and bellow, “Enough!

The room falls silent. Your eyes slowly open, revealing what must be twenty fairies dressed in frilly blue maid uniforms, all floating completely still in the air with their wide eyes locked on to you. The room is some sort of open barracks, lined with small cots — one of which you happen to be laying in. The bed is so small, however, that your legs are dangling off the end.

“He’s awake!” one of them — a tiny white-haired fairy — cries.

Then it all becomes chaos.

“He’s awake!”

“Ohmigosh, he’s awake!”

“PI is awake!”

—and it keeps going and going and going. All of them buzz around like a swarm: from the floor to the ceiling, bumping into the walls, bumping into each other. You cover your head and make yourself as small as possible, trying to ignore the tremendous, aching pressure building up in your head.

You consider that you may have died and begun your eternal punishment, but the Blazing Hells you read about were supposed to be a fiery domain deep underground. Instead, this appears to be a torture catered toward you personally, and one beyond your own imagination.

“Shut up!” one of them yells over the madness. She looks tall — for a fairy, anyway — with green hair tied into a simple ponytail. “Beta, go tell Miss Sakuya that he woke up,” she commands. “The rest of you, don’t be so loud ‘cause he’s sick and stuff!”

“O, okay, big sis!” the fairy presumably named Beta zips out the door before you can even get a good look at her.

The other fairies, at the larger one’s behest, begin to settle down and crowd around you, much to your displeasure. None of them dare touch you, but their eyes scan every bit of you as they whisper to themselves excitedly.

One voice finally addresses you. “Are you really a hero of justice?”

The floodgate of noise opens once again.

“Do you really have a gun that goes like, BANG and stuff?”

“Are you wearing something scandalous to the party?”

“What does ‘scandalous’ mean?”

“What’s your pants size?”

“Do you hate the tengu the mostest?”

“Have you ever killed anyone?”

“Do you like puppies?”

“Have you ever killed a puppy?”

“What’s your favorite color?”

“Are you gonna take Lucy away from us?”

That last question is what stops your attempts to tune them out. You hold your hand out, and all the chattering fey fall silent — or as silent as a group of them can get. “You all know Lucy?”

The green-haired fairy from earlier, who exerts some manner of authority, flies in front of you. “Of course we do! She reads us stories, and sometimes she makes up her own. The story she’s tellin’ us now is about you: Gensokyo’s Ace Detective.” Then she frowns. “You don’t look as cool as she said you were, though.”

A fairy’s judgment is worth less than nothing to you. What you care about is Lucy. “So she’s here? Lucy works here?”

The green-haired fairy places her hands on her hips indignantly. “Now hold on! You never answered the question! Are you gonna take Lucy with you?”

All the fairies stare at you expectantly, with childish dread. You had no idea that Lucy is here, so it’s difficult for you to even answer the question.

“I just want to meet her,” you tell them. “I have this feeling that the whole reason I’m here is because of her.” You don’t really want to bother interrogating a bunch of fairies, but this bunch seems well-behaved — for their kind — and they really are the only source of information you have about your situation right now. You try and think back to your brief conversation with that maid and remember a name from that letter. “Who is Patchouli Knowledge?”

“She’s a nerd!” one fairy suddenly shouts.

“A big nerd!”

“A total nerd!”

“A super nerd!”

Neeeeerd!

Alright,” you cut in before this gets out of hand, again. “I get it. She’s a nerd. But Patchouli Knowledge isn’t Lucy?”

The fairies all laugh, which makes you regret ever thinking that they could be good for anything. Finally, the green-haired “big sis” answers, “Nope! She’s Lucy’s boss, and we don’t like her because she won’t let us read any books from her library. She even booby-trapped all the books with a buncha dangerous spells! But that’s okay, ‘cause we can just respawn.”

Then Patchouli Knowledge must be the slavedriver Lucy always complains about, and Lucy bonded with the fairies over their mutual dislike of her. However, looking at these snot-crusted, bouncing-in-place, mouth-breathing fairies, you can’t help but sympathize with Miss Knowledge somewhat. “How many of you can actually read in the first place?”

The fairies all look around at each other, confused. One of them raises a hand. “I know a couple letters!”

The green-haired fairy chuckles smugly. “A couple letters? I read a whole word once.”

There are gasps and hushed awe throughout the crowd. The idea of reading an entire word must be akin to some great enlightenment for them.

“That’s why she’s our big sis!” one fairy remarks.

“But wasn’t there a fairy who could read and even do math, though?” another fairy says.

“A fairy that wise? I don’t remember anyone like that. Do you, big sis?”

The larger fairy thinks, but gives up after a few seconds. “I dunno. I bet she just made that up. For a fairy to be that smart, she’d have to be the strongest, and I’m the strongest here.”

“I don’t think I made it up,” the original fairy responds, but is obviously unsure. “I just can’t remember her name.”

At the very least, when you do meet this Patchouli Knowledge, at least you can bond over your mutual distaste for these fairies. Whatever Lucy sees in them, you certainly do not.

Your body doesn’t ache as much now, so you lift yourself off the bed and groan as the joints in your legs creak and pop. Your head is light and your stomach churns, but that’ll all work out while you’re exploring this place.

The green-haired fairy flies right in your face, wearing a nasty glare. “What are you doing? You can’t get up! Miss Sakuya will be here any second!”

You have no more interest in talking with these pests or whoever Miss Sakuya is, so you shove the fairy aside. “Stay out of my way. I need to get my bearings, and I can’t do that if I’m surrounded by you noisy brats.”

All the fairies gaze upon you with terror before exchanging nervous glances with each other. You don’t waste any time in stepping over and under them. However, before you can make it to the door, one of them tackles you.

It’s the green-haired fairy again, and although she isn’t heavy enough to knock you over, she’s clinging to your side tightly. “Everyone, I don’t wanna get in trouble, and neither do you! Glomp him!”

Easily convinced, the fairies become deathly resolute as they charge forward, grabbing your arms, legs, and then eventually each other as they pile on top of you, grabbing as tight as they can. “Fucking fairies!” you curse them, as you try to move forward to the door.

However, the combined weight of the fairies on top of you is enough to anchor you where you stand. You sweat, as the combined heat of all the squirming little bodies attached to you becomes unbearable. You’ll have to start pulling them off, starting with the one who started all this: the big sis.

“Get off me, you little bitch!” you scream, as you try to wedge your hand between her body and yours. Eventually you come across the distinct feeling of a firm but small bra cup under her uniform, and you realize where your hand must be.

“Gah!” she cries out. “My boobie! He’s touching my boobie!”

“He’s touching big sis’s big boobies!” another fairy shouts. “Glomp him harder!”

Big? You didn’t even notice she had breasts, let along “big boobies”. She’s probably wearing a training bra, for fuck’s sake.

The fairies all squeeze harder, and one of them even hops on your head and covers your face with her hands. You try to get your other arm free, but since you can’t see, you’re really just flailing around desperately.

Then you jab something soft, of a distinctly softer cloth than the fairy’s uniform.

You hear a fairy gasp loudly. “He poked my squishy place!”

Surprisingly, some of the fairies let go of you and retreat. “Run! He’s a pervert like the little sister!”

“You cowards!” the big sis calls after her fleeing comrades.

“I don’t even know what’s going on anymore,” you admit out loud. “But if poking your ‘squishy places’ will get you off of me, then so be it!”

After being captured and taken to the Scarlet Devil Mansion by a lone maid, you must now escape a mass of fairies by groping them until they let go. This truly is a Gensokyo moment. At least Mori isn’t here to see this — or gods forbid, Hatate.

Then you hear the distinct sound of the door opening, and the fairies that remain fall silent. You peek through them, and expect to see Mori and/or Hatate, because that would be the pattern established thus far in your life.

Instead, you see a familiar blue-and-white uniform for a split second before it completely vanishes.

Then suddenly, you’re free — and sitting back on the bed you woke up on. The fairies — even the ones that ran away — are sitting against the wall. They look just as disoriented as you are.

In the middle of the room is the maid who brought you here in the first place, holding that silver watch.

“I was only gone for ten minutes,” she begins, maintaining a composed facade despite her exasperation, “and already there’s been a battle in the maid quarters.”

He started it!” the green-haired fairy speaks up. “We were just trying to keep him here like you ordered us to, Miss Sakuya!”

So, the maid who brought you here is Miss Sakuya. If the fairies are speaking to her like that, then she must be the one in charge of them — not that you’ve ever heard of an ordinary human being in charge of a bunch of fairies before. She looks at you with her icy-blue eyes, and then you hear a click.

Now she’s right next to you, having crossed the distance between the two of you in an instant. “It seems like you aren’t physically harmed,” she says. “That is a relief.” Then she steps away from you to bow deeply. “I apologize. I thought you would be unconscious longer, but your body has recovered rather quickly for a human.”

Simple politeness won’t fool you, though. “Are you talking about how you knocked me out?” you respond bitterly. “Thanks for that. If I’m your prisoner now, then your little helpers did an excellent job of torturing me.”

“Only because he wouldn’t stay put, Miss Sakuya!” the green-haired fairy pouts.

Sakuya turns to her, wearing a cold smile to mask her frustration. “And did you do what I asked you? I told you to prevent him from leaving, but I also told you to explain that he was being kept in the maid quarters while I prepared his guest room, and to make sure that he wasn’t hurt after my blunder. Instead, I’m going to assume that you completely forgot about that, and mobbed him with all sorts of useless questions.” She turns back to you. “Is that correct?”

You can’t help but grin while watching a group of fairies get thoroughly lectured by someone who must be way stronger than them — at least you’re assuming, because anyone in Gensokyo who can move as fast as this maid has to be pretty high-level. “More or less,” you reply to her.

While her gang of fairies shifts nervously in their seats, the green-haired fairy crosses her arms and huffs. “This is so stupid.”

Sakuya’s hands tense as she looks down at the rebellious fairy. “It is stupid, Daiyousei. The other girls look up to you. I expect better from someone who calls herself the strongest fairy.”

Daiyousei looks away from Sakuya, refusing to meet her glare, but seems pacified regardless.

Then Sakuya turns her attention to you, with the same cold smile. “And I wouldn’t be so smug if I were you. Anyone who would use violence on children, let alone their ‘squishy parts’, couldn’t possibly be in the right either.”

The grin falls right off your face. These aren’t children, they’re just fairies, is what you’d like to say. However, that silver watch is still in Sakuya’s hand, and your intuition is screaming that it has something to do with her warping powers. Next time she clicks that watch, you could end up feet-first in a wood chipper, for all you know.

For that reason, and that reason alone, you turn to give the line of fairies sitting against the wall your best forced smile. “I’m sorry I touched your squishy parts.”

“And my boobies,” Daiyousei grumbles.

“And your boobies,” you add.

“Now all of you apologize together,” Sakuya tells the fairies.

Daiyousei looks to her comrades, sighs, and then raises her hands. “All together,” she begins, with zero enthusiasm.

“We’re sorry we glomped you,” all the fairies tell you in varying degrees of unison.

Sakuya’s smile turns much gentler from hearing all the fairies’ voices. “Thank you, all of you. Now, PI, I’ll show you to your room.”

“Yeah, thanks,” you mutter. Your smile vanishes as if it had never been there, as do the fairies’ once Sakuya’s back is turned. As you and Sakuya leave through the door, you turn back one last time to meet Daiyousei’s green eyes. Then, you raise your middle finger at her. She responds in kind right before the door shuts, leaving you and Sakuya alone in a long hallway of crimson walls, red carpet, and dim light provided by chandeliers.

“It’s a bit late,” Sakuya begins with a slight bow, “but welcome to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. I am Sakuya Izayoi, the head maid.”

“I still can’t tell if I’m a prisoner or a guest,” you admit.

“It’s as I said before. You are an invited guest and I will serve you as such. It just so happens that you were summoned early.”

“And forcefully,” you add. “With the added bonus of knocking me unconscious.”

Sakuya bows again. “I apologize. It’s been so long time since I carried a human with me, that I forgot the effect it would have on your body.”

She must mean the warping. You can’t tell if she’s really being sincere or not, but it doesn’t matter. Looks like you’re here to stay, at least until that party. Then you remember something — the people you left behind. You check your pockets, and find that you have your key, wallet, and cell phone still on you. When you open up the cell phone to check it, there’s a lot to gape at.

17 missed calls. 11 emails from your contacts. Sakuya knocked on the door of your apartment in the later hours of the morning, but now it’s 1 AM the next day.

“I was out for the whole day?” you remark.

Sakuya confirms with a nod. “I know little of physics, but I believe that when I stopped time to carry you here, it would have been like your body moved very, very fast — because you still would have been sensitive to time’s flow. You vomited quite a bit when we arrived at the gate, then immediately fell unconscious.”

What the fuck is she talking about? Physics? Time’s flow? You’ve been hearing a lot about faith recently, but this is the complete opposite of the wacky bullshit power spectrum. “Sorry, I really can’t wrap my head around that right now,” you tell Sakuya. “I need to check my phone.”

“I’m not your jailer or your babysitter,” she reminds you. “Please do as you wish. I have plenty of time.”

The log of missed calls is an assortment of Mori, Hina, and Hatate’s numbers — and even one call from Q. There’s just as many voicemails, but you’d rather not listen to seventeen of them right now. You can imagine what they would say. Instead, you turn your attention to the emails.

----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

Call me as soon as you can
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: agentq@tengu.net

Are you okay?
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: psychicdetective@tengu.net

better not die, bich
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

This is your partner btw, “jailbait@kmail.com” was taken, believe it or not
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

Hello? is everything okay?
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: psychicdetective@tengu.net

i know youre probably drowning in child pussy at the sdm, but fucking call us
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

Starting to get worried
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

You better not be ignoring me
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

Please call
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyomori@kmail.com

Call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me call me
----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: gensokyopi@kmail.com

Greetings, PI. This is Hina. The little one has given me permission to borrow your computer and your email account and use it to send my own message. Because you have not responded for over twelve hours, we believe you to be held in captivity. Therefore, I am working with Hatate and the kappa who wishes to be called Q so that we may mount a rescue. Please survive until I reach you.

If your captors are reading this, then they should know that I fear no youkai, no matter what they wish to call themselves, and I will happily tear them apart until they no longer wish to regenerate and prefer to rot on the ground.

Sincerely,
Hina

PS: Please explain to me what a “titfuck” is after your rescue.
----------

Immediately after reading that last email, you check when the emails were sent. Mori’s first email was sent not long after you were taken, with the others’ emails following soon after that. Then you received emails, mostly from Mori, every hour or so throughout the day — until Hina’s, which was about three hours ago.

That means they could be here any moment, if they decided to act quickly — and it sure didn’t seem like they wanted to take their time. You turn to Sakuya. “It seems that my companions are plotting a rescue attempt.”

Sakuya blinks. “I haven’t heard any news from the gatekeeper. Why would they do something so foolish, though? As I’ve said, you aren’t a prisoner.”

You sigh. “You suddenly vanished with me, didn’t you? What else would they assume?”

“I told that little girl you would not be harmed,” she mentions.

You consider arguing that there’s no way that would be enough to assure them of your safety, but there’s no time. You have to make a call.

[] Call Mori.
[] Call Hina.
[] Call Hatate.
[] Call Q.
>>No. 66105
[X] Call Hina
>>No. 66106
[X] Call Hina.
That was entertaining.
>>No. 66107
[] Call Hina.

>Hina wants to know what a titfuck is

Goddammit, between obsessive Koa, mischievous scamp Suwako, buttslut Hatate, and now Hina, you are making it very hard to identify just who is best girl. And Nitori hasn't even come into play yet, so she's a wild card in waiting!
>>No. 66108
[x] Call Mori

>that last message from her
>voting to call literally anyone else
It sounds like Suwako is either emotionally unable to help or is about to attempt something stupid and desperate. Either way, PI's partner needs his trust, faith, and reassurance.
>>No. 66109
[X] Call Mori.

She's PI's partner y'all. After everything, she should be prioritized.
>>No. 66110
[x] Call Mori

She really wants him to call her..
>>No. 66111
[X] Call Mori.

I feel like Mori is the one that needs reassurance the most as soon as possible.
>>No. 66112
[X] Call Hatate.

She at least deserves a pity vote from time to time.
>>No. 66113
[x] Call Mori.

Is there anything in poor PI's life that isn't a complete and utter clusterfuck? Get the frog on the phone before someone croaks.
>>No. 66115
[x] Call Mori

I hope someday we'll get a Hina option I can vote for without feeling like a complete asshole.
>>No. 66116
[x] Call Mori

"Yes, I'm a prisoner. No, attacking someone who can stop time is not a good idea"
>>No. 66121
[x] Call Mori

Do not make frog goddess sad.
>>No. 66124
[x] Call Mori.
>>No. 66127
[x] Call Mori

It'd be heartless to do otherwise.
>>No. 66132
[x] Call Mori

"Hey Mori, what's a 'squishy place'?"
>>No. 66134
[X] Call Mori.

She is his partner after all.
>>No. 66246
[x] Call Mori

She just seemed so worried...
>>No. 66259
File 152453400463.jpg - (288.59KB, 1727x2048, haha yeah im calm yknow.jpg) [iqdb]
66259
[x] Call Mori.

If you’re reporting your status, then your partner needs to know first. Besides that, Mori has been far more desperate in her attempts to get a hold of you than the others. You can’t imagine her being so distraught, but you did vanish right in front of her. Would you be freaked out if the situation was reversed? Could you just shrug and say “it’s Gensokyo” like you used to?

No. You wouldn’t leave her. You couldn’t leave her. That feeling has been with you ever since your first morning together.

Huh.

The phone rings only once before she answers, “Hello?! PI, is that you? Answer me!”

Mori’s voice is so loud that you have to hold the phone away from you. Even Sakuya winces out of sympathy for your eardrum.

“Yeah, it’s me,” you respond. “It’s PI. I’m okay. Everything’s fine, Mori.”

There’s silence for about a second. Then it’s another ringing outburst from the speaker. “What do you mean everything’s fine? You think you can just vanish for fourteen hours and then nonchalantly call me back like, like—”

Her voice stops, and you wonder if the connection has somehow eroded from the sheer volume of her voice. Then, you hear her laugh. “J, just kidding. Uh, y’know, of course I knew you were fine! I was just pissed you were ignoring me! I couldn’t stand it if you were having fun somewhere without me, y’know—I mean, uh, wait, you can have fun wherever you want, it’s just, I thought you would respond, or, um—”

You don’t know what’s wrong with her, but this isn’t the time for that, so you gotta make this quick. “Mori, it’s okay,” you reassure her. “I’m sorry I couldn’t respond sooner. I was unconscious because of an unexpected side-effect resulting from that maid’s teleportation powers. I’m completely unharmed.”

“Right,” she says, slowly calming down. “Yeah, that’s a relief. I mean, not a relief, because I knew you were fine anyway. Just, I mean—”

You have to cut her off again, or else she’ll keep going. “Mori. What about the others? Are you all really trying to rescue me?”

There’s another pause from the other end of the line. Then, yet again she strains the speakers of your phone. “The others! The plan! We’re uh, we’re about to reach the mansion, but now I can see that um—hold on, I gotta go and stop them!”

Before you can ask anything else, you hear a lot of rustling — wind, maybe? Then, you can hear voices: Mori’s, Hatate’s, Hina’s, and someone else’s that sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it. There’s more rustling, then that voice you can’t quite pin down speaks to you directly over the line.

“PI, is this really you?”

Immediately a wave of relief washes over you, and you know that you’ve averted a true calamity.

“Yes Mima,” you respond, “it’s me.”

She sighs. “So, it is really you. I thought they might have charmed you, or mimicked your voice somehow.”

“Wait,” you begin, “I’m glad you realize that, but how can you tell it’s me just from my voice, over the phone?”

“Well, any magical influence would be detectable in the sound of your voice, regardless of how—ugh, never mind. I don’t really like explaining magic unless I’m about to kill the person I’m explaining it to in a villainous fashion.”

Wasn’t she supposed to be Marisa’s teacher? It seems like the more you learn about Mima, the more you understand about Marisa.

“Now,” she continues, “do I still need to blast this mansion to kingdom come, or are you calling it off?”

“I’m calling it off,” you answer immediately. “Can you put me on speaker?”

Mima hesitates. “I don’t know how this thing works. One of you, put it on speaker, whatever that means.”

You hear some more rustling, before Mori says, “Alright PI, you’re on speaker. It’s me, Mima, Hatate, and Hina.”

“Can he hear us now?” you hear Hina say immediately.

“Yeah, I think—” Mori begins, before she’s cut off by two very different voices.

“I am so happy to hear that you are unharmed, PI. Please forgive me, but I feared so greatly for your safety after you vanished—”

“PI, you motherfucking prick, I can’t believe I flew all the way out here because I was worried that you were getting your stupid ass drained like a stuck pig by loli vampires—”

“Yeah, it’s okay,” you tell both Hina and Hatate. “Thank you both for being worried. I mean it. But, I’m fine. How did you even get Mima to help out, anyway?”

“It sounded fun,” the ghost herself replies. “Mori told me the story when I dropped off your reward earlier today. That mansion has always been an eyesore to me, so I thought I could save you — which would be good — and destroy the place in the process, which would be great. Win-win.”

That’s some very Mima-sounding logic. “But you aren’t going to do anything now, right?”

“Nah,” she answers. “I can’t destroy that mansion for no reason. Reimu would seal me back up in that little box in a blink. She’s still pissed at me for everything that happened with Marisa.”

As she should be. “Alright then,” you say, “at least that’s settled.”

“Nothing’s settled!” Hatate cries. “Lucy’s gone totally rogue, and I have no idea what that girl is thinking! If she tries to rope you into working for Remilia Scarlet, then you better tell her that I have the exclusive rights to your ass! Ohhh, that girl is going to get it. Nobody backstabs me, not ever again! I’m the psychic detective, Hatate motherfucking Himekai—”

You close your eyes and rub your aching forehead with your free hand. “Hatate, for fuck’s sake, take it easy. I know as much as you all do at this point, and I’ll keep all of you updated. Just give Mori back the phone.”

Despite some disgruntled noises, the phone returns to Mori. “Okay. Well, Hatate aside, I think we’ve all calmed down.” She pauses. “But, uh, couldn’t you have brought me? You get a plus one, right?”

“He’s already someone else’s plus one,” Sakuya speaks up. “He will be attending the party with Miss Patchouli Knowledge — or rather, the assistant who will be taking her place.”

You wish you knew how to turn the volume down on this thing. Sakuya doesn’t even need good hearing to pick up on the conversation.

“You heard her,” you tell Mori. “Sorry, but I’ll be going this one alone, for now.” She doesn’t respond right away, so you add, “I’ve been doing this for years and years before I met you. You know that, right?”

Mori takes a deep breath. “That’s right. You’re right. I have faith in you. I uh, guess that means I’ll be alone too for a bit, huh?”

“This is gross,” Hatate remarks loudly enough for her voice to be picked up. “You two might as well be husband and wife. And it’s been what, a couple weeks? How easy can you get — even for some old goddess who parades around in a kid’s body?”

There’s a moment of silence on the other line. Then, Mori continues in a much more resolved tone. “Actually, y’know what? I think I know what I can do. I’m going to torment Hatate. I’m going to make every single second while you’re gone a headache for her, so when you come back, she’ll greet you with open arms knowing that the pain and fear will finally be over. Hina, Mima, would you care to help?”

“I’m not sure what you mean, but I would be delighted to help,” Hina replies. “Would this be the fabled ‘girl time’ I’ve heard of?”

You hear Mima laugh. “And here I was, worried that I would be left disappointed tonight. I don’t think Reimu would fault me for being home late if I’ve been having some fun with a youkai all night.”

Hatate yelps. “W, what? I was just telling it like it is! The truth! D, don’t look at me like that! I won’t let you do whatever you want! You can’t out-speed me!”

“Oh, I think you’re well out of your prime, little tengu,” Mima says. “But please do get a head-start, if you think you need it.”

There’s some very loud rustling, and then everything goes silent for a few moments. Just when you think you might as well hang up, Mori returns to the phone. “Well uh, now they’re gone. Anything else you want to say?”

“Don’t go out too much while I’m gone,” you warn her. “You never know what the tengu or that friend of yours are planning.”

“Treating me like a kid, huh?” she replies, her spirit and sass returning. “Don’t worry, I can keep myself out of trouble, unlike you.” Then she laughs, and her voice becomes a little gentler. “Sorry. I’ve been saying a bunch of weird things, haven’t I?”

She has. You remember she was pretty quiet at the party last night, too. “Anything you want to tell me about?”

“I’m not sure,” she admits. “I haven’t thought about it enough yet. It’s not something I could do over the phone, anyway.”

That raises questions, but there’s no use worrying about it now. “When this is over, we can talk. Just the two of us.”

“I would like that,” she replies warmly. “Then, I’ll be waiting for you to come home.”

“Now you really do sound like my wife.”

Something pecks at your heart when you realize what you’ve said. She really did remind you of her, before—

Mori laughs softly. “You wish.” Thankfully, she’s playing it off as a joke. “Okay then. I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to have a nice long sleep in your bed. Good night!”

“Good night, Mori.”

She hangs up before you do. You slip the cell phone back in your pocket and then sigh.

“Would you like a cloth soaked in ice water?” Sakuya offers.

You glance at her suspiciously. “Why?”

She smiles. “Your face is red.”

You touch your cheeks, and upon confirming you’re indeed a bit flushed, you clear your throat in an attempt to get back some dignity. “Don’t worry about it. I’m still feeling a bit sick.”

However, Sakuya doesn’t look convinced. “Is that so? Regardless, they do seem like an interesting bunch of companions.”

You don’t feel like you should be too apologetic, given the circumstances, but she did wait there patiently for you this whole time while you dealt with them and defused the situation. “Sorry about that, Miss Izayoi. I can assure you there won’t be any disturbances.”

Her smile never falters. “It’s alright, I wasn’t worried. While you were talking, I took your measurements and made some adjustments on the outfits I had prepared for you.”

You feel around your body, as if you might find some evidence of her touching you. Then you glance down at your feet, and see that you’re wearing some very long, dark socks that are incredibly smooth on your skin. They’re high-class dress socks, and you sure as shit don’t own anything this fancy.

Then you hear a click, and instantly the socks are gone and replaced with the plain ones you had been wearing.

Sakuya bows slightly. “Sorry about that. I forgot to switch your socks back.”

Stopping time, huh? You’ll never be able to relax around this woman.


###


Sakuya walks at a relaxed pace, so slow that it actually annoys you. Then again, for someone with her ability, time must be an infinite resource.

Speaking of infinite, it feels like you’ve been walking down this hallway forever. This mansion must be so huge that it’s messing with your depth perception.

Eventually, Sakuya stops in front of a door that doesn’t look any different from the rest. “This is where you will be staying,” she announces.

You look at the door, and then glance down the hallway both directions. You haven’t seen anyone else walking around since you left those fairies. “Is there other staff, or any guests who arrived before I did?”

Sakuya smiles politely. “You’re a special case, so you’re the first guest, but there are other servants besides myself and the children. The rooms in this hallway have all been prepared already, so our main tasks now are securing ingredients for the meal and preparing the main hall.”

That begs the question of what the fairies are actually supposed to be doing, but you let it go. You’re more interested in the prospect of being more-or-less alone in this hallway. It will be much easier to sate your curiosity with some completely-harmless exploring if there’s nobody around to bother you.

But Sakuya’s blue eyes sharpen, and you get the cold feeling they’re piercing right through you. “However,” she continues, “please don’t wander around aimlessly. This is a very easy place to get lost in. If you feel the need to sight-see, please call me with this.”

Sakuya presents to you two objects on a platter: a large, rustic key, and a small, silver hand bell on a platter. The key is obviously for your room, but the bell perplexes you. “This bell has been enchanted so that its sound carries to wherever I may be,” Sakuya explains promptly. “If you ring it, I will appear within five seconds. I will be more than happy to escort you wherever you like on the premises — within reason, of course.”

You take the key and the bell. The silver bell seems perfectly normal, but then again you aren’t really the type that can sniff out magic in the first place. “Do I really need to call you every time? Even for the bathroom?”

Sakuya nods. “Yes, that’s right. Don’t worry, I don’t mind.”

You’re the one who minds, but you doubt a complaint would change anything, and you don’t want to make her even more suspicious of you. Her powers are beyond anything you’ve ever encountered, and you want to keep her friendly — or at least non-hostile — for as long as you can.

“There are many Western-style bathrooms,” Sakuya goes on, “but there is also a large Japanese bath if you prefer it.”

You hesitate for a moment as you imagine a grandiose open bath tucked away in a corner of the mansion. “A Japanese bath? In a place like this? That seems out of place.”

A shadow falls over Sakuya’s pleasant demeanor. “Since we arrived in Gensokyo, it has become necessary to make certain adjustments to the mansion in order to, to better please our guests, who tend to be traditional Japanese youkai.”

There’s only one type of “traditional” youkai you know that could enter a place like this and demand a Japanese bath. “Like tengu?”

Sakuya laughs quietly. “It’s in poor taste for me to comment on other guests. Now please, make yourself at home. Don’t forget to ring that bell if you need to leave your room.”

You look at the key, then turn to examine the door. Sure enough, there’s a large keyhole under the red doorknob — because gods forbid something in this mansion wasn’t red.

“Please enjoy your stay at the Scarlet Devil Mansion.”

You hear a click, and when you turn back around, Sakuya is gone.


###


You aren’t surprised but are still disappointed when your room turns out to be just as red as the rest of the mansion. It would be much less garish if vampires favored another color, like blue or even a dark purple. Instead, you flop right down on the large — probably queen-size — bed and stare up at the dull, crimson ceiling.

This is the Scarlet Devil Mansion. Your presence has been forcibly requested by a woman named Patchouli Knowledge, whom you have never met. There are fairies dressed like maids, a head maid who can stop time, a vampire — or perhaps even multiple vampires — who seems to suffer from a case of extreme tackiness, and apparently Lucy is somewhere in all this mess.

You glance over at the small clock on the desk. The hour hand is close to the two. You reluctantly pull yourself out of the soft bed and throw open the curtains to the window — which are red, of course.

The moon hangs ominously above you, in a black sky. Below, you can make out torches that illuminate spots of the courtyard. There seem to be great stone walls that divide this place from the forest outside; were those built before they arrived in Gensokyo or after? Assuming, of course, that such a large place could be moved into Gensokyo. But Mori’s shrine was moved here, and after seeing Sakuya stop time with a click of her watch, you once again have no idea what the ceiling for bullshit powers is.

You could fall back asleep until morning, but a vampire and her servants would be more active at night, anyway. Might as well go with the flow and stay awake until the sun rises.

First things first, you need to prepare for your meeting with Patchouli Knowledge. No way you’re getting literally dragged out here and being kept in the dark until the party — especially if the fucking tengu are somehow involved this place.

You grab your phone and email your group, explaining that the tengu seem to visit the Scarlet Devil Mansion often and asking what they’re up to. They might be asleep, or still chasing Hatate, but you said you would keep them updated.


###


Two gigantic wooden doors are in front of you.

“This is the Scarlet Devil Mansion’s great library,” Sakuya announces like a tour guide giving her first tour of the day. “Our resident magician, Miss Patchouli Knowledge, lives inside.”

A magician living inside a library? She already sounds way more legitimate than Mima or Alice — and there’s no use even mentioning Marisa in the same breath as them.

“I thought you might have wanted a day or two to get settled before meeting with her,” Sakuya continues, “but I have to point out that you do clean up pretty well.”

Her bright, approving eyes cause you to glance away and adjust your red tie. “I just want to get this over with so I can learn why I’m here,” you reply. “And I may be living in the slums, but I remember how to present myself nicely.”

“If you would like a change of locale,” Sakuya remarks, “my mistress may be interested in hiring you as a servant.” Her eyes narrow and she smiles darkly. “But the job comes with many conditions you would have to be willing to agree to, and I don’t think your companions would approve.”

“I’m sure they wouldn’t,” you mutter, finding her odd pity annoying. “Well then, please lead the way, Miss Izayoi.”

Before Sakuya can open the doors, she suddenly perks up — reacting to something you can’t hear or see. “Speak of the Scarlet Devil,” she murmurs warmly. “I’m sorry, PI, but I have to attend to my mistress. I think you can find your way through the library on your own. It may seem intimidating, but all you have to do is follow the candles straight ahead to find Miss Patchouli. And, I will add that wandering from this path is a very bad idea.”

Of course it is. This whole damn place is a bad idea for you, but it’s not like you have much of a choice. “I understand,” you assure her.

Immediately, she’s gone. It must be an interesting relationship between master and servant if Sakuya is that eager to attend to her. With her power, Sakuya being the servant must be purely choice, unless vampires are even stronger than stopping time. You really hope they aren’t, but it’s Gensokyo.

That leaves you alone with the two big doors. You grab one gold handle — the color of which is refreshing to your eyes — and push on the thick wood, but it takes all your might to budge it open enough. You squeeze through and stumble into relative darkness, and you hear an ominous boom as the door shuts behind you.

“That’s just fucking great,” you remark out loud, before turning to take in the entirety of the Scarlet Devil Mansion’s library.

Sakuya wasn’t wrong. This library is beyond intimidating: it’s colossal. Even in the darkness, you can see bits of light from candles that reveal rows of enormous bookshelves that stretch out as far as you can make out in the extremely dim room — and there seems to be a whole other level above, connected by thin, spiraling staircases. The air itself smells like old paper and wood — but not of dust.

There’s two significant sources of light you can see: one at the end of the raised walkway that cuts through the center of the library — this must be the path that Sakuya mentioned — and a smaller source of light floating off to your right, nestled in some bookshelves. The smaller light, which appears to be on the move, seems much closer than the light at the end of the path that Sakuya mentioned.

[] Keep moving straight into the large light.

[] Take a side path to meet the closer, smaller light.

[]
>>No. 66260
A very warm conversation with Mori. I think we made the right choice.

[X] Keep moving straight into the large light.

No need to do something that might raise suspicion this early in the game.
>>No. 66261
[X] Take a side path to meet the closer, smaller light.

Investigate.
>>No. 66262
Good update

[x] Keep moving straight into the large light.

Flandre? My money's on her.
>>No. 66265
[X] Take a side path to meet the closer, smaller light.
Most likely to be Koakuma. She's got some explaining to do.
>>No. 66268
[x] Keep moving straight into the large light.

Stick to the script until we know what's up. Patchouli's more likely to give us a straight answer anyway, I'd wager.
>>No. 66269
X] Keep moving straight into the large light.
>>No. 66270
[x] Keep moving straight into the large light.
-[x] Call out to the small light.
>>No. 66273
[X] Keep moving straight into the large light.
Let's not wander immediately after being told it would be a very bad idea to do so.
>>No. 66280
[x] Take a side path to meet the closer, smaller light
Did sakuya cut off our balls when she was taking measurements or what?
>>No. 66281
>>66280
One thing is having balls of steel, another thing is having balls for brains.

Remember the battle with Wriggle, how bad thing got even with Mori's help, how do you think things are going to turn out if we have to fight a youkai alone, especially since we don't have any weapons?
>>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.
>>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
>>No. 67712
File 157258537023.png - (704.30KB, 1000x1000, tears of a devil.png) [iqdb]
67712
[x] Console Remilia.

It would be incredibly easy to walk out the door and never speak a word of this to anyone, as she commanded. In fact, that’s what you should do, for the sake of your job. The less you’re involved with the people here, the better. Once this party is over, you can wash your hands of all this and go back home — back to Mori and Hina.

But, you find yourself gazing into Remilia’s red, dripping face. How long would she keep going? How many tears has she accumulated over her long life, and how many of those have been shed in complete loneliness? Mori felt that loneliness. Hina, Hatate, and who knows how many others have, as well. Maybe you did, too.

You reach forward and place your hand on one of hers to stop her. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Remilia’s hand lingers under yours for just a moment before she pulls it back and looks away. “You know not what you speak of, human. Leave me!”

“Let me be clear,” you tell her firmly, “I have no objection to you cleaning up after yourself. But look at your hands. We should pick the glass out and find something else to clean this up with.”

Remilia turns over her palms, which are running red with not only spilled drink, but also her own dark blood. “Save your pity! It makes no difference. I will heal. That is what I am.”

You’re intensely familiar with a youkai’s ability to regenerate. Images of their flesh and innards writhing, bubbling, and desperately keeping up with the damage being inflicted on them is still fresh in your mind, thanks to a certain psychopath. What little pride was left, those youkai could not hold onto. They screamed, cried, and begged for mercy, yet neither Kotohime nor their own bodies listened.

While you take a moment to push the memories away, Remilia looks back at you.

You meet her eyes dead-on. “You heal fast, but it still hurts. You’re immortal, but you still worry. There’s nothing wrong with that. It has nothing to do with being human or youkai, strong or weak. You’re alive. Let me assist you.”

Remilia laughs. It comes out hoarse from her strained throat, but it’s genuine. “You sound like you love youkai, PI.”

“Not particularly.”

She stops laughing and smiles at you, regaining her air of superiority. “I get the feeling that you’re a stubborn sort.”

You sigh. “And the same to you.”

The two of you do your best to clean the mess, but there isn’t much that can be done. Remilia doesn’t even know where the broom or the vacuum is, let alone how to get the stain of blood and wine out of the carpet. Trying to gather up the glass in your hands is about the only thing you can do, and even that would be pointless. However, you did help pick the glass out of Remilia’s hands — at least the pieces that were big enough. The smaller pieces would be pushed out on their own quickly.

“There’s naught to be done,” Remilia decides, her tears dried. ”I’ll simply have to call for Sakuya and explain what happened.” Then she thinks a moment and adds, “While I’m at it, I should have her show me where the nearest broom closet is, for future reference.”

The idea of a lord not knowing her own mansion sounds foolish, but in this ridiculous, space-bending place, you can’t blame her. “That would be a good idea, Lady Scarlet.”

Remilia produces a silver bell exactly like the one that was given to you, and gives it a single shake. Immediately, Sakuya appears next to her, and all of the broken glass and spill are disappear from the table and floor. Even the stains on the carpet are gone.

You blink a couple of times, giving your brain time to confirm that the mess is indeed no more. “Amazing.”

Sakuya bows to Remilia. “At your service, Mistress. What happened? Are you injured?”

Remilia tilts up her little white nose and grins, revealing her canines. “Nothing at all, Sakuya! Just a minor incident with the glasses. Perhaps I should have Patchy imbue our glassware with some protection — not just from me, but for our coming guests, as well!”

You’ll give Remilia Scarlet one thing: she can bounce back alright. You’ll just keep your mouth shut about Patchouli Knowledge being out-of-commission for a few days because of you.

Remilia turns to you. “Now then, I’d like to thank you for keeping me company, despite the mess. I trust you will remember your task?”

You bow. “I will. Thank you for meeting with me, Lady Scarlet.”

“Excellent. Sakuya, please escort him back to his room. I think I might pay a visit to the basement myself.”

Sakuya stares at Remilia for a moment, then nods. “Of course. Please call if there’s any trouble, Mistress.”


###


You left the room with Sakuya and walk with her back down the stairs in the direction of your room — or so you think, you can’t quite remember.

“Sounds like the basement is a popular place,” you remark, to break the silence.

“It’s strictly off-limits,” she says firmly. “And that’s that.”

So much for that conversation.


###


“I refuse,” you tell a bespectacled Lucy. “I’m not putting on a show for a bunch of fairies.”

She pouts. “But it’s story time, and I know you’ll like them if you give them a chance!”

After you took a short rest in your room, you had Sakuya escort you back to the library to discuss business with Lucy. However, she was already occupied with arranging a storytime for the fairies.

“Since Patchouli is resting, it’s the only time I get the library all to myself.” She continues. “And I definitely think they would appreciate hearing a story straight from the source!”

“The answer is no.”

Lucy deflates, her spaded tail drooping low. “You’re no fun.”

“I don’t know what you expected.”

She takes a step towards you, looking straight at you with big, moist eyes. “Will you at least sit with them and listen to me?”

You hesitate. It’s not like you aren’t interested in the idea of Lucy roleplaying as a grade-school teacher, but the thought of being in the middle of a bunch of fairies again makes your skin crawl. “Can I sit in back?”

Her tail flicks back up, and she smiles. “Good enough! Ohh, I’m so excited!” Her eyes wander, and she starts to mumble to herself. “I can finally share it with PI.”

She’s still standing close. You clear your throat. “Uh, Lucy?”

“Huh? Oh, sorry!” Instead of backing away, she wraps her arms around you, pressing her bountiful chest against you. There’s no doubts that she’s doing so intentionally. “Thank you so much!”

You reach up and pat her back. “I like you enough to tolerate the fairies. But after, we’ll talk about how we’re going to handle this party. Deal?”

She lets go and gives you an energetic nod. “Sounds good!”

“So, when are they getting here?”

“Oh! Probably now! I’m sorry, could you go open the door and lead them in? I need to grab the book!”

With that, Lucy disappears, leaving you to your fate. “Lovely,” you mutter to yourself.

You walk down the raised walkway that connects the entrance with the center of the library. Even without opening the large doors, you can hear the little monsters on the other side, chattering away.

After a deep breath, you open the door, giving the fairy maids a start. Their saucer-like eyes fixate on you with a mixture of confusion and disappointment. “Lucy’s getting the book,” you explain. “She wanted me to lead you into the library.”

They shuffle about nervously before one of them raises an indignant pointer finger at you — that green-haired bitch who gave you trouble after you first woke up in the mansion. “Why should we trust you? You’re a pervert!”

You heave a sigh. “Look, you can trust whoever you want. I’m just doing what Lucy told me.”

Though Daiyousei isn’t convinced, the others aren’t as worried. They walk past you into the library, and surprisingly enough remain quiet — relatively speaking, of course. Whatever kind of discipline the mansion has instilled in these fairies seems to be working, despite their incompetence.

One fairy tugs on your pant leg. You recognize her as the blonde fairy that was in the garden with you earlier. Seems like she healed up okay. “Mister, can you walk with us? There’s all kinds of scary traps here in the library and they hurt a whole whole lot…”

It’s not that she reminds you of a certain someone waiting for you at home. You couldn’t possibly be so soft-hearted. Her head simply feels right to pat. That’s all. “Yeah, I will.”

She smiles as you rustle her hair a bit. “Thank you, Mister.”

Maybe you’ll give Mori a call after all this, before it gets too late.

Daiyousei flys in front of you all of a sudden. “Okay! I’ll go! But only because I want to listen to Lucy’s story!”

You brush her off. “Yeah, great. Just follow me.”

The mob of fairies comes with you to the center of the library. They’re still noisy, but occasionally they quiet each other. In this case, they really do seem like children on their way to a reading. It’s unsettling.

Lucy is waiting at Patchouli’s desk, wearing a pair of black spectacles. The fairies, having done this many times before, seat themselves in front of the desk, each with crossed legs. A general hush falls over them, as Lucy smiles and begins. “Hello, all of you. I’m glad you’re here. Today, as you’ve seen, we have a very important guest.” She points to you. “Let’s all say hi to Mister PI!”

“Hi Mister PI!” they say, without any sense of unison.

You can’t help but feel stiff. “Uh, yeah, hi. Thanks.”

Fortunately, they’re quick to look back at Lucy, who is giggling at your reaction. “Thank you.” Then she opens the book, and points one of her dainty fingers at the text. “Now, let me take you to a time in the great PI’s life, where he was almost utterly defeated!”

The fairies start chattering to themselves excitedly. You grimace. This story is going to be about you? Is that how the fairies all knew who you were? And who wrote this story, her? That must be why she was excited for you to hear it.

Lucy clears her throat, and begins. “Last time we left off, our hero PI was on the search for the elusive sister, Shizuha Aki! With his trusted companion Lucy, he ventured through the dangerous Youkai Forest and over the river to the mountain. There they found an abandoned shrine that they knew Shizuha Aki must have been staying at! But, she was nowhere to be found.”

“Oh no!” some fairies gasped.

This definitely sounds familiar, but something’s a little off. You restrain your second-hand embarrassment for now.

“Where was Shizuha Aki? Was she down by the river? Was she up on the mountain? Was she still out in the forest?”

“The forest!” one fairy calls out.

“The river!” another answers.

“PI couldn’t be sure,” Lucy continues. “His beautiful partner asked, ‘What do we do?’ And he thought for a moment, with his handsome frown, and came up with an ingenious plan. ‘Why my dear Lucy, we don’t have to worry about where she went, if we know where she’ll come back to. Let us stake this shrine out, and catch her when she returns!’”

The fairies seem impressed. “Wow! That’s really smart!”

The buzz of your phone interrupts your listening. Desiring any excuse to tune out for a bit, you pull it out of your pocket and discover that you’ve received an email from an address you don’t recognize. Normally, you would ignore these. However, the contents give you pause.

----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: 5̗̬̕c̱̘͖͚͙͆ͤ͂͗̑4̲ͬrl̥̲̼ͥͣ͑͘3̙͎͔͊̐͛7m͏0̫͇̱̗̫͕̿ͯͪ̅̂̀̀/̧̞̠̮͇̳̀ͥ̓͗ͣ\̪͎̯͑̌̚̕/͓̹̆ͭ5ͦ̽̎͝7̳̼̩̰̫̥͂͊̉ͬ̒̓̚ͅ3̮̇͡r̘̳̝͉@ͫ̈ͧs̺ͤdm̢.̻̘̜͈͒̑͌͂ͥͅn̐͒̾ē̓ͩͭ̎̃͟t̸

Thanks for helping my sister. Do you like games?
----------

The sender’s address is corrupted somehow; you can’t make out what it says. But, it’s no spam mail. You think back to who you’ve helped who has a sister. Is it Kagerou? No, she wouldn’t email you.

Buzzzzzzzzzz!” Lucy presses on with the story. You missed a bit of it, but you can guess where she’s at now. “All of a sudden, a swarm of insects began to surround PI, Lucy, and the hurt Shizuha Aki. ‘Go now, both of you!’ PI bravely shouts. ‘I’ll fend off this youkai!’”

Is that really how you sounded?


###


“And so, PI faced down the bug youkai, who had overtaken his precious partner.” She holds up her fingers like a gun, and pantomimes firing it over the crowd. “Bang bang! And the bug youkai hit the ground and vanished.”

A feeling of unease overwhelms you, and you put up your hand. Lucy looks surprised.

“Um, yes, PI?”

The fairy maids all turn back to look at you, as if you dared to interrupt their precious ending.

“I’d just like to add that the youkai’s name was Wriggle,” you state.

Lucy seems a bit taken baack by this, but quickly recovers and smiles. “That’s right! Wriggle the bug youkai.”

Some of the fairies think. “Did we know a youkai like that? I can’t remember…”

“A, anyway!” Lucy returns to her conclusion. “PI ran to the downed Lucy and took her mangled body up in her arms. ‘I’ll always be there to bail you out of a tight spot,’ he told her, his stony eyes gazing into hers. ‘I know,’ Lucy responds, puckering her lips slightly. ‘I know.’”

Okay, you’re pretty damn sure this didn’t happen, not even with Mori. You’ve reached your limit, so you clear your throat.

Lucy jolts upright and flips through some pages in her book. She may not have even been reading at all, just imagining. “And that’s it for today!” she ends suddenly. “Thank you for coming!”

The fairies start clapping and cheering.

“That was great, Miss Lucy!”

“I hope PI and Lucy end up together!”

“I didn’t know a lot of the words but it sounded fun!”

You sigh.

While the fairies buzz and converse among themselves, Lucy beelines toward you. She smiles nervously, with a faint blush on her cheeks. “What did you think?”

“I think you’re a decent storyteller,” you respond honestly, “but the writing leaves a little to be desired. Are you just trying to write Mori out and win me over for yourself?”

Lucy’s tail stands straight up. “Ah, no! C, come on PI, seriously! Even the fairies know the difference between reality and fiction.”

“Yeah!” Daiyousei chimes in, who happens to be standing next to Lucy. “There’s no way you’re as cool as the PI in the story.”

“And that’s a good thing,” you respond. “I’d rather not be some kind of dreamy romantic.”

Lucy forces a laugh, her tail noticeably lowers. You feel awkward leaving it at that, so you pat her head. As soon as your hand touches her soft red hair, the little bat wings on her head flutter.

“You did a good job,” you assure her. “I just don’t know if my life is suited for children’s stories.”

Her tail starts wagging. “Yeah, you’re more of Holmes-type of guy, aren’t you? Intelligent and refined, more suited for darker adventures.”

You don’t know who that is, or if it applies to you at all, but you nod anyway. “I’ll be excited to read that then, if you write it.”


###


Time passes and Lucy leads the fairies out of the library. They trade their goodbyes, and Lucy returns to you looking refreshed and brighter. “Something about their little souls just reinvigorates me,” she explains.

You understand, but that doesn’t mean you can relate. It’s the opposite of how you feel about Keine and her teaching. Sometimes, she would come home from a rough day at the schoolhouse and sling curses around regarding the children, their parents, and her co-workers. You could relate to those feelings, but you don’t understand why she put up with it. It would be hard for anyone to understand someone with her condition and power.

Lucy leans forward, so she can look up into your eyes. “Something on your mind?”

You shake your head. “Just not used to being nocturnal these past couple days,” you half-lie. “Let’s talk business.”

You recount your meeting with Remilia Scarlet to Lucy, who nods along. She doesn’t seem too surprised about anything you mention. However, you do leave out the incident with the shattered glasses. You’ll give Remilia Scarlet that much of a courtesy.

“Sounds like we’ll be working together to spot some no-gooders,” Lucy says with a energetic flick of her tail, telling you she’s getting way too into this.

“She never said that,” you correct her. “She just said to be on the lookout for people who stand out, and report them to her.”

Lucy thinks audibly as she strokes her chin with her index and thumb. “So it’s possible she could be looking for something else?”

“We don’t know, and we may never know. Nevertheless, we’ll do the best we can.”

“Right! Oh, I’m so excited. I need a nice dress to wear. Black would be easy, but I wear black all the time. Maybe purple? But, I don’t know if that would look good with my hair, and a detective’s assistant should be dressed subtly.”

Honestly, you have no interest in what she wears. You’re about to zone out until she finishes, before you remember the strange email you received during the reading.

“Hey Lucy,” you interrupt her, whipping out your phone. “Look at this email for me. What do you think?”

You bring up the email in question and present it to her. She glances at the screen and her eyes widen, telling you she knows what’s afoot. However, instead of explaining, she bites her lip and looks away. “That’s, um...how did she get your email? Has she been snooping around in my computer again?”

You look straight into her eyes. “So, you know who sent this?”

She buckles. “I, um, do. Okay, it’s this big, big secret, alright? I shouldn’t tell you, but she already contacted you on her own. So, please promise not to tell anyone, anywhere, what I’m about to say. Not even Hatate.”

Now, this sounds juicy. “I promise.”

“Hand on your heart!”

You sigh. “Lucy.”

“Okay, okay.” She takes a breath, giving her next sentence a heavy tone. “Remilia Scarlet has a sister.”

You blink. Is that it? “Okay. So, Remilia Scarlet has a sister. That’s nice.”

Lucy looks around, as if she’s truly scared of someone overhearing this rather mundane fact. “No, no, you don’t understand. Remilia’s younger sister is this mansion’s best-kept secret. She’s a vampire like Remilia, but her powers are far stronger. Apparently, she’s had issues with her mental stability in the past, which is why she stays in the basement, and isn’t allowed to roam the mansion when there’s guests. It’s a shame, because she’s a real sweetheart. She likes computers a lot, so she’ll come up here to play games with me sometimes when I have free time.”

Those mentions of “the basement” between Remilia and Sakuya make sense now. You look at your phone, still on the message, and decide to reply.

----------
To: 5̗̬̕c̱̘͖͚͙͆ͤ͂͗̑4̲ͬrl̥̲̼ͥͣ͑͘3̙͎͔͊̐͛7m͏0̫͇̱̗̫͕̿ͯͪ̅̂̀̀/̧̞̠̮͇̳̀ͥ̓͗ͣ\̪͎̯͑̌̚̕/͓̹̆ͭ5ͦ̽̎͝7̳̼̩̰̫̥͂͊̉ͬ̒̓̚ͅ3̮̇͡r̘̳̝͉@ͫ̈ͧs̺ͤdm̢.̻̘̜͈͒̑͌͂ͥͅn̐͒̾ē̓ͩͭ̎̃͟t̸
CC:
From: gensokyopi@kmail.com

It’s nothing you need to thank me for. And it’s been a long time since I’ve played any games
----------

“Woah woah woah,” Lucy says, when she catches on to what you’re doing. “You replied to her?”

“Like you said, she made contact with me first. If Remilia Scarlet has a problem with it, then I can feign innocence. That’s the great thing about other people keeping secrets.”

Lucy thinks for a moment, and then smiles. “You’re right. And, I personally think it will be good for that girl to get some kind of outside contact. All she’s known is this mansion, for who knows how many years.”

Then, she would have been the Scarlet Devil Mansion’s dirty little secret even in the Outside World. Interesting.

Your phone vibrates again. You glance down at the lit screen.

----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: 5̗̬̕c̱̘͖͚͙͆ͤ͂͗̑4̲ͬrl̥̲̼ͥͣ͑͘3̙͎͔͊̐͛7m͏0̫͇̱̗̫͕̿ͯͪ̅̂̀̀/̧̞̠̮͇̳̀ͥ̓͗ͣ\̪͎̯͑̌̚̕/͓̹̆ͭ5ͦ̽̎͝7̳̼̩̰̫̥͂͊̉ͬ̒̓̚ͅ3̮̇͡r̘̳̝͉@ͫ̈ͧs̺ͤdm̢.̻̘̜͈͒̑͌͂ͥͅn̐͒̾ē̓ͩͭ̎̃͟t̸

I have a second controller. Come down to the basement and play with me. I can guide you.
----------

What a proposal. You glance at Lucy, who eagerly awaits for you to tell her what the email said.

“If I went down to the basement, what are the odds I would be caught?”

Lucy’s face goes white. “W, well, um. I don’t really leave the library, so I don’t know. Why?”

“It seems like she wants me to play video games with her.”

She heaves a sigh. “That is something she would do. All I know is that Sakuya gives her meals a few times a day, and Remilia will visit her once in a while.”

“So, if Sakuya and Remilia already visited her, they probably wouldn’t go down there again for a while. I would just have to place my faith in the younger sister’s directions.” You keep pondering. “You said she had mental instabilities. On what level are we talking about?”

“I’m not sure myself. She’s been very good about taking her medication, so she seems like an ordinary girl to me. It seems the medication restrains her powers, as well.”

All good news. You look back at your phone. Is it worth it to acquaint yourself with the tech-savvy little sister of the Scarlet Devil Mansion?

[] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

[] Decline, and ask Lucy if she needs any help around the library.

[] (Write-in)
>>No. 67713
Hello, everyone. I'll be writing for the November marathon, so I'll be trying to put 30k words into this story. That's 7-10 updates this month. It'll be difficult for me, but I'm doing this as a way to kick myself back into writing and update this story regularly again.

Much thanks to readers and voters, old and new.
>>No. 67714
Yay, City is back.

[X] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

What could possibly go wrong?
>>No. 67715
[X] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

Prepare for trouble.
>>No. 67716
[x] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

Here's hoping the SDM arc doesn't kill this story again like it did so many others.

Welcome back, Raft, we've missed you.
>>No. 67717
[X] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

Welcome back and good luck with your goal.
>>No. 67718
[X] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

Huzzah
>>No. 67719
File 15726255216.jpg - (166.06KB, 1280x720, flandre game of choice.jpg) [iqdb]
67719
>>67713
REALLY? That's great. I really, really love this story.

[x] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

This is reckeless and dangerous. But that's how he is. And, to be honest, I can't possibly resist gamer Flan. No way, no how.
>>No. 67720
[x] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her instructions.

can't wait to play vidya with the Flan
>>No. 67741
File 157284453722.jpg - (444.84KB, 600x847, dirty little secret.jpg) [iqdb]
67741
[x] Accept the little sister’s invitation, and follow her directions.

You’ll never know if it’s worth it unless you try. “I think I’ll be taking the younger Scarlet’s offer.”

Lucy twiddles her thumbs. “That doesn’t surprise me one bit, and that’s what worries me.”

You flash her a grin to try and inspire some confidence. “Don’t worry. If I’m caught, I’ll just talk my way out of it. Remilia Scarlet would never admit it, but I have at least some value to her now. Plus, like I said, her sister was the one who contacted me first.”

Lucy doesn’t seem too convinced. “That’s all sound logic, but you’re assuming that a centuries-old vampire will think like a decades-old human.”

“I get what you’re saying, and you aren’t wrong, but taking risks to discover new avenues of information is what my job is all about.”

Lucy steps closer, into you. Her arms slowly wrap around you and pull you closer. Being closer to your height, she can easily rest her chin on your shoulder. A flowery musk fills your nostrils, and you notice the wings on her head actually retract and flatten themselves against her red head. “Please be careful,” she whispers.

She might be hamming it up a bit, but you play along and pat her on the back. “I always am.”


###


Maybe you’re starting to regret your own bravado. Even following the little sister’s directions, you feel lost in the red hallways of the mansion that seem to twist and turn themselves so you never quite know what direction you’re going in. Not to mention that a fairy could be around any corner, and Sakuya could appear out of thin air. You wouldn’t consider yourself an anxious person, but even your heart is beating rapidly just from walking.

Finally, you receive an email from the little sister telling you that the door should be around the next corner. You take a deep breath. Even though it’s been nothing but corridors, you feel like you’ve just been through a maze. No wonder Sakuya wanted you to rely on her to get around.

The door she’s led you to looks far older than the contemporary decor of the rest of the mansion. The old wood and iron frame are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. If Remilia Scarlet recently remodeled the mansion, then this must be a remnant of the past she left undisturbed — for what reason, you couldn’t imagine. You run your fingers against the door and eventually find yourself pulling on the iron ring that acts as a handle. There’s no lock, no protection, and no alarm. The door simply opens. Looking around, you notice this part of the mansion is clean, but also solitary. Perhaps the twisted space you navigated to get here is the only security this room needs.

Inside is complete darkness, sans a lit lantern hanging near the door. An email flashes on your phone.

----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: 5̗̬̕c̱̘͖͚͙͆ͤ͂͗̑4̲ͬrl̥̲̼ͥͣ͑͘3̙͎͔͊̐͛7m͏0̫͇̱̗̫͕̿ͯͪ̅̂̀̀/̧̞̠̮͇̳̀ͥ̓͗ͣ\̪͎̯͑̌̚̕/͓̹̆ͭ5ͦ̽̎͝7̳̼̩̰̫̥͂͊̉ͬ̒̓̚ͅ3̮̇͡r̘̳̝͉@ͫ̈ͧs̺ͤdm̢.̻̘̜͈͒̑͌͂ͥͅn̐͒̾ē̓ͩͭ̎̃͟t̸

Come down.
----------

You didn’t come this far to turn back now. You grab the lantern and hold it up, revealing a stone staircase in front of you, spiralling downward. By moving the light around, you can see that the walls in this room are old stone, as well. It truly seems like something out of another era. Despite years of investigating youkai, you’ve never been in a situation quite like this. It feels like you’re entering some monster’s lair.

But, that’s as far as you let your thoughts wander. Down you go, step by careful step. Cool air penetrates your skin; you should have brought a jacket.

After about a minute, you are relieved to reach the bottom, but also confused when all you see is a plain wooden door, the likes of which could be found in any modern home. A sign posted reads, “FLAN’S ROOM, KNOCK PLEASE” in sloppy handwriting. It’s certainly out of place in this dungeon-like basement. Nevertheless, you lift your free hand and rap your knuckles against the wood a few times.

You wait a few moments. Nothing.

Then, your phone lights up.

----------
To: gensokyopi@kmail.com
CC:
From: 5̗̬̕c̱̘͖͚͙͆ͤ͂͗̑4̲ͬrl̥̲̼ͥͣ͑͘3̙͎͔͊̐͛7m͏0̫͇̱̗̫͕̿ͯͪ̅̂̀̀/̧̞̠̮͇̳̀ͥ̓͗ͣ\̪͎̯͑̌̚̕/͓̹̆ͭ5ͦ̽̎͝7̳̼̩̰̫̥͂͊̉ͬ̒̓̚ͅ3̮̇͡r̘̳̝͉@ͫ̈ͧs̺ͤdm̢.̻̘̜͈͒̑͌͂ͥͅn̐͒̾ē̓ͩͭ̎̃͟t̸

Come in!
----------

There’s nothing to hesitate about now. You turn the handle and push the door open, revealing a calm, off-white room that lacks the aggressive, flashy decor of the Scarlet Devil Mansion proper. The ceiling is somewhat low, and the lighting is dim. You find yourself in a short entryway that opens into a larger space.

A round, blonde head pokes out from around the corner. Red eyes peer into you. “Hi. I’m glad you made it!”

Besides the hair and ambience, her face looks just like Remilia’s. You heard this was the younger sister, but they must be really close in age, or — if you’re understanding vampires correctly — perhaps she was bitten years after her sister. “Hello. You must be the little sister.”

Her mouth opens in a wide smile, revealing a vampire’s trademark canines. “Yep! You can call me Flan. Are you ready to play, PI?”

It’s no surprise she knows who you are, if she talks to Lucy. You walk in and take in her room, proper. A simple yet large double bed lies in the far corner, with pink sheets unmade. Drawings of various subjects and skill — ranging from childlike to elementary to professional — are plastered along this wall and the ceiling. On the other side of the room, a small couch faces a modest television not unlike the one waiting for you back at your apartment. Numerous wires appear to be plugged into it. In another corner is a desk with a large monitor on top and a computer tower below. You spot a dresser against another wall that might be the only thing to come from the mansion above. Distributed among the entire room are a variety of stuffed animals, some far older-looking than others.

Suddenly, Flan is floating beside you. “Do you like it? I can do whatever I want with my room down here.”

You blink twice at her body. Unlike Remilia, who has black, bat-like wings, Flan has bony, branch-like wings with an assortment of colored crystals dangling from them. You assume that, like Remilia, they’re only for show, since they would serve no aerodynamic purpose otherwise.

Her eyes evade yours. “Um, hello? I know my wings are weird, but it’s not polite to stare.”

You snap out of it. “Sorry. I don’t think they’re weird at all, just not what I was expecting.”

“Then you must be weird, too,” she concludes. “Anyway, you didn’t answer my question!”

Oh, her room. You’ll give her one thing: she has more taste than her tacky and red-obsessed older sister. “It’s nice. There’s a sweetness to it that’s lacking from the rest of this place.”

That brightens her up. “Thank you! That’s exactly what I think. For a human, you have good tastes.”

She wraps her arm around yours and drags you off to the couch, pushing you gently onto one of the cushions. Now that you’re closer, you can see consoles and controllers that look vastly different from what you experienced years ago. She flips the switch on one of the consoles, hands you a blue controller, and grabs a green controller for herself before hopping onto the couch beside you. Her wings fold to keep from poking you, cracking and twisting unnaturally. Yet, her face displays no sign of pain or discomfort.

However, she does frown at you. “You aren’t going to be much of a challenge if you’re that distracted by my wings.”

You wonder if she’s sensitive about them. “Just making sure you were alright. But I may not be much of a challenge for you anyway. I’ve only played on the Famicom. This new stuff might be a bit beyond me.”

Her head tilts slightly. “Famicom? Oh, right, that’s the Japanese name for the NES. Well, don’t worry. The game we’re going to play will be more about luck. Just think of it like a board game.”

You glance down at the controller. Unlike the small, concise rectangle you were familiar with, this thing has three prongs and about five times as many buttons. You aren’t even sure how to hold it.

Flan takes your hands and helps. One goes on the middle, over the stick, while the other goes over all the other buttons on the right.

“So I have to move my hand all the way over to use the other buttons?” you remark. “Seems pretty inconvenient.”

She giggles. “Barely any games use the directional pad, don’t worry.”

Whatever she says.

After going through some logos, the television comes to life. Some colorful characters are circled together in some kind of field. Text you can’t read flashes toward the bottom of the screen. Flan hits a button and skips the game forward to a pleasant-looking village, and selects a green pipe that looks familiar, even in the 3D plane.

“You can’t read English, can you?” Flan assumes correctly. “This game is called ‘Mario Party.’ You roll a die and move spaces around the board, and then play minigames. You compete to see how can get the most coins and stars!”

Oh, Mario. You remember now. “So this game is what happens after Super Mario Brothers? That’s quite a departure. I guess he can afford to slack off and party after saving the princess.”

Flan laughs. “So you do know Mario! As expected from a Japanese.”

There’s something you haven’t really thought of until now. “How does everyone here know Japanese so well, anyway?”

She thinks for a moment. “Patchouli did some kind of magic on us when we came. She and Sis actually studied and learned it the normal way before, though.”

Huh. By that “logic”, you should be able to learn English the same way. Too bad you can’t exactly ask that of Patchouli at the moment, if ever. And it’s not like you encounter English much at all in Gensokyo. Oh well.

After going down the green pipe and scrolling through the text, a selection of characters appear on the screen. It’s the same group that was featured in the opening.

“Okay!” Flan begins. “We get to pick our characters now. I want Yoshi!”

One of the hands moves toward a green lizard-looking creature and selects it. That hand must have been her cursor. You move the control stick and find you have control of the other. The red guy must be Mario, the green guy must be Luigi, and the pink lady must be Princess Toadstool. It’s odd to see them represented in 3D like this. This machine came from the Outside World, but does Gensokyo have anything like this yet? You really haven’t been keeping up with video games.

You’ve never seen the green lizard that Flan picked, the yellow man, or the gorilla with the tie. You hover over the gorilla. It may not be a character you know, but he looks cool and you have no desire to pick one of the brothers. Picking a girl or a round evil-looking guy also isn’t your style.

“Donkey Kong?” Flan says what you assume to be the character’s name. “I have his game too, but it’s not my favorite. I like his little pal Diddy though! I can show you that later.”

Two other characters need to be selected, so Flan picks Mario and the Princess. “One of them will be Hard, and the other will be Easy. That should make it fair!”

You aren’t sure how fairness enters into that, but you’ll go along with it. She continues to select the longest time and a stage that looks like a tropical island.

She flashes you a smile. “We’re gonna play a lot, so get ready!”

You have no idea what to expect.


###


“Damn, you got another Hidden Block?”

Flan displays her fangs smugly. “It’s all luck, I promise.”

Things are going about as well as you could expect, approaching the end of the game. You’re tied with the Easy Mario with 1 star each. The Hard Princess Peach has 3 stars, and Flan now commands a strong lead with 4 stars and plenty of coins, thanks to her dominating almost every single minigame that’s popped up.

Honestly, it’s fun, despite how overwhelming and random it is. You wonder if Mori would like these kinds of games. She did come from the Outside World, and seems to have knowledge of other gadgets.

The final minigame begins. Looks like something about buried treasure.

“So with this one,” Flan begins explaining, “you just want to mash the A button as fast as you can and dig around, following the arrows so you can get the treasure before everyone else!”

Seems simple enough, and you’re starting to get the hang of mashing buttons. Maybe you stand a chance here.

“Oh!” Flan hops off the couch. “It’s time to take my meds. Hold on, I’ll be right back.”

She heads off to the bathroom. If you want to be a monster, you could hit START on her controller and proceed with the minigame. You aren’t stooping that low, however. You’ll get a win off her eventually, and it’ll be a fair fight when you do — or at least as fair as anything can be in this game.

You hear the sink in Flan’s bathroom run a bit, and then a few moments later she returns with a disgusted look on her face. While she sits back down, you ask, “Everything alright?”

She turns to you and smiles. “Ah, yeah. The pills just leave an awful taste in my mouth. Nothing to worry about, though! Let’s get digging!”

The game starts, and although you do get close, Flan takes the prize again by relying on the computers to dig the arrows and correctly anticipating where the treasure chest would be. Even if your button-mashing is good, you can’t hope to compete with her experience to these games.

With that, the game is concluded. Some extra stars are doled out — unfortunately, you receive none of them. Flan receives two of them, for minigames and coins. Princess Toadstool receives one for landing on the most green spaces, for some reason. With that, Flan wins with an even wider lead.

At least you came in third place, beating Easy Mario by a few coins. “I just don’t stand a chance on the minigames,” you say. “You must play these a lot.”

“There isn’t much else to do,” she replies, as the game puts stars and coins in her bank. She has the maximum amount of stars already, though.

You know the answer to this next question, but you want to hear it from her. “Will you be at the party?”

The question doesn’t bother her one bit. “Nope! I don’t like formal occasions. I prefer the little parties we have with just the people here in the mansion. We’ll usually have a nice dinner and dance, and then we might come down here to play games.” She thinks a moment. “I should ask Sis if we can have one soon, so we can celebrate her birthday ourselves.”

“So you don’t have much of an interest in Gensokyo?”

“Nah. I’m fine in the mansion. There’s lots of games and people around. Sakuya makes good food, Patchouli and Lucy can teach me things, and I can exercise with Meiling. If I really want something else, I can hop on the Internet and mess around. It sounds like Gensokyo isn’t great, from what I see and hear. Not that I’d be able to go out and see it, anyway.”

You can’t deny that. “Would you go outside, if you could?”

She doesn’t give it much thought. The game lingers on the game results screen. “Maybe. There’s some interesting people out there, but I’d rather invite them here, y’know? But, I can’t invite whoever I want.”

At least she isn’t a true shut-in. Maybe she’ll be more motivated, once she meets the right person. As long as she’s the mansion’s secret, however, the chances of that working out are considerably low.

This all begs a question, though. “You can’t invite others, but you invited me. Why?”

“Well, Sis let you help her. She must trust you.”

Remilia must have come down earlier to talk with Flan about what happened. You didn’t realize that you left such a strong impression. “I wouldn’t say that. It was a minor thing.”

“We aren’t used to ‘minor things’ from outsiders, and especially not humans,” Flan explains. “And we’ve heard about you from Lucy. Sis has even said you might be our first ally here in Gensokyo.”

Remilia Scarlet — hell, the entire mansion, really — sure does expect a lot out of you all of a sudden. “And just what exactly is she planning that would require such an ally?”

Flan twirls the controller stick with her thumb idly. “I don’t know, but Sis isn’t happy at all with how things are here in Gensokyo.”

”And what do we have here?”

Your heart drops. You turn and find Sakuya right behind you, on the other side of the couch, with her silver pocket watch in hand. Her cold eyes and frown put your small hairs on end. “It seems like you’re taking advantage of our hospitality to snoop around in places you don’t belong.”

Flan drops her controller. “S, Sakuya!”

Well, the maid isn’t wrong. It’s not like you didn’t expect something like this to happen. If you show her your phone, that should prove—

“It’s not like that!” Flan continues, crossing her arms. “I was the one who called him down here. Just tell my sister it was my fault, and let him go.”

The air tenses, and the only noise is the toonish background music of the game. Sakuya and Flan’s eyes fall on you.

[] Tell Sakuya that Flan’s right, apologize for the disturbance, and take your leave.

[] Defend Flan. She did nothing wrong.

[] Why doesn’t Sakuya join you both for the next game? What’s done is done.

[]
>>No. 67744
[x] Defend Flan. She did nothing wrong.

As much as I'd love to pick the third option, I don't think this Sakuya in this situation wouldn't find it very amusing.
>>No. 67746
Either the first one or this one are good. I wish the third would work but we have not seen any sign that this Sakuya is but a robot in human form. And I have looked.

[x] Defend Flan. She did nothing wrong.
>>No. 67747
[X] Tell Sakuya that Flan’s right, apologize for the disturbance, and take your leave.

If Flan did nothing wrong that must mean PI did, considering he's in the basement and all. I figure it's time to talk our way out before things go south.
>>No. 67752
File 157291925792.jpg - (2.83MB, 1800x1274, Flandre_Scarlet_full_402028.jpg) [iqdb]
67752
[x] Defend Flan. She did nothing wrong.

She didn't.
>>No. 67754
I’m going to go ahead and call it here so I can begin writing and keep pace with the marathon.

I’d like to once again thank all my readers and all my voters; it means a lot that you guys are here despite my hiatus!
>>No. 67755
[X] Why doesn’t Sakuya join you both for the next game? What’s done is done.

Eh, I'll give it a shot. It probably won't work but who knows.
>>No. 67784
File 157333235140.png - (636.81KB, 638x1214, lucy looking nice.png) [iqdb]
67784
[x] Defend Flan. She did nothing wrong.

“Miss Izayoi, Flan is right,” you admit. “She contacted me through email and asked me to come down here and play video games with her. But, I’m the one who accepted. If I’ve trespassed, I’m sorry, but I don’t think she should be blamed for anything. Flan did nothing wrong.”

You’ll have to act a bit clueless. You wouldn't want to endanger Lucy by revealing how much you actually know.

Sakuya ’s stare hardens, then she sighs. “So you thought you would satisfy your curiosity by venturing down into the basement to play video games with a vampire? Do all investigators lack self-preservation?”

“It’s a requirement,” you answer sincerely.

“I’m sure.” Then she turns to Flan. “You trust this man, as well?”

Flan nods. “If I didn’t like him, I would’ve killed him!”

You aren’t really surprised. It feels like just about everyone you meet recently has been dangerous enough to kill you if provoked.

“And you know,” Flan continues, her red eyes moistening, “I was really only going to stalk him a bit and creep him out. Then Sis told me that he wasn’t a bad guy, so I wanted to meet him. I’ve been awfully lonely, since everyone’s been so busy getting ready for the party, and I can’t even leave my room anymore now that guests have started arriving. I just wanted someone to play with.”

Sakuya watches Flan, then hits the button on her pocket watch. For a split second, you think you’ll be whisked away somewhere. But you stay right where you are, on the couch next to Flan. Only Sakuya is gone.

“She’s talking to my sister,” Flan says, quickly wiping her eyes dry and flashing you a bright smile. “We should be okay. You want to start another game of Mario Party, or play something else?”

“Aren’t you worried at all?”

She giggles. “Nope! Sakuya will explain what happened, my sister will give the okay, and then Sakuya will come back here, apologize, and go back to cleaning.”

As soon as she says that, Sakuya appears again, in the exact same place she stood before. Her face is a bit red, and she clears her throat before speaking. “I apologize, PI. The Mistress is okay with this, so long as you don’t speak of this to anyone else, not even your associates. Please keep Flandre company. I’ll check on you periodically, or ring your bell if you’d like me to escort you back to your room.”

It looks like the little manipulator didn’t need to be defended after all. If anything, you feel a little sorry for Sakuya. If this were a human household, there would be huge red flags raised if a middle-aged visitor snuck into the basement to spend time alone with the youngest daughter of the house. “I understand, Miss Izayoi. I’m sorry I caused you any distress.”

As for keeping the mansion’s secret, they won’t have to worry about that. Flandre Scarlet isn’t relevant to the purpose of Remilia gathering youkai. You just wish they would give her a little more breathing room — not that your opinion would make any difference. Flan herself seems to be fine with it, so long as she can get away with mischief every once in a while.

The maid bows, hiding her face with her white hair. “All is forgiven. I’ll be returning to my duties now.”

With that, she vanishes, and Flan giggles. “See? I told you.”

You reach down and pick up your controller, which you had dropped when Sakuya appeared for the first time. “I thought that would be way more trouble than it ended up being. Nice fake tears, by the way.”

“Thanks! And I wouldn’t worry about Sakuya, she’s just a little high-strung when it comes to me and my sister. She may be able to control time, but she still needs to learn that she can’t control everything.”


###


Back in your room, you flop on the bed and heave a great sigh. Maybe you played a little too much with Flan. You check your phone, and it’s two o’clock — in the morning. Damn. You’ll never get used to this nocturnal business. You were going to call Mori, but it’s probably too late now. Instead, you log into KRC.

Funnily enough, she’s on. And she has that damn nickname.

*** Welcome to the new mobile KappaIRC!
*** now talking in #kakashi
*** topic is Official Channel for Kakashi Spirit News THE TRUTH | SEND NUDES TO psychicreporter@tengu.com | SHAMEIMARU TERROR LEVEL: unknown
<PI> I didn’t expect you to be up so late kid
<jailbait> same to you old man
<PI> Watching TV?
<jailbait> maybe
<jailbait> hina says hi
<PI> Hi Hina
<jailbait> did you have fun with the little sister?
<jailbait> lucy already reported everything
<PI> That saves me the trouble at least
<PI> And we did have fun for your info, we played Mario Party
<jailbait> i know who mario is but i didnt know he was throwing parties
<jailbait> first this vampire now mario
<jailbait> when do I get to party?
<PI> Harvest festival I promise
<jailbait> oh youre right that should be fun
<jailbait> anyway I shoulda figured theyd have video games in gensokyo
<jailbait> why dont we have any?
<PI> I take it that means you would like some
<PI> They’re expensive though
<jailbait> damn
<jailbait> id kill for some tetris or dr mario
<PI> You like those slow games?
<jailbait> obviously you havent played on the higher levels
<PI> I thought you would just want to blow stuff up
<jailbait> you arent technically wrong though
<PI> I never played too much of anything
<PI> This Mario Party game was pretty good though
<PI> Like a board game
<jailbait> weird but id try it
<jailbait> dont get all smug about this
<jailbait> but its pretty quiet without you here
<PI> Don’t get smug about this
<PI> But I want out of this mansion as soon as fucking possible
<jailbait> that bad?
<PI> Its just stifling is all
<PI> Would rather be with you
<jailbait> oh no are we gonna get all emotional?
<jailbait> just relax and take it easy
<jailbait> itll be no time before youre back
<jailbait> and ill get plenty of tv time in meanwhile
<PI> Of course
<jailbait> well im gonna head to bed and by bed i mean hinas lap
<jailbait> take care PI talk to ya later
<PI> You too good night

You put your phone down on the bed next to you and look up at the dark ceiling, which gets darker and darker as you fall into slumber.


###


You knock on the door to Lucy’s room. “Are you ready in there?”

The noise of frantic movement only grows louder. “O, one second!”

You groan and adjust your black necktie, then shuffle around a little in your suit. You always hated wearing these things, and it brings back unpleasant memories of a time when this sort of attire was required of you.

It’s been a couple days since you met with Remilia Scarlet, and you’ve passed the time by helping Lucy with her work in the library, and playing video games in the basement with Flan. Finally, the night of her party is here. Guests have started showing up, and Sakuya hastily appeared in your room and fixed any mistakes you made in dressing yourself, before bringing you to the library to wait for Lucy.

The door suddenly swings open, revealing the sight of Lucy in her evening dress. Instead of her black work clothes, she’s wearing a gray skirt over a black, puffy shirt, with black heels. The faint blush of makeup covers her cheeks, and accents her warm, red eyes. “What do you think?” She turns slightly and looks down, inspecting herself all over. “I know it isn’t much, but I thought subtle would be best.”

It dawns on you that, work or not, this is a date — and your last formal date was many, many years ago, which is a wave of unpleasant memories. It doesn’t help that there’s a link between then and now: a beautiful redhead seeking your approval. One is before you, and the other is still on your shoulders still.

You shake the past off and smile into Lucy’s eyes. “You look wonderful. In fact, I should be apologizing. You shouldn’t have to go to a party with an old man like me.”

Lucy steps forward and gives you a light punch in the chest, pouting hard. “Don’t talk about yourself like that. And you’re way younger than I am. Whatever dumb things you’re telling yourself, stop.”

The weight on your shoulders won’t just disappear from that, but it sure does help. “Thanks, Lucy. Did you make sure you’ll be alright being away from the library for so long?”

Normally, Lucy can’t be too far away from Patchouli, by decree of the contract that keeps Lucy in this world. However, in special circumstances, Patchouli can modify the contract to temporarily allow Lucy free agency. That’s what she told you, anyway.

She smiles back at you. “Yep, we’re a-okay! I can lead us to the ballroom. Are you ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be. I’ll be counting on you for this job, Lucy. I should be asking if you’re ready.”

Her eyes almost shine with conviction. “I’ve been ready since the day we met, PI.”


###
>>No. 67785
File 15733324581.jpg - (607.83KB, 960x1280, no charisma breaks here.jpg) [iqdb]
67785
The Scarlet Devil Mansion’s ballroom is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. An ornately-patterned red carpet spreads across most of the floor, with elegant tables and chairs set up that aren’t unlike where you sat for breakfast with Remilia Scarlet before. A grand chandelier lights the room, along with what appear to be gold candlesticks on each table. What most impresses you, though, is a bar in the corner that you sincerely hope means free drinks.

Most of the guests are already here, but regard each other warily. You’ve heard youkai tend to be isolationists, so no surprises there. Wandering around are a few human servants — young males and females — who have clammy skin and blank expressions. Some of the youkai appraise them hungrily, rather than the food they carry.

“I wouldn’t eat any of the food here,” Lucy mentions, when she notices you eyeing the servers. “Unless you want to become a cannibal.”

“Thanks for the tip,” you reply sincerely. “How about the drinks?”

“Same story. You might have to ask Sakuya what there is for you, and she’s busy preparing Remilia Scarlet for her entrance.”

Oh well. You should show your date some courtesy, in any case. “I may not be able to, but would you like something to eat or drink, Lucy?”

She blinks a few times. “Are you sure? Wouldn’t you be offended?”

You appreciate the gesture, but it’s really unnecessary. “Being offended won’t undo whatever Remilia Scarlet did to gather this much blood, nor would I even want to. Youkai eat people to survive, just like humans eat pigs, cows, and whatever else they can kill easily.”

Sometimes, humans eat youkai as well. Your stomach turns, being reminded of that psychopath and what she did to you.

Lucy rests a hand on your shoulder and smiles. “You may act like you’re being grounded, but don’t overdo it. I’ll just take a drink. The blood is taken in routine doses from the servants, so there’s little loss of life involved.”

Again, sugarcoating it is unnecessary. “I’ll be right back, then.”

You wander through the ballroom, to the bar on the other side. You stick to the edges of the room, not wanting to be noticed. Even this, however, does little to protect you from the gazes of the guests. You wonder if they think you’re a servant like the others, despite your suit being different. Regardless, you should return to Lucy as soon as possible.

Thankfully, there isn’t a crowd around the bar. You walk up to the servant behind the counter: a young woman with skin just as pale and eyes just as blank as the rest. It must be some indicator of Remilia’s vampiric influence. “I’ll take a drink for my date, please.”

The woman looks at you, and something close to recognition flickers across her eyes. “You are the special guest. The head maid has instructed that we offer you a different selection than the others. The Mistress, as well, has reserved a bottle of red wine for you. Is that what you would like?”

Praise be to Sakuya for being so organized, and you owe Remilia as well for putting aside a whole bottle for you — though that might be because of what happened when you met her a couple of days ago. “I’ll take a glass of that wine then, and a regular drink as well.”

The servant nods, and gets to work. You look to your side to spot a curious sight: a girl with long rabbit ears waiting next to you. Her purple hair is down, reaching her lower back, and there are massive bags under her eyes, which are red from both her natural color and being bloodshot to hell. She wears an outfit similar to Lucy’s work attire, with a red tie, a black jacket, and a white skirt.

Your eyes meet, and she quickly yelps and turns away to hide her face from you. Her body is shaking, and with her body turned away from you, you can spot a fluffy white tail coming from her backside. It would be cute, if she weren’t so frightened and twitchy.

Your attention is drawn away from the rabbit by the sound of glass tapping wood. The servant has placed your drinks on the counter. “Here you are, sir.”

You grab them. “My thanks.” Then you turn to the rabbit and force a smile. “Sorry to frighten you. I hope you enjoy yourself at the party.”

She says and does nothing as you walk past her and away. So much for your attempt at being social. Maybe you should have just let her be. In any case, a rabbit youkai means that, more likely than not, she’s working with Eientei. After all, if Remilia is getting medication for Flan, then that’s the only place she could be getting it from. Is that rabbit their representative, or is there someone else she’s with? If someone important from Eientei is here, that would be something you should follow up on.

For now, you focus on returning to Lucy with your drinks. Once again, you keep to the edge of the party to attract as little attention as possible. You easily notice someone, however, who’s drawing it all for you. A large woman stands at a table, talking loudly to what must be the two most uncomfortable-looking ladies in the room. She has a long, red horn, and blonde hair tied in a large ponytail. Unlike many of the other guests, she is dressed quite well, with a blue-and-purple kimono that shows off her firm yet feminine neck and shoulders — not to mention a wonderful crack of cleavage. Also unlike the other youkai, who are awkwardly holding wine glasses, this woman carries with her a large red dish filled with a clear liquid — sake? — that she effortlessly balances with only one hand. It must be an oni, and she’s even larger than Lucky. You wonder if they would know each other. Her booming voice and the way she bothers other guests while guzzling down that pristine-looking sake makes her come off as very self-important, which you’ve heard from Hatate is a common trait of oni underground. Remilia Scarlet must not have restricted her invitations to Gensokyo’s surface.

“Distracted, are we?” a woman’s voice interrupts your thoughts. “I’ll take one of those, please, slave.”

Before you can turn to see who it is, the woman gracefully lifts one wine glass — yours — from your hand. She brings it to her mouth, sniffs it gently, then takes a delicate sip. “Fermented grapes? Interesting, but they haven’t quite fermented enough to my liking.”

Something in your body activates. Every muscle — every nerve you’ve got wants to run and hide. It takes all you have to force a smile and a sentence from your mouth. “I’m sorry ma’am, but that red wine was for me.”

The green-haired woman’s lips curl into a smile with a distinct lack of shame. “Oh my. I do apologize. I didn’t think a human would be a guest here.” She looks at the wine she snatched, then back to you with her dark red eyes. “Would you prefer to have this back? I must warn you, my lips can be a bit poisonous.”

She reminds you of Mima, in the way that she’s playing with you to pass the time. What she has that Mima doesn’t, however, is a very real body with a very powerful presence. What kind of youkai is this?

“Yuuka Kazami,” a very familiar voice calls, stern yet calm. “I’d hope you wouldn’t intimidate other guests, whether they’re human or youkai.”

The woman, Yuuka you assume, turns her head to its source. “Oh? I’m sorry, pup, is this boy yours?’

A younger woman with long, fluffy brown hair glares at Yuuka Kazami. That unwavering gaze and curvy body could only belong to one Kagerou Imaizumi. “I don’t think that’s relevant. And regardless of whatever it is he’s doing here—” she glares at you while she says this, “—he should be treated as one of us for the time being.”

“You certainly do like to throw around words like ‘us’,” Yuuka remarks, never losing her smile. “As an elder though, I should leave him for you, shouldn’t I? It seems you two have some business. Do enjoy yourselves, and don’t rush to thank me.”

With a graceful curtsy of her red plaid skirt, Yuuka Kazami leaves you to your fate.

“That woman only exists to be a thorn in others’ sides,” Kagerou grumbles, “sometimes literally.” Then she turns to you. “I wonder about you, as well. Did you plan on doing nothing but watching her sweet lips as she considered whisking you off this mortal coil? How many near-death experiences must you wrench yourself into and out of before you even think to change?”

You watch the other guests closest to you, who seem to be watching with either perplexion or amusement. Then, you sigh. “It’s nice to see you again too, Kagerou. And you’re welcome, for helping out your family and that snow-woman.”

Kagerou hesitates, then relaxes. “Sorry, that was rude of me. I am grateful to you for that. I trust that oni friend of yours will take good care of her?”

“There’s an ice fairy there too, so it’s probably the safest place for her until winter.”

She smiles. “Wonderful. Letty will be a great asset to our grassroots network.”

“Just remember that she’s a person too,” you add.

Her left eye twitches. You remember that one well; she just held back another rant. “I didn’t mean to imply otherwise,” she states in a measured tone.

You didn’t think that Kagerou would be invited, and yet here she is. Perhaps her little organization is big enough now to catch the eye of Remilia Scarlet. Good for her. “Maybe we can catch up later,” you tell her, motioning to your drink. “I really need to go and—”

“—start snooping around?” another distressingly familiar voice finishes your sentence for you.

Your chest tightens —painfully. Not her too.

It’s Keine, in a blue gown, still wearing that ridiculous hat. What in the hell is she doing here?

Kagerou glances at Keine suspiciously. “Keine, you know him too?”

Keine smiles at you as she answers. “We met by chance while he was following around an acquaintance of mine. And now we meet again.”

So she hasn’t even mentioned you to Kagerou. You wonder how much Kagerou has told her, without even realizing. That’s just like Keine. It’s her specialty.

Kagerou sighs. “Seriously. PI, what are you getting yourself into nowadays?”

If only you had that wine, you would down it right now. Fucking Yuuka Kazami. “Look, I’m here on business. That’s all. In fact, how do you two know each other?”

“I was invited to represent the grassroots youkai network,” Kagerou answers, “and I brought Keine along as my plus-one.”

“I’ve been assisting them recently,” the schoolteacher adds. “There are others out there like me, such as Kagerou. There are also youkai who wish to live in peace and survive in this changing world. I find myself drawn to their cause.”

If Keine has truly moved past her isolation and self-hatred, then all the more power to her. You just happen to severely doubt that’s the case. Keine has never supported youkai for as long as you’ve known her. Either way, you want to leave — now. “Well, I wish you both the best.”

Kagerou steps in front of you. “Not so fast. You still haven’t answered our question.”

Kagerou is someone you could reluctantly work with again, but you want Keine as far away from this as possible. Unfortunately, it’s two-against-one, and you’re cornered. The fact that Keine has started working with Kagerou is already a worst-case scenario you could have never imagined.

A red head pops into the corner of your vision. Your heart sinks when you assume that it’s your ex-wife, here to complete the unholy triangle of your exes and finally drag you to your death — not that you would be entirely unwilling in this circumstance. Instead, you thank the gods that this red head has a pair of black wings on top. “Lucy!”

Lucy turns and spots you instantly, hurrying over. “PI! I was starting to get worried. Is everything—”

She stops, noticing Kagerou and Keine. Keine, in particular, her gaze lingers on. “No, everything is not okay, I can see. Who are you two and what do you want with him?”

You quickly walk up and present Lucy with her drink. “Sorry that took so long, I just got caught up with a youkai and some old acquaintances. That youkai took my drink though, so how about we go back to the bar and get another one?”

Lucy nods, and smiles. “Sounds good. I’ll be sure to stay with you this time.”

Keine looks dumbfounded, but Kagerou doesn’t seem to mind. “Oh, this must be your date,” the werewolf observes. “I see. Well, sorry to keep you. I’m sure we’ll have a chance to talk later.” Her eyes shift to Lucy’s head-wings. “I take it you must be a youkai, like us. May I have your name?”

Lucy’s arrival has calmed Kagerou down and put her in business mode. That’s perfect. “My name is Lucy,” your date responds, with a grin. “And I’m PI’s girlfriend. That’s all you need to know.”

Oh, hell. You grab Lucy by the arm and pull her along in the direction of the bar while forcing a smile back at a stunned Kagerou and Lucy. “Great catching up you two, bye!”

You’re no less stunned than they are. Lucy, on the other hand, is smug and content with herself. “That was rough, huh?” she mentions, as the two of you walk. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to bail you out sooner. I’ve never seen a stalker on that level before.”

You stop, take a deep breath, and try to be as nice as possible, because you do like Lucy. You really do. “Why did you say you were my girlfriend?

Lucy blinks a couple times, then her expression sinks. “I, it was a lie so those two girls would stop hitting on you? I did something wrong, didn’t I?”

“Lucy, one of them was my ex-girlfriend.”

Technically, they were both your ex-girlfriends, but you can’t tell anyone about Keine without risking her cover-up of your history.

Her remorse is immediate. “Oh, shit. I’m so sorry. Look, I can go back and explain—”

Gods, no. “What’s done is done. You didn’t know. I’m not mad at you, just very irritated at the situation.” You think back on what Lucy said just a second ago. “What did you mean by ‘stalker on that level’?”

“Th, the blue one,” she clarifies. “Your ex-girlfriend. Lust and obsession were leaking out of her, even more than some demons I’ve met, and it was all focused at you. Yet, she could stand there, right next to you, acting so calm and composed. Like a normal person. It’s bizarre. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She forces a small laugh. “I guess that’s why she would be your ex-girlfriend.”

Keine still feels that way — that strongly? It’s been over a decade. It was supposed to be erased. You clear your throat, and correct the record. “It was Kagerou. The one with long, brown hair. She was my ex-girlfriend. Keine, the blue one, she was just supposed to be an acquaintance. I didn’t think it was that bad.”

Lucy’s eyes widen. “Oh no. PI, it’s very bad. I would not have anything to do with that woman, if I were you. That level of emotion is far beyond what a sane person is capable of.”

Unfortunately, Keine doesn’t take rejection well — obviously. And you do owe her your life, as PI. “If only it were that easy.”

“Attention, honored guests of the Scarlet Devil Mansion!”

You and Lucy both turn to the source of the announcement: Sakuya, who stands before a large door. That girl can certainly project her voice. Even the oni stops to listen.

“I humbly present Lady Remilia Scarlet, the Scarlet Devil, Daughter of Vlad Tepes, Mistress of this Mansion, and your host for this evening.”

The doors open, and Remilia Scarlet emerges wearing — surprise — a red gown with a deep red sash. Instead of her cap, she wears a long red ribbon in her blue hair. She stands tall, or as tall as she possibly can be, in red heels and has made an attempt at a mature look with some dark red lipstick.

Looks like Sakuya cleaned up some of the extraneous nonsense tacked on to her name. Even so, the oni laughs, with one of her mighty arms locked around a terrified-looking youkai woman, and the other arm still balancing her sake dish. “Her introduction’s longer than she is tall! Rich foreign girls are such a riot!”

Sakuya glares at the oni so hard that you expect knives to fly out of eye sockets. Remilia, on the other hand, maintains her composure. “Welcome, everyone,” she says, broadcasting her voice just as well as Sakuya. “I truly am grateful to all of you for making it tonight. Rest assured, I didn’t invite you here to make you listen to formalities and boast about my lineage.” This is like whiplash compared to the girl you met for breakfast the other day. She must have really been preparing herself for this. “I have gathered those of you with strength and curiosity here for nothing less than the announcement that I will resist the tengu with all my powers as a youkai.”

Her last words echo through the hall, followed by murmurs and even some muffled chuckles.

Nevertheless, Remilia Scarlet remains undaunted. “I cannot be the only one who is unsatisfied with the position of youkai in Gensokyo. While the tengu and their closest allies corral the humans’ dependence and earn their favor with technology from outside the barrier, the rest of us are left to feed off their scraps and follow their rules. I may not have been born here in Gensokyo like many of you, but I know well the feeling of desperation. I watched technological advancement in the outside world embolden the humans so they could drive many creatures to extinction. I am now watching the wretched tendrils of industrialization, pushed and manipulated by the tengu and their allies, do the same here. There is nowhere else for us to go. We must resist.”

“So you would style yourself as the queen of some great youkai rebellion, and us your soldiers?” a condescending voice rises from the crowd of murmurs. You recognize it as Yuuka Kazami’s.

“Not in the slightest,” Remilia answers strongly. “I am not even suggesting we work together. Frankly, I have no plans to share what I intend to do, because the tengu very well could have sympathizers in this room right now. This is merely a declaration against them and an open invitation to those who would prefer to fight than fade away. Fight however you want, and I will be doing the same. Even if I have to tear their wretched city down brick-by-brick, with my own hands, I will fight.”

“Oh ho!” The oni stands up, finally letting go of the terrified girl she had been latched on to, and shadowing everyone in the ballroom. Not one drop of the sake in her dish spills. “I was thinking I could care less for the surface world, but that does sound interesting! I think I might like your style after all, Remilia Scarlet!”

Remilia grins, exposing one fang. “That means a lot coming from one of the great oni. My kind shares much with yours, after all.”

The oni’s energetic approval quiets many of the dissenting murmurs in the crowd.

“Now,” Remilia Scarlet continues, “I’d like you all to fill yourselves on food and drink. Please enjoy yourselves, and I look forward to meeting each of you personally.”

After flashing her best, devilish smile, Remilia Scarlet walks away, perhaps to sit down at a table or make good on her intention to socialize. You turn your attention to Lucy, who was just as enraptured by the speech as you were. “You remember our job, Lucy?”

She snaps out of it and nods. “Keep an eye out for anyone who stands out?”

“That’s right. And the best way to do that is mingle. We’ll cover more ground if we split up.”

Lucy frowns immediately. “Are you crazy? You’ve already been harassed tonight. Shouldn't we stick together?”

You look out over the crowd again and spot Sakuya, who is sticking close to Remilia Scarlet. You feel in your coat pocket and confirm you still have her silver bell with you. “I’ll be fine, Lucy. I have my bearings now, and Sakuya can help me in an instant now that she’s here.”

Lucy rolls it around in her head a little. “I guess you’re right. Still, we should pick our marks out in advance so we can keep an eye on each other.”

She might have a future in this line of work, after all. “That’s good thinking.”

You cast your gaze out over the crowd again. You can pick out the oni immediately, still drinking her sake and attempting to socialize with other guests in her rowdy fashion. Not too far away is Yuuka Kazami, sitting alone at a table and still sipping on what was your drink. Off towards the corner, the long white ears of that rabbit-girl you saw earlier catch your attention. She’s standing next to another woman who has long, silver hair, and they seem to be with each other. You catch Kagerou working her way toward Remilia Scarlet, oddly enough without Keine, who seems to be drinking on her own with a scowl.

PI talks to:
[] Oni.
[] Yuuka.
[] Rabbit.
[] Kagerou.
[] Keine.

Lucy talks to:
[] Oni.
[] Yuuka.
[] Rabbit.
[] Kagerou.
[] Keine.
>>No. 67786
It looks like the KRC segment in that first part of the update got messed up. Here's how it's supposed to read:

*** Welcome to the new mobile KappaIRC!
*** now talking in #kakashi
*** topic is Official Channel for Kakashi Spirit News THE TRUTH | SEND NUDES TO psychicreporter@tengu.com | SHAMEIMARU TERROR LEVEL: unknown
[PI] I didn’t expect you to be up so late kid
[jailbait] same to you old man
[PI] Watching TV?
[jailbait] maybe
[jailbait] hina says hi
[PI] Hi Hina
[jailbait] did you have fun with the little sister?
[jailbait] lucy already reported everything
[PI] That saves me the trouble at least
[PI] And we did have fun for your info, we played Mario Party
[jailbait] i know who mario is but i didnt know he was throwing parties
[jailbait] first this vampire now mario
[jailbait] when do I get to party?
[PI] Harvest festival I promise
[jailbait] oh youre right that should be fun
[jailbait] anyway I shoulda figured theyd have video games in gensokyo
[jailbait] why dont we have any?
[PI] I take it that means you would like some
[PI] They’re expensive though
[jailbait] damn
[jailbait] id kill for some tetris or dr mario
[PI] You like those slow games?
[jailbait] obviously you havent played on the higher levels
[PI] I thought you would just want to blow stuff up
[jailbait] you arent technically wrong though
[PI] I never played too much of anything
[PI] This Mario Party game was pretty good though
[PI] Like a board game
[jailbait] weird but id try it
[jailbait] dont get all smug about this
[jailbait] but its pretty quiet without you here
[PI] Don’t get smug about this
[PI] But I want out of this mansion as soon as fucking possible
[jailbait] that bad?
[PI] Its just stifling is all
[PI] Would rather be with you
[jailbait] oh no are we gonna get all emotional?
[jailbait] just relax and take it easy
[jailbait] itll be no time before youre back
[jailbait] and ill get plenty of tv time in meanwhile
[PI] Of course
[jailbait] well im gonna head to bed and by bed i mean hinas lap
[jailbait] take care PI talk to ya later
[PI] You too good night
>>No. 67787
>>67785
Eientei should be decently safe to talk to with just Udonge and Eirin present. Kagerou should be safe-ish because she is just a regular ex and on her way to Remilia where Sakuya should be close as well. Yuugi is a wild card, being very boisterous so far, but bringing up PI's own oni friend could serve as an ice-breaker. Yuuka and Keine seem the most dangerous. Yuuka for the usual reasons and the short interaction that already happened, Keine for the reasons Lucy mentioned.
On the other hand we do not know much of anything how Lucy stands with any of those, other than acknowledging Yuuka as very dangerous to PI and her assessment of Keine. So sending her to deal with those two could be a danger of its own.
Still, in the end I go with a 3-2 split where PI does more work with the easier(?) targets just so we can get more first hand information.

PI talks to:
[X] Oni.
[X] Rabbit.
[X] Kagerou.

Lucy talks to:
[X] Yuuka.
[X] Keine.
>>No. 67788
PI talks to:
[x] Rabbit.

Lucy talks to:
[x] Oni.
>>No. 67790
File 157335021545.jpg - (1.66MB, 3072x2304, its all fun and games until the pikachus crash the.jpg) [iqdb]
67790
>[PI] Would rather be with you

POGRESS!

>Flower Youkai of the four seasons stealing our wine.

I know a flower youkai would like wine more than blood but goddamnit.


Not sure if you're supposed to vote 1, 2 or as many as you want but I choose the latter. If you can only choose one or two, pick them in order!

[x]PI:
-[x] Oni.
She seems like the type that'd have fun with PI. PI wouldn't, but a job's a job and Oni are THE group we should get info on, even if only to confirm that they're not a group at all.

[x]PI:
-[x] Rabbit.
I have trust he can break through her shyness after she gained all that experience with youkai during this story. And getting info on Eienti would be useful.

[x]PI:
-[x] Yuuka.

Give us our drink you shit.

[x]Lucy:
-[x] Kagerou.

Maybe Lucy can join and give us tips on Kagerou's group? After what Lucy did, she wouldn't risk angering PI again, so her loyalty is out of the question.

[x] Lucy
-[x] Keine.

We don't want to talk to her but Kagerou can and she should clarify the girlfriend thing before Keine goes loco. And while facing her would be troublesome-she's gonna do something sooner or later. Better she do it sooner.
>>No. 67791
>You stop, take a deep breath, and try to be as nice as possible, because you do like Lucy. You really do. “Why did you say you were my girlfriend?”

...Because we literally told Lucy to pretend to be our girlfriend to get Keine off our back way back in thread 3? Why is PI upset, this is exactly what we wanted Lucy to do around Keine. We told Keine that we had a long distance relationship with Lucy, and now Lucy is playing along with the story we concocted. Seems kind of silly to get angry at Lucy for doing what we told her to do.

PI talks to:
[x] Rabbit.

Lucy talks to:
[x] Kagerou.
>>No. 67792
It seems that the issue with KRC usernames disappearing is on older posts as well. That makes this story difficult to reread. I was thinking of making the archives on my Google Drive available to read in the meantime. I'll post here and in each of those old threads when I do.

>>67791
I'll admit that was an error on my part. I had to reread everything and redo my notes when I came back, so that was something I must have missed. I apologize, and I'll attempt to reconcile that in the next update. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
>>No. 67793
[PI] Oni
[Lucy] Keine

I think PI should talk to someone he doesn't already know all too well and Yuuka's a hard NO. Between rabbit and oni, I say oni just because that sounds more fun.

Lucy talking to Keine seems like it could get real ugly. Optimistically, though, it might lead to a catharsis of sorts for Keine. Lucy seems to have a much better read on her than PI at least.
>>No. 67795
PI:
[x] Rabbit

She seemed to be hiding something and PI's the most experienced at wringing secrets out of people

Lucy:
[x] Kagerou

She seems like the best choice to start asking about the whole grassroots network. Keine's too unstable, Yuuka is too dangerous and the oni is too much of an unknown for Lucy to handle.
>>No. 67862
File 15741323883.jpg - (1.79MB, 1000x988, master and rabbit.jpg) [iqdb]
67862
PI talks to:
[x] Rabbit.

Lucy talks to:
[x] Kagerou.
[x] Keine.

“I’d like to investigate a rabbit I saw earlier,” you tell Lucy. “I’m curious as to how someone from Eientei would view all this. If the rabbits and their leader join forces with Remilia Scarlet, that could begin to tip things in her favor.”

Lucy looks around the ballroom, until she spots the rabbit-girl. “Oh, I see. So that’s what a rabbit youkai looks like? Interesting.”

“Now, how about you?”

Lucy thinks, gazing around the party idly, and then abruptly stops and bites her lip. “Hmm.”

She’s obviously thought of something. “Lucy.”

Her head-wings flap as she takes a deep breath. “Okay, bear with me. I want to find out more about your ex-girlfriend and her companion.”

You’ll withhold rejection until she finishes explaining, at least. “Kagerou and Keine? Why?”

“I’m interested in the grassroots network that Kagerou mentioned,” Lucy explains. “I think something like that could be a key part in Remilia’s plan. Even if the youkai don’t officially ally with each other or work together, a grassroots network of information would help them know what everyone else is up to and plan accordingly.”

That is completely valid, and deflates your refusal.

Then Lucy gets sheepish, looking down in shame. “Also, I wanted to clear everything up about our relationship. I shouldn’t have acted so cocky and I don’t want to complicate anything you have going on with your ex-girlfriend.”

You want to tell her no, and switch marks with her. But then, you remember something. When you first met Keine after so long, you lied and told her you were dating Lucy to put some space between the two of you. That could be a good cover for Lucy, and maybe help diffuse some of the strong emotions that Keine has built up over the years, apparently. “Actually, Lucy, don’t clear anything up. For tonight, you’re my girlfriend.”

She gasps, and her wings flutter. “What?! You mean it? What changed?”

“When I recently met Keine — Kagerou’s companion, the obsessed one you were talking about — I already mentioned to her that we were a couple, to cover myself and get her off my back.”

Lucy blinks a couple times in disbelief. “Then why did you get mad when I did the same thing?”

Now’s your turn to be a bit sheepish. “I forgot about it, and you caught me off-guard earlier. I’m sorry, Lucy. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

She places one hand on her hip and pouts. “Geez! Shouldn’t a detective have a better memory?”

You shrug helplessly. “Old age.”

She chuckles. “Well, I’m sure it was a chaotic situation. You have a long time left before you can start throwing out old age as an excuse. You’re still in your thirties!”

If only your body felt that way. “Moving on, I agree with your reasoning. I think Kagerou’s grassroots network could play a big part in whatever’s to come. However, Kagerou and I aren’t on the best of terms. I think it would be a great idea if you spoke with her and Keine. I know Kagerou will be happy to talk to you. She likes making connections.”

Lucy smiles and flushes red, her little wings flapping rapidly. “Ohh, PI praised my idea! That gets me warmer and fuzzier than any drink!”

You’ll let her have that, if only because watching her reaction gets you a little warm and fuzzy inside too — just a little. “Now, if we’re going to do this, we need a cover story.”

Her eyes light up. “Oh oh oh! We met at a murder scene, where my older sister was strangled to death by a piano wire, and you pledged to me you would find her killer, and then—”

You won’t let her have this one. “Something more grounded, please. Besides, I already told Keine that we met online and have been in a long-distance relationship for a year.” You try and recall what you said, exactly. “It’s more of a sweet relationship than a saucy one, we mostly talk to each other about work, and gush about how much we want to see each other.”

Lucy doesn’t move for a few moments, but her face gets redder and redder, until she’s about to start steaming. The wings on her head are sticking straight out. “That’s so pure,” she finally responds.

“No good?”

She covers her face. “No! It’s perfect! It’s just a little beyond what I could have imagined. I need a moment to collect myself.”

It occurs to you that demons might have a different perspective on relationships. “Right. Well, Kagerou shouldn’t be interested in me or our relationship at all, but Keine will definitely try to probe you for personal information. I’m trusting you to keep your lips closed.”

Lucy puckers, with a hazy look in her eyes. “My lips,” she murmurs.

“Lucy.”

She shakes her head and focuses on you again. “Sorry, sorry! I’m good now, I promise! These lips will stay shut. That Keine won’t be getting anything out of me!”

You smile. “That’s what I like to hear. Don’t even fantasize anything, because I don’t want to be cross-examined about it.”

Lucy hesitates. “Can I fantasize internally?”

You really don’t get it. “Fine, internally then.”


###


After getting a new glass of your red wine, you make your way to the rabbit. She still sits at a table in the corner with her silver-haired companion, sipping on a drink. She seems way calmer than when you met her at the bar, but she also hasn’t noticed you yet.

You hesitate a moment. Is there any way to go about this that won’t immediately put them on guard? You’re in a room filled with beings who have centuries on you, when it comes to experience. If they were drinking and being loud, like the oni, it would be easy to approach them, but they’re quietly minding their own business. Assuming they are with Eientei, this would hardly be the time or place to ask them about work. You’ll just have to make Lucy’s fantasies a reality and pretend to be some kind of smooth player. Good thing she isn’t around to see this.

You make the approach and make use of the fact that the silver-haired woman doesn’t have a drink in front of her. “Good evening, miss. Could I get you a drink, and maybe we could chat for a while? I would be happy to refill your rabbit friend’s drink, as well.”

The rabbit cowers once again, shielding her nearly-empty glass from you as if your presence alone could be enough to taint her drink.

Her companion, however, looks at your glass. Her gray eyes take only a second to analyze it, then she sighs. “After all that time standing there watching us, that line is the best you could come up with? So be it. I won’t drink whatever Remilia is offering to these youkai, but you seem to be in possession of wine. Bring me some of that, if you wish to talk.” Then she turns to the frightened rabbit. “Udonge, go with him. Get another drink for yourself.”

You may have botched your attempt at being charming, but thankfully the wine has saved the conversation. Apparently, this woman isn’t a youkai, but she damn sure reminds you of one. Her rabbit friend looks hesitant to join you or even look at you.

“Really, that isn’t necessary,” you assure them both. “I can get you both drinks.”

The silver-haired woman glares at you. “Do you have three hands with which to carry your own drink, my drink, and Udonge’s renewed drink? Or would you be so impeccably dim-witted as to leave your drink here, unattended, in a room full of predatory youkai? And no, I wouldn’t care if they did something to some pickup artist’s drink. I might even be tempted to do something to your drink myself, since I lack for human specimens nowadays. Plus, there’s also the chance, however slight, that you might do something to my drink that could injure or debilitate me somehow. Therefore, sending Udonge with you to get herself another drink while watching over you is the best decision.”

She may not be wrong, and you can definitely sympathize with receiving unwanted attention from the opposite sex, but she went a little overboard with that. Nevertheless, you force a smile. “Right, then. As you say.”

The rabbit, Udonge you suppose, watches you with her large, red eyes, and then slowly gets up and stands next to you.

The woman smiles at her. “Udonge, you may be scared, but you’re stronger than him even without your weapon. Simply break his neck if he tries anything on you or my drink. Understand?”

Again, you can’t blame her for being paranoid in this kind of situation, but it’s just a little overboard.

Udonge nods, and then quietly follows you through the ballroom. It’s extremely awkward, until she finally says something when you’re halfway to the bar. “I don’t like your waves.”

You stop. “Your name was Udonge, right? I don’t understand what you mean.”

She scowls at you. Her fear is obviously subsiding, but it’s being replaced by disgust. “Only my master can call me Udonge. Reisen is my name.”

If she’s calling that silver-haired woman her master, then that must make her either a servant or a student. “Sorry. Reisen, then.”

Her face softens. “Thank you. As I was saying, something’s wrong with your brain. The waves are like a human’s, but bizarre and erratic, even more so than the most unstable of youkai. At first I was scared, but your actions aren’t matching up with the waves. That’s extremely odd.”

You wonder whose brain is really in the wrong, here. “What kind of waves are you talking about?”

Reisen sighs, and her exasperated condescension reminds you of her master. “Brain waves, of course.” Her ears twitch. “Yours are so unpleasant. So scrambled.”

You’ll just play along. “I’m sorry if my brain is unpleasant, but I really don’t know what I can do about it. I can’t just get rid of my brain.”

She thinks for a moment. “My master could give you a new one. Or at least, she could give you a medicine to suppress those brainwaves.”

You force a laugh. “Sorry, but I’ll keep what I’ve got.”

Reisen frowns. “So be it.”


###


As you watch the woman take her first sip of your red wine, you wonder how much of that bottle behind the bar you’ll actually get to drink before the night’s done, between this and what Yuuka Kazami took from you. The silver-haired woman sets the wine glass down gently and eyes you coldly.

“I wonder if watching me drink is really so fascinating?” she remarks.

You blink, and then take a sip from your own wine glass. “Sorry about that. How do you like the wine? I’m still getting used to it, myself.”

“It’s of good quality. Remilia Scarlet put this on reserve for you, did she? It must be an old bottle from her homeland. It would be extremely valuable here in Gensokyo, if anyone could even discern its value.” She pauses and thinks a moment, while studying your face. “I wonder what connection you have with the Scarlets?”

Damn. Your method of entry into this conversation ended up betraying you. “Not much of one. I’m a friend of the library’s assistant. I ended up becoming her date.”

She blinks slowly. “I see. Surely there must be more excitement for you in this room than a couple of droll women seeking shelter in the corner? How about your date?”

“Honestly, a lack of excitement is preferable. I’m a bit out of my league here.”

She frowns. “Obviously. What did you think a giant room full of youkai would be like?”

You let out a dry chuckle. “I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.”

She takes another drink. “I see.”

The air between the two of you stagnates. You glance at Reisen, who isn’t twitching or outwardly-frightened any more, but she doesn’t let her red eyes off you for long. You doubt she’ll contribute anything to this conversation, but looking at her reminds you of what she said on the way to the bar. “Miss Reisen mentioned that my brain waves were strange, and that I needed a new brain. Or at least, some medicine.”

Her pale eyebrows arch, showing interest. She turns to Reisen. “Udonge, is this true?”

She nods. “It is, master. The very fact that he is immune to my eyes says it all. Trying to manipulate his waves is like trying to manipulate a swarm of hornets: pure chaos, and very painful.”

You have no idea what she’s talking about when she refers to her eyes like that, but her master apparently does, and ponders this. “An interesting specimen, to be sure. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at Eientei?”

You’ll play a little dumb. Maybe you can turn this to your advantage. “No thank you. I’ve heard some awful rumors about that place. A friend of mine tested some butterfly sleeping pill and never woke up.”

The master’s expression doesn’t change one bit. “I see. I remember those experiments. Such failures are necessary on the road to progress and advancement. I hope those who hear that rumor can come to understand that.”

The way she keeps referring to you as a specimen, her apathy to death, and her cold eyes all remind you of her — at least, when her act as your wife was finished. She doesn’t see the person she’s looking at, just the goal or instinct that drives them. It’s exactly the kind of look you’d expect from someone belonging to Eientei, Gensokyo’s peddler of drugs. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend,” you lie. “Do you work at Eientei, perchance?”

“I do,” she answers without hesitation. “I am Eirin Yagokoro. Since offering my medicine to humans in mass at the insistence of the tengu, I am referred to as the pharmacist of Gensokyo.”

Impressive. Remilia Scarlet would have only invited someone high-up in Eientei, and it can’t go much higher than Eientei’s legendary pharmacist. Now that she’s introduced herself, you should do the same — falsely, of course. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance then, Miss Yagokoro. My name is Shinichi Tsurugi, just a human from the city slums. I didn’t realize you were the leader of Eientei.”

Eirin shakes her head. “I may be responsible for all of the medicine and research, but I am not Eientei’s leader. Even one such as I serves our Princess, Kaguya Houraisan.”

You’ve never heard about there being a princess in Eientei. Is she a human, or is she something else? In any case, she isn’t your concern. “Really? Well, if you’re serving such a noble princess as the Princess of Eientei, then you must know a thing or two about royalty. What does someone as intelligent as you think of Remilia Scarlet?”

It’s an instant response. “She’s foolish, just like the rest of the youkai here in Gensokyo. They’ll rely on brute strength and cling to their pride, refusing to unite and form their own alliance and society like the tengu have with the kappa and to a lesser extent, the humans.”

Biting criticism, but you can’t find it in you to deny any of it. “Would you prefer Remilia Scarlet’s way of doing things, or the tengu’s?”

“Neither,” she answers quickly again. “Both are doomed. The humans will eventually overpower the youkai, including the tengu. There might have been a chance if Earth’s gods were here, but the tengu chose to push for Gensokyo’s industrialization and chase them out. Even still, they do not understand the long-term ramifications of their actions, and continue to push for a bigger and brighter technology in an ill-guided effort to capture the humans’ faith.”

You wonder if she’s referring to that project that Q has been talking about. If she’s a researcher, they might have contacted her about the project. “A bigger and brighter technology? Even more than what they’ve already given Gensokyo?”

She clicks her tongue. “Forget about it. It’s a pipe dream of theirs. Harnessing the power of fusion is outside the grasp of any youkai. Even I would be hard-pressed to do it here in Gensokyo.” Before you can ask what fusion is, she continues. “The gods were the ones who balanced Gensokyo. Without them, this sanctuary will fall apart. Even if the tengu hadn’t provided humans with technological power, the youkai would have slaughtered the humans and eventually each other.”

You’ve come to a similar conclusion, though you wonder if the youkai would really go so far without the presence of gods. Would they be so bestial as to snuff out their food source? You’d think the elder youkai would step in and assert some kind of control. Regardless, that isn’t what happened. Best to focus on what actually did happen, and what can happen from here. “What would happen if the gods returned?”

“I can only theorize, and it’s grim indeed. I don’t think humans would give gods their faith after finding such routine convenience in the modern society given to them by the tengu. It would take some kind of calamitous incident to strip away the humans’ confidence and return their faith to the gods. Ironically, that calamitous incident would become a miracle.”

Now, that’s an interesting line of thinking. If humans had an enemy that was threatening to the whole city, that forced them to send their prayers and faith to the gods, then the natural order in Gensokyo could return. “Wouldn’t Remilia Scarlet’s war against the city fulfill that calamitous incident? Once the youkai attack and threaten the city, then the humans would turn to the gods.”

Eirin shakes her head. “The tengu will fight back, and the scattered youkai are too weak individually to fight against the organized tengu and kappa. That is why I believe that the youkais’ prides will be their downfall. And with that, I believe we’ve reached the end of this conversation so far as I’m concerned.” She pauses, focusing on you now. “Come to think of it, you followed along quite well, didn’t you? You must have an unnatural attachment to youkai and gods. Could it be part of your relationship to this mansion? Or something else?”

You’re supposed to be playing dumb, but you became too invested in the conversation and tipped her off. “Sorry, but I don’t have much of an attachment to anything.”

She peers straight into your eyes. “Not even your own kind?”

“Especially not my own kind.”

For the first time, she smiles at you. “All the more reason for me to study you. If you ever change your mind about donating your brain, seek me out. I’ll happily accept it any time.”


###


Lucy wraps her arm around yours. “It’s dark out here, so we should stay close.”

You don’t think that’s why she’s leaning against you, but so be it. The cool, quiet air is a nice respite from the hectic ballroom, and the stars above are so clear compared to the city, without being blocked by the large trees of the forest. Most importantly, you and Lucy weren’t followed after excusing yourselves from the ballroom, so you can share what you’ve learned.

“Remilia Scarlet will be disappointed by Eientei’s lack of interest,” you tell her. “That rabbit also had some way to see my waves, apparently. She flat-out told me there was something wrong with my brain.”

You chuckle, but you’re the only one. Lucy’s grip on your arm tightens.

“Lucy?”

She snaps out of it and loosens her grip. “Sorry, I was just lost in thought. Even if it’ll be disappointing for Remilia, at least she’ll be able to plan around Eientei’s neutrality.”

Something still seems off about her, but she did see inside your head, in that dream. She saw her. Lucy pretended to forget, but she won’t be able to forget something like her so easily. Could that have been what Reisen was talking about? Did she sense the spirit of your ex-wife and mistake her waves for yours? Do spirits even have waves?

You have too many questions about Reisen’s strange ability, and even if you had the answers, nothing could be done about it. In the end, it really is best to pretend to forget.

You return to the conversation at hand. “How about Kagerou? She seemed far more enthusiastic.”

“She is,” Lucy responds, “but that doesn’t mean she’s without her share of concerns. For example, even though she wants to help, she’s worried other youkai will be hesitant to act on Remilia’s declaration of war because of her nature as an outsider and an upper-class youkai. They’ll need some convincing to be assured Remilia isn’t like the tengu, and that the lower youkai aren’t just going to be used.”

You remember when you first met Kagerou. She was terrified of stepping into the world of youkai. In the end, she turned that fear into a resolve to connect, however slightly, lonely youkai like herself. Under the tengu’s rule, more and more youkai have been willing to join the grassroots network. And Kagerou, who now has both a human and a youkai’s way of thinking, has taken it upon herself to help them. Hopefully her lack of experience doesn’t undermine her efforts.

“I see. How about Keine?”

Lucy’s head-wings hang limp as she shakes her head. “Wasn’t willing to talk. Sorry, PI. I don’t think she likes me at all.”

No wonder, if Keine still has feelings for you. Beyond that, her motives remain unknown. You can’t shake the feeling she has some bigger picture in mind, given her abilities. “Don’t worry about it,” you assure Lucy. “Good work. Thanks for helping me with this.”

She perks up quick. “You’re welcome! How would I compare to that little goddess?”

You sigh. “I don’t see why you would compare yourself to her.” Under Lucy’s firm gaze, however, you continue. “You accomplished what I set out for you quickly, discreetly, and with only a quarter of the backtalk. Furthermore, you don’t seem to have any internal turmoil or mystery to distract me from what’s going on. I think you’d be a great partner, Lucy.”

Her wagging, spaded tail smacks against your back leg. “Yes!” Then she realizes something. “Hey, that makes me sound like some kind of yes-man side character.”

Isn’t that more or less what she wanted? You need less books in your life,” you remark.

She groans. “Tell me about it.”

You separate your arm from Lucy’s and reach into your jacket, producing Sakuya’s bell. “Well then, let’s talk to the head maid herself.”

After a ring, Sakuya Izayoi appears instantly. “I’ve been waiting to hear from you. Let’s be quick. I’d rather not leave my Mistress alone in there for too long.”


###


Sakuya crosses her arms and thinks for a moment. “That’s a shame about Eientei, but not outside the Mistress’s calculations. I’m happy to hear that this Kagerou is willing to help persuade the lower youkai into fighting. That is far more important than Eientei — so long as she doesn’t assist the tengu any more than she assists us.” She uncrosses her arms and bows. “Thank you very much. I should report to my Mistress right away. Unless there’s anything else?”

You hesitate, because you haven’t mentioned anything about Keine — yet. Your suspicions of her true intentions could be completely unfounded and alerting Remilia Scarlet to her presence may only risk hurting someone you once considered a close friend. On the other hand, you’re reminded of the broken thread of fate that Remilia Scarlet mentioned. Keine could have something to do with that. Is it possible that Keine knows everything that's going on, and is planning to use her powers here somehow? And to whose benefit — and detriment — would that be?

[] Tell Sakuya that they should be wary of Keine's involvement, and leave it at that.

[] Don’t mention anything. You can handle Keine on your own.

[] Alert Sakuya that Keine might be a threat to Remilia’s powers over fate.

[]
>>No. 67863
Teruyo has fixed the issue behind the KRC names not displaying properly in post. Much thanks to him!

I'll also be working on a little side post, that may or may not be lewd enough to warrant a place in Off the Record.
>>No. 67865
[x] Alert Sakuya that Keine might be a threat to Remilia’s powers over fate.

spoopy
>>No. 67868
[x] Don’t mention anything. You can handle Keine on your own.

really rough situation here. On one hand, Keine is pretty clearly still Yan enough that PI having to be the one to deal with her might seriously lead to some problems, but she's also Yan enough that potentially "betraying" her by telling secrets could just lead to the boat end too.
>>No. 67872
[x] Tell Sakuya that they should be wary of Keine's involvement, and leave it at that.

Although knowing Sakuya she might already be wary of everyone in the room regardless.
>>No. 67877
[X] Tell Sakuya that they should be wary of Keine's involvement, and leave it at that.

Outright stating Keine to be a danger when her stance is unknown to PI sounds like it would needlessly antagonise the SDM and Keine towards each other. She still is a factor to keep in mind though.
>>No. 67878
[x] Tell Sakuya that they should be wary of Keine's involvement, and leave it at that.

She's was a friend so outright throwing her to the wolves (no, not kagerou) sounds too much, but Koa's commentary on her has made me very very scared so doing nothing is not acceptable either.
>>No. 67894
[X] Tell Sakuya that they should be wary of Keine's involvement, and leave it at that.

Gotta keep it at a careful balance, even if Keine is rather terrifying.
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