I squirm a bit in my seat. "...All right." She practically chirps as she produces a small notebook with a flourish.
"Just relax," she hums. "Never been interviewed before?"
"Never even seen a tengu before, but I'll wing it." Oof. Pun not intended. This isn't off to a good start. Still, she smiles and lifts the pen as she starts.
"Can you tell me your name, please?"
"My name's Kazuki. Kazuki the Applepicker." Scribble, scribble scribble.
"There's probably a story to that," she notes as she pens.
"A long one." Fortunately, she moves on.
"And how old are you?"
"Hm. Most fairies don't really keep track...I'd say about ffffour..."
"No, no. Four hundred and a bit. Give or take."
There's a moment of silence. Aya stares blanky for a good five seconds before finally speaking up. "...Can I hear that again, please?"
"He's not lying," Meiling interjects. "That's about when I first met him. He's probably even older, from before he was old enough to remember."
Aya blinks, and scratches out a line before quickly replacing it. "I, uh. I see." Is it wrong that I feel a smirk creeping up on me? "So tell me a little about yourself."
Put me on the spot, why don't you. "Uh, let me think. I'm three feet, six inches tall--about bog-standard for a fairy. I live by the lake. I like to fly and read--"
"Ooh!" She interjects. "You're literate?"
"...Yeah. I can read."
"Sorry, sorry, it's just pretty uncommon." Outside humans and tengu, you mean? Before I can work up a good indignation, she's moved on. "You said you live on the lake? Where were you born?"
"Right here. Well, somewhere near the lake. I don't really remember much."
"Oh, really? Did your parents move around a lot when you were young?"
"Uh... miss Aya, no offense, but how much do you know about fairies?"
"Not much," she admits, a mild look of concern crossing her face for an instant. "I've only seen the ones up in the mountains. Why?"
"Okay, well. " I rub the back of my head. "We're nature spirits, you know that--but what that means is there's first-generation fairies."
"Meaning I'm just a nature spirit. I have no parents." There's another moment of silence as Aya processes this. I feel a bit sheepish. "I mean, there are fairies who have kids, but..."
"...That is so sad!" And out of nowhere, there's a flurry of black wings and she's pulling me into a hug. After a moment of confusion I sort of... reach up and pat her arm. She's warm and comforting, her shirt smelling of pressed linen with a hint of the feathers from her wings. After a moment, she breaks the hug, a bit embarrassed by her outburst.
"Well, uh. You can't miss what you don't know, right?" I offer, more asking than telling. I've never really felt this awkward about it before.
"On that note," she says, slowly picking up the professional demeanor she had carefully cultivated (and then promptly defenestrated), "is there anyone special to you? You know..."
"Nnnnot like that, if that's what you're asking." Now it's my turn to feel a bit embarrassed. Man, I hope she didn't see Dai...
"Really? You don't have eyes on anyone?" It's all I can do to avoid a wary glance at Meiling, who, thankfully, says nothing.
"Uh... no. Bachelor fairy, through and through. Maybe someday, but..."
She laughs a bit. "Okay, okay, I won't pry." More than you have. At least she's nice. "So you live on the lake?"
"My whole life." My whole, four-hundred year life. Hee hee.
"Tell me about it."
"Well, it's lovely. It's cool and calm and really pretty on a foggy morning. It doesn't get too hot in the summer, and I like the cold. Really, ask any fairy who lives there, it's a beautiful place to live." I'm not just saying that, either. I sometimes forget how much I like home.
"I can tell you care about it." Abruptly, with a sharp movement she flips her pad up to a new page and levels her pen like a sword, looking at me intensely. "Okay, Mister Applepicker, time to get serious. Fairies are nature spirits, of course. What's your special power, do you know?"
"I only found out a few months ago--Change."
She looks intrigued. "That's pretty broad, isn't it?"
"I guess so. I'm still learning the ins and outs. I don't know how far I'll be able to go with it, but... well, the sky's the limit, maybe."
"That about covers the options, yes," she replies smoothly, jotting it down in her pad. She glances up at me from her book, a steely expression in her eyes. "Were you involved in the Scarlet Mist incident?"
...No sense lying about it. "Yeah. Yeah, I was." Almost hungrily, she presses on.
"What's your relationship with the vampire? Can I see your neck?" Almost theatrically (I think) she cranes over, peering up and down for puncture wounds.
"Remi is a friend."
Eagerly, she continues, almost nose-to-nose with me. "Really? You've been seen going to and from the premises with great frequency!"
"Because I live there," I reply. She apparently didn't expect that, because she sits back in her chair, blinking.
"Really? Well, it is on the lake... I actually thought you were a butler there or something." And right back to that enthusiastic grin. "You know, working alongside all those pretty maids?"
I have to laugh a bit at that. "No, no. Remilia gave me a room." Which, I realize a second too late, begs the question...
"I see...and why did she give you a room?" I think she can tell I don't want to answer this, because she doesn't get pushy. But she says nothing, waiting for a response.
"Look...I can tell you, but it's not my place to explain the particulars."
"I understand. Off the record, then. I won't tell a soul, or even write it down." I look at Meiling, unsure. She nods. All right, then, if Meiling says go ahead...
"Remilia has a sister. She's... not well."
"... She murdered me." I was wrong. Those weren't awkward silences. This is an awkward silence. Finally, I speak up again. "I know you wanted to ask about the wings. I would too. Flandre... took them off. After I reincarnated, Remi gave me a place to stay there if I wanted. She's done everything she can for me, and she protects her sister for a reason. I'm serious, please don't spread this around."
"You have my word," Aya says. She looks like she means it. We sit there quietly for a moment, before Aya ventures to break the mood. "...Did you really yell at the shrine maiden?"
"Heh. Yeah, yeah I did. I know she was doing her job and all. She said she was sorry." I almost want to mention the notarized apology, but it's back in my room framed up.
"Really? Fascinating, fascinating. Then, is it true you hate danmaku?"
"Well, don't you think it's--"
"I mean, everyone--"
"But it's practically--"
"...I see." Damn straight. "You are most definitely a character. All right, just one last question. What do you think about this strange weather?"
"Well, I mentioned my power. One big thing is that I can feel the potential for it. And...well, the air just feels stuffy and wrong. Like nothing's moving. Like..."
"Like nothing's changing," she finishes, scribbling frantically. "So you think something's amiss?"
"I know it. Winter isn't leaving. The season isn't turning." Meiling looks surprised. I guess I would be, too.
"Well, thank you. That's certainly a scoop I didn't expect. Oh, one more thing--Is there anything you'd like to add?"
"...Yeah. You have nice wings."
"Oh my," she says with a demure look. It doesn't work for a second, I can tell she's positively puffing.
"That's not what I mean. What I'm getting at is--take care of your wings. You'll miss them when they're gone."
"Oh." She mutters, looking crestfallen. And for a moment, I feel like she's going to hug me again, before she flips her book shut with one last note. "Well thank you very much for the interview, that should be everything. Though, I did want to ask..." She sits up. "Talking with you made it clear that there's a lot I don't know about fairies. I mean, I thought mountain ones were kind of typical."
"It depends on where we're born--nature spirits, and all. We're tied to the land."
"See what I mean? A lot. And, well, no one likes to be ignorant. Especially if I'm going to publish this, I want to do some research. And what I'm getting at is, well... would you tell me more about fairies? We could take a quick flight around the lake, and..."
"...And I don't think that's a good idea. Flying the lake."
"Look, I can tell by the size and shape of your wings, it looks like you're built for speed."
She visibly swells with pride again. "None faster in Gensokyo."
"I wasn't done. Given how narrow they are, they're not really very maneuverable, are they?" And she practically wilts. Nail on the head. "My point is, I probably wouldn't be able to keep pace with you very easily, and you wouldn't be able to comfortably slow down for me." I tap my goggles. She looks impressed. Once she finishes deflating, that is.
"You know your flying, Kazuki."
"I told you I liked it," I say, resisting my own urge to let it go to my head.
"But why does that matter?"
"Okay, Aya. Lesson one about fairy culture--flying is everything." I've definitely piqued her interest, given the look on her face. Thus encouraged, I continue. "Flying ahead of someone is often a sign of trust--since in a dogfight, they'd be in prime position to gun you down. It's like body language--how you fly, especially around others, is huge."
"Wow. Okay, I definitely need to learn more." Aya looks resolute.
[ ] Okay, here's a primer on fairy culture. (INFODUMP) [ ] ...Save it for another time, I've done enough talking for one afternoon. [ ] Write-in
Oh, and if you want to specify precisely what to do, whether you do or don't want to give Aya the highlights of fairy life, go ahead.
Last of all, big thanks to Stove for the friggin' hilarious drawing. Go give his stuff a look, over in /eientei/.
[X] Start with the basics, and try to use yourself and your experiences as an basis. Lead Aya to some examples and important points, but let her make the conclusions herself.
Aya's a clever and empathetic girl; making the information relatable while letting her figure the important stuff out will make this a more valuable experience for her. Rather than WORDS WORDS WORDS, I'd rather try to win someone in the media over to the Fairies Rights Advocate Alliance.
[x] first off all, you must realize this incarnation of the universe, while being billions of years old, is only the latest in an infinite cycle of cataclysmic universal births/deaths. Allow me to go into excruciating detail concerning the precise evolution of magic and fae sentience that occurred throughout each and every one of these universal eras. Staring with the first... (OMEGAMASSIVE INFODUMP)
>[x] Okay, here's a primer on fairy culture. (INFODUMP)
"All right, well. Flying, we'll start there, because it's my favorite. For starters, on top of the dogfight thing, letting someone sit on your tail gives them a nice view of yours."
Aya raises an eyebrow. "Is that so?"
"Position relative to other fliers, especially in pairs, is important. Haven't you ever seen formations in a nearly straight line?"
"I have," she replies. "That means something?"
I nod. "Everyone is positioned in a chain, as part of a group. No one can see much since they're all less than a half-position ahead or behind the ones beside them. It's a symbol of solidarity. Also helps for danmaku patterns."
"Huh. It also--"
"Also tends to make them blow up serially, yes. Live together, die together. First time I tried flying in a formation, it was for the fun of it. Someone started shooting, and that was the last time I flew in a wing willy-nilly." Hey, don't you snicker. I will turn this diatribe around!
"Well, if position matters so much, how do they get around people flying at different speed?"
"Lateral positions, generally, and keeping your eyes straight ahead. Smitten fairies have this tendency to keep their eyes on their partner, and not where they're going. We have this thing, called flying supine?"
"Oh! You mean when someone flies underneath someone else, looking up at them?"
"Yeah, exactly. That's pretty much a confession."
Aya looks astounded. "Really! I just thought they were playing around."
"Ever see two fairies try to do it at the same time?" She shakes her head. "We call that a fairy roll. Picture a pair of 'em corkscrewing through the air, making doe-eyes at each other."
"That's adorable." That gives me a chuckle.
"Yeah, well, it's less romantic when they crash into a tree because they're not looking where they're going." Aya starts laughing, and despite myself, I crack up too. Even Meiling giggles a little. Finally I get a grip and continue.
"Yeah. Sign of young, reckless love. All right, I just had an idea. If you wanna take that flight, Meiling, can you come with us?"
"Of course," she says, setting down her cup.
"Less questions with three people in a group--especially a youkai and a tengu."
"Okay!" Aya almost shouts with enthusiasm, slapping her fist into her hand. "Let's go!"
Aya spends a little too much time worrying about where she's going, letting her speed get up just a little too much, outpacing us bit by bit until she catches herself, loops around, and starts the process again. Meiling flies that same, steady pace, while I try to make myself heard by the both of them.
"Another thing we like to do is show off," I call. "Stuntflying. We're not the fastest in the air, but good maneuverability is a point of pride."
"For you, or in general?" Meiling inquires. She's a sharp one.
"Both," I have to admit. "I probably had the most hours of all of us."
"In tengu society, that sounds like something the men would do," Aya says as she pulls back up alongside on her circuits. "Is it a boy only thing?"
"There are no 'boy-only' things among fairies--aside from the obvious," I add hastily. "What I mean is, stunt-flying, body posture, hell, even clothes, we don't really make a distinction."
Aya laughs. "So you're telling me you could be a girl under those overalls?"
"I could be," I call back with a grin, "but I'm not. I'm surprised you didn't think about the boy fairies in nightgowns." Aya mock-clutches at her heart with a 'hnnnng' noise.
"What about you, Kazuki? Ever worn a dress?"
"A dress, no, but I did have to wear a smock for a while. Then again, I've been lucky about clothes. We tend to make due with what we find. It's easier than it used to be to find what you want, since the human village has gotten so big--and there's the shop, too."
Meiling speaks up again. "Fairies have shops?"
"Just one, and it's more of a trading post. I mean, I'm sure there are other fairies with stores, but it's the only one around here. I, uh, tend to avoid it."
"Really? Why?" Aya sticks her head down in front of me. I shoo her off.
"'cause the girl who runs it is named Apple..."
"...And you're the Applepicker. You really do need to tell me that story some time."
"Yeah, that's not happening. Anyway, clothes. It really just comes down to preference. A lot of guys wear pants, but then so do a lot of girls. I personally prefer them."
"Girls, or pants?"
"Ha-ha. I meant the overalls. They're comfortable to rest my hands in, but that's kind of a bad habit."
"Is it?" Meiling asks again, just as curious as Aya, if less bombastic. "I've always seen you do it."
"Yeah, it's really easy to forget and hook your thumbs in the belt-loops, but...well, next lesson. Hips!"
"Hips?" Aya asks upside-downedly.
"Hips." I nod sagely. "Hips are a fairy's main... what's the word? I read it somew--secondary sex characteristic. I know that's more than one word, shut up. It ties into that posture thing again. Sticking your hands in your pockets and putting your hips out is considered drawing attention to them."
"I guess I can see that," she muses. "And it cuts both ways?"
"Yeah, it's sort of an invitation. I'm trying to break the habit, because it's like... 'I am man, come see my manly man parts!'" Aya bursts out laughing again. "What else, what else... uh, arms crossed is generally seen as a masculine posture, though Cirno does it all the time. She's the lake's 'Beloved Tomboy.' Oh, stretching. Stretching tends to happen a lot with fairies. Wing muscles get cramped, and all. There's good stretching and bad stretching."
"Good and bad?"
"Okay, well, more like nice stretching and naughty stretching. All the really good stretches are risqué. Proper ones are less satisfying. Oh, speaking of cramped wings. Massages are tender, but not necessarily romantic. Backs and shoulders in particular, after long flights."
"Yeesh, this is a lot to remember."
"Yeah, right. I've read about tengu courts. And Remi told me something about eating with like three forks. It's just a lot when you haven't grown up with it."
"No, three forks is definitely a lot," Meiling interjects. I'm inclined to agree.
"We don't usually sit often, but splaying out is suggestive. Keeping legs closed is proper, especially since so many of us wear dresses. It's practical."
"That's about the same as us, I think."
"You're supposed to bend at the knee to pick stuff up, male or female, since otherwise you're just... advertising. That's pretty much everything I can think of."
"I think I get the picture," Aya says. "but that's all just body stuff. I still don't know things like... well, how long do you live? You're not about to keel over on us, are you, Grandpa?"
"Ha-ha. No, we're immortal, like any nature spirit."
"Then why are you so... ... weird?"
"You're real flattering, you know that? Look, we die when we stop wanting to be alive."
"...So you get depressed to death?" I sense another tengu wibble coming on.
"No, no. It's... okay, we're spirits and our bodies are formed completely of magic. Our grasp on existence is literally tied to our will to be alive. We can reincarnate forever, but if we stop wanting to live, our bodies start breaking down. One day you just go to sleep, and, well... you're gone."
"Does every fairy die like that? That's just awful."
"No, no. Most don't, even."
"Then where do they go?"
"Ever read Tolkien?"
"Never mind. We have this--thing. It's called going reclusive." She waits for me to continue in rapt silence. I guess she's really interested. "When a fairy goes recluse, he just... up and disappears from society. They might be perfectly content, but they feel like withdrawing from life at large. We're very good at hiding. They find some place to spend their days, and... well, rest."
"That isn't so bad, but how do you know?" Aya asks. "Couldn't a fairy just up and die and people assume they went recluse?"
"There's actually a bit of debate about that, since we don't really keep close tabs on each other like humans. Sometimes friends may not see each other for years But--generally, if someone has been happy as far as everyone knows, but a bit distant, the consensus is that they've decided to go into reclusion. It can happen any time, but it's not really a sure thing."
"Well, what about reproduction? You said that fairies can have kids. Wouldn't we be swarmed by legions of fairies?" That's... kind of a glorious mental image, actually.
"Not every fairy pairs off, and thank you for reminding me. Our culture really, really tends toward small families. One, maybe two kids, if that. And that thing I mentioned about going recluse?"
"We also really tend towards single partners. There's not a lot more tender than two fairies in love going away to spend the rest of their days together. It's what p--."
"...Passes for an afterlife for the immortal."
"I see. Well thank you, Kazuki. I certainly know a lot more about fairies than I did."
"Don't forget that's mostly just lake fairies," I remind her. "I imagine a lot of it carries over, but it really depends on where you're from. Like, mountain fairies have tanner skin and tend to be built bigger and stockier. But that's really outside my area of expertise."
"Good timing, too," Meiling notes. "I should probably get back to the mansion. Would you like to come along?"
[ ] I suppose it's getting on in the day, yeah. [ ] Hm... nah.
As for what you want to do in specific, write that in! If you don't have any ideas I certainly will, so don't worry.
Aya has acquired new fetishes: >I'm surprised you didn't think about the boy fairies in nightgowns." Aya mock-clutches at her heart with a 'hnnnng' noise. -Trap fairies >All the really good stretches are risqué. -Wing stretching >"You're supposed to bend at the knee to pick stuff up, male or female, since otherwise you're just... advertising. -Bent over Oh wait, she already has that one.
>>45813 I hope it didn't result in them crashing into a tree.
Let's try that again without doublepost. Back from Otakon and off to Michigan. I did have time to write this on the train. I feel like it's incomplete--Remi has more to say--but it's overdue and I'll be driving today. Special update photo of part of my costume. I hope those of you who made it to Otakon had as wonderful a time as I did.
[x] I suppose it's getting on in the day, yeah.
I think it's about that time. "Yeah, thanks. I guess we'll see you later, Aya."
"It was nice meeting you!" She beams, and I can tell she means it. Interesting girl.
"And don't forget," Meiling adds, lightly waving a finger from underneath a burdensome load of groceries. "You got your interview. A promise is a promise." That's right, that sparring partner--I'd almost forgotten.
"Nothing to worry about--Aya Shameimaru keeps her word. I'll introduce you to Momiji as soon as I can." The bubbly tengu nods to herself. "I think you two could do each other a lot of good. All right! I'm off!" And in a whirl of wind that churns the water below, she's gone in a shot.
"Very good, Aya! Now stop showboating!" Meiling calls up at her already-distant figure, retreating to a point in the sky. With that she turns to me, hefting the bags. I know better than to offer her help with them. "And as for us, let's get back home."
Meiling keeps pace with me comfortably as we turn off toward the mansion, some of the lights glimmering off the water already. "She has a lot to learn, that girl," she notes.
"Her tendency to preen could get her in a bit of trouble," I have to agree.
"You surprised her. I don't think she expected a fairy to be as knowledgable about flying as you are."
"Just like you thought," I observe. She smiles.
"I thought she might need a reminder, yes. It'll do her good."
"Speaking of, Meiling, are you sure it was okay to talk about Flandre?" Her posture stiffens just slightly and her face betrays a flicker of emotion.
"No, but I don't care." After a moment she must see the concern on my face, as she continues, "But you can trust Aya." She leaves it at that, and as far as I'm concerned it can stay that way.
We land not long after, myself a bit roughly--still haven't adjusted to flying artificial. Meiling gracefully touches down on tiptoe, despite the heavy bags she's toting. I don't see anyone at the gate, but experience has taught me--
"Welcome home." Yyyyep, there she is. Sakuya takes one of the bags from Meiling with surprising ease. "And just in time. It's time for me to start preparing tonight's supper." I had that miso earlier, but I could eat more. All this mansion living is pampering me. I hope I don't start putting on weight. Sakuya adjusts the first bag and takes the other, and then with a step is gone. Meiling stretches a shoulder lightly and takes her place at the gate, as if she was never gone.
"The mistress might be awake, if you'd like to visit her," she offers.
"I might at that. Thanks for introducing me to Aya, Meiling."
"Nothing at all," she replies. "It was my pleasure. Good night, Kazuki."
With a last "g'night," I head inside, past a pair of chipper maids in the foyer, and on to my room.
The maid I ask tells me Remi isn't in her room, so that saves me a long trip up the stairs. That generally only leaves one place, and as I enter the throne room, there she is. The gentle, rhthymic clink of her spoon on her teacup echoes from the great marble columns. On the great seat on a raised dais, legs lightly folded and hand resting on her cheek, she watches her tea swirl and swirl. Looking up, her bright red eyes fix me, and at last she delicately lays the spoon down on the pewter(?) tray, steam dancing across the metal from it. "Oh! Kazuki."
"Good evening, Remi." She lifts her hand from her cheek, giving me a cursory nod before resuming her stirring, eyes circling with the spoon. "How have you been?"
"I'm... well," she says, as a small drop runs down the rim and quickly rings the saucer. After a moment, she looks up. "Ah--and how are you?"
"I'm fine...are you sure you're all right?" My footsteps are light as I cross the cold checkered floor onto the plush carpeting.
"Yes, yes, quite fine." With a last sharp clink she drops the spoon and sits up. "I'm simply...distracted. There is a great deal on my mind, is all. I did not mean to worry you."
"No worry," I reassure her, "You just seem troubled."
"Mm, perhaps. Did I ever tell you about my father?"
"No, I don't think you ever have." I can't help but slip into a slightly more formal tone when I talk to her. She always seems to poised. Usually, at least.
"Perhaps you would like to hear the story while we take a meal?"
[ ] That certainly sounds interesting--I'd love to. [ ] If you're busy with something, I wouldn't want to impose.
I definitely think the situation is affected on the part of Remi, even staged. She wants to talk to Kazuki about something, but she want to have maximal air of authority when she talks to him.
It could be to make him an offer he can't refuse. It could be something that makes her unsettled so as to require this setup as a security blanket. Or maybe more simply, the room and throne have some significance to the story she is to tell.
>[x] That certainly sounds interesting--I'd love to.
"I've always got time for you," I reply. She waves vaguely to the chair and table in the corner. After a moment's hesitation, she stands up, taking her pewter tray with her. She comes over and gently sets it down on the table with hardly a sound as I take a seat.
...And then she crosses the room, to a similar table on the other side. With neither warning nor ceremony she grabs the chair there with one hand and drags it back behind her. I wince at the unholy screech of the wood across the marble tiles, echoes chasing each other round the room. Finally, with a careless half-whirl she spins the thing forward on one leg, and heavily drops herself upon it.
"So, my father," she continues calmly, as if nothing had happened. "I'm rather fond of telling newcomers that he was Vlad Tepes--Dracula. But that, like most of... this--" She waves her hand vaguely around the room. "--is simply an affectation."
"Er, I know." She pierces me with those red eyes. "Ahh--When we met for dinner the first time. Something about being born again." She just keeps. Staring. I am deeply, deeply sorry I mentioned that. Before I can manage to mumble anything she leans back in her chair.
"Oh. That's right." And after a moment's pause, she adds, "It's true, though. Vlad turning me. Supposedly he died before I was born--but that's the thing about vampires, isn't it? I was fairly young when we met and he disappeared not long after, but it was him, and his head was most certainly still on his shoulders."
"Who... is Vlad?"
"Oh." Almost dumbly, she looks at me. After a moment, her expression changes, the corners of her lips turn upward, and before I know it, she's laughing. And then I realize--this is only the second time I've ever heard her laugh. She continues, as I sit there watching her, growing more and more ill at ease. Finally, she catches herself, and instantly all the mirth vanishes like a warm fire chased out by a cold draft. "No one important."
It's right about then that I remember that Remilia Scarlet is a centuries-old vampire, and I'm--well, a centuries old fairy. But there's a discrepancy there. A terrifying one. She's my friend, but I barely know the first thing about her.
And here I am, sitting three feet away from her across a maid's serving table. ...And then it hits me. I've never seen her this close before.
I knew she was beautiful, but even with whatever's got her acting this way... Perfectly smooth, porcelain skin, practically luminous even in the dim light of her throne room. Long, graceful fingers with perfectly smooth nails gently wrapped around the end of her teaspoon. Her silky hair is loose, and strangely, left almost windswept. Despite the rest of her dress being painstakingly neat and orderly, the messy look somehow compliments it perfectly. Her eyes are alight with a cherry-red glow, framed behind long, slender eyelashes. Resting her hand on her cheek again, eyes distant, she looks perpetually unhappy, everything coming together to give her this... sadness. I don't understand the first thing about her or it, but I want to make it better.
Abruptly she speaks, startling me. "I'm sorry, Kazuki. You must think I'm mad." She doesn't give me a chance to say anything before she goes on. Maybe she's worried about the answer. "I understand you spent the day with Meiling."
"I'm certain I never told you how I met her." Looking up at me intently, I nod for her to continue. "It was not long after I had become head of the family. I had taken Flandre to China with me, if only to get us out of the manor..." She notices my incredulous look. "There were some bad memories at home, and the two of us... needed some time."
"You took Flandre?"
"Ah. Yes. I'm sorry. She was... better, then." She looks away for a moment, and I can't help but feel a pang of guilt for reminding her. Then again, having brought her sister up, maybe she feels the same about me. "Nonetheless. We were out by carriage one day, and heard a great commotion nearby. We stopped the cart and went to see. Over a few hills, we saw a great army on the attack. But all of them... they were attacking one person."
"That person was Meiling. I found out later she had been fighting them for ten days continuously, and intermittently for months without rest."
I knew Meiling was a capable fighter, but... "Why?"
Remilia narrows her eyes. "The world was changing, Kazuki. Dragons in the East were always seen as a symbol of luck and fortune. But men had decided they didn't need their monsters any more." I--dragons?
"That's right." Once again, she goes on before I can say anything. "She was clearly wounded, exhausted. She had torn through entire armies, but there were always more, drawn together by strong warlords and the 'threat' her existence represented."
"Threat? But they were attacking her."
"Yes, but if they merely said she had destroyed armies, no one would think to ask. And more than that... she represented something else. Something more than any despot warlord or his lackeys could be." Her voice has taken on an intensity I've only ever heard from her once before--when Reimu brought her crashing down. "Like the rest of the world, the times were different. So they rose up and struck at their benevolent protectors.
"...It was Flandre who asked me to intervene. She had taken a liking to Meiling. So I had Patchouli keep her safe and hidden behind the ridge, and went to see the Commander."
"You did what?"
She grins wide, giving me a flash of ivory fang. "Nothing untoward, I swear. I couldn't risk it with Flandre, and this was a great host, sure to overwhelm this redheaded girl, and possibly me. But by now his men were worn out from the long fighting."
I find myself leaning in now, incredibly curious. "What did you do?"
"I introduced myself, and told him that coming over that ridge I had assembled a warband of youkai to rescue our sister in arms."
"...And he believed you?"
"I can be very persuasive, particularly if Patchouli uses her considerable sorcery to summon a great clamor and plumes of smoke." Ah! Clever. "Cursing, he gave the order to fall back, promising me he'd return with fresh troops, with tenfold more men and arms."
She laughs, genuinely, and I can't help but smile. "How should I know? I was out of the country less than a week later. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. As soon as the last man had disengaged, she collapsed. It...was terrible. She was nearly spent. And do you know what she said? 'What can a warband of youkai do against countless numbers?' She asked." Grinning even more now, she finishes, "And I said, 'not as many as two youkai and a lie."
Her smile fades. "Meiling is a very proud woman. It was that pride that kept her from leaving even in the face of certain death--pride and love for the people who had not forsaken her. But it was her pride that demanded she repay me for saving her that finally got me to persuade her to leave. I...strongarmed the matter somewhat, but I think she's forgiven me. I hope she has, because when she's healed, she'll be quite a force."
"I'm sorry," I interrupt, "'when' she's healed?"
"Meiling is still injured, Kazuki. Her body was... practically destroyed, from the years of fighting, and then weeks without rest. All that kept her going was her spirit, far past the end of her reserves and more." Four hundred years I've known her... and she's so strong I never even noticed she was getting stronger in the first place. That puts a little shiver down my back.
"Flandre, as I said, took a shine to her, and it wasn't long before she was playing at being our tianlong."
She waves it off. "I'm very fond of Meiling--and Meiling is very fond of Flandre. It's been... a point of contention, since she fell ill." We fall into another glum silence. Remi's tea has long gone cold. "Bah, enough of this," she says suddenly, slapping her palms on the table and bolting upright (scaring the hell out of me again), "We did say we would speak over a meal, did we not?" I manage to nod while I will my heart to slow down. "Then let us go get one!"
If I'm surprised, I don't know how to describe what the fairy maids must think. They stare at us (mostly her) as she stalks through the hallways like a woman on a mission. The girls hop to one side or another as she passes, then look on us in our wake, utterly bewildered. Remi clearly never is seen in the halls of her own mansion--and certainly, not with me making a beeline for the larder.
I've never been here before. The kitchen is as large as any of the rooms I've seen, though cluttered and full, with little mazelike passages between sacks of flour, casks and barrels, all sorts of things. Fairies with long, white aprons and matching hats bustle to and fro... or they do until they see us. Remilia strides right on by like she owns the--oh, right.
"You'll spoil your dinner, you know," says Sakuya, abruptly appearing in that way only she does. Remi seems nonplussed, waving her off.
"Yes, yes." She walks over to a wooden chopping block of some kind, on which rests the largest roast turkey I have ever seen in my life--Admittedly, out of three, but--continuing to surprise me, Remilia unceremoniously grabs hold of a leg and pulls. She easily tears it off with her vampire strength, ignoring the trimming knives put out... and then she holds it out to me before repeating the process with the other. Licking her fingers on one hand clean (really? Her?), she takes her prize and makes for an out-of-the-way corner. She hops up onto a crate. Still vaguely shocked by this whole thing, I follow dumbly and find a place to sit against a bag of grain. It's apparently only the fairies (myself included) that find this situation bizarre, giving us a wide berth. Sakuya, on the other hand, seems completely at ease. She calmly picks up the implements Remi eschewed, clucking her tongue with disappointment even as she flips them between her fingers in a vaguely threatening display of legerdemain.
"You massacred this, Lady. Trimming it is going to be a challenge."
"Bah." Remi takes a bite of her snack. "I have every faith in your turkey-murdering skills." ...I do have to say, it's quite good. Sakuya begins her work on the remaining bird, tsking here and there as she mends the savaged bird. Looking around the larder as I eat, I'm amazed by the sheer volume of food--then again, with a staff of what must be a hundred or more fairies, I guess it would have to be. Swallowing my first bite, I have to ask.
"Remi, how do you pay for all of this?" I know she said she's aristocracy, but if she's been here hundreds of years...
"She invested in the human village centuries ago," Sakuya explains. "She actually holds something like fifty percent share of the entire market. Normally we don't worry about the actual expenses, and simply accept food and goods by trade. Occasionally we send maids along to assist them. On the whole, quite beneficial for everyone. There was of course a great deal of turmoil when a vampire's mansion appeared on the horizon one day, but over time they've come to trust us."
"Enough to get rich and prosperous, at least," Remi injects cynically.
"Oh, hush. They're quite friendly with me, and I've been visiting for decades." Didn't you say Sakuya was human?
"Pfhah!" Remi snorts. "They're friendly because you look like one of them. Most humans are selfish, greedy, and hostile to anyone outside them and theirs. They're just like any other animal, but they--we, if you like--are just dressed up and made to walk upright. Vindictive, and virulently so at that. And that's coming from a former member." She takes a great bite and continues. "You can't trust them. Most aren't worth so much as their words." She swallows hard before continuing, a little more subdued. "That's why you have to protect the ones that are."
I feel like I should say something. Sakuya is unreadable, as she works her magic on the turkey. Remi herself seems to finally acknowledge the awkwardness that I've been feeling since this evening began. We eat in a more sullen silence for a little while. Remilia swings her legs from the crate as Sakuya begins loading up a plate with neatly cut turkey. I don't know what she was talking about, I can't tell that we tore chunks from the bird at all. "I'll be off to lay this out for the girls," she says, before vanishing, platter and all.
"Hnn. I apologize again, Kazuki. It's this weather. Or lack thereof. I haven't been able to leave the mansion in weeks. I keep hoping spring will turn, and the rains will come, but..." Oh!
"Hey, Remi, I can tell you some about it."
"Is that so?" She sits more upright, eyeing me intently.
"Well, you know my power--I'm starting to get the hang of it. And the atmosphere feels all... stiff and oppressive." To say nothing of the atmosphere right now... "It took me some thinking, but I realized it's because I'm not feeling any change in the air. Nothing at all."
She looks intrigued. "Is that so?"
I nod. "I've been thinking about it--I need to let Reimu and Marisa know. I'm sure they'll want to go check it out."
"The busybodies," she says with a smile.
"I was thinking of going with them."
And right back, like she never left--aside from the lack of platter. "Here, my lady."
"Kazuki will be going out some time soon to investigate this weather."
"Indeed?" Gah, do you all say that?
"And you'll be going with him." Wait, what?
"Of course." I look at Remi for an explanation. Or anything. She grins.
"I simply can't leave you unprotected." But but but shrine maiden and witch! "And besides, I was thinking of sending Sakuya out on the same errand anyway."
"It will be good to have a day or two out," the maid agrees.
"Then it's decided." What?! None of this is decided! "Perhaps a week's time?"
"That should be ample time to finish my sewing and appoint a temporary replacement," Sakuya says, before winking out. I'm left fumbling and trying without success to voice protest.
"Then," Remilia finishes, seeming much more herself again, "I think I will see to some preparations of my own. Thank you, Kazuki, I feel much better now." With that, she walks out, calmly crunching the turkey bone (completely cleaned bare) to meal in her hand.
...but what was wrong in the first place?
The heavy door creaked open, casting a narrow band of light across the cold cellar floor.
Flandre sat on her bed, arms around her knees, not looking up at the intrusion.
Remilia stepped in, closing the door smoothly behind her. "Hello, Flandre."
"Remi," the younger Scarlet mumbled. Remilia's guard relaxed somewhat. She rarely lashed out when she was morose.
The night was not a coincidence. Over the years, Remilia had noticed a great deal more aggression and activity from her sister during the week of the full moon--fortunately when she was best able to address it. Now was a New moon, and likewise, the mad girl was at her most sedate. Remi sat beside her sister on the bed, gently moving a doll aside. Gingerly she draped an arm over Flandre's squared shoulders. "Are you well?"
"I've just been... thinking." Flandre kicked her legs over the edge of the bed, a habit Remilia recognized in herself. "About... this."
She let her head fall to Remi's shoulder, who gently stroked her hair and hugged her a little closer. "About what, Flan?"
"You know, this. Me." Though she didn't betray a sign of emotion, Remi winced internally. "...You've been with that fairy boy," she suddenly said.
"Kazuki? Yes, I have." After centuries in her lonely little basement, Remi supposed it only made sense that her sharpened senses picked up the slightest difference in the cool, stale air.
"That fairy boy..." she said again. "...Did I hurt him?"
Remi closed her eyes and pulled her sister into a full hug. "Yes, Flandre," she replied, rubbing her back, "You hurt him." There was one other advantage to seeing her on the new moon--she was much more lucid. Sometimes, painfully so.
"I'm sorry," Flandre murmured.
"Sorry for what, Flan?"
"I'm sorry I'm broken."
[ ] Go see Reimu. [ ] Go see Marisa. [ ] Let's get this over with--go see Sakuya about the new clothes. [ ] Write-in
>"I'm very fond of Meiling--and Meiling is very fond of Flandre. It's been... a point of contention, since she fell ill."
Interesting; I wonder what their 'point of contention' might be? How best to deal with the illness I'd have to guess. It was probably why Meiling was so bummed out after the EoSD incident from the beginning of the story.
I reread this recently and I swear to god there was something we were meaning to do. I think it might have been talking to Remilia, and if so, good job us. But for some reason I feel like there was something else. I think it was the letter to Essex, but I see we squared that away.
This vote looks suspiciously like picking which character we're grouping with for PCB. Sakuya is a very appealing choice considering I honestly have no idea what Kazuki is wearing, but reading the danmaku fight with Reimu again kind of sealed the deal. Not like she'll be any danger whatsoever, but I think some moral support is in order.
[x] Swing by the lake; see what the old gang thinks of the weather [x] Go see Reimu
So, FYI, this is something of a landmark for me. I just transferred my story documents from my old, loyal dog of a laptop, over to my new and shining desktop machine. Let's salute its six years of service.
>[x] Let's get this over with--go see Sakuya about the new clothes.
Oh all right, fine.
Part of me is excited to be having new clothes--I've been using these overalls for decades now. They're not patchy and thin yet, but they're certainly a bit old. Fairies don't get new things often--and certainly not new new things. Most of our property is hand-me-down and trade. I've run into friends using something I bartered away a century before.
On the other hand...
The girls point the way to a sewing room Sakuya is holed up in. Light filters in through dusty old curtains--the only room I've seen in this place that's anything less than spotless, aside from the library. It throws an amber, dusky cast on everything inside--including Sakuya, sitting on a couch, quietly humming to herself while she gently works over some cloth with a needle and thread. Lacking her usual maid's apron, this time she has a set of rugged working clothes, thicker in the front for needlework. Her hair is tucked neatly beneath a pretty yellow kerchief, giving her this homey, charming sort of look. Brushing her braided hair back behind her ear with a sleeve, the end neatly folded--not rolled--back, she looks up at my entrance with that same trademark slight smile.
"Good morning, master Kazuki. Are you here for your clothes?"
"Er, yeah, morning. And yeah."
"Well. Come over here." She motions to a little stand as she lifts a child (or fairy)-sized mannequin off it.
"I, uh. Thought you said you had my measurements." Don't turn red don't turn red don't turn red.
"I did, but so long as you're here I can make more precise work of it. Plus, if we're going to be out..." Oh. That's right. I carefully step up onto the platform. "Arms out like this?" She asks, fishing out a measuring tape. I comply, feeling vaguely ill at ease (but what else is new?). "Relax," she says, stretching the tape across the length of my arm, "About what I expected."
"Everyone does seem to think fairies are just children, but we're more like... small adult humans" I note.
"No, no," she says, "I do a good deal of the tailoring work for the staff." ...Oh. "A bit longer than I expected, I meant, but I suppose that's because you're a man. I must confess it surprised me a good deal when I first came here," she says, mostly to herself.
"You have a lot of experience working with fairies, then?" I ask, exhaling after she finishes measuring my waist.
"Oh, absolutely. Most of the staff, as I'm sure you've seen, is comprised of them."
"All girls," I note.
"There are occasional boys, but for some reason they're few and far between. I guess it's become something like tradition. Sometimes the girls bring their friends to get clothing. One or two of my best workers came to meet me that way."
"Tried to pay in trade?"
"Often. My terms are usually only for a few months, but oftentimes they'll stay on for a wage after. Turn your back?" I do so, straightening up a bit when I feel pressure on my shoulderblades. "Just about done. Would you care to try them on?"
"Sure, why not?" It's what I'm here for, after all. "...So what do I owe you?"
"Not a thing," she says, lifting the newly finished garment. "Unless, of course, you'd like to try being a butler?"
"Odds are low," I say with a laugh. "But--thanks. I'll have to find something I can do."
"You can continue to be a friend and companion for the Mistress," she replies lightly as she stands. "I know you felt quite out of place last night."
"That's putting it mildly," I admit as she hands me a... vest? No. Standing, she folds a pair of slacks beside her.
"The sleeves will need to be lengthened a bit, and I've yet to make the shoes. I will wait outside while you change." Oh, now you care about my modesty...
After stripping down, I carefully examine my new clothes. Still pinned to their sizes instead of sewn, slipping them on requires a bit of finesse to avoid ruining any of the careful measurements.
The base layer is simple, lightweight, and almost silky to the touch. It reminds me more than anything of what Meiling wears--functional and sturdy, but unrestrictive. Above that is another shirt, the sleeves long, but not quite as long as the ones beneath. If they're both lengthened, they'll about reach my wrist (and a bit less). It has a crisp collar that snugly wraps around my neck. On top of that is... a tabard sort of thing. It also reminds me of Meiling's dress, sleeveless and heavier than the layers beneath. Unlike the lighter tones, it's a dark blue. It looks closer to Meiling's wear, but the color is definitely closer to Sakuya's. Carefully fitting the collar through the neckline, I notice a pair of sashes, one a good deal longer. Ah! That'll be a belt. I tie that around the top just above the hip. Last comes the smaller ... ribbon? No, it's something like a scarf or tie. With a bit of effort (never done this before), I slip it through the collar and tie it in front.
Hmm... not bad, not bad. Though I have to admit, with so much more coverage, the bare feet do feel a bit out of place. Maybe shoes won't be so bad...
"Okay, I'm decent," I call, "come on in."
Fortunately she does choose to come in, rather than just appear out of nowhere. "Very nice," she says after a brief appraisal, "let me re-pin the sleeves and see how the final product will look." She ushers me back onto the stand and quickly sets to work. Finally, satisfied, she steps back and motions for me to do a couple circuits to show her the front and back.
"Very good," she finally says. "All I need to do is finish the sewing. Thank you for your help."
Really? "All I did was stand there, though."
"You were a good deal more cooperative than most of the staff. And you didn't even disturb any pins!" I guess the young ones have trouble staying still that long? "Here," she says, "I wanted to give you something for the trip--I may as well so long as I have you here." She produces a knife with a slight flourish, the edge gleaming bright even in the dim room. "My knife."
"Don't lose it now," she mock-chides. "But I wanted you to have it for the journey."
"Uh, thank you," I say again, "but I do already have one." I produce the small dagger Meiling told me to keep on me. Sakuya nods in approval--I guess she likes her knives.
"Take it just the same. And you may wish to practice some with Meiling, should you ever need it."
"Good idea, actually. Maybe I'll go drop in."
"Speaking of," she says, "Did you read that article?" She reads my look of confusion. "Ah, you must not have noticed it. There is a copy of that tengu newspaper on your table this morning." Really? That was fast. ...wait...
"Wait, it was there already? You didn't leave it there?"
"Wait wait, Aya was in my room? ... Wait, YOU were in my room?!" She just smiles. Gaaaaaaaaah!
[ ] Freak out. [ ] Go see Meiling about learning to use this knife. [ ] Go read that newspaper article. [ ] Write-in.
So guys! First, apologies for the long wait. Time got away from me. Several reasons, and one of them is the aforementioned new, shiny computer. And games, games for the first time ever.
Second! I'm visiting North Carolina for a week. I'll bring my laptop and see if I can't get another update out there. Look at me, becoming a bloody globetrotter.
>[x] Go read that newspaper article.
Beating a hasty retreat and most definitely not thinking about terrifying women with godlike timestopping power staring at me in my sleep, I--
"You will need to change back into your overalls so I can finish those."
I make a choked wheeze that sounds something like an okay and run to the nearest bathroom. ... I'm halfway through removing them when I realize-
"You forgot these?" Sakuya calls from outside the door.
"..Yes. I did." I barely crack the door, and like a mongoose fighting a cobra, my hand darts out, snatches my overalls from her outstretched arm, and retreats back to safety.
Mid-morning trauma dealt with, I finally make it back to my room. Which needs padlocks and maybe a few sandbags. And that's right, there's a newspaper, isn't there. It's not particularly thick--just a couple of neatly folded pages of newsprint. On top of it is a small, handscrawled message (on Scarlet Mansion notepaper, no less):
As promised. Print one, issue one, fairy boy. Consider yourself as having a free subscription. I'll leave copies with the rest of the mail.
Oh, and if you're up before the sun, wait outside for me now and then!
The Bunbunmaru, it reads, serving Tengu Mountain and all points North...wait, the mountain isn't in the South. The headline is something about a motion in a court I've never heard of. 'Lord Tenma has censured the magistrate for the notion, suggesting that to bar the wolf clan from all proceedings, including their own, is to cast aside the shield that defends the higher castes. His patience with the increasingly divisive legislation...'
Wait, over here on the side column, labeled 'Life Abroad.'
A Fairy on Scarlet Lake
I met him at an open-air café, sitting opposite miss Hong Meiling, gate guard of the Scarlet Devil Mansion (and friend of the Bunbunmaru), enjoying a light lunch for a cold day. At around three foot, six inches tall ('bog-standard' for a fairy, in his own words), the chairs were slightly too large for him, but he seemed used to it. Boyish--though of course as a fairy that's expected--with close-cropped blue-green hair and sharp eyes. Sturdy-looking overalls and a white shirt contrast his bare feet, apparently comfortable despite the winter cold.
A: Can you tell me your name, please? K: Kazuki. Kazuki the Applepicker. He would be reluctant to explain that name. Some further research might be in order. (Oh no. She wouldn't.)
A: And how old are you? I did not see this coming. K: Four hundred, and a bit. Give or take. I have to grin at that.
I asked him to tell me a little about himself. Even put on the spot, he was quick to recover, not that I gave him much chance. He mentioned he's an avid reader--the second time he surprised me, and not the last. He quickly realized, to my chagrin, that I knew next to nothing about fairies at all. Did you know that fairies, or some of them anyway, have no parents? They just... are. I certainly didn't. I certainly doubt any tengu school would even bother itself to teach its students. Anyway, that's three surprises, if you're keeping count. I asked him if he had a significant other--he said no (four). No family, or close relations... that seemed so sad to me. (Hey!) That said, he spoke with some passion about the lake he was born and lives on:
K: Well, it's lovely. It's cool and calm and really pretty on a foggy morning. It doesn't get too hot in the summer, and I like the cold. Really, ask any fairy who lives there, it's a beautiful place to live.
The interview ran its course--I learned he had a most unusual power, and more than that...
Some of you will remember my article about the so-called Scarlet Mist incident, and I had to ask. This little fairy clearly had his ear to the ground. He revealed that he had indeed been party to the incident. I was ready to press on, ask for another account to corroborate Ms. Meiling's, but the topic took a more mournful turn.
I suppose I should make mention--this fairy has no wings. During one of the many danmaku battles that broke out that day, he was shot down. He was still waiting for his wings' regrowth at the time I met him. The atmosphere had gotten heavy, so I changed the topic--(Pretty clever, Aya. Thank you for keeping quiet about Flandre.)
A: Did you really yell at the shrine maiden? K: Heh. Yeah, yeah I did. You did?, I thought. I know she was doing her job and all. She said she was sorry. She did?, I thought. (Why is everyone so surprised about this?) A: Then, is it true you hate danmaku? K: So? A: Well, don't you think it's-- K: No. A: I mean, everyone-- K: No. A: But it's practically-- K: No.
He was adamant. An ancient, flightless fairy who hates danmaku. He was everything Ms. Meiling had said, and more. Last--almost--I asked him the question on everybody's mind. A: What do you think about this strange weather? Do you remember when I mentioned he had an unusual power? It came up here. If you want to find out--about it, and about this endless winter--you'll just have to read next week's article. (Pretty shrewd, Aya.) But, at last my questions had drawn to a close, or so I thought:
A: Is there anything else you'd like to add? K: Yeah. You have nice wings. ... What I'm getting at is--take care of your wings. You'll miss them when they're gone.
He would go on to explain a great deal I didn't know--about fairies, about flight, and about life on his lake in general. And a good thing he did. I would never have published this without his assistance. So for that and your time, Mr. Applepicker, I thank you on behalf of the Bunbunmaru. Perhaps, if interest warrants, I might share some of what I learned.
Setting down the paper, I have to admit, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Now I'm a bit curious--what else does she write about?
[ ] Read through the rest of the newspaper. [ ] Go tell the girls we're investigating the weather. [ ] Wasn't I supposed to get a sparring partner out of this?
>>49976 Funny story there, actually. And by funny I mean incredibly frustrating. Hasn't been a good couple of months--whatever, I shouldn't let it block my update process--more on that when I post, which, heaven willing, will be soon. But no, yesterday I actually made some real, concrete progress, and then I got a virus. Working on doing something about that now. I thought I'd squashed it, but it came back, with eighteen friends today. It might be a rootkit. So I'm contending with that now. On that note, if anyone has any advice, I'm all ears. I'd really like to avoid just nuking my system clean and reinstalling, because I'll have to buy an external HD to back up my data. And that'll be my entire Christmas. Anyway, that's all beside the point. Updates forthcoming, I bloody hope. Turns out tengu journalism is a bitch to write.
Thanks for the heads-up, Thirt. It's good to know that you didn't just lose interest and disappear. Don't get too frustrated with the journo-style writing, it can be tough to go outside of your normal style.
Well, there's always time to read. The lead article was something about barring wolf tengu from court?
Motion Entered to Bar Wolf Clan from High Court In a bid with strong backing from Magisters Kiyoshi and Takumi, Masaru has announced his intention to draft legislation barring "any individuals of lower class or breeding" from the Upright Court. While no mention has yet been made of what defines 'lower class or breeding,' it's no secret that it is borne out of his long-term grudge against the Wolf Clan, though of course the consequences would reach much further. The proceeding is mired in typical classism that's come to define the Court since its members' appointments.
Lord Tenma has censured the magistrate for the notion, suggesting that to bar the wolf clan from all proceedings, including their own, is to cast aside the shield that defends the higher castes. His patience with the increasingly divisive legislation is wearing thin after no less than three similar movements within the last five years. Though Masaru has denied that the move is aimed at the Wolf, the flat, classic Tenma rejection cuts straight to the point. With the High Lord directly in opposition, the move itself won't likely do more than founder and disappear, but as with all such legislature, it bears careful watch.
Masaru has demonstrated what critics have called a long-standing vendetta since his nomination. It likely began over an altercation where a detachment of the Guard was stationed by his home following a domestic dispute. Though details are expectably sparse for a sitting Lord, at least one appeal for more guards posted was submitted and denied. Things escalated from there.
Should the motion be passed, not only will the highest court in the land be made exclusive only to the Crow, it will also render many tengu in good standing unable to enter, or even defend themselves in court. Picture, if you will, trying to win an unjust case against you by proxy and messenger while you wait outside--not even allowed to sit on the steps. This is, of course, assuming you can get a messenger of a higher caste. If this is an unpleasant notion for you, imagine it from the perspective of a man or woman one caste lower--or the one below them. The implications and interpretation of the law are wide in who they target, and narrow in their view. With luck this article will be the last any of us hear about it.
Wow. That sounds...unpleasant. And a bit confusing. Fairies really don't have law, whether we're all little anarchists or we just haven't had occasion to get together and make some. Though of course humans have jailed or punished fairies for pranks or theft. Either way I guess it really doesn't matter. On to the next article.
High Lords Vote 4/2 Against Raising Kappa Tariffs In less bleak news, the High Lords, Tenma presiding, have voted against increasing the tax rate on kappa goods, trade, and citizenry. The line of vote was as follows-- Hotaka For Ryouichi For
Akio Against Shameimaru Against Yuudai Against Tenma Against
In light of the result, and the context it stands against, we at the Bunbunmaru feel now is a good time to enumerate the long and sometimes sordid history tengu have with kappa. Continued on page 3.
I quickly flip the paper over to find this continuation. Now I'm interested. I had no idea tengu society was like... this.
Tengu-Kappa Relations: A Retrospective While this paper is not an archive and many of the facts are disputed, it is generally agreed that the tengu and kappa first met hundreds of years ago--the kappa living by the water at the base of the mountain, and the tengu long settled at the top. Tengu remained isolated and, aside from securing their territory, made no attempts at relations with their neighbors. Tengu mountain--or Tanegayama, as the kappa have always called it--remained quiet for some time.
It was the kappa, of course, who offered first contact. As both had been client races to the ancient oni (still held controversial, so take it as you will), there was some solidarity to be had. A few diplomats brought gifts, and at the time, the tengu happily welcomed them. Before long the two nations had built a long-lasting rapport, trade flourished, and things were good.
Long-lasting, but not permanent. Despite kappa freely offering their help in the series of conflicts the last thousand years has seen, and despite their assistance often being crucial to the survival of the ruling class in the Mountain War, gradually tengu society grew more insular and xenophobic. Early legislation was passed limiting the amount of kappa permitted within the country--and then how much land they could own--and then where they could open their businesses. To this day many settlements have a "kappa quarter" at its lowest point. All of which has been taken in quiet stride by the kappa, both on the Mountain and abroad. It is somewhat telling that the first law passed on contact was a clause that only a tengu could take a seat in government.
This current motion is just one more in a long line of its fellows. The matter passed to the hands of the High Lords last month after six months of deadlock in the Magistrate. Lord Akio invoked right of timeliness one week ago.
Widening Health, Literacy, Mortality Rates Between Castes Census figures released this month indicate that the gap between the health and education of the castes continues to grow. Despite their active military role, the Wolf clan's collective lifespan is thirty-seven years shorter than even the most short-lived Crow. Literacy is a full twenty percent lower--while officers and honor guard have comparable rates, the majority of the clan reports markedly less quality of education.
The figures are grimmer yet for Canines, Casteless, and other parties. They live a full century or more less, with less than forty percent literacy. Medical conditions kept well in check above their station run rampant. Those figures are collective--many pockets of the population are well below that mean. Those unable to become tradesmen have little but a short life of menial labor to look forward to.
Kappa of course maintain their own communities and education, barring those who buy their way into prestigious academies.
Wow. This is... really bleak. All I know of tengu is the myth perpetuated around them. Lofty mountain lords, and all. I guess everything has an ugly side beneath the polish, but...
Wait, over here, opposite the article about me.
This Week's Rogue's Gallery
The small sidebar has a handful of portraits of imperious, stern-faced men. Each has a small excerpt.
EITA MASAHIRO (Agricultural): Received healthy donation from Masashi metalworks; this week's drafted budget uses them for the yearly tool contract. TADAKI KATSUO (Tadaki Military Academy): Caught with a mistress--hardly uncommon MASARU DAISUKE (Carpentry): Pushed promotion of family relative in cartography business--said relative has less than two years' experience SUSUMU YUUTO (Master Scribe): Took bribe to adjust records of ownership of a holding, arrested; currently released
... ... ... Damn. That sounds awful. Setting down the newspaper, I certainly feel a little more informed. Her article about me seems a little out of place next to all that gloom and doom, though. I'll have to ask her about it.
[ ] Get some breakfast. [ ] Stick to the mission, Kazuki. Go see: [ ] Marisa first. [ ] Reimu first. [ ] Write-in.
That shouldn't have taken so long. I have to admit I wrote myself into, as a friend put it, a bitch of a corner. Writing Aya's paper like a paper was important to me, and I still feel like it reads like a college essay. I've had to rewrite my apology for why I've not been updating like three times, which is pretty damn condemning. There's reasons--there's always reasons--but there's always going to be reasons. So no excuses, but I'll apologize just the same.
Let's try to avoid this in the future, eh? We're right on the threshold of some huge events, and I think once we get moving we'll keep moving. I'll do my best to keep up the pace.
>>50281 >I got a virus. Working on doing something about that now. I thought I'd squashed it, but it came back, with eighteen friends today. It might be a rootkit. So I'm contending with that now. On that note, if anyone has any advice, I'm all ears. I'd really like to avoid just nuking my system clean and reinstalling, because I'll have to buy an external HD to back up my data. And that'll be my entire Christmas.
If it's a root kit, then it's not gonna be taken down easily by a virus scanner. If anything it sounds like a Trojan that got a little factory churning out its "buddies" to take their places on your computer once you've supposedly eradicated them.
>>50289 Would you believe that's almost literally everything I did? I use Avast!, though I've been considering switching to Comodo. Either way, it still does the job. I had a bit of fun getting Malwarebytes at first, but using another computer and a thumbdrive I got it and cleaned out the problem. The first time, it gave me a parting shot--part of the virus involved changing the registry to point all .exes to it. That was a relatively easy, if annoying fix. Then yesterday when it resurfaced I hit it with rkill, Malwarebytes, and a thorough sweep from Avast. Followed that up with a pre-boot scan which found a few more--those trojan virusfactories, as it happens. To simulate the conditions I'd left it under I left the machine running overnight with the wireless adapter removed so it couldn't radio every ghoulie on the internet in for backup. As of now, it seems to have worked. If it does crop back up, my last option is Trinity recovery tools on a disc. If that doesn't do it, I have to buy that external and nuke the site from orbit. As of now, though, I think and hope I nixed it. Thanks for your advice, I'm glad I was on the right track.
Also, regarding viruses, I had a less overwhelming infection recently, and cleaned it up with the aforementioned tools. I also used the Kapersky TDSS Rootkit Killer, MS Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (yes, probably useless, but whatever), and finished it off with ComboFix.
>>50290 Avast conflicts with a lot of stuff, it was screwing up Portal 2 for me and it wouldn't let my grandparents set up their DSL. I'd go with Avira or Microsoft Security Essentials, they both do well in independent antivirus tests.
So I feel like here's a good time to point out I threw together a general info/question thread. It's over at >>/words/966 , assuming I didn't cock up that linking scheme. FoSL updates will probably be sporadic because Christmas to the face. Can't be more sporadic than the last one, amirite?
I think about it a moment. I'm in a mansion. Reimu lives in a glorified shack. She could probably stand to eat a little better. With an army of maids to feed, I'm sure I can arrange a breakfast to take over to the shrine.
The halls are more active as the morning goes by, maids starting to bustle and go about ... whatever they go about to keep a vampire's palace running. They give me friendly nods as I pass (and even a few salutes) on my way to the main dining room.
I don't often eat in here; the room feels more like another house. High ceilings, white tile, and long rows of tables--most clearly built for fairies--make the whole thing seem even bigger. I tend to feel small enough in this place already. Long fingers of sunlight from the high, arched windows stretch across the whole of the room. There's always a handful of the staff taking meals in here at any given time, clustered in twos and threes, shielding their eyes from the beams or finally giving up and switching sides. At each corner is a 'normal' table for the rare times one of the others eats here.
Times like now. In the back corner, nearest an open kitchen and farthest from the sun, sits the librarian and Koakuma, going over a small stack of books over a plate of that egg-fried bread stuff, liberally applying what smells like cinnamon to the dish. She's cutting up some sausages when Koakuma turns and sees me, throwing a cheerful wave with her book-free hand. Patchouli's head turns on a swivel and once again, the surly magician is staring at me.
Let it never be said Kazuki the applepicker shied away from a challenge.
I swear her eyes follow me the whole way over to the kitchen line, where a crew of fairies work the stoves. You can barely hear them chatting happily under the sizzle of the cooktops. And carefully setting down strips of bacon in a neat head kerchief and long apron is Sakuya. Again.
"Do you do everything in this mansion?" I ask, by way of greeting.
"Yes," she answers cheerfully. "So how did you like your exposé?"
"It sure was," I grumble as I take a plate from the top of the stack. "Did you read it, then?"
"I always read the Bunbunmaru," Sakuya says as she doles out a spoonful of scrambled eggs to me. "I keep my own subscription, and buy extras for the staff. The Lady takes one as well." Next comes...I really don't need that much bacon, but I'm gonna eat it if it's on my plate... "It was actually quite an unusual issue," she adds along with some toast. "Normally she dedicates about half to Gensokyo abroad, but this was nearly all about politics back home."
"Yeah?" I had noticed that. "I thought my bit seemed a little out of place."
"I think some weeks the life articles are the only part she really enjoys, you know." I really don't need coffee, Saku--oh, fine...
"Okay, okay, enough food," I grouse, sheltering my plate from an attack of butter and jam. "Trying to fatten me up to eat?"
"It's Winter. You should eat healthy." she chides back. "All right, if this is all you're taking--" You mean the mountain on my plate? "Then I think you're the last for the shift. I can start washing up." She pulls the kerchief out of her hair, shaking it out--strange to see her silver hair without the headdress.
The sink is nearest Patchouli and Koakuma's table. Maybe that's why they picked it. I can still hear and see her as she starts soaking dishes and pans in hot, soapy water. Patchouli continues to stare at me as I pull up one of those human size chairs, and, with effort, clamber into it.
"...You're four hundred." She finally says.
"Good morning to you, too!" I say with as much nauseating cheer as I can muster. I almost hate myself. Koakuma giggles, so at least it was worth it. "Yes, I'm four hundred. What's your point?"
"My point?" She asks with an almost outraged bewilderment. "I've never met a fairy nearly so old."
"Well, hi. You have now. Besides, how many fairies have you met?"
"Hundreds. Don't you forget I've lived quite some time..."
"I think he meant 'spoken with,' not 'seen,' boss," Koakuma interjects. Patchy lapses into silence. Hah.
"So what are the two of you doing out here?" My turn for curiosity. "I'm surprised you're not in the library." You know, like always.
"Koakuma insisted," Patchouli grumbles.
"It's good for you to get a little air and sun once in a while," her familiar replies, unperturbed by the grump.
"Agreed," adds Sakuya from the side, reminding me she exists. Patchy smirks a little when I jump. It's not my fault she can be that quiet!
"Gah! Is that how you sneak in my room?"
"She sneaks into everyone's room," Patchouli injects dryly. "It's part of her morning rounds." Oh. ...Really? "Don't think you're particularly special."
"Really? I'm the only four-hundred-year-old fairy you know. Don't I get a certificate, or something?" This is kind of fun.
"I could amend the matter," she fires back. "Then we could bring my acquaintance with fairies back to an even status quo."
"No, no, I think I should go for the certificate. I say, nodding. "I can put it up next to Reimu's apology." I even get a wry grin out of her on that one.
"On both of your notes, that reminds me," Sakuya asks. "Why do fairies..."
"Pop?" I ask.
"Explode?" Patchouli ventures.
Sakuya nods. "Yes, that."
"Magical dander," the mage answers calmly as she takes a sip of tea.
"...Excuse me?" I ask. That's a new one on me.
"You heard me," she replies evenly. "Fairies are more magic than flesh. Just like any living thing, they lose dried skin." ...Ew. "Most of the fairy anatomy is magically charged, with some residue remaining in the dead tissue. It forms a dust, not unlike a moth's wings." What? Are you comparing me to a bug? "The end result, in combination with the open air, is a reactive aerosol that's very prone to--" Wait why are you pointing at me what are you-
"...I hate you."
She goes on, blithely ignoring me as I shake soot out of my hair. "After a single explosion, all of it is burnt away. It takes a while for more to accumulate to make it happen again."
"Does that... hurt?" Sakuya asks, slightly astonished. As are most of the fairies who winced reflexively at that extremely familiar sound.
"No," says Patchouli.
"YES." I say at precisely the same time.
[ ] This was a waste of time. And now there's ash in my breakfast. [ ] Okay, you know what? I'm gonna let her have it.
[x] Okay, you know what? I'm gonna let her have it. Explain in a cold hard voice all the things you have seen and experienced. 1. the creation of Gensokyo 2. the negotiation between yukari and the hakurei. 3.cirnos birth (I personally believe that letty had a hand in cirnos birth because seriously ice fairy in summer japan can get pretty hot. 4.Attacking the guests of the mistress of the house is a serious social faux pas. 5. Just because she is knowledgeable (pun intended) and has a large library she doesn't know every damn thing so she should get her head out of her ass.
>>51255 Dear sir, should you wish to not be looked upon as a common incompetent, there are a few things you should do aside from the content of your post:
Capitalize. It already makes you seem 100% more intelligent! And we all apppreciate it.
You also attempted a list. Bravo! But if your formatting is not consistent throughout the list, you merely look the fool. Please take this lesson to heart.
Finally, overdoing the write-in, do not do this. It is acceptable if you are either witty or intelligent, but you, sir, are neither. Please vote and be done- your input is still important as an enjoyer of this story, but we only desire your bare minimum until you can use the English language and general formatting correctly.
>[x] Okay, you know what? I'm gonna let her have it.
"My species," I seethe, "is not here at your discretion."
"Excuse me?" She slowly turns back to me from Sakuya.
"You heard me. I am not a walking anatomy lesson. I am not your subordinate. I am not going to take that." I slam a palm down on the table, rattling the dishes as I point up at her. "If you're so damn proud, then why don't you just have nothing to do with us?"
She starts to respond. I cut her off. "I'm aware you don't employ any in your little hovel, but we're not too grubby to run your errands for you, are we? Who do you think prepped that food you're eating? Who do you think went out and bought it? Who do you think runs this place your musty nation-state thrives in? Thrives because of?"
"I don't give a damn how old you are, we've been here long before your doughy ass was born, and we'll be here a thousand years after it dries up and blows away!" I lean back, glaring at her across the table, letting my momentum keep me going. "So tell you what, how about you feed yourself, clothe yourself, work yourself, and then you can talk down to us miserable squatters all you damn well please. But until then--" I practically jump the table, one knee beside my plate, putting my face in hers. "Why don't you just shut up and crawl away from the sun back into your hole you pretentious--miserable--stuffy--intolerable--dusty--OLD--SHREW." Stabbing my finger accusingly at her with each word, she leans farther and farther back, eyes wide... until, with a yelp, her chair tips backwards and she tumbles end-over-end.
With one last "hrmph" I hop down off the table. "Sakuya, could you please wrap my breakfast up for me," I finish quietly without even stopping to look as I stalk out of the cafeteria in utter silence, dozens of eyes following me as I go.
"You just got wrecked, boss," I hear Koa say in my passing.
"I am aware," comes Patchouli's slightly muffled reply.
The trip to Reimu's helps me unwind (just like a nice flight always has), though I can't take my time lest her breakfast get cold. Sakuya boxed it up neatly and bundled it into a cloth bag, tied off at the top. I touch down at the shrine before long, pulling my goggles up--have to admit it's nice not tearing up from the cold air rushing past--and there she is, sitting out front with a steaming cup of tea. Surprise.
"What are you doing here?" she says by way of greeting.
"Feeding you, you wastrel." I dangle the bag. Her eyes brighten and she comically hops up and bows practically double, motioning at the door.
"Then come inside, kind benefactor-sama!"
The inside is much warmer. Reimu rummages in the other room for a few things while I set her food down. "It's not all rank shrine maiden bribery, to be honest," I call. "I figured out the deal with this long Winter." I hear her groan.
"Your problem." I nod. She groans again, then comes in with, what else? Two mugs of tea.
"Guess there really is no such thing as a free lunch," Reimu grumbles, plopping down at her table.
"Or breakfast," I observe, sliding it over to her. "Okay, so it's like this. The season straight-up isn't changing. I don't know how, I don't know why. After this I was going to go let Marisa know, see if we could figure something out."
Reimu frowns. "Back up. Not changing? What do you mean?"
"It's hard to explain--It's less like I feel it, and more like I feel what it's not. Like it was always there and now that it's not, I'm noticing it. The air feels all still and stale."
"Okay," she muses. "I know you're new to the power thing, so it's hard to describe."
"Yeah, pretty much. Oh, and Remi's sending Sakuya. Aaaand...I'm going too." She raises an eyebrow. "Yeah, really. I don't know, I was curious, and Remi insisted." I sip my tea pensively.
"...Hey, is there soot on this?"
"Shut up and eat."
[ ] Just wanted to drop in and give you the news. I'm off to Marisa's. [ ] I can hang around a little while. Through breakfast, at the least.
Small update! Maybe I can try to get back to a decent rate.
>[x] I can hang around a little while. Through breakfast, at the least.
Reimu eats slowly, relishing the unusual meal.
"You know, it's gonna get cold if you don't eat it quick." It's already probably lukewarm--I got here fast, but not as fast as I could if I'd had my wings.
"Just let me have this, Kazuki." ...Aaaaall right. She eats in silence while I look around the room. Something feels off. After a moment, eyes closed, she speaks back up. "So I don't read the paper, but Aya dropped by and mentioned you're famous now."
I have to snort at that. "I bet."
"Actually, I was wondering. I know a little about the fairies around here, but not much."
"Lake fairies?" I ask, blowing on my tea.
"If you like. I see something of a mix around here, with the forest nearby. Oh, I haven't had bacon in so long..."
"Lake fairies... Well, obvious trait is blue hair. I've seen almost pure green on one end, to almost pure blue."
"Like ice," Reimu observes.
"Ice is grey."
"And maids are silver." I grin.
"And this conversation is gold. Anyways, yeah. Pale skin, we're all used to cooler weather..." Shrugging, I trail off. Kind of hard to describe your kind on a whim.
"Is that a thermos?" She points at the heavy cylinder full of coffee Sakuya gave me.
"I dunno, is it? I just know it weighed a ton. Have at it."
"Kourin had a few of these," Reimu explains as she grabs a teacup and promptly fills it with not-tea-at-all. "Last I heard Marisa bought a couple and uses them for experiments or something." She has at it rightaway, still hot enough to steam, no sugar or anything. Crazy shrine maidens.
"Hey, Kazuki," she says. "...Thanks."
I can't quite conceal the smile. "You must be getting soft on me. And you're welcome." Pause. "...I just couldn't stand seeing your ribs any more."
She smirks, and pokes me in mine. "And just where are you leering, you little..." Her smirk fades. "...Do you hear something?"
As a matter of fact I do. I've only just turned around when Marisa careens through the shrine door, still catching herself from a running dismount, broom in one hand, and what looks like a cherry petal in the other. "...AAAAAAAAY REIMU I GOT IT!"
Reimu, wincing, sets down her cup. "Got what?"
"The season isn't turning! I was looking into possible magical anomalies and--"
Marisa just looks blankly at her.
"Kazuki just told me."
Her stares glides over to me. "...oh." she says quietly, dejected, before plopping down at the table, pouting.
[ ] Console! Console your sensei! [ ] Sorry, Marisa, you got scooped.
"There, there," you say, patting her on the back. "I only knew because I'm... uh, me." I guess I kind of am literally the spirit of change. "...What's that you've got there?"
She brightens up a bit. "This?" She brandishes the cherry petal. "This is a piece of spring."
...A what now?
I lean in and get a better look--the little petal is almost aglow, casting a warm-looking, rosey light. It was hard to pick out in the daylight, but it's there. Reimu does much the same.
"Marisa, can I see that?" I ask.
"Okay, just be careful with it." She carefully hands it over, and I take it between my finger and thumb. And a rush of sensation hits me.
It's slightly warm, but holding it, it feels like it's barely there. My fingers practically tingle beneath it, though--it's practically crackling with pure potential. My heart catches in my throat as I feel it pull a mote of magic energy through my fingertips--the glow intensifies, the petal itself brightening, and it produces a light chiming that quickly builds into an airy, tonal ring.
And then it disintegrates.
After a few seconds of stunned silence, Reimu buries her face in her hands and makes a long 'snrrrrrrrrk,' as Marisa leans in. "...What did I JUST say?"
"Um," I say, rubbing my fingers together. "Sorry? I didn't really have a say in the matter." She looks at me, halfway between a stink-eye and curiosity. "It felt... really overdue. Like it wanted to do that."
"You're telling me a piece of Spring can communicate desires?" Reimu asks, still slightly giggly.
"You're telling me you can hold a piece of Spring in the first place, and THAT'S what throws you?"
She grunts. "Point."
"...And," I add, "The air feels different in here now. Better."
Marisa exhales slowly. "Kazuki, I think you just ... turned the season, a little." Reimu sits back up.
"Don't ask it don't ask it don't ask it don't ask it," she mutters like a mantra.
"The real question, though. Where's the rest of the Spring?" I ask.
"I don't know," Marisa replies. "But I know how to find it."
Reimu's turn for consolation as she puts her head down on the table. Marisa and I each pat her on either shoulder (Marisa covertly palms a piece of bacon while Reimu's distracted).
We talk for a little while, and let Marisa know about the plan. She agrees, and before long she's on board with setting out next week, and gradually the topic turns to lighter things. The room feels warmer in the passing of the tiny piece of Spring, but it still feels like something's amiss. I can't shake off this feeling that I'm being watched.
I look underneath a dresser. "Edible thing. You learn to watch your back. Though it's been ages since it came up. You hear stories about something taking a swipe at someone every now and then, but it's not like it was."
I continue looking, and I'm a bit surprised when Reimu starts to help. She doesn't say anything as she heads outside to look over the grounds. Marisa kips up.
"Am I being spied on or anything? Can you tell? I got into a fight with Patchouli earlier, so..."
Marisa frowns and starts doing...something. "If she is, I can't tell, but I don't think so. No spellcastin' I can find. And Patchy's good, but she's not that good."
I give her a smirk. "Bet she'd have something to say about that."
She returns a grin. "Prob'ly, yeah. So where are you headed now?"
"I guess I'm heading back home, assuming we don't find anything. Reimu took this pretty seriously, huh?"
Marisa collects her broom and rests it over her shoulders, pursing her lips. "Yeah. She kind of has to. It's her thing."
"Kind of a crappy thing," I observe as we head out after her.
We search for a good half-hour and find nothing. The paranoid, skeevy feeling lightens as we go until I can barely remember it at all. Reimu waves off the apology ("I've seen weirder,"), and says she'll keep an eye on things. Whatever it is, my job's done, and I head for home.
...Of course, now that I say that, I've realized I'm not exactly sure what to do when I get there. It's too early for Sakuya to have finished with those clothes, Remilia will be sleeping, it's too late in the day for that sparring partner I'm supposed to be meeting... and I don't even want to think about the library right now.
[ ] Guess that leaves Meiling. [ ] Let's go back out on the lake. It's been a while. [ ] I suppose I still owe that day of labor to that shopkeep in the human village... [ ] Other?
I feel more and more like someone who wakes up hung over and swears he'll never drink again every time I take an eternity to update. I'm sorry, folks. Have a fairy.
>[x] Guess that leaves Meiling.
It's not terribly hard to decide. Meiling is a good friend, and I haven't really spoken to her since we went out and met Aya. By now, it's early afternoon, or so the mansion clock tower says. It feels a bit later, after everything today. Either way, there's Meiling, same as ever, at her post like she has been for centuries.
"Snow coming," she calls by way of greeting.
"Yeah, I know," I reply, touching down next to her. "My leg's been acting up a bit. How are you?"
"Well," the woman--the dragon--my friend--says. "How did you like your interview?"
"It still feels strange." ...
She turns and looks at me. "You've got something on your mind."
"Yeah," I admit. Meiling's always seen right through people. "I heard about China."
She smiles. "And where did you hear a thing like that?"
"From Remilia. Listen, I..." have no idea how to put this.
"Heard that I was injured?"
"Was, and are," I nod. "How do you... deal with it?"
"The same way you do, I suspect," Meiling answers patiently. "There's no secret to it. You just keep going. Tomorrow will be better."
"Yeah. ...Yeah, thanks, Meiling." I rest against the wall and massage my leg.
"Nothing at all."
Our conversation turns to the article. "I just hope this sparring partner of yours is worth it," I grouse.
"She is," Meiling reassures. "You'll like her. She's almost as serious as you are." She smiles. "Besides, it wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Aya's all right," I admit. "A bit excitable."
"Do you like her newspaper?" she asks.
"I guess. It's kind of hard to tell, it's all about politics that are totally new to me. I didn't know the mountain was so badly off."
"That's why she writes it. It hasn't been easy for her, but she's dedicated. I can respect that."
"I can see why you like her. Even if she doesn't know a lot about matters outside her mountain."
"That's why I suggested you," Meiling says with a smile.
I smile back. "Did you mention who taught me to read?"
We sit there in quiet contentment for a minute or two. I shiver a little--it should warm up a little for the snow, but right now...
>"I heard about China." >She smiles. "And where did you hear a thing like that?" >"From Remilia. Listen, I..." have no idea how to put this. >"Heard that I was injured?" Huh? Did Meiling get hurt? Did I miss an update?
>>53577 Well, let's try to do something about that. Obviously with my track record I can't promise anything, but I've got another project going now, and I don't have the luxury of doing it slowly if I want to continue. So it's keeping me honest--if I can get in the habit, maybe I can stay in it.
>[x] Tell me more about her.
Meiling is quiet a moment--not in her usual serene sense, either. Her expression is unreadable, but I've known her long enough to tell she's troubled.
So I sit down beside her at her post, pulling my arms around my knee. "What was she like?"
Meiling adjusts her beret. "She loved life. Friendly, excitable, sunny. Nothing could keep her glum for more than a moment. She was the one who 'chose' me."
"I heard about that. Remilia said she took a liking to you."
Meiling smiles ruefully. "I think she didn't want to see me hurt. I owe Remilia my life, and I trust her enough to serve her, but I didn't agree to leave China for her sake. I left for her sister's."
"I note you don't call her a friend."
Her expression lightens. "Oh, she's a friend--a very good friend. You don't stand outside every day for four hundred years for someone unless they are very dear to you. Although..."
"I have to admit that's just as much for Flandre's sake, as well." She looks at me intently. "I don't keep the rest of the world out, Kazuki. I keep her in."
"Then why won't they..."
"Everyone but me has forgotten," Meiling replies dourly...then she sighs. "No, that's not true. The last time Flandre broke out, I brought her home, but I was... injured again. Since then, I haven't been allowed to see her."
I can tell she's getting herself down again, so I quickly change tack. "So, she was cheerful?"
"I'm sure she still is, when she's well. When she tore her wings out--"
My eyes widen despite myself. "She what?"
"Yes," she says. "She had wings like her sister's. After they were gone, that black growth started."
"What are they like? I didn't get a good look at them."
"Because it was dark," I interrupt, waving off her concerns. "Go on."
"All right. The growth... it almost looks like..." She pauses, trying to phrase it. "Like two trees growing around each other. Or veins. Or both. Hard to the touch."
"I saw it was black and shiny, at least. What about the gems?"
"I don't know. They started as drops of liquid, and they crystalized. Over time they grew down."
"Like stalactites?" I ask.
Meiling smiles, a bit more naturally. "When they started growing in, she was so excited. She said we matched." That's true--I've seen Meiling in action, cascading spirals of rainbow light, soft chimes ringing out where she steps. ...When she's not just beating someone's head in, at least.
...Speaking of, come to think of it, maybe that would make her feel better.
[ ] Ask Meiling for a spar. ---[ ] Just practice. ---[ ] Danmaku only! She's not the best at it either. ---[ ] The works. Full-contact. ...Pray. [ ] Discuss Flandre more. [ ] Ask her about something else (Write-in) [ ] Actually, I think I'll go see Sakuya about those clothes... [ ] Other
>[x] Ask Meiling for a spar. >---[x] Just practice. >[x] Discuss Flandre more.
"Speaking of matches," I ask, "you up for one?"
She looks at me closely for a moment...then smiles again. "Absolutely."
She always could see right through me.
"Nothing major," I say cautiously. "Just to keep me on my toes. If I'm going out to investigate this weather, I'll want to be ready." Meiling's always preferred contact to danmaku. If she applied herself, I'm sure she could make some wicked patterns, but I think she just finds the direct fashion more...honest. She bows low, open palm meeting closed fist. I return the movement, and we each step back. I fall into a loose defensive stance, just like she taught me. 'You're small,' she'd said, 'let them make the first move.'
And make it she does, springing forward with a sharp overhead chop. I step inside her reach, then aside as she brings up her knee where I stood. Her first moves are always probing strikes--I think to gauge how fast I'm reacting that day more than anything. I turn at the waist, curling my fingers into a long fist as I jab at her ribs. A quick hop on her part and she deflects that with the side of her leg as she pivots to face me, bringing her elbow down on me. As she bats my hand aside, I follow through the motion and push her strike aside with the other. To get down far enough to hit me, she had to drop into a low stance, giving me the chance to back off and disengage before the next exchange.
I return to a ready position, switching sides to keep my weight on my good leg. "So what did you do together?"
She adjusts her stance, keeping a close eye on mine. "Before we came here, we'd go on walks--" She springs forward, this time with a kick from the side--I bring up my hand, feeling the shock run through my arm as I block her first strike--"She would draw or paint--" I throw a palm forward, meeting only the edge of her hand--"When she had nightmares she would ask to stay with me." I just barely jump back before she can grab me and sweep out my legs. She gives me a moment to recover as I shake out my stinging hand. "She had nightmares frequently. Only moreso as her condition worsened." Meiling's expression falls. "When last I heard, she still did."
Like hell I'm leaving her to dwell on it. So this time, I attack. As she jumps a full six feet backwards, I can't help but grin at the faint hint of surprise on her face. And I can't help but notice the faint hint of pride.
Not that I can savor it long, because a second later she bounds forward, her heel tracing an overhead arch as she brings it down for my head. I don't even try to block that, dive-rolling out of the way. Meiling's hot on my heels, springing after me with her fist cocked back. I jump as her punch strikes the ground beneath me, bringing up my leg to try to kick her--
She turns as she steps around it (HOW?), shouldering into me in midair. I'm (ow) lucky for that much (ow), since most (ow) of the force won't (OW) transmit through hitting (OW) a surface. Turns out that's a non-issue because in an instant she's on top of me, a whirling blur of crimson and green as I sail through the air. Helpless, I shut my eyes expecting a barrage of painful blows.
Instead, I feel soft arms wrap around me and the warmth of her body. When I open my eyes, we've landed, safe and sound, and she's smoothly transitioned me onto her lap. "You're a good man, Kazuki." Meiling says with a smile--a real smile this time, with nothing hanging over it. "Thank you."
She always could see right through me.
Meiling pulls the legwrap taut, quickly tying it off nice and snug. "How's that?"
"Better already," I reply gratefully, testing it. "Thank you."
We sparred for a while more after the first few exchanges, but it wasn't long before my leg started complaining from the abuse. The pressure feels good as I flex the knee a few times experimentally, before relaxing back against the wall. Meiling stands beside me, her spirits visibly lifted. That alone makes a bit of leg pain worth it. And more than that, she's talking about it. I feel like she's wanted to for a very long time.
"Once it started, her condition worsened quickly," she explains. "She'd complain of headaches and be unable to sleep. When she did, she would wake up screaming. She became temperamental. And then...she started breaking things."
"Anything she could get her hands on. Her things, dishware, furniture, entire walls of the manor...by then she had been confined in the house for a month's time, but that was only making her restless. Remilia knew it, but we couldn't risk Flan hurting anybody. And she came close."
"What about you?"
Meiling shifts imperceptibly, her balance taking her smoothly from standing on one foot to resting her back against the wall. "She would never hurt me. Whenever she was having a fit, she would calm down a little and come back to her room with me quietly. Except once."
"Once was all she needed. She lashed out, and it caught me off guard. And..." she trails off, voice faltering.
"And I didn't want to hurt her. I could tell she was sorry as soon as she did it. If I had attacked her, I just know she'd feel betrayed. Remilia took it to mean that Flandre was too far gone. And that I couldn't stop her. There were already rumors in the town because of the disturbances in the household."
"...And that's how you came here?"
"Yes. Patchouli prepared a spell to move the entire mansion en masse, in exchange for a hundred years of living here. The time has long since past, but neither she nor Remilia are in any hurry to enforce the terms."
I frown. "You said you were injured the last time. How badly?"
Meiling looks down over her chest, arms folded. "Badly. I nearly died. Patchouli estimated that she added another two hundred years to my recovery." Two hundred years--and from the sounds of it, she only struck Meiling once. Once. The realization is dizzying. And terrifying. And Meiling still wants to go to see her, even despite that. And--
"And you brought her home?"
"I did." She closes her eyes. "And I've never seen her since." And then, after a moment, turns back to me, her blue eyes bright and piercing. "What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Kazuki, we just spent half an hour talking about the girl who took your life. And your wings." I wince a little at that, and it doesn't escape her notice. "How have you been holding up?"
>>53765 ?? Actually in her BAiJR article, Flandre was pretty coherent and a bit snide in regards to her sister's grand talk about Fate. It suggests while emotionally volatile, she isn't a complete nutjob.
About Rumia. Just watched Osana Reimu. After what got few questions. Did you in your story based her on that story? Because it will be... good, I quess. Really. Or you did write another pre-history for her by yourself? Will we know more about her - aside from everything else, story between Kazuki and Rumia just asking to be expanded. In any case, you are awesome. Procced being awesome furture. [X] Be honest.
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>[x] Be honest.
I look back into Meiling's eyes for a long moment, before I close mine and rest my head back against the wall with a sigh. She's honest with me. It'd be an insult to lie to her. "It's been rough," I admit. "It's been really rough. Walking's tough on my leg. Better since I got the goggles, but after hundreds of years of flying, the artificial kind feels...wrong."
"We didn't have to talk about her," she says, concerned. I wave it off again.
"What am I going to do, pretend it didn't happen? They can't grow back fast enough, but there's no sense running away from it. And besides, you needed to talk."
"I did. Do you?"
"I don't know. Maybe." She looks at me intently. Sigh. Maybe she's right. May as well give it a try. "I still have nightmares now and then. Nothing too bad."
"Nightmares like what?"
"Those crystals. Rainbows in the dark. Her laughing. Crying. You know, I still can't figure out which it was? Drives me crazy."
She takes a seat down on my level, legs folded. "Does it matter?"
"I guess not. She's not well, so it could have been either and meant just as little. But still..." I trail off. "I don't know. It bothers me."
"I've noticed. I've also noticed you practically live here now."
"...Meiling, I do live here now."
"And you've barely spoken to another fairy since. I haven't seen any of your friends. You avoid the maids in the halls."
I stare at her in open-mouthed shock. "How could you possibly know all that?"
"A clue from Sakuya, and a guess." Ugh. She hit the nail on the head. "What's wrong?"
"It's the wings," I finally admit. "They're everything in fairy circles. Everything. I feel like..." I try to trail off, but under her concerned gaze I know there's no squirming out of it. "...like less of a fairy. Less of a man."
Meiling is quiet for a moment, before she lays a hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Kazuki. I had no idea it was so dire."
"Yeah," I manage.
"You have the utmost respect of the staff, you know. And Remilia's. And mine." She smiles.
"...Thanks, Meiling. It helps."
[ ] Enough dwelling. Go see Sakuya. [ ] ...You know what? She's right. Find a friend. [ ] Why go looking? I've got one right here. [ ] Write-in
I settle in beside Meiling, smiling a little bit despite myself. "You're right," I say. "You're absolutely right. I should make time for my friends. I'm going to get started right now."
There's a long pause. Meiling leans over to look at me as I give a contented sigh. "...So?"
After a moment, she gives an exasperated, but friendly, huff. "I see." We sit there a little while longer, as I fold my arms behind my head. "This wasn't what I meant, you know."
Finally, she turns to me. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
The inside of Meiling's little cabin is snug, but inviting. It's more of a shack, but that suggests it's dilapidated or run down. Instead, it's warm, and cozy, and well-kept. I sometimes wonder whether Meiling uses it at all.
"Won't you be missed at the gate?" I ask.
"I'm not married to it," she replies, amused. "My job covers the whole of the grounds. And besides," she adds, pulling a fragrant smelling box out of a cabinet, "if anyone got close, I would know."
I resist the urge to brush my hand along the wall, seeing as it's covered in dozens and dozens of weapons. All sorts of makes, all sorts of origins. An empty spot between a pair of sai and what looks like a battered bronze shield catches my eye. Just from the size of the vacancy, I can tell that the jian Meiling gave me used to rest there. I wonder if I could find her something to replace it with.
"I'm not quite as good at making tea as Sakuya," Meiling says almost sheepishly. "I just like to keep my own stock."
"Free tea is free tea," I reply with a shrug. She shoots me another of her wry smiles.
"Who said this tea was going to be free?" she asks, emphasizing the rhyme.
"Me," I reply, going along with it.
"I see. You?"
She fishes out the kettle. "Why? It's a small fine."
"Don't whine. I'm broke."
"You can afford to smoke. You're fibbing."
"Okay, relax. Just a little friendly ribbing. How much?"
"Just a touch." She tosses me a chipped ceramic cup. "Sixty-five."
"Man alive! Sixty-five? What is this?"
"Iron Goddess," she says with the smirk of the victor. Did she set me up for that? "Tieguanyin."
"Oh, lose that grin. Oolong?"
"You're not wrong." Meiling sets her squat little kettle on her stove. "Nearly done."
"Okay, that's enough of that."
"I win," she says cheerfully.
"It's not a competition, you know." She puts a hand on her hip, looking back at me.
"Everything is a competition, Kazuki. Life is battle."
"Not this time, though that too. But I wasn't kidding, you know." Her look turns more serious. "Everything is one form of combat or another, even the friendly ones. Sometimes especially so."
"I'll pass on the warfare, thanks," I reply, flipping the teacup in my hands.
"I just don't get you, Kazuki. There's nothing wrong with fighting."
"Not by itself, no," I admit. Looking her over, it occurs to me that, friend or not, I don't know too much about Meiling. She's cheerful, almost bouncy, enthusiastic and yet calm, all at once, all the time. The kettle begins to patter as it heats.
[ ] You don't get me? I don't get you. So violent! [ ] ...A dragon? Really? [ ] Hey, Meiling, will you tell me more about your injuries? [ ] You know, for someone so martial you kind of suck at danmaku... [ ] Other? [ ] Write-in (do this! You wanted Meiling, you got her! Though I'll probably eventually get to all of this anyway...)
All right, I won't lie, I only cut off where I did because I wanted to try to get back into the swing of things without going much further. I didn't want to force or shoehorn any of the additional stuff that could come up.
As for me, what can I say? I gotta stop leaving this lie so long. It's just that every time new problems just keep happening.
Anyway. Have a gate guard.
>[x] ...A dragon? Really? >[x] You know, for someone so martial you kind of suck at danmaku...
"One thing I don't understand," I say, "is that...well, you're so... militant?"
She grimaces. "Well, thanks."
"Martial?" I offer.
"Better. Somewhat. But...?"
"But, you..." I trail off, waving vaguely. She leans over, curious. "...and danmaku don't...really...get along," I manage. She frowns hugely, making me wince. I didn't mean it like that!
"No, no, it's a fair question." Meiling leans back and sighs. "I'm a very... personal fighter, Kazuki."
"I've seen you clean house," I agree.
"Even back home, bows and shot and what have you--I never really agreed with them. Admired them, respected them, certainly--only a fool would ignore what they can do. But they were never for me."
"I use what I need in order to get by, nothing more. Just enough to get in close, and then...well, you know." She smiles, just as the kettle begins to sing. She beckons for my teacup, and I pass it over as she continues. "But it's not as though I've just been resting on my laurels, you know. I watch. I record. I study. And I teach."
"Next to Miss Patchouli, I'm told I have some of the most technically proficient patterns around," Meiling says, ignoring the steam as she pours. "Of course, that doesn't mean much by itself, but it helps teach the foundations. I think danmaku is just another form of warfare. Just more..."
"Polite?" If I'm not careful with these one-word responses, this is going to turn into another word game.
"That works. It can be taught and learned like anything else. Can you keep a secret?" I just stare at her for a while, until she giggles and relents. "I thought so. Come here."
Interested, I follow her to a small table. It's not quite messy, but it's certainly full--those small comic books she and Remi talk about sometimes, the small stack of Chinese newspapers (she collects the odd ones that find their way here), and a small inkwell next to a few well-worn brushes. She shuffles the newspapers around and finally presents a small journal, written longform in her careful, precise script. Almost nervously, she passes it to me.
"The War of Art," I read, gently thumbing through the pages. "Is this ... a danmaku field manual?"
"Something like that," she nods, rubbing her neck. The pages contain accounts of typical patterns, the movements and attacks, tricks for avoiding the eyecatching mazes... some of the pages have a dusting of soot or smell faintly of ash. I think...does she record things as soon as her fights are done?
"Still a work in progress," she mumbles, reddening a little bit to go with her hair. I guess even someone as self-confident as her can be self-conscious, too. She takes it back, carefully re-burying it under her newspaper collection. And then, after a moment's pause, she puts her manga back over the top. She looks back at me with a sheepish grin. Dragon or not, she can be pretty adorable.
...Which reminds me. I just have to ask. "...You had a tail? Seriously?"
Her confidence returns as she straightens up, looking at me over one shoulder. With a wry smile, she gives a little swing of the hips. "Can't you tell?"
That...is a different thing all together.
...Topics. [ ] So what exactly do you teach? [ ] Meiling, tell me more about your injuries. [ ] ...Okay, I have to know. I want to hear more about Flandre. [ ] Write-in
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Since there were a decent number of votes for "more about your injuries," you get that, too. I AM INFODUMP
>[x] So what exactly do you teach? >[x] Meiling, tell me more about your injuries. >[x] *smirk* Maybe if you did that a little slower...
Despite the color rising in my cheeks, I have to grin at that display. "I dunno. Maybe if you did that again, a little slower this time?"
She laughs. "Have you finished your tea?"
"Not yet, no," I reply.
"Too bad, I could have made a show of bending over the kettle."
I make my own show of hastily mock-gulping down the last of my cup, making both of us break out in giggles. "Okay, that's enough of that."
"For now," Meiling replies with a Cheshire cat smirk.
"For now. Do you mind telling me more about these injuries?"
"Not at all. They are what they are." She pauses for a moment, smile vanishing as she starts to think. "What do you want to know?"
"Well, you're a youkai, aren't you? Don't you heal extremely fast?"
"Yes and no," she replies. "My wounds mend very quickly, but there's..." She halts again. "...I'm not really sure how to explain it. Or if I want to."
I nod understandingly. It took a while for me to explain my leg to her. "Whatever you're comfortable with, Meiling."
"Well... for now, suffice to say there's something slowing down my recuperation. And..."
"Flandre?" I venture.
"Flandre." She looks down intently. "When she broke loose, and I brought her back, she--overreacted."
Enough said, that. "How bad was it?"
Meiling sighs. "Bad. I was missing an arm and most of my torso. Hundreds of years of damage, just from lashing out once."
Once. That girl hit her once, and... I shudder a little, despite myself, remembering that low, deadly "come here/"
"But!" Meiling adds, cutting off the gloom before it can take root, "I came home, alive, successful, with Flan sleeping on the arm I had left. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
"You really love her, don't you?" I ask, trying not to sound incredulous. I think I succeeded.
"I cherish her, Kazuki. And besides--it's not as if she did anything permanent. I'm getting better. I can feel it, little by little, every day, just like I have for five hundred years." Well, that's optimistic, at least.
I have to smile. "You do know how to play the long game, don't you?"
"You could say I'm strategic, yes," she agrees. "It comes with being a dragon."
"I'm a very, very patient woman," she says, voice strong, awash with confidence. "I know what I want, Kazuki." And after a moment, she turns those incredibly blue eyes my way. "And I always get what I want."
I find myself swallowing hard as my heartbeat picks up, taken aback by that burst of... startling confidence. I actually feel a little taken aback, quickly fumbling for another conversation topic. "So what were you saying about teaching?"
Abruptly, that intense, striking presence vanishes, replaced by the cheerful, kindly gate guard I've always known. "Oh! That's right. Actually--It'd be easier to show you than tell you." Abruptly, she stands up. "Come on."
Meiling takes me to a small courtyard around the back of the mansion, clear of anything more ornate than well-kept hedges. Unlike the ostentatious statuary and decoration of most of the grounds, this is a plain box of grass. The most noticeable thing in this place--
--Is a perky fairy girl, wearing an oversized peacoat and beret, a small bugle banging against her hip. She beams up at Meiling, her equally-loud hair done up in dangling maroon curls.
"Good morning, Reveille," Meiling says warmly, patting her on the head. "How's the training going?"
Reveille snaps to attention, clocking herself in the head as she salutes in response to... hair tousling. Okay. "Ma'am! Basement Brigade training continues apace!"
"Wait, Basement Brigade?" I ask. The strange fairy turns and regards me for the first time, her wingtips twitching behind her. Abruptly, the twitching redoubles and her bright eyes go as wide as saucers.
"I-it's you! Mister the Applepicker! ...Just Applepicker? Master Kazuki? Lord of the Scarlet Dev--"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on," I say, raising my hands. "Just Kazuki is okay."
"Of course, Master Just Kazu--I mean, Kazuki." She grins, bobbing on her heels. "I'm Reveille, current head instructor for the Basement Brigade under Miss Meiling!"
"So what is this brigade?" I ask, still faintly bewildered by what seems to be an animated bowl of sugar with wings and a military jacket.
"Sakuya and I co-train them," Meiling explains, unsuccessfully hiding her amusement at my face, "When the staff have duties in the basement, where they could come in contact with Flandre."
"We've all been talking about you," Reveille goes on, still sparkling at me. "And how you bravely saved that miscreant witch invader! Oh, that reminds me!"
"...Miscreant witch invader?" I mumble.
"No, no, no, hold on, I have it here..." she fishes around within her voluminous coat, dumping an implausible number of things from tongs to cutlery to what appears to be a length of antler out onto the courtyard grass, until finally she gives a triumphant 'a-HA!' and produces a small pin, handing it to me with a flourish.
Turning it over in my hands, it's made of sterling (if slightly smudged) metal, embossed with a knife and star over a stylized English letter B. Reveille goes on as I inspect it closely. "It's my pleasure to inform you that you have been made an honorary member of the Basement Brigade, for your courage and sacrifice in honorable combat with the little sister."
"I...that's...thank you?" I offer.
"The honor is all mine," she says, saluting again, shortly before fumbling for her beret as it slides off her head. She goes on regardless. "So, what brings you here?"
"I wanted to show him what I teach," Meiling explains patiently.
"Ah! Miss Meiling handles the close-quarters combat drilling!" Heh. Drilling. "And of course, negotiation and aggression control."
"What, really?" I ask. The chipper little thing nods enthusiastically.
"Yessir! We can't properly stand and fight the little sister, nor are we expected to."
"I teach them open-hand styles and conflict avoidance," Meiling adds. "Most of safely contending with Flandre is not agitating her. Open hands are more plaintive gestures, whereas a closed fist presents hostile body language."
"Miss Sakuya instructs us in danmaku and ranged defense," Reveille chirps. "Meiling is more up-close and personal. She also helps with injuries and first aid when the girls get rough."
"She even does therapy with Miss Patchouli!"
If I'd had anything in my mouth, I would have done a spittake. "Really? That old ba--err, shrew?"
"She's not so bad, Kazuki. I think she actually likes you."
"I don't. So what does 'therapy' entail?"
"Her physical health is poor. I help her as a consultant and give her a small exercise regimen. She's awful about keeping up with it, though. Though that reminds me, Kazuki..." I turn and look at her as Reveille starts recollecting the things she dumped out of her coat. "I've heard you're doing some magic training?"
"Yeah," I admit, "With Marisa--err, that miscreant witch invader. Abjuration and enchantment, mostly."
"Enchantment?" Meiling leans in, interested. "Can you do some body reinforcement?"
"Uh, some, yeah. I'm still pretty new."
"That's a good match for you, Kazuki, with your size and strength. Make sure you incorporate what I've taught you."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean redirection and body posture," she says, abruptly seizing one of my arms to demonstrate. "Deflecting a blow rather than blocking it head on. Leverage that strength to work with, not against, nature. It'll go further. And what's this?" My eyes widen as she pulls me closer, drawing the silver blade Sakuya gave me from where I stowed it. "She gave you her knife?"
"One of them, yeah."
"She only has one knife, Kazuki," she says, gently turning the weapon as she examines it. Wait, what?
"Awesome?" offers Reveille.
"Terrifying. A-and she gave it to me?"
"You should take good care of this--and she must have asked you to train with it, yes?" Meiling (finally) lets go of me and slips the knife back where she found it.
I rub my wrist reflexively. "She did. How did you even notice?"
"Awareness!" exclaims the fairy. "Miss Meiling teaches us that, too."
"Awareness. Yeah." Just...give me a minute to get my heart beating again.
"Actually, Kazuki, one more thing." I freeze up a bit as Meiling speaks again. "Before you set out, be sure to come and see me. I want to give you something too."
"I, uh, I will." She looks at me and frowns, expression concerned.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah! Yeah, I'm good, you just--surprised me." It's easy to forget that Meiling is six feet of lean muscle and unnatural strength.
"No I didn't," she says. "I terrified you. I can smell the adrenaline."
"That... really isn't helping any, Meiling," I manage thickly, wiping the sudden burst of sweat from my brow. Fortunately Reveille seems to have noticed the change in atmosphere and given the two of us some space.
"Kazuki..." she says hesitantly, looking almost stung. I wince again at that. "Do you... trust me?"
[ ] Of course. Do you really need to ask? [ ] Yeah, it's just that... [ ] ... [ ] Write-in
In addition: [ ] I should go. [ ] New topic: What's this about Sakuya and her knife? [ ] So you have a bunch of maids out here training? [ ] You want me to try to combine my magic and melee? [ ] Write-in
Woo! Update [X] "Trust? Yes." [X] "Respect? Yes." [X] "Terrified of? Apparently also yes." [X] "Just give me a bit. I think I pulled a worldview muscle." [X] You want me to try to combine my magic and melee?
I think we're fully figuring out what we are getting into
>"I know what I want, Kazuki." And after a moment, she turns those incredibly blue eyes my way. "And I always get what I want." >My eyes widen as she pulls me closer... >It's easy to forget that Meiling is six feet of lean muscle and unnatural strength.
I believe we are starting to understand Meiling's strength, both physical (which we sorta new) and her presence(?)(not sure if it's the correct word, but I hope you understand my meaning). Combine our well deserved fear of the extremely strong (leg + wings) with something drawing us towards that strength (Meiling herself), and it's no wonder we're starting to freak out now.
We're going to have to get over this soon. Meiling will not take no for an answer, even if I wanted her to (which I don't). We most likely need to talk to her about the strength shock now/soon, but we need to wait for the right time for anything else.